All of this week’s highlights in Philthy live music have not come from the marquee stars, but the Robins to their Batman, those in the passenger seat, the (aptly and honorably titled) “support.”
This Tuesday, Upstairs at World Café Live hosted the (shockingly, sold out) “Austin to Boston Tour.” The tour came courtesy of artist-led organization Communion (“The U.K.’s most credible source for breaking artists.”) and had several up-and-coming acts trekking across America over the course of twelve dates, beginning with SXSW. The evening was headlined by 23-year-old English folkster Ben Howard. While gently pensive numbers like “Old Pine,” “Black Flies,” and “Only Love” did not go unappreciated (in fact, they induced the loudest and most joyous sing-along I’ve ever encountered at the venue), it was the tour’s only American, Nathaniel Rateliff, who managed to pack the venue most tightly, with his ultra lo-fi, woodsy Americana. However, it was Watford, England’s The Staves that I considered to be the evening’s highlight. The Staves are a folk trio of sisters (Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor) whose organic whimsicality produces a brand of loveliness far beyond anything pop music could muster up. The trio are currently touring behind their Mexico EP, whose title track is likely the most honest and sincere ode to sexuality you’ll hear all year. Other highlights of their set included the ten-ton-truck-of-a-ballad “Icarus,” which projects the sentiment of the ancient Greek tale onto modern romance (which is, indeed, worthy of that projection) and the equally heavy “Winter Trees,” another tale of modern romance which has the girls painting themselves as both victims and anti-heroes in a manner just about as eloquent as I can imagine.
And this Thursday, once again, had me at a sold out performance in which it was the support who stole the evening (Although I’m not entirely sure the rest of the audience would agree with me on this one.) Madi Diaz, whom I interviewed for Philthy this January and who has made a number of recent stops in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, played to her largest Philadelphia audience yet (aside from shows with Paul Green’s School of Rock as a teen), opening for Rachael Yamagata at the North Star Bar. Her sound is certainly indebted to plenty of country and folk, but it also displays the quirk of ‘90s indie pop. When the singer/songstress took the stage at 9 O’clock in her signature leather hoodie, the room was already packed. Although she did debut some new music and present to the audience a shockingly heartfelt take on Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” it was the songs off of Plastic Moon (Which Madi released earlier this year on tinyOGRE and which I have been heralding as possibly the year’s best release thus far) that proved to be the set’s most delightful moments, including “Gimme A Kiss,” her kookiest number that celebrates the brilliant delights to be found in the earliest stages of full-blown love and “Johnny,” which sounds like the treatment to a James Dean film in the form of a 50s pop ballad.
As for the rest of the week? Well, I am quite excited to see the Soderberg sisters at First Aid Kit’s performance tonight at Union Transfer… But Peggy Sue, who are in the opening slot, have enchanted Philthy a time or two with their brand of anti-folk…