I didn’t do quite as much crazy seenery this past week, but in making it an eight-day week of scenery I made this post extra-long.
Oh, also? I’m an obsessive-compulsive singer/songwriter/lunatic who had kinda forgotten why he was a journalism major.
I quite explicitly did not do any kind of scene seeing over the weekend, save for a brief interlude at K&L’s housewarming party, where every person from every part of my life all collided in one shiny-drunk lump. Seriously, it could have only been odder if my mother was there. Still, much fun had.
Every Wednesday: LP Open Mic @ Intermezzo (3141 Walnut)
Hosting an open mic is a nervous endeavor. Sometimes it seems as though no one will show up, yet you find the lineup extending past closing time. On other occasions the room seems full, but you still wind up vamping for an hour by yourself at the end of the night.
Last week’s open mic at Intermezzo was definitely the former. Dante Bucci played host, and delivered a typically spectacular set on his hang drums. A new attendee, Ebony Butler, played two hyper-pop songs (Maroon 5 and Sara Bareilles) and one equally catchy one of her own. Her vocals were effortless – we were all big fans.
Otherwise, it was a stuttering night – over and again it seemed as though I would have to jump up to play filler, but more people kept popping in.
One of those poppers was the elusive Doc Terry. He makes once-monthly appearances at our little shindig, but when in the month he arrives is always a surprise.
Doc (named thusly for being a rural veterinarian) was the man who introduced Dante to the hang, and together they form the mystifying pair of ufo-playing phenoms called the The Hang Brothers. However, at Intermezzo Doc Terry typically plays his hammer dulcimer.
(Yes, this means I saw people perform on hammer dulcimer two nights in a row at rock open mics, as there was also one at Luloo the night before. How likely is that, exactly?)
While Doc Terry delivered a typically mystifying set, Greg Morgan (AKA Audible Eye) arrived with a small group in tow. Greg is a ubiquitous Philly subway musician – it seems like I see him every time I catch a train. He busks not only with guitar in hand, but with drums played by mouth, knees, and feet. Rather than err to the simplistic or repetitive, Greg’s simultaneous multi-instrumentalism tends to open up interesting textures in songs with deceptively simple chord progressions.
After introductions all around I suddenly found myself mixing Terry on dulcimer, Greg on vocals and guitar, and Dante switching between a single conga and playing the underside of his hang like a djembe.
Slightly stressful, but completely rewarding, because I got to hear Terry play dulcimer as a pop instrument – finding hooks and riffs instead of carrying his own independent melodies and harmonies. And, if it was fascinating on Greg’s material, it was doubly so when the impromptu band took a swing through “Stand By Me” while Greg’s friend, Nynee.
Afterward Nynee closed out the night with sparse, beautiful acoustic cover of Beyonce’s “If I Was a Boy,” and a soulful acappella turn on The Cure’s “Love Song” (a personal favorite). In retrospect, I really wish Terrry had played on the latter, as the riff would have been perfect on the dulcimer.
As we closed up I complemented Nynee heartily (she had never played guitar in public before!), and told her that if she ever wanted to do the Cure tune again I’d play guitar for her, and maybe even sing harmony.
Every Monday: Open Jam @ Connie’s Ric Rac (9th just under Washington)
Take note of this momentous occasion – I went to an open mic that I don’t host for two consecutive weeks. In fact, next week I’ll probably be back for a third.
Why? Because Connie’s Ric Rac is like Cheers with a 1000 watt sound system and a pet snake. Everyone wants to know your name, and they all hush up when you play a quiet song.
Firstly, there is February’s guest-host Katie Barbato. We chatted it up before the mic kicked off, and uncovered that she knows indie rocker – and winner of both the New York Songwriters Circle competition and Cosmo’s Starlaunch – Mieka Pauley. She doesn’t just know her … she knows her from the 90s, when the two of them were on a comp together.
I caught Katie up on how Mieka’s Elijah Drop Your Gun came to be – the recording was funded by the donations of fans (like me!) – which makes it even more amazing that Amazon is currently offering it as a free download due to the crazy demand for Mieka after her contest wins.
From there I moved to enthusing over Katie’s album fronting the Sleepwells and it’s absolutely stellar vocals (as I have been doing non-stop for the past week), which lead her to re-introduce me to Matt Teacher, her guitarist and recording engineer.
