It was a weird night in Ardmore. I was going away the following day and a buddy of mine knew that I was home alone for one night. He asked if I wanted to go to AMH and catch Steel Pulse, the ancient British reggae band. I jumped on it and bought the typical BRP ticket – the cheapest in the house! Since the concert was mostly standing room, I had as good a chance as anyone of seeing the band up close and personal even though I bought the ticket late.
But my friend had a ticket for the seats, and was going to be joined later by his wife and some neighbors. OK, fine, we can still sort of hang out. In fact, we went to dinner first at that Vietnamese place down the street (good food, and I’m particularly smitten with the beef and black pepper sauce, but for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the restaurant even though I’ve been there 3 or 4 times). We had a good pre-show meal. With full stomachs, we headed to AMH to catch the show and link up with everyone else. It worked perfectly: we entered the venue, and I headed to my spot on the floor while my friend went to the seats. I told him where I was and to join me on the floor when the band came out. That was the last I would see of him until the show was over.
A few weeks later, I told this story to some neighbors, and they said that they were also at the show. I’m like, what? AMH is small, and you bump into people there all the time. A former neighbor is a barmaid there, and I’ve seen many other locals I know there over the years. But at this show, I never saw my neighbors even though they were probably standing about 20 feet away. I was stage right directly in front of the band, and the sold-out crowd overwhelmed the joint and there was simply no moving around.
Such is life. Hey, concerts are loud and I don’t do a lot of talking anyway, so hanging out by myself is fine. Some other people at AMH won’t shut up, or are busy groping whoever they came with (isn’t it true? I see the middle aged grope all the time at AMH. Yeah, I saw that!). But me? Nah, I watch the show, maybe say a word or two, and politely smile and laugh when someone says something to me that I never can hear. You know the situation, right? It’s loud as hell, you have earplugs in, you’re jamming, and then your friend leans over and shouts, “hey, so and so is deathly ill.” Having no clue what they said, I smile and laugh because my hearing sucks and I figure they wouldn’t pick the middle of a show to fill me in on the latest illness or death of their loved ones. It’s what makes me so special – laughing at everything even when it’s utterly inappropriate.
Back to the show. Opening that night for Steel Pulse was a reggae band from another internationally known reggae hotspot, Baltimore, MD. Jah Works is the name of the outfit, and they were quite good if not a bit untraditional. Yeah, a white reggae singer is not usually the drill, but this guy had good chops and could carry it. And since he was leading the opening act for the show, he also had the good sense to come out on stage with his fly down. I noticed it, and sat back for a few songs before someone in the crowd (not me, of course) finally had the decency to let him know. He closed it before Lower Merion’s finest could break the place up for violations of the Main Line’s indecency code. That little distraction taken care of, the band zipped through a set of strong tunes and had the place lubed up for the main attraction.
I don’t know if you’re a Steel Pulse fan or not. I saw them about a decade ago with three dudes who were all struggling in their lives – my kids called it Dad’s Island of Misfit Toys concert. It was a good show, however, and I laughed at all the trials and tribulations that they tried to share with me during the concert. Even though I liked the show, I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest reggae music fan out there. In fact, I could go the rest of my life without hearing any more Bob Marley songs (well, except maybe Trenchtown Rock) as most of white America seems to believe that Bob Marley is actually the entire reggae music scene in and of itself, and tirelessly plays Marley, and only Marley, songs.
But Steel Pulse has been around a long time, and they have some really good tunes. Not only that, they put on quite an active and entertaining show. And for the second time in a row, AMH had fine-tuned the acoustics perfectly, and the sonics were outstanding. Coming out and immediately blasting into one of their biggest hits, Worth His Weight in Gold (Rally Round), the crowd was instantly pumped up and the reefer began to burn. I’m serious – the vaping crisis had not yet hit the newspapers, so there was a lot of weed going up inside AMH. And for the first time in a long time, a dude next to me lit up a spliff and passed it around. I did not partake as I’m straight edge to the hilt right now. Nor did the guitarist for Steel Pulse who was offered a toke but graciously turned it down.
Anyway, SP kept right on cranking out their big tracks, like Chant a Psalm (something I regularly do), Steppin’ Out, Roller Skates and more. Just pop Steel Pulse’s Greatest Hits into your music machine, and you’ll duplicate the set list. Which is good for me, because I don’t follow the band that much and wasn’t in the mood for any reggae deep tracks.
David Hinds, the lead singer, defies the patent office and is a perpetual motion machine on stage. I’m not kidding you: the dude has to be older than me, and he is still vigorous and energetic. It must be that he takes Geritol or something. Regardless, it’s fun to watch him and see him inspire the rest of the group to get rowdy, too. The bassist was the next biggest presence on stage, and I’ve got a couple shots of him swinging his axe in front of the front row crowd and trying to hit on some of the middle aged women shouting out to him. That made me laugh, too, even though I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Maybe it was “welcome to Gropesville?”
I don’t think the band had any clue where AMH is located. They referred to Ardmore a couple of times, butchering the name of the place and joking about it. Yeah, it may not be on the international concert scene, but to see guys from a craphole like Birmingham, England bust on Ardmore is pretty funny. Oh well, to each his own. I will say that the band gave a strong performance and even had me pumped up enough to listen to them in the car on the way home. Of course, I haven’t been jonesing for it since, and that’s probably the last time I’ll listen to Steel Pulse until the iPod is on shuffle and the algorithm chooses to play one of their tracks.
There it is. International reggae band does Ardmore and everyone leaves happy, even those that weren’t stoned. Next up? Funny you should ask. It’s a band fresh out of Mississippi via Nashville that the Kid has wanted to see for a while now. You’ll have to check back soon to catch the review. As they say in Jamaica, lay-tah!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.