I worked a late day Friday, cleaning up leaves on a pleasant autumn afternoon, under bright clear skies, the hills around we alight with gold and fiery red leaves. Fall is slipping away quickly. It always does. Since my children were young I have counseled them to keep their heads up and their eyes open during these first two weeks of October, when the leaves catch fire and fall. By Halloween the hills will be be gray, save for stubborn oaks which hold their leathery leaves, faded to brown, deep into the winter.
PHOTOS: Above and Below, The Indiana Gazette
Exhausted by the time I retreated indoors near dusk, my wife off on a “girls night out” dinner & wine binge with a group of friends, I shuttled my kids to the football field, having begged off myself. I was tired, hungry, and flushed from a day spent outdoors–I returned home to have leftover spaghetti for dinner while I listened to the game on the radio. Of course, it turned out to be one of the more exciting games in recent history: the home team triumphed at the very end of a hard-fought, back and forth battle in which numerous game, season, and career records were set by our talented quarterback and wide receiver duo. I sure can pick the right time to be a lazy dog and stay home, can’t I?
Saturday was big event day–we herded up our friends Brian & Ann, our daughters, two of their friends, and all of their boyfriends into both the van and the Chuckwagon and drove the kids down to Kennywood, Pittsburgh’s legendary amusement park, for Kennywood’s Phatom Fright Night–an annual event in which ghouls haunt the creepy park (bringing all your Scooby Gang nightmares to bear and remember that Pittsburgh is pretty much the center of the Zombie Underground) and kids get to ride roller coasters and freeze their butts off on cold October nights. We dumped the kids and left the Chuckwagon in the lot for them to use as emergency shelter–a smart move, as it turns out.
We old farts rolled down along the Monongahela river to Pittsburgh’s Southside, the historical working class district that’s gone and turned itself into a carnival-like nightspot. It was predictably crowded with revelers, but we lucked into a parking space just a block from our destination, the funky old Rex Theater, where we met up with some more friends to take in a much-awaited Todd Snider concert.
We were a little disappointed at first–the show had originally been billed as having Elizabeth Cook as the opening act, and the talented and charismatic singer would have been a perfect match for Snider’s outgoing persona. Alas, we got a guy named Jesse Aycock, who was as quiet and earnest and introspective as Snider is larger-than-life, even in the Rex’s super-intimate setting. We felt bad for Aycock, whose simple, maudlin, acoustic ballads and lack of interaction with the audience was poorly suited for a crowd that was already anxious to see the main attraction.
Snider didn’t disappoint, either. He sauntered out on stage to the tunes of Booker T. & The MG’s “Green Onion” like he owned the place, in his stocking feet, an old sweater, blue jeans and his trademark hat, and quickly announced that he’d be playing two sets and we’d hear everything we wanted to hear–all the “good stuff” he enthused, because he knew how folks hate to get to a show when the artist plays what “he” wants, and everyone is thinking, “not all that new shit, damn.” And true to his word, he pounded through the next 2.5 hours hitting most of his most popular songs, drawing cheers and sing-a-longs, wild applause and deep satisfaction from the crowd.
The only downer was an obnoxious drunk woman who was making everyone around her miserable. When she shouted a request in the midst of one song, Snider finally stopped, leaned forward, and said, “I’ll be glad to play whatever y’all want me to play, but it’d be great if you waited until the end of one song before yelling for the next one.” Chastened, the woman relented for a few songs but eventually started yelling and blabbing loudly. Snider stopped again and begged her “Please, for the love of god and all those people around you would you kindly shut up? I mean, you’ve been talking all night what could you possibly have left to say? I now know more about you than I know about some of my friends.” She didn’t make it another song before, now clearly defiant, she was at it again. The bouncers finally dragged her out, earning an enthusiastic round of applause, but Snider was clearly rattled and banged through about 8 songs without stopping, when it’s usually his style to tell hilarious stories and interact with the audience. Not that 7 or 8 straight Todd Snider songs live in a small club is bad! Jesse Aycock joined him for the encore–after a pair of 90 minute sets–that was as rousing as it was generous. Aycock redeemed himself with some sweet slide guitar work as Snider’s side man, and the pair closed with a cool acoustic ballad version of “Freebird” that had the crowd laughing, at first (I always yell “Freebird!” at conerts) and holding up their lighters. Old school. Did I mention that this show cost $20? Awesome, I know.
We grabbed some pizza down the s street, noting that the light rain had turned to sleet, then rolled back to Kennywood to retrieve 8 very cold, tired, and happy teenagers. They all slept, while Brian and I kept up a steady conversation to stay awake, and made it back home around 230am. Long day. Good day. (Set list at the end of the post)
On Sunday we slept in late and never did much of anything–replaced a brake light on the family van, did some grocery shopping, and picked up a peck of apples at a local orchard. It’s been cool and bright all year, and the fresh apples are out of this world this year–perfect conditions, and the orchard expects to be open until Thanksgiving. Lots of apple pie in my immediate future.
I spent the rest of the day nodding off, or shambling around the house in as stupor. All in all, though, it was an outstanding weekend.
Todd Snider Live, October 18th, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA Rex Theater
Is This Thing Working
Everything Else…Except For Nothing
[The Frisbie Story]
Play A Train Song
[Skip Litz Story]
Good News Blues>
The Last Laugh> Good News Blues>
You Got To Take Sick And Die
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance
Stuck On The Corner
Age Like Wine> Beer Run
Looking For A Job>
[Mark Marchetti Story]
Better Than Ever Blues, Part 2
Sideshow Blues> *
Working Man’s Blues *
* w/ Jesse Aycock