I’ve met Matt Teacher once before, and in that venue he was introduced to me as a songwriter, but at present he mostly plays and records with bands in Sine Studios, where he is the owner and engineer along with best friend Mike.
Similar to Gina and I, the two of them connected in the eight grade – with the difference being that they connected as a band right away and knew by high school graduation that they wanted a career in music. They attended college separately and came back together to open Sine Studios. It looks ultra-nifty from their website, and at 22nd and Walnut it’s virtually around the corner from my office .
Matt and I talked about our endless acquisition of recording gear and how in high school I used to sample too low and wind up sounding like The Chipmunks when I tried to burn a CD. Although he was perhaps too humble to mention running Bon Jovi’s protools rig the last time he played Philly, Matt did cop to recording the Sleepwells disc, as well as working with Lickety Split host Dani Mari, and Ric Rac’s house band The Discount Heroes.
When I pressed him as to whether the in-the-family recording roster meant Sine might also be a label, he demurred: “We’re working in that direction.”
Having done some basic flexing of journalistic muscles I thought had permanently atrophied since college, I pushed my luck a bit and asked if I might stop by for a tour sometime. Matt, being awesome, one-upped me and said I should aim to come to one of the studio barbecues over the summer.
Katie was followed by one of my major local favorites (how many favorites can a man have?), Aaron Brown. Aaron and I have developed a knack for unintentionally stalking each other across town, hitting the same open mics on the same nights. We talked hitting the Monday night @ The Fire in March – and if it would be even worth the effort with Ric Rac right in my backyard.
I gladly lent Aaron my guitar for his set. He always makes it sing, as his songs are chock full of jazzy chords and weirdly chromatic changes, and the result is a beautiful duet with his remarkable soul voice.
I detest making so facile a comparison as to Stevie Wonder, as Aaron Brown’s delivery leaps across the R&B divide to rock in an instant, as on the stuttering 6/8 tune he delivered mid-set (“fragile”?). It’s as if Adam Levine from Maroon 5 could actually sing as well live as he does on the record, and then decided to cover an obscure Rufus Wainwright take on a Stevie Wonder song. That’s what Aaron sounds like.
Speaking of Rufus covering others, the churning arpeggios on Aaron’s last tune evoked “Hallelujah,” but his song was at once pretty and grounded in asphalt. Rufus and Leonard don’t drive you to AC like Aaron does.
Mark my words, I will have him over for a recording session this year.
At this point my jotted setlist was in complete disarray, because how in the world do I follow the two of them? I pinch-hit a trio of “Glam / Standing,” “Something Real,” and “Better,” and it was a rare right move. “Something Real” continues to astound me with it’s ability to shut down an entire room of conversation – I don’t have too many songs that do that. “Better” was awesome, as “Better” always is and will continue to be once Arcati Crisis starts playing it.
Alright, that’s enough rapture about that. A few quicker hits?
I re-met Henry Martin, who Gina and I acquainted ourselves with on a late Thursday at Blarney South ages ago. He’s got a wonderful voice – a Moody Bluesish piece of classic rock in the modern day. Home team The Discount Heroes were awesome as usual in full band arrangement, including Ian on bass. They play great knee-slapping rock, and sing Southern-influenced down-home harmony.
I also shot the shit in a very I-talian way with Frank, a Rac-regular who sometimes has his own showcases. He kindly enthused over my “All My Loving” from last week. I also chatted up Arthur AKA Solo Moon, maybe a mad scientist? His inventions are online for us to discover; he curates the Electric Fortune Cookie.
The great thing about Ric Rac is that it’s got a big stage, complete with amps and a kit. Bands just get up and go. In that vein, I loved loved loved Try Angles – a two-piece playing a blues stomp that I am journalistically required to compare to White Stripes. Except, I actually like Try Angles – there’s meat underneath the riffs, aerobic and thick. A new unfinished song fucking leapt across the stage for our necks in a tangle of blues and prog. And, I DON’T EVEN LIKE THIS KIND OF THING.
I briefly quizzed drummer Adam after their set. What was their deal? How did they compel me to like them so much?
Apparently singer Matt C. has done his singer/songwriter thing for an eternity, but Adam added himself just in September to create their special alchemy. Adam professed love for jazz and Zappa, and I honestly believe they both come through in his skin pounding. Also, he was just a nice dude – when I expanded on my recent wedding he said he wanted to do a dance because I have good music and a good life.
