Saturday, October 25, 2014

Peter Matthew Bauer and Delta Spirit rock Union Transfer

This October ex-Walkmen Peter Matthew Bauer teamed up with Delta Spirit for a show at Union Transfer, and Root Down in the Shadow was there to check out a show from artists heading in new directions.

 Peter Matthew Bauer

In the aftermath of a breakup (or even an “extreme hiatus”), the term “liberation” is not used loosely, so when ex-Walkmen bassist/keyboardist Peter Matthew Bauer chose the word as the title of his new solo release, Liberation!, we should pay attention. Bauer brought his new record and his new band to Union Transfer this October, and with them came a high-energy set that showcased a liberated Bauer in a new role with a new sound.

In many ways, Bauer’s new songs tell a story of freedom. Walkmen fans who love the band’s straight-forward driving rock songs will find something different here. These are the songs of a rhythm man searching for different ground. Bauer’s new sound is a Dylan meets Replacements rock combo, and he is flanked by the big sounds of his three female backing vocalists (whose soaring, lush Ronettes-style vocals are so forward in the mix, that there is nothing “backing” about them.) At Union Transfer, Bauer emphatically took listeners on a tour-de-force of rhythm.

While Bauer and his combo presented themselves visually as a tight English combo, the songs cascaded over a range of sonic variety: from skiffle to prominent afro-Cuban style shifts and back again. Some songs, such as “Latin American Ficciones” overtly present these ideas, with the toms banging out heavy accents within a 3:2 son clave while the guitars and voice drive home the songs catchy hooks. The Latin rhythms in other songs are subtler. At first listen, “Fortune Teller” was the most Walkmen-style song of the whole set, but even this straight-up rocker featured the trio of backing vocalists playing percussion, most prominent were the traditional Latin percussion instrument, the claves.

Most noteworthy within the set was how Bauer has embraced liberation within his new role as frontman and musical director. His new record is hip, enthusiastic, and refreshing, and the energy of his live show reflects his excitement. Liberation! is a record to explore. The lyrics are heavily based in eastern philosophies; the world rhythms ignite the songs with deep-rooted passion. Bauer’s musical landscape is a place of spiritual and sonic birth, and the good keeps coming. Last Friday he released his new single, “You Always Look for Someone Lost” as part of Philadelphia’s Weathervane Music’s “Shaking Through” series. Check it out at .

Delta Spirit

Delta Spirit proved to be an interesting pairing with Bauer. Following Bauer, the headliners tore up the stage with the energy of youth and the precision of touring pros. Unlike Bauer’s raw, even intimate Havana club atmosphere, Delta Spirit’s live show is a technical orchestration timed to the second. With light-shows and projected images flashing in perfect synchronicity to the music, it was, at first, easy to chalk of Delta Spirit’s new sound as falling victim to modern manufacturing. It seemed as though spontaneity was sacrificed for pre-programmed tempos; and for a moment, it begged the question: is this real, or illusion?

But there is something about Delta Spirit that insists legitimacy. The band is wholly inviting, and their unending enthusiasm and energy on stage is the hallmark of their set. This band lays it all on the line for it’s fans. The lights and images are part of it, but at its core Delta Spirit is about great music. Throughout the whole 90-minute set the sound never stopped; even in between songs the band connected with the audience while synthesizers built an atmosphere of anticipation. Like a great plot, tension was built and eased in genuine perfection. The show climaxed with frontman Matthew Vasquez lifting a still-soloing William McLaren onto his shoulders.

By the night’s end, Delta Spirit was easy to embrace. The adoration from their fans was matched in the band’s graciousness; togetherness was the theme of the evening. Through their lyrics, energy, and craft, Delta Spirit are about the five-minute moments in life you embrace and remember; they are the anthem to the silent films we replay in our teenage hearts.

Peter Matthew Bauer - Shaking Through from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Freeman / Arc Iris play Johnny Brenda's on the Freeman Tour

Last Friday at Johnny Brenda's it was The Freeman Tour, bringing Aaron Freeman's new band Freeman back to Philadelphia with Providence, RI buzz-band Arc Iris.  The sold-out crowd was completely amped, with local hero Aaron Freeman a.k.a. Gene Ween making his return to the hip Fishtown neighborhood venue.  With his new self titled album dropping just over a month ago, the excitement of his return was electric.  Many fans arrived dejected to find out the show was sold out, but the hardcore fans were ready with tickets in hand, ready for the show.

