Archive for the ‘Philadelphia, PA’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 8, 2018] Jessica Lea Mayfield

I first saw Jessica Lea Mayfield (who I’d assumed was a country singer) on a Tiny Desk Concert back in 2016 (it aired in 2014 when she had just released Make My Head Sing…).  She had pink hair, electric guitars and a lot of glitter.  And her sound was decidedly grungy.  At the time I remember thinking that the contrasts she brought–her delicate voice, her simple but poignant songs, her look, and her promise that her shows get really loud–were really compelling.  So when last November she scheduled a date at Boot & Saddle, I was bummed that I couldn’t go.  But then she cancelled the date and it was rescheduled to March.  And so she became my second show in a pretty long string of shows this month.

I really like her latest album Sorry Is Gone.  And once again her look is very different–she quite glammed up on the album cover.  So I didn’t know what to expect when she came out.  And that was all the more thrilling.  When she finally did come out, green hair, blue nail polish, yellow heels and a flower dress, it was just a perfect microcosm of everything I think about Jessica Lea Mayfield.

The surprise came when Audrey from Mal Blum and the Blums came back onstage.  This time she was playing bass for JLM.  If you’re doing double duty on a night, it’s probably fun to switch instruments.  On drums was Emily Maxwell who plays with Daddy Issues.

When Jessica came up on stage, she was unabashedly polite and rather sweet.  She has a quiet voice (in song and speaking) and thanked us all for coming. (more…)


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[ATTENDED: March 8, 2018] Mal Blum and the Blums

I was unfamiliar with Mal Blum before this show.  Mal Blum is a songwriter who plays both solo shows and with the backing band The Blums.  Mal’s songs are great–catchy melodies and darkly comic self-reflective lyrics.  But I am particularly glad to have seen The Blums because the backing band was great and really seemed to infuse the show with a lot of fun (I suppose the solo shows are fun as well, but this is all I have to go on).

Mal was front and center of course on guitar and vocals.  On lead was Audrey Zee Whitesides and she was great–playing wild solos and then backing off to let Mal take center stage again.  Barrett Lindgren was on bass and he was particularly excited to shout Go Birds! (he is from Philly and had been holding off shouting that for many shows now).  On drums was Piyal Basu who was new for this tour (no pictures apparently).  He did a great job–I particularly enjoyed the time when Audrey “encouraged” him when an upcoming tempo change was imminent. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 6, 2018] Spoon

I have been a fan of Spoon for years.  I’ve never seen them before, including when they played at XPN Fest a few years ago.  Since the song “Hot Thoughts” from the new album is so damn catchy, it seemed like a great time to see them live (especially at TLA).

It took the band quite a while to get going after Sneaks went off.  And I gather they were having technical problems throughout the night.  But it sounded fantastic out by us.  Brit Daniel said he’d tell us the story later in the show.

They played a great mix of new songs and old songs.  Daniel’s voice sounded perfect and he was full of energy–interacting with the audience–high fiving, making faces–and jumping all around the stage.

On my side of the stage I was just a few feet from bassist Rob Pope.  I enjoyed the way Pope came really close to the edge of the stage a number of times, practically leaning out above us.   Just behind him was drummer Jim Eno.

The other side of the stage, obscured by fog for the first half of the show was Gerardo Larios on keys and guitar and Alex Fischel on guitar and keys and all manner of sounds.  He opened the show with some interesting noises while shrouded in fog.  As the blue lights zoomed around the rest of the band came out and they started “Do I Have to Talk You Into It.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 6, 2018] Sneaks

I’m fascinated by how opening acts get chosen for shows.  Sneaks was an opener for Palm last summer.  So I have now seen Sneaks more than bands I’ve actually wanted to see.

