We had yet another trip to Pittsburgh in store for us Saturday–my fourth in a row, as I’d been in the suburbs Wednesday to help my mom pick out and negotiate for a new car–a long but unexpectedly pleasant experience with Day Chevrolet in Murrysville, PA. We got her an almost new Chevy Cruze–a perfect Grandma-car, but still a little sporty, a little perky to drive. Way to go, Detroit–this one brings a hammer to the Compact Dance, and has the Asian marques in a tizzy, I’d wager.
After that, and the two days of swim meet, let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic about another day crammed into a car, even though the plans for the evening were for recreation. I was grumpy all day, sick of restaurant food, weary of having a seat belt carving into my cartoid, and just plain tired. If we hadn’t been locked in to the tune of $130 I would have been tempted to bail. I just wanted to sleep.
That would have been a shame, because we had a semi-potluck in the mid-afternoon: ham, oven-baked herbed potatoes, salad, lots of fresh fruit and tasty bread, and apple pie for desert, with 4 friends and our kids, then the grown-ups saddled up and made the very familiar drive back to Cardiac Hill. This time, after hours on a weekend, the parking was easy. We quickly found a space in a small garage, downed some beers in the van–the garage was full of folks sitting in their vehicles, bartending out of their trunks. Soon enough it was time, and we strolled up to the Peterson Center, a pretty fantastic venue on the Pitt campus. We were there to see The Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers, and it turned out we got enviable, fantastic seats, just above floor level.
And man, it was awesome. Old Crow opened with a boisterous cover of John Denver’s seminal kneeslappin’ Thank God I’m A Country Boy and the crowd roared into Full Whoop–where is stayed through their too short 50-minute opening set. I loved the crowd–more beards per capita than anyplace but downtown Islamabad– so I felt right at home, enjoying the irony of realizing that at the same moment Old Crow was jamming out genuine old-school Grand Old Opry-grade country to 35,000 hipsters in Pittsburgh, PA all over the country so-called Country Bands were shoveling candy-coated bubblegum pop to hundreds of thousands of rednecks. The energy was pure and joyful–especially during the most popular songs, when the bands and 35,000 background singers–just listen to the voices….
By the time the Avetts ripped through more than two hours (!!) of their show then re-emerged onstage the crowd was in a danced-up, full-flowering bliss, seemingly impossible to improve–until they called Old Crow out on the stage for a magnum freaking opus encore medley of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, The Carter Family’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken (you know an alt.country band is certified when they cover The Carters in their encore), and–finally–an inspired cover of the Spaniels’ Goodnight, Sweetheart. Freaking awesome, and utterly perfect. A stop for take out from Mineo’s Pizza on the way home, and the night was complete.