Friday night Doc Watson’s opened its doors to a diverse collection of experimental artists with a shared love of electronics and improvisation. Opening act Hollander-Crouse Duo, otherwise known as Zach LoPresti and Sam Gutman of South Jersey prog-rockers Out of the Beardspace, have a remarkable interplay between the former’s drums and the latter’s keys, which seem to always be increasing in number. Any gearhead would be well satisfied just examining the wealth of equipment Gutman brings to play with, while the average showgoer would be none the wiser due to the compelling grooves he makes with it all. LoPresti, who typically plays guitar with their main band, is quite adept behind the skins, a skill he only rarely gets to exhibit at a Beardspace show. Any fan of ’80s synthpop, electronic-based soundtracks, or dancing to compositions that don’t lend themselves to simple chord charts would do well to pay attention to these two.
Singer/songwriter/producer Morgane Fouse, known professionally as Ganou, has collaborated with quite a few rappers in the Philadelphia area, though I was surprised to learn Friday night she wasn’t a half-bad rapper herself. Her ambient electronic meanderings, occasionally intersected with thunderous trap drums and constantly supporting her soaring vocals, whether processed or otherwise, almost forcibly remind me of James Blake. She opened her set by taking Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” down tempo and floating over it like a diva, her voice drawing bar patrons in from the adjacent room as the synths and drums got the attention of all the musicians already present. Between that and another enormous hit (Outkast’s “Hey Ya”) that she somehow managed to make completely her own, her talent as a remixer seems like an underexplored avenue. Given her infectiously easygoing performance style and tremendous vocal talent, however, the mic should not be taken away no matter what. In fact, it’s often given to her by others, as in this collaboration with blues-rock outfit Ill Fated Natives:
Saxophonist Max Swan is an old-fashioned bandleader with eyes locked firmly on the future, bringing guitar, bass, and drums together behind him for a jazz-based safari through the development of the past century or so of music that includes hip-hop, neo-soul, and even a tinge of EDM. Whether playing a traditional or MIDI sax, his ever-present laptop and MPC are standing by to chop up and rearrange the sound live, drawing on his studio wizardry in a performance format similar to Araab Muzik or Big Gigantic. With such a diverse range of styles, he can form a set to fit virtually any show. I’ve seen him play with blue-eyed soul acts, rappers, and now jam bands with aplomb, and with this new solidified lineup of musicians, his forthcoming material is poised to blur the boundaries between genres still further. Having sat in with Catullus previously, and sharing mutual collaborators with Ganou, he essentially served as the centerpiece for the evening, impressing fellow musicians, fans of other bands, and those present to check out the new venue alike. Since the new album won’t be complete for some time, perhaps the best way to support him is to vote the group in as “Indie Jazz Band of the Year” for the Tri-State Indie Awards, or catch him at Bourbon & Branch for Ode To Omni’s EP release show Friday night.
By the time Catullus came on, their die-hard fans were ready to explode, dancing fitfully from the sound of the first chord until their set was cut short by management at Pennsylvania’s official closing time of 2 AM. Given their popularity on the festival circuit, it perhaps should have been less surprising when someone brought out some LED poi and began weaving wild patterns all over the back of the room. For the average suburban bar patron, this was a new experience, drawing cameras and eyes away from the stage in a way with which the band seemed completely comfortable. Extended instrumental jams, interspersed with tight vocal harmonies, were the order of the evening. Guitar solo upon guitar solo from Andrew Meehan, funky keyboard fills from Justin Minnick, spastic basslines from Chris Bailey, and the ever present dual drum attack of Michael Fazekas and percussionist Anthony Zinno kept the crowd moving late into the night. For those that hadn’t known what to expect from the new venue, the highlight was certainly the comfortable familiarity of The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down”, but many were quite impressed with the technical wizardry of a band where seemingly every member uses both an instrument and a laptop. With memorable evenings like this commonplace for their fans, it is no surprise that Catullus, too, is up for a Tri-State Indie Award – “Indie Jam Band of the Year”. You can catch them at the Disco Biscuits’ Afterparty at Voltage on Friday.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC