Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Tourist Handbook

"Is that big building that reads 'Convention Center', the Convention Center?"

The Reading Terminal/Convention Center area is like a scene from a bad zombie movie this week with tourists visiting for the Philadelphia Flower Show. And they must have read from the 'Tourist Handbook':

1) When driving around the Convention Center area, make sure you drive really slow. If you don't know where you are going, it's always best to drive as slow as possible so it takes you forever to not get there. You are not going to go at a normal speed and risk going the wrong way or missing your turn, because if you missed a turn at 11th Street you couldn't possibly just go to 12th Street and circle back around. It is my understanding that if your miss a turn, your car just vaporizes immediately.

2) Make all of your turns from the wrong lane. The other drivers behind you, who are actually trying to get somewhere, really appreciate it when you are in the right lane, trying to turn left, and then just stop to wait for an opening, causing them to get stuck at another light. And pay no attention to pedestrians. Besides you're not driving fast enough to hurt us too bad if you accidentally plowed into us anyway.

3) After you park, you probably have to walk a few blocks. So when walking down the street, always walk 3 or 4 abreast and take up the entire sidewalk from side to side, so people either have to walk at the same snail's pace, knock you over, or walk in the street to go around you - where they very well may get hit by a car trying to make a left turn from the right lane. Also, if you could talk or type on your phone while walking at that pace, that would sweet. Don't worry, sidewalks in Philly are reserved just for you to shuffle along at your glacier-like pace.

4) When shopping in the Reading Terminal, make sure you walk like your shoes are bound together as if you were working on a chain gang.

5) When you want to talk with friends/family who are with you, make sure you just stop dead in the middle of the aisle, where hundreds of people are trying to pass you going each way. Nobody minds, so chat away.

6) And for women, make sure your pocketbook is at least big enough to transport a baby elephant. No sense leaving home for a few hours without every item in your medicine cabinet in the bag along with a meal, in case you got stuck in a big city like Philadelphia where there's absolutely no place to buy anything you might have forgotten. There's certainly not a Wawa a block away or anything. And be sure to accidentally swing that large bag into me and others as you stumble through the concourse, not looking where you are going. If you do it right, it will hang off your shoulder right at my crotch level.

7) Agonize over your lunch decision (or considering the age of the customers, possibly "Early Bird dinner" at 2pm) with the same deliberation most of us put into the purchase of our house. I know, I know, it's very complicated choosing between salad, pizza, or a sandwich.

8) And by all means, when you have a line of people behind you, make sure your change/substitute at least 2 things that come with the pre-made salads or sandwiches. There's nothing quite like eating a meal out and then changing the way the experts prepare it, so you can have it exactly like you would have eaten it at home if you had made it yourself. That's the point of eating out, right?

9) And always make sure you have to dig through your pocketbooks for at least a minute or two to get the money to pay. The people waiting in line behind you on their lunch hours have ALL DAY. And you've only been standing there waiting for 10 minutes with nothing else to do while they prepared your order, so I wouldn't expect you to do all of that ahead of time.

10) And if there is a group of you, when you pay make sure you all pay separately with your own credit cards. That really speeds the process up, while you wait for the vendors with their old dial-up technology to process six individual $8 salads and sandwich charges.

Come back and visit soon.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jesse Malin and the St Marks Social (with Tommy Stinson) at City Winery - Soho NY 2/19/11

I first came across Jesse Malin via his previous band, D Generation, way back in the salad days of 1994. I can't remember where exactly, but I recall reading a snippet of a review somewhere (the old Welcomat?) and decided to check them out. This was before the days of the Internet and iTunes, so you actually had to leave your house and put a little work into discovering new music. I knew right away just from looking at the band photo, that I would probably like them.

D Generation circa 1994

And they were offering something a little different. D Generation seemed to marry the trashy glam punk of the New York Dolls with 80's hardcore. Remember how the rock music world was in 1994? For the most part, if you didn't have the right look and a sound that could easily pass for a moderately good Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains imitation, you probably weren't going to get noticed.

