I lived on the outskirts of Philadelphia for a good portion of my life. The best things about the city are not their cool neighborhood bars, not their cheese steaks nor soft pretzels – nope it was their vibrant and passionate local rock music scene.
This week, more than 28 bands will descend upon the City of Brotherly Love bringing compelling music with them. They will discuss the current state of the record industry or music industry or digital revolution or whatever you call it depending upon the decade you were born in. Topics like “The Role of Big Record Labels” and “Music Metrics that Matter” will be on the agenda. But mostly they will bring Music with them. They are there to rock and to rock for the sake of the Music.
I recently found myself obligated to make a trip to Philadelphia. Typically not a preferred destination, this time I was thrilled to be going once I realized that Grouplove was taking their Seesaw Tour to the city on the same night.
The City of Brotherly Love might just be the most inaccurate nickname ever. Philly is generally not a friendly place. Their sporting venues are dangerous places, their drivers are rude, politicians are sketchy… You get the picture, but there’s one very notable exception. These miscreants know how to rock. For decades, Philadelphia has been a city that rocks, birthing such stellar acts as The Hooters, The A’s, and Cinderella. In addition, the city is a favorite tour stop for all of the iconic names in rock and roll. On this night, they got to witness some future icons.
Philadelphia rock music fans are fantastic, and they make every show in the city just a bit more special than in most other locales. I had caught Grouplove last fall at Florida’s Next Big Thing festival and loved their energy and charisma, not to mention their music, but I was truly excited to see them in a rock ‘n roll city like Philadelphia. They did not disappoint.
On this tour, the talented quintet are playing two shows in each city; night one, a raucous rock affair and night two (this night) a more laid back acoustic show. I was thrilled to be able to secure a ticket for the acoustic night, because these five are superbly talented and creative, and I was anxious to witness the different spin they’d offer on their unique blend of pop rock.
The sold out venue, Underground Arts, in the industrial Callowhill part of town, was an excellent backdrop for the set. After a nice warm-up set from up-and-coming Australians The Rubens, the electricity in the crowd was palpable. With fog drifting from the rafters, front man, Christian Zucconi took the stage to a loud ovation. He slid behind the piano for an unaccompanied solo as his band mates joined him for a slick version of “I’m With You.” From there, they kicked into “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” and the party was on.
If this night was the more mellow acoustic show, I can’t imagine the previous night’s fervor at Union Transfer. The band just oozes energy and offers non-stop superb, fun rock music. The set was maybe the slightest bit toned down; we saw the keyboards eschewed for piano as an example, but it was still a rollicking good time, and a nice night to showcase the band’s talent.
At different times in the night, we saw lead singer / whirling dervish, Hannah Hooper, drummer Ryan Rabin, and Zucconni slide behind the piano. Phenomenally talented guitarist Andrew Wesson, took a turn behind the drums, and bass player Sean Gadd took lead vocals on several songs. But, most of the focus was directed to Zucconi and Hooper. They complement each other fantastically, often deftly trading off boy/girl vocals, all the while appearing to be having an absolute blast.
Aside from their musical talent, these guys all sing extremely well, which resulted in unusually crisp five person vocals at numerous times throughout the night.
There truly wasn’t a soft spot in the entire set, where we were able to enjoy numerous fun twists:
“Chloe” – Was introduced by Rabin and offered our first chance to see Gadd drop his bass and deliver lead vocals on a powerful, fun tune that had the crowd in a frenzy.
“Close Your Eyes” – Practically in mid-sentence, Zucconi began to howl, the crowd eagerly joined in, feeding nicely into the opening of this softer offering.
“Ways To Go” – I was wondering what they’d do with their current keyboard driven hit, and they offered a great spin. Rabin on piano, Wessen behind the drums, Gadd on bass, and Hooper and Zucconi killing the fun vocal duet.
“Cruel and Beautiful World” – Tender vocals, and phenomenal guitar work from Wessen. Just beautiful to listen to (wish I had recorded this one).
“Getaway Car” – featured an xylophone solo, and Gadd again on vocals.
“Tongue Tied” – Another fun party, this one had the crowd singing along perfectly, and sounding fantastic.
“Lovely Cup” – the entire crowd danced to this one, which spotlighted Gadd’s superb bass.
