Guitar wizard Nels Cline mezmerizies a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s crowd

Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich |
Nels Cline | Photo by Chris Sikich |

Buck, Brownstein, Hitchcock, Stern, Timony, and Cline. On Friday I added the final of this list of great guitarists to my list of whom I have seen on the small stage of my favorite Philly venue, Johnny Brenda’s. (And in case first names are necessary, they are Peter, Carrie, Robyn, Marnie, Mary, and Nels.) With his oddly named crew in tow — Nels Cline Singers — 120 minutes or so of experimental jazz and rock crackled and popped among the packed audience.

Hanging on Cline’s every guitar flourish, the crowd was certainly mesmerized. From six strings to twelve, Cline employed his guitars with unexpected twists and turns. With pedals, knobs, metal apparatuses galore and even some plastic box he blew through into the guitar, Cline kept one’s ears and eyes startled with his techniques. The rest of the Singers belted out notes from their varying instruments to further build on the texture. Trevor Dunn played both the upright bass and bass guitar with expertise, while two percussionists had a blast — drummer Scott Amendola and toybox and triangle soundsmith Cyro Baptista.

Vocals did appear in minor spurts, even from Cline himself, but they played a backing role to the cacophony of aural information. By the end of the encore, the Philadelphia audience’s applause also became a common piece of sound that Cline will never be a stranger to.

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