[Disclaimer: The day before this show, I was diagnosed with Walking Pneumonia and a
Broken Toe. The morning after this show, Lisa and I were awakened from only two hours sleep, with the news of the death of my friend and Lisa's Brother In-Law, Fran Pritchett. He fell asleep at the wheel of his car, and hit a tree, leaving behind his soul mate and four children. Fran, be at peace until the next time you can deal me in, on a hand of spades... Please, if you are driving late at night after a show or other function, make sure you are awake and alert. If you are tired, stop for a rest, or grab a motel/hotel room. Don't just do it for yourself, do it for others who care about you!]
Sometimes I got it, sometimes I don't. 7:30am, and you would have thought it was a sign of good tidings to come, when on the first try, I made it through to the Howard Stern Show. Within three rings, Stuttering John answered the phone, I was put on hold, then on the air,
and had my say. By 3:00 in the afternoon, I was being prescribed antibiotics, and nursing a very, very, very tweaked pinky toe. Was I still going to the Strangefolk show tonight? Does Steve Kimock's solo's blow your mind?
The problem wasn't so much the toe - I could medicate that. But the congestion, and my all around feeling of ickyness, was enough to make this Mammoth want to stay curled up in his den. Sean arrived at my house early enough, so that we could relax and listen to a wide variety of music, while waiting for Lisa to show. Our usual rules against playing music of the band we are going to see did not apply this time. A new lineup, and a somewhat new band, allowed for a loophole in our regular rules. The closest we strayed to Strangefolk, was a Reid solo show, which hit pretty heavy for me. My last vision of Strangefolk live, is one of complete bliss, and ultimate despair. It was at Reid Genauer's farewell shows during the Garden of Eden Festival. Although that weekend marked the end of one era, and the beginning of another one, it's interesting to know that it's still powering my soul. The recharge that my spirit received from that weekend will last for some time.
We headed out of Vineland around 8:00, and by then I was starting to feel like crap. My head felt like it was the deep end of a swimming pool, and I had thoughts of asking Sean to turn around and sitting this one out. The only thing that pulled me through was the desire to hear, how the NEW Strangefolk would sound. I must admit, they were going to have to kick
my ass completely, to top the emotional levels I attained when Reid was present, and to keep myself from passing out.
The ride into Philly was trouble free, and we found good parking about two blocks away from the venue. I managed to hobble along quite well, despite the gimpy foot, and kept up with Lisa and Sean as we blended in with the locale. Every time I am there, it's almost like I become the secret ingredient in a funky ass batch, of South Street Pedestrian Soup! One more reason I love Philadelphia so much.
If you have never been to the Theater of the Living Arts, it's located at 4th & South, and puts on shows for all types of musical entertainment. I must say I love the outside of it, just for it's sudden appearance amongst the hodgepodge of other shoppes & haberdasheries. It must have once been an old fashioned movie theatre, from the architecture . You could be walking along, with a group of your friends, having just finished off a juicy Cheese steak, and all of a sudden the marquee will pop in your face, and your like:
"Oh wow... live music!" "Did that sign say Strangefolk Tonight?"
The people on the street, combine with the traffic, to make a white noise, that only a city can make. New colors and patterns emerge from the collage of chaotic activity around me. I see the driving forces behind this spectacle as the desire for the almighty dollar mixed with the need to further propagate the species. The City of Brotherly Love had opened it's arms to me, and showed me the true meaning of Strange Folk... I was just one more freak adding pigment to the Red, the White, and the Blue of our nation.
Smiling hard, we reversed the course we had already traversed, and went back to our car to get our tickets... Doh!
Quicker than you can say "Where's Reid" we rectified the problem, and were once again in front of the TLA. I noticed the show was sold out, from the sign at the door, and the large crowd of people telling me I was number 1... ;^)
Let's try this again. Ticket in hand, I submitted to a search of my pack that brought looks of confusion from the person checking it. "What? You've never seen a pair of Billy-Bob teeth before?"
Factoid: The more unnecessary shit you have on your person, the less likely it is, that they will find the stuff you don't want them to. By the time they get past my lollipops, back massager, glitter, bubbles, notebook, pen, big league chew, Rooster chewing tobacco, incense and the collection of rubber bugs, they are so tired of looking they tell me to just go in.
