I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the show on Tuesday night. My whole house was shaking from the thunder, and the lighting left little to the imagination as to the state of affairs beyond the confines of my four walls. But luckily, the violent stormfront passed quickly, and I was able to leave for the show right on time. Little did I know that Oldermost and Sam Amidon would bring their own, different kind of storm to World Cafe Live, that night.
Hitting the stage punctually at 8:00pm, Philly friends Oldermost got things started with their signature brand of uptempo folk-ish rock. In the stylistic tradition of Wilco and My Morning Jacket, they lean more towards the rock side of that dichotomy. Before the show, I spoke with members of the five-piece, and they were excited for the evening’s show. “It’s harder for us to fit into a big basement show bill,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Bradford Bucknum, “so when we can get shows like this one, it’s fewer and farther between but a real treat.”
And it was certainly a treat for the audience at the World Cafe on Tuesday evening. The band shows a finesse and ability beyond their years — the result of near tireless dedication to their craft. Drummer Stephen Robbins related stories of the highs and lows from putting together their full-length record, 2014’s I Live Here Now — and it’s clear that the band’s current state of polish isn’t for nothing. They’ve cut the fat and worked out the kinks well enough that the World Cafe Live stage seems like a natural habitat for them. Working through complex, layered instrumentation, Bucknum’s voice weaves in and out, often taking the road less travelled to arrive at the well-wrought height of a song.
After Oldermost had finished their tight set, Sam Amidon stepped up. Taking up a banjo, and accompanied by a mysterious, lanky multi-instrumentalist known only as “Shazad,” he set about charming the audience with his traditional folk stylings. Pulling songs from across the span of his triune discography, he constructed an hour-long performance that was so much greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Even though songs were mostly only a banjo or guitar coupled with Shazad’s bass, keys or drums, Amidon’s trilling voice accentuated the accompaniment, and lifted the arrangements to a kind of quiet thunder.
The small audience seated around the stage were nothing but enrapt by Sam’s performance — between some songs he would tell stories, joking about how he had no idea who Shazad was, or about an experience with a sensory deprivation tank once upon a time. Whether the stories were spoken word or sung, the power they had to evoke laughs or smiles or other assorted sentiments was clearly on display. Sam Amidon captures and channels something powerful, in a way that many in today’s nu-folk scene never will. It’s a blending of past and present, with an ear to the ground and and an eye on the future.
Though it seems that the lightly attended show might have suffered because of the literal storm, I’m truly glad that I was still able to bear witness to the mighty power of musicians like Oldermost and Sam Amidon.