Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I went to Philadelphia last week for a Wolf Parade show at the Theater of Living Arts. My friends and I missed out on tickets for the D.C. show at the Black Cat, but coming from Baltimore area, the it really makes little difference.
Philly is a little less than 2 hours from Baltimore and the downtown area is a breeze to get to from I-95. To get to D.C., one must brave the perma-jammed Beltway and then navigate their way through numerous back roads riddled with stoplights in order to get to the Black Cat or 9:30 Club. And in the end, the difference in drive-time between D.C. and Philly is smaller than one might expect.
Once we got to Philly, we didn't even need a map, since the city is laid out in a grid-like fashion, with numbered streets running north and south. So we took our exit intending to head straight for the venue, but decided last minute that some Philly cheese steaks would hit the spot before the show. So we drove to the approximate place we remembered Geno's and Pat's to be located, and after making one simple right hand turn, we found the cheese steak capital of the world, no problem.
Since we had been to Pat's the last time we were in Philly, we opted for Geno's this time. And I'm glad we did. The lady at the window was nice and patient while my friends made up their minds. The cheese whiz was used sparingly and the bread was soft. Surprisingly, the sub was smaller than I expected and my stomach was still roaring with hunger after I was finished. So we shrugged our shoulders and headed across the street to Pat's, agreeing that the only way to definitely decide which was better was to eat them both back to back.
At Pat's, the guys working the counter were your standard Philly guys. They had no patience for menu gazing while in mid-order, but they rang you up and gave you your sub in record time. I also enjoyed the signs that read "Speak English when ordering" next to the window.
As I sat down, I was amazed at the amount of cheese whiz dripping from the sub. Not a good sign. Also, the bread was a little tougher than at Geno's.
Overall, I give the nod to Geno's for less cheese whiz and softer bread, but if you like cheese whiz, then Pat's will be the spot for you.
Little did we know we'd regret the decision to slam 2 cheese steak subs in a row later on in the night.
Anyway, we parked the car in a garage near the TLA and headed toward South Street, the cultural center of the city. We had a few drinks at a bar where another typical Philly guy was throwing a fit. I don't know what it was about but he purposely slammed into some stacked chairs while going to the bathroom and didn't bother to pick them up. Turns out he was the bartender's girlfriend or something.
After being frozen out by the wind from a rare mid-summer rainstorm whipping through the open doors, we headed to an Irish bar with a closed door across the street and watched the first quarter of a pre-season NFL game. Barely paying attention to it, we shot the shit as our stomach's punished us for drowning them in cheese whiz, grease and now Yuengling lager.
After nearly puking, we headed over to the TLA at 9 p.m. Perfect timing. The second opening act, Plants and Animals, was about to start.
The lead singer looked like he belonged in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but they were just standard retro alt-rock hipsters from Montreal, the city where all the new bands seem to come from nowadays. Anyway, they filled the time and space with decent music for about 40 minutes and got off stage fast enough so that Wolf Parade could set up their instruments.
A half an hour later Wold Parade was on-stage, opening with "It's a Curse". They proceeded to play a lot of new stuff, which sounded great. I can't wait for the rumored new album. As a matter of fact it can't come out soon enough. My list of favorite bands is a constantly changing one, and after seeing them live, Wolf Parade now sits atop that list.
I was surprised to see a mosh pit by the stage, as Wolf Parade hardly screams MOSH!, but after all, this is Philly, so I guess people are used to beating up on each other, shaking hands and then buying each another a beer. The highlight of the moshing culminated when a kid was crowd surfing and then opened an umbrella while the band played "Shine a Light."
My friend joked that Dan Boeckner looked like death personified. I thought he looked like a fish singing into the microphone. Regardless, he rocked the fuck out of the joint, has a hot wife and is currently a member of one of the hottest indie-bands out there today.
Meanwhile my friends are I are pasty middle-class drones working our lives away in offices. I don't think Dan will mind our feeble attempts to make ourselves feel better.
In the end, seeing Wolf Parade, one of my favorite bands, in person was definitely the highlight of the trip. But just being back in Philly was the second. I just love it. And even though Philly doesn't necessarily love me back, I still love it anyway.
And maybe that's what they mean by brotherly love.