@arcirismusic #amazeballs #FreemanTour #JocieAdams #SoldOut

After what seemed to be a long delay to get upstairs, Arc Iris went on stage on time to start the show.  It has been a great year for Arc Iris, releasing their eponymous debut album earlier this year, getting major buzz on the SXSW circuit and major coverage all year round.   The Freeman tour would be an exciting one with keyboardist Zach Tenorio-Miller having double duty, playing in both bands.

Arc Iris, making their sixth appearance in Philly, was remarkably at their best.  While they only played three songs from their Arc Iris album, their set was filled with insanity.  Lead vocalist, Jocie Adams was also at the best Philly has seen of her, even including several appearances with former band The Low Anthem.  She let nothing get in her way of an amazing set.  At one point she even dropped down into the crowd during "Powder Train" serenading the crowd.  (see "Powder Train" video)

Powder Train (clip) by Arc Iris - Johnny Brenda's / Philadelphia, PA

Little things, like trumpet player Mike Irwin, being off tour to spend more time with his newborn, were hardly a blip.  Jocie played a little trumpet on top of vocals and keys when needed.  (See "Saturation Brain/Rainy Days" video)  Jocie wasn't the only one on double duty either.  Zach, on keys & synth, was a one man rhythm section providing a wild backbone to the songs. 

Saturation Brain/Rainy Days by Arc Iris on the Freeman tour at Johnny Brenda's

With Robin Ryczek on cello, and Ray Belli on drums, this foursome took fans on an already best-of collection with this rising band.  The songs, new and old, fit were great stuff for the Freeman/Ween fans.  The new material was just as eclectic as the Ween catalog, making them a perfect option to open the tour. 

Swimming (live clip) Arc Iris - Freeman Tour / Johnny Brenda's

Arc Iris at Johnny Brenda's October 3rd 2014
Song Title - Album/Release
1. Paint with the Sun Unreleased Original
2. Kingdom Come Unreleased Original
3. Kaleidoscope / Give the Worried Man a Rose Unreleased Original
4. Lay Down a Rose Unreleased Original
5. Powder Train Arc Iris
6. Whiskey Man Arc Iris
7. Saturation Brain Unreleased Original
8. Rainy Days Unreleased Original
9. Swimming Arc Iris

@Freemantheband #Geener #GeneWeen #bucketlist

Freeman and band took the stage next for the expansive sold-out crowd.  Fans young & old pressed to the stage to welcome Geener.  The days of being a part of Ween the band may be completely behind him, but the Ween catalog will always be a part of Aaron Freeman.  Freeman took fans on a tour of old Ween songs and songs from the brand new album Freeman.  The set was amazing.  Even with skipping the lead single from Freeman and many Ween hits, the set was still thoroughly impressive.  More impressive was the crowd giving their all to the deep Ween cuts and new Freeman tunes.  Most impressive was Aaron Freeman looked great and sounded even better.  With an killer cast around him of Chris Boerner (see 2nd video below), Kyle Keegan, Joe Young, and Zach Tenorio-Miller it's easy to be energized and have a great show.

LIVE Buckingham Green-Spirit of '76 // Freeman Tour // Johnny Brenda's

The show was everything a Freeman fan could have wanted.  There were lots of new songs, but many throwbacks to the days of Ween.  There was killer lighting, an over-active fog machine, and the solos were fabulous.  The most epic solo was Chris Boerner on "(For A While) I Couldn't Play My Guitar Like A Man."  Although all the Ween songs are 10 & 20 years old, with the band mates being newer to Freeman and Ween, it's only natural that this future classic would be played with just as much, if not more vigor than some of the Ween tracks.  With this song representing a return to glory for Aaron, it made perfect sense that it would be that the song turned into a 7 minute epic set capper.

LIVE (For A While) I Couldn't Play My Guitar Like A Man / Freeman the band

For one of the most interesting encores in recent memory, Aaron did "Pollo Essado", the spoken word rendition of a customer/waiter interaction at a Mexican restaurant.  And to cap the night, the band reached deep into their bag of tricks and pulled out a Prince deep cut with "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man."

