Gig and I hit up half of the 4 night Pearl Jam stand at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philly. On the planet earth, Philadelphia is the place to be. Aside from a 4 night string of Pearl Jam shows, there's the World Series and a Sunday night Eagles-Giants game. Oh yeah, and it's Halloween. Every once in a while, the cosmic forces of music and sports combine to create a turbulent, frenzied atmosphere. This was one of those deals.
Pearl Jam reminds me of the Dead from 20 years ago. Obviously not the music, but the manner in which it's delivered. And of course the desire to "set up shop" in a city for an extended duration; then upon completion, get the hell out of town.
We hit the highway early Tuesday armed with only a sign...
I've always thought the PA turnpike subliminally discourages economic development in central PA. It seems like there's a subliminal message to get from one end of Pennsylvania to the other with as little exploration as possible. Sometimes, it's the unexpected destinations that define a vacation. And while there are those who extract enjoyment from purchasing a Penn State beanie baby at a Roy Rogers gift shop, suffice to say, I am not one of that ilk/mindset.
We got to our hotel (1/2 mile from the arena) by mid-afternoon. I chose the Holiday Inn by the stadium complex so we wouldn't have to worry about traffic/driving/parking. In retrospect, a wise decision. The hotel was loaded with Pearl Jam fans but was relatively calm and guarded. We set off on our ticket quest an hour before the show. We avoided the scalpers and walked up to the line of fans about to enter. This one kid offered Gigi a freebie which she snagged up. Not bad, $77 ticket for zilch. I ended up buying a single for 20 bucks. Again, not bad. I was prepared to dish out a little more than a twenty.
We met up with an unruly crowd in the parking lot - a half dozen characters in their mid 30's. While I explained my future 9/11 follow up predictions to a guy chugging a bottle of McMasters, Gigi spotted a backpack. McMac took my cue and predicted it was an IED. We went over to inspect, and lo and behold, it was filled with luke-cold Keystone Light. Sweet. I used to drink that stuff in college. The McMasters guy seemed to harp on the idea of having a threesome with me and Gig. We both found this oddly disturbing. I assumed he was joking but Gig thought he was for real. Perhaps, my small town yokel heritage has me immune to the aberrant sexual proclivites of the big city types.
Next, we split a large bag of generic potato chips with a local brother & sister couple and gulped down the rest of our drinks. We opted to skip the opening act Social Distortion. We zipped inside and took our favorite place on the right side of the stage. Pretty much eye-level with the band about four rows up from the floor. The first few rows were cautioned taped off, so we were pretty much front row, aisle seats on the side in front of Mike McCready. KILLER SEATS (especially, for 20 bucks total). It always ceases to amaze me that more concert goers don't flock to the side of the stage.
I was expecting a slow, anthem opener like Release or Long Road. Fuck that - Corduroy, Whipping and Hail Hail. Great energy. A few songs later they played my favorite song - Faithful (never heard it before live). Toward the end of the night, they played Leash - one of Gig's favorites. There was a group of a half dozen lesbians next to us with a young girl. They had a sign indicating it was her first Pearl Jam show. Towards the end of the night, one of the roadies handed her a large copy of the set list. This was BAD ASS. We have a picture of this. One of these days, I'll step into the 90's and learn how to upload this stuff. I imagine that it would necessitate learning how to take pictures or perhaps purchasing a camera.
After the show, we walked back to the hotel in a steady downpour. We were pretty much oblivious. We entered the hotel through the restricted employee area (I guess this was to compensate for not getting backstage at the Spectrum). Gig found a vending machine in the break room and purchased a cup of Ramen noodles. I'm not joking when I say, this was some of the best soup I've ever had. I'm not a chemical engineer for the Food and Drug Administration, but I'm pretty sure the main ingredient was salt.
Later that night, we were winding down and some kid mistakenly knocked on our door with a bag of McDonalds. Gig told him he had the wrong room - the kid was fucked up and disoriented. I thought it would have been great if she had snagged the bag of food and said "yoink" and shut the door on him. She showed a little discretion and let it go. Wise.
The next day we went to a diner near the stadium. I think it was called Oregon. Cheap, great food. She had a Spanish Omelette and I had a corned beef/pastrami reuben. I deemed it necessary to explore my Jew culinary leanings while in a real city on the East Coast. I was not disappointed. Arby's can take their reuben and stick it up their ass. Despite the cries of David Putty (Seinfeld), it does not feel like an Arby's night.
The show tonight would have a vastly different feel. Again, we snagged tickets for basically nothing (2 for $40). Keep in mind that face was $77 and the show was sold-out. Only the first night was not a sell-out. We made our way in and quickly realized it would be more challenging to get back our seats from the previous night. No caution taped off area and the security people were complete bitches. I realize they're just doing their jobs but this one black woman was a complete (rhymes with the last name of Candid Camera host Allan Funt).
We got jostled a little bit for the first few tunes. Once again, an aggressive opener - Animal. Five songs in we decided to bolt for the other side of the stage. A wise move. We found some good seats again. Right off the side of the stage but on the opposite side next to the keyboardist Boone Gasper. In retrospect, this was cool because we got a different angle of the band. The band was definitely "on" but I think we both this preconception that everything would happen just like the previous night. Both nights were really different.
A burlesque dancer in full regalia would walk out every so often with scoring updates of the Phillies/Yankees game. First it was 2-0, then 4-0, then 6-0 as the crowd went nuts each time. Very cool idea. At the end of the show, this big dude was pissed because some pipsqueak with a Yankees ball cap through an empty cup of beer at him. It hit him in the leg. He went over and started pushing and shoving. The security dude (a really cool black dude who I thanked after the show for not bitching about if we had the right tickets) broke it up. Then, one of the girlfriends started doing a windmill. We opted to take off.
Gig left her scarf on the other side of the arena. We were accosted by security and they said we weren't allowed to go over there. Meanwhile, there's tons of people everywhere and another scuffle breaks out between Phillies and Yankees fans in the hallway). We explained our case, but they weren't budging. Finally, I said "well, we're all doing the best we can" and walked through. We went over and retrieved the scarf. We then walked back over and showed it to the dude - much to our chagrin, he seemed indifferent.
Made it back to the hotel and crashed. Woke up early the next morning and I hustled us out the door by 9. On our way back, 376 was clogged up due to traffic. Gig showed me a shortcut. We were driving through the Regent Square section of town and watched this kid pick up and throw down to the ground this other kid. Then he started a brief session of "UFC ground and pound" as I watched in the rearview mirror (and yes, they played RV Mirror the first night). How prophetic. What is with all the mindless violence? I think it has something to do with this prevailing "rich, overweight suburban whitey trying to emulate the inner city Philly street thug" attitude. It might also explain why my neighbor has attained the status/nickname of "mother fucking cock sucking piece of shit ass."
So all in all, we got to see 50% of the East Coast tour. Not bad. Despite the fact that I'm rapidly approaching the big 40, it made me feel like a kid again. My concert traveling days are far behind me, but just this ONCE...