by Andi Bricklin
From the moment you stepped into the World Café Live in Philadelphia on day one of Non Comm, you could feel the excitement brewing for the music that was about to follow. The cocktail party included two fun-filled sets by the beautiful and talented band Della Mae, as well as a solo performance from Sam Beam of Iron and Wine which was both soulful and moving.
Folk singer Gabriel Kelley kicked off the performances upstairs. To look at him, you’re not sure if he’s going to pick up a guitar and play some tunes, or pick up an ax and split some wood, he was certainly dressed and ready for some construction work after the set. However, Kelley used his Timberlands to keep beat with a tambourine and held other percussive “tools” in the folds of his rolled up jeans. His “one man band” accompaniment style was fun to watch and his songs were thought provoking. It was a great set.
The downstairs performances were epic! The line up started off with Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) and Edie Brickell and their band, The Steep Canyon Rangers. For those of you who don’t know, Martin is not just another pretty face. TV, movies and comedy aside, Martin is a magician, author, accomplished musician and songwriter. If my research is correct, he has four Grammy awards, and from the sound of this set, he’s a sure bet for a 5th. Sitting center stage with Edie Brickell standing to his left and surrounded by banjos and amazing musicians, Martin commanded the stage like the icon he is. He opened he show with a few jokes about how they are going to play all of their new songs, and that “If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking ‘Oh god please no! In fact I’ll make you a deal, you go out and make these songs popular, then I’ll come back and listen to them.’”
Edie Brickell was beautiful in both her appearance and the subtlety of her performance. Her voice really shines through in the style of bluegrass, and the partnership between her voice and Steve’s banjo is a match made in Heaven. But, you can’t even begin to talk about this performance without mentioning the Steep Canyon Rangers! Martin talked about meeting the band while on vacation in North Carolina and his wife wanted to go see this “local band.” He joked that he scoffed at the thought of a local band being any good. But, after he saw them, he’s been playing with them ever since. To say that the Steep Canyon Rangers are great musicians would be an understatement and if you can ever catch them in concert, with or without Steve and Edie, Go! Martin stood to perform the last song and the show ended with a bluegrass jam that left me with a new appreciation for bluegrass and the fiddle, which one doesn’t often think of as a “bad-ass” instrument, but Nicky Sanders from the Steep Canyon Rangers can school you on how it’s done!
Next up on the downstairs stage was Tom Tom Club. Remember them? I’m sure no one under 40 does. However most of us can remember Mariah Carey (pre-boob job) roller blading on the beach in her video for “Fantasy” to the sample from the “Genius of Love” from Tom Tom Club. The band took the stage and spread new wave pop all over the place. Tina Weymouth was adorable and looking fab in her orange sequined mini dress and orange fishnet stockings paired with her bright red bass guitar. Her husband and band mate Chris Frantz was behind the drum kit keeping a steady beat and making us laugh. The band played songs from their new record including “Downtown Rockers” which reminded me of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster” and they finished their set with their 80’s hit “Genius of Love.”
Then the crowd began to pack in as Phoenix took the stage. These French rockers have been making a huge impact in the States with recent appearances on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and their single “Lisztomania” has made a mark all over the airwaves. The first thing I notice, before note one, is that on either side of the drummer were two waste high walls of Fender amps. As soon as the band took the stage a sound hit every person in the venue like a punch in the chest, but in a good way. I swear the sound waves were moving my clothing, and here’s the thing, it was powerful but not earsplitting loud. There was no sacrifice between power and tone.
Playing to the intimate crowd as they would a crowd at the Wells Fargo center Phoenix rocked the World Café Live so hard that people listening from home were knocked out of their recliners!
It was a great night for music and a huge win for Triple A radio.