November 29, 1998: Pontiac Grille, Philadelphia, PA

The Philly concert was on Sunday of the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, one of the heaviest travel days of the year.  What would have ordinarily been a 5.5 to 6 hour drive took closer to 8 hours because of the traffic.  Fortunately, Caitlin and I had left early since I had hoped to spend some extra time with my friend Chris in Philly, who was going to the show with us and letting us crash at her place.  We were also armed with dozens of CDs - good music makes any road trip easier. :)

Bob and I had met Chris and her friend Cathy several years ago at the Newport Folk Festival when they happened to sit next to us.  We immediately hit it off and ended up chatting all day long with them (Chris especially is very talkative), thanks to our mutual love of folk music.  We ran into them again the next two years after that without planning (must've been fate!), so then we began planning to meet.  This year, Cathy couldn't go and Chris took us up on our offer to stay in Boston and "commute" with us to the Festival, which is only an hour and a half away from where we live.  I also used the opportunity to introduce Chris to GBS's music, which she immediately loved (of course!).  We even talked about seeing GBS in Philly together at some point, so this particular leg of my Great Big Roadtrip had been in the works for nearly four months!

We got to the club early enough and went right to the front to get good spots.  The opening band was a bluegrass duo of two guys playing mandolin and guitar and singing pleasantly twangy harmonies.  Between bands, I spotted Sue, and Howard, both from the Chat, and I was standing next to Lori B. :)  The club was getting packed by then, but everyone up front was pretty cool, and it was fun to see so many other enthusiastic fans.

Finally, GBS took the stage, and after being teased with so many opening sets (not that it wasn't fun!), we got to see a full headlining set of 23 songs, more than twice as many as we had heard the night before in Hartford: Ordinary Day, Process Man, Billy Peddle, Old Black Rum, Fast As I Can, Little Beggar Man, Tunez, Paddy Murphy, Consequence Free, Goin' Up, Fallin' In (new song!), General Taylor, Lukey, EOTW, Ferryland Sealer, How Did We Get..., Mari Mac, When I'm Up, Excursion Around the Bay, Aunty Mary, then the briefest break followed by an encore of Old Brown's Daughter, Jakey's Gin, and Rant and Roar.

The set had a lot of "firsts".  It was my first time hearing several songs live: Tunez, Fallin' In, Ferryland Sealer, How Did We Get... (and my first time hearing the legendary Low D whistle live!), Old Brown's Daughter, Jakey's Gin, and Rant and Roar (I think - maybe it was played in Somerville and I've forgotten?).  It was also the first time that Fallin' In was performed in concert.  It's a song about a lad "that can't help falling for the fair maidens," and for me it was love at first listen.  Sung by Alan, written by him and Seán, and beginning with "I wasn't looking for a lover, I wasn't looking for a friend," it just kept getting better.  Then came an exquisite bridge with Alan and Seán singing in octaves, "She takes me by the hand, She'll break me if she can, I wonder if we should, Her touch it feels so good!"  Now is that hot or is that HOT?!?  One interesting thing about the lyrics is that you never learn the outcome of the encounter, so it leaves a lot to the imagination. ;)  IMHO, I feel that this song may have hit potential... we'll see if it captures the world's imagination, too!

At one point, Alan broke into an 80's tune which really surprised me - Video Killed the Radio Star.  The look on his face as he sang it was priceless, but not enough of us could remember the words of the chorus to make it sound really good.  So Seán said, "That was terrible," and gave us a disgusted look. ;)  Later, Alan asked for requests, so Caitlin said Sir Robin (the Monty Python ditty that he'd done in Ann Arbor), and he actually sang a verse of it.  Near the end of the set, Chris had gotten tired from standing for so long, so in between songs she said to Alan, "Next time play a place with chairs."  Alan seemed surprised, and he said, "You want us to play in a place with chairs?"  Then some people in the audience began saying, "No, no chairs."  Ever the diplomat, Alan said, "OK, next time we'll play a place with... and without chairs," and we all cheered. :)

Before GBS did "Old Brown's Daughter", Alan tried to explain that it was an unusual song that came from another time when the phrase "blow me" meant something very different, "it meant, like, wow!" Immediately, a few drunk Philadelphians started shouting, "Blow me!" At the same time, the other band members were giving Alan the strangest looks, so he attempted a recovery and said, "I guess the other band members didn't know that." That was really quite funny, and as I recall Alan made it through the entire song without losing it!  (I'll also bet that he'll never try to explain that phrase again!)

After the show, Chris, Caitlin, and I headed down the street for some food, but not much was open, so we headed back towards the Pontiac to get some pizza at the place across the street.  When we got there, who walked out but Alan, with his slice of pizza in hand!  We chatted with him briefly, but the rest of the guys were already in the van and waiting for him, so he had to go.  I did get to tell him that Caitlin and I would be taking the next couple of nights off, and we'd see them on Wednesday at the Iron Horse. :)

As is often the case after a GBS show, we felt so hyper when we got back to Chris' place that we couldn't fall asleep until well after 3:00 a.m.  But we were up by 9:00 the next morning, and Caitlin and I hit the road around 11:00.  When we left, Chris asked, "Now you're both coming back for Appel Farms in June, right?" :)  (With GBS on the lineup, we wouldn't miss it!)  Amazingly, as bad as the traffic was on the way down, it was so good on the way back that I set a new Philly to Boston record without speeding (well, not much...).  For example, we made it all the way New York City on I-95 and never had to go below 50 mph (80 kph), which is almost miraculous (and way over the posted speed limit, but everyone else was doing it...).  I think that Caitlin and I also set a record for saying, "That was SO worth it!" - we must have said it hundreds of times on the way back to Boston, because it was SO true. ;)

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