Last night at Doc Watson’s four musical acts defied the unseasonable cold to bring some pre-summer vibes to Exton. The evening began with Daniel DeCristofaro, the soulful singer-songwriter behind Boston’s funky pop-rockers Blue Light Bandits. For his solo set, DeCristofaro stuck with his keyboards, making use of loops to build songs piece by piece, sometimes using beats from the keyboards, other times brief beatboxing interludes. With catchy pop hooks and contemplative lyrics, at times the stripped-down performance was reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s, though including more explication between songs. While his powerful croon was impressive by itself, the addition of vocal processing to one of his two microphones made for an interesting interplay, weaving harmonies and delays into each song for a full studio sound. The songs in his brief set were all original, some released in other arrangements as Blue Light Bandits songs, and others strictly for this more intimate electronic presentation. In town for a short time visiting family, he’ll be back in New England with the band at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard in Rhode Island on June 4th.
Delaware County reggae-rockers Reef’d were up next, with John Diamond on vocals and rhythm guitar, Colin Young on lead guitar, Kevin Pitkin on bass, Derek Donato on drums, and Alex Jeffers on congas and tambourine. Regulars at Xfinity Live in the warmer months, they played mostly original songs with some covers, including Slightly Stoopid’s “Up On A Plane”. Periodically kicking it up into more of a double-time ska feel, they mostly stuck with a fairly traditional one-drop sound. Though it was a few days after 4/20, songs and apparel centered around marijuana were much in evidence, with a heavy lyrical focus on both staying positive and partying. Though they were without horns at this particular show, Young’s screaming guitar solos provided plenty of instrumental prowess to focus on during more dub-oriented segments. You can download their single “Crusin’ Asbury” for free here:
Delaware R&B singer Kevin McCove plays in a variety of formats, but on this occasion he chose to perform as an acoustic duo with guitarist and backing vocalist Jeff Ralston. The two have clearly been playing together for a while, with an easy-going repartee that fit well with the intimate atmosphere of a weeknight show at a small venue. McCove’s original “Hopeless Romantics” was a clear highlight, an undeniable earworm that will undoubtedly be sticking with all those that were present. Though the acoustic presentation was quite different from the vast majority of his recorded material, it suited the night perfectly, bringing more of a breezy summer sound to even the slower ballads. Much of his music is available for free as well, including the studio version of that standout track:
The evening came to a close with an enthusiastic performance from Philadelphia’s Kings & Comrades, another reggae-rock outfit, this one complete with horn section. Having just released Get Away in February, this young act is poised for success if they can get in front of the right audience(s). They frequently collaborate with Reef’d, having shared their horn section for shows, and vocalist and guitarist Jeff McCaughey has even contributed vocals to a track for their friends. Backed by bassist Dennis Stolle, keyboardist and vocalist Brandon Paster, drummer Danny Serrano, and the irrepressible brothers Rick and Frank Rein on trumpet and trombone, respectively, he has essentially replicated the lineup of Slightly Stoopid with trombone instead of sax. A shared love of that band may be what brought Reef’d and Kings & Comrades together, as the latter’s set climaxed with a cover of that band’s “Dancing Mood” involving each horn player journeying out onto the floor and even into the adjacent barroom while playing. They’ll be sure to make a splash at Ziontific’s Summer Solstice Festival in Stockbridge, Vermont on June 19th.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC