Last night at World Cafe Live, The Hype presented “An Evening of Singers & Songs”, a singer-songwriter showcase of regional talent that drew a full house of dinner guests. I arrived too late to catch a set by local folkie Daniel Scholl, catching the middle of a set by Steve Marchion and Dave DeHart, the latter of which would appear later with his band The Gang Age. They recently began writing songs together, but the majority of the set was made up of Steve’s solo material and a medley of pop covers. Next up was the band I came to see, Jamie Kent & the Options. I had not seen them since they stopped at my alma mater on their first tour, and they have certainly improved on an already excellent live show since then. Previously a trio, they evidently now record and perform as a five piece, though only four members were present at World Cafe. I recognized upright bassist Rhees Williams immediately, with banjo/guitarist Killian Karlsson and drummer Dan Holmes filling out the band. They give Jamie’s addictive Americana a full sound both instrumentally and vocally, with each member contributing harmonies and the occasional gang vocal for emphasis.
With a back catalog of tunes going back to his first EP in 2009, Kent focused the majority of his set on his more recent work on 2012 full length Navigation and crowd-funded 2013 EP Embers & Ashes, even sprinkling in a song or two from some recent sessions in Nashville. This was the Options’ last night on tour on their way back from SXSW, and they made a point of mentioning that Philly has become a second home for them, demonstrating the accuracy of that statement by having the evening’s host Boy Wonder join them on a funky cover of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” to close their set. Dana K. Fiero was saddled with the difficult task of following a full band set with a solo acoustic one, her classically trained vocals doing their best to fill the room with originals and a Bonnie Raitt cover. She was followed by another artist returning from SXSW, Jennifer Logue.
With the additional help of a pianist, Logue’s soulful croon was up to the task, returning the evening to the bigger sound the Options had brought. Had it not, the closing set by self-proclaimed grunge pop four piece The Gang Age would have been even more incongruous. Guitarist and backing vocalist Dave DeHart returned to the stage, this time with Gina Cardillo, a drummer, and additional guitarist. DeHart and Cardillo occasionally switched between lead vocal/guitar and backing vocal/bass, but their undeniable chemistry did nothing to alter the fact that this was Cardillo’s show. The Gang Age lists Cat Power and Fiona Apple as influences, and her powerful vocal soaring and diving over heavy riffing and distortion paid those ladies admirable tribute while simultaneously forming a sound all her own. From deep grooves to raging rock’n'roll that would have provoked moshing in any other venue, this is a band that can turn on a dime while maintaining coherent song structure, no mean feat in this age of manufactured digital consistency. From acoustic songwriters to grunge revivalists, it was an excellent Sunday night.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC