Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Church @ The Trocadero - Philadelphia, PA 2/15/11

Once upon a time there was a website called MOG. 

You can still find it as a music streaming site but that was not its original intention.  MOG stood for Music Blogging.  It was a community of people doing exactly what I am doing right now but in a Facebook type setting.  Although I did not find this site early on I did discover it as LaLa was shutting its doors.  This is when music streaming was just being integrated into the site.

Unfortunately, like most sites of this nature, it usually not a sustainable business plan.  But the community is passionate.  We learned, we shared, we became friends.  There are even couples that met through this site.  The community was comprised of musicians, fans, and people that worked in the industry.  I can't tell you how cool it was to have a singer whose CD you own to say he was going to be in town and ask if anyone wanted to catch a baseball with him (thank you Neil Nathan).  Our one common thread was a passion for music.  I am fortunate to have many friendships that started with that website that still exist to this very day.
Real people that I have met in person and still see on occasion.  This story takes place before I had met any of them in person.  As a matter of fact...they didn't even know what I looked like.

One of the people that was in my MOG circle was a producer/sound engineer in LA.  We had originally bonded over our love of punk.  He had done sound at CBGB's in the late 70's and early 80's and had a wonderful perspective of the business.  He had just been asked  by his friends The Church to be the upfront sound engineer for a landmark series of intimate shows they were going to be performing here and abroad.  He had put an option invitation to meet him him you were able to get tickets for the show in your area.

The Church were embarking on a tour called Future, Past, Perfect.  They were playing three albums in their entirety.  One from each decade.  Their newest, Untitled #23, Preist=Aura from the 90's, and their 80's masterpiece Starfish.

 I knew and loved Starfish.  Many slap the Progressive label on The Church.  I don't see it.  This album paints a perfect picture of mood and ambiance.  Its a journey and one I took quite often.  But for as much as I loved that album I never explored them beyond Starfish.  They could have disbanded after that album and I would not have known any different.  This would be the perfect opportunity to see a great band, experience new music, meet a friend in person and all in a small to midsized venue.

As the concert drew closer more and more MOGgers bought tickets to the show.  I wasn't going to meet just one MOGger, I was going to meet many.  My first of many MOGmeet as they call it.  MOGmeets had existed for years before I discovered MOG so this was my introduction to them.  We planned to meet inside the venue.  I was getting more excited as the days drew closer.

 I assumed that this was going to be a long show and the Trocadero is a standing room only venue.  I wanted to get there early to get a good spot by the stage.  When I entered I was shocked to see that chairs and tables were set up.  This smaller venue was just turned into a more intimate setting.  They wanted the audience to enjoy themselves.  The Church had limited the ticket sales to keep these performances intimate.  I took the program they provided when you entered and I grabbed a table on a raised floor next to the sound board.

I recognized the sound man immediately.  We said our hellos and he joined me at the table.  I quickly noticed the braces on both wrists.  At one of the previous shows he had fallen off of a riser and broken both wrists. Yikes!!!  Here is a sound man continuing on with the show with two, uncasted broken wrists, in a venue that is notoriously hard to mix because of its low, overhanging balcony.   He had to get ready for the show and promised to catch up with us afterwards.

Its always funny when you are meeting people that you have never met.  I've seen photos so I had an idea but you are never quite sure.  I saw two women at the bar that looked like it could be them.  I finally went over to them after debating in my head if it was them or not.  They made their way to the table with their drinks and we collectively started to get excited!  We were then approached by a fourth MOGger, who I had seen in line but had not recognized him, who joined us.  All of the MOGgers were present and accounted for.  We shared a table, brought together by our common love of music.  We were joking around and laughing before you knew it.

The Church took the stage to perform their latest release, Untitled #23, which is their 23rd release.  The thing that struck me immediately was how good Steve Kilbey sounded.  His voice seemed to hardly have aged.  His noise-induced hearing loss had been much publicized at this point and I was curious if it would affect him.   Apparently not.

I purposefully, did not listen to this album before the show.  I wanted to be surprised.  It had the classic Church sound.  It is hard to believe that this album was released over 20 years after Starfish.  Our friend was killing it with the mix.  I've been to many a show at the Troc and none had been mixed so beautifully.  The highlight of the set was Space Saviour.  Ok...I admit it.  It is Prog.  Dammit!

They took a brief intermission between albums.  We were talking as if spreading gossip about how good the show was and we were only 1/3 in.

Next up was Priest=Aura.  It is their most popular release after Starfish but not as accessible.  They continued on with a great set.  The band was super tight.  This doesn't always happen when bands are together this long but they were obviously at the top of their game.  Marty Wilson-Piper's guitar work was dreamlike.  I loved that his acoustic guitar had duct tape on it.  Drummer Tim Powles was not there for the release of Priest=Aura but he has been with the band since 1994.

We were laughing at this point in the show because the table in front of us had two huge men that we had had nicknamed 'The Wall of Troc'.  The 'Wall' kept moving so we had to keep rearranging our seats so that we could see.  It could have been worse.  They could have been standing in front of

Another brief intermission and clothes change and the band was ready for Starfish, and so were we. When they took the stage and started to play 'Destination' the crowd was in awe.

The set was fantastic.  Peter Koppes was incredible throughout the sets.  'Under the Milky Way' was a ite worth waiting for.

Marty proved he still has his chops on spark.  But I truly feel that the highlight of the night was 'Reptile'.  You could feel the excitement in the crowd.

This show was such an incredible musical experience.  Three hours of great music with friends and a band at the top of their game after many years.  After the show we waited for our friend so that we could say our farewells and when he appeared he had asked if we wanted to come backstage. WHAT?  Ummm...YES!!!

Marty Wilson-Piper is a notorious music fan.  He is a big advocate of collecting vinyl.  Word has it that as the tour bus traveled across the country it became increasingly difficult to find room for Marty's vinyl purchases that he made at local record shops across the US.  Marty also runs the In Deep Music Archive, where he encourages music discussions.  Now that he has recently departed The Church it is nice to see his increased presence on the sight with Record Reviews and musical insights.  As our friend and Marty toured they spoke at length about music and even MOG.  Marty wanted to meet the MOGgers.  Marty wanted to meet us!

We went backstage and briefly said hello to Steve and Peter.  Marty was seated on a sofa and greeted us.  What happened next was amazing.  We sat and just talked about music in general with Marty Wilson-Piper.  We talked so long about musical experiences I forgot that I was speaking with a legend in the industry.  It felt more like I was talking with a friend.  We discussed the spirit of MOG and keeping that spirit alive.  We knew that even at that point that MOG would not be around forever.  We were all so engrossed in conversation that we all forgot to ask for autographs or even get a photo with him.  It was time for us to leave so we exchanged Facebook info with Marty and thanked him for a wonderful show.

Our friend walked us back downstairs and introduced us to Tim.  This time we remembered photos.  We said goodbye to our friends and went outside.

Once outside we just stood and stared at each other.  We just had a musical experience in the likes that we may never experience again.  It was almost as if we had been through battle together and formed a new kind of friendship.

We are all still friends.  There have been other shows and other MOGmeets.  This one still holds a special place for me. 

See you at the next show!


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