The last show I went to in the Before was The Drive By Truckers at Union Transfer. Long show, over 26 songs, but didn’t drag. Stuffed myself into a room with 500 people singing along, back before such things seems apocryphal. Went with a good friend, drank too many beers but didn’t over-drink, if you catch my meaning, had a great time.
I used to go to shows all the time and I have the Setlist.fm account to prove it. A side effect of getting semi-deep into local and underground music is that there’s always another show on another night. If you wanted to – and for a while before I had a family, I did – you could see a show every night, sometimes two a night on the busier night. One of the blessings of Philadelphia in your 20s, one of the best reasons to stick around, if I’m honest about it.
Family cuts into that, but so does biomedical global catastrophe. I’ve had tickets to a couple of live shows since then but haven’t felt comfortable pulling the trigger. I don’t want to go back until I can go back: No masks, no distance, no concern at coughs. I want to be packed shoulder-to-shoulder, slugging something stupid and singing along. It’s embarrassing but I’ll never stop.
Say that to say that I accidentally saw my first live show since the pandemic this past Saturday, doubling as my older daughter’s first-ever show. Took the family over to a street fair, which was nicer in theory than in practice for all the reasons one might expect lugging a three-year-old and a three-week-old anywhere isn’t as easy or as carefree in the physical world as it is in the mental one. We made the best of it: daughter had a portrait drawn, I bought a Ted Leo record on vinyl. The beer line was too long for me to perform my favorite activity / Hold Steady lyric, but what made up for it was Proper Punktuation.
First guess with a name like that is “ska band,” second guess is “folk punk,” and the second one takes home the Civic today. Didn’t even intend to see these cats, they were just playing on a lawn in the back-half of the fair. My daughter was on my shoulders, and we watched them play three or four songs to her growing delight. She was clapping every time a song ended, she said “I love that song” on or two times, she would slap my skull and tell me “look dad, they’re playing music!” or “look dad, she has a music guitar!” We got her a music guitar of her own for her birthday, so I imagine that was meaningful for her.
Under regular circumstances, Proper Punktuation wouldn’t be my thing. On a warm day after two years inside, and something I could share with my kid, they were as fine a return to live music as I could hope for.