Living next to Philly.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vacation Weekend, pt. 1

I've been out of school for more than a year now, always having been fully aware that the first year out would be one of the roughest. Since August, excluding a short three-week period between restaurant jobs over the winter, I've been on a seven-day-per week work schedule, splitting the time between whichever restaurant it is at which I happen to be working, and a "professional" endeavor - first an internship with a tourism magazine, and now as an associate at a public relations company. It's a lot of work, and my days off are few and far between. This past weekend was the exception, as I took off Friday through Sunday for a super fun vacation at home. While I might have liked to have gotten a little rest, the weekend was jam-packed with exciting activities that I simply couldn't resist. Let's start with Friday.

After a leisurely afternoon highlighted by a rigorous lawn-mowing, I hopped into the car and headed down to Penn's Landing for a show at the Festival Pier. I had company, my buddy Ryan and the infamous Jennie Doyle, as well as one of Ryan's roommates. This was just my second visit to the Festival Pier, my first being a Phil Lesh and Levon Helms show about a month, month and a half ago. I warned my passengers that my last visit, I parked at an incredibly lucky metered spot at the front of the venue, and that getting parking would probably not be so easy this time.
Lo and flippin' behold, the second-to-last metered spot was breathtakingly unoccupied. I popped ol' Cassidy into the spot and got change for the meter across the street at a gas station, and we made our way in.
This was a show I was looking forward to in that I knew very little about what kind of experience would bloom. Umphrey's McGee (left) and Sound Tribe Sector 9 were playing, two bands who draw crowds similar to my usual fellow audience members at, say, Dark Star Orchestra shows or Bob Weir & Ratdog shows. The difference was that I'd only seen Umphrey's perform live once before, and never seen Sound Tribe. So I was largely going in blind, and very excited about what might transpire.
Umphrey's opened, and they rocked. Some extremely funky, electronic jams came vibrating forth from the stage, the bass and drums as loud as, and probably louder than, any noise code could possibly allow. I got a spot relatively close and felt the ground hum loudly beneath me with every beat.
They played long, energetic jams, with the only exception being the only song I could name - a cover of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence". And their single-set performance went a full ninety minutes, all of us fully aware that they had to save some energy for a late night performance at the TLA a few hours afterwards. If they were holding anything back, I wouldn't have known it, because this was as good as I could have hoped for.

Sound Tribe Sector 9 (right) know how to throw it down, and I know this for a fact, thanks to a somewhat sizable collection of their music available for free on the Internet Music Archive. They're from Atlanta, and also have a funky, electronic thing going on, similar to what you might hear at a Disco Biscuits concert (but minus a considerable portion of the annoying Bisco crowds). I'd gotten my hands on their New Year's 2004 show and played the hell out of it - some really awesome music that was really working the audience. My anticipation was very high for these guys.
And as I expected, I wasn't disappointed. The band put on a smooth, bass-driven performance with an outstanding light show. The crowd clearly not a sellout, and it seemed like the people who were there were the ones that really, really wanted to be there. Everyone danced as hard as I did, and everyone got along extremely well. There was a sense of harmony in the audience, broken only briefly when a miscreant hippie went sprinting through the crowd, followed quickly by a security guard. Ryan summarized it well when he said, "Wow, that guy really didn't want to get caught."
My only complaints included the brevity of the second show. Sound Tribe played one set and only one set, which lasted a maximum of ninety minutes. Second, while there are only a handful of song I'd know if I heard them, well, they didn't play any of those. And the vendors at Festival Pier are as expensive as any other place, only with a beer selection about as limited as a carnival.
Otherwise, I was smiling start to finish. If you go to this venue, here's some advice: look for metered parking in front of the venue, and if it's not available, try parking at Dave & Buster's. If I remember correctly it was about $8 compared to $20 at the venue itself, though I don't know if that's okay with the Dave & Buster's people. Somebody, try it and tell me what happens.
And as usual, have your drinks before you go in, rather than buying them inside. While paying $6 for an MGD pounder is a little better than at a Phils game, it still leaves a shitty taste in your mouth (as does the beer).

And look at that, it's 4:15 and time for me to get ready for work again. I'll get into Saturday and Sunday's thrilling activities in my next post, coming tomorrow afternoon.

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