Freeman at Johnny Brenda's October 3rd 2014
Song Title      Album/Release
1.   Cops
2.   All The Way to China            Freeman 
3.   Transitions                            Shinola Vol. 1
4.   Exactly Where I'm At          White Pepper
5.   More Then The World            Freeman 
6.   Black Bush                               Freeman 
7.   Your Party                             La Cucaracha
8.   Demon Sweat                           The Pod
9.   El Shaddai                                 Freeman
10. Stay Forever                       White Pepper
11. Buckingham Green                the Mollusk
12. Spirit of '76                        Chocolate and Cheese
13. Mountains And Buffalo          Tried and True B Side
14. Golden Monkey                         Freeman
15. (For A While) I Couldn't Play My Guitar Like A Man     Freeman
**** Encore ****
16. Pollo Esado                             The Pod
17. I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man   PRINCE COVER

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sofar Sounds: Philadelphia September '14 recap : Liam Bailey, Tutlie, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, Christopher KP Brown, & Morningsiders

Show poster by Jennifer Prough
Ahh, Sofar Sounds, that wonderful international phenomenon sweeping the globe that brings an eager group of music fans to living rooms and hip places to see bands large and small play intimate shows each month. Ever since the first Sofar Sounds I went to, back in Jan '13, I've been absolutely hooked.  It's really the best of all worlds for the music fan with amazing international acts, national touring bands, fabulous local bands, the best music fans to be-friend, acoustic/stripped/re-configured/interesting song arrangements, great homes &hosts, and plenty of other reasons to keep coming back for more.  In the last two years, showing up to these select locations it's been surprise after surprise worthy sharing with all my musical friends.

The September show was yet another success by the Sofar Sounds: Philadelphia crew (Carolyn Lederach, Ken Winneg, & Davis Howley).  They brought us back to the Fishtown/Kensington neighborhood for the full gambit, a UK band, spoken word, local bands, and touring band.  They even had artist Frank Kolbmann on-site creating during the musical performances.

Christopher K.P. Brown

Christopher K.P. Brown, a Philly local by way of Arkansas, DC & more, started off the night.  The
Sofar Sounds alum (NYC & PHILLY) made his third Philly appearance for the house concert series.  After a quick spoken word etiquette refresher from KP, the crowd kept finding many excuses to snap their fingers in appreciation.  Lots of the snap responses started off in recognition of KP's self-aware prose but the crowd moved on from appreciative to impressed as his performance continued.

Christopher's set was mainly a repeat of his performance in early '13 at a West Philly Sofar Sounds appearance, but it was still so fresh.  "Death vs. Destiny" a reflection on young Black males and their uncomfortable reality that many of them die so young, not making it past 25 and live somewhat expecting it to happen just that way.  The poem is tragically current and constant, as youths like Michael Brown & Trayvon Martin continue to make headlines.  He mentions at the end of the poem that it "ain't the last time I'll read this poem."  Hopefully, things change like they have for Christopher, who now past 25 himself and starting his 30's is a burgeoning entrepreneur.  This "fave piece I hate performing" could only be better if it was no longer relevant. 

A very animated "New day" exclaims that poetry "is meant for the masses, not on dusty bookshelves or in coffeehouses where struggles don't exist."   It also reminds that it's "a new day for poetry" where the poets should get paid properly (not free).  "DAMN I thought you knew!"

Christopher K.P. Brown  - September, 2014
       song title                         album
1. Whole Foods              Since 1984
2. Death vs. Destiny       Since 1984
3. Remember Me            Since 1984
4. New Day                    Dancing With Scars - October 2011



From NYC, recent grads and Sofar Sounds: New York City alums, Morningsiders were the first band of the night.  The band comfortably perched in the front of the room, sitting on drums and windowsills showed off their wonderful timbre matching the trumpet & tenor guitar combined with Local Natives/Fleet Foxes-ish harmonies.   While still young. they were all over the map with style and influences, including Old-timey and Americana.  They already had a song about the summer after graduation, which they were just finishing, but in an interesting juxtaposition, they also had their song "Twenty-Five" a reflective song looking back at ages in their life that haven't even occurred for them yet.

Morningsiders  - September, 2014
    set list
1. Dots
2. Bedless Blues
3. Cement and Sunshine
4. Twenty-Five / Sail Away Ladies

Jessie Radlow & Rebecca Way of Tutlie
While, Morningsiders were a band figuring out their sound.  Tutlie is a band that is closer to
perfecting their vibe!  Jessie Radlow and co, all six members of the avant garde troupe came ready to play stripped yet vibrant versions of their songs.   Anyone who has seen Tutlie perform live can attest to the symphony of sounds brought forth, complete with visual stimulation.  For their Sofar Sounds set, they played two songs from their newly pressed vinyl Young Cries and one song that is only currently released only on their Key Session.

