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Celebrating Thirty Years of Music with Blues Traveler!

A picture of the marquee outside the TLA for Blues Traveler saying that it is a sold out show.
Blues Traveler brought their 30th Anniversary Tour to the TLA for a sold-out show on Friday night.

 

TLA – PHILADELPHIA

The Theater of the Living Arts (aka the TLA), is located on South Street in Philadelphia. The venue as it is today opened in 1988, but the building dates back to the 1900’s as a nickelodeon.

The first incarnation of the location was 1908, when it was known as The Crystal Palace, which was a 700-seat nickelodeon. It went through several iterations between theater, movie theater and concert hall over the years. In March of 1981, Stephen Starr purchased the building with the intention of moving his nightclub to a larger location. However, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the neighborhood put a stop to that, and he utilized the space as a cinema instead.

In 1981, a group of former employees (later becoming the TLA Entertainment Group) purchased the building. Again, the venue had several different uses until 1988, when it was converted to a concert venue. Live Nation purchased the venue in 2007, and has operated it ever since.

The venue is all general admission and has a capacity of 1,000 people. There is a main floor location, as well as an upstairs balcony.

For those of you familiar with Philadelphia, you know that South Street is home to an eclectic group of restaurants, bars and patrons. As such, the TLA tends to host up and coming bands that are not as main stream. It’s also a great place to see more famous acts in a small setting.

The building is old and has its issues. The lobby is small, as well as the bathrooms. The entire venue could probably use an update, although that is what contributes a bit to its charm.

Tip #1: The bathrooms are small and old! Plan bathroom breaks accordingly during the show.

Tip #2: We’ve been to a couple of shows where the venue has been a bit off about entry. Their social media and tickets will state a time that doors open, and they end up opening much later, leaving people lined up outside down South Street. They do have a “fast pass” ticket upgrade you can pay for and avoid the line to get in.

Tip #3: If I don’t care about being upfront for the show, I find that a good place to stand is on the ramp leading onto the main floor. You are right next to the sound board (which is a great spot if you are looking to snag a set list). It’s accessible to the bathrooms, lobby, and bar. It’s also typically less crowded.

 

Picture of the sound board at the TLA. The sound tech is getting ready for the show.
We snagged a spot next to the sound board for the Blues Traveler show, and were able to grab a set list at the end of the show.

 

A picture of the view of the empty stage from the sound board. This picture shows the distance from the sound board to the stage.
View of the stage with no zoom standing next to the sound board. It’s a small room, so there isn’t a bad spot in the house.

 

Tip #4: There are lots of food choices on South Street to grab a bite before the show. My favorite is Brauhuas Schmitz, which not only has a great selection of German beer, but amazing food as well.

https://www.brauhausschmitz.com/

Another great choice is Little Negril, which serves authentic Jamaican food.

https://www.littlenegriljamaicanrestaurant.com/

Tip #5: Try and grab parking in the street. However, be sure you follow the signs. You have to pay the meter until 12 a.m., so either be sure to time your meter right, or be willing to run out and feed the meter during the show.

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LOS COLOGNES

Los Colognes is based out of Nashville, TN. Band members include Jay Rutherford (vocals, guitar), Aaron Mortenson (drums, vocals), Gordon Persha (bass), Micah Hulscher (keys) and Chuck Foster (keys).

 

A picture of Los Colognes on stage opening up the show.
Los Colognes opened up the show with their rock and roll sound.

 

The band describes themselves as forging their own sound, while channeling a retro pop/rock sound from past decades. The band recently released their latest album – The Wave – along with a full album video. The album was inspired by rock music from the ‘70s and ‘80s.  You can download the album here:  http://amzn.to/2idOuQW

Check out their full video album here:

 

 

In the past, the band recorded their albums using a live approach. For “The Wave”, they recorded the songs from the ground up, paying attention to every detail of every sound.

Los Colognes took the stage right at 8:00 p.m.  As soon as they took the stage, I knew this was going to be a no-frills rock and roll band that just wanted to play music.  Several of the guys were wearing baseball hats, and they were totally no-nonsense.  There wasn’t a lot of talking, just playing music.

Rutherford’s voice has a little bit of a Tom Petty sound to it.  The guitar work in several of their songs sounds a lot like Dire Straits.  The band clearly is influenced by some of the legendary rock bands of the ’70s and ’80s, and their music does those bands justice.

 

 

If I were to give the band one piece of advice, it would be to up their game a little on the stage presence and interacting with the crowd.  While I’m sure they just want to be out playing music, they will have to develop more of a personality to get the crowd to really connect with them.  They remind me a bit of early Pearl Jam.  Eddie Vedder just kept his head down and sang the whole night.  Today’s Pearl Jam is still mostly about just playing the music.  However, Vedder has grown comfortable with his role as a lead singer and knows how to keep the crowd involved.  I think if Los Colognes can figure that out, they have a bright future ahead of them.

