This is not a Chester County specific post. So if that is what you are seeking, turn away from your computer now…I saw the Hooters in Ardmore once again last night. (Photos found HERE)
As I said to Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen last evening when he was talking to my friend Eric before the show, the last time I saw the Hooters live I think I was about 23 years old. I am a little older now….
If you were a child of the 1980s and grew up in the greater Philadelphia region you remember the Hooters. They were part of that amazing music scene in Philadelphia of the 1980s which also included Robert Hazard (RIP – he passed away in 2008 – saw him the last time at MilkBoy in Ardmore in 2007), Beru Revu, Tommy Conwell , Dennis Selfridge and more.
The music in Philadelphia at that time was amazing. Original song writing, not cover bands. A lot of the music had a ska and reggae influence, not just rock and roll or folk. You can hear that in the Hooters. I loved ska and still listen to English Beat and Madness on occasion although overall my music tastes have evolved somewhat to indie singer-songwriter people with a more lyrical and folk sound to them.
So “back in the day” we all heard bands like the Hooters at high schools all over the area (I remember seeing the Hooters in Harriton High School’s auditorium, for example), and then at the cabarets: Chestnut, Avalon, and Ardmore.
The Hooters were already popular on the Philadelphia music scene when they opened for Philadelphia’s portion of Live Aid in 1985. I am not going to restate their entire history, it exists online, but the Hooters are also known for Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman giving Cyndi Lauper one of her greatest hits, Time After Time. Throughout the years, other artists like Joan Osborne for example, benefitted from the talent (remember her song “One of Us”?)
When you think of the Hooters as many of us do, you do think of them and the Ardmore Cabaret. And last night was like old home night on the Main Line. Including, amusingly enough, the groupies. They were older and in some cases wider, but there they were pressed up against the stage….waiting. Including the twins.
Now a brief homage to the venue. It started out life as I knew it as the 23 East Cabaret. Then about 20 years ago my friend Joe Rufo purchased the building. It morphed into Brownies 23 East and then 23 East.
I got to know Joe when Lower Merion Township tried to take a large chunk of the Main Street downtown business district via eminent domain for private gain. Thankfully that ill-advised initiative failed miserably.
Joe is the guy who has opened his doors many, many times for fundraisers and is incredibly generous to the community…besides just being a nice guy. Personal highlights for me include 2007 when he opened his doors to those of us having a fundraiser on St. Patrick’s Day for a woman named Moira Shaughnessy who was part of our community and had been struck down by viral encephalitis after surviving non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. On that night, the community came together and everything from the use of the building to the food to the bands was donated. St. Patricks Day 2007 artists like Deb Callahan, Jeffrey Gaines, Amanda Kaletsky, and Dennis Selfridge all donated their time. Another memory of the building is more recent. Earlier this year we did a fundraiser for my friend, the late Jim McCaffrey who was not only a friend but an amazing reporter. (Have a minute? Listen to what he had to say on that evening.) Joe also hosted countless other fundraisers over the years.
A few years ago when the guys from Point Entertainment had lost their music home in Ardmore and were looking for a new place I remember saying to both Rich Kardon and Joe Rufo at the time that they should combine talents and “bring the Hooters back to Ardmore.” We laughed about that last night before the show, because it is just funny how life works out. What the heck did I know? I just thought it was a great idea and they were people I liked.
So when the news broke this summer about their new partnership, I was definitely psyched. 23 East was reborn as Ardmore Music Hall. After all, living in Chester County, it is definitely easier all the way around to get to Ardmore versus West Philadelphia for WXPN Live.
Ardmore Music Hall is the same building, slightly reconfigured. And it is still an awesome place to hear a band. And last night just exceeded all expectations.
We got there in time for the doors to open to the VIP ticket holders and people were lined up around the block waiting for general admission like the old days. Inside, the Hooters milled about with guests, graciously posing for photos,autographs and chatting.
You know what the best part of the Hooters was? They still have it and more. They haven’t turned into aging rockers who should stay off the stage. Their sound has matured and evolved and they are as engaging and awesome as ever. It is no wonder that European audiences love them – they have a huge following there. The Hooters are a band who just love what they do and it shows. They are accomplished musicians and singer songwriters and the magic hasn’t waned.
The Hooters played many of their old favorites and newer music. They did this absolutely astoundingly beautiful cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”. That is one of my favorite songs, and I have to say I think I like their version I heard last night better than the original version.
All of the photos are mine except the photo of the play list. That comes courtesy of the Point Entertainment folks. I was upstairs seated overlooking the balcony.
The place was packed to the rafters for this concert which made me happy. I wasn’t jazzed at times by some of the people behind us, especially Mr. Pin Stripe Shirt. He was all so perfectly pressed and pushy. He reminded me of people I saw when I saw when Robert Randolph and the Family Band were doing a then WXPN festival on Penn’s Landing. And I did get a beer dumped down my back by a tipsy girl and a camera whack in the side of my head by a zealous woman who decided to just stick her camera into my face to try to get a shot. But overall it was an amazing experience. The Hooters always did attract a good crowd.
Also as musicians and human beings, this band is as gracious as ever with their fans. I always remembered that about them: very genuine bunch of guys who took time for everyone. If you are jaded you could have said last night they are just past masters at working a crowd now, but it wasn’t that, it was different. They stop and spoke to people, looked at old photos of concert events passed. It was a nice thing to see.
I hope the Hooters return again to Ardmore. It was such a pleasure to hear them live again sounding better than ever. And yes, Pierre Robert introduced them. I have some concert snippets posted up on Chester County Rambling’s Facebook Page.
Check out Ardmore Music Hall for other upcoming shows including Soul Asylum, Fountains of Wayne, Marc Broussard, Uncle Kracker, and Michael Allman Band. Go early, Lower Merion Township doesn’t offer much parking in downtown Ardmore.