We all know that Philadelphia has musical talent running through the lifeblood of this city. In 2014, there is a growing collective of those talented local artists that are coming together under the label of American Diamond Recordings, founded by Toy Soldiers’ Ron Gallo. Thursday night at Boot & Saddle was home to the first-ever American Diamond Recordings party, where all the bands under the label would perform (Ron Gallo, Levee Drivers, TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb, The Lawsuits) plus a special appearance by Eight Legged Prawn, which turned out to be a pseudonym for the band better known as The Districts (maybe you’ve heard of them). The night was also a birthday party for band manager extraordinaire, Marley McNamara. The mood of the evening was highly celebratory; a roomful of musical friends sharing their talent and supporting each other.
The order of the lineup was unknown before the start of the show, and was drawn at random when the doors opened. I walked in about halfway through TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb, and there were plenty of people dancing to the smoke-filled and whiskey stained blues that unfurl from this band like many a Tom Waits song. Ron Gallo was up next, backed by a full band, but performing his solo material from the new album Ronny. The new stuff is a little more serious, a little more personal than the good-times rock and roll we have come to love from Toy Soldiers, but it shows musical growth from Gallo, who is honing his songwriting craft. During the set, I detected elements of psychedelic rock and punk; this was some of the hardest playing that I have seen from Gallo on his trusty hollow-body guitar. The grittiness of his performance spoke of his personal connection with these new songs.
Levee Drivers came to the stage next to perform their rambling country tunes, with the golden voice of August John Lutz II leading this freight train of twangy blues, punctuated with harmonica and steel guitar. Mid-way through the set, Lutz performed a lovely duet of “Bar Room Two Step” with Chelsea Mitchell. The band also took requests from the birthday girl, Marley McNamara, which upon her request ended their set with two White Stripes covers, “Hotel Yorba,” and “Seven Nation Army.” The Lawsuits followed with songs from last year’s release Cool Cool Cool, with plenty of fans in the crowd singing along with their eclectic mix of pop, rock and soul. Topping off the night, was a surprise show from The Districts, billed under the pseudonym of Eight Legged Prawn, and I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of the decoy until a few hours before the show. The Districts have been playing larger and larger shows and festivals recently, and the boys looked like they were having a lot of fun on the smaller stage at Boot and Saddle. They mixed up their grungy rock hits with a few covers, including a comical take of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and changing the lyrics to “Happiness is a Warm Prawn.” They also threw in a couple White Stripes tunes for McNamara, “Fell In Love With a Girl,” and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.” The Districts closed down the stage with an unbelievably hard rocking version of “Young Blood,” one of my favorite songs from them.
Overall, the American Diamond Recordings inaugural party was a fantastic showcase of some of the best bands in Philly right now. It was great to see all of these musicians supporting each other and sharing their talents. It makes this local music fan feel pretty damn good to be here right now to watch it all unfold.