Then, after a walk to the venue (a small hockey arena) and much swapping of tickets, the concert. I had my first "meeting the band" moment as we ran into bass player Jim while heading to our seats. All the guys in the band were out on the floor, signing autographs and chatting. We spent a few moments with him, talking about various things, and I got a signature (luvmoose printed out a lyric book for the BNL Christmas album so that I would have something to get signed -- stupidly, I forgot to bring a CD or something along.) After that, we took our front row seats (my only front row on this trip; we are all in the BNL fan club, and they block out good seats for members. So all our seats were excellent, by my standards anyway) and settled in for the show. The opening act was The LeeVees -- a group of Jewish guys who sing songs about Hanukkah. (One of them is Adam Gardner, the guitarist from Guster. I don't think any of the others are from nationally established groups.) They were a blast. The songs were funny, I enjoyed the music, and you could tell the band was having a great time. The music and personality of the group matched with BNL. They played maybe seven or so songs, most of which were about food.
And then, BNL. Each night opened with a local children's chorus singing a couple of Christmas carols. Then the band joined them for three more holiday songs. After that, the show began in earnest. Portand was a great show, although the set was a little Steve-heavy for me (he is the "lead singer", but the guitarist, Ed Robertson, sings lead on many songs and I generally prefer his songs). Afterwards, we went out into the drizzle and made our way over to the tour buses. It's a tradition for this group to meet their fans as they head to their buses after a show, chatting and signing autographs. I've known about this for years, but never before have I had the chance to actually particpate. So naturally I was excited, and more than a little nervous. But I'm glad I met Jim before the show. Finding him so friendly and easy to talk with calmed my nerves a great deal. I got an autograph from each of them and pictures with Ed (my one true moment of internal fangirl squeeing.... OMG I touched Ed Robertson!!!), Tyler (the drummer), and Jim. I said hello to all of them, didn't say anything stupid, and generally acquitted myself quite respectably, I think. (Except for the moment in which Ed caught letters_to_ed and I watching him play videogames on the bus. What can I say, he was right there at the window. He laughed at us. We waved back sheepishly.)
The next morning we got up bright and early to head for the next show, at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. We had to get moving quickly, since ratgrl had gotten a ticket to a small acoustic show and needed to be there by lunchtime. After booking it through Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusettes, we dropped her off, went to get another BNLer at the Hartford airport, and then settled in for our evening at the casino. anzubird met us here, and we went in to the concert. The LeeVees were still great, and BNL was even better -- I thought this was a better set than the Portland show, and they seemed a little more "on". Unfortunately, the crowd was more irritating. These were the worst seats of the trip -- 8th row, all the seats were further back from the stage, and anzubird and I were off by ourselves, not near the fanclub group. And people talked during the slow songs, including one of my favorite Ed ballads. So, so irritating. Still, a minor annoyance as these things go -- I still enjoyed the show very much, and this is the recording I am most likely to buy, I think.
No buses at the casino, so instead we wandered around, first finding a snack and then a roulette table. I'm not much of a gambler, but I decided that the new experience was worth $20. So anzubird and I set ourselves up at a $10 table, bought in with two minimum bets each, and started to play. I was thoroughly planning to just play until my twenty bucks was gone, but much to my surprise I started winning. Not large amounts, most of the time just breaking even or maybe a little better, but I hit just enough that by the time we were finished, about 45 minutes later, I was up $23. It was much more fun than I expected it to be. Not something I would want to do every day, but I would do it again.
And then we made our way down to Sewell, New Jersey, by far the longest drive of the trip. Sewell is a suburb of Philadelphia and is a good five hours from Uncasville, CT (where the casino is). We arrived, met up with anzubird again at the hotel (she had gone back to New York to pick up her friend AG), and went off to find food, ending up in a pizza place across the street from the venue, where the children's choir for the evening were also having dinner. At this show, I was in the third row, near dead-center. In some ways, these were my favorite seats -- maybe we weren't in the very front row, but we were still close enough that the guys could interact with us, and I could see the whole stage. Steve was in rare form this night, cutting capers on the stage and singing beautifully. This was the night I bought The LeeVee's CD, which I also got signed.
After the show, it was time to head for the buses again, this time in freezing cold. (The old hands told me that this was nothing, talking in the fond way that war survivors do about a bitterly cold night in Buffalo, NY last year. But still. My lips are still chapped.) We huddled, wrapped up in hats and scarfs and so forth, and danced and jumped around to keep warm. anzubird's homemade brownies helped, as did the hat that luvmoose knitted for me. The guys did come out, all but Tyler. No signatures for me tonight, but I did get a picture with each.
As for the dancing. The BNL holiday album includes a few Hanukkah songs, and one of them mentions the hora. So we were joking about doing the hora to keep warm, and then anzubird taught us the steps. Shortly thereafter, Jim came by and we invited him to dance with us. No hora at this time -- we ended up in a bit of a can-can line, doing jump kicks. He seemed to enjoy himself -- "I never get to do shit like this," he said as we finished up our dance. Video was taken, then photographs. Steve was next, and we invited him to join us in the hora. When he admitted he wasn't sure he remembered how, anzubird offered to teach him. So she did, and then we danced. There is video evidence of this as well. It was worth sitting out in the cold for. Even if my lips are still chapped. Then it was back into warm cars, to Dunken Donuts for hot chocolate, and to the hotel.
We woke up the next morning to what appeared to be a dusting of snow. But as we made our way north to meet peachespig and helianthemum, it became clear that a real, if small, storm had come through, and the snowplow operators hadn't been prepared -- roads were not particularly clear, and we had a few hairy moments getting through slush on the freeway. Fortunately, we made it to Princeton in one piece, if a bit late, and had a wonderful brunch.
We had hoped to stay longer, but the New Englanders had to get home, where rumor had it the snow was even worse, so we took off fairly shortly after the meal. Either the roads had been cleared over time, or the storm was lighter in North Jersey, but this second part of the drive went much more easily. I made it to the airport without incident, and after another mostly uneventful flight, I was home.
Again, a highly enjoyable (and busy -- thanks to anyone who made it this far through my ramble!) vacation. So when are they touring again?