Mid-August means that summer will soon be wrapping up. However, Philadelphia’s alternative rock station – Radio 104.5 – put on one last summer block party show this past Sunday. The August show featured local band The Groove Merchants, along with national acts The Outdoor Type, Judah & the Lion, Portugal. The Man, and Vance Joy. The weather was beautiful, and the crowd at Festival Pier seemed much bigger than previous block party shows. All in all, it was a great day of music.
Here’s a review of the bands that played the show.
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The Groove Merchants
The Groove Merchants are a blues rock band that formed in 2012 at Kutztown University, which is about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The band is made up of Tye Vallone (vocals/rhythm guitar/percussion), Luke Ferracone (lead guitar), John Evin Groove (bass), Anthony Guidotti (drums), and Dylan Hinnershitz (trumpet).
The band release their first album in June of 2014. They added Hinnershitz in 2015, and started to move to a more funk-based sound. The band released its second studio album – “Take It” – in August of 2016. You can download the album here: http://amzn.to/2z2pHcA
When Radio 104.5 puts on one of these shows, they always include a local band, which is a great opportunity for these bands to get their name out there. The Groove Merchants took full advantage of that opportunity.
I was very impressed with the band. They came out full of energy. Lead singer Tye Vallone promised the crowd a great show, and they didn’t disappoint. The horn section really adds to the sound of the band, and gives them almost a New Orleans/Mardi Gras kind of feel. Vallone has a very strong and unique voice, and his energy is contagious. He did a great job interacting with the crowd and getting everyone into the music.
The high-energy music got the crowd dancing along, even if they weren’t familiar with the songs. It was a bit of a departure from the typical “alternative rock” bands that appear at these shows, but I really enjoyed it, and the crowd seemed to as well.
The Groove Merchants play shows regularly throughout the eastern Pennsylvania area. Check out their website at www.groovemerchantsmusic.com for a list of their upcoming shows.
The Outdoor Type
The Outdoor Type is a band out of Melbourne, Australia created by singer/guitarist/songwriter Zack Buchanan. In 2014, Zack determined he wanted to change musical directions, when he heard a song by a band out of Sydney called Smudge. The song was called “The Outdoor Type”, and it was exactly the sound he wanted to create.
In 2015, Zack recorded the EP – The Outdoor Type – where he played almost all of the parts himself. The follow up single – “On My Mind” – went viral and started gaining the band international attention. If you have “On My Mind” on your brain, download it here: http://amzn.to/2gMACwF
The Outdoor Type have a new single – “Rumination” – which Zack recorded live with his band in the studio, rather than Zack being the sole musician. The band is currently working on their debut album.
The band played a pretty short set (only 5 songs), but really made the most of their time. I follow them on Instagram, and they had been posting pictures for a couple of days as they acted like tourists and made their way around the Philadelphia area. Zack kept mentioning how hot it was here, as they are used to it being winter right now in Melbourne and much colder. He mentioned that he probably should not have picked all black to wear to the show.
While the set was short and most of the songs unfamiliar to the crowd, everyone seemed to enjoy them. They wrapped up their set with their single “On My Mind”, which is a song that at least some people in the crowd were familiar with and could sing along to. It’s a catchy song, so it got people in the crowd dancing.
The Outdoor Type currently only have two tour dates listed on their website – this show and a show on October 20th in Australia. Be sure to follow the band on social media to stay on top of any news and future tour dates. Their website is www.theoutdoortypeband.com, but the information on the site is a little sparse.
Set List: Unknown, Are You Happy, Dirty Water, Middle of the Road, On My Mind
Judah & the Lion
Judah & the Lion is based in Nashville, TN. Formed in 2011, the band is made up of Judah Akers (guitar/lead vocals), Brian MacDonald (mandolin/backing vocals), Nate Zuercher (banjo/backing vocals), Spencer Cross (drums), Dylan Oglesby (rhythm guitar/accordion/backing vocals), and Daniel Weatherby (piano).
The band actually started out as a Christian music band. They released their first EP – “Sweet Tennessee” – in 2013. They released their first studio album – “Kids These Days” – in 2014. But it was in 2016, with the release of their second album – “Folk Hop ‘N Roll” – that the band started to gain national attention. Their first single off that album – “Take It All Back” – was a staple on alternative radio in 2016. You can hear their current single – “Suit & Jacket” – on the radio regularly this summer. If you want to add it to your playlist, download Suit & Jacket here.
I was extremely impressed with Judah & the Lion. In fact, based on their set and the response of the crowd, I think they should have been the headliner of the show. The size of the crowd really grew before their set, which indicates that the crowd agreed. The band kicked off their set with their current single – “Suit & Jacket”. Akers told the crowd that they loved Philadelphia, and that they were going to give them everything they had in their short set. They didn’t disappoint.
The energy from Akers and the rest of the band was crazy throughout the set. Akers ran up and down the stage, and the whole band showed off their dance moves during “Booty Wurk”.
After a few more songs, Akers told the crowd that the band appreciated the support, even if people weren’t familiar with any of their songs. He said they were going to play a cover of something that everyone would know, and was a song they all listened to in the 4th grade. The cover was “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. They did a good job with the song, and the crowd loved it.
Before wrapping up, Akers again told the crowd how much their support meant to them, and that they consider Philadelphia a second home. He also announced that the band would be coming back for a headlining show on October 21st at the TLA. They wrapped up the show with their huge hit “Take It All Back”. I really enjoyed some of the changes they made in the song when playing it live, as opposed to the recorded version that is played on the radio.