They weren't terribly original but at the time they were a breath of fresh air to me. Their self-titled debut did OK and I even recall the old WDRE Alternative station in Philly playing some of their songs. After several lineup changes and 2 other good records, they disbanded in early 1999. They were probably a little ahead of their time, as that sound became more trendy in the early 00's. That's around when I found out about Malin's previous history fronting NYC hardcore band Heart Attack at the ripe young age of 12 in the early 80's. And that's where the rest of the Jesse Malin story starts.

Malin's solo career began in 2001 and in early 2002 he released The Fine Art of Self-Destruction. He was venturing more into singer-songwriter territory with a punk vibe, similar to Paul Westerberg's post-Replacements career. The story of the "old punk maturing" is as old as the punk genre itself. And it's kind of a tired concept because generally the songs aren't good enough to hold up when stripped down. And the original reasons you probably got into that punk artist - energy, rebellion, etc, are no longer there. But in Malin's case the songs were always good in his previous bands, but the look and sound of the band sort of distracted listeners from that fact.

Anyway, 17 years after I first experienced Malin's music, here we are. I never saw D Generation play live, but I've seen him play solo at least 8 times now and he never disappoints. So there were two shows at the City Winery - one at 8pm, and a late show at 11pm.  Jesse Malin and the St. Marks Social were doing The Fine Art of Self Destruction in its entirety for the first time ever so the first show sold out fairly quickly. And I had a feeling the later show would be better after it was added.

Jesse Malin and the St Marks Social in 2010

Tommy Stinson opened at 8pm with his fiancee Emily Roberts singing backup vocals and Mike Gent of the Figgs on guitar with Tommy on guitar and vocals. It was all acoustic and was a very brief set since they wanted to get Malin on asap with the late show scheduled. It was cool to see 2 tracks from the "lost" Perfect album. And I'm thinking he played something else from his 2004 solo album that I am forgetting.

Tommy Stinson and fiancee Emily Roberts

Tommy set #1
Match Made in Hell (new)
Moment Too Soon
Turn It Up
One Man Mutiny (new)
Making of an Asshole
Hey You
Now We Come to Hide

Jesse Malin

Jesse Malin and the St Marks Social

Malin set #1
All 12 songs from The Fine Art of Self-Destruction in its entirety
Mona Lisa
Instant Karma (Lennon cover)

At the end Malin started to play "All the Way from Moscow" and got the hook before just going into the Lennon song. Great banter throughout the show, telling the story of how/why songs were written like a VH1 Storytellers kind of thing. At one point he talked about how hard it is to make a "first record" and how he's had to do that like 4 times in 4 different bands and solo. And how Ryan Adams was the one who encouraged him to go solo and put his name out there and not hide behind a band name. Also, in a half serious/half being a wise-ass moment, he says how when he was starting out, next to not making it, his biggest fear was that he would end up playing venues like this (i.e. wine bars). The band was great. Todd Youth on lead guitar was a great addition.

I was kind of bummed that there were no "special guests" as advertised. I thought at least maybe Ryan Adams would be there since he's produced 2 of his 4 albums, including the featured TFAOSD. So after originally planning to head back to the hotel we decided to snatch up some SRO tickets for the 2nd show and got back there toward the end of Tommy's set at 11:40 or so. He played a similar set I guess, but this included a great acoustic version of "Friday Night Is Killing Me" - the title track from his band Bash and Pop's debut album from 1993.

Malin's set is basically the same obviously, but with lots of different stories between songs (I assume he figured some people would see both shows so he had to mix it up). Then during the encore Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day joined them along with Tommy Stinson and singer/songwriter Charlie Mars.

Malin and St Marks Social with Billie Joe Armstrong

Billie Joe Armstrong

So the FAOSD set ended at like 1:30 and then the encore ended up going until 2:20. Then as we're leaving I see Tommy holding court with fans near the door, so I got a few pics of him and me (at bottom).

Malin set #2
12 songs from TFAOSD in its entirety
Mona Lisa
Hotel Columbia
Burning the Bowery
All the Way From Moscow
Pay To Cum (Bad Brains)
Winter (Rolling Stones)
You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders)
Instant Karma (John Lennon)
D Generated (D Generation /Reagan Youth)

Youth, Stinson, and Armstrong

Stinson and Armstrong

Malin, Armstrong, Stinson

Me and Tommy