by Christian Pezzino
While that great white sphere bathed the city of Philadelphia in celestial luminescence on Saturday night, the largest moon of the year felt rather trivial compared to Sucker Punch’s first show since 2002. Marc Brownstein reunited with long time friend Jamie Shields of The New Deal (keys), along with band mate Aron Magner (keys) and drummer Mike Greenfield, to Sucker Punch their way through The Blockley with a night of heavy-hitting electro-dance inspired improv.
A wave of The Disco Biscuits related side projects have washed up on Philly’s sidewalks in the past few weeks, all of them featuring at least one member of The Disco Biscuits. And it’s not surprising that most of these shows have either sold out or been very close—it appears that many people on the east coast, especially in the greater Philadelphia area, crave the highly improvisational trance-fusion style of music that The Disco Biscuits pioneered in the mid to late-90s. Their sparse touring, while a disappointment to some fans, has given band members the opportunity to pursue their own solo projects and revive bands like Sucker Punch that have only played a handful of shows in the past ten years.
The band compiled an interesting set-list featuring songs from The Disco Biscuits, The New Deal and Conspirator, along with a hefty amount of improv in between composed sections, which sounded similar to a DJ spinning at an EDM festival with the added depth which only live instruments can provide. Each set felt like getting on an hour long ride at Disney World, except this theme park wasn’t designed for kids. I certainly did not prepare myself for the onslaught futuristic techno keyboards and Magner’s crazy interposed synth splashes and nuclear fallout sirens, but their take on familiar songs such as the “Lunar Pursuit” dub jam and a raging “Gone, Gone, Gone” felt refreshing enough to captivate my attention, which mainly focused on Jamie Shield’s entrancing alien-like grooves. While Brownie’s bass lines often drive jams during the Biscuits, his playing felt rather complacent as he let Shields lead many of the jams, most of which centered around his leads. For this reason, Sucker Punch might be more aptly named “The Jamie Shields Show.”
All kidding aside, the heavy drum-and-bass styled Sub Focus cover, which Brownie described as “the quintessential Jamie Shields,” kicked off a high energy second set. Somewhere amongst the rolling bass lines and Greenfield’s dynamic, almost melodic drumming, Brownie teased the bass line to “Home Again” before dropping straight into a song which sounded like it was straight from The New Deal’s catalogue. Afterwards, picking apart songs felt like identifying an individual ant in an ant hill, and I became lost in amongst battling keys.
Although their playing may not have been the tightest, the danceability factor made up for any weak jams or overly ferocious synth slaying, and seeing some of the greatest musicians on the scene today do what they love made Saturday night a unique and memorable performance.