T'ing and Biking to Steve Earle at South Park | Program Notes

T'ing and Biking to Steve Earle at South Park

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The county's free summer concerts, especially those at Hartwood Acres and South Park, are great amenities. But I've gone to relatively few, at least in part because I hate driving that far, then sitting in traffic to park, sitting in traffic to leave, and burning all that gas besides.

Last Friday's Steve Earle concert gave me an excuse to try out a new-to-me way. A companion and I loaded our bikes on the T, got off at the Lytle stop, then peddled to the amphitheater to see the politically outspoken singer-songwriter do a solo show.

It worked pretty well. You do have to schedule carefully: You can't bring your bike on the T during rush hour, for instance, and cyclists can disembark only at certain stations (the high-platform ones). But, leaving the Gallery Crawl early, we caught the first post-rush-hour train out of Downtown's Wood Street Station, at 6:30 p.m., and were sitting on the amphitheater's rain-dampened lawn by 7:30.

Yup, we got soggy on the rainy, 15-minute bike ride from Lytle to the amphitheater -- though the rainbow that greeted us at the park entrance compensated. And the uphill on the way home was a bear at 10 p.m. But I'd do it again, whether for another concert or just to tool around the park. Especially because I suspect a more southerly T stop -- perhaps even the end of the line, at Library -- might be closer to the amphitheater itself without sacrificing nearness to a park entrance (which is desirable because South Hills roads aren't especially bike-friendly).

All told, it didn't take much longer than driving there from my home on the South Side, though T fare for two ($10.40 round trip) was somewhat pricier than the gallon of gas it would have taken us to get there.

Oh, yeah, Earle was pretty good, too. I'd seen him before only with a band; solo, he's rough and ready on acoustic six-string, harmonica and mandolin, with an agreeably bearish stage presence. Fresh off his tribute album for Townes Van Zandt, he played several of his songwriting hero's numbers, including "Colorado Girl" and "Pancho and Lefty." He did spirited versions of his own stuff: "Galway Girl," "Someday," "Fort Worth Blues."

Two-thirds of the way in to a 90-minute-plus set, Earle talked politics some, with a qualified "hurrah" for Obama and a word against the oxymoron that is "clean coal," followed by an anti-mountaintop-removal song. (Crafted, like most of his work, as a story rather than a screed.) And there was a passionate rendition of his moving antiwar number "Jerusalem." The encore was a rousing "Guitar Town" -- he said it was probably the first song he ever played in Pittsburgh, opening for George Jones at the Syria Mosque, in 1986 -- and his hit "Copperhead Road." 

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