by Matt Kelchner
It may not have been the most preferred weather for a concert hosted outdoors, but that did not stop eager fans from traveling down to South Philadelphia for this year’s 104.5 Winter Jam festival. Headlined by New Jersey’s own The Gaslight Anthem, the lineup also featured Walk The Moon, The Cold War Kids, and Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. Debuting this year at the festival was a second, locals only stage that hosted Cheerleader, CRUISR and We Speak In Sounds.
2015 marked a new home for the yearly winter festival. For the past several years, the Piazza in Northern Liberties hosted Winter Jam. This year the station decided to move things south to Comcast’s entertainment destination nestled in between the sports stadiums, Xfinity Live. The new venue gave fans not only a large enough outdoor area to comfortably host two stages, but it also added an indoor option with a handful of different bars and walls after walls of TVs.
As the temperatures hovered just above the freezing mark and the wind blew through the outside concourse, the frigid temperatures were felt all around. Each band had at least one member who was bundled up on stage. Singer Brian Fallon even went on to say “this is the coldest I’ve ever been on stage. Three songs in and I can no longer feel my fingers”. In the end, the chilly weather was only an afterthought as each band put on performances that made you forget about the chilly weather.
Kicking things off was Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, the latest project of prolific songwriter and artist Andrew McMahon. The former leader of seminal bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon and his band performed hits from this latest self titled album, as well as hits like “Dark Blue” and “Leaving Through The Window” from his previous outfits.
Following Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness on the main stage was Walk The Moon, who by far had the most energetic and lively crowd of the day. Shortly after they took to the stage, a rainy/snowy hybrid started falling from the sky but proved to be no match for the buzzing crowd. As the groups of face painted followers pushed to the front of the stage, others decided to simply crowdsurf their way up. As Walk The Moon’s performance went on, it was a neverending wave of person after person rolling their way on the tops of their cohorts hands/heads/etc.
In between the change over, locals We Speak In Sounds, Cheerleader and CRUISR performed short but sweet sets on the new locals only stage. While this was the first year that Winter Jam showcased bands that call Philadelphia home, it was the first time an entire stage was devoted to homegrown talent. Doing so allowed for performances to happen seemingly one right after another. And while the stages were at opposite ends of the outdoor area, the local acts pulled their own and drew large gathering of fans.
LA’s The Cold War Kids were the second to last band to play Saturday afternoon with a set filled with hit after hit. They reached far into their lengthy catalog to give new fans both old and new a few special treats like “ Something Is Not Right With Me”, “Hospital Beds” and “Hang Me Out To Dry”. It was the perfect intro to those more new to the group and a beautiful recap of sorts for the seasoned veterans. And while their music might not appear to be the most conducive to rapid fans crawling on top of one another, those who were out at Xfinity Live Saturday afternoon proved otherwise.
And then there was one. Just as the sun began to set, our neighbors to the east, the Gaslight Anthem took the stage for the final band of the day. There isn’t too much that can be said about the band that hasn’t already been mentioned time after time. Their perfected blend of folky, rootsy blue collar Americana meets fast-paced, edgy punk was in full force Saturday. That certain type of moxie that every member gives off that makes you feel like they could be your next buddy at the bar was too. These were just a few of parts that made for a fantastic way to wrap up a day full of great music.
Despite a shorter than normal set length, the Gaslight Anthem managed to squeeze in their own career spanning collection of songs. They reached as far back as their debut album, Sink or Swim all the way up to last year’s Get Hurt, and everything in between. Songs like “1,000 Years” and “The ‘59 Sound” echoed as the crowd sung along to every word. The day ended with a one-two punch of “Wooderson” and “The Backseat”. In a year where Radio 104.5 pushed things to an all new level; a venue change and special stage for up and coming locals, it was an only fitting to have a band from one state over close things out. The bar was raised yet again for the Philly rock radio station, one can only imagine right now how they might outdo themselves next year.