Charleston is home to the NPR show Mountain Stage. It has been a staple in our touring lives for the past couple of decades. This was our ninth appearance on the show. It’s gratifying to know that a show that caters strictly to live music can be as successful and survive for as long as Mountain Stage. It means that there are still people out there that have a thirst for music in its most basic and raw form. We thank the listeners and the dedication of all the people who make this show work. It’s never an easy gig. There is a live audience of about 400 people and usually four or five acts on the show. Each act has anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes to get on, do their thing and leave. So you never really get comfortable on stage, the sound and positioning of each player is not in your control, like it is for a regular gig. So things are usually a little stiff, sometimes a little forced. We felt we had a decent showing tonight…not great, not very deep in-the-pocket, but an adequate impression of ourselves. We hope to be back in a couple of years to collect our 10th show-appearance jackets.
We have a quirk in our schedule that has left us two days off in a row in Harrisburg PA. This city wouldn’t have been my first choice for two days off, probably not even my second. The city has all the bones and tools for making it a great place to visit; the Susquehanna River at its doorstep (the city has done a great job at developing the riverside with pedestrian walkways and parks); some beautiful 19th century buildings (including a half a dozen spectacular churches); an incredibly beautiful and opulent Capitol building; it’s well located in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch Territory and within relatively easy reach of Philadelphia, Washington and NYC…and yet, there is something missing. The downtown is clean and efficient but there is very little to do at street level. There is hardly any interesting retail to speak of, very few restaurants, coffee shops or places to just mill about in. There is no energy or vibe downtown….like a lot of government towns, it seems that the bureaucrats come in for the day and empty out by 4pm. But we made the best of it. Most of us slept away the first day, allowing our bodies to recover from six shows in a row. In the evening a few of us ventured off to a highly recommended BBQ joint around the corner from the hotel. The food was overcooked and dry (and all of us ended up waking up at 4am with heartburn), but the restaurant had one of the best beer selections that we have come across in a long time: Dogfish Head and Stone IPA on tap, and dozens of obscure, excellent independent brews in the bottle including some of our favourites like Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Southern Tier IPA, so all was not lost. I also stumbled across Scott Pilgrim Vs The World on HBO and watched it for about the 5th time… one of the great unheralded movies of the past few years…it’s a film full of energy, intelligence and fun….. true entertainment. My daughter has gone out on Halloween as one of its characters (Knives Chau) for the past two years and my son took up bass playing because of the movie. A lot of it is also filmed in our neighborhood, so I have a soft spot for it. If you are in need of letting things go for a couple of hours, or if you just want to remember what it was like to be young and full of angst, check it out.
On day two of our marathon we secured tickets to see the Flyers vs Red Wings (a big thank you to Liz Campanile, our PR rep for going on fifteen years, who worked the phones until she got through to the right person). Our driver, Sid, was as keen to do something as we were, so we bought him a ticket and we took the bus on in to Philly. Many thanks to the good folks at the Wells Fargo Arena that were able to squeeze a 65 foot bus and trailer in to their parking lot and found 9 tickets in a row. It was a decent game (although the Wings were without their top forward, defenceman and number one goalie and the Flyers were without their captain). The home team hung on to win 3-2 so it ended as it should. There was a retirement ceremony for Mark Howe’s number at the beginning of the game and Mark’s father Gordie was there for the ceremony. Seeing Gordie Howe made the whole trip worthwhile. On the way home we finished off the first season of Justified, which is a fun way to waste some time if you spent your youth watching shows like The Rockford Files, Magnum PI and Columbo. And that’s how we killed two days in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Tonight’s gig was our first with Joe Purdy opening the show (he will be doing so for the next two shows as well). The Whitaker Center is a beautiful theater/complex in downtown Harrisburg (a relatively recent attempt to bring some life back in to the downtown). It is a beautiful sounding room and stage. Unfortunately we had a very light turnout tonight. I think people living in this area probably have more pressing things to spend their dwindling dollars on. But those that did show up were very vocal and enthusiastic. We had a decent night on stage. We may have lost a bit of focus near the end of the night but overall I think the energy was good.
