Aside from the traffic in and out of the city, our trip to Philly to see Porcupine Tree went pretty smoothly. Mark, Scott, and I made it over to the band’s pre-show meet & greet at AKA Music at about 3:15pm. I had previously read of just Steven Wilson and John Wesley participating in these, so I was surprised when we found that the whole band was there. Cool!

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I was a little awestruck; I’m not used to meeting popular musicians I like face-to-face. Questions I had prepared in my head the day before, such as “Steven, why was Deadwing mastered so loud?”, “Colin, why don’t you play on all the tracks?”, and “Gavin, did you come up with the odd time signatures in ‘The Start Of Something Beautiful’, or did Steven?” yielded to confessions like “I met you at the Blackfield show back in March, and I’m looking forward to my first PT show”, “I’m an amateur bass player and my favorite line of yours is ‘Slave Called Shiver'”, and “I really enjoy your drumming”. Ugh. 😉 I knew that Wes knew Don, but I’d never met him in person. I dropped Don’s name and was pleasantly surprised to hear that he wanted to meet up with him to say “Hi” after the show. Don and Lois had car problems and we late getting into the city, but I assured Wes I’d pass the message along. All the guys were really easy to talk to; very patient gentlemen. They all signed my Deadwing SE CD. Mark and Scott rightly agreed with me when I said “now I’m a PT fanboy” after we left the store. They thought I spent a little too much time at the table. 😉

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The walk between the Troc and AKA along Arch Street treated us to several landmarks, like the Betsy Ross house, Ben Franklin’s burial plot, and the US Mint. I posted some of those pictures on Flickr. We went over to the Independence Brew Pub, which was recommended by the people on the Dark Matter mailing list, for beers and eats. Don and Lois met up with us there a little later so we made introductions and exchanged pleasantries for a while.

Did I mention we were there for a show? As we stood in line, the Troc personnel told us cameras weren’t allowed in, so Don and I had to go stow ours. Once we got in, I checked out the merch stand. I had hoped the XM2, Up The Downstair reissue, and new Wes CDs would be for sale, but none of them were available yet. I picked up the PT and Wes sampler CDs and a window sticker (now gracing my back window after some creative cutting). Hopefully I can find a US source for those CDs; ordering them from the UK will probably introduce a bit of expense! The opening act, Tunnels, was interesting, but the jazz-fusion trio was unique enough that it was hard to get into the majority of their set. They also had a number of audible dropouts that distracted from the music. Entertaining, but we were there to see the Tree. Apparently the Troc had an 11PM curfew. The other listed opening act, Marrow, did not take the stage. PT was on at about 9:20.

The sound was great and I didn’t need the earplugs I had brought. The band immediately started rocking with “Deadwing” and I was hooked. A few technical things I noticed:

  • “Lazarus” featured neat vocal harmonizers on Steven and Wes’s singing in the chorus.
  • Colin Edwin played a fretted bass (I believe it was a G&L) the entire night, which surprised me because as far as I knew, he was a fretless guy all the way. Also, he played with a pick and not fingerstyle. I think he played fingerstyle on the fretless.
  • Some of the computer-generated/controlled video backdrops were excellently synched with the music. It made me wonder if they were triggered by the band, and if they dynamically responded to triggers during playback. The video show itself was excellent.
  • Wes’s solo in “She’s Moved On” kicked ass. 😉

Don and I had fun singing along with the band, even filling in some of the parts missing that are on the recordings. My favorite DW song, “The Start Of Something Beautiful”, was played, as well as some of my other favorites, like “Even Less” and “Trains”. All the Deadwing material had excellent treatment compared to the CD and was very fun to watch and listen to. Steven was the most animated, playing with a lot of flair. Everyone played great and my first PT show was a real treat.

The show ended a little after 11 and we were summarily kicked out of the venue. We waited around for about 30 minutes and then Wes came out to the tour bus. He and Don conversed a bit and he signed our tickets. A number of Wes fans were there, and he took his time with each of them gracefully. He seems like a really cool dude.

After quickly hitting a nearby Wawa, we said our goodbyes and hit the road. After I got on the PA Turnpike (I drove) it was kind of tough to stay focused at that hour, but we made it back in one piece at about 2:30AM. Thanks for Mark and Scott for accompanying me on our first PT “voyage”; it was a blast! And thanks to Don for getting me into PT and Wes!

Update: Scott, Don, and Lois blogged about the show as well.

Update (5/24): On second thought, I think Colin was playing a Graphite Pearl Stingray.