"Sky In Your Bones" was their standard Dream-Pop/Baroque, while on "Giantess" Asher Brooks meshed his ukulele with the lovely lady harmony between Rebecca Way & Jessie Radlow.  The third and regrettably final song "Kaito" a sort of Japanese Folklore tale, the concept for the next album, featured Lucius-style dual female lead vocals over an expansive band.

For those wishing to see more of Tutlie, catch them and final act, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, at the 5th TJ KONG HALLOWEEN COSTUME BALL ROCK N ROLL MURDERSHOW at  UNDERGROUND ARTS on 10/31.  And, you can also catch them at the Little Big League Record Release with Lvl Up, and Spirit of the Beehive at Johnny Brenda's on 11/7!

Tutlie   - September, 2014
  song title                         album
Sky In Your Bones    Young Cries
Giantess                    Young Cries
Kaito                        unreleased original

Liam Bailey

Liam Bailey was a complete surprise from the UK.  Hailing from London Nottingham, he came to the secret show location midway through the night and played solo and acoustic, sharing an enjoyable vibe.  While his new album is a sonically full affair, his Sofar Sounds set was simplistic just as his dress, which was all black, down to his Converse.  His set was a great introduction for any new Liam Bailey fan, with four songs including three from the brand new Definitely Now.  The songs selected, included the powerful "On My Mind" the sweet "Summer Rain", and they lyrically beautiful "Battle Hymn of Central London."

Somewhat detached, and maybe distracted, the set wasn't as impactful as I would hope in hindsight, replaying the songs from the album.  It's truly ironic, as we talked at between sets about the sheer enjoyment of playing these shows, remarking how the connection with fans is so much better at these intimate house shows. 

Liam Bailey   - September, 2014
  song title                                             album
1. Nobody Stands to Reason
2. On My Mind                                Definitely Now
3. Summer Rain                               Definitely Now
4. Battle Hymn of Central London  Definitely Now

TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb

TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb was the final act of the night.  The four piece made up of Dan's & Josh's were a little Tonk, a little Americana, a little Philly, a little New Orleans, and a lot of fun.  This animated crew captivates and mesmerizes, but don't get too close as they shake& stomps, especially with front-man Dan B's 6'4-ish frame.

TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb were plugged in, but didn't need a mic.  They played their rowdy-tonk "John Wilkes Booth" from their Daytrotter Session to start things off.  Staying boisterous, they played "Friday Night Guy' next. Their last song was supposed to be the sexy new "Snakeskin" from the Kong EP but the band called an audible and made a last minute decision to add "Rock N Roll Club Bathroom Cocaine Blues" to their set.  Taking it up a few notches from their version on Manufacturing Joy, they skipped the two minute intro and ramped up the intensity to close out their set.

TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb   - September, 2014
  song title                                                             album
John Wilkes Booth                                           unreleased original
Friday Night Guy                                              Manufacturing Joy
Snakeskin                                                             Kong
Rock N Roll Club Bathroom Cocaine Blues   Manufacturing Joy

Keep an eye out for news on the Sofar Sounds: Philadelphia Anniversary show, celebrating 3 years of secret shows in Philly. 


Communion celebrates 1 year of Club Night shows in Philadelphia with Field Report, Quiet Life, Birdie Busch and the Greatest NIght, Marian Hill, and Weekender

A year after the first Communion show in Philadelphia, they returned again with a selection of touring and local acts at Underground Arts.  No longer festival-ish marathon of 6 bands a night, the touring club night keeps getting closer to a smashing success.

