by Matt Kelchner
On a chilly, wintry night in Fishtown, fans cozied up in Johnny Brenda’s to hear some of the best side projects from their favorite bands. Bradford Bucknum of Oldermost treated us with tunes from one of the up and coming local bands, and Avers and Geology treated us to new projects from members of The Head and The Heart and mewithoutYou.
The night kicked off just after 9 PM as Bradford Bucknum came on stage to open the show. Bucknum performed a special solo set for his band Oldermost. Bucknum, lead singer/guitarist, played a number of songs from Oldermost’s upcoming debut full length album. From one song to another, Bucknum showcases a wide range of tunes. Mixing pop elements with nodes of soulful Americana and alternative rock laying the foundation for Bucknum’s booming voice.
As his set went on, one by one Bucknum invited additional members of Oldermost on stage to play additional songs. What started as just a guy and a guitar shifted to a 3 piece band with drums and a keyboard. The final songs of Oldermost’s night were filled with lush melodies and steadied with solid beats. As they finished their last song and began to walk off stage, the members of Oldermost ended their night with cheers heard from all across the room.
Following Oldermost’s finish, the members of Avers began to take the stage. And as they did so, they quickly filled it up. Leaving little room with their massive four guitarist lineup, the Richmond, VA band gave off an impressive first look. And for many of the fans who were seeing them for the first time (unless they caught the band a week earlier in South Philadelphia at the Boot and Saddle) their sound matched their look.
From the first notes in the first song, Avers displayed the type of energy and stage presence one would expect from much larger venues. There were many times that it seemed like it might not all fit on the stage. Each one of the four guitarists, as well as the bassist, shared vocal duties. For many of the songs, lead vocals were traded from one member to the next. With the change of singers also came a change in the song dynamic and sound. The range went from anthemic, hard-hitting stadium rock hits to more downtempo psych songs. Despite the style, there were pop hooks intertwined within each tune.
For as good as Avers sounded, the crowded gave off an equal amount of energy and reception. The band was in a unique position of having members from a number of different bands. With members from notable acts like The Head and The Heart, Lost in the Trees, The Mason Brothers, Hypercolor and Farm Vegas, it was clear each one was experienced. After saying their thank yous and goodbyes, Avers exited the stage, but not before making a room full of new fans.
To round out the night, local band Geology took to the stage. By name most will not recognize them. But as you look who is behind the name, many more would. Geology is the side project of mewithoutYou’s Greg Jehanian. He was able to take time off from prepping for their big coheadlining tour with Touche Amore to play Saturday night.
Jehanian records almost every part for every song. There are some female vocals on certain songs where he looks to others for help with. On Saturday night, he brought a full band with him to help flesh out the songs.
Coming off of Avers high energy performance, Geology turned things down a bit. More attention was put towards the intricate instrumentation and emotional vocals. Songs skewed from upbeating, drivings tunes to more drawn out, delicate ones. With playing songs like “The River” and “We Are Trees”, Geology drifted somewhere in between the sounds of Ted Leo and Death Cab for Cutie, with their own unique sense of folk thrown in. Despite the room not being nearly as full as for Avers, every member in the room was focused in on Jehanian and company. At times, one could almost hear a pin drop. And then there were other times where the entire crowd was singing along. Geology’s set was the perfect ending for a fantastic show; just somber enough to let the fans drift away into the cold night just still moving enough to keep everyone who was there warm inside.