Three Course Meal, but far from dinner theater.
Words by Missy Philips MissyRaePhilips.wix.com/portfolio Photography by Steven Philips StSteven.com
Experiencing Ladybird, This Way to the Egress, and A Fistful of Sugar from a front-row table, upstairs at World Café Live felt like a private serenade of fireworks sharing life’s secrets through song. Palpable energy spouted out from seat-dancing to table pounding and beat-nodding, connecting the audience not only to one another, but also back to the musicians throughout the electric cascade of performances. Book-ended with female harmonies, strings on strings, and feel good tunes, this folk-punk-swing sandwich shared one thing in common: eccentricity in the form of inspired coordination. Though quantified in drastically different styles, with Ladybird starting out the night expelling beauty through precision, This Way to the Egress following up with seemingly unstable and insatiable tenacity, and A Fistful of Sugar closing out with grandeur in number and masterful collaboration, the bands complimented each other with their variance.
Ladybird, an all-female folk trio from West Philadelphia performed with a simple and yet sophisticated amalgamation of deeply personal lyrics, effortless vocal harmonies, and impressive ever-changing and exchanging string accompaniment. While all three sing in both foreground and background of one another’s self-composed songs, the three have expanded their musical capabilities such that one song may have Sarah Larsen on fiddle, Cecilia Ferneborg on guitar and lead vocals, and Laura Szklarski on banjo, while then next song may require a complete change-around in both position on stage and instrument in hand. Sarah joked between songs about how she “bullied” the other two into learning each other’s instruments so that they could build upon one another’s musical baseline to form the collaborative, nouveau-vintage, grass-between-your-teeth folk sound with which they compose and perform. Emoting deep from the back of their throats, each artist nuanced the music not only with the character of her instrument but also with the individuality of her vocals. With a mellow, acoustic performance they warmed the scene and readied the audience for an evening of tirelessly engaging sets.
Abrupt transition to Odville-Swingtown, PA with This Way to the Egress as “Saddle” Sarah Shown, pianist, fiddler, songstress, and lead female vocalist, snowed confetti with an extravagant hand fan onto co (male) lead vocalist and accordionist “Tyrant” Taylor Galassi as the group unabashedly grabbed our hands and maniacally frolicked us out of ourselves and into their chaotically composed carnie-swing orchestration. Their eclectic score, anchored by John “Toobie Doo” Wentz on the tuba and punctuated with Joe “Bone” Lynch’s sassy purring trombone featured “Krispy” Zach Martin guiding the music through intentional imbalance with tenaciously revelatory drums and Jaclyn “The” Kidd, who’s on-her-knees electric guitar style channeled a femme-punk circ du Hendrix. With This Way to the Egress as our White Rabbit, the audience coagulated into a unified Alice, exploring the collage-like off beat instrumental smashing of their musical wonderland. Clapping was not a band request, but a compulsion imposed by the obliteration of viewer inertia. An entrancing, dancing, couple brought the piece together as a truly memorable second act.
The audience was left with a toothache for more, and teased with a set break we hungrily welcomed A Fistful of Sugar to the stage to finish the job. Mike “Shax” Gall on lead vocals and rhythm guitar led the band with friendly, relatable between-song-banter. Also front and center stood Mrs. Shax (Lisa Watson,) Meaghan Kyle, and Jess McDowell on vocals. With the exception of some powerful female solo tunes, they performed like a tri-harmonized human instrument that brought the power of the group’s sound to the next level. Also playing were Reverend TJ McGlinchey on guitar, Will Mills on fiddle, Steve “Lu” Ciannavei on bass, and Scott Loughery on drums. Before each song there was an inaudible pause from the audience, as we waited to see in what style the next song would be performed. From folk to bluegrass to the bluesy tune Virtuous Woman ruthlessly sung by Lisa Watson. She took a song sexified with a potent bass line, sultry lead guitar, and yearning cameo from This Way to the Egress’s trombonist, Lynch, and amplified it with chocolaty alto confession.
For an intimate dinner theatre style venue, the show was far from casual. Each group performed with the ease of venue veterans, but with an intoxicating energy. The music bounced from creators to experiencers and back again with performative unanimity. The show was a three-course concert, cooked and served to perfection.