by Holli Stephens
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect in attending a show at First Unitarian Church. Its outside appearance seemed pretty ordinary in a religious architecture sense—there was black fencing around the perimeter, the building was made of stone, and had many entrances with high pillars, but the distant sound of rock music could be heard coming from a stairway on the side of the church. All the excitement was for Thursday night’s basement line-up, consisting of Fly Golden Eagle, Pine Barons, Clear Plastic Masks, and The Districts who all shared the stage for an intimate evening of pure good music.
With a merch table set up on one end and a smalls stage on the other, a crowd trickled into the basement of First Unitarian to hear Nashville based alternative rock band Fly Golden Eagle. They quickly got the crowd grooving to songs off their 2011 album, Swagger including crowd favorite, “Devil’s Eye”. Even though the band has toured with everyone from Dr. Dog to Arctic Monkeys, their music is still pretty underground. Nonetheless they were eager to share their music as lead singer Ben Trimble asked, “have you ever had someone leave you for money?” before segueing into “Need Some Money”.
After a short intermission, Pine Barons hit the stage. Originally from South Jersey, the experimental folk band was excited to play in Philadelphia and with good reason. They have just recently released their self-titled debut album, Pine Baron, and have another show scheduled in Philadelphia as well as Brooklyn in the next couple of days. The 3-part harmonies between lead singer Keith Abrams, guitarist Brad Pulley and keyboardist, Collin Smith was something truly magical to hear. They played some older material, “Carnival”, “Don’t Believe What They Told You”, and “Since I’ve Been Away”, as well as a new song that they’ve been working on.
Next up was Clear Plastic Masks who were the rock n’ rollers of the night. Lead singer Andrew Katz told the crowd, “We’re gonna get a little weird for ya tonight,” as he tuned up his guitar for a bluesy solo. The group had originally formed in New York City before settling down in Nashville where they released an EP called CPM in 2013 and are also set to release a full length album, Being There on May 27th. Their sound is a mix of classic rock n’ roll, punk, and soul and Katz mostly sung love songs like “Baby Come On” and “Working Girl”.
The Districts rounded up the night in a set that got the entirety of First Unitarian’s floor jumping up and down. Originally from Lititz, PA, The Districts are barely out of high school, but that has no effect on the raw talent the band possesses. The full length album, Telephone, was released February 4th and the band has been touring in the UK and also with White Denim and Dr. Dog.
Lead singer Rob Grote has such genuine emotion toward any song he sings and his soulful lyrics make him such a marvel to see live. Guitarist Mark Larson, bassist Connor Jacobus and drummer Braden Lawrence all feed off this energy to create this rock music that has very indie roots.
“Rocking Chair” set the tone for the set followed by “Lyla” where Grote’s vocals were met by a slew of audience members belting out the simple lyrics “La-da-da.” Grote then said, “We haven’t played this one in a while,” and begun “Silver Couplets”. With each song came a new burst of energy from the band as Grote and Jacobus danced around the stage. Two of their bigger hits, “Long Distance” and “Funeral Beds”, were saved for last and crowd participation was at an all time high. Halfway through “Funeral Beds” the audience started doing a call and response with Grote as he smiled in satisfaction.
Not even the desert-like temperatures that the basement ended up being could overshadow the feeling of love in the venue last night.