Under the none stop rain that has been pounding this city for the last nine days there were some amazing musical antics going on in Philadelphia.
Wednesday, the quality options were spread like buckshot through the regular venues. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Fischerspooner & Junior Boys were all in town, and I've heard good things about all of their shows, but I took path less travelled by and oh what a night it provided.
First, I caught the early show of the Rit Mo Collective's double header at Chris's Jazz Cafe in honor of their CD release. It was a brilliantly orchestrated jam session led by the group's main arranger/composer Chris Farrell. Having spent a little time with Chris discussing his inspiration and the process behind this work I was not at all surprised to hear suggestions of jazz, funk, international, jam and lyrical scoring on the demo I received. The assembled crew [Wesley Rast, Dan Barman, , Baba Joe Bryant, Will Martina, Kaveh Saidi and Lee Clark] played a few pieces not on the album before launching into the three movements that make up Arianna's Thread. The three pieces weave together pushing and pulling each other to tell a very haunting and beautiful story. The cello's line throughout all three pieces really anchors the ethereal violin, percussion and guitars that establish the emotion. This could easily be the score to Michael Gondry's next movie the entirety of Arianna's Thread lasts a little over ten minutes but stays with you much longer. The group went on to play some of the more Indian and funk rooted pieces off of the CD. They're clearly very comfortable with each other and the music Farrell has crafted for them and it is felt in their playing. They closed the first set with Knevelled which has a strong bass hum to start off and proceeded to totally funk out (an essence not fully captured on the recording). That evening tucked away at Chris's would have been complete, especially if I had caught the more free flowing second set, alas I was on to the next stop.
It was up to Johnny Brenda's to see Buck County's own Illinois. Yes, a band from PA named IL is a little confusing but its actually the lead singer's grandpa's name. I really had no idea what to expect 'cause nearly everything I've heard from the group has defied genre-lization. They came on, Chris "Arch" Archibald was wearing a blond wig naturally, and blew up the stage with what I can only describe as The Gourds, Mark Mallman, Beck with a touch of Ryan Adams. Drawing inspiration like an ADD kid in a arcade from the smarter end of the "who's who" in alt music making in the last five-ish year they went from the "only nice song" they have to some tight country rock to funk driven rap. The hometown crowd rocked out right there with the group, who have an infectious chaotic fun stage presence you can't help but dig in to. Arch seems to enjoy throwing sharp left turns into the set list. I most enjoyed the introduction of a banjo put to fine use on the rough and tumble Big Country. His crew most definitely has the chops to deliver the goods. There were a few guitar riffs in there that stood totally on their own. And the bassist, man there was a gnarly deep pull to his playing that put a fresh dimension to the live show that isn't really conveyed on the groups EP's. At one point Arch slowed it way down in honor of a friend's birthday playing the honest ballad Missing Piece solo on the piano. By the end of their set, to be honest with you, I'm not sure I'm was any closer to figuring them out but that may very well be a big part of the appeal. I can say for certain its a group I will be seeing again.