by Adam McGrath
The April installment of Sofar Philly, the intimate house concert series that takes over living rooms each month, featured a slate of artists who were familiar with the unique engagement from previous performances. Kwesi K, Michael Coleman, New Sweden, and Mo Lowda & The Humble had all graced a Sofar bill in one form or another prior to Friday night’s show at the Fishtown home of Davis Jameson Howley, lead singer of Commonwealth Choir. The artists’ alumni status gave them a comfortable air as they entertained the house full of young music lovers.
Kwesi K started the night with his familiar laid-back vibe, testing out a couple songs off his new Lovely EP before giving them the full band treatment the following night at Boot and Saddle. “Great Goodbye” is an uptempo, upbeat folk song that showcases Kwesi’s honeyed voice and knack for catchy hooks. I was happy to hear “Fold,” my favorite track off last fall’s Pronouns album, and the set was smartly capped with a medley of new song “I Do” with classic “Whiskey Wit.”
Virginia native Michael Coleman took over, smoothly continuing the special vibe that can emerge from one man and one guitar. Coleman possesses a strong, clear voice that carried easily over the plucky upstrokes of his songs. After opening with “Stay” and “Beggar,” he introduced a new song with a story about totaling his car, cashing a check, and running off to Atlanta to party for half a year. This setup gave the soulful “Traveler” even more gravitas, captivating the room with its soft and serious tone.
After a short intermission, the five men from New Sweden crammed themselves into the front of the room. The Delaware group has that bluegrass family band vibe, accomplished with banjo, mandolin, and a resonator guitar. One of the band’s characteristics is that they swap instruments and vocal parts almost every song, which wasn’t the best strategy for a living room concert like Sofar. When William Dobies switched out with Jimmy Dukenfield, there were delays while new instruments were tuned, and the group’s set never achieved full forward momentum. Closer “Shine That Light” was a solid highlight, though.
The final act of the night was Mo Lowda & The Humble, comprised of Temple students Jordan Caiola, Shane Woods, and Nate Matulis. These guys were by far the artists of the night for me. Normally accustomed to full force electric sets, the alt-rock trio stripped down and tightened up for their Sofar performance, which featured songs off the 2013 album Curse The Weather.
Caiola led the way with his full, earthy voice, channeling Caleb Followill, but equally important was Woods’ soft falsetto backing him up. Woods also excelled with a muted snare drum, working in quick patterns that locked in with Matulis’ upper-register bass lines. I was reminded of the watertight backbone that roots so many songs by the Texas band Spoon. Make sure to put Mo Lowda & The Humble and the rest of these Sofar Philly alumni on your concert calendar.