Ardmore Music Hall is a fairly new concert venue in the suburbs of Philadelphia, having opened just this past year in the former Brownies 23 East, a prominent local cover band bar. Located just steps from the Ardmore regional rail station on a street with plenty of free parking lots, it is much more accessible than most venues in the suburbs, which should help them fill their 600+ capacity room as national-level bookings increase. Last night it played host to a showcase of several local bands on the verge of regional and in some cases national success, all of which have recorded or are currently recording with producer Ron DiSilvestro at Forge Recording in nearby Oreland, PA. Opening act Modern Colour are stalwarts of the local scene, having served as the house band for open jams at The Legendary Dobbs and used the opportunity to merge their blues-rock roots with various other influences for a musical potpourri that still comes back to the simple pleasures of a propulsive rhythm section and rocking guitar riff.
While simple riffs provide the basis of many Solus Rex songs, the layers they build up over them are complex to a fault, intricate guitar solos and drum fills frequently lost in the overwhelming physical force compelling the listener to dance. The attention to detail each member maintains in the midst of frontman Cain‘s constant contortions is remarkable. Their set leaned heavily on the new, as-yet-unreleased material they’re currently working on with Ron, gradually building to a climax with “Circus Freak”, which has been nearing “Hysteria” in popularity among the new songs. Next up was Bong Hits For Jesus, a band perhaps uniquely situated to celebrate the confluence of holidays represented by Easter and 4/20 falling on the same day. Their reggae-inflected set took full advantage of that fact, putting zoot-suited saxophonist Andrew Donaghy through his paces along with the rest of the disco ball coated band for a jam band style set that kept the party going throughout. Their closing medley, including a rendition of Sublime stoner anthem “Smoke Two Joints”, sent that momentum straight to the merch table, where they rapidly ran out of their band logo t-shirts.
The Great Socio soon brought showgoers back from the merch booth to the dancefloor, packing the space in front of the stage with gyrating bodies for a set of their distinctive groove rock, riding bass player Craig Stenger’s writing and playing right into the hips of everyone in the venue. Drew Bernier’s drums and Monty’s synthesizers just added to the party, with frontman Alberto Munoz’ vocals and trumpet providing the icing on the cake. His wild on-stage—or in-crowd or on-bar, depending on the point in the show in question—persona just brought it to another level. The audience was right there with him, though, singing and dancing along throughout. It was quite the hard act to follow, but Kid Felix was up to the task. Their performance really seemed arena-ready, with Jake Falana singing to the back of the room despite the Jersey girls much in evidence down in front singing along to every word. I was particularly impressed with John Ambrutis’ guitar work as he frequently took center stage, Falana leaping down into the pit to make space for him. It also gave the distinct impression of being played for ‘the cheap seats’, although in this case those were the expensive seats, with a few seated dinner guests still lingering toward the back to hear the music. One thing is for certain—Ron DiSilvestro and Forge Recording have an impressive roster, and since they’ve promised more of these showcases, their collective resume is sure to expand from recordings into the live environment.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC