Last Wednesday night at Kung Fu Necktie, Flash Mob Productions presented a fantastic weeknight show, headlined by local stalwarts The Great Socio. Touring act Kalen & the Sky Thieves came down from Brooklyn to act as lead support, and the opening slot was ably filled by local up-and-comers Flat Mary Road. In the interest of full disclosure, I played a DJ set before and after each band to keep things moving and therefore had my own small part in what turned out to be an excellent evening. While they’ve been playing shows around Philadelphia since 2007, this was my first encounter with Flat Mary Road and their verbose brand of indie rock. Frontman Steve Teare’s reverb-soaked vocals trade melodies back and forth with Peter Clark’s violin, an interplay that tinges many songs with an alt-country/folk feel. In concert, the rhythm section of Chris Reber and Alex Irwin takes a more prominent place in the mix, though never overwhelming Teare and Dan Papa’s guitars. The group’s energy on stage clearly conveyed the simple joy of playing music, unaffected by the less rambunctious midweek crowd. Their debut single from 2011 is still up for free download, so grab that and give it some spins to convince you to drop the $8 for their most recent album The Great Talk.
Kalen Lister, the titular frontwoman of Kalen & the Sky Thieves, has the makings of an art pop/rock diva in the vein of Karen O or Cat Power. Her vocal range and power complement her jazz and funk-influenced songwriting nicely, soaring soulfully over the oft-intricate meanderings of the Sky Thieves, holding it all together. While that remains true on record, intricate meanderings would be misleading as an overall description of the band’s sound, however, as the two adjectives that first come to mind after seeing them perform are “heavy” and “driving”. In the live format, this is most assuredly rock music, with riffs that would be more at home at Ozzfest than a folk festival. Bringing these disparate descriptors together can either enable Kalen and company to spread their music far and wide to a variety of venues and audiences, or make it difficult for them to get traction with any particular group. It will be interesting to see how they continue to develop over time, with Kalen’s more synthpop-oriented solo work being rearranged to a groove rock sound. This video from their website really illustrates the distinction:
Groove rock has always been The Great Socio‘s home base, with bass player Craig Stenger’s songwriting keeping rhythm at the center of all they do. Despite the midweek date, the four-piece was in full party mode, frontman Alberto Munoz’s theatrics in top form, complete with a venture out into the crowd and up onto the bar. Crowd favorites like “The Lioness” had everyone singing along, and the dancefloor was more popular than the bar for the first time that night. After a long summer of near-constant touring, their enthusiasm was impressive, with Monty’s personal mosh pit behind the keys seemingly daring anyone to have as much fun as they do on stage. Drummer Drew Bernier’s backing vocals were a bit more prominent in the mix this time around, drawing attention to his harmony with Stenger in a way I hadn’t previously appreciated. Be sure to catch them on their upcoming mini-tour:
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC