“The first time we ever played Philly the sound man was watching a hockey game, so… This is better,” proclaimed Katy Klaw, 1/3rd of Peggy Sue, as the Brighton-based indie folksters graced Union Transfer with their presence this past Saturday. The performance she was referring to occurred about two years ago at Johnny Brenda’s to an audience of, if I remember correctly, six (and I’m not sure that anyone paid to get in). And I can attest that yes, indeed, the sound man was watching a hockey game on his laptop for the entirety of the (then) duo’s performance. And she was right, this past Saturday was quite a bit better. The band played to a nearly full crowd in the 1,300-capacity venue and seemed quite happy to do so. The band are currently touring behind their latest LP and their first electric record, Acrobats, released last September. Of the band’s new tracks, “Funeral Beat” proved to be the highpoint, ringing of electric echoes and Sleater-Kinney at their most devastatingly morose. However, for me, the songs from their 2010 debut, Fossils and Other Phantoms, tended to be the most satisfying, such as “Yo Mama” and “Watchman,” both of which are reminiscent of an acoustic Kate Nash at her most pissed off (Not surprisingly, Peggy Sue are buddies of hers.) But the highlight of their set was a staggering cover of “Blue Velvet”… as they inhabited David Lynch’s very hood (…Well, former hood… but it was always be “his” for us.)
However, Peggy Sue were not the stars of the evening. The stars were the ridiculously young (both ‘90s-born) Swedish, folk duo, First Aid Kit. First Aid Kit consists of sister Johanna (b. 1990) and Klara (b. 1993) Soderberg. Although the girls are young, they are brilliant beyond their years… and likely their parents’ years… and probably even their grandparents’ years. The Soderberg sisters are currently promoting The Lion’s Roar, their second LP (Yes, they’re already on that.), which dropped this January and is proving to be one of the year’s best releases. I’ve recently been touting their latest single, “Emmylou” (An ode to its namesake… along with “June,” “Gram,” and “Johnny.”), as “Currently my favorite song in the world.”
For their latest Philadelphia appearance, the girls were looking both dark and flowery… a characterization which would seem appropriate for their sound as well. While songs like “To a Poet” and “Dance to Another Tune” still embrace the group’s folk roots, tracks like “This Old Routine” and “New Year’s Eve” seem much more along the lines of traditional country and the gloomiest side of Americana. While these were the numbers that tended to provide the peaks of the 90-minute set (along with a cover of “Dancing Barefoot” that would make Bono dig his own grave), the evening’s most powerful moment came during an unplugged and mic-less rendition of “Ghost Town” that had the duo performing on the brim of the venue’s stage to the thousand in attendance… and you could’ve heard a pin drop. I’m very hesitant to credit people the age of my students as having swagger… and it’s even harder to do when their weapon of choice is an acoustic guitar… but these girls have swagger.