After 3 weeks of working 10 hour days, and spending my nights repainting a 2 bedroom house and packing up all my earthly possessions for a move into the aforementioned house, I really needed a complete escape from the mundane realities of cardboard boxes, paint fumes, and spackling dust. So I parked my car and my cares in the Birchmere parking lot, and began to look for the entrance to the "new" Birchmere. Moments after stepping out of my car I ran into Doug Levy, who was also looking for the entrance, and as we searched together I got a run down of the Irving Plaza show. We finally found our way in, and met up with Zard who was standing at the bar (how very odd! :-) ) with some friends of hers from work. We made introductions all around, ordered a few beers and scoped out the foyer to the main stage area. For those of you familiar with the old Birchmere, the new one seems cavernous. Terrific sight lines, a wonderful new sound system, but the sense of intimacy of the old structure (which, inside, looked strangely like a modified Ponderossa steak house, complete with wagon wheel) is lost. It seemed more like a convention center meeting area than a concert venue. As we waited at the bar for doors to open (Zard had gotten there early enough to snag # 2, meaning her "group" would be the second group in, the management blanched slightly when she said her group was 30 people strong), Rodney and his friend Paula showed up, followed shortly thereafter by my buddy Dave. We made introductions all the way around and ordered more drinks. Soon Sharilyn showed up, followed by some of Dougís friends, and a few more of Zardís friends from work. By then some of the DC fru-fan regulars (folks I always see at DC, but who donít tend to travel) had arrived, along with Katie (fruhead1), so we continued making introductions, and kept the bartender busy. Like metal shavings to a magnet, fruheads and frufans gathered together, and I eventually gave up on trying to introduce folks, figuring that theyíd all fend for themselves, and, spying Marcus, went to get stamped. For those following Marcusí rehabilitation, the pins are out and he is wearing a brace (one of those canvas and velcro things) over his wrist. He says it feels okay, although he still doesnít have all the feeling back in his hand, so I had another opportunity to chide him about doing his physical therapy. Ran into Andrew Bray in the merch. area, and heard that Eddie From Ohio has written and begun performing a few new songs, so any budding Ed-heads out there keep your ears open!
The doors finally opened shortly after eight, and with Zard (the tour director) leading the way group #2 swarmed in and claimed forty chairs front and center.
The Laura Love band was co-billed with Fruvous, and although I had heard good things about Laura Love I was completely unprepared for the bundle of energy that bounced on to the stage around nine oíclock. Lady on a bass guitar, and the bass guitar as a lead instrument. That alone was enough to win me over, but the intelligent lyrics, soaring vocals, solid musicianship and engrossing stage presence sealed it! Laura Love completely blew me away. She calls her musical style afro-celtic, but Iím not sure she can really be categorized. She sang a version of Amazing Grace that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and her version of Put A Little Love in Your Heart brought the audience to itís feet. Fruvous had a tough act to follow, but as usual rose to the challenge.
The guys walked out on stage with "Come Together" blaring over the PA system (how appropriate for the 40+ fruheads, frufans and assorted fru-virgins who had gathered at the front tables!) As usual, I canít remember the set list, but the energy was definitely very high, and Mike had his wicked little grin that to me always signals it is going to be a good show. After the third or fourth song, a tallish, gray haired gent walked up to stage and sauntered along the front of it, waving to the band and blowing them kisses. The guys looked a little surprised, then waved back, smiled, laughed and introduced the "greatest lounge singer in Canada" James B (not sure I got the name right, but that is what it sounded like). Jian broke into a little Barry Manilow verse, and the guys invited James on stage, and after a brief discussion he launched into "The Lady is Tramp," large portions of which he sang while standing right in front of and looking straight at Sharilyn. Shar? :-) At one point my friend Dave leaned over and asked "Um, do they do this at *every* show?" (And now Iím going to show just how lacking in musical talent I am by gushing about the fact that although Murray said he didnít know the chords to the song he was able to play along with Dave as Dave called out the chord changes, and the song sounded great to me and isnít it amazing when musicians can do that?) Fruvous also sang the "Canadian Hockey Song," apparently a rarity outside of Canada and one I hadnít heard before, and at one point Mike launched into a song from Jesus Christ Superstar (or Godspell, I forget which) and Jian, Murray and Dave just sat down on the stage for a one man performance. Other things that made me giggle: Mike played the whole show without the benefit of footwear, when asked where his shoes were he said that his "very expensive shoes" had "broken" and heíd been unable to find a cobbler. At one point he got so hyper he ran across the stage towards Murray and jumped up, kicking both his bare feet directly at Murrayís mid section. Mur was so stunned he didnít move, he just looked at Mike and then jumped away from him when Mikeís feet hit the ground. Dave did King of Spain without his King hat, he substituted a backwards baseball cap instead. One of the guys, Jian I think, commented on how well the front tables were singing (Zard and I sang *very* quietly! ;-) ) and we all responded with raucous applause and cheers. And someone in the audience invited Dave to take off his trousers (Iím seeing a theme emerging here, I wonder if this is the same person who was at Falconridge? :-) ) The guys looked like they were having a fun time (even Jian, who had a cold and wasnít feeling at all well). They ended the show with an off-mic version of Gulf War Song, which sounded beautiful from where we sat and definitely won over people who were hearing them for the first time. The audience gave the band a well deserved standing ovation.