Marian Hill

Good electronic music is like a chemistry experiment, screw up a few ingredients and you've got an explosion and everything bubbling over.  It might seem cool for a minute, but it's really just a mess.  When it goes well, you've got something amazing.  Duo Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol of Marian Hill had everything go right at Communion last Thursday night!  The first ingredient gone right is the "club environment", a natural habitat for the band.   The diminutive, but delightful Samantha impressed with her vocals, while her style was focal in the Underground Arts lighting.   Jeremy was spot on with his beats, but the impressive part was the live sampling played through the keyboards, taking snippets of vocals and saxophone from the songs and putting on a display of on the fly tune making at the end of each song.  The live sax was a great touch having the instrumentation done live allowing Marian Hill to show off their compositions rather than just pulling those tones from a laptop. - Dan McGurk


@marianhillmusic @communionpresents


Philadelphia’s Weekender emerged onto the Black Box Stage in heavy cloud of fog, a dreamlike haze that suited their sound. Weekender fuse the ethereal with the raw; the rhythm of pounding snare and stampeding garage bass power through layers of 80’s chorused guitars and reverb thick as questionable memories and outright confabulation. The vocals and stacked harmonies are buried deep in the mix, indistinguishable from the dream. On Thursday at Communion, they presented a set that was part Dazed and Confused, part The Breakfast Club. Theirs is the soundtrack of both: at once Linkletter’s rebellion and John Hughes’ suburban angst; as if the Brat Pack, trying desperately to recapture some Saturday afternoon magic, found themselves that same evening at John Bender’s kegger. And like that crew, Weekender cannot be defined in “the simplest terms and most convenient definitions.” You’ll just have to see them for yourself. - Mike Southerton

Quiet Life

Upon first glance, Quiet Life was just another beardy Americana band from Portland.  But given the chance, they showed off they were so much more.  The guitar heavy Tonk-acana, were a lot of fun to watch, as they played tunes from their new Ep Housebroken Man and '13 LP Wild Pack.  They brought bits of other favorite bands from the PDX/Pacific NW, harmonies like Blind Pilot, rock sensabilites of Blitzen Trapper, country folk sounds of Head & the Heart.   Excitedly, they also showed off a little of Philly as they just recorded in Philly 'burb Clifton Heights this summer.
- Dan McGurk

#beardy #americana @quietlifeband #pdx @communionpresents

Field Report

With the fog still lingering from Weekender’s set, Milwaukee natives Field Report stood like scattered pines in a morning cloud. The slow roll of sonic waves heralded the coming electronica, but instead frontman Christopher Porterfield broke from the electronic tide with with the simple strums of his acoustic guitar, and broke into a haunting vocal twang. And so began the hour of creation: Field Report built a world all their own, full of faces familiar and strange, with long, lonely synthesized sounds meeting at untraveled crossroads somewhere in Appalachia. Field Report is smart folk, engaging, captivating: a fusion of genres you’ve heard before, but haven’t heard quite like this. They shift personas with ease: Dylan to Lennon, Costello, War on Drugs, Sigur Ros. As at home dancing in a 2 & 4 backbeat as they are sending acoustic ballads into the night. And at the core of it all are the songs: uplifting and spirited. Songs of a world you want to be a part of. And should you pick up their new record, Marigolden (released Oct. 7th), you will soon discover that you are already a part of that world, as it is a part of you.- Mike Southerton

Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night

When the idea of Communion Club Nights first came upon the radar, it seemed that repeats would be inevitable since there are only so many bands on the label.  It's ironic that local artist Birdie Busch is the first to repeat, playing the first Philadelphia Communion show last October, and coming back again this month with her band The Greatest Night.  Excitedly, it's been a while since Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night.  Somewhat a super group of Philly musicians the band was electric.  Plugged in and amazing Ross Bellenoit, Todd Erk, Tom Bendel, and more flanked Birdie as she played hits from Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night and more.   - Dan McGurk

For some more great photos of the event.. head over to Swollen Fox for their photo gallery.

Be sure to come back in November.  Highasakite, Norwegian Arms, and Vita And the Wolf highlight an amzaing lineup coming to Underground Arts on Tuesday November 6th!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hot August Music Festival Recap including Dr. Dog, Nickel Creek and Old Crow Medicine Show

Hot August Music Festival, just celebrated it's 22nd year of music at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, MD. on August 16, 2014.  With three stages, the family-friendly event will included three stages of live music and performance artists including Old Crow Medicine Show, Dr. Dog and Nickle Creek.