Seriously, Ric Rac is Good People.
(Good lord, can you imagine if I start bringing my laptop to every open mic, going all embedded journalist on all the natives? Can you seriously keep up with a 3000+ word weekly column?)
Tuesday: I took a nap
It was awesome.
Every Wednesday: LP Open Mic @ Intermezzo (3141 Walnut)
Yes, we’ve circled all the way back to Intermezzo, with Gina hosting this iteration.
This week was more of the unexpected – a full house of Lyndzapalooza artists – Gina and I (both solo!), my new client Joshua Popejoy, Aaron Brown (again!), Brian Flanagan (playing awesome new tunes), and John Glaubitz (who we did not manage to tempt to play).
I’ll spare you the rapturous rapture about these guys – they’re all great. They kept our guests pinned to their chairs for the duration of the evening until AC took over to play to a small-but-appreciative crowd of stragglers. We nailed a particularly impressive “Don’t You Want Me” – I was in super-good vocal shape, which I further flaunted by singing an additional solo set of “Like a Virgin,” “Since U Been Gone,” my new “Message,” and an acappella verse and chorus of “Take on Me.”
We closed down the shop with “Noncommittal” and chat of breaking the fourth wall, and headed back to the car.
There are seemingly a thousand shows that I want to see tomorrow night, so I’m thinking you should go to some of the ones I can’t make it to.
Melodic hard-rockers Tremor will be at JR’s bar @ 22nd and Passyunk. Personal favorite Up the Chain splits a bill with The Great Unkown @ JD McGillicuddy’s, 2626 County Line Road in Ardmore. Alexandra Day opens for Kate-fav Carsie Blanton at Barrington Coffee House
As for myself and Gina, we will be installed at the esteemed Ric Rac to catch The Discount Heroes monthly showcase, a stellar bill of Blueberry Magee and His Hot Five, Shackamaxon, and Hezekiah Jones. It’s only $10, rather than the kidney or lung you might expect to contribute to gain entrance into such a show.
Next week I’ll be hitting Ric Rac again on Monday for Katie’s February swan-song, as well as maybe Time at 13th and Sansom on Tuesday, but if I find some ambition I could truck up to The Draught Horse on Temple’s campus to hang out with LP Artist Josh Albright at his new open mic.
Alternately, if you’re free on Tuesday you can head down to The Shubin Theatre at 4th and Bainbridge to catch Gina in a debut reading of a play by Mark Wolverton based on his recent biographical novel A Life in Twilight: The Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Then, on Wednesday you should join me at Chris’s Jazz Cafe at Broad & Sansom at 5pm sharp to catch the beautiful and always amazing Alexandra Day play a special happy-hour set, after which you should catch a trolley up to Intermezzo to hit our open mic, as hosted by the girl who put the Lyndz in Lyndzapalooza, Lindsay Wilhelmi.
Finally, a few future plugs: Dante Bucci @ Tin Angel on 3/22. Brian Flanagan playing a set on a bill with our buddies Year Long Day @ Tin Angel on 3/25. The two foremost hang players on earth – one of whom happens to be Dante Bucci, the other being Many Delago – at Milkboy on 4/22.
In other news…
I’ll end with a bit of good news / bad news.
Bad first: we’re actually not doing a show on 2/28 with Joshua Popejoy. It’s slightly disappointing, but it leads to good news: we can promote our amazing seventh annual spring music festival for three entire months without another gig stealing it’s thunder.
So: This year the festival is on Saturday, May 16, and it is called BYMfest (AKA Back Yard Music Festival, an ironic title seeing as this is the first year it will be held at Snipes Farm, rather than an actual back yard). BYMfest will feature eight solid hours of music. So far the lineup includes Arcati Crisis, Joshua Popejoy, Reed Kendall of Up the Chain, Suzie Brown, and Sisters 3.
Honestly, that’s already a bill I would pay dozens of dollars for, and it’s only HALF FULL. Check the Seen on the Scene action next week for further bill announcements, and a presale link where you can buy tickets for $15.
Seriously, I kid you not, $15. That’s a half hour of music for every dollar. You can’t even steal music for that cheap.
Mark your calendar right now. Seriously. Don’t even read the byline until you’ve marked it.