Music and beer

17Feb11

With four straight days off, I decided to take the weekend to the place I hope to move back to by the summer, Philadelphia.

And the weekend revolved around the two things most associated with my trips to Philly over the last half a year: music and Philadelphia beer. On the beer front, this time, was a rare case of Philadelphia Brewing Company‘s Rowhouse Red. But this isn’t a beer blog (even though that might be cool).

I came down to the city on Thursday night, just in time to catch an electrifying bill at The Fire for night three of the Northern Liberties Winter Music Festival. Primarily, it was to see my good pals, the synth-soaked, electro-rocking Philly quintet, East Hundred. I first met the band at one of their many packed-house Johnny Brenda’s gigs over a year ago. I ended up writing a feature on them for Philadelphia Weekly, which had me hanging out at one of the band’s Fishtown rehearsal sessions, drinking beer with them while they ironed out a brand new song (now, my favorite EH tune, “Fools, Kings and Queens”).

East Hundo

East Hundred plays new material at The Fire.

It had been a while since I’d seen the band, one of my favorites in Philly, and their repertoire of blossoming new material has improved exponentially over the last year. Sitting at the bar with bassist Dave Sunderland and guitarist Brooke Blair, they talked with me about the band’s new catalog of songs and their desperation to fund the recording and release of the project. The subject changed to their setlist for the evening, which the guys expressed their desire to readjust.

“I’d like to open with ‘Plus Minus’ for once,” Dave offered, “but it’s a tough one for Beril to sing first and Will thinks he needs to be warmed up a little on drums.”

Clearly, it was one of the band’s most heart-racing, challenging numbers, but I completely agreed with Dave’s notion of trying it as an opener.

“We should just have you write our setlist,” the two joked.

“I’d be honored,” I shot back, trying not to explode at the excitement of writing a favorite band’s setlist, a sincere dream of mine.

Brooke jumped into action, pulling a pen and piece of paper from his jacket and setting it down on the bar in front of me.

“Seriously,” he said, “you should write the setlist, and we shouldn’t be able to see it until we’re on stage.”

Dave grinned and shared his approval. After receiving the roundup of possible songs, I went to work. When I finished, I handed Brooke back a totally new look setlist, one that didn’t include the band’s staple song “Slow Burning Crimes.” Dave had previously pondered aloud about a show when they finally might leave it out. As they were on a tight bill, with seven other bands, the set had to be a tight six songs. The six I scribbled down looked like this:

Plus Minus
So Strange
This Year
Hammerhead
White Skies
Fools, Kings and Queens

“I guess I better start doing jumping jacks or running a few laps around the block,” Will jibed, upon learning of the unlikely opener.

I spent the rest of the night, catching up with East Hundred, drinking too many $3 Kenzingers, another PBC beer my good friend Justin Foley asserts, “just tastes like Philly.” I’ll get to Justin in my next post. (Did I mention this is not a beer blog?)

Close to midnight, the band finally took the stage and played through my custom setlist like the pros they are. Aside from the honor of writing East Hundred’s setlist for a night, I’ll also have the honor of writing the bio for their brand new website, coming soon.

The night also included fantastic, tightly-wound sets from other Philly rock mainstays Arrah and the Ferns (who I’d somehow never had the pleasure of hearing) and the eternally jubilant Toy Soldiers, among others.

Friday, Justin (my gracious host for the weekend) and I made a midday stop at World Cafe Live for one the best tickets in town every week, the Free at Noon show. Watching rugged country crooner Hayes Carll play through a heartfelt set full of amicable tales from the road, all I could think of was how stupid I was not to have taken advantage of the weekly free Friday shows in my four years living in the city. I’ll be heading down again tomorrow for local psych-folk innovator Kurt Vile (and the Violators).

I can’t stay away from Philadelphia and the music scene I’ve grown to love. I just want to live and breathe it full time again.

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