by Adam McGrath
National pride is not something usually associated with rock shows, but the first adjective that came to mind while watching Daughn Gibson play at Johnny Brenda’s Friday night was “American.” This wasn’t just because the music Josh Martin writes is hoisted from the well of a gothic country tradition. The performance rang American because of the inventive mixing of genres that is simultaneously progressive and historical.
Gibson (Martin’s alter ego), with a booming voice and a towering figure, could come off campy at first glance. But throughout the tight 45-minute set, the singer deftly avoided hamming it up. For a dude wearing a sleeveless Garth Brooks t-shirt, he came off as honest, invested and genuinely happy to be there. The Carlisle, PA native gave love to Philly (and his lady friend), and the crowd gave it right back.
It was clear that touring this summer had tightened the performance of the band, which featured a really talented guitarist and a dynamic drummer. The trio ripped open the set with “The Sound of Law,” one of the best tracks off Me Moan, Gibson’s second album. Other highlights such as “Mad Ocean” and “Kissin on the Blacktop” quickly followed.
An exciting part of Gibson’s music is the electronic production. When he wasn’t cupping the mic stand like a boss, Gibson clicked on backing tracks with his laptop and tweaked the knobs on an Akai MIDI keyboard controller. The combination of electronic music with country rock guitar and punk attitude results in a melting pot of new and exciting sounds. Gibson channels American greats like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash while embracing the technology of his contemporaries. That kind of flexibility is something you need to experience firsthand.
I didn’t get to JB’s in time to catch the opener Man On, but I did see a soulful set from Hiss Golden Messenger, who absolutely fit into the Americana theme of the evening on a more traditional level. It takes a lot to impress me with just an acoustic guitar, but the songs were simply beautiful. MC Taylor has a clear, strong voice that danced over the sparse but uptempo riffs. Pick up a copy of Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest album, Haw.