Judah & the Lion has built their fan base by touring extensively. In 2015, they played 150 shows all over the U.S. They continue to keep up that busy tour schedule, and will be playing across the U.S. (including Philadelphia) through the end of October. They head to Europe in November, where they’ll be playing a bunch of shows with Kaleo. Check out their website at www.judahandthelion.com for all of their tour dates.
Set List: Suit & Jacket, Conversations, Body Wurk (T-Pain cover), Reputation, Mr. Brightside (The Killers cover), Going to Mars, Rich Kids, Take It All Back
Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man (and yes, that is how they write the name of the band) was formed in 2004 and is based out of Portland, OR. The band is made up of John Baldwin Gourley (vocals/guitar/organ/drum machine), Zachary Scott Carothers (bass guitar/backing vocals), Kyle O’Quin (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar/backing vocals), Eric Howk (guitar) and Jason Sechrist (drums).
In 2001, Gourley and Carothers joined a few other guys to form a band called Anatomy of a Ghost. That band had some success, but broke up. In the meantime, Gourley and Carothers started Portugal. The Man as a side project. The band’s unique name came from the idea that they wanted to name the band after something bigger than life, and decided naming it after a country would reflect that thought. The first country they thought of was Portugal, which is the true name of the band. “The Man” signifies that the band is just one person. A little confusing, but I guess it works for them!
The band released their debut album – “Waiter: ‘You Vultures!’” in 2006. They signed with Atlantic Records in 2010 and released their first album under that label – “In the Mountain in the Cloud” – in 2011. They’ve gone on to record two additional studio albums, including their latest – “Woodstock” – released in 2016. Their current single – “Feel It Still” – is getting a lot of air play on alternative radio. You can download Feel It Still here.
This was a band that the crowd was clearly excited for as well. They took the stage and opened with something I didn’t expect – a cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Immediately after the Metallica cover, they went into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”. All in all, the band was a lot “heavier” than I expected them to be, based on their current single “Feel It Still”, which has a very pop type of feel to it.
After the two covers, the band went into their huge current single “Feel It Still”, which I thought was odd to be playing so early in the set. Typically, when a band has a monster hit out and a lot of other unknown songs, you can bet money that they are going to close the show with that big hit. But more about this in a second.
The band continued to go into some of their lesser known originals. I would be interested to know if they are influenced at all by The Cure. I’m a huge fan of The Cure, and thought I heard some definite influences in the guitar work in some of their songs.
The band announced that they had one more song. A couple of bars in, I realized that it was “Feel It Still” again. I had to stop for a second, and figure out if I was just imagining that they had already played it. After confirming with the person next to me that they had in fact already played it, I started to wonder if it was a mistake. After the show was over, I ran into a couple of guys on their sound crew and I asked them if that was supposed to happen. They laughed, and said that they always play it twice. It’s evidently an inside joke of the band to see how many people notice and get people confused. Odd, particularly when they are playing such a short set in a festival type of setting.
The band has a few more U.S. stops on their current summer tour, before heading to Europe in September. They’ll return to the U.S. for more dates in October. Check out their website at www.portugaltheman.com for a full list of upcoming shows.
Set List: For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica cover), Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd cover), Feel It Still, Atomic Man, Modern Jesus, Hip Hop Kids, Holy Roller, All Your Light, Feel It Still (second time)
Vance Joy (or James Keogh) is an Australian singer/songwriter. He released his debut EP – “God Loves You When You’re Dancing” – in March of 2013.
Joy’s first career was as an Australian rules football player. He even won the award for best first year player in 2008. However, by 2013 Joy had switched his focus to music. His hit single – “Riptide” – hit the charts and Joy was off and running with his music career.
Joy released his first studio album – “Dream Your Life Away” – in 2014. That year also saw the release of his next hit single – “Mess Is Mine”. His latest single – “Lay It on Me” – was released this year. You can download Lay It On Me here.
I really enjoyed Joy’s set. In general, Joy’s music is a bit more on the mellow side and in my mind, is better suited to a smaller indoor venue. Although Joy has more hits and is a more established artist, I think Judah & the Lion would have been a better fit for the headliner. The crowd definitely thinned out a bit before Joy took the stage.
Joy opened the set with his hit “Mess Is Mine”, and worked his way through his catalog. He has a strong voice, and his songs are sweet and catchy. Throughout his set, Joy interspersed his hits “Lay It On Me” and “Fire and the Flood”.
Probably the biggest surprise of the set, as well as my favorite part, was when Joy went into a cover of Paul Simon’s hit “You Can Call Me Al”. I wasn’t expecting that out of Joy, but he did a terrific job with it, complete with a horn section. Before closing out his set, Joy announced he was coming back to Philadelphia to play Union Transfer on October 20th, which I think will be a great venue for him. He wrapped up his set with his first hit – “Riptide”.
Vance Joy only has a few North America shows remaining in September and the beginning of October (including Philadelphia), before he heads to London and back home to Australia to play a few dates in October and November. You can find more information about Vance Joy and future tour dates on his website at www.vancejoy.com.
Set List: Mess Is Mine, From Afar, Wasted Time, Red Eye, Lay It On Me, Call If You Need Me, Georgia, Best That I Can, Take Your Time, Fire and the Flood, You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon cover), Riptide
Have questions or comments about any of these artists? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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