Sellersville Theater is my favorite venue to see live music. There's nothing quite like the intimacy of the place. I rediscovered that at the Dec. 29 "Monsters of Philly Folk" concert with WXPN Philly Local darlings Chris Kasper, Hezekiah Jones (Everybody in the band has a fictitious Jones stage name, a la The Ramones), and Andrew Lipke & The Prospects.
During the big-voiced Lipke's set, he thanked the audience for braving the elements to make it to the theater. He was referring to the storm from Dec. 27. I murmured, what I thought was under my breath, "That was two days ago." From the D row, where I was sitting, it could be heard from the stage. This prompted cellist, Krista Nielsen, to look over at Lipke and crack a joke about not "living in the past."
Lipke's clearly an accomplished musician, but he has to work on not appearing so impressed by his own abilities. The eclectic selections switched gears from string quartet-heavy songs; while others took on a Jeff Buckley sonic mold; and others felt like Tears For Fears' mid-90s, esoteric material.
"Standing Over You" was a standout performance. Yet there were songs, like "Untitled Song #1," (Dude, always title your friggin' songs! #1? You mean there's going to be others without a title?) that make you scratch your head and wonder: "What does this guy want to be? A chamber music rocker? A pop singer/songwriter? Or what?"
The Sellersville crowd - many coming from Philly, judging by how late some of them arrived - loved him. I wonder how a New York audience would receive Lipke.
Hezekiah Jones, fronted by Raphael Cutrufello, has a way with turning a lyrical phrase that grabs your attention. "What was once a pickle is twice the cucumber" LOL
Seeing this clip of "Writing Letters in the Morning" confirms an observation I made at the show that Cutrufello doesn't like to directly face the audience - quite a quirk for a singer to have.
Dig the fiddler!
I first heard of Chris Kasper in 2006, thanks to Lansdale Catholic product Kate Gaffney. "And You Wait," "The Stoop," "Ain't No Saint" and "Baltimore Street" were some of the best performances of the night (Well that, and when all the musicians came together on stage and played John Lennon's "Instant Karma"). I was particularly impressed that his backup band included the likes of Philip D'Agostino and Kevin Killen, Philly Local picks in their own right. Check out this clip of Kasper & Gaffney together.
Even if you're seeing someone whose songs you don't know all that well, time at the Sellersville Theater is time well spent.