by Melissa Duong
For anyone looking to shake things up on this mundane Wednesday night, they should go visit Voltage Lounge, where That Mag and Radio 104.5 have combined their whirlwind forces to bring you the best of live music. And who will be there? None other than The Wayside Shakeup, a band that started out with only two members: Chris D’Antonio and Rob Volansky.
Since their modest beginnings, the band has grown to also include Eric Raible, John McLeod, and Mike Leger. D’Antonio not only plays lead guitar and sings vocals, but also writes music, lyrics, play rhythm guitar, and knows his way around a mandolin and bass. Talk about a Renaissance man. Meanwhile, Volansky contributes to D’Antonio’s explosive talent with his own strong vocal and lyrical voice. And if that’s not enough, there’s Raible’s commendable musical training and jazz origins that add depth and soul to the band’s music. Wait for it…wait for it…Raible also contributes as a lead singer or can join as a third harmony with Volansky and D’Antonio for an overall sonic and warm atmosphere.
The band plays everything from rock, country, funk and pop and it’s all solid while Leger holds down the fortress on drums and McLeod sets up the foundation with his bass. However, this level of cohesiveness and subversive undertones derived from various genres took several years to develop. The band originally started out in 2003, when through their mutual high school network, D’Antonio, Raible, and Volansky started the band. However, this was short-lived as Volanksy moved to Japan in 2003 (where he busked) and did not come back until 2007. That left D’Antonio time alone to work on his song writing skills incorporating daily experiences with the people of South Philadelphia as inspiration. When the band was able to reunite in 2007, they picked up right where they left off. No time lost at all and set about shaking up Philadelphia once again. But first, they had to add some fresh blood. After a Craigslist posting and an audition, it was deemed that McLeod and Leger, out of all the other musicians, were best compatible skillwise and that the five of them could reach new heights.
However, it would seem that not all was going smoothly as life put a few obstacles in their way. They were not able to release their debut album until four years after the band was reunited, in 2011. Fear not, the wait was worth the while because, through a series of confidence crises and confrontations with reality, they were able to realize their true passion for music and began to believe in themselves- which is good for us since the Philadelphia music scene would truly be at a loss without them. During those four long years, they were able to explore and fine tune their sound and their direction via jamming and writing at home and through open mics in and around the city. This allowed them to diversify their music and to alter their arrangements of songs so that they fit multiple genres and could be played at various tempos. Inevitably, this opened many doors for the band.
And with that being said, we can deem The Wayside Shakeup not only a real product of the Philadelphia music scene but a real contributor as they have grown over the years and have continued to diversify their sound every single day. Although the current mainstream music industry is obsessed with categorizing bands, The Wayside Shakeup refuses to be confined to any such parameters and refuses to be packaged up and sold. In fact, the internet has opened doors for bands like this who defy categorization. “Instead of putting your iTunes on shuffle, put on Optimistic (The Wayside Shakeup’s most recent album released in 2013). The five players have developed a cohesive sound, but the influences of rock/pop canon are right there. You won’t be bored.”
After all, their influences span from Pearl Jam to Mozart to Phish, and on top of that Raible, D’Antonio and Volansky all contribute to lyrics, which means three different perspectives on all aspects of life including relationships to commentary to the realities of adulthood. Furthermore, they deliver Americana music with a little bit of edge, funk, old fashioned, rock and roll, and everything in between with full force. Nothing is done halfheartedly.
“As for the writing process, songs are born out of guitar riffs, a line of lyrics, a hook, or a melody hummed into an iPhone at 3 o’clock in the morning. Chris and Rob generally hash them out together, and then everybody contributes input in the rehearsal room,” explains Volansky. Seems like a real shakeup of everything!
A cursory comparison of their debut album, The Wayside Shakeup bears similar pop, funk, country, and rock influences as Optimistic (released earlier this year), with thorough lines of full time rhythm and a keyboardist. Yet, there are subtle differences. For example, there is a stronger cohesion between bandmates, a solidification of chemistry, knowledge, and passion. In the prior album, there was only D’Antonio and Volansky, who struggled to find their voice and showcase it. However, Optimistic sounds a lot more effortless as the band gained new members thus becoming a full time five piece line up that rehearsed hundreds of hours and had a cross section of shows under their belt. Many of their shows have been in and around infamous Philly venues such as the Trocadero and Legendary Dobbs. Talk about some city love!
But no more about the past. If you want to see them live now, head over to Voltage Lounge tonight, or see them at World Café Live on January 4, 2014. The band hints at some recording time in the next year, which suggests that perhaps they are making up for lost time in the studios. However, even if they don’t release another album, fans of The Wayside Shakeup will surely be pleased for new material to jam out to. If you want to know more about The Wayside Shakeup, visit their Facebook profile and Reverbnation profile!