Johnny Brenda’s was the spot to be this past Saturday night. A stocked bill with Philly locals Cruiser, Weekender, Cold Fronts, and Brooklyn’s synth pop duo Cultfever. It was a jam-packed house, with Cold Front’s managing to sell out their first headlining performance at Johnny Brenda’s.
Weekender kicked started the night with their unique blend of psych pop. There is a distance to lead singer and guitarist Derek Sheehan’s voice that gives the bands sound both a rawness and fluidity, which at times takes a backseat to Tom Anthony’s vibrant and poppy guitar riffs. Their set was just the right mix of chill wavy jams and moody experimental guitar licks to get people swaying from side to side, but not all out dancing. It almost served as a warm-up to the slow build of energy coursing through JB’s on this brisk Saturday night.
By the time Cruiser took the stage, the drinks were flowing and the crowd was beginning to amp up the energy level. The band played several songs off of their self-titled EP released back in 2012, as well as a newer song released last September, titled “Kidnap Me”; a natural step forward for the band. With Andy States infectiously catchy vocals, as well as he and Josa Lazas’ beachy guitars playing off of each other like clockwork, the band has stuck to their schtick of making anyone who listens yearn for the sweet summer air. With the weather starting to break, and one of the coldest and snowiest winters Philadelphia has seen in years almost behind us, Cruiser’s summery vibe made everyone in the crowd that night anxious to embrace the impending warm weather head on, while day dreaming about the ocean and the sun.
Up next, hot off the heels of their TSI Music Award win for NYC Band of the Year, was Cultfever, making their Philadelphia debut. The duo of Tamara Jafar and Joe Durniak manage to weave together this bizarre creation of indie/synth pop into something wholly unique and original. Jafar vocalizes her lyrics in a way that is at times beautiful, elegant, and evocative. She stalked around the stage, climbing on amps, crawling underneath her keyboard, and provoking Durniak while they belted vocals into each other’s faces. The two-piece duo’s (plus touring member Ignacio Rivas Bixio on drums) energy filled every inch of the stage. The highlight of their set was their performance of a track titled “Animals” which is very heavy on upbeat synthesizers that dare you not to dance while listening. Durniak’s simplistic and catchy guitar plays well against several understated, quieter moments of harmonious melodies from Jafar. Philadelphia welcomed Cultfever with open arms, with Jafar telling me after their set how excited she was at the prospect of playing more shows here in the future.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve been waiting all goddamn day for this show….WOOO!” screams lead singer Craig Almquist, and thus began Cold Fronts raucous set. Coasting on the building momentum set forth by the three previous bands, Cold Fronts blazed through various songs off of their 2012 release Pretty American. The night marked two firsts for the band, headlining and selling out Johnny Brenda’s, and by doing so, solidifies their continuous rise through the ranks of the indie rock scene that this city is sprawling with. You could tell by Almquist’s lively presence and enthusiasm that this night was something special for him and his fellow band mates. The way he contorts his face while singing lyrics like, “And I guess I told you so, we’re all chemically composed” during the song “Know it All”, it is evident that when these guys play, they don’t hold back, especially not to a sold out venue.
The boys finished their set off with crowd favorite “Heart Attack” with Craig strumming a wickedly clever little guitar lick while drummer Alex Smith pounds away keeping a steady rhythm these types of indie hits demands.
It’s not everyday that Johnny Brenda’s sells out, and with such a packed bill and even more packed venue, it was a culmination of indie rock and synth pop bliss.
FULL SHOW GALLERY
Photos by: TIm O’Donnell