This has not been an ideal blogging week, but for the most part it's because I've been "good" busy. There was no post here last night because I left the house at 6:40 AM and came home at midnight. In between, I picked my sister up from work and we spent the evening in downtown Baltimore to celebrate her birthday...which was actually last month, but I did give her the concert tickets on the actual day. Anyway, we had dinner at the California Tortilla across the street from Oriole Park, and then wandered down to Rams Head Live in the Inner Harbor for the Jack's Mannequin show. I'd never been to Rams Head, but it's a great little venue. There's a small stage on the ground level, and two levels of balconies, and of course, a handful of bars situated around the premises. Liz and I promptly staked out a table on the middle level, because a) there were bunches of teen-aged girls all over the stage floor, and that's not really our scene and 2) we're weary twentysomethings who worked all day and just wanted to sit down. Them's the facts.
The opening act was Erin McCarley, a talented singer/songwriter who confided in us that she was still stretching out her legs after a seven-hour bus trip from Syracuse. That made me feel a bit better about my commute. I wasn't familiar with her music, but apparently her song "Love, Save the Empty" is currently on VH1's Top 20 Music Countdown. She also did a pretty strong cover of the Suzanne Vega hit "Tom's Diner", although she sardonically noted that that would probably be the song from her set that most of us would want to have, and it was the only one not on her album.
Next was Matt Nathanson, whose music you might have heard on Scrubs and elsewhere. He's absolutely hilarious live. Among other things, he told us that he hailed from San Francisco - "the Baltimore of California", read racy passages from a romance novel, ranted about 24-7 cable news being "the worst thing that ever happened to the country" because of around-the-clock coverage of some bad bootleg of an awful John Mayer song (he's not a fan), and broke into impromptu covers of Enrique Iglesias' "Escape" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl". Oh, and he played some nifty music as well.
Finally, after a half-hour wait (it was nearly 10 PM and us old fogies were getting antsy), Jack's Mannequin took the stage. They're one of my sister's favorite groups, and lead singer Andrew McMahon has been affiliated with about a half-dozen other groups that she likes, so this gift was a pretty safe bet. I like all four of their songs that I've heard, so naturally they only played one of them ("Kill the Messenger") during the set. But the rest of their songs were great, even if I didn't get that extra thrill from hearing something familiar. One of the most entertaining things for me was just watching the other people on the balcony, most of them much bigger fans than I. There were the young frat-guy types who were singing along to every song and practically climbing the railing (and each other) in in their euphoria. Or the middle-aged woman who spent the entire concert dancing like she was alone in her living room. I was in awe of the young female bartender who had to squeeze by her every couple minutes - and managed to do it without once making physical contact. I also took notice as my sister clapped delightedly during the introductions of several featured songs. She's not the climb the railing type, you know. The evening even had a great closing note for me - the last song of the encore was "La La Lie", another of the few songs I already knew.
Oh, I almost forgot! Making small talk between songs, McMahon mentioned that he and the band had spent a few days soaking in the full Baltimore experience (he didn't mention whether that included Tuesday's water main break a few streets over). He and the rest of Jack's Mannequin were in attendance at Tuesday night's Orioles-Angels game. The mere mention of it elicited a loud cheer from the crowd, and he quipped that we "must not be fans, since they lost". Of course, it would be hard to root for the O's if you weren't prepared for losses, but that's neither here nor there. McMahon mocked some of his fellow musicians for sitting in the ritzy seats while he and a few bandmates sat "with the crowd", for the more authentic feel. As a result, he ended up appearing on the JumboTron, which he described as a legitimate thrill.
I bet you didn't think I'd be able to tie the Orioles into this half-cocked concert review, huh?