Friday, July 11, 2014

The A's @ Underground Arts - Philadelphia, PA 1/26/13

If you are not from the Philadelphia area you probably do not know who the A's are.  Hell, technically, I am not even old enough to know who the A's are.  Their heyday was 1979-1982 when I was about 10 years old.  I have two sisters that are much older than me (10 and 12 years older) that loved this band.  I owe a lot of my musical tastes to my sisters.  They had very eclectic tastes and introduced me to The Cure, Ministry, Japan, and XTC at an early age.  They also introduced me to April Wine, Rainbow, and the Bay City Rollers.  With good comes the bad.

In the late 70's and early 80's Philadelphia had a rising scene.  It included The Hooters, Robert Hazard and the Heroes (who was discovered by Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone AFTER they sold 300,000 of self released EP) and The A's.





The A's were rocking a sound similar to The Vapors.  They were chasing a sound that a lot of bands at that time were chasing.  The 5 piece played on the strength of their live performances which were legendary locally.  That is because they were talented musicians.

Their fist album was fast power pop.  The shift to their second album you could see coming with the last song of their self titled first album, 'Nothing Wrong with Falling in Love'.  They scored mild success with their second album and the single 'Woman's got the Power'.  After that their record company lost faith in them before they even promoted them.  They self released an EP and then went their separate ways. 

Guitarist Rick Difonzo had a successful career playing guitar for the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Joan Osbourne, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and as one of the guitarists for Roger Water's The Wall Live in Berlin.  Keyboardist/Guitarist Rocco Notte made a living writing jingles and becoming an accomplished jazz session play while singer Richard Bush is still a staple in the Philly scene with his band Peace Creeps.

The A's are a band that I have learned to love.  I was always disappointed that I had never gotten to see them.  Even more so after Robert Hazard passed away due to cancer.  I thought that I may never get the chance to see them.  They did a show with The Hooters in 2006 at the Electric Factory.  I didn't get to see that show and I assumed that there wouldn't be another.

Late in 2012 it was announced the The A's would reform for a farewell show at Underground Arts in Philadelphia.  This is a newer venue that hosts more than just bands.  It is a celebration of all of the arts.  They host poetry readings, art shows, DJ sets, and bands.  I was not going to miss this show!!!!!




When tickets when on sale there were two options.  General admission and VIP.  VIP tickets were $75.00 and I bought them.  Afterwards I thought, "What the hell do I get for $75???".

Apparently, the folks at Underground Arts didn't know either.  After a few e-mails it was divulged that I would receive a VIP lanyard, early admittance, a pre-show acoustic set, a meet and great, a special edition tour poster, and also a discount on merchandise from their website.  I used it to buy my tour shirt.




I decided to rub this in to my sister, who now lives in England.  She was jealous!  She made me promise to get their autograph for her.  I did.

The night of the show my friend who was going with me had to bail due to sickness.  That is the risk of seeing shows in January.  It looked like I would be going solo on this one.  I found the venue.  Managed to get the last parking spot across the street and walked downstairs to the show.

It was a little chaotic when they first let in.  There were no tickets.  It was all guest list.  I received my VIP lanyard and walked inside and grabbed a local beer.  Philadelphia Brewing Company's 'Walt Witbier'.




While waiting I noticed a VIP area to the left sectioned off by velvet rope.  It seemed a little silly to go stand behind it at the time because there was no one there yet.  I did notice a door there though so I decided to take a look.

The door led to another room which was set up for the acoustic show.  I grabbed a seat up front and was treated to the band's sound check.




After the sound check (and watching Rocco warm up on piano) the room started to fill up.  We were treated to a 5 song acoustic set including some covers.  It was amazing how tight the band still was.  The joked with the audience about rehearsals and there were cat calls for 'The Wall'.  This was a chance for the bands children to finally see them play.

video

After the set the band stayed to meet the crowd.  I was fortunate enough to have them sign my CD of their first two albums.  It was released only for a short time and now goes on Amazon for over $100.  Each member of the band asked me about it as they had never seen it before.  They all commented on my tour shirt.




After the Meet and Greet I moved back to the main room which was pretty packed at this point.  The Velvet ropes were pretty helpful at this point.

When the band came on the crowd erupted. There were folks that were reliving the early days but a fair amount of people my age.




Standing next to me in the crowd was legendary Philadelphia Radio Personality Pierre Robert.  It was a wonderful night.  The band fought through some technical problems but played an inspired set of classics and some material they had played live but never made it to vinyl like 'Misunderstanding'

 
They played two sets and an encore.  During the encore Richard wore his classic Leather Coat.

Set 1
1. Johnny Silent
2. Who’s Gonna Save the World
3. Grounded/Twist and Shout Interpolation
4. Nothing Wrong With Falling in Love
5. How Do You Live
6. Painting by Numbers
7. Parasite
8. Misunderstanding
9. Words
10. Heart of America

Set 2
1. Do the Dance
2. Working Man
3. Girl That I Love
4. Bopalena (cover of Ronnie Self)
5. Electricity
6. Ain’t No Secret
7. I Pretend She’s You
8. A Woman’s Got the Power
9. C.I.A.
10. After Last Night

Encore
1. 5 Minutes in a Hero’s Life
2. Secret Agent Man (cover of Johnny Rivers)
3. Sunny Afternoon (cover of The Kinks)
4. The Last Time (cover of The Rolling Stones)

Rocco singing Bopalena  was fantastic.  The crowd seemed to know all of the lyrics.  There were people who flew in just to see this and I would imagine they were not disappointed.




When it was over I felt like I had been part of something special.  On the way out we were handed our special tour poster.  I had to sneak back in with it.  I proceeded to have it signed for my sister in England.  I had gotten everyone's signature with the exception of Rick.  I finally got back stage where he was talking to someone and I couldn't seem to get to him.  Pierre Robert had heard me telling Terry that this was for my sister in England who had seem them many times in the 80's including places like City Gardens.  Pierre grabbed me and interrupted Rick and had him sign for me.  Pierre Robert is a class act.  There is a reason he is still well loved in Philly after 30 years.

I believe that I am the only one with a signed copy of that tour poster.  Well, my sister is.  She went crazy over it.  Recently I learned the the A's are going to play another show in 2014.  Well...that sucks...lol. 

See you at the next show!

Fran



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