It took me all week to fully recover and get my head straight from last Saturday’s Sold-Out-Free-Show with The Hold Steady at The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company here in Harrisburg.
Were you there?
It seemed like everyone was. Every social circle- every little clique- people came from up and down the east coast. The door guys told me they checked ID’s from as far north as Vermont and as south as Georgia-and all points in-between drove into the center of the city.
And the show?
I won’t even try.
I won’t even try to put to words what it’s like seeing The Hold Steady pour their hearts out on the stage…our stage.
Several people remarked that it was special.
And it was- if not for everyone- it was special for me.
You see, I’ve been promoting shows and booking bands for about four years now. Along with working a couple years on FM radio, consulting on corporate events, working with the local stagehand union in places like The Giant Center and The Hershey Theater and working with the entertainment end of charity events with groups like The Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, American Red Cross and the Muscular Dystrophy Association…I’ve paid my dues.
Within twenty minutes of announcing the show in late March, I knew it was going to be a big night. The emails and message boards lit up almost instantly.
But no message board fodder or “holy shit!” emails could prepare me for the blissful chaos that ensued on Saturday May 12, 2007.
I remember seeing an early nineties chick-rock band called Belly at The Academy in New York City three or four times. It was 92? Maybe 93?
The place wasn’t that big- it was sort of a step down from much larger Roseland that held probably 2500 people-
We’d pile into one of our parents’ car, each kick in for gas and parking and when we got to the toll booth at the Lincoln Tunnel, we’d each pony up a buck for the journey under the river.
Our eyes were wide and the car was clunking through the potholes of 42nd street and Midtown Manhattan as we crossed our fingers looking for a spot on the street. We all fought over whose mixtape we’d listen to on the way to the show. First loser got to listen to his on the ride back to Jersey.
And we always fought for shotgun.
Depositing our Snapple bottles in the container at the venue doors, we eagerly presented our tickets that we bought from the Ticketmaster at the video store in Garfield- and made our way right up to the rails.
16? 17 years old?
Sometimes the support band was great- one show we saw Radiohead- then in support of their current single “Creep”- open for Belly. We didn’t know who they were.
Everyone just commented on how short Thom Yorke was.
And the lights would go out. And Belly always used this eerie instrumental strings song to open their shows. They played it over the PA. The theater would be completely dark..shadows making their way to the appointed places on stage.
And we were right up front.
The thousand-or-so NYC and Jersey kids would freak out. A pit would open up. Somebody always crowdsurfed.
We’d always get split up during the show and reconvene, sweaty and smoking on the sidewalk amongst the thousand other kids looking for their friends who they got split up with after the show.
We’ve had our successful shows in the past four years. We’ve had plenty of duds as well.
But when I began this foray into the trenches of the music industry, I told myself that I’d want our shows to be like those nights at The Academy.
At Roseland. At The Wetlands.
Packed. Sweaty. Drunk. Anticipatory.
Celebrating the music. The message. The unity that we all felt. Being part of it together.
Last Saturday felt like that.
The Hold Steady revived my love for rock and roll.
And now it’s time to get back to work…
(Now if we could just get The Administration to do something about the archaic Amusement Tax, maybe we could have nights like that more often.)