Filed under: Scene Around Town | Tags: Aaron Gittleman, Benefit, Black Eyed Peas, Cold War Kids, concert, concert coverage, Damien Rice, Dr. Dog, Drink Up Buttercup, Erica Scarano, funk n waffles, Haiti, Iron and Wine, Jason Mraz, Jim harvey, John Legend and The Moldy Peaches, Keith Smith, Liz Lewis, Nate Stein, New Relic, OK GO, Play it by ear, Rilo Kiley, Ryan Whitman, Sarah Detweiler, Scene Around Town, Stephen Babcock, Tegan and Sara, The Fly, The Kinks
You walk into Funk N’ Waffles and the coffee shop is cramped past the legal limit. With hardly any standing room, much less an open seat, the bands that played at Funk last night did so to a packed show. Whether they were standing in the back or sitting close up front, concert-goers listened intently to the performers voices, guitar noodling, keyboard manipulation and other forms of music-making, whether it involved cellos or garbage cans. The eclectic acts and cozy atmosphere made the Haiti charity event a great success Friday night.
Erica Scarano, Sarah Detweiler, Aaron Gittleman, Liz Lewis, Keith Smith (with Stephen Babcock), One of Three, New Relic, Ryan Whitman and Drink Up Buttercup filled the elevated stage between the hours of 7 and 11:30 p.m. Each artist performed just a few songs, ranging in genres and message. Appropriate to the benefit show’s nature, the only consistent theme of the night was the universal camaraderie shared by the performers and the audience.
The night’s genres stretched from R&B and Billy Joel dad-rock to heavy metal, only to closed with a heavy dose of freak-folksy indie rock. Keith Smith (of the The Fly) made good on his promise to “slow it down… [and]… keep it real” with energetic R&B vocals and songs about relationships and social networking, ending with an acoustic version of a Fly song, accompanied by Stephen Babcock on guitar. He name-checked Liz Lewis, who performed afterward. She waved to her friends in the crowd while performing her slower song “Thank You” and made a point of thanking her manager and backing guitarist Lucas Sacks (of The Northbound Traveling Minstrel Jug Band) for helping her perform.
Newly-formed band One of Three, with frontman Nate Stein, featured longer, cohesion-based song structures and even a hard-rock cover of Black Eyed Peas‘ “I Gotta Feeling.” New Relic of Syracuse, NY, played mostly cover songs, closing with a metallic rendition of The Kinks‘ classic “You Really Got Me.” Ryan Whitman who was “just starting to get [his] music out there,” according to him, played two earnest piano ballads driven by his clear voice and tender songwriting. Also the vice president of Play It by Ear, it was only his second time performing live.
Notable up-and-comers Drink Up Buttercup headlined, putting on the loudest and most impressive show of the night. Their set — replete with mannequin heads, wigs, multiple keyboards, meandering vocals and a unique bright yellow color scheme — was impassioned and frighteningly coordinated, despite the band’s motley appearance on-stage. Their recorded material does little justice to their live show. Though they had been previously booked as a paid act, the Philadelphia-based band agreed to performing for free at the last-minute.
“We definitely toned it down a bit for this. We’re not really used to playing in coffee shops,” lead singer Jim Harvey said in a quick interview. “We’ve done benefit shows before, and last year we actually helped out our friends stay in business. They run this venue where we got our start,” he commented. The venue in question, North Philadelphia’s The Fire is still in business today and has hosted acts such as Damien Rice, OK Go, Cold War Kids, Jason Mraz, Iron and Wine, Rilo Kiley, Dr. Dog, Jay Bennet of Wilco, Tegan and Sara, John Legend and The Moldy Peaches.
This was Play It by Ear’s third benefit event of its kind, after having been established in October 2009, said Play It by Ear President Caitlin Moriarty, who also sang and played a keyboard earlier that night.
“You just can’t beat a live concert,” Moriarty said. “I almost call it selfish music [laughs], because it’s music that I enjoy, that I want to listen to, but it’s also all going to a great cause.” All of the proceeds of the night’s show will go to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Lewis, also a seasoned benefit performer in her own right, having attempted to organize a benefit concert while in Africa and having helped raise money for local record label O, Morning Records before, stated, “I love it when music goes to a good cause, and you feel good about it when you finish your set.” She did and the crowd did too.
— Story by Eric Vilas-Boas
— Photos by Nick Pray