Los Colognes is currently out on the road with Blues Traveler in support of their 30th Anniversary Tour. They will be playing dates with them through mid-November. Check out their website for additional information and tour dates at www.loscolognes.net.

 

BLUES TRAVELER

Formed in Princeton, NJ as a garage band, Blues Traveler has been making music since 1987. The group currently consists of John Popper (vocals, harmonica), Chan Kinchla (guitar), Brendan Hill (drummer), Tad Kinchla (bass), and Ben Wilson (keyboard). The band’s original bassist – Bobby Sheehan – passed away in 1999.

 

A picture of Blues Traveler on stage. John Popper is in his signature hat.
Blues Traveler took the stage Friday night to a sold-out crowd to celebrate thirty years of making music!

 

Popper and Hill founded another band along with high school friend and roommate Chris Barron, which eventually became The Spin Doctors. Early on, the two bands often shared the stage and played marathon-length concerts in the New York area.

Blues Traveler is considered one of the original “jam bands” due to their improvisational live shows. They also have had commercial success with such hits as “Run-Around” (download here – http://amzn.to/2ienaBS) and “Hook” (download here – http://amzn.to/2yVIow9).

The band first gained mainstream popularity with the release of their album “Four” in 1994. However, Sheehan’s death and Popper’s struggle with drugs and obesity caused issues for the band. Their record label dropped them in 2002.

In March of 2012, the band released “25”, which was made up of their hits, covers, and a few new songs. They followed that up with the release of their most recent album – “Blow Up the Moon” – in 2015.  You can download the album here:  http://amzn.to/2ye4NaX

There was a pretty long break between Los Colognes wrapping up their set at 8:39 p.m., and Blues Traveler taking the stage at 9:26 p.m.  A highlight in between sets, was the venue playing Tom Petty’s “Free Falling”, which had the crowd singing along and cheering.  It was a great moment for a crowd of music fans to show their love for a rock and roll legend.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about this show.  Blues Traveler is a legendary band that has a lot of talent.  They started out strong, but John Popper is still clearly dealing with some issues.  I’m not certain what was in the dozens of red solo cups that Popper drank during the show, but it appeared to have an affect on him by the end of the show.  Popper also walked off stage for several minutes during quite a few songs at random times during the set.  Again, not sure if he was vaping or taking a break, but it definitely had an impact on the flow of the show.

As far as the show itself, the band kicked things off with “Mulling It Over”.  Popper immediately showed off both his vocals and his talent on the harmonica.

 

A picture of John Popper playing the harmonica during their set.
Lead singer John Popper with his special microphone that allows him to play harmonica throughout all the songs.

 

Popper then addressed the sold-out crowd, telling them it was way too long since they had been in Philadelphia, before going into crowd favorite “Things Are Looking Up”.

 

 

During the third song, Popper took one of his bizarre breaks in the middle of it.  But they came back strong with an amazing cover of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.

Popper then introduced a new song – “She Becomes My Way”.  He told the crowd that it was the first time they had ever played it in Philadelphia, so the good news was that if they “f***ed it up”, nobody would know.

After the new song, Blues Traveler did one of their bigger hits – “But Anyway” – which turned into quite a jam session.  Popper then introduced another new song – “Castaway”.  He said he wrote the song when he was on the Jam Cruise.  Popper said the cruise was great, but you were stuck on a boat with fans for five days.  He said this song was a result of that experience.  It was a slower song, that just featured Popper and Wilson on keyboards.

By this point in the show, Popper seemed to be struggling a bit.  By the time they got to one of their biggest hits ‘ “Run-Around”, Popper was struggling to sing the words, and the show lost some of its momentum.  After a short encore break, they wrapped up with “Hook”.  Again, while the music was great, Popper seemed to be struggling vocally.

 

A picture of John Popper singing during the set.
John Popper is so talented, but seems to be still struggling with some of his demons. I really hope he is able to hold it together for the whole tour.

 

A picture of the band thanking the crowd at the end of the set.
Blues Traveler played just under 90 minutes worth of music on Friday night. They gave the enthusiastic sold-out crowd a big “thank you” as they walked off stage.

 

A picture of the actual set list we got from the sound board.
The actual set list from Friday night’s show!

 

The band is currently out touring to promote their 30th anniversary. The current leg of the tour is 5 weeks, but additional dates were recently announced for January. Check out their website at www.bluestraveler.com for more information.

Have questions about seeing a show at the TLA?  Want to know more about Los Colognes or Blues Traveler?  Comment below or e-mail me at tips2livebywriter@gmail.com.

Did you like what you read?  Want to keep up on live music, food, drink and travel?  Make sure you follow us on social media.  Click on the links at the top of the homepage of our website, and follow us for regular updates on where we are, what we are drinking, and what music we are listening to!

 

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