Pretty much the best live music season of my life.
This concert series brought to you by Johnnie Walker Black, our babysitter, and the great city of Philadelphia whose vast network of just-good-enough venues help me avoid spendy trips into NYC.
April 20: Rhye
This was at World Cafe Live, which is basically a restaurant with a stage (picture). The band was excellent: they did wide, jazz-like re-interpretations of the album tracks, and clearly had good chemistry. The major surprise of the night was when we learned Rhye was, uh, a guy, which, if you listen to them sight unseen, you would swear it was the next Sade. Proof:
April 30: Tom Odell
Tom Odell, evidently, is the new hotness in the UK. Imagine James Blake mashed up with Jerry Lee Lewis: young and soulful and tragically British, but a beast behind the piano. Unfortunately the stage at Johnny Brenda’s is tight, so he didn’t get to rock as hard as his music videos would have you believe. No matter. It’s clear the kid has buckets of talent, and if he doesn’t fuck it up, could be big. Here is his performance on Letterman, which was recorded the day after the Philadelphia show:
May 3: Daughter
While the venue (Union Transfer) is fantastic, this show was a major letdown. Opening for Daughter was a group called Wilsen, and both acts suffered the same stage afflictions: no presence, no audience connection, little movement, and a lack of confidence that made you cringe. Being on the fence about their music, I wanted so much to fall in love with the group, but at the end of the night we just walked away cold. Which, after listening to the guts laid out in songs like this, you’ll find hard to believe:
May 15: Ola Podrida
I really like the venue Kung Fu Necktie. Easy to get to, totally awesome vibe, intimate stage where you could literally touch the singer’s mic. (And top shelf drinks for seven bucks.) Unfortunately, on this night, the number of audience members matched the number of band members on stage, which made for an awkward emptiness that everyone avoided. This ickiness was compounded by really loud, poorly mixed sound, which sucked the life out of a musically accomplished project that spun out of Explosions in the Sky.
June 7: The National
This show was at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, and occurred while tropical storm Andrea was dumping eleventy trillion tons of water across PA. The show was like magnificent sex: powerful, emotional, and exhausting. They played 22 songs (!), and all of them had the crowd in a trance; I would have stood for 22 more. Here’s their second song of the night, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”:
June 16: Junip
June 18: The Boxer Rebellion
September 18: City and Colour