This Spoon show was not advertised with an opening act, so I was surprised (and a little disappointed) that there was one.  I had enjoyed Sneaks as an opener for Palm. I assume it was because it was a smaller venue (PhilaMOCA fits 250, TLA fits 1,000) and we were more intimate, that the Sneaks vibe worked well.  Spoon is quite a lot bigger than Palm, so I guess that’s a step up, but it brings perils.

About the PhilaMOCA show I wrote:

She has a great raw punk bass sound–it reminds me of the sound of Black Flag… Her riffs were cool, and while repeated a lot, they were certainly interesting enough to keep a song going.

She was also accompanied by a DJ. whose name I didn’t catch.  He kept some good beats and threw in some interesting sound effects.  It gave the show a bit more spontaneity than I was expecting from a drum machine based show.

Sneaks played a whole bunch of songs (most of them are quite short about 2 minutes or so).  Each song had a cool or interesting bass riff, she sang (deadpan) around it for 2 minutes and that was it.  She also did a couple of songs with no bass, just a freestyle rap over the drum machine.  And after 35 or so minutes she was done.



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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2018] First Aid Kit

I first heard First Aid Kit from a Tiny Desk Concert back in 2012. I was immediately transported by their harmonies. And by the fact that the office looks dark and like they are the only ones in it (Bob, if you read this, if anyone deserves a second Tiny Desk it’s these two–maybe one with lights on!)

I also knew that Sarah would love them, which she did when I put “Emmylou” and “The Lion’s Roar” on a disc for her.  Then we bought the album and she’s become a bigger fan than me.

They played XPN Fest in 2015, but our first year at the Fest was 2016, so we didn’t have an opportunity to see them live until now.  Understandably, this show sold out pretty quickly, but I was quick on the draw and got my tickets right away.

When we got to Union Transfer there was a long line to get in (that ever happens!) And then there was a long (very orderly) line to get merch.  We knew we had to get one of the gorgeous posters which were of somewhat limited supply–although I saw at the end of the show that  they still had some, so I guess poor Sarah didn’t have to carry it all night long.

We were still pretty early and got a good location. The first wonderful thing about the crowd was that they were all short–except for one guy who was literally a foot taller than everyone else (he was very nice and a future librarian and was not in our way).  And unlike some of the more intense shows I’ve been to, nobody pushed his way up front at the last minute.  The crowd was courteous and polite (and even though it was sold out it didn’t feel cramped (maybe half the people had the flu)). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2018] Van William

One of the more enjoyable experiences at a concert is watching an opening act win over an audience.

I don’t know how many people knew Van William before the show.  I didn’t, although I looked him up and really enjoyed the song “Revolution.”  A person behind me said, wait Van William is his name?  So I’m guessing he wasn’t that well known.

Turns out that he goes by Van Pierszalowski (Van William is much easier, even if that singular tense is maddening) and is in the band Waters [who I have sience listened to and really really like] and was the frontman of the band Port O’Brien [who I also rally enjoyed–such songwriting chops on this guy].

He started the show on acoustic guitar, playing a very catchy song called “The Country.”  I loved that the song started slow and then kicked in for the second verse.  And when he gets to that chorus which is basically a big “whooooooa” its hard to resist.  I enjoyed his delivery and the whole song of his folk rock.  It was warmly received.

He told us that he was happy to be here with his best friends First Aid Kit.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 8, 2018] Palehound

I also first heard Palehound on Tiny Desk.  I was really impressed with the range of songs that Ellen Kempner played as well as her dynamic guitar work–from pretty melodies to seriously scorching solos.  But it was her other show (from (Le) Poisson Rouge in the fall of 2015) that NPR broadcast that really made me want to see her live.

So getting Palehound and Waeves in one show was pretty awesome.

I was pretty delighted that she said she was inspired by Weaves to make their setlist fast in the beginning–she was ready to rock out.  And so she started with some of her best full-on songs.

Kempner is fun to watch (she was wearing that cool dress and some big work boots) as she switched effortlessly from wailing guitar to singing and sometimes both. (more…)

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