Words by Sarah Merusi & Photos by Keanan Barbour-March
The kids on South Street were missing out. Who is this band Bailiff, and why doesn’t everyone know them? I hadn’t heard much about them until recently, just in time to see them perform at The Legendary Dobbs. The room was barely filled and I was disappointed more people did not come in to witness this mesmerizing performance.
Dobbs has history: bands like Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Bo Diddley played their first Philly shows at Dobbs back in the day. You can feel the raw energy within the walls. True to Dobb’s form, this was Bailiff’s first show in Philadelphia. Hailing from Chicago, the duo consists of Josh Siegel on vocals and guitar and Ren Matthew on drums and backup vocals. For their Philly show Owen O’Malley was featured on bass guitars and keyboard. Their new album, Red Balloon, just came out. You should definitely give it a listen.
Bailiff opened up their eight o’clock set with “Emptied Out,” a drone-ambient track that combines tribal drum beats with Josh’s captivating voice. Towards the end of the song, Josh shifted to slide guitar and the room was encompassed with their sound.
The next song, “When I Leave, You Will Stay,” opened up with a catchy guitar-picking riff and anthem-like lyrics, “When I die, don’t cry, don’t cry/I know that you won’t cry/When I leave, you will stay.” Once Ren hopped in on the drums, the song was taken to a new level. Even still, Josh’s vocals were the forefront of this song; the crowd nodded along in affirmation.
Josh was shy on stage, but whatever he lacked in stage presence was made up for with his ability to sing. He commented on the televisions in the room broadcasting the band; “I feel so awkward, it’s like mirrors above the bed.” He better get used to the attention, this band is on to something good.
I’d never heard anything like this before. I wanted to compare them to the Black Keys for their kick drum, duo-performances, but then they pull out songs like “Crickets” and “In the Reverie” and I’m forced to throw any comparisons out the window. With their early music rooted in Blues, “Crickets” has an Eastern-influence with intricate guitar patterns and fast-paced rim shots on the drums.
Bailiff then played, “Everyday Fire,” clearly the most pop-sounding song of theirs with Owen on back-up vocals followed by, “Red Balloon” and “Eventually.” Josh dedicated the next song to an audience member whom he hoped was a Bruce Springsteen fan by playing “Dancing in the Dark.” Check out a video of “Eventually”, thanks to HearYa Live sessions, on Youtube:
They finished up their set with “Curtains,” a funk-inspired song with a crunchy guitar solo. While not my favorite song of the night, it left a good impression that they could let loose and jam out on their new material.
I found myself humming their songs on my walk home from the show and definitely hope to see them again soon. Bailiff finished up their brief Northeast tour in New York in late February with a free midnight show. Next time they visit us from Chicago, you better be there in the crowd.