Regular readers of this blog might see my posts about all the WXPN Free-at-Noon shows that I've attended and think that I'm some cheapskate that only goes to free Friday afternoon concerts. This simply isn't true. Just this week I attended a WXPN-hosted Philly Local concert. Sure, it was still a free show, but it was on a Tuesday night, not a Friday afternoon. Big difference.
The night started off with Sharon Little and Scott Sax. Little is a strange mix of bluesy folk singer and jazzy torch singer, and Sax's backing guitar moved between the two styles right along with her. I had never heard this duo before - and they both seemed very talented - but the attempt to combine two very different styles sounded disjointed and just didn't work for me.
Next up was long-time 'XPN favorite John Flynn. Flynn is folk singer born ten or twenty years too late. He writes songs about politics and the current state of the world that are devoid of any cynical irony at a time when that's just not done anymore. Perhaps some coffeehouse folkies also attempt this, but John's the real deal and he was very good. He's also quite funny, and the ladies in the audience seemed to like looking at him.
After Flynn was the band I came to see, the Swimmers. It seems like I've been waiting forever for their first album to be released (now expected in May), but I've had a few of their mp3s for a while now and they've been streaming their album on their website since Christmas-time, and I can not imagine these guys (and gal) not making it big. They write great songs full of catchy hooks that just transcend anything else that's out right now. And now I know that they're also great live. I brought my brother with me to this show primarily to hear the Swimmers, and he was extremely impressed. I think they're going to have that effect on a lot of folks.
Following the Swimmers (or maybe right before?) was a surprise visit by a South Jersey singer who has already gotten quite a bit of national notice, Amos Lee. I remember seeing Lee open for someone at a little neighborhood concert in the next town over a few years ago, but that was before he signed with Blue Note and put out a couple of critically-acclaimed albums. It was also before he started hanging out with folks like Norah Jones. I've never been all that impressed with Lee, but I have to admit that he sounded very good Tuesday night. He looked very confident and comfortable on stage, and that made him sound much more mature and authentic then I remember him being last time I saw him.
Hail Social was the night's headliner. The band's second album, Modern Love & Death, was released that very day but if they were excited about that it certainly didn't show in their performance. They looked like they were just going though the motions, and their music sounded like it was doing the same. They weren't bad, but they we're offering anything that hasn't already been done several times over. There didn't seem to be any chemistry between the band members, nor was there any interaction with the crowd. Coming on so soon after the very energetic and happy-to-be-there Swimmers didn't help their act much either, and so my brother and I decided to beat the traffic after the third song.
Photos from the show are posted over at my Flickr page. WXPN plans on having the next Philly Local show sometime in June.