iron horse music hall, northampton MA – craig bickhardt and pure prairie league

ok, so – to start with, i’d never played the iron horse music hall, for one thing. yeah, it was a haul for one show, but it was craig bickhardt opening for pure prairie league, for pete’s sake! you don’t really think i’m gonna let a long drive keep me from doing that gig, do you?

i did a little clicking around and found a bed and breakfast in northampton called the autumn inn and made a reservation for wendy, the baby and myself, and we made a roadtrip of it – it was early october and i thought it might be a nice, scenic romp up the interstate. as it turned out, the leaves hadn’t really bothered with much in the way of changing colors just yet, but it was still a beautiful drive. i try to find a way to bring wendy and the baby along for anything i do in the new england area, for a number of reasons – not the least among them being that this is where she’s from and all. so we put the pack and play and some extra bags in the back of the old Trooper, along with my instruments and gear and started up the road. we went straight to the venue to check in before we went to the hotel and met up with everyone – it hadn’t been that long since i crossed paths with the PPL guys.

tonight was an acoustic show for them – which didn’t really mean anything in terms of the lineup, only that craig and donnie stuck to acoustic guitars and that rick schell played a stripped down cocktail-style kit. john david call, whom i’d met for the first time just a few months prior, was along and playing pedal steel, and mike reilly played his usual electric bass. craig bickhardt and i were doing our typical duo show – i brought along the essential trio…baritone guitar, mandolin, and lap steel, along with my trusty old gibson ga-20T amp.

at least john david isn't takin' danny's mood personally. 🙂

wendy and danny came into the iron horse during soundcheck and got to hang out for a bit – john david, in particular, took a shine to danny, but danny has grown into a habit of staying really close to either his mommy or to myself when he goes into a new space with a lot of people in it for the first time. i tried to get him to pose for a picture with john david, but he wasn’t hearing anything of it. 🙂

i got my first chance to geek out with JD at this gig, and ask him questions for a bit…turns out that he’s a lifelong Jimmy Day copedant guy as well (as is rusty young of poco), and he showed off his carter a bit, demonstrating his knee levers and how he’d set them up a little differently than the standard four lever lowers and raises. and still, as before, an absolute sweetheart.

wendy and i went for a walk with danny and to grab a bite to eat before showtime, once soundcheck was over…he was having a blast watching all the traffic in town, but he was a bit of a handful when it came time to eat – so wendy and i ate in shifts, one of us occupying danny while the other wolfed down pizza a block or so away from the hall. then, when it was time to go back over and hit the stage, wendy and the little man went back to the hotel (jon and georgina rosenbaum had volunteered beforehand to take me back after the show, so there wouldn’t be any transportation issues).

craig and i had a great set – craig was clearly enjoying playing to that particular room, and the sound onstage was in a really good pocket from where i sat. i could turn up a little, and that always seems to make the amp happy – and me, too, for that matter. i did one of the best passes of the real game i think i’ve ever done.

when we finished and the boys took over, i went upstairs to sit with jon and georgina to watch the show, and they were videotaping from the balcony. just two tables over from us, though, were the folks who should’ve been at the jimmy buffett show…obnoxious, boisterous assholes who never once shut up during the whole set – despite the best efforts of the folks sitting around them who were significantly more considerate in their attempts to push them towards the STFU area than they themselves would’ve ever been if the shoe had been on the other foot.

i finally took the server aside who was working that area and asked him if he noticed anything in the time since the show started, with regard to his tables. “no,” he said. “should i have?”

“well, i’d be curious how much that table of douchebags over by the rail against the wall was costing me, if i were you,” i said. “at least three couples, probably more than that, have gotten up and moved in the time since this show started. that’s tips that you’re not collecting, all because they can’t seem to shut the hell up. the people sitting around them paid good money to see this show, and they’re going out of their way to make sure they couldn’t enjoy it if they tried. and i’d bet that they’re not coming back to the iron horse anytime soon. and i wouldn’t be willing to take the chance as to whether or not my tips would suffer because i couldn’t be bothered to calm them down.”

(that’s not a verbatim quote, as i can’t remember exactly what i said…but it’s pretty close.)

but, no – they cackled and yakked through the entire set, until they played amie, and then they sang along and ordered more booze and cackled and yakked some more.

i thought that, by now, most of those assholes had moved on to kenny chesney and probably couldn’t care less about a good old country rock band playin’ the iron horse on a weeknight…but i’d be wrong about that.

anyway, the guys were very complimentary at the end of the night…good conversation and vibes abounded. i also talked a bit with craig fuller that night about the possibility of doing some acoustic duo gigs down the road…that’d be mighty fine. mighty fine. 🙂

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