Last week I caught a nice trifecta of great local music at Johnny Brenda's. These United States, Jenny Owen Youngs &
Jukebox The Ghost came together to each offer forth their distinct sounds. These United States kicked things off in fine style -- I think it is important to, once again, note the Philadelphia needs to step up its game in supporting the opening acts-- despite the weak crowd showing these fellas gave one hell of a show. I have seen them before and while still rocking this evening they were spot on. They have tightened up their harmonies which really brings their southern rock lyrics an appreciable classic feel. One of the best parts of seeing them live is watching the steel guitar and bass lines being delivered. It is a study in melding the sass and boozy sarcasm inherent in both instruments to shape TUS's sound without crossing into cliche. Throughout the show I was reminded that these two factors were what drew me to them in the first places and I am happy to report they are only getting better. If they continue to work on their stage presence to compliment their vocals and impressive instrumentals they will have crossed a divide into serious fan acquiring territory.
Jenny Owen Youngs was next up and I'm going to keep my thoughts on her performance short and simple. She looks like the other indie darling Jenny Lewis and must know that cause it felt that her sound was very much rebellion of that association. While her backing band and vocals were fun to watch and sounded great she was undermic'd (or just wasn't projecting her voice) and slurred all of her lyrics into a distracting muddle. Only when the fellas from Jukebox came up to share the stage and she kept to guitars did I enjoy what she had to offer.
Jukebox The Ghost were the evening's headliners and by the time they were on stage the place had filled up with a nice showing of local support. The band has an ace understanding of what it means to perform. And I mean not only get up on stage and play the right notes and sing the right words at the right time. They had charming witty banter [at one point asking the audience to boo instead of clap in response to a new song just to buffer the potential for a poor reception] and put forth a style of full body playing that was thoroughly entertaining to witness. For those of you unfamiliar with Jukebox they sound a little like a mash up of Ben Folds Five and They Might Be Giants. Unconventional lyrics tied to tasty pop rhythms. They opened with a song about the end of the world and the quirk was maintained through the whole set.
What makes JTG's offerings that much more enjoyable is the fact that they are fiercely talented musicians. The lead key's are complicated and punchy but played so cleanly your ear doesn't have to do any work to enjoy them. On their new stuff their was evidence of a maturing sound that suggested a little Jackson Browne "Late For The Sky" influence. This will be truly interesting territory to watch them explore. They brought Youngs and her gang back on stage briefly but I would have rather seen a JTG and TUS pairing. Perhaps next time. I would strongly encourage you to see Jukebox The Ghost if they come through your town and certainly seek out both their new and old music for your at home listening pleasure. Get a jump on that with these...
These United States Honor Amongst Thieves
Jukebox The Ghost Hold It In