Last night, Philadelphia’s packed TLA became THE place to be. Period. Combine Cheers Elephant’s quirky upbeat pop sounds with the Kopecky Family Band’s beautiful orchestration and incredibly well-written songs, and you’ve got yourself a winning ticket. It would not be hyperbole to say that these two groups truly have it all: charm, stage presence and most importantly, killer music.
While they hail from Nashville, the Kopecky Family Band feels at home in Philly, frontman Gabe Simon making small talk with crowd members as he and the rest of the band prepared the stage. Opening their set with “The Glow” and moving into “Howlin’ at the Moon,” drummer David Krohn kept things driving and locked in, making for an energetic and strong start. They then played one of my personal favorites, “Birds,” which starts with a delightfully airy and ebullient melody on the glockenspiel and, as guitars, bass, vocals and drums are added, only gets edgier. Bassist Corey Oxendine along with the groups bespectacled frontman took up their trombones towards the end of “My Way,” the gradually intensifying tune that concludes with a passionate delivery of lyrics and the crowd’s shouting of “na-na-nas”.
Roughly a third of the way into their set, the group performed their most popular tune, “Heartbeat,” a song to which nearly every person in the room knew the lyrics, or at the very least was dancing. Midway through the performance, the volume and tempo were brought down with “Change,” whose heartwarming harmonies shared by Simon and front-woman Kelsey Kopecky and delicate guitar strumming made emotion accumulate in the audience as a whole. Not two songs later, however, did they elevate the energy once more with “Wandering Eyes,”,a song appropriately prefaced by Simon, “We’re going to take you down south”.
Though Cheers Elephant was billed as the opening band, it’s hard to say that they truly were one. This was their last show as Philadelphia residents, and they plan to move to California this winter. While I can’t say they stole the show, I can say they were deserving of being a headliner, and I’ve never witnessed a band having more fun onstage than Cheers Elephant. They opened their hour-long set with “Peoples,” during the chorus of which the already-packed audience sung along, “I wanna groove when I wanna wanna groove, yeah!” And groove they did. They then paid homage to their hometown with “6th and Girard.” (I’ll admit that I got emotional when frontman Derek Krzywicki sang the lyric, “Under a Philadelphia sun.”)
Despite some guitar trouble, the group pushed through “Doin’ It Right,” and if anything, the technical difficulties added to the grit of it all. I’m a sucker for “Party On Darwin,” and to my surprise, the audience in its entirety was on cue with the opening lyric, “Hey yo! Let me wash your windshield!”. Of course, “Leaves” was a highlight of the set, and proved that a group that writes some of the best indie-pop out there can perform just about as well as anyone. Between Kryzwicki bouncing around and doing the running-man and drummer Robert Kingsly, who had gotten engaged in the green room just before the show, putting on his best Dave Grohl, I don’t think there’s a group that performs with more cheerfully quirky flare than this one. Cheers Elephant, Philly is going to miss you.
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