2) Union Transfer, Philly’s newest music venue
They are 1A and 1B, I replied.
Which one is which? She asked.
Doesn’t matter. They’re inter-changeable.
The pulled pork sandwich at North Third could declare that it’s running for President, is seeking the Republican nomination, secure said nomination and end up giving Obama a run for his money.
Speaking of money…anytime a band is playing and the cover is only 10 bucks, it’s worth a shot. Such was the case with the reggae group See-I playing at Union Transfer, the newest live music venue in Philly. Union Transfer is in a building formerly occupied by the Spaghetti Warehouse and while we can’t bother ourselves wondering things like- where did all that spaghetti go, we can easily be enamored by what is easily the nicest music hall in the city. It has that new music venue smell, which smells a lot like weed. No really, the place spelled like weed. And that was before I saw a middle age white dude with dreads get busted for smoking up on the dance floor.
Union Transfer is just pretty. It has a definitive aura similar to downstairs at World Café Live. Yet as much as I loved the venue, I’m sorry- I don’t want to talk about it while going to the bathroom, which happened. There are a few places in the world where I don’t like talking to people…on an airplane, a lobby at a doctor’s office and while peeing. Washing my hands is fine, but not while I’m at the stand up urinal. You can respect Union Transfer all you want, just respect my personal space as well.
And one final note about Union Transfer…you should have some pitchers of water out. There was lots of grooving going on Saturday night and I was driving, so quenching my thirst with beers could only go on for so long before responsibility dictated I drink something else. But you had to ask the bartender for water, which I did and received a pretty serious eye roll while doing so. Then she asked if I wanted tap water or something else I couldn’t understand. I just want two waters, I replied. This was followed by another eye roll. Ma’am, you can give me an eye roll for many good and viable reasons, but asking for two waters is not one of those reasons.
The first band was the Pimps of Joytime, who found themselves in the enviable position of realizing two songs into their set that this show was going to be better than they thought it would be, causing them to shake up their setlist a little bit. The frontman made a reference to their last show in Philly, alluding to the fact that it wasn’t as well-attended as this night’s show was. So they made some changes and with the changes came some serious good-time jams and funky fresh grooves. They were solid. There were no frills and nothing fancy or remarkably innovative about them and that was perfect. It was music constructed by purists and funk traditionalists. There is a fine line between imitating your heroes and emulating them and the Pimps of Joytime excelled at killing it in the vein of the latter. I loved it.
The Pimps of Joytime were followed by a DJ spinning some of Future Wife’s favorite top 40 reggae hits and then the headliners, See-I. But it was initially just the backing band and a couple songs showcasing the group’s lone female- the well-dreaded backup singer. The rest of the backing band was a real crew of interesting-looking fellas- two with dreadlocks, one with a well-manicured afro and a bass player who really utilized the space on the stage well when it came to exhibiting his bass player dance moves. The keyboardist kind of looked like Lil’ Wayne and the drummer kind of looked super duper baked behind his in-the-groove head nods and aviator sunglasses. Visually, my favorite member was the sax player and I had a hard time taking my eyes off of him. I bet he calls people “cat” and “mama.”
The heavy hitters of See-I are the two safari-hat wearing front men; long-limbed rasta dudes who bounced around and chanted their call and response lyrics. They too were hiding behind sunglasses and actually, four of the seven members were rocking shades. I guess it was probably just easier. But either way, the band was a lot of fun and played a set that was much looser than the Pimps of Joytime and clung to the reggae grooves played by the deep within the pocket rhythm section. The music never really seemed to stop, which is fun with a reggae show. I don’t think you’d feel the same way if it was a Metallica show. Have I mentioned that Lars Ulrich is a joke? Okay, that was so last week. But See-I were a great way to spend a Saturday night and I enjoyed every part of the show…until the end. Yeah, it was the kind of set that is good, but easy for the wheels to fall off- which is exactly what happened. Maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t find a lot of value in bringing all the single ladies onto the stage and backing it up with a tired reggae groove that sounded similar to the opening jam. It was a shame. They went one song too long. See-I, you’re going to make us go home and watch the tail end of Saturday Night Live instead of the tail end of your set. Bold move. Unfortunate. At least we didn’t have to pay for parking.
But overall there was little to complain about and for a Saturday night in January, you’d be hard pressed to find another way to have a good time. There were highlights all around and I can’t wait to make it back to Union Transfer for another show because it really is a special venue. We hope for the best for it- that is lasts and is able to stick around for a while.
We hope the best for the spaghetti too. Hopefully it ended up in a good home.