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.
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. 🙂
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.