Yeah, this was supposed to be posted forever ago. If you want the un-redacted version, take me out for some drinks.
Saturday afternoon, and it’s getting later and I’m feeling sorry for myself and sitting on my bed watching “Notting Hill” (yep, you know it’s low when I descend like this). I’m under the impression that the show starts at 8. It’s after 4:30 and I’ll miss the end of the movie. Springing to action, I decide on an outfit. It consists of a black cherry print skirt, white button down shirt and red tie – black cardigan stashed in my bag for the evening chill. Departure time 5:20. I wait until I’m on the highway to start listening on my iPod. No, I don’t. I start it up waiting at the light on Braddock before the 376 on ramp. “We’re gonna start it with a positive jam.” Already I’m reeling. Somewhere around Somerset, over 75mph, I pass a cop with his radar gun out and am spared. Shortly thereafter I come upon a convoy of small white Comcast trucks, about 15-20, sporting Michigan license plates, traveling at a good clip, with two pacers out in front. They weave through cars looking like the Centipede video game from the 80s. They exit at Breezewood and I’m on my own again. Four tunnels and three rainbows later, Harrisburg is up ahead and my speedometer shows my anticipation. By now, I’ve heard all three Hold Steady albums and Neko Case’s Fox Confessor is about half way over. The toll taker decides to have a conversation with me and I tell him about the three rainbows. He says that it means I’m lucky today. We’ll see shortly.
The directions from Google work. I did not follow a closed road to starve to death in a forest. The but Mapquest’s time is a little off for me, it’s not quite 8:00pm. The Abbey Bar is only a short distance from the turnpike but seems to have been the scene of some sort of festival, with a giant, empty white tent in the corner lot. Sorry if you’re into that kind of thing, but I really don’t dig it and it’s a little disappointing to think that the show will be full of those all-day-music-fest types. The first lot is full so I pull around to a second lot and ask some people in the parking lot drinking energy drinks and wearing those floppy army-green hats with the string under the chin, if it’s cool to park there for the bar. Yes. We chat. I tell them that I just drove in from Pittsburgh. “Right now?” they ask. “Yes, right now.” They want to know why and if it’s worth it. Worth every cent and every second. The downstairs restaurant people are nice and show me where to go, the guys at the door upstairs card me. Briefly I think that if I’ve driven all the way from Pittsburgh and don’t have my id and don’t get in to the show and for fuck sake I’m too old for this. It’s there and entrance is granted.
Scoping out the venue, the side of the stage is in front of me and I turn left into the room; merch table to my left and after that about 4-5 in-use pool tables; dance floor area on the right and a very long bar with some tall tables across from it. It’s big, college-y and wood-y. The place is full but not crowded and about half of the people look like they’ve been drinking there for some time. The bar seems to serve it’s own beer on tap and a decent selection of micro-brews in bottles and the ever-present Amstel Light. What is it with that crap? Just drink some water and take a Sudafed. The “upper shelf” liquors are displayed in small cabinets. There are no stools or chairs and everyone is drinking from plastic cups. I despise plastic cups.
At the end of the bar I’m approached with “Oh my god, I love your outfit!!” She’s a short, slightly stocky blonde haired woman whose last name is Channel. She decides that I must need a beer after the drive and buys me one. (Her husband works for the Attorney General next door, they have a weekend house outside of Philly, and she usually dresses a lot like me!!!!!!! Instead of the jeans and t-shirt she has on tonight. Apparently, her husband does not speak.) The brewery’s wheat beer is pretty good, but needs the lemon. This should be the perfect opportunity to eat something, but I’m too keyed up to even think about food. I also meet a guy named Josh or Justin or something. He’s from Reading and he introduces me to his friends and people he’s met at the bar. He then informs me that THS isn’t going on until 11:00. Then it’s all vague about glassmaking and living in the country and satellite dishes and them going to the parking lot to get high.
None of the conversation is keeping my attention. I turn away. I look up. It’s Galen walking toward me. Time stops. He walks over, puts his arm around me and says, “It’s good to see you darling.” We chat for a bit and he runs off to get something to eat. At least someone can eat. Maybe I should have mentioned that I hadn’t eaten either and maybe he would have invited me to eat with him and the guys. Probably not.
Some guy walks by me and my new “friends” wearing a black, white and red striped tie. We assessed each other’s taste. (Secretly, his tie was MUCH nicer than mine, I was envious and wondered if I could take him, or actually if I could figure out how to get the tie from him. Nah.) He told me that he was wearing it because he’s in the next band and something about looking good on stage. Now, I had been telling this J-something guy (who at one point in the evening put.his.arm.around.me – un-fucking-believable – at what point did I indicate that it was okay to touch me? Or that I was even the least bit interested?) that I was completely not into seeing the other band. He was surprised at how nice I had been to the tie-band-guy, almost accusing me of lying to him about the prospect of me enjoying his music. Hey, you never know, the band might . . . actually . . . be . . . good. But they weren’t.
Later I wander to the merch table and buy the “Live at Fingertips” cd and give the merch guy a LUPEC card. (Foreshadowing because I’ve waited so long to actually post this so I can: I assume that the merch guy is a random bar employee for no reason whatsoever.) Oh, and there’s Galen again, so of course I talk to him a bit more, insisting that he owes me a drink. You see, we had a bet in Pittsburgh, that he was not older then me. I lost and had to buy him a drink. I figure that, well, this is just my “in.” He agrees and says that he’ll see me after the show.
