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Ploughman's Lunch and Dinner

On October 21st, I went to the final show at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (BBT). The BBT was not a place that I visited often, but I enjoyed the few times I was there and wished there had been more. My great-uncle had, at one point (I don't think so in the later years), a connection to the ownership of the place. A few of my friends played there often. This show was particularly exciting for me as it was a reunion show for a band that I had heard much about, Ploughman's Lunch.

Ploughman's Lunch was a sort of later version of Carsickness, one of my favorite Pittsburgh bands. Unlike Carsickness' no-wave/punk/new wave, Ploughman's Lunch was part of a trend in the late 1980's to early 1990's of world music/rock bands. It seems like it was a big thing in Pittsburgh, Rusted Root being an obvious example. I was just a little kid then, so don't quote me on that.

When I got to the BBT, I was surprised; the place was totally packed! I had planned to make a nice video of the night, but there was no way to do that with the huge crowd of people there. Maura Moonshine was just starting when I walked in. She is the daughter of Karl Mullen from Ploughman's Lunch/Carsickness. Her set was pretty laidback acoustic singer-songwriter/country. It was fine and certainly spirited, but it's just not in my field of interest. She had some accompaniment on vocals towards the end, which was cool. After Maura's set, we moved some of the tables, so that people could fit in better.

Ploughman's Lunch took the stage soon after. Though there was still the glimmer of the angry Carsickness, even the setup of the band showed that Ploughman's Lunch was a more radio-friendly group. In addition to the core lineup of Karl Mullen (guitar & vox), Steve Sciulli (woodwinds), and Dennis Childers (drums) from Carsickness, this band included a backup singer, violinist, saxophone player, and a bass player (well that last one isn't so unusual). I've heard comparisons made to the Pogues, but I've actually never really listened to that band. Ploughman's Lunch definitely was a more mid-range rock band with some punk stuff still hanging around. Much of the songs draw from traditional Celtic musick with tin whistles and the like. The lyrics still retain their left-wing political stance, one song, in particular, being about a routine traffic stop that led to a man's death back in the 90's. I didn't know any of the songs they played, but I enjoyed the set and the next set. Yes, Ploughman's Lunch actually played two sets that night with a short break in between. They really did close down the BBT, and awesomely snuck in a version of "Bill Wilkenson". Maura joined them towards the end, which was touching, and members of the group led the audience around in a congo-line sort of thing to the song, "Never Walk Alone". Everyone was all together.

Now I should say that the show was a bit much for me. Though Maura Moonshine may have started the show in a laid-back manner, Ploughman's Lunch really went all in. That kind of 90's rock/pop/world music thing is something I will never understand, but I appreciate the energy of both band and audience that I saw. It was a glimpse back in time to something that I know little about, Pittsburgh musick in the 1990's.