last call at the spectrum (1967-2009)

you guys know me by now. about as nostalgic as they come.

so, yeah – i kinda had to be here for this.

the spectrum had been here for years before i showed up, and folks who grew up here who are my age have stories about the shows they’d seen at the spectrum many years before i showed up – and in that regard, i kinda felt like i was mourning someone else’s loss by coming to say goodbye to the spectrum at this show.

it was, to their credit, an all philadelphia bill – starting with the hooters, followed by todd rundgren, and headliners hall and oates.

ramon, derek, dylan, and..."booty" in front of the spectrum...

now, before i’d left, i made mention to dylan that i was going to this thing, and he was actually interested in seeing hall and oates, which…well, to say it was out of character for him would be an understatement. but sure enough, he wanted to come along. and not only did he come along, but he brought three friends with him. i’d already gotten my tickets (down front, complete with afterparty passes and all), but i got them tickets when we got there so that they could get in to see the show, and told them that i’d meet up with them afterwards to try to get them into the afterparty.

eric bazilian and john lilley of the hooters onstage at last call

i bumped into beth kretz and her oldest little guy – she’d brought him there to see what an actual concert was like, and from what i could tell, he hung in there pretty well…they were really only there for the hooters, and they played first – so it was pretty easy to manage him, since she was able to get him in and out relatively quickly.

i got there, picked up tickets for dylan and his friends and parted ways, met up with mark and we went down front and found our seats, and watched the hooters set from there. i got up and took a walk around the arena, though, for todd rundgrens’ set…it was, to be polite, a little hard to digest. todd made what felt like a conscious attempt to stay as far away from playing anything palatable, sticking instead to obscure stuff that wasn’t terribly tuneful. plus, his voice sounded pretty shredded. instead, i took a few laps around the concourse, taking in the larger-than-life murals of great moments in flyers and sixers history, as well as some of the shows that had taken place there over the years.

todd rundgren, taken from backstage. that's my buddy rob nagy in the red sox hat in the front row.

the grateful dead played the spectrum 53 times, more than any other act – but the spectrum hosted everyone from cream (during their farewell tour), the doors (whose live in philadelphia ’70 was recorded there), and pink floyd (where it’s said that roger waters’ experience that inspired comfortably numb occured). the flyers won a stanley cup there in 1974, and the sixers (led by julius “doctor j” irving) hosted the NBA finals there in the late seventies.

so, yeah…there’s a lot of history in this place…not to mention a million stories that exist in the memories of the people who filled the seats here.

hall and oates take the stage for last call at the spectrum

after rundgrens’ set, i wandered back down to my seat for hall and oates, who put on a phenomenal show…encored by the soul survivors doing expressway to your heart and an all star finale, including pretty much everyone left in the dressing rooms, doing the ojays’ anthem, love train.

the lights came up and the crowd started to mill about, finding its way to the exits – i went out and found dylan, ramon, derek and company and told them to stay close to me and – when they finished prepping the floor for the afterparty – to just follow me down, and keep talking to me the whole time and we’d see if they were stopped at all. if so, they’d have to wait a while…but if not, to just come on down and hang and have fun.

i ran into pierre robert not long after we got down to the floor, and introduced the kids to him, introduced them to john lilley when he came out, and by then the food was out, and they had amended their agenda somewhat. 🙂

with t-bone wolk - THE nicest dude in rock and roll. 🙂

t-bone wolk came out at long last, and attracted quite a crowd the minute he came out, which was quite a testament to his stature, i guess…but also a testament to what a friggin’ nice guy he is. i managed to catch a couple minutes’ worth of conversation with him, though – asked him whether or not there was any progress on the john eddie record that i’d played on for him some time before (answer: it appears to have been abandoned for the time being, and he hasn’t heard from john in quite a while) – he’s enjoying working with darryl on his solo record, and on the live from darryl’s house shows. i also had to tell him how much my daughter loved the across the universe movie…t-bone played on a lot of the score for the soundtrack (which, you may or may not know, is all beatles songs…arranged into a plot that unfolds as the movie progresses). that brought a smile to his face….but he looked pretty tired, and there were quite a few sharpie hounds with albums under their arms vying for his attention, so i said goodnight.

as the night wore on, though, and a lot of the folks filtered out into the night, i found myself sitting in a seat along the side and watching the stage being torn down by the crew…it was the first few verses of jackson browne’s the load out personified:

now the seats are all empty
let the roadies take the stage
pack it up, and tear it down

they’re the first to come and the last to leave
working for that minimum wage
they’ll set it up in another town

tonight the people were so fine
they waited there in line
and then they got up on their feet and made the show

well, that was sweet
but i can hear the sound of slamming doors and folding chairs
and that’s a sound they’ll never know….