Finally the band with the tie guy is over, THS is getting ready to come out on stage and I’m working my way up front. Since I was Tad-side last time, I go for Franz-side. I can’t quite get to the stage, but I’m about 1-2 people back. I meet a group of kids from State College. They are just behind me and totally psyched and into THS. This is their second show, they saw them in State College (sigh, I should have been there too). Typically, I’d come to a show prepared to be here – pockets, friends with pockets, or somewhere safe to stash my bag, but in Harrisburg, I’m out. I had considered taking it out to my car and just bringing in my keys and id, but found out that there was a giant line to get in, as the bar was at capacity. Not – taking – that – chance. So I stow it on a ledge behind a poker machine. Luckily, it goes unnoticed and unmolested all night, and the State College guys even keep an eye on it for me when I’m otherwise occupied with dancing, jumping, screaming, singing, sweating and etc.
Positive Jam; The Swish; Stuck Between Stations; Hot Soft Light (I think this is when the band slowed down a bit and I had some guy help me tie my shoe that had become united during the insanity. I tapped a few people around me and asked the guy to help me out and nicely put my foot in his hand so I could tie my shoe. He was exceedingly nice and I was grateful – THANKS to you cool guy!); Massive Nights; Party Pit; Milkcrate Mosh; Chips Ahoy; Multitude of Casualties; (the setlist says Barfruit Blues but they did not play it) You Gotta Dance; Your Little Hoodrat Friend; Southtown Girls – encore – Citrus; First Night; Stevie Nix; Killer Parties + stage invasion.
I think this was a rather mellow set. Maybe that’s because when I saw them in Pgh, their set rocked out a lot more. Nonetheless, the crowd was almost too much. They were rowdy, they were drunk, it was some sort of all day $2.00 draft drinking festival. I try to sort of make friends with the people around me in any sort of “pit” situation. That way they sort of look out for you, make sure you don’t get too hurt, etc. USUALLY. Now, I'm an old punk rock girl from way back and I've been to my fair share of all-ages hardcore matinée shows, but at "real" punk rock shows people are always respectful. There were a couple of guys though who were just too violent – seemed like typical jock types having drunk too much, and doing what that thought they were supposed to do in a “pit.” Some guy who pushed his way in front of me on my right in a gray hoodie was just an ass. On more than one occasion I asked him to be careful because there were two smaller girls behind him (who I happened to have run into in the ladies room) and he just gave me attitude. Sorry to say, I was really kind of rough with him - my elbow in his kidneys more than once - but he was acting like an idiot and hurting people. At one point I started pushing him very roughly and I think the people around me thought there might be an actual fight. Sadly, he never got the hint and made things difficult for everyone surrounding him. Even worse, he'll be all proud of his bruises the next week, bragging, mostly to himself, about how cool it/he was in the "pit."
Wow, it seems like I didn’t have an utterly fantastic time. But I did, I did! I refuse to let stupid people ruin my good time with THS!
After the show I immediately looked for the kids from State College and asked them how they liked it. They were overjoyed – it was even better than they had hoped. I thanked them for keeping an eye on my bag and wished them a safe trip home and good luck in their future endeavors.
At the bar, waiting for my cup of water, I found out why we were provided only plastic cups. Apparently there have been many fights upstairs and the bartenders take this very seriously. Cute little drunk girl on my left is complaining about not getting a glass and the guy on her left hands her one. “Take it, take it!” I sort of whisper loudly to her. Alas, the bartender spies us and demands the glass. Bar fights happen so they ban glasses but beer bottles are okay. Whatever. While waiting even longer for my water, another girl comes up behind me and puts her hand on my back. I tell her that she might not want to do that, as I am covered in sweat, mostly mine, but not all. Hah! She’s covered in sweat too! We strike up a conversation. Her name is Liz and I invite myself to sleep on her couch. She is into it and wants to meet the guys if possible. We loose each other. Still, I don’t worry at all about where I’m going to stay, which is very unlike me.
Galen appears and we have some Jamesons and talk about David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Ira Glass, not in that order. We have another Jamesons, other people come around and I do my own LUPEC networking. Liz returns, she has a feminist book club in Harrisburg (who knew?!) and she and her friends are digging the idea of LUPEC. Galen signs my “Live at” CD (under duress) and disappears. Tad notices me from half way down the bar and comes over to give me a hug. Yay! They really DO like me!! I forget to ask him to likewise sign my CD. Franz comes over and I ask him to tell us the Cindy Lauper story he had started in Pittsburgh. (He was asked to play with the Dresden Dolls in her new tour thing.) Again, the last thing I’m thinking about is asking someone to sign something, the next to last thing I’m thinking about is taking a picture.
Muddled memories (okay, some things that are bouncing around in my head but are embarrassing me at this point) and more Jamesons later, Galen is in my car and we’re following Liz to her place. We hang out on her giant couch and drink Smithwicks until about 4:30am when Liz drives Galen back to the hotel while I sleep on her couch.
I wake up around 8:00, covered in cat hair (observation, not complaint), and Liz gives me directions to get to the highway. Before departing, I grab some Starbucks coffee in a can (it’s not too bad, will do the trick, and more importantly, was free) and some bottled water from my trunk. Yes, I keep both of these things in there all the time. I stop for gas at one of the sketchiest looking gas stations I’ve ever seen and opt for $10 and filling up at the next not-so-scary looking place I see. As I’m merging onto the highway, I see the Shearaton where the guys are staying and, knowing they are getting ready to leave for Cleveland, shoot Galen a text. He replies. My Ipod shuffles up Nina Simone singing “I Put a Spell on You.” Yes, THS, yes you did.
Winding home through mountains and hills and tunnels with Tom Waits, more Nina Simone, Lucinda Williams, Martina Topley Bird and the Magnetic Fields, I watch the break lights in front of me and the headlights coming toward me.