It’s hard to believe that Friday night marked the ninth time I’ve seen Counting Crows live.

To this day, I would probably rather spend time watching them in concert than see almost anyone else I haven’t seen – actively choosing what would now be the tenth time I watched them perform over people whose performance before me would be unprecedented. Aside from another Simon & Garfunkel reunion show or Cat Stevens getting back out on tour with his full canon, it’s hard to imagine a musical act I’d be more excited about seeing. Even summer tour shows, even sets played almost entirely with other bands, are so emotionally charged as to put a spigot straight from an emotional well into the observer’s soul.

Fish and I had an eventful weekend, including my first visit to his Mole Street place, a trip to a classic Jersey diner, visiting Monopoly’s fabled Boardwalk (with hotels!), hours of overnight poker in Atlantic City, and my second viewing (his first) of the truly excellent “500 Days of Summer”. But the highlight, of course, was the Crows show.

It was a weird show in some ways – the show itself dubbed itself the “Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show”, an effort combine CC with Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana into one epic 18-piece band. It was preluded by one of the most bizarre concert check-in experiences I’ve ever witnessed, where the Borgata Casino staff checked our tickets, issued numbered wristbands (a la Southwest), then checked our tickets again as they move the line up a few stairs, then checked wristbands, tickets, and stamped us with an invisible stamp (no joke – when we alerted them that the stamp hadn’t made a mark, they said it wasn’t supposed to), and constantly checked our numbers against each other. I felt old, as I often do in the early part of lines for rock shows, and wondered what proximity my #217 wristband would procure me.

Turned out, about third row. Which, somewhat remarkably in the face of all the other shows I’ve stood in line for and been able to touch the stage, was the closest I’ve ever been to Counting Crows. They just haven’t played all that many shows in places with a standing-room floor in the West lately.

The show itself was pretty remarkable, and not just because they were shuffling 18 people in and out at a rate that ensured that virtually no consecutive songs were played by the same collection of people. There were a ton of covers, including covers of Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Woody Guthrie. I actually actively enjoyed “Hanginaround”, a song that often annoys me (in no small part because it almost always closes sets and thus means the set wasn’t closed by “A Murder of One”), since the crowd was so insanely involved and everyone was just screaming along by the end of the tune. I’ve become familiar enough with Augustana (they keep playing with CC) that I enjoyed most of their songs as well. And Michael Franti just kept making us jump. Which was fun.

We had intended to play poker for about an hour or so after the show, but it was 6:20 in the morning by the time we actually started rolling out of AC. We’d both more or less broken even (me a little more, Fish a little less), but we’d had quite the time with AC vacationers and bachelors-not-to-be alike. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more gregarious ten at a poker table.

Despite my tiredness at driving home, I’ve now pretty well converted my schedule to something resembling a dawn-to-noon sleep schedule, most conducive to writing and the creative life. Although the noon has been more consistent than the dawn – I still have a ways to go before regaining my youthful reliance on 4 hours or less.

Seeing “500 Days of Summer” again convinced me that it may be a perfect movie. Not that it’s competing with “Shawshank” or anything, but it may be flawless in delivering an emotionally honest, real presentation of the experience of love, in its full and many ranges. About a week ago, I was having a discussion about my top ten movies and the amorphous 5-10 that sort of hang out in the teen periphery of my rankings. I think “500 Days” is at least in that company, and possibly climbing.

And (though this is chronologically before most of what I’ve discussed) I was pretty disappointed by Atlantic City. Granted, it was a stormy day and we got there in late afternoon, but the town did little to convince me it was any better than Santa Cruz or Venice Beach with a few casinos tacked on. The Boardwalk was nice, and pretty long, but it was no more amazing than many other beachside walkways. Maybe living near Seaside for much of my youth has jaded me to the wonders of beach communities, but I was expected something more epic, more grand. Maybe I would only have been satisfied by a full-scale reversion to the 1920’s, complete with sepia-toned eyesight. Yeah, AC probably didn’t have a chance against my expectations.

You know what did? Counting Crows.

Hello Bonjour
Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
Sweet Virginia
Sweet and Low (Mr. Jones Intro)
Meet You There Someday
Boston (with Raining in Baltimore)
(You Gotta Walk and) Don’t Look Back (with Casey Jones)
[unverified Michael Franti song – possible cover]
All I Want is You (with Tainted Love)
The Gambler (partial, joking)
The Sound of Sunshine
I Got Love for You
Delta Lady
When I Dream of Michaelangelo
Children in Bloom
Little Bit of Riddim
Yell Fire!
Say Hey (I Love You)
Just Like a Woman
Why Should You Come When I Call?

Rain King (with Raise a Ruckus Tonight intro, With a Little Help from My Friends middle)
This Land is Your Land