This entry was posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2012 at 11:59 am and is filed under Tour Diary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
I couldn’t agree more with you on the current state of our “city.” It comes to life at night on the weekends though for sure. I couldn’t believe Whitaker wasn’t sold out! I had forgotten about the show and have been strapped for cash as most have. A friend of mine pulled through and I called the afternoon of the show and a wonderful customer service representative was able to get us tickets in the front row of permanent seats off to the right side of the stage. I was so excited…first time ever seeing you guys and Joe Purdy opening (who was amazing)! Thanks so much for coming out and giving us an experience to remember. It meant more to me than you’ll ever know!
I hope you make it out to the West Coast before too long. The last time I saw you live was in 1996 when I was living in Oslo, Norway. It was the only show my wife and I bought tickets for in the entire year we lived there because we were so broke. The only other show we saw (because some friends took pity and paid for our tickets) was a festival where Neil Young played. So during our year in Norway the only music we saw was two Canadian acts and they both played Powderfinger.
Hey thanks for coming back to WV.
I thought y’all had got a bit mellow over the last few years and it was such a great thing to see you guys rage and rock out some.
The last album I bought of y’alls was Pale Sun Crescent moon with the amazing “ring on the sill”
The next CD I’m going to buy is Sing In My Meadow. Absolutely loved everything you did on it.
I’ve seen you on every Mt Stage you have done in WV plus the only stand alone show you’ve done here I was aware of (in Lewisburg)
Come back sometime for another stand alone show. Maybe at the new Clay Center! Thanks!
Margo and Band,
It was a distinct pleasure to see you and the band “live” for the very first time last evening at the Whittaker Center in Harrisburg, Pa. I still remember the very first time in heard your voice was back in the late 1980’s on WXPN in Phila., and have been a fan ever since. I like the fact that you started with “new material”, and finished up with your timeless classics. I’m looking forward to all the material in the Nomad Series. Many Thanks! Charlie
Ugh! I’m in Harrisburg for a conference and would have loved to have been at the show last night – I wish I’d known you were here!
Sorry the BBQ turned out to less than to your liking. Only been to Momo’s once and I quite liked it, especially the variety of sauces. My biggest disappointment about last night was getting shut out of Momo’s. Apparently someone had rented the whole place from 5-7:30… rumor has it that it was you guys. There actually are a surprising number of bars in Harrisburg that have a great tap list. We ended up going to one around the corner and had a smoked prime rib, so it all worked out.
This was my first show seeing CJ. You guys were awesome. That was my third show I’ve seen at the Whitaker center. The acoustics in that place are really great. Even though I’m living in Philly now, I would love seeing you guys coming back to HBG.
So cool to see you again after 10 yrs. We’ve seen you a few times at the 9:30 and Wolftrap (nice dichotomy there eh?) I thank Sirius radio for putting you on a lot over the past few months, which led me to your website to buy CDs, which led me to see that you’re coming near us in Harrisburg *in 4 days*. Was pretty surprised by the good seat selection I had so close to the show, but was happy to be so close to you all.
Since moving to PA 6 years ago, I’ve said that “everything that’s cool here, is only half-cool”. Exactly like your experience with a half-hearted downtown scene. Have yet to find a “Two-Hearted” town here. Really glad you found some good beer though, as beer is one of the challenges in this Commonwealth.
We will find you again, stay well, and Thank You for coming to Harrisburg.
I was thrilled to see the Whitaker newspaper ad abt a month ago that announced you were coming. I never thought you’d come to my area, since Philadelphia seems as close as most big national acts get to my corner of PA. Thank you for coming to Harrisburg. My husband Al humored me when I asked him if we could fit you into our “live music budget”. Your concert Wed. night “captured” him; that is the best way I can put it. Tonight he gathered up a 6 cd handful of my CJ collection & loaded up our living room CD player. And unlike most of our music evenings, he listened to your music with the lights on, the better to read the lyrics I went online to get for the albums that didn’t include them. In spite of your nightlife letdown in Harrisburg, I hope you will return here someday. I can bet that a lot of us here would go out of our way to give you a warmer welcome than you got this time.
Thanks for adding Harrisburg to your tour. Really enjoyed the show. Next time in the area, try the brewhouse grille on the west shore. It has an amazing selection of microbrews and a decent menu as well. Glad you got to see the Flyers. Hockey is pretty big around here. Bought the entire nomad series and have recommended it to family and friends. Safe journeys and hope you return this way again!