"..'cause when it comes to moving me, you know you guys are the champs..."

it really is a lonely moment – when the hall has emptied out and the stage is being torn down and loaded onto the trucks to move on to the next show and the only sounds in the room are the jarring echoes of cases slamming shut, platforms being lowered to the floor, wheels careening across the hall from the arena to the dock. it’s quite a spiral in energy, from the show to the load-out, and it can take a toll when you ride that curve a lot.

i had a hard time leaving the spectrum that night knowing that i’d never be back…it’s yet another important chess piece in a game that’s falling out of fashion, and further evidence that time marches on and that none of us are getting any younger.

john lilley CD release party for “lucky kinda guy”

so this night was supposed to be the night that we trotted the record out, officially, for all to see. we’d done a handful of soft shows leading up to this one, but this was the official coming out party for lucky kinda guy, the debut solo album from charter Hooters guitarist john lilley. the record was done, the CD’s were back from the pressing plant, and all the usual suspects had been notified. philadelphia treasure pierre robert was on hand to emcee the show, john’s publicist elise brown and her drummer beau patrick berkery were there, as were michael tearson, erin riley and a lot of other folks who’ve been stalwarts of the philadelphia music scene for as long as i’ve been around to either observe it or be a part of it.

somehow…SOMEhow…we managed to get all our gear set up on the stage upstairs at the world cafe live, with my rack of various and sundry instruments (12 string, baritone, lap steel, mandolin, and – for this show – i brought “lowell” along…my strat with the lipstick pickups that i use for slide stuff, a la its namesake) – then there was rick’s keyboard rig, john’s stereo amp setup…it was pretty crowded up there, but it was a cozy kinda crowded.

the band onstage upstairs at world cafe live

we brought john’s guitar tech, ed abrams, along for the show, and john commandeered turk from his usual job running sound downstairs to have him come upstairs and mix the band (turk usually goes on the road with that other band john’s in…the hooters – you may have heard of them – turk usually mixes monitors for them.)

soundcheck was – as soundchecks had historically gone for us – smooth and uneventful. turk got us dialed in with the skill of a pro…and we were able to goose up the stage volume a bit, which was a nice change from some of the other dates we’d done up to that point.

craig bickhardt opened the show, and the absolute weirdest part of the entire night was hearing craig playing through the green room door and not being up there with him. that was quite awkward, but john felt strongly that we all have time together before the show to go over vocal parts and song arrangements – and this was john’s night, and i was happy to accomodate him.

wendy brought danny along, outfitted with his brand-spankin’ new sound dampening headphones, which – oddly enough – he was only too happy to wear…they both had access to the green room and were able to retire out of sight to tend to danny’s needs, which was really the only way they’d have been able to ride the night out. he’s such a trooper, though…seriously, you’d think this whole road business was in his blood or something. 🙂

danny, the "road runt" - rockin' the headgear for uncle john's gig.

so, when the time came to take the stage, pierre robert from WMMR took the stage to bring us on…the band went up and started playing as pierre began his introduction, with john still out of sight. since john was wireless, the audience heard john’s guitar some time before they actually saw him, and when pierre announced him, he appeared in the back of the room and made his way toward the stage as we launched into “diggin’ deeper down” and slammed into it in earnest as john began the vocal for the song…and it was balls to the wall from there forward. from there into “born yesterday” with the 12 string (which sounded phenomenal through john’s blackface deluxe reverb – i traded him my twin princeton reverbs for his deluxe for the show), and we did a slowed down, funky version of “be in love this way” that i played the lowell george strat on…and, of course, all the standards were in the set – the songs from the album, and the great ones that didn’t make it, like “say yo” and the like.

it was the crowning show – the coming out party that john had hoped for and deserved. it wasn’t sold out, but it was damn close, and it was the right crowd – the folks who were there were the folks who were supposed to be there, and there was a lotta love in the room, for sure.