by Michele Zipkin
Portland-based indie Rock and Roll quartet Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside brought unadulterated passion and electricity to Philly’s Underground Arts Saturday March 23rd. They’re currently on tour with with the lovely and mesmerizing Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.
The space was decorated with eccentric lamp-lighting over the bar, a couple couches in the corner and dingy cement floors that gave it a vibe a bit like the Bronze from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but a touch more rustic. Sallie Ford delivered high energy right off the bat with an instrumental rock and roll tune that gained the attention of the sizable crowd. A bumping bass line and percussion supported her simple but dynamic melodic work on the electric guitar.
Having reeled in the room with some head-nod action, the group immediately slowed it down a bit with the song “Shivers”, which showcased Ford’s quite commanding voice, a voice of power and defiance. This seems to be the theme of her latest record, Untamed Beast, which came out in February. It’s a record that challenges the concepts of genre and gender norms, instilling the idea that a gal can have just as strong of a voice in the world of rock and roll as a guy can. And does Ford have a powerful voice! It’s a voice akin to other vigorous female voices in the world of indie rock- Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes or Carey Ann Hearst of Shovels and Rope, to name a couple.
They continued with more dance-invoking jams from the new record, including “Devil” and “Bad Boys”. I felt like I was at a bar in yesteryear with the electric and very vintage-sounding riffs, lines and licks that came from the root of rock and roll. The audience, dancing a bit, seemed to have felt the same way.
The band did not hold back in unleashing their instrumental fury, and neither did Ford. She was wearing a fairly modest green dress and dorkily hip eyeglasses, fairly endearing juxtaposition with her deliciously raunchy guitar-playing. Tyler Tornfelt busted out a double bass for “Lip Boy”, in which things really got heated- the lights were going wild, and Ford was spitting out some high-end “wooing” to precede a very fervent and agitated vocal performance about guys unjustifiably talking back to women. Arm-swaying and dancing accompanied.
Throughout the tightly-delivered set, some songs really resonated and some seemed just to pass by. Memorable crowd-pleasers included “They Told Me”, “Addicted” and “Devil” with its incendiary guitar work. Nonetheless, Ford’s rebellious and entrancing voice is certainly something to behold. She commands attention with her guitar chops, dancing, and creatively bizarre use of vocals (as in the upper-register “oos” and “ohs”.) She says just as much, if not more, through her impassioned style of singing as the lyrics she sings. Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside are definitely a group to stay tuned to in the months to come.