Stop one: The Fire, in Philadelphia, PA. The drive down was fairly uneventful - one van from Boston, another from the Cape of Cod - the Boston van chose to ignore their GPS, while we in the Cape van put our trust in Bianca (that's the name given to our GPS by our friends Mr & Mrs Thurston Kelp, who were gracious enough to loan her to us). We took a non-standard route to the George Washington Bridge, and she had us get off of I-95 around the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border only to get back on the highway, but other than that, we got to the club only about 1/2 hour late.
The Fire is a fun club - a combination of music club and neighborhood bar. Chandler says it reminded him a bit of the Abbey Lounge. I think it reminds me of Maxwell's, in Hoboken, too. A couple of things that made me fall in love with this club:
- there was a little kid hanging around while we were loading in - at some point, I saw her and her dad drawing with chalk on the outside brick wall of the club - she stuck around through at least some of the first band, too, I think. Now, some of you might think this was some sort of corrupting influence, but I didn't get that vibe at all - it was just cool
- after our set, I noticed a dog walking around the bar; that was cool enough, but then I saw the bartender put a bowl of water on the bar and try to convince the dog to hop up onto one of the barstools to drink from the bowl. it was obvious that this was normal at this bar.
- hang out with your drink right outside the side door to the club? no problem!
Anyway, we were on the bill with two other bands, Johnson's Crossroad from North Carolina and a local Philly band called The Great Unknown.
Everything was going ok - we got drink coupons, the club took orders for food, and then we found out that the rooms they had offered us for lodging were not, as we had thought, a few local hotel rooms, but rather two rooms above the bar with a couple of double futons. There was some discussion back & forth between Chandler and the club, but it turned out to be a failure in communications and that was that. So ... we're now at a Crossroads Inn (formerly Rodeway Inn, if the logo on the phone in my room is to be believed) just over the border in to New Jersey. Check in was pretty interesting, too - it was paperwork like we were getting security clearance, rather than spending the night in a $45/night motel! But hey - it's a place to lay our heads for the night, so we're fine - oh, and they have free wireless internet access, so who am I to complain?!
So ... back to the show ... a good kickoff to the tour, I think we all thought ... we ploughed through a 50 minute or so set of mostly "hits" (This is Home, Mid-morning in Moscow, Roses in Picardy, Nature Boy, Yo Tomo Mi Mano, Not Unhappy, Bob What's-Is-Name) and won over a small but boisterous crowd. The sound guy, Gordon, was great - I'm listening to my recording and it's crystal clear - there's a definitely chance that this will be the best we sound, mix-wise, for the whole tour.
Unfortunately, I missed much of the opening set by Johnson's Crossroad while I was eating dinner and getting into my valet duds, but what I heard sounded pretty good, I thought. They play acoustic country music, all around one microphone. The songs I heard struck me as kinda depressing, but that just might be the songs I caught, not representative of all their tunes. I wish I could report more, but you can check them out for yourselves - they have a myspace page.
The Great Unknown, who also have a myspace page, reminded me quite a bit of The Band. Kinda funky blues/country, with at least three vocalists. They borrowed the June Trailer Dancers for a couple of songs and that really drove home The Band reference for me. We all had a little mutual admiration society at the end of the night and we're hoping to get together with them again in July, when they head up our way to New England. Also, their lead vocalist, Todd, told us about some cool potential Philadelphia gig - I guess there's some sort of weekly carnival in West Philly - a real carnival, with clowns and sword swallowers and the like - and they have live music, too! He is friends with someone in a band that has a residency there and they are looking for other bands to play with them. Keep your fingers crossed, because this one sounds like something perfect for us!
OK ... that's all for now ... tomorrow (well, later today now), we play the Berkeley branch of the Ocean County Library, for their summer kickoff party. This time, we already know the name of the motel where the booked rooms for us! Oh, and I'm kinda hoping we'll find time to climb the world's largest elephant or at least play some mini golf in Cape May, NJ.
post-tour update - here's the setlist:
- We're From Fruitarama
- All My Good Luck is Gone
- This is Home
- Softly in the Night
- She's Filthy
- Where's My Glasses
- Mid-Morning in Moscow
- When the Roses Shine in Picardy
- Vasco da Gama
- Not Unhappy
- Last Thing I Needed
- Yo Tomo Mi Mano
- Nature Boy
- Bob What's-Is-Name