I know, I know. Seeing as how I’m recounting events that took place a month ago, this is a little overdue. (See my previous post for my excuses.) But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention my last excursion for 2016, especially considering that it includes some of my favorite people. But I’m not going to bore you with yet another lengthy narrative since there are only so many ways to recount the same concerts put on by the same musicians. Instead I’ll highlight the things that made this bunch different. Brace yourself for a barrage of photos too.
There is a little bit of backstory that I’m going to have to fill in at some point, but for now, you may recall me mentioning a pretty cool opportunity that came up at the end of the summer. Well, that fell through. I’ll fill you in on the details later, but had the opportunity panned out, I would have had to scrap a lot of tentative plans that I’d made for the rest of the fall and early winter, and probably even further into next year. So, seeing as how I was no longer tied down for the foreseeable future (and, frankly, was feeling a bit depressed and low about the whole thing and desperately needed some distraction and cheering up), I went a little crazy and firmed up ALL of those tentative plans. Which, of course, meant a lot of driving in a short amount of time – almost two thousand miles in two weeks, to be exact.
It was worth it though.
Saturday October 29th – Morgantown, West Virginia
~ The good: I’m actually being recognized for my blog! People came up to me all night (and indeed all week) to tell me how much they appreciated what I’d written about the Frank Turner fan community. I was even stopped at one point by a girl who asked if I was “lilredccc” (my Instagram and Twitter handle). It turns out, we’d interacted before through social media. Many new friendships were kindled that day. The scenic (albeit long) drive through western Maryland on a gorgeous fall weekend was therapeutic, and thumbs up for snagging a hotel room a block away from the venue.
(Another highlight of the evening: hearing this song for the first time. It’s rapidly become one of my favorites.)
~ The bad: This was the first show, after having attended dozens upon dozens over the last few years, where I was legitimately scared that I’d badly damaged my hearing. I ended up standing next to an amp that was taller than me and though it felt uncomfortably loud during the show, I didn’t realize just how bad it was until afterward. My left ear felt like it had been stuffed with cotton – I could only make out muffled buzzing noises. I didn’t start really worrying until a few days later though, when it hadn’t gotten any better. All told, it took over a week for me to fully regain hearing in that ear (although, granted, attending three more shows in rapid succession probably didn’t help). I’ve started keeping stashes of ear plugs everywhere – in my luggage, my purses, the pockets of all my coats, so I won’t get to a gig and be caught without them again. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I felt physically lousy all night – stomachache, backache, headache, the works. A hotel bed has never seemed as welcoming as it did when I finally got back to my room at 1am.
~ The ugly: I wasn’t even out of the Baltimore metro area when I got bogged down in an hour-long detour – the entire westbound side of I-70 was closed because of an accident. And all of Morgantown appeared to have been invaded by hordes of drunk WVU kids (all in Halloween costume, of course) during the course of the show. So emerging from the venue afterwards into the midst of that was pretty terrifying. College kids. *shudder*
Monday October 31st – Wilmington, Delaware
~ The good: If there’s such a thing as the perfect gig, this would have been it. For as many shows as I’ve been to in the last few years, I can’t remember ever being this happy at one, and for so many reasons. It was practically a hometown show – Wilmington is only an hour from where I live, and it was a lovely night to wander its streets. This was my dad’s first FT & TSS show (and Mom’s second). I saw old friends; I made new friends (again). The crowd might have been a little tamer than at other Frank shows, but they were no less thrilled to be there. There was an almost-tangible sense of joy in the room. Maybe it was because it was Halloween, but I didn’t encounter a single person who wasn’t having the time of their life, and that includes the band members. Will Varley dressed as Friar Tuck, the Arkells perfect replication of Frank and the Souls, from the white shirts and blank pants right down to the suspenders and tattoos, and Frank, the Souls and their crew all in costume (I still have NO idea how Nigel played the entire gig as the Headless Horseman). And the set itself…well, that may just have been perfect too. I left that night with my heart so full, I’m surprised it didn’t burst.
(In case you needed a point of reference.)
Wednesday November 2nd – Clifton Park, New York
~ The good: Again, there wasn’t much that wasn’t good about this night. Because I’ve apparently created monsters, my mom ended up tagging along with me through my trek across upstate New York, and Clifton Park was our first destination. Despite the long drive getting there, this was very like coming home – I’ve spent quite a lot of my life in the Adirondacks and the Catskills and the capital region, and to be able to combine so many of the things that I love so dearly…well, let’s just say that the fullness of my heart didn’t go away after Wilmington.
