Wednesday, March 2, 2011

As Good As It Gets

The last time I played Philadelphia, years ago, it was in little an Irish bar, packed with just about everybody I ever knew in the city, and me and my acoustic guitar.

It was a cold night, and the bar was cozy and spirits were high: everybody knew everybody, the atmosphere was relaxed, and it was very intimate and informal.

Last Saturday, February 26th, Sean pulled the car up about half a block from the Blockley Pourhouse and we both looked at the mass of humanity on the sidewalk out front, turned and looked at each other, and then said, “You CANNOT go in that front door!”.

He drove around to the back, parked on a side street, and marched inside like Hannibal Smith, where the burly security guard showed him a side artist entrance. We loaded me and my accoutrements in, and he took off to find the booker, while I surveyed the venue….A good comparision would be the Roxy on Sunset, but a bit larger, good lighting, some seating and a merch area with a chipper young lady who took my CD’s and t-shirts and put them alongside those of Gina Sicilia, Christine Santelli, and of course, Beth Hart.

I had finished making these observations when Sean sprinted back to me with all the details of the evening and took me to the dressing room/green room. A case of water, a box of wine, and a bottle of Jack were there, along with Gina, the first act up for the night. She was very sweet, and we chatted before she took the stage.

By this time, the place was a madhouse. The soundman came back to run down what I needed, etc., and told me that the venue was entirely sold out to the tune of 760 tickets. Everyone who worked there was running in different directions; even the owner was seating people, and the pandemonium only added to the overall excitement of the night.

Viv showed up, wide-eyed and smiling. “Dude, this is sick. This place is jammed!” (Viv Peyrat is a local musician who played lead guitar for me for this show- he is AMAZING….he will definitely be playing with me again when I get back east!)

Beth’s manager sauntered into the green room, soon followed by her band. We talked politely, then Scotty, Beth’s husband, swept in with his giant and jolly personality, and everyone was at ease.

Scott is such a positive presence; he seems to always be happy, yet completely grounded, so that you can’t help but feel secure when he’s around…kinda like Mr. Sean McHugh☺

Christine Santelli, a cool chick and a gritty singer, was up on stage by this time, and one of the assistants ran to a convenience store to get me some hot tea. I told her that it wasn’t necessary, but she said “Well, it’s going to be shitty tea- so it’s a fair trade off.”
(Philly girls, woohoo!:)

I finished my makeup, and there was Beth. I hadn’t seen her in a long time, but it didn’t matter; she knew me right away. She gave me that warm, welcoming Beth hug, and we did the “I haven’t seen you in forever!” thing, then she held my arms and said, “Look at you, girl- you look like…A STAR!…Todd, look at these big blue eyes!” I blushed like a little girl, and told her that she looked amazing as well. She said “Really?”, and I fell in love all over again.

Because that’s what won my heart from the start. Beth doesn’t assume that she’s beautiful, or talented or AWESOME- she just IS. And the fact that she’s still insecure to any degree makes me feel better when I am. She personifies my belief in the principle that artists should reflect our shared humanity- and celebrate it. Because that’s when the music can change lives- when the listener knows it came from a similar heart…a similar soul.

The burly security guard came back with a flashlight and said “OK, it’s time to walk you out.”

We walked in the dark down the hallway up the side stairs of the stage and there I was. My friends, family, Whiskey Warriors, and Whiskey Echelon all screamed when they saw my pink and purple head, and away we went. I started snapping the beginning of “The Way it Goes”, and just the fact that I had the temerity to open with an a cappella song caught most folks’ attention.

It’s a bit like opening for the Stones. But to their credit, Beth’s Rotten Friends, who had been outside, in the cold, in line since early in the day, were gracious and welcoming, even though they were more than ready to see their girl!

We finished with Black Halo, to thunderous applause (I’m sure partly because I was done and it meant Beth was on her way!) and headed back to the green room. Scott was at the doorway, and he grinned and applauded; Beth said “How was it out there?” And I said , “Well, once I got past the folks who were ready to shoot me in the fucking face for not being you, it was cool!” She laughed, and said “Oh no, you know, I find that’s always the case when you open; it just depends on whether you get lucky or not!”. Again- I melt.

Sean took me out to say hi, and I signed autographs, took pictures, gave hugs…And sang along like a rabid Rotten Friend when Beth took the stage with ‘Mama’.

But now this blog is getting long.:)

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to head back to LA, because this weekend felt so good. I told Sean, “I want to do this every night, every day. Get out there on the road and sing my face off.”

He smiled. “It’s coming.”

We got a Philly soft pretzel and boarded the plane.


Laura Oosse said...

That night was nothing short of amazing ! and yes vk it was due to YOU as well as beth !!!!!

Scott Romanski said...

It was great to see you play and to meet you afterwards. Looking forward to more