#216, Pittsburgh, PA
It was late afternoon when we pulled into the parking space out front Howler's Coyote Cafe. Liberty Avenue was drenched in setting sunlight as we unloaded amp after amp and a trail of white picket fences through the narrow passageway onto the edge of the carpeted stage. The ceiling was hung with t-shirts of local bands and other acts who had passed through and left their Sharpie-signatured merch stapled to the ceiling. Big Green Tanks. The Beautiful Losers. Ninjas Who Met God. I spotted a bright red Bloodshot Records bumper sticker on the door and smiled. It was a little taste of Chicago, my hometown, in this Pittsburgh bar where we were about to play our first show of tour.
Pizza orders safely placed, all equipment snugly settled against the stage, I set out with my camera to see what numbers I could find. I hadn't been to Pittsburgh since my college years. I was going out with a DJ who went to school at Purdue and lived in Pittsburgh, and I spent a few days one summer touring the city with him. We saw Andy Warhol's grave, lay on the grass at Carnegie Mellon, and rode a car on the Duquesne Incline. I liked what I'd seen of Pittsburgh and was glad to have a chance to revisit the city. With a stroke of luck, our gig had landed us in Bloomfield, a residential area with plenty of houses in the 200 and 300 range -- you understand. It's all a work in progress.
The neighborhood was sleepy, a combination of aluminum sided homes and old brick buildings on a low scale. Telephone wires stretched and gaped across alleys. A suspicious man in a car yelled out to me, as I was taking pictures, "Sweetheart! Sweetheart!" Reluctantly, I turned to face him. "Who you lookin' for?" he bellowed. "Numbers," I shouted back. "Don't worry about it."