When I arrived home from work this evening, I gingerly exited the air-conditioned car, walked through the steaming 88-degree air … and into an air-conditioned house, a blissful 72 degrees inside.
The Wife walked up, gave me a hug and thanked me for insisting on the AC. And though he isn’t sure why, Miles is sooooo happy to be an indoor cat this week.
The beastly heat didn’t really pick up here until Monday, after we had a solid weekend.
Friday afternoon: golf, followed by beef burritos, several beers and Trivial Pursuit on the porch.
Saturday evening: A leisurely dinner — and, um, more beer — on the front patio of the Harris Grill in Shadyside, a place we’ve been meaning to try since it changed from an odd Greek restaurant with a decent beer list to, thanks to an infusion of Big Burrito ex-pats, a fairly hip place with a killer menu and an even better beer list.
The meal was followed by a short walk to Walnut Street and a free show by the Spin Doctors — my first time seeing them since November 1992, when they were dangerously close to becoming a really big deal.
Although the Dead was in the middle of their last consistently great run, there was a lot of discussion back then about what band would step up to be the “next Grateful Dead.” The consensus picks were Phish, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors, who took an early lead when they became MTV darlings via the songs “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”
Within a span of about a year, I saw all three bands at the Newport in Columbus, and was most impressed with Blues Traveler at the time. Phish was a little too quirky, and the Spin Doctors seemed a little schizophrenic: the fun poppy songs that made them such a big deal on the radio and MTV clashed with most of the rest of their music, a white-boy funk similar to Royal Crescent Mob.
What I saw back then didn’t translate very well to the paths taken by each band. Spin Doctors barely got through the 1990s, vanished amidst bickering and a weird vocal cord paralysis for Chris Barron; and Blues Traveler looked like they would get huge after “Run Around.” but drugs got one band member and bad health caught up with the rotund John Popper.
And Phish, the one I thought was interesting but too odd to ever amount to more than a novelty, was the one that big enough to attract 80,000 to its annual single-band festivals. So much for Uncle Crappy’s powers of prognostication.
So. We finish up beers and dinner and walked over to Walnut Street. I’m not going to write much about the opening band, Good Brother Earl, because I know just about nothing about them, other than they are local. And that they were good enough to have been the headliners on Saturday. We will see them again.
After some minor clusterfucks with chairs and drinks and cigarettes, we wiggled right up to the front of the stage. Chris Barron doesn’t do as much of his rag-doll dancing as he did in 1992, but he sitll has a loopy, fun stage presence. The set started well, but things got weird about half-way through, when the local sound guys couldn’t control feedback on stage … which caused the band to get pissed. There seemed to be other tensions on stage as well, something a little hard to put a finger on. But they finished up strong and seemed pleased to play a two-song encore before they kicked the shit out of the sound guy.
The lead-in to Saturday evening was a day spent in outdoors stores (Gander Mountain: Fuck That Shit!) and sporting goods stores, assessing what kind of gear we’re going to need for our upcoming vacation. Which, I think, I haven’t yet mentioned. So: On Aug. 16, The Wife and I will drive to a country club for bikers — no, really — and take in the 11th annual Gathering of the Vibes, a three-day orgy of hippie musicdom.
We’ve talked in the past about attending one of those Phish festivals I mentioned previously, or even taking a stab at Bonnaroo, but both seemed a bit, uh, large for our tastes. The Gathering is home to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people, and some pretty cool musicians you might have heard of: Ratdog, Mickey and Billy’s Rhythm Devils, Hot Tuna, Donna and the Zen Tricksters, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Yonder Mountian String Band, Keller Williams, Burning Spear, North Mississippi All-Stars, Zero, Assembly of Dust, Rebirth Brass Band, Tea Leaf Green … and about a buttload more.
This is a Don’t Leave The Campsite kind of deal, so we’re trying to assess the camping gear we have versus what we’re going to need. New tent? Canopy? Propane stove? Air mattresses? Because there is a strict no-glass rule at this place, we’re also scoping out canned beer that will be appropriate; the leader thus far is Dale’s Pale Ale, perhaps supplemented by some Guinness. The countdown is on, and these are important decisions, people.
And we’ll make them, in due time. In the meantime, we’re happy to sit on the porch here in Pgh … with an occasional stroll inside to enjoy the latest object of our affection.