After the show, they came out to talk to fans, including a large group of the newly converted, and the line at the register was long and filled with people holding multiple cds.
About a dozen of us straggled back to my newly painted, partially unpacked home for Scotch and/or chocolate mousse (thanks Zard!), and Colleen blessed me with a massage that almost made my back forget that I had been moving boxes all week (and "almost" only because my back has a *long* memory!). We finally toddled off to bed around 3 to get a bit of sleep before the trek up to the Philly Folk Festival. Thanks to all the fruheads who once again played such a huge part in the concert experience for me, it was great to see all the familiar faces and to meet some new ones too, thanks for introducing yourselves!
From Zard Snodgrass:
Well, as I have a few minutes before I collapse into bed (Folk Fest lag, a new version of jet lag - you don't even have to leave your time zone), I thought I'd try to put down my impressions and what I can remember from the weekend. (and NO, I wasn't on mind-altering substances, just soo much input that it's hard to process it all!)
Chris T. has pretty much covered the Birchmere, I'll just say that it was brilliant to have a Fruhead convention in my own city for once, and be able to cruise in after work and still be able to get spot #2 in line! It was quite funny when I asked them how many could get in on that number, when I said I had at least 27... We plunked down in great seats, taking up a full 4 tables up front by the time folks we knew had wandered by and settled in. It really was great getting to meet Doug, and sit with Rodney and Paula, and Chris and Michelle(? -sorry), and be sandwiched by tables of friends. Largest gathering of my friends at a Frushow, and might be for a long time! I really did feel like Julie, your cruise director, introducing across tables, etc...! (I had many parts of my life interacting there, which was mighty exciting - work friends, DC friends, Frufriends, and Fru acquaintances/familiar faces - wow!) I wasn't sure how I'd feel about sitting during a show instead of dancing, but actually it was a refreshing change - nice to sit and enjoy and laugh and be able to see and sing along, without being out of breath and smooshing up against people on a crowded dance floor, etc.
The show was pretty high energy, but after Laura Love, they certainly did have to prove themselves. She was fantastic!!! I got the CD, Octaroon, at Philly, and it's wonderful, but if you get a chance to see her live, GO!!! for God's sake, GO!!! Spontanous standing ovation doesn't often happen for the opener, but this one was heartfelt - you could see the audience having a good time along with her. It was a great opener for Fruvous, since that same joy, energy, and humor was there with her as well. (and jamming bass licks for Chris!)
Once again, I don't remember the setlist - I think Catherine covered it (bummer they didn't come through on Jockey, if it was on the setlist), but highlights for me were the Canadian Hockey League song, James B's "Lady is a Tramp" (after, he said he travels with a backup band, well I said he had one tonight, and they followed along pretty darned well!), and "Tunnel Digger" about one of my work friends, when she hooted loudly as they told a story about the Ft. McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore. They figured she was so into the tunnel, she must have dug it herself, and went into a jam - now she's lording it over me, saying she only had to get 2 stamps, and she's already got a song :P
Basically I think there was a lot of cross-pollination going on there (and
in public, too, how shocking!) - Laura Love fans getting into Fruvous, and
vice versa. All in all a successful show. We were a little bummed when
talking to Marcus after the show, and we said, see you at the 11:40
workshop tomorrow, and he said "our first workshop's not until 1" We
said, oh yes it is... But apparently they didn't know about it, or
weren't ready for it or something, and said they wouldn't be there until 1
pm. So at least Chris and I knew we didn't have to rush quite like we'd
been planning to, but I worried for all those folks I knew were getting to
Philly quite early and hadn't heard.
Thanks to Catherine (Soixante) for posting what was written on Dave's setlist:
Boss BJ Video Bargainville River Valley Get in the car Your new boyfriend Horseshoes YWGTTM Kick in the ass GMIA Fly Incredible medicine show (jockey full of bourbon was on the setlist here, but they didn't play it) Michigan Militia PTT Johnny Saucep'n KoS GE&H love potion I know they did gulf war off mic for the last encore.. i think they did more than one encore? I can't remember.. there mighta been other stuff tossed in , like jaymes B. and what not. This is just what was on dave's setlist..
Some other tidbits from the performance include: