Murph's Acoustic Fishtown Xmas
Who: Mark Silver, Nero and Nick Catalano, Andrew Lipke, Jim Thomas, Clean Equations, Dani, Mari, Vile Bread
What: Murph’s Acoustic Fishtown Xmas
Where: Murph’s in Fishtown
After getting word that the Meligrove show was not going to happen, I decided to trek on down to Fishtown to check out some very talented friends of mine perform acoustically. Although I’ve been to Johnny Brenda’s a million times, I’ve never been to Murph’s, located directly across the street (they even tout that on their website). After zipping around the block a few times for parking, we walked up on the small Irish pub leaking muted sounds of polished Bluegrass and country folk.
As we walked through the typically tight quarters of this Irish pub, a small yet well lit stage revealed itself with three musicians picking away at a tune in perfect three part harmony and rhythm from Marc Silver and his band. I’ve known Marc Silver through a number of mutual friends since moving to Philly three years ago from California, and have seen him play with various incarnations of his band. Although I’m normally accustomed to Marc playing with a larger group that includes a banjo, peddle-steel and drummer, there was something that seemed much more natural and honest to this smaller three-piece ensemble. This lineup consisted of an upright bass, mandolin and Marc on guitar. Each member of the group had at least one song where they sang a lead, and their combined voices were very tight when layered together in harmony. Most impressive were the short instrumental breaks and the worked out call and responses on each tune. Marc Silver and his band are on the up and up, and we will be covering more of his shows in detail throughout the new year.
Marc Silver was followed up by a short set from Nero and Nick Catalano (formally of 722). Nero and Nick Catalano grew up in Mechanicsberg PA, literally living in a music shop owned by their father. I couldn’t tell you who started playing music first, but they are they are amazing artists having studied classical, jazz and rock. Nero’s set included mostly originals, and backed by his brother Nick on electric guitar and harmonies. Unlike many traditional indie groups that rely on cliche’ chord progressions and typical four on the flour guitar/piano rhythms, the Catalano brothers often infuse simple acoustic songs with crazy guitar harmonies and improvised melodies with multiple time and key signature changes. They performed a few acoustic versions of 722 songs, and included a couple of slower originals and uptempo tunes.
Andrew Lipke followed the Catalano brothers, starting his set with a cover of the Beatles “Come Together”. FYI- I am as big a Beatles fan there is, but covering their songs is something of a gamble in my humble opinion. Especially this particular tune which as been butchered over and over through the years by the likes of Aerosmith, U2, Soundgarden and just about everybody on the planet via youtube. Andrew did it some justice by ignoring the typical guitar intro we all have heard way too many times, and instead created a waltz-like bouncy feel which threw the vibe in a different, yet welcome direction. Andrew’s voice is incredible, and makes me jealous to tell you the truth. His interplay between acoustic guitar has a refined feel, and very captivating. Andrew’s set included a number of originals and a few Led Zepplin tunes executed to perfection (no easy feat).
Jim Thomas, who was the primary organizer for the Murph’s, event did his own set showcasing his songwriting abilities with a few Christmas tunes and originals. I didn’t find Jim to be as polished as some of the other acts, yet I was pleasantly surprised by his vocal range and unique keyboard style. Jim joined Nero Catalano (on bass) in Clean Equations, which was followed by the soulful voice of Dani Mari and a lively set from Vile Bread.