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Secret Sofar Sounds Philadelphia show – 8th June 2014

By on Tuesday, 10th June 2014 at 2:00 pm

Third time’s a charm, eh? A June day anywhere in the mid-Atlantic of America is usually a hot one, and Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia was no exception. Cheryl and I traveled about 3 hours north from DC to catch last weekend’s Sofar Sounds installment there. As always, punters who had RSVPed had no idea who would be gracing the stage. Er, the front room of a West Philly row house owned by our kind hosts, Tom and Rob. Despite the slightly stifling conditions on a very sunny day in the City of Brotherly Love, all were in good spirits when it came time for the first act to take the stage.

Justin Pellechia is the frontman for local to Philly band Satellite Hearts. But for this show, all eyes were on him and his acoustic guitar, occasionally augmented by friends on electric guitar and bass. He will be releasing a new album in November, and we were treated to songs that will be appearing on that LP.

His songs have unusual song titles – see ‘Meet the Greens’ and ‘Juxtaposition’ – and equally unique lyrics of “candy apple light”, as found in track ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. I’ll admit that when he took to the floor Sunday afternoon, I kind of expected from his shaggy hair to be hearing a lite and acoustic version of the Beatles. But I think Pellechia managed to astonish everyone when he belted out notes in one song like no-one’s business.

From my research on the interwebs, the best I can tell is that The Gallerist is a Philadelphia-based trio led by Bostonian Mike Collins, who sings and plays guitar and banjo. But on Sunday, The Gallerist were just two: Collins and bassist Kai Carter. I suppose depending on your musical tastes, two beardy guys who are sat in front of you can either delight or frighten. Maybe it is different in the UK, where I’ve always felt folk has a better chance at mainstream than here in America, but generally when I’m at home, I equate beard with hipster. Thankfully, Collins and Carter’s well-written songs were anything but and their beautiful harmonies together made for a lovely and far too short acoustic set.

On songs such as ‘Helium’, Collins’ voice in particular has a distinctively wonderful timbre that made me wonder even with support from local radio station WXPN’s The Key, who described the band with the glowing words, “The Gallerist may just be one of the Philadelphia folk scene’s best kept secrets”, why they are still unsigned. Somehow, one imagines they’d be snapped up in a second by an indie like Bella Union if they were British.

The last act of the afternoon were Newcastle’s Little Comets, who were spending their second to last day before heading home to England here in Philadelphia. Despite being known as a plugged in indie rock / pop band, you could argue that the Geordies already had good practise under their belts for the Sofar Sounds setup. Less than 2 weeks prior, at a sold out Academy at home, they played an acoustic set that, judging from everyone I know who was there, was a show for the ages. I was intrigued how these songs I’d come to know and love over years of us supporting the band on TGTF and their many layers – broadcast outward by amplifiers, I might add – would work in the acoustic setting, and which songs from their two albums and multiple EPs they might give the acoustic treatment to.

I needn’t have worried. While the majority of the crowd appeared to be unfamiliar with the band, the music showed Little Comets’ talents well. Quite possibly if you’re listening on record and have the volume turned way up, you might miss out on some really important details about the group that become glaringly obvious when they’re playing acoustic. You really have not lived if you haven’t heard Rob Coles (lead vocals / guitar), his brother Mickey (guitar) and Matt Hall (bass) sing in perfect three-part harmony. For an idea of how this sounds, stream the acoustic version of ‘Salt’, one of their newest songs the band themselves have shared, below. God himself would cry. (The subject matter is pretty heavy and heart-wrenching too; you can read Rob’s words about the song and its sad inspiration on the band’s blog.)

The pièce de résistance, however, was this afternoon’s interpretation of ‘Little Italy’, which I previewed ahead of the release of ‘The Gentle EP’ in late February. There is so much going on in the EP version, surely it would be next impossible to keep the vibe of the original? All of us Little Comets fans have heard the recorded version. But upon listening to the acoustic version live, you realise you’re getting a special gift. It’s like really looking at something for the first time.


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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