Photo by Jeff Coon

Recap by contributors: Marye Isaacs & Jeff Coon

The Solicitors

The Solicitors - Photo by Marye Isaacs
The Solicitors started off the festival, playing the PayPal Stage welcoming fans to Hot August Music Festival with their gritty, rock and roll based songs combined with some fiddle for instant country cred. The lead singer, Jim Hickey, had a growly but melodic voice - I could see him fronting almost any style of band.  The crowd was calm, since it was early, but they got livelier and more appreciative getting to know The Solicitors.  Some were excited to hear "Incommunicado", which has been played on WTMD (89.7 Towson, MD) lately, while others seemed to feed off their surprising energy.  Their general vibe is kind of intense/angry and reminded me a teeny bit of certain Dave Matthews Band songs and a teeny bit of the Charlie Daniels Band - obviously the fiddle makes a big impression! (M.I.)
Jim Hickey - The Solictors - photo by Jeff Coon

The Jordan August Band

Jordan August - Photo by Jeff Coon
Local favorite, and co-founder of the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival, Jordan August took the stage early and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of fans. His mix of folk and blues and some progressive licks gave them a truly enjoyable set. The band is full of deep talent and they broke into a groove that even moved the passing crowd at the entrance, which was located right behind the Professional Vision Stage. They put on a set that flowed together so well, that it almost felt like they could use a 4hr set just to jam - and the crowd would be right there with them every moment. The Jordan August Band can often be caught locally in Baltimore at The 8x10, and are so worth the time to swing in. (J.C.)


Bosley is a full old fashioned deliberately campy big band, with the guys in suits and fedoras and the backup girls in little black dresses, but a few sneakers and baseball caps thrown in. Their sound matches their look; I'd call the whole thing "rat pack slacker." They do the whole choreographed swaying and gyrating thing which is fun to watch. Their lead singer is super energetic even when sitting down to let loose on the keyboard. He & the backup girls definitely steal the show while the rest of the band plays it cool, but everyone grooves in their own way - no one is "checked out." I've seen them play at parties and fundraisers before and can see why they're such a "go-to" crowd pleasing choice.(M.I.)

Bosley - Photo by Marye Isaacs


ELM (The Electric Love Machine) is a local Baltimore band that more people need to know about. Listening to E.L.M. is like listening to Phish - if Phish was younger, groovier, edgier, and worked harder for their fans. Their official bio states that “ELM (Electric Love Machine) is a Baltimore based quartet that combines Electronica, Dance, Rock, Soul, and Funk into an incomparable, high energy live music experience.” This band was the perfect fit for the PayPal Stage. the stage is tucked away next to a pavilion with a decent sized grassy area in front of the stage. Halfway into their set, the area was packed and a serious groove descended on the crowd. There wasn’t a whole lot of shouting, but there was a whole lot of moving. The set was so thoroughly enjoyable, that there was a tangible sense of sadness as the band packed up. ELM’s Facebook page used to state that they would do anything to make the crowd happy. The did so, and did it well. (J.C.)

Ursula Ricks

Ursula Ricks - Photo by Jeff Coon
Ursula Ricks said she was inspired by her mother to sing the blues. That sounds awful when you first hear it, but as she told the story you realized her mother inspired her love of the the style at a young age and encouraged her constantly. Ursula is a wonderful storyteller and brought the styles of funk, soul, and blues together in a harmonious sound that, despite its roots, wasn't at all melancholy; and that is the mark of a true bluesman.. or blueswoman. Ursula’s voice is deep and sultry, and her performance has shades of James Brown laced through it. She grew up in Baltimore and has been performing since 1964. That kind of seasoning and experience is the only thing that can give you show this good. (J.C.)


Katie Toupin- Photo by Jeff Coon
Matt Myers - Photo by Jeff Coon
Houndmouth gave a great throwback Appalachian rock show. After seeing them live I'd call it gospel-rock-road-trip music. You can tell they're all friends on and off stage - they smile and laugh at each other a lot while they play (they even made a joke about trying to fill a 90-minute set with only one record)! They opened with a Mavis Staples cover "Can You Get To That" and they made it their own - a bit twangier, heavier and more rocking version with a great guitar solo. They sing their hard-luck country lyrics about poverty and oppression with smiles on their faces, but it still feels genuine - they have the musical chops to make it seem authentic. Their enthusiasm during their live show is somewhat surprising - the studio versions feel more serious and somber. Some of their songs have an almost churchy feel, but Stevie Ray Vaughn-style electric guitar solos. They take turns on lead (all 4 of them); and the one female voice, from Katie Toupin, blends great with any/all of the male voices and is a cross between Duffy and Patsy Cline. When they played one of their hits, "Penitentiary," they sounded like some good bands tend to sound after playing a song together live a few hundred times - familiar, but with the flexibility to make it fresh. The chord progressions are predictable but very satisfying, making me wish I knew the words better so I could sing along.(M.I.)

