Thursday night at Doc Watson’s was packed. Local openers Devil’s Grippe, made up of veteran musicians Tom Grace on vocals and guitar, Victor Murray on bass and vocals, Joe Peck on lead guitar, Mike Quinn on rhythm guitar, and Barry Halkin on drums, had a solid crowd with them from the moment the first chord was struck. Though Grace and Murray started this particular band in 2009, and the current lineup solidified only recently, they’ve been playing together for decades and the chemistry shows. Easily swapping between Grace’s old-school blues growl and Murray’s shouty post-punk vocals from song to song, the two traded lyrics about growing up in strict Catholic schools, obnoxious neighbors, and drinking to deal with them both over hard driving riffs and pounding rhythms. You can catch them again at The Rusty Nail in Ardmore on Saturday, April 11th.
The Band of Rivals are a local folk band currently working on the followup to 2013′s The Better Angels of Our Nature, to be titled The Ladder, The Ghost and The Water. They played several songs from each live, including a beautiful one from the latter about ending up six feet below. Many of their songs are somewhat morbid, but the cheery instrumentation seems to infuse each tale of woe with joy for that odd fusion of happy and sad that folk songs seem somehow more capable of than others. Singer-songwriter Sean Cox’s haunting vocals, accompanied by his own acoustic guitar, violinist Abbey Reed, lead guitarist Alex-Michael Alleva, bassist Doug Keller, and drummer Greg Ondo, fit smoothly into the folk music revival that is currently underway. With the depth of the lyrics, beauty of the music, and the chops demonstrated by Alleva’s closing guitar solo, they are sure to be a vital part of it locally. Their next show will be at Cafe Nola in Frederick, Maryland on April 16th.
Only half of Church Girls was able to make it on Thursday night, having rescheduled from a snowed-out show with Only On Weekends and Jason Reed Band the month before. Mariel Beaumont was quite impressive without chief collaborator Evan Anders or even drums, just her guitar and a bassist/backing vocalist. A cover of Modest Mouse’s “Ocean Breathes Salty” was especially well received by the dwindling late-night crowd. Their own tunes, somewhat like a DIY Best Coast, are hook-filled and memorable, with “Flat Circle” and its refrain of “it’s all the same” a particular earworm. In hindsight the additional instrumentation isn’t really necessary, with each song just as effective and full of punk attitude without it. Fans can catch them at Bourbon & Branch on April 4th, presumably complete with the missing members, and those who missed one or both shows can download their recent self-titled EP for free here:
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC