Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Haunt The House / Amanda Glasser / Anna Coogan - "Non-Local Night" at Bourban and Branch Recap

photos by Dan McGurk

Haunt The House / Amanda Glasser / Anna Coogan 

Last Tuesday, rising folk stars Haunt The House came to town for their first Philly show. Tagging along to Bourbon and Branch were two more out-of-towners; Amanda Glasser and Anna Coogan.

Haunt the House

Anna Coogan
Anna Coogan

Anna Coogan, the veteran of the line-up, was up first at the always interesting Bourbon and Branch.  The gritty songstress was ready for her set no matter what, even if it meant disobeying doctors' orders after a recent broken bone.

The best/most ironic part of her set was the ease with which she was able to switch back and forth between love songs and break-up songs.  She explained this may have to do with the break up songs, such as "Cricket Sea", being mostly about the man she eventually married.   However, there was that extra oomph of grit and passion on the love songs.  Before turning over the reins to the next artist, she left the crowd seeking more with some brand new tunes, including "Meteor."

Amanda Glasser

Amanda Glasser

Amanda Glasser was next to the Bourbon and Branch stage.  A Baltimore native, Amanda spent
some time in the Philly for med school and was excited to be back in Philly, but not as excited as she was to enjoy the Baltimore "local" beer Natty Boh from the Green Room.

Amanda Glasser, who opted to play her guitar instead of continuing med school, impressed the crowd.  She also had break-up songs in her "sad-mode," but for the final song she switched to "angry-mode" for her newest and most passionate track, "Surgery."

RIYL:  Chelsea Sue Allen
(recommended if you like)

Amanda Glasser - Live at Bourbon and Branch

Haunt The House

For any band, their first show in Philly is always a difficult one.  The Philadelphia music fan is a spoiled breed having numerous venues to choose from on any given night.  Despite, the meager crowd, the sky is the limit for this folk-trio.  With a Newport Folk Fest slot on the horizon, the band is touring in support of Jack Rabbit Jones, an album with a great folk-pedigree.  The album was recorded, engineered, and influenced by The Low Anthem's Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky at the Columbus Theatre, plus mastered by Machines with Magnets who have done many Root Down In The Shadow favorites such as Brown Bird, Deer Tick, and Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons, plus Philly favorite Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's eponymous debut.  Their sound is reminiscent of other folk-sters such as Blind Pilot and Head and the Heart.

The set started off with stellar renditions of Jack Rabbit Jones' first two tracks, future-hits "Mosquito Coast" and "Little Bird."  Not being limited to JRJ, the third track was the haunting "Vampyre" from Rural Introspection Study Group, including a crisp extrapolation of The Animals "House of the Rising Sun."  One song that was wonderfully true to the album was "Jealous Vow" (see video clip below); while overall the band was fantastic to see.  Will Houlihan, Amato Zinno, and Bessie Bessin have a bright future together as Haunt the House.

The set wasn't all straight-forward album renditions, or even as expected. Hearing the album for the first few times, I half-expected harmonium based on the Miller/Prystowsky-Low Anthem influence, but I was surprised to see Bessie Bessin with an accordion instead.  Also differing from the album was the lack of mandolin.  The set list also showcased other highlights new & old. Will Houlihan had a whistle intro on "Raven" that Tarantino could get into, and  "Jesus" was another solid new tune with a bit of an "Amazing Grace" twist.  

Haunt The House - Jealous Vow (clip) Live at Bourbon & Branch

Haunt The House - Bourbon & Branch 3-17-2015 setlist
Philadelphia, PA
         song                             Album
1.  "Mosquito"              Jack Rabbit Jones
2.  "Little Bird"             Jack Rabbit Jones
3.  "Vampyre"              Rural Introspection Study Group
4.  "Hymnal"
5.  "Raven"                   brand-new/unreleased original
6.  "Black Butte"           Jack Rabbit Jones
7.  "Jealous Vow"          Jack Rabbit Jones
8.  "Pity Creek Ravine" Jack Rabbit Jones
9.  "Emerson"               Jack Rabbit Jones
10.  "Knife of Love"     Jack Rabbit Jones
11. "Jesus"                     unreleased original
12. "Arrow"                   Jack Rabbit Jones

Sympathy and the Lion, Kettle Pot Black, Cardinal Arms at Fleisher Art Memorial - Show Recap March 21, 2015

John Shavel of Sympathy and the Lion - Photo by Kettle Pot Tracks
Fleisher Art Memorial - Philadelphia, PA

Photo By Dan McGurk
Spring is upon us here in Philadelphia.  It's time to start exploring again and shaking off those winter blues.  What better way to celebrate than by going to check out a venue and band for the first time?  I thought it was a great idea, so off I went to Fleisher Art Memorial for an afternoon show with Sympathy and the Lion.

Fleisher Art Memorial at first glance appears to be your standard gallery with classes and community space, but it also has a 19th century church connected to it where they occasionally host some shows!  For this Sunday's show in the front of the old church, the bands were tucked neatly in the choir chambers with fans at arm's reach sitting comfortably in the small pews.

Photo By Kettle Pot Tracks
Cardinal Arms, the musical arm of artist/poet/song-writer Bevan McShea was first to delight fans.  With a black acoustic guitar and a soft, Ben Gibbard-ish vibe, Bevan comforted the fans in a cathartic way that an afternoon-at-a-church allows.  McShea was completely relaxed in front of the mic, even while mixing in some new songs, seemingly getting some emotional relief himself.

Photo By Dan McGurk
Kettle Pot Black was next and Mike Batchelor played the set solo with his booming voice and guitar.  He talked a lot about his songs, with some about his mom, some his wife and kids, but regardless of muse he clearly likes to write songs that are fun to play back.  While he described his style as "screaming some and singing a few," it's a stark contrast to Mike Batchelor the friend; with an aggressive guitar style and vocal parts booming, it's a complete 180 from his personal laid back style.   

John Shavel of Sympathy and the Lion - Photo by Dan McGurk
Sympathy and the Lion, the Lancaster duo of Michael Burke and John Shavel, wrapped up the afternoon.  The self-described art-folk sound was a perfect way to forget winter, and really everything else for that matter.
Mike Burke's vocals and John Shavel on cello were such a lovely mix.  More so, the special combined harmony of the duo was another wonderful sound all together, reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel where they were completely unique but together created a hallmark sound.

The band was a delight, as they put on a showcase of their work, including several songs from the 2015 "demo" Remnants.  Throughout the set, I repeatedly found myself thinking about where I'd like to see the band next and which other recent soul-cleansing bands, such as Haunt the House and Max GarcĂ­a Conover, to have on this dreamy line-up.

Photo By Kettle Pot Tracks

The next show at Fleisher Art Memorial is 5/2 with Julia Ranier for her album release party.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kevin Killen has been hard at work at Philadelphia's Cambridge Sound Studios lately laying down some new tracks. To give us a tease of what he's been working on, here's the brand new video for "Streets of Sorrow", a cover originally by the Pogues.

Kevin Killen - "Streets of Sorrow" (Pogues cover)
Streets of Sorrow from Kevin Killen on Vimeo.

Kevin Killen plays tonight at the Root Down In The Shadow - Living Room Show. Follow us on Twitter @RootDownPhilly for more infomation as we're working on getting a live stream together of the at-capacity show.

Monday, March 2, 2015

From the Notebook - Looking Back At 25 Shades with Dirty Dollhouse - Their Rise, The EP Release Show & More

"From the Notebook" is a new series at Root Down In The Shadow, that will explore great experiences with bands and events that didn't make it to the web within a normal deadline, but were too good not to share.  If all goes well we'll let that original moment simmer and provide some additional insight beyond our first take.  Our first subject: Dirty Dollhouse.

Chelsea Mitchell
All Photos by Lindsey Borgman unless noted 

Chelsea Mitchell

Dirty Dollhouse

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? 

Chelsea Mitchell
Some fans already caught their first glimpse of Dirty Dollhouse at one of their rare shows in 2014.  The ladies had been playing intimate shows like Sofar Sounds: Philadelphia, Church of Kong, and their popular ECR Studio Session.  Until the release show at Bourbon and Branch on December 5th for the exciting 25 Shades EP Release party, their highest profile show was the June 2014 Communion Club Night at Underground Arts with Tutlie, Katie Frank and the Pheromones, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Desert Noises

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 2013The 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.

Dirty Dollhouse

A photo posted by Root Down In The Shadow (@rootdownintheshadow) on

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
4. Shake All Over                                       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
13. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree     Holiday Traditional

Fireside Session
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. 

Milkboy Philadelphia 3/20
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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vita and the Woolf / Cover Club Session - Season 2 / Original Track / "Springtime Foxes"

Welcome to Season Two of Philly-centric video series, Cover Club. Cover Club is best conceptualized as “A special brand of Philly covers”, akin to The Onion’s AV Undercover series but with one caveat: the song being covered must originally be from a Philly artist. 

Vita and the Woolf - photo by Lindsey Borgman

Jennifer Pague- Photo by Dan McGurk

It's an exciting time for the young band Vita and the Woolf!  Last fall they released their debut EP Fang Song, played a Sofar Sounds: Philadelphia, kicked ass at the Communion Club Night, recorded a Key Session, took part in Philly Sings Philly, played all over town, and were featured in an in-depth interview with WXPN's the Key.

If that cross-section of their recent schedule wasn't enough, on-tap is an even crazier next month.  According to Jennifer Pague, the principal member of the band, "What's next is March Tour down to SXSW. We are hitting 10 states and playing a bunch of shows. Then we are going into the studio in April and recording a 7 song EP Tunnels. That is if we raise the necessary funds for our Kickstarter which will launch in March."

One song that wasn't on Fang Song and isn't planned to be a part of Tunnels, is set regular "Springtime Foxes".  Before being lost forever to recording purgatory, it made a new home as a Cover Club Session original track when Vita and the Woolf came to Cambridge Sound Studios in early February!

Cover Club | Vita and the Woolf "Springtime Foxes"

Be sure to visit Soundcloud for the Vita and the Wolf Cover Club original track "Springtime Foxes"

Also head to the CoverClubPhilly.com Audio page for more songs from this session/series

 Catch Vita and the Woolf this Friday

Catch Vita and the Woolf on tour