“Philalalaladelphia” – Yeah, it’s not a real song, but the night before, they wrote two lines while hanging out in Rittenhouse Square. It was silly stuff, but damn if they didn’t turn it into a three minue crowd infused party. Only in Philalalalaladelphia!
In between, there were plenty of deep cuts, ample representation from all three of the band’s releases, a nice cover and creative alternate versions. An hour and a half of fun stuff in a lovely, loving atmosphere.
I’m With You
Itchin’ On A Photograph
Close Your Eyes
Ways To Go
Cruel And Beautiful World
Love Will Find You (cover)
Recalling comfortable images of Sum 41 and Jimmy Eat World, this talented young quartet out of Philly is on the fast track to rock success. Their debut album, Let’s Get You Somewhere Else , is jammed with aggressive, bouncy rock that proves hard to put down. They’ve been together a scant two years, but have already developed a nice reputation in their local rock scene and a growing ardent following.
From the opening notes of the hard-charging “The Concrete Sound,” these guys grab your attention. The guitar riffs are hypnotic, Phil Warner’s vocals captivating and the tune fresh, yet also absolutely comfortable. Yeah, I know comfortable might not feel right for a band with a hard rocking punkish vibe, but that’s what I got. They’re like an old friend back on the scene with a kick ass new album.
“Heavy Money” is a an absolute blast to listen to and one of the first cuts to firmly lodge in my memory. It, and songs like “A Quiet Stretch of Weather” remind a bit of a faster-paced Gaslight Anthem. They’re catchy rock tunes through and through that drive uncontrollable foot stomping, head nodding, bouncing and spinning.
My favorite track is the guitar driven “Sunset, Sugar.” The lyrics are interesting and worth a listen and the perfect accompaniment to another addictive track.
The album really never lets down, It’s thirty-plus minutes of straight-forward rock and roll with a bit of a punk edge. It’s both raw and polished at the same time, and truly, it’s just pretty damn hard not to like.
Let’s Get You Somewhere Else is an excellent refreshing offering at a time where we could all use it. The music is pure rock. It’s consistent, fast-paced power rock; good stuff and something that any fan of fast-paced rock will appreciate.
Check out their album below on iTunes, guaranteed that you’ll find ten or eleven cuts that you really like.
Unfortunately, I picked up this album too late to realize they were just cruising through Florida, but rest assured, we won’t be missing these guys next time through, although it may be in a larger venue.
On Tuesday, October 2nd David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket will rock the World Cafe Live. They’ll be featuring the release of their spin on The Trammps disco classic “Disco Inferno,” the sixth song from In The Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia.
Uosikkinen, the charismatic drummer from The Hooters, is back with an all-star cast of Philadelphia rock legends. We sat down recently with him and shared a six pack, Rock And Roll Animal style. Here’s his RARA’s Six Pack:
Cretin: Growing up, you played in a band called The Kooks – Are you familiar with the current band with the same name. Uosikkinen: I know the band. What I’ve heard I really liked. My band, The Kooks was in high school where we weren’t writing songs, we were covering songs. I think the name is great; it looks cool in print. Two “O’s” just like The Hooters.
Cretin: What was your all-time favorite venue to play in Philly? Uosikkinen: I’ve got a soft spot for The Bijou Cafe – it was a really famous place; Electric Factory Concerts used to book shows there. We played there once when there was a bomb scare and wrote a song about it called “Bombscare.” It was my favorite place to play back in the day.
Cretin: Favorite cover song? Uosikkinen: I think it would have to be “Friday On My Mind” by David Bowie. Great Song
Cretin: I saw you open the show at Live Aid. Was that the most exciting momoent for you on stage? Uosikkinen: Right before I sat down at my drums Jack Nicholson came out and shook my hand. I have to say that was pretty cool.
Cretin: How old were you before you learned how to spell “Uosikkinen”? Uosikkinen: (Laughs heartily) My last name was such a challenge going through school, you have no idea. It was okay going through elementary school because you had one teacher, but when you started going into Jr. High School, with seven different teachers, every one butchered it. It got to the point where I made up versions of my name. I’d change the spelling, I’d shorten it, and say Dave Oskin. Back then it was impossible for people to say, now it’s a lot more common to hear different sounding names.
Cretin: Any food you missed when you left Philly and moved to Los Angeles for a few years? Uosikkinen:Cheese steaks. No question.