As much as I like the outside, the inside of the venue is a different story. It has a few good attributes, but for the most part this is not my favorite place to see a band. Once inside the front doors, you find yourself in a small lobby that will give you access to the small bar on your left, as well as the two sets of double doors facing you, that open into the venue floor. Going through the doors will put you on the floor right next to the sound board, left and right respectively. The floor is open with no seats, and slopes down towards the stage. Two staircases flank each side wall, and lead to an upper balcony, that is split in half, with a small area along the front rail, separated from a slightly higher elevated area just behind it. This whole area has excellent sight and sound lines, so it was no surprise that the front rail was full of tapers, doing that wonderful thing they do...
[Can I get a shout out for the Tapers? Hell Yeah!]
We made our way up to the balcony, hoping for a safe spot for my toe, while the opening band WineSkin wailed away. A few scattered seats were open so I grabbed one just in case I couldn't stand all night. Lisa picked a spot against the back wall, just about center stage, and we gave our attention to the opener. I must say, they had a sound that kept pulling me towards the rail, that was like an odd combination of Phish & Clutch. I remember that the bass player had nice chops, which lent an evil funk to the sound. Sean bought a live CD of theirs, so I imagine I will be running it past my auditory canal sooner or later.
It's really neat, the way you can see and hear everything perfectly from the balcony, but as I said, this place has it's share of problems - one of them being the floor... The floor area in this venue is so open, it confuses people. With no linear help from seat rows, the people congregate into uneven pockets, that bounce around like super balls, crashing into each other in random patterns, all done on a sloping floor that makes it a battle with gravity to dance. This could very well be the worst congested venue in the world. Combine that with the lousy ventilation system, and you have the makings of a moist, smelly sauna.
Think Sweatglands, only bigger! It only gets worse when you try to do things like go to the bathroom or get something to drink. Your best bet for this place is to pick a spot, and stay there.
After an interesting set from WineSkin, we passed the time between bands with some interesting Simpson's Trivia. I never knew ole Burns' first nname was Charles... Go figure! In no time at all, the lights dimmed and it was time for the FOLK. A thousand thoughts raced through my head, as I bounced from foot to foot, waiting for the first sound to be sent through the amplification system.
From the first notes of Sometimes, I knew it was going to be alright!
Funny... I thought this was a Reid song, until I heard Patchen wrap his cords around it. All the power and emotion of my favorite dish, only this time, it had a few NEW ingredients thrown in. Hands down... Patchen can sing, and Patchen can play, moy bein! I was so captivated by Montgomery, that I did not even notice Scott until the middle of Bait,
so I'll get to him later. Patchen plays a Start, although what kind I'm not sure. It was a little difficult to pick that out from the balcony. His voice is very pleasing to the ear, and he has a wonderful style of rhythm playing. The song Sometimes, is beautiful. Hearing Reid scream, the "I'll get away" part, when they played it at Eden did something to
this song. Reid made it a sad song. Patchen brought the smile back to my face. It seems the two missing pieces of the puzzle have been found. They were very tight in the final jam segment and finished the song, on a dime, with those last two identifying notes.
Bait was very trippy, and showcased some of Jon's hypnotizing guitar work. The jam in the middle had wonderful sounds coming from Scott's keys, and I just kept laughing to myself, listening to the plucky and resonant fills being played by Patchen. Luke was fully aboard the groove train and laid down that shuffle beat for all to ride, and of course Erik
was dropping the bombs to keep it all on the rails.
New Glock II and Pawn both made me realize that this band is perfect. Both songs are well crafted with seriously infectious hooks and both songs have jam segments that make you forget what song they were playing in the first place. I can't count the times I felt like I was on a carousel that was going too fast. With the addition of Scott's keys, these songs took on a kaleidoscopic, whirling sound, that would return in full force later in the second set. Pawn was absolutely the sickest version I have ever heard. The crowd was in a severe frenzy during and after this song. My friend Chris made his way over to me, and with a solemn face, made the declaration, "Except for Keith during Mouna Boa, Erik is my favorite bass player!" I grinned at him and said, "He's good, ain't he?!"
See To was played well. I like this song, as a vehicle for Jon's voice, and Erik was all over the place. During the mellow vocal segment, Jon brought the house down to a whisper, reassuring me that if I would need him to, he would see it through.
First Time and Leave a Message, were songs I have never heard before, but thinking back, they both left an impact on me. First Time was very energetic, and if memory serves me well, it had a lot of nice time changes and turnarounds in it. Leave a Message, worked the crowd up into a throng of rabid animals as Jon put layer upon layer of scales over the tops of each other; building the tension, and barely releasing it, as he took off to an even higher scale than the one before. How many times he spiraled his sound higher, I can't remember, but it felt like he was peeling off the very fabric of space/time around me. Next thing I knew, the lights were back on, and I had to see a man about a horse.
