By Alicia Belch - [email protected]

Unbroken Train rolls into Philly with headliner Phil Lesh

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Phil Lesh (second from right) and the Terrapin Family Band play “St. Stephen”
“Philadelphia” mural by Steve Powers in Old City
Chandeliers hang overhead the Fillmore ballroom
Eighteenth century brick and pastel buildings are found along the streets of Old City
Box office mural at the entrance of the Fillmore Phildelphia
Specialty sodas inside Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, Old City
Twiddle performs their hit song “When It Rains It Pours”
The Fillmore’s rendition of the famous Phildelphia LOVE symbol

If you grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania like myself, the soft, low whistle of a passing train is a familiar sound.

The second weekend in September, I heard a fresh tune, belonging to a different kind of locomotive.

The Unbroken Train concert tour, featuring Midnight North, Twiddle and Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band, rolled into the Fillmore Philadelphia on Sept. 9 to play original compositions as well as the Grateful Dead classics fans expect and love.

Planning Early

Every September, my friends and I find a local concert to attend for my birthday.

This year’s celebration had to be one to remember because my friends, James and Kate, were married Sept. 7. With the recent union of my good friends, James and Kate, this year’s celebration had to be one for the books, or in this case, newspaper.

So, my boyfriend, Joshua, and I planned ahead for a new experience with Airbnb.

I suggest booking an Airbnb over a hotel room. The cost was relatively the same and our Airbnb had a full kitchen, spiral staircase leading to a master bedroom, dining area, living room with smart TV, half-bath with washer and dryer, and a private entrance and rooftop overlooking the Delaware River and Penn’s Landing into New Jersey.

The night was stress-free knowing that we had a beautiful and quiet place to stay after the event. Also, we saved over 100 dollars by buying our four tickets a month in advance.

The Venue

What I find most impressive about the Fillmore Philadelphia is the industrial glam style combined with the numerous entertainment options.

This Fillmore, located in “hipster” Fishtown, was transformed from the AJAX Metal Company warehouse in 2015. It’s an “indoor city” complete with multiple bar areas, disco balls, UV reactive graffiti and collage artwork, dancing areas, a restaurant, second balcony floor, and four large chandeliers hanging overhead.

My friends and I opted to stay upstairs for the show. Compared to the standing ballroom area beneath, the second floor proved better for dancing and certainly for viewing. There was a bleacher-styled platform where one could sit or hold onto a railing for a breather. The light show was phenomenal, especially when refracting from the chandeliers.

However, the second floor is not so great for sound. The bar, although separated by wooden panels, is situated behind the standing area. Once in a while, we could hear conversations, laughing and bottles clanking. This may not be an issue for those more towards the front or on the side VIP areas.

Overall, the Fillmore was a unique and refreshing experience.

The Performance

Phil Lesh, the original bassist for the Grateful Dead, and his Terrapin Family Band first teamed up with jam bands Midnight North (led by Lesh’s son, Grahame) and Twiddle back in June at the Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, Calif., for the Unbroken Train three-day festival.

They extended the concert series to stops in Woodstock and Canandaigua, N.Y., in July, and Philadelphia in September.

Twiddle’s set carried reggae beats and funk into smooth bluegrass riffs. Their opening performance received great reviews that they amplified the crowd’s energy. Twiddle is returning to the Fillmore Nov. 21.

The set list for Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band was extensive. They covered “The Music Never Stopped,” “Stella Blue” and “Franklin’s Tower” among other hits while weaving other famous melodies throughout, such as Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and the Allman Brothers Band’s “Mountain Jam.”

Lesh’s iconic bass playing kept rhythm as always, while members of the Family Band switched between instruments and Elliott Peck of Midnight North harmonized with impressive falsetto. They ended the show with Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and the crowd howled together as the band took a bow.

Old City

Our stay in Old City was delightful. In this historic section proudly stands 18th century brick buildings, complimented by ornamental design and brightly colored shops and restaurants.

The Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Ben Franklin Museum and Independence Hall are all home to Old City within a few blocks from one another. With the rain trickling down, we shopped in the boutiques and candy stores. Along the way, we passed by monuments and took a stroll down Ben Franklin’s personal cobblestone corridor.

Old City is the authentic Philadelphia experience. Culturally rich and quaint, I highly recommend visiting this part of town.

Music That Lasts

My friends and I stopped by a local corner store for an umbrella before departure. A young, foreign cashier took care of us at checkout. He looked at James’ shirt and exclaimed “Oh, Dark Star!” in reference to the Dead’s 1969 track. As we left, he bid us a smile and sang out, “Big sunflower growing!”

Moments like these are unforgettable. They teach that joy is found in the day’s ordinary moments and only if you’re paying attention. The music is always playing if we take time to listen and a melody goes a long way.

Great American musicians are few and far between. Put it on your list and cross it off – see them before they’re gone.

Phil Lesh (second from right) and the Terrapin Family Band play “St. Stephen”
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_USE-Phil-Lesh-.jpgPhil Lesh (second from right) and the Terrapin Family Band play “St. Stephen”

“Philadelphia” mural by Steve Powers in Old City
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_Old-City-grafitti.jpg“Philadelphia” mural by Steve Powers in Old City

Chandeliers hang overhead the Fillmore ballroom
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_Fillmore-ballroom.jpgChandeliers hang overhead the Fillmore ballroom

Eighteenth century brick and pastel buildings are found along the streets of Old City
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_architecture-old-city.jpgEighteenth century brick and pastel buildings are found along the streets of Old City

Box office mural at the entrance of the Fillmore Phildelphia
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_Box-Office-Fillmore.jpgBox office mural at the entrance of the Fillmore Phildelphia

Specialty sodas inside Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, Old City
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_Rocket-Fizz-1-.jpgSpecialty sodas inside Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop, Old City

Twiddle performs their hit song “When It Rains It Pours”
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_Twiddle.jpgTwiddle performs their hit song “When It Rains It Pours”

The Fillmore’s rendition of the famous Phildelphia LOVE symbol
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_LIVE-at-the-Fillmore.jpgThe Fillmore’s rendition of the famous Phildelphia LOVE symbol

By Alicia Belch

[email protected]