by Jess Dooley
Voiceless and aching beyond comprehension, I found myself at a crossroads as I stood adjacent to the tea and coffee condiments island at Philadelphia’s 11th and Arch St. Wawa. I was four blocks away from Underground Arts, where I’d be spending the night catching up with a well-known Chicago-based rock band by the name of Spitalfield, long retired after a 15 year stint playing nationally and overseas. I had been anticipating their Remember Right Now ten-year anniversary tour since I’d heard about it. But first things first, I had to get my voice back. Few people could interview someone while being mute and I wasn’t really trying to add myself to that list.
As I headed to Underground Arts, I wondered whether or not the band would play their hit record linearly or not. Remember Right Now, Spitalfield’s second full-length release on Victory Records, catapulted the band to the height of their success upon it’s release in 2003. With themes such as volatile friendships/romances, lack of consistency, uncertainty and,more than anything, maturing as a person and shedding the naïve eyes of your adolescence. While of course being most popular amongst high school-aged youths like themselves at the time, Remember also managed to tap into a few universal truths which is why I think it resonates with so many people then and now. The pop-punk sensibilities that the band (original lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Rose, drummer J.D. Romero, bassist/vocalist T.J. Minich, and guitarist/vocalist Dan Lowder) bring to the table are all subtle, powerful song structure and honest lyrics; there’s really nothing to dislike.
My first stop at the venue was locating Rose to chat about the tour and the album that started it all. Upon my arrival, he’d been walking away from the merch table but was easily called back for an introduction and we ventured backstage. The cheerful front-man assured me that although the band—tour aside—were not planning to get back into the music business anytime soon, they were still playing music together for all the right reasons.
“Well, we really haven’t talked too much about what we’d be doing next together creatively,”Rose explains.”What I will say, though, is that we’re having such a good time; this calendar year is pretty fair game for it being the ten year anniversary and we’ve already got the ball rolling and adding a few more dates for some cities that we’re not hitting right now.”
With the members split between different cities—Chicago and Portland—it’s easy to see how life has literally pulled them in different directions and why it makes this tour even better for fans like me, who came a long way after Spitalfield’s heyday. Rose reflects, “We’re seeing all these old friends come out of the woodwork and there’s a lot of people every night that,when we’re talking to the crowd, haven’t seen us before and I think it’s because they picked it up after we were gone and we’ve been gone for awhile. We’re not an active band; we’re not really planning to be but right now, this is a lot of fun for us and we’re trying to take advantage of that.”
And there was much fun to be had. Underground Arts is a good combination of an intimate basement stage area and a medium sized concert venue (think North Star Bar meets the TLA). As doors opened and concert attendees began to trickle in, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in groups of five or six, the energy for the night began to take hold. It was somewhere between the familiarity of seeing one of your friend’s bands play and that interest you feel upon finding out about promising new artists.
The first act featured the acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter Jon Walker. With sweet anecdotes in between his songs and accounts of all the reasons to spend money at the merch booth that night, Walker ended his set with a song about growing a beard. I’m sure everyone with the ability to grow facial hair appreciated his sentiment of apprehension over it, but the message was lost on me.
Second to the stage was Shane Henderson and the Future Perfects. A brilliant combination of energy and humor, these guys brought a pulse with them that was coursing through the entire room after their first song. Henderson—bouncing around in his Phillies jersey—even led the group through a couple covers. Upon finding out that members of Valencia (guitarist Brendan Walter and bassist George Ciukurescu) were in the crowd, it only made sense to cover one of their songs—although the two had quite the time remembering it (but it’s been awhile and the audience was understanding). Still, seeing ¾ of the hometown crowd pleasers was just the right amount of nostalgia leading up into the main act.
Spitalfield took the stage soon after opening with a lively rendition of “Those Days When You Felt Alive,” the album’s energetic first track. Sing-a-longs, headbanging, and excited gestures were the norm all the way through the band’s initial album-length set, encouraged by Dan Lowder’s hysterical quips (do yourself a favor and check out sammycantdrive.com). Crowd favorites like “Five Days and Counting”, “I Loved The Way She Said LA” and “Am I Ready” surged the energy up several notches just in time for “In The Same Lifetime” to calm everything down a little bit. What really made the night was the moment when Rose encouraged us to turn to our left or right and introduce ourselves to the people standing next to us, stating that this really was “the city of brotherly love.”
The encore set was introduced by the tour manager, calming the audience’s chants for both the band and “one more song.” It including covers of Texas Is The Reason, a pop song or two and ended the show with “Texas With A Dollar Sign.” And all in all, Spitalfield is a live band that are not only worth seeing but well worth talking to.
Thinking back to the interview I’d had with Rose earlier, I wondered if they’d end their night by going to ravage more cheesesteaks or if they were done with that business these days (they documented the inches collectively eaten in cheesesteak on past trips to the city). I left the venue feeling wholly satisfied with my evening and a strong desire for a steak sandwich.