Each year, Record Store Day brings together the world’s remaining independent brick-and-mortar record shops for a mutual promotion that has grown over time to include special releases by dozens of artists and festivities at around a thousand stores around the United States and abroad. Many local shops offer discounts on non-Record Store Day merchandise and live performances to entice customers to come to their location specifically, and this year was no exception. AKA Music, located on 2nd Street in Old City Philadelphia, hosted several live performances for its patrons’ entertainment, as well as hiring an ice cream cart and beer vendor for their non-musical appetites. After picking up the Record Store Day exclusives I had come for (MGMT‘s remastered debut album and the 12-inch single for Broken Bells‘ “Holding On For Life”), I was able to catch brief live sets from two of the bands they’d booked while digging through their used 45s.
First up was Ortolan, a New Jersey indie pop outfit that mercifully decided adding ‘Girls’ to their band name would be superfluous, whether for the sake of distinctly male and fully bearded drummer Ryan Keemer or simply the knowledge that everyone notices indie girl groups even without the inclusion of gender in their monikers. While bearing obvious similarities to Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, et al., their folkier, singer-songwriter based roots and family-band sisterhood makes them more apparently ‘pop’, without the lo-fi sound those comparisons imply. Those influences also help them avoid girl-group-of-the-moment Haim comparisons, clearly situating themselves as an indie rock band sans disco and hip-hop influences. They just came off a brief stint opening for Of Montreal in the South and Midwest, and were heavily promoting their album release show tonight at Rode’s Barn for Covered In Black, copies of which were available at the shop on both CD and vinyl. Sisters Stephanie, Brianna, and Lara and sister-in-law Jill seemed quite comfortable in the limited space provided for them at the front of the store, shifting back and forth between instruments sporadically just as they did when I last saw them at the Troubador reunion show.
While the next band also has a show tonight, this one at Union Transfer, it was already sold out by the time they arrived in Philadelphia. Gardens & Villa are on tour opening for fellow Californian act Tycho, having already done well when they last came to town at Boot & Saddle. They brought some of the last copies of the color vinyl limited edition of Dunes, their latest album, and I was able to get one of those as well. Though their performance was advertised as “stripped-down”, the whole band was certainly present, and the sound was as full, detailed, and propulsive as it is on record. The only noticeable difference was the lack of guitar, frontman Chris Lynch focusing his attention on his bansuri flute and vocals duties instead. Quite a few people packed themselves into the front section of the store, some even standing out on the sidewalk to catch their set. Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the time of day, the spontaneous eruption of dancing I would expect them to provoke at a club show did not occur. Head-nodding and toe-tapping from the lengthy line of Record Store Day customers was about all they could expect, each song punctuated with polite applause and some enthusiastic cheers from the fans gathered at the front. The live show and general enthusiasm of the patrons present were both quite enjoyable experiences, and I would recommend you see both bands soon and support your local record shop as much as possible!
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC