In the before times, before we all carried masks in our pockets, before the phrase “vaxxed and waxed” appeared in dating profiles, and before “have you had it?” was asked as casually as someone asking how your weekend was, I’d occasionally wander over the Walnut St bridge to WXPN on Fridays a bit before noon. Since 2005, WXPN, arguably one of the best public radio stations in the country, has hosted free mini concerts at noon at their headquarters in Philadelphia. Typically the set featured artists who are touring through Philly that night or weekend. I’ve made the stroll across the bridge to see The Bahamas, Hop Along, and The Pixies (!) and countless others.
After almost a year and half of cancelled and postponed shows, Free at Noon kicked off again in October 2021 with Heartless Bastards (side note: while I missed the noon show, I did see them later that night in the same space. If you get a chance to go hear Erika Wennerstrom sing live, GO!) And now, just a few months later, WXPN brought their Free at Noon series to Ardmore Music Hall, featuring Langhorne Slim, who was scheduled to play that same venue to a sold out crowd later that night.
To be honest, I didn’t know much of Langhorne Slim’s music before registering for a ticket. But it’s conveniently located, free, and I missed the smell of patchouli surrounding me, so I took my lunch break and headed to the show. At 11:57am, I slid my sunglasses down my nose as I walked into Ardmore Music Hall, shocked at the packed space. All of these people stepped away from their work, their lives, to spend 45 minutes listening to live music. Promptly at noon, Dan Reed, host for WXPN, stepped on stage to start the show. Airing across the local airwaves and accessible to anyone with an internet connection, Dan warmed up the crowd and then welcomed Langhorne Slim to the stage.
Langhorne Slim aka Sean Scolnick sauntered onto the stage in a grey suit and a beanie atop his head. It would be a solo set. He started strumming his guitar and after a few notes of singing, I was hooked. And really kicking myself for not buying tickets to the night set. He has an ease about his playing that is mesmerizing, and you can tell he feels every word he sings. Encouraging the crowd to sing along, we hopped and clapped along as we were all ignoring the realities of our workdays.
About half way through the set, he took pause to reflect on the past two years, the feelings of isolation, asking the crowd “who is in therapy?” After a few raised hands and yells, the man next to me proudly screamed “that’s not enough of you!” after he pulled his own hand down. Langhorne Slim looked out at the crowd and remarked on the “divine dance floor that we’re all gathered on today.” He mused how it was only noon and some of us were already a little drunk or high. He guessed that some of us may be on lunchtime Tinder dates, and hoped those that did got lucky after. He talked about how I think a lot of us felt during the early pandemic days: alive but not living.
Every show I’ve been to since the pandemic began, the artist has dedicated time to connecting. Connecting with the crowd, connecting with their feelings, and connecting with their deep gratitude to be able to perform again in a crowded room. Even if only for 45 minutes, we all experienced a lot more connection than at least I normally have on a Friday at noon.
This whole world is full of fear and grief
Love, it is the door, and faith's the key
Nothing is deserved nor guaranteed
I offer myself to Thee