By Alicia Lanides / Photos by Lead Photographer Liv Foltiny
A few nights ago, The Foundry effectively functioned as a 50-year time capsule. One containing vintage three-piece suits, patent leather shoes, shag haircuts, glamorous shades, and of course, good old-fashioned rock and roll. Amidst a diverse crowd, with ages ranging from teenage to Gen X, both opening act Billy Tibbals and headliner Mac Saturn effectively catered to the flower-crowned hippie masses, blending the timeless energy of classic rock with a youthful charm, giving them unmistakable star power on the Philadelphia stage.
As I roamed around the venue before the show began, I took note of the merchandise that adorned the exposed brick walls. The designs were reminiscent of classic Stooges or Ramones album covers. As I was leaving the venue, the merch line was out the door, proving the overwhelming popularity of these nostalgic designs that further bring audiences back to a simpler time. Before I knew it, the show was about to begin, as a gaggle of audience members crowded the barricade upon which they hung their winter coats.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and London expatriate Billy Tibbals opened the show, alongside his LA-based band, which comprised drummer Reza Matin, bassist Darby O’Mahony, and lead guitarist Tristan Dean. Dressing sharp and playing tight, songs like “Hollywood Baby” and “I Just Want To Have Some Fun” showcased their extensive knowledge of glam rock icons like Sweet or T Rex, the latter of which bears a striking resemblance to Tibbals himself.
Certain melodic and catchy riffs reminded me of the underrated 70s pop-rock group the Raspberries or perhaps a lost track by the Rolling Stones; other tunes recalled the Darkness’ debut album Permission to Land. There’s no doubt in my mind that Billy Tibbals and his band set the precedent for a night of nostalgia and feel-good rock and roll.
Detroit natives Mac Saturn kept the ball rolling and the audience howling. All adorned in dark shades and dressed in a variety of vintage attire ranging from snappy suits to captain’s hats to blouses that seemed like they were straight out of Robert Plant’s closet, I knew from the moment they walked on stage the exact aesthetic they were gunning for. Lead singer Carson Macc, rocking a feathered shag and a super wide tie, made a fabulously late entrance, much to the delight of his superfans in the front row. His mic stand ornamented by a cluster of plush dice at its base, Macc’s exhilarating stage presence was undeniable. It had me recalling the sheer electricity of iconic frontmen such as Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison.
The band opened with “Diamonds”, a groovy rock cut off of their self-released EP titled Until the Money Runs Out. After hyping up the crowd with tunes such as “Paradiso”, “Persian Rugs”, and “Boxcutter”, the band played more sensual grooves such as “Get on the Phone”, in which Macc intimately begs the audience to give him a call, atop seductive riffs played by guitarists Mike Moody and Nick Barone, whose harmonies echo Joe Walsh and Don Felder of Eagles fame. I was pleasantly surprised by how much groove and ambiance came from keyboardist Evan Mercer, especially on songs like “Ain’t Like You” and the unreleased jam “Sleep”.
The band is well aware of how to get a crowd amped up, vying for audience participation as Macc props the mic towards the crowd. Despite these being newly released songs, most fans sang every word with a distinctive passion that made me reconsider the true camaraderie of a concert, something we weren’t able to experience for a few years. Now fans are back, and with a natural vigor about them. One of my favorite songs, “Law Machine” critiques the American dream, as Macc croons about the “pledge of allegiance” all while “kneeling on the great divide”. The song is buoyed by pounding drums and a driving baseline, courtesy of drummer Angelo Coppola and bassist Jive Moses, respectively.
Their anthemic hit song “Mr. Cadillac”, with over 2 million streams on Spotify alone, sounded like a classic rock deep cut you’d find crate digging in your cool uncle’s record collection. The violin synths add an essential dance element to the track, perfectly topping off the sing-along nature of the chorus. The show ended with the crowd-pleasing song “Plain Clothes Gentlemen”, with Macc writhing around on the floor to the audience’s enchantment.
As he runs off stage for a brief moment, the remaining band members demonstrate their impressive improvisational skills. When Macc returns, he is equipped with a camcorder, filming the audience, and essentially making them the stars of the night. As the show came to a close, the air was indisputably electric, and I heard hordes of fans praising the band for an unforgettable night. Most Mac Saturn songs are quite simple in their chord progression, which is beneficial in a multitude of ways, as it gives each member a chance to shine as they solo and satisfies both the casual listener and the hardcore Mac Saturn devotee. And believe me, some fans are extraordinarily enthusiastic. I heard someone in the audience tell a member that they drove an astonishing four hours just for this concert, and subsequently freaked out when receiving band members’ bracelets or guitar picks.
When Carson Macc teasingly pretended to throw his jacket into the audience, you should have seen the sheer chaos in the crowd. For a band arguably on the come up, Mac Saturn has cemented a spot for themselves in the classic rock revival genre.
Their vintage sound is only bolstered by their modern flare, musical talent, and immaculate stage presence. Regardless of your age, if you’re looking for a night of pure entertainment and 70’s nostalgia, you can find it at a Mac Saturn/Billy Tibbals show. The two bands are currently on the Until the Money Runs Out Tour, traveling across North America before returning to Mac Saturn’s home state of Michigan on March 31.