After a quick elevation of my mental, I reflected back on the first set, and was giddy with delight, knowing that things were not only okay, they were in fact better than before.
The second set started with Like You Anyway, which was played very solid, I was looking for All The Same, but it was not to be. I'm starting to think Erik's voice is the best in Jambands right now, and this version proved my point - a good way to start the second set off. The Paperback Book that followed was full of energy, and Lisa and I shared a nice little two-step dance, or as close to one as my foot would allow. Here I was, with a 100 degree fever, shaking like a freak. Does anyone else get a vivid image of the Beatles when this song is on? I sure do.
Who I Am and I Tell Myself, followed right behind with no apparent drop in energy from the band or crowd. It was at this point that I had to start trying to find things critical for my review, so it wouldn't end up a gushing love letter to the FOLK. Well guess what... P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N baby! This band is hotter than Brittany Spears people!!!
The opening notes of Electric Avenue, took the wind out of the crowd. Nearly every person present quieted down, as Scott started building the melody. Even though I have not heard SF play this live, I knew instantly what it was. First off, this cover song is an excellent choice to play. Sort of an obscure 80's pop tune, by Eddie Grant. Strangefolk's ability to play anything and still have it rock, is proved by this, if not Juicy Fruit. The band ran through the choruses effortlessly, and then kicked things in high gear with a massive funk jam that brought tight leads and runs from the whole collective. That kaleidoscopic, whirling sound, I was telling you about earlier, rushed in and sucked the paint off the walls. It was 2001, I was listening to a song from the 80's, as I
approached my 30th Birthday... What do all these numbers mean? I looked out on the crowd from my spot in the balcony, and I saw it was all good. Jerry's words about showing us the blueprints, and now it was our turn to do it, were coming true right in front of my own eyes. The higher power that the Dead had tapped into was there for all to use. Strangefolk has tapped into it, and they are doing it their way! Their sound is like a flower blooming. At first it may seem just like an ordinary flower, but as the jam get's constructed in and around you, the unique and piercing sound will have your jaw on the floor. I'm telling you, at first you're just listening, and then the next thing you know, you're in the middle of this sick sick jam, and you have no idea how you just got here.
Take It Easy On Me is one of the first songs I ever heard by Strangefolk. I like the mellow ambient feel of this song, and it also showcases Jon's excellent vocals and blistering guitar magic. At the last verse, they waited so long to come in with the words, I thought they had ended it early, but they were just fooling around with our ears. Open Road was also another new one for me, and I can't really remember what it sounded like. I'll have to get the tape, for this one.
Join Together was a surprise. Great song to pull the crowd in and make them feel part of something special. A sing-along followed. Patchen's vocal's on this version were outstanding. He was so into it, his glasses kept sliding off his face. Jon was just spitting out lead after lead, and Erik and Luke kept the Great Big Jam Monster from getting back into it's cage.
Sinner was unexpected. This is one of those song's that just drip with Reid... It was well played and sung, but I still feel to funny about hearing someone else sing it. Guess I have to get used to it, 'cause I sure don't want Patchen or Scott to go anywhere. The energy of the crowd was bubbling over by then, and the night came to a wonderful close. I had managed to keep my toe safe, and this band just put me through the ringer. Good thoughts raced through my heads as I gathered my belongings, and smiled at those around me. It was around 1:20 and as the crowd cheered for an encore, we made our way downstairs.
We watched most of Stout-Hearted Man from next to the sound board, and then left to avoid the crowd. I had a great evening of music, for only $10. I was so full of positivity from the music, that my illness, was forgotten for the night. Strangefolk had showed me many things that night. One of them was to appreciate what I had, little did I know it
would be put to test early the next morning.
May the force be with you,
Ron "Big Woolly Mammoth" Crowell
Evolutionary Reject/JamBase Reviewer
Go See Live Music!
~In Memory Of~
March 2, 1975 - February 4, 2001
Saturday, February 3, 2001
Theater of the Living Arts | Philadelphia
Sometimes, Bait, New Glock II, Pawn, See To, First Time, Leave a Message
Like You Anyway, Paperback Book, Who I Am, I Tell Myself, Electric Avenue, Take It Easy On Me, Open Road, Join Together, Sinner