Zak Appleby- photo by Jeff Coon

Houndmouth - Photo by Jeff Coon

Houndmouth - Photo by Jeff Coon

Dr. Dog

Scott McMicken & Bosley - Photo by Jeff Coon
Dr. Dog has a very unassuming stage presence, visually, for most of their set. They took their positions more like roadies than musicians. There were a few hiccups with Toby Leaman's bass guitar, requiring some troubleshooting by an actual roadie, during which the guys cracked some (apparently inside-) jokes about "western scale tuning." But by the time they started in earnest with "That Old Black Hole," the music took the reins and the whole tone became comfortably upbeat. Between the keyboard and the vocal harmonies, they had almost a Vampire Weekend bounce to their sound for the first few songs of their set. Bosley Brown, the wacky lead singer from Bosley joined them on stage for "Ain't It Strange," sharing a mic with Scott McMicken, and the band's reaction seemed only superficially welcoming - it's possible this was his favorite song of theirs and finagled his way into singing along for it. His hyperactive jumping and dancing was a stark contrast to the mostly stationary, reflective style of the Dr. Dog team.
Toby Leaman - photo by Jeff Coon

Eric Slick - Photo by Jeff Coon
The Dr. Dog repertoire is definitely diverse.  They positively wailed with bona fide rocker angst on "The Beach," got the whole crowd singing along with the chorus/anthem of "Broken Heart" as if it were the end of "Hey Jude," and even borrowed from the 50's/60's doo-wop style in "Truth." Their lyrics are often esoteric and hard to understand, but they sometimes include some vividly sad/stark imagery, as in "Shadow People" which is about Philadelphia (the band's hometown). One strange component of the show was the sound effects - was that what an omnichord sounds like? - which basically inject the spaces in between songs with spooky, spacey vibrato-humming noises. This seems like a deliberately modern direction the band has been taking in the past few years, away from their garage roots, though it doesn't always neatly "fit" with the music (at least not in a live show). In general though, Dr. Dog serves up a lot of feel good music - up tempo, major chords, lyrics that are mostly cheerful or at least not overtly depressing. They're not a copy of anyone in particular but reminiscent of many talented and prolific bands. Judging by the number of exuberant fans in the audience for this tempered mid-afternoon set, they won't run out of buyers for their albums or concert tickets anytime soon.(M.I.)

Frank McElroy & Zack Miller - Photo by Jeff Coon

Dimitri Manos - photo by Jeff Coon

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds

Arleigh Kincheloe of Sister Sparrow - Photo by Jeff Coon
It’s the end of the afternoon, and many festival-goers are tired and badly in need of a boost before heading back to the main stage for the final headliner. Enter Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.
This group brought some serious movement and excitement to the crowd as they squeezed their seven members (drums, bass, guitar, sax, trumpet, harmonica, and lead vocal) onto the PayPal stage and proceeded to bring the funk. They have a great big sound, and it’s a group effort led by Arleigh Kincheloe’s soulful belting. The lineup put these guys up against superstars Nickel Creek, but the crowd was definitely not composed entirely of die-hard Sister Sparrow fans – it was obvious several new listeners were getting drawn into the grooves as the lawn in front of the stage became a spirited dance floor. Arleigh’s brother Jackson Kincheloe plays the perfect bluesy harmonica dude with his long hair and aviators, and he backs up his look with some real talent. The expressive guitar player and classically-cool horn section got their turns at solos and did not disappoint, while the bass and drums provided the driving beat and steady background vocals to support the more melodic freestyling of the rest of the band. Their stage presence could be described as “euphoric,” and they seem to dance along with their own music because they just can’t help it – and neither can the fans. (M.I.)