~ The bad: Clifton Park (at least the section that we were in) wasn’t exactly the bucolic Adirondack town I was expecting. Lots of traffic, lots of industry, not a lot of charm. But hey, Panera Bread was playing “The Way I Tend To Be” while we were there for breakfast the next morning, so it couldn’t be ALL bad, right?
~ The ugly: The venue – in a strip mall – was easily the least attractive place I’ve ever seen a concert. BUT the show more than made up for it. The crowd was incredibly exuberant, and despite the fact that it was 40 degrees outside, I (and everyone else) were drenched in sweat and stripping down layers inside. And the bar in the venue let us hang around long enough afterwards to see the Cubbies win the World Series.
Thursday November 3rd – Ithaca, New York
~ The good: Two distinct eras of my life came together this day. The drive from Clifton Park to Ithaca (down I-88 through the heart of New York State) takes you right through my old stomping grounds. So I rode the wave of nostalgia and took a detour through my college town and marveled at how much had changed and how much had stayed the same (finding no parallel whatsoever with it and me, of course). So the day started with a warm glow of sentimentality and I carried it through its bittersweet conclusion, when I bid farewell (for a time, anyway) to something so ephemeral yet so important, to people with whom I’ve only had the briefest of acquaintances but who have come to mean quite a lot.
~ The bad and the ugly: There was nothing bad or ugly about this night…it was wonderful from start to finish.
Thursday November 10th – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
~ The good: The comedown from the previous week was hard. And there was a small event in U.S. politics that occurred in the interim. I needed a distraction, something to take my mind off everything, and I found it at the Fillmore in Philly, when Skinny Lister finally returned. They brought two of the most ridiculously talented acts along with them to open; the first was Trapper Schoepp (and his brother Tanner) who played a brand of youthful acoustic folk music that I find myself drawn to quite a lot these days. They brought to mind Parker Millsap and the Cactus Blossoms, who are particular favorites of mine in this genre. The second opener blew my mind – Lincoln Durham is a one-man band who rocked harder and louder than most bands with a full five- or six-person ensemble. I had to pick my jaw up off the ground after his set. And, of course, the Skinnies, with their perfectly unique type of pirate shanty punk rock, was exactly what I needed to forget the world for a little while.
~ The bad and the ugly: The audience, on the other hand, was a bit of a let down, especially after the epic show at Milkboy in the spring. When Lorna has to interrupt herself mid-song to tell people to just drop a drunk asshole who insisted on trying to crowdsurf over people who wanted no part of it, you know you’ve crossed a line.
Friday November 11th – Washington, DC
~ The good: I not only got to see the Skinnies again, but I got to do it in the company of good friends! Finally, after many false starts and cancelled trips, my buddy Rich and I were able to meet up. He brought along his brother and niece and I was honored to be asked to grab dinner with them and spend the evening hanging out. And I not only got to meet them, but I was also introduced to a few other members of the Frank Turner family who had previously only been alluded to (Skinny Lister is on the same label as Frank and have opened for him before, ergo the crowds for SL tend to be the same as for Frank). I had a drink, hung out in the back, observed things from this perspective, and had a blast.
~ The bad and the ugly: I’m still not quite sure what made me think driving into Washington DC, a city notorious for its lousy parking situation, was a good idea. It wasn’t. It was, to be perfectly blunt, fucking horrible. Circling the same neighborhood for forty-five, hoping against hope that you stumble across someone vacating a street parking spot…I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it. And that’s not even mentioning the traffic getting there. It should have taken an hour and a half – it took three. Ugh, I don’t want to think about it anymore…it was an absolute nightmare.
Saturday November 12th – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
~ The good: I capped off this whirlwind two-week concert bender with my second trip to Philly in three days to see my six of my favorite dudes – Parsonsfield. My parents and I met at the venue prior to the show so we could chat over dinner and a few drinks. They were startled and delighted when we walked in, were spotted by the band and greeted as friends with hugs and handshakes. Over the course of the evening, I would meet family members of the band and see people I’d gotten to know at the infamous barn show. It was another night of camaraderie and joyfulness and dancing until your feet hurt and singing until your voice was hoarse.
~ The bad and the ugly: Again, not a single thing comes to mind. It was a flawless way to cap off what had been an awesome couple of weeks.
And now…I wait. There are only a few announced tour dates through the winter from my favorite bands, so this gives me a chance to rest and recharge. But all the while I’m counting the days until they all return.
(And yes, I know this was supposed to be a short(er) post. Sue me. :-P)