blake allen (with john waite) at the sellersville theatre

onstage with blake allen at sellersville
onstage with blake allen at sellersville

now that i think of it, the last time blake allen and i got to play together was on this very stage…at sellersville theatre, opening for hal ketchum. tonight, bruce had asked us to open for john waite – which i’d initially thought was an odd pairing. what i’d hoped for was to get blake in front of john gorka, but ben arnold ended up getting that gig…which is an even odder pairing. but – i’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so we took the show, and were glad to do it…besides, if blake had gotten the gorka show, he’d have had to do it by himself, and i’d be sittin’ at home.

blake and i are strange bedfellows, for while i’m allergic to rehearsal, blake is addicted to it. i’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that having me available to him presents a form of sensory overload – he has entirely too many options available to him. this became apparent when we were working on ghosting (his first solo album) together, and we’d pile tracks upon tracks upon tracks on these songs…and then poor marc moss would have to sort through the rubble and debris to piece together what was what – sometimes 40 tracks’ worth – and then strip away stuff until the buried song would resurface.

last night, for instance, on blakes’ new song until the sun, he had me try three different instruments until he decided at last on the pedal steel.

blake at sellersville
blake at sellersville

fortunately for the world, though, he’s much more adept at songwriting than at spur-of-the-moment decision making. 🙂

there were two new songs in the set…the aforementioned until the sun, and another new one (my current favorite) called the leaning tree. they both got the pedal steel treatment, as did horse from the final aunt pat album. it’s still pretty difficult for me to sing and play pedal steel at the same time, even with my microphone down at what i’ve come to call “the rusty height” (meaning roughly the height that rusty young from poco sets his mic and stand…low enough that you can look down at your hands while you’re singing…). but since horse was the only steel song that i knew the words to, it was the only one i sang on. the leaning tree is fast-tracking to becoming my favorite to play, though…the descending harmonic notes on the pedal steel do something really intense to that song, on a mood level.

blake and tom at sellersville
blake and tom at sellersville

i’m not sure what it was that i did, particularly, but all my levels were fine when we walked off stage after soundcheck…yet when we went up for the show itself, things were…quiet. i don’t know what it was, specifically, but i didn’t seem to have the same volume level that i had at soundcheck. so i played through the first two songs (pedal steel), and when i made the switch to baritone guitar for the third one, i went back and jacked the amp up a bit. the baritone is always a little quieter than the other instruments anyway, and i felt like i had to if i was going to be heard for the next song. and, sure enough, it was fine…louder than i’d expected, actually, but i always ride a tight grip on the volume with my right foot, anyway, so it wasn’t the end of the world. after that song, i notched the volume a bit and it was fine for the rest of our short little set.

i played lap steel on long december and actually got a smattering of applause after my solo. that doesn’t happen very often, and i won’t lie and say i didn’t get a rise out of it. 🙂

john waite at sellersville
john waite at sellersville

john and his band were polite, gracious, and complimentary – and as fate would have it, one of the boys (bassist tim hogan) is originally a philly dude. tim and i started talking after the show, and it turns out that we’re both fellow robert hazard alumni…we got the chance to exchange some stories about robert, including a funny one about robert confronting him about whether or not he was seeing roberts’ daughter, corinna…and then it further slips out that he and ronny crawford played in anna nalicks’ band together. i gave him one of my cards and asked him to casually mention my name to ronny next time he sees him…i’d love to see the look on ronnys’ face when he does.

this is par for the course with the rate at which the world seems to shrink on a regular basis for me in this day and age…it really is pretty remarkable.

on the way home, i checked my email on my iPhone and got a note from john lilley that saturday nights’ show at steel city coffeehouse is sold out. that’s the fourth sold out show i’ve played in the past two months, between john’s shows at the kennett flash and this one, dan mays’ kennett flash show, and jd malones’ steel city show…and that’s not counting the shows that were full houses without quite reaching sellout status, like craig’s landhaven show a couple of weeks ago. it’s gratifying in a way i can’t really explain…there’s a degree of validation in having people show up and pay good money to see you in this kind of economic climate.

there really is – as stephen stills once observed – somethin’ happenin’ here.

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