All Photos by Lindsey Borgman unless noted
Who is Dirty Dollhouse?
Who is Dirty Dollhouse? Officially Dirty Dollhouse is the all-beautiful, all-female Chelsea Mitchell-Amber Twait-Vanessa Winters trio. The lush harmonies of these long-time friends are the crux of any Dirty Dollhouse tune. But which band is really Dirty Dollhouse? Is it only the trio? Or, is it a full-band extravaganza?
Folks that have been following Chelsea Mitchell have often seen her solo with her guitar or ukulele. Occasionally, Chelsea Mitchell (the band) would appear as a rowdier bunch, such as their show opening for Kalob Griffin Band at Johnny Brenda's in October 2013. The full band consisted of Vanessa Winters, Amber Twait, Peter Joseph on electric guitar and banjo, Christopher Davis-Shannon on upright bass, and Sarah Larsen on fiddle. During this particular show, as the band tuned up for "Nobody's Daughter," Mitchell mentioned they were about to play a Dirty Dollhouse song.
So when we see Dirty Dollhouse next (March 20th at Milkboy) which line-up will we get? Heading into this 25 Shades release show, few knew what to expect. Would it be Chelsea Mitchell and her soaring vocals in a solo+friends atmosphere, the lovely trio, or the rowdy full band? No matter, though: any of them would have you walking away happy.
25 Shades Release
The 25 Shades EP release show was an amazing night. To start the evening, Brian Dale Allen Strouse (#BDAS) of the Lawsuits proved once again that he is among Philly's most talented and endearing songwriters. Ordinarily playing frontman for the Lawsuits and easily the biggest name on the all-local bill, Strouse treated Bourbon & Branch to a rare solo set. As he moved gracefully through a set of covers and originals, the crowd was happy to acknowledge their joy by singing along and filling in the infectious ooh's on "Dreaming #26"
Wilmington's New Sweden was up next. Known for their playful, high-engery performances, the rowdy cousin of Philly's music scene brought folk magic to the small Bourbon & Branch stage. They played all the favorites and made sure every body in the room was ready to dance!
Chelsea Mitchell and Dirty Dollhouse gave the performance of their blossoming careers. Their set was a full catalog tour, taking fans through soon-to-be hits, gems, and unreleased tunes. The band was made up of the earlier mentioned trio with the addition of their EP engineers (Strouse and Josh Friedman of the Lawsuits) and bassist Brendan Cunningham (also of the Lawsuits). Songs ranged from electric to emotionally-rocking sheer joy. The brand new tunes making their full -band debut excited and delighted, while Mitchell's solo set brought some to tears. Two songs ("My Old Man" & "Dreams and Dreams of You") were dedicated to her late father, an excellent guitarist and avid music fan. The full band was fabulous, and a tease to the great heights that Dirty Dollhouse has awaiting them.
With the band only have four, "official release" songs on the 25 Shades EP, let's use the set list as your guide to Dirty Dollhouse music. Follow along on the set list clicking links for each album to get the full sonic tour:
25 Shades EP Release show set list
Bourbon & Branch Dec 5th, 2015
1. 25 Shades 25 Shades EP
2. Married in the Aviary Married in the Aviary EP
3. Old Fires 25 Shades EP
5. Ain't Got No Blues Live at East Coast Recording
6. Nobody's Daughter Married in the Aviary EP
7. My Man Live at East Coast Recording
8. AnnaLee 25 Shades EP
9. My Old Man WXPN Key Studio Session
11. Party Dress Party Dress - Single
12. Sidecar Unreleased Original
ENCORE13. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree Holiday Traditional
At the Fireside Session in January for Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest the trio was back and thoroughly impressed the large crowd of new fans! Amber Twait, who usually provides the lush lower harmonies for the group, could not attend; therefore the unofficial "Fourth Doll" Kate Bernhardt filled in for her and performed beautifully. The band absolutely made some new fans that night. The makeshift stage was pushed into the corner at the temporary tent at the Delaware River waterfront, there was some game on the big screens, it was friggin cold out that night, and people were there to socialize and ice skate; but the attention was clearly on the musical ladies up front.
Maybe it was the up-front "super-fan" section that came out to support, or perhaps it was the many people approaching the girls with congratulations after the show; in any case, all signs indicate the tide has turned for Dirty Dollhouse. With a slew of great performances and a fantastic EP under their belt Dirty Dollhouse have proven they can turn with more than gimmicks or a catchy name. As the bard Shakespeare once said "No legacy is so rich as honesty. No matter which line-upor how intimate or all encompassing the sound, their songs bear a truth of heart and spirit that will leave a long legacy for this talented group.
So, the question remains. Which will group will it be when we see Dirty Dollhouse on March 20th at Milkboy? One thing can be sure, all of the bands will be ready to impress. Come see for yourself; Brad Hinton, Dirty Dollhouse, and Caroline Reese and the Drifting 5th.