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds  - Photo by Marye Isaacs

Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek  - Photo by Jeff Coon
Its been 25 years since Nickel Creek formed. Their first gig was in a pizza place in Carlsbad California. Oh how times have changed. From his perch on the main stage, Chris Thile instantly remarked at how beautiful the venue was and how they couldn’t believe the size of the crowd. It was a sold out show and nearly 3 quarters of those in attendance were there, spread all the way up the ski slope that faced the stage. There was no rust in their performance, it was almost as if they never stopped playing together, and there was a playful chemistry between Chris Thile and Sara Watkins. That said, the performance was everything I wanted it to be. They spanned their entire career, reaching all the way back to 2003 with "The Smoothie song", and including their latest tracks like "Hayloft" from their latest album Destination. Even with their side projects, like Thile’s other band The Punch Brothers, there is a feeling of “home” when they perform that thrilled everyone there. Nickel Creek is more than some musicians, it’s a sound and a feeling, and it was a treat that the whole crowd enjoyed all the way through the encore. (J.C.)

Tab Benoit

Tab Benoit - Photo by Jeff Coon
Tab Benoit arrived with little fanfare with very few people. His bassman Corey Duplechin, his drummer Eric Bolivar and a couple hands, and taxidermied alligator head. The area in front of the Professional Vision Stage was absolutely packed. There was no room to move, and when the Cajun bluesman mounted the stage, the crowd erupted. He stopped, raised his sunglasses and said “So you heard of me? Make sure you tell your friends what I do” and launched into a set that thrilled the crowd and spanned his 27 year, 18 album career. With the first song out of the way, he asked the crowd for suggestions and played an 90minute all request set. “I hate lists, I hate’em. I just want to play music, so you shout stuff out and I’ll play it.” What followed was enthralling and deeply heartfelt performing. Tab Benoit is the real deal. Many in the crowd remarked that he was on the wrong stage, meaning he wasn’t playing the main stage. I would say that he was absolutely right for that stage and that venue. While he could absolutely play the main stage and sweep a huge crowd off their feet, he looked as if he was at home and doing exactly what he loved, where he loved. (J.C.)

Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show is a show band. You can tell that they prep for every town they play in. During the set you begin to feel like part of a big weird family with all of your wierdest cousins goofing around for the family at a reunion 7,000 people strong. There really isn’t a better way to describe it.  Old Crow Medicine Show is a group of musicians as at home busking on a corner in New York City as they are in a massive amphitheater. Along the way, they put their prep to good use, only missing one Baltimore cliche, “Hon”,  in their banter. They did however have “Mr. Boh”, the mascot from National Bohemian on stage dancing at one point. Best described as raucous fun, the show was nothing short of awesome. The band told stories and jokes, played bluegrass and newgrass and something that may have been Indie Rock. They even played a new track from Bob Dylan, called "Sweet Amarillo". the story goes that “Old Bob out there in California” was so thrilled that "Wagon Wheel" had done so well, that he sent the band another track to finish. Now Old Crow has co-written 2 songs with Dylan, without ever meeting him. Not bad gentleman. Not bad at all. Old Crow Medicine Show was definitely right for this festival. We can only hope they come back again - because that was just too much fun. It was the perfect end to a wonderful festival. (J.C.)

Old Crow Medicine Show - Photo by Jeff Coon

Recently, in an interview with the Decatur Review from Illinois, Martin McCormack of the band Switchback said “More than any other time, because we have the ability to get lost online, the need for people to come together in one space and share music is absolutely vital.” That’s the truth here really, that we need time away from devices and the solitude of our headsets. We are social creatures, and music festivals still bring us together. There is no doubt that we’re the better for it. So, many thanks are owed to the performers for their hard work and the moments they shared with us. An equal amount goes to the founders and organizers as well. The Hot August Music Festival was a sold out show and, frankly, we were lucky to be there. It was the kind of festival other festivals want to be.

about the authors: 
Marye Isaacs is a long time super-fan of all things music - especially live shows, which she has a hard time passing up even for bands she's never heard of before. Her early childhood was filled with classic rock thanks to WDVE in Pittsburgh and her two older brothers. She's lived in Baltimore for 10 years but will always be a Pittsburgher at heart. She appreciates a lot of modern music and has an ironic admiration for the hipster scene (with the exception of handlebar mustaches). 

Jeff Coon’s interest in music goes a lot deeper than the music. Growing up, he was left alone to develop his own tastes and was never discouraged from being varied is his listening. In Upstate NY he listened to every part of the dial(AM to FM) and occasionally dragged out a shortwave radio - growing his love for all forms of music. His day job as a designer/graphic artist/photographer gives him, what to some is, a slightly skewed view of the music scene. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the entire experience and connection between everyone, band member, roadie, or  fan.