Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Soft White Underbellies

Several years ago on a Friday night my best friend Bart and myself were sitting in his kitchen trying to decide what to do. We were both in a slump in dating so we had plenty of free time. It was a typical conversation for both of us in our early twenties...
Bart: What do you want to do?
Me: I dunno, what do you want to do?
Bart: I dunno, what do you want to do?
Me: I dunno, what do you want to do?
This basically went on for about an hour before we just decided to head to Leneghan's as usual.
But not this night. Bart tossed me the Philadelphia Daily News and I started to look through the entertainment section and immediately and ad jumped out and grabbed me by the throat...
One Night Only!
The Soft White Underbellies
Kenwood Tavern
Levittown, PA
9PM until Close!
Holy shit! The Soft White Underbellies at the goddamn Kenwood!
Me: Bart, you aint gonna believe this...
Bart: What?
Me: Guess who's playing at the Kenwood tonight!
Bart: You're shitting me!
Me: I shit you not! Here, look at the ad yourself!
He looked at the ad, threw down the paper, grabbed his jacket and keys. With that we were out the door and soon on I-95 heading north to the Kenwood Tavern... When we got there the lot was almost empty. This can't be right... The ad was big enough... Surely the place should be packed by now!
It wasn't though and we easily found seats at the bar after glady paying the $15 cover charge at the door and ordered up a few frosty adult beverages. We were a half hour early for the first show and a few more people began to shuffle into the place. By the time the act got underway, there were maybe fifty people in the place, max, the whole night. We stayed until closing, watching in awe each set and even talked to a few of the band members during the breaks.
That has got to be one of my fondest memories of early adulthood. I got to see The Soft White Underbellies, up close and personal... Rubbing shoulders and hobnobbing with them like old friends.
I know you're all asking yourselves this... Why the fuck is Tommy so damn excited about seeing some band in a local suburban Philadelphia bar?
I'll tell you why...
"The Soft White Underbellies" just happen to be the pseudonym the rock band Blue Oyster Cult used all over the country when they'd tour small local clubs just like the Kenwood Tavern... The Rolling Stones do the same thing from time to time, but for the life of me I can't remember what name they use when they do it.
I've been to a lot of concerts in my days... Genesis, The Stones, The Who, Van Halen... Big arenas, open-air venues...
But nothing beats seeing one of your favorite bands from your school years in a small club out in the middle of nowhere with the place half full.
It's like they were playing only for us!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden


Kat_womanx2 said...

You are going to laugh your ass off at this one....In August of 1992, I went to the Regatta in Charleston. Billy Ray Cyrus was headlining for the night...opening act was Tiny Tim and his ukelele (ha ha). Anyway..the place was packed...more than 50,000 people on the streets. We were looking down from the 4th floor of the holiday inn and you couldn't spit between the people standing there. It was like this until he finally sang "Achy Breaky Heart" for the first time..and then they cleared out....later in the evening we were walking around on the street..and I hear someone singing the "Star Spangled Banner" acapello. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. I had no idea who it was and began walking up toward the stage. I made it all the way up front and rested my arms on the stage...and the mystery singer was Billy Ray Cyrus himself. I know alot of singers use equipment and devices to enhance their voices...but he was using nothing at this time...and it brought me to tears it was so beautiful. He was never given half the credit he was due during his singing career.

Crazy Me said...

Tha't really cool. I didn't know bands used fake names to tour locally on occasion.

honkeie2 said...

There used to be a small palce called 'The Birchill' here in Jersey that show-cased local bands and sometimes they had big time hitters come in. It was a very small venue where anyone could reach out and touch the guys and at the end you could talk with them. I know these kinda bands are not your cup of tea but I have seen and meet bands like System of a Down, StaticX and Powerman 5000 so close it seemed like they were just one of us in the crowed. I sure do miss that place.
Now they only play concerts that put the little guy at a distance and with no chance in hell of actually meeting them. I really dont like going to concerts anymore.

Lisa said...

That was a COOL story. Didn't know that bands sometimes use fake names. I guess they do because they still like the low-key, small, intimate atmosphere? Sort of nastolgic maybe?

tsduff said...

What a treat that you happened to know their early name, and got to seem them in such an intimate venue. Sounds fabulous.

Cheryl said...

Very cool! And I learned something new today.

cantellya said...

That is sooo cool! I wonder if there were only 50 people because few knew who it really was?

DZS said...

Happens down here as well. Some of the bands use a name they had early in their careers that is relatively unknown.

Ranger Tom said...

Kat: I would have been just as suprised as you were... As for Tiny Tim, I have an interesting fact there... My brother, also a cop, used to moonlight as a bodyguard in hte mid 70's for celebrities... "Miss Vicky", Tiny Tim's wife and notorious stripper, would always ask for my brother by name when in Philly...

Crazy: There's a lot of bands that do that, the Stones are a big one. They've been know to show up in small nieghborhood bars in NYC from time to time and play for small crowds

Honkeie: I went to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park a long time ago and saw Bruce Springsteen... That was a blast to see him where he got his start. We also used to head to a small place in Wilmington, Delaware to see George Thoroughgood

Lisa: I think they do it just for fun most of the times. Getting back to thier roots I guess. I'm glad that some still do.

tsduff: Thanks for dropping by. It was a great time.

Cheryl: You're in another place, Chicago, where some of my old favorites of stand up still show up and do a gig or two at Second City... Another of my "to go" places before I die.

Can't: I think there was so few people at the place because no one knew who they were, good for us...

dzs: Didn't AC/DC do the same thing in Adelaide a few years ago?

berly02 said...

I had no idea this secret name world existed.

Ranger Tom said...

Berly, a lot of groups do this but it's not widely publicised... The best part of the evening was when a really drunk girl came up to me, put her arm around me and said "You know, these guys are really great! They sound just like Blue Oyster Cult!"

I couldn't resist...

"Yep" sez I "They sure do!"