by Matt Kelchner
It’s been a crazy and exciting year for Strand of Oaks. With the release of the latest album Heal, Timothy Showalter became the next Philadelphia musician to breakout onto the national scene. After spending the last several weeks out on the road, Strand of Oaks returned to the city of brotherly love for a homecoming show. Last time around, Showalter and company sold out back to back nights at Boot and Saddle. When they returned on Wednesday, they made the step up to Union Transfer for a packed show.
As Strand of Oaks took to the stage Wednesday night with the sounds of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” playing over the house system, singer/songwriter and bandleader Timothy Showalter walked out with a beer in hand and a smile that stretched from ear to ear. The sheer amount of happiness and joy of walking out to a room full of fans bubbled over Showalter. After the cheers died down, he explained that the last series of tour dates were all simply just practice for Wednesday night.
Early on in the night, Showalter expressed his gratitude for the city he now calls home. “We make the best everything. We make the best music,” he shouted, a statement that he would prove true song after song. Starting off strong with “Same Emotions” and “HEAL”, it was clear that Strand of Oaks live is a much different beast compared to the one on record. The riffs were bigger, the solos were louder and the songs more heartfelt.
Showalter was not the least bit shy to explain the stories behind some of his songs. While explaining “JM”, his tribute to Jason Molina, Showalter introduced “Slo-Mo” Mike Brenner as he came out to play pedal steel for the track.
Other highlights from the night included “Goshen ‘97”, one of the many standout hits off Heal, as well as a solo rendition of Ryan Adam’s “My Wrecking Ball”. The crowd was showered with love throughout the night, as was local radio station WXPN. At one point Showalter briefly explained the feeling of hearing his music for the first time on the radio, citing WXPN as the first station to play his tracks. Another radio station, WHYY, was also present Wednesday night as they were tapping and recording the concert as part of their “On Tour” series.
Strand of Oaks wrapped up the night with “Wait For Love”. It only took a few minutes after walking off stage for the band to make their way back out. After passing around a bottle of Jim Beam they ripped into an incredible cover of The Replacement’s “Alex Chilton”, a first for the band. At this point Showalter had seemingly ran out of things to say and compliments to give. He was left with only the same huge smile that he started the night off with.
The crowd was treated with one more blast of face-melting riffs as Strand of Oaks ended the night with “For Me”. After the final notes rang out and Showalter finished whipping his guitar around, he jumped into the crowd to give what looked like every single fan a hug. For a guy who made it so crystal clear his love for his fans and the community in Philadelphia, it was the perfect ending for a perfect return home.