So, I get to Johnny Brenda’s (in Philadelphia) when doors are supposed to open, at 8PM, and they’re still not open. I look at the piece of paper taped on the door, and it says that the show doesn’t start until 9:30, instead of 9, like it said online. What the heck? I was already looking forward to an early bedtime due to an early wake up call for work (which I ended up calling out of) and was not to thrilled with the set times being pushed back half an hour. Oh well, at least I knew that the bands I was about to see were well worth the lack of money in my bank account come pay day.
Secret Mountains: I honestly didn’t really know what to expect from this Baltimore-based sextet. I figured they couldn’t be too horrible considering the company they were in for the rest of the evening. I was taken back when I saw six people walk onto the tiny little JBs stage. I mean, that can’t be comfortable being that cramped… Plus it makes for a really hard wide shot of the entire band. But that’s not their fault.
Anyway, Secret Mountains live set is a treat for the eyes and the ears. With six members each offering their talent for display, you can’t help but be pulled into their music. Kelly’s smooth, low vocals are entrancing. Throw in some BOBBY-esque drumming and energetic guitar playing and you have yourself an entertaining live set. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these guys in action, and I look forward to seeing them again. My favorite song of the night was “Weepy Little Fingers,” partly because of the name, partly because of the sweet jingle bells used in the song, but mostly because of the overall groove.
Members: Jeffrey Lewis Silverstein – guitar, Alex Jones – bass, Kelly Laughlin – vocals, Chris Muccioli – drums/percussion, Cory Lawrence – guitar, Jake Winstanley – keys/guitar/banjo
Set list (spoken from Alex to me across the bar):
Weepy Little Fingers
Callers: Cutting the number of stage performers for this next act, Callers, a sort of jazzy ambient combination (probably best left as ‘other’) trio from Brooklyn were up next. After taking care of some minor mic issues, Sara wowed me with her impressive vocals, especially during “Life of Love,” my favorite song of the set. Overall Callers music is almost too slow. I feel like I want to speed it up when listening, but then I don’t because it just works. “Young People” is a close second, due to the captivating vocals, and almost dark combination of drums and guitar.
At some point during the set (I failed to remember which song) Don picked up a piece of his drum set, harnessed it to his chest, and played drumline style. The next song, whichever it is, Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak joined Callers on stage to sing a beautiful vocally balanced song with Sara, while kneeling on the floor… I think she only stood up when the song was over. Hey, whatever works for ya. Closing the set with “More Than Right,” a slow, almost spooky beauty of a song, friends from other performing bands of the night were cheering, clapping, and providing that oh so wonderful support from one band to another when sharing the same bill.
Members: Sara Lucas, Ryan Seaton, Don Godwin
Set list (written by Ryan after show):
Life of Love
How You Had Your Arms
Dressed in Blue
Heartbeat (Wire Song)
You Are An Arc
More Than Right
Wye Oak: Alright, the band I really came to see (not to take away from the first two, who turned out to be equally awesome). I saw the listing for this Baltimore-based duo on the R5 calendar months in advance. I was curious as to who would be so special to have such a thing planned so well, so I did what any other person living in the 21st century with a computer would do, I Googled them. When I saw that they were listed at indie folk rock, I immediately added them to my calendar and figured I’d check them out.
Fast forward to now, when I actually have an outlet to express my thoughts on the shows that I attend, and here we are. While I was looking forward to the show, I didn’t have super high expectations, but I had listened to their earlier albums a little bit and figured that it would at least be a decent show. Let me just tell you how silly I felt when I saw just how talented Jenn and Andy are. More than that, their live set is raw, emotional, energetic, and impressive. While Jenn takes care of the lead vocals (which are amazing) and guitar, Andy managers to play drums and keys, often at the same time. Yeah, impressive.
Probably the most memorable part of their set was somewhere in the middle, when Jenn asked the audience what time it was, and that she would tell us why later. Well, we quickly learned that it was her birthday at midnight when members from the opening band came out from backstage with brass instruments and everyone started to sing “Happy Birthday.” Jenn was so excited that she poured her shot of whiskey all over her face! No worries, her eyes may have been bloodshot but she was able to finish the set without compromise.
While Wye Oak mainly focused on songs from their latest album, Civilian (already purchased, downloaded, and safely in my iTunes), they revisited some old ones, including my favorite song title, “I Hope You Die,” “My Creator,” “That I Do,” “Take It In,” and closing their set with “For Prayer.” I already want to see these guys again, mainly because they were just all around fantastic, but also because I was so freaking tired that I STILL don’t think I appreciated all of it.
Members: Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack
Set list (written by Andy after show):
Hot as Day
That I Do
Take It In
We Were Wealth
I Hope You Die
Doubt (Jenn – solo)
Overall: A kickass showcase of kickass female vocals backed by kickass musicians. Yeah, I said that three times.