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The resilience of River City Extension: how the Jersey folk rock band didn’t let change keep them from ‘Deliverance’

River City Extension | Photo by Sean O’Kane Photography
River City Extension | Photo by Sean O’Kane Photography

Fans know River City Extension as a boisterously loud and energetic folk rock group that has toured with up to eight people at a time. Despite the pop sensibilities many folk bands have adopted, this New Jersey crew remained tough at the core, only softening its edge with flourishes of strings and harmonies. This balance helped the band gain equal appeal from the Bonnaroo audience as it did from the one you would find at Warped Tour.

Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Joe Michelini, River City Extension released its somewhat dark, somewhat quirky and introspective sophomore album, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger, in 2012 to measurable acclaim. It was the follow-up to the band 2010debut, The Unmistakable Man.

But a lot has changed since those days. Members have came and left, and now the band has slimmed down to just three core members who all reside in their hometown of Toms River. Losing so many musicians brought Michelini to a crossroads, where he and the remaining members made the hard decision to continue on, even though they had no idea where they were headed.

“We sat down and we were like, ‘Ok, nobody knows who our band is, really,’” Michelini says modestly during a recent phone interview. “So, we can make any kind of music we want now. We decided to just work with the people that were willing to be in the band and did want to make music for the rest of their lives – people who had already jumped off the cliff and weren’t looking back, like us.”

Michelini, guitarist John Muccino and keyboard player Patrick O’Brien will showcase the band’s new direction when River City Extension plays Boot & Saddle at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 28th with openers Wild Rompit and Cranston Dean. Attendees will hear songs from the first two RCE records, as well as their first ever cover song and new tracks off the forthcoming album Deliverance, which the band will sequester itself in a house in the Poconos for 18 days in late April to start recording.

After the crazy, scary journey he’s been on with River City Extension since forming the group in 2007, Michelini says he’s excited to bring the new line-up to Philly, the city he “grew up going to.”

“Philly is the only city that I want to go to around here,” he says. “I’ve always loved it there. We had our first ever album release show in Philly. We’re so excited to play, and we have so many friends there. If the band ever leaves Toms River, it will only ever go to Philadelphia. There’s only one road between Toms River and Philly, and that warms my heart a little bit.”

Guitarist Muccino even had the “wild idea” to make an animated video to promote the show. He wrote the script, did the voiceover, then passed that along to Philly-based animator Joe Shefski to bring the illustrations to life. The video is just one of the many examples of the DIY ethics the band employs, sticking to them despite how hard it is to keep a career in the music industry or the arts in general.

“Everyone just seems to be going on and on, especially since South by Southwest, about how it’s impossible and now it’s all run by brands, etcetera, etcetera,” Michelini says of the industry. “I guess I just have to not be too worried about it. The industry will change as it will, but I want to make music. I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Despite River City Extension’s history, Michelini said the songs he’s written with the new line-up over the past year and a half have been some of the most important to him. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Beta Hi Fi Finals at World Cafe Live, Salt N Pepa at Dell Music Center, Rosanne Cash at Sellersville Theater

A1RIdAICcAEi4n3.jpg_largeAll this week, the annual Beta Hi-Fi competition has showcased a variety of new, local bands at World Cafe Live.  The shows have been a great way to get to know emerging artists in the region and tonight marks the final set of performances for the week.  The groups were chosen by the audience’s votes, so all your favorites will be on stage tonight.  The show starts at 7 and best of all (besides the great new music) is that it’s free. Click here for more information about the show.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Brandywine Folk Fest, Busses at Johnny Brenda’s, K-OS at Union Transfer

good-old-warThis weekend marks the second year of the Brandywine Folk Festival.  From Friday through Sunday, you can enjoy the warm weather and music with the many many incredible bands, many of which hail from Philadelphia.  To name just a few (and I mean a few) out of this fantastic lineup, you can catch Good Old War, Mean Lady, The Districts, The Lawsuits and Cheers Elephant.  So if you’re looking for the best way to spend the final days of summer, the Brandywine Folk Fest is an incredible way to go.  What’s not to love about great music, food and frisbee golf?  Click here for ticket information. Below, watch the video for Good Old War’s “Calling Me Names.”

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Liz and the Lost Boys at The Fire, Black Prarie and Spirit Family Reunion at The Abbey Bar

liz_lost_boys

Although originally out of College Park, Maryland, Liz & the Lost Boys have made a new home for themselves in Philly, releasing their self-titled debut LP from their current residence last month.  Liz & the Lost Boys are best described as a folk band, but their music seems to take influence from several other genres.  Piano parts often seem tinged with jazzy open chords, while singer Liz Ciavolino bounces over melodies with quirky pop sensibilities and the occasional classical harp squeezes in as well.  Tonight, you can catch the group at The Fire along with The North Country.  Check out one of the group’s songs below click here for ticket information.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Rodrigo Y Gabriela at The Electric Factory, Illinois at Hard Rock Cafe, Joey Sweeney, Judson Claiborne, and Lewis & Clarke at Ortlieb’s, The Mighty Paradocs at Kung Fu Necktie

04.12-Rodrigo-y-Gabriela-@-Chicago-TheaterHailing from Mexico, Rodrigo Y Gabriela makes for an incredible acoustic duo, playing an acoustic fusion of flamenco, metal, folk, rock and so much more. Gaining popularity in Ireland, the duo has since received wide critical acclaim for their prodigious musical skills.  Last winter, they released their fourth studio album, Area 52, which included a Cuban orchestra.  Tonight, the group plays The Electric Factory.  Click here for ticket info and get a taste of the two musicians’ guitar skills below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Waxahatchee at Morgan’s Pier, Paul Weller at Union Transfer

Tonight we’ve got an incredible double header at Morgan’s Pier.  Indie punk stalwarts Ted Leo and the Pharmacists will play with newcomer Waxahatchee for the low price of free (though you must be over 21 for the event).  Ted Leo and the Pharmacists released their incredible sixth studio album The Brutalist Bricks back in 2010 and it’s just as catchy as ever, featuring a musical combination of punk, rock pop and dub.  Waxahatchee, the solo project of Kate Crutchfield joins the band to bring an acoustic punk element to the event.  Her second album, Cerulean Salt, was released in March to critical acclaim and continued in her off-kilter folk-rock stylings from the past.  It’s a combo you really don’t want to miss. Click here for more information and check out some songs from the bands below.

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Just Announced: Colin Meloy of The Decemberists to Play Solo at The Keswick Theater on 11/2

1331Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists just announced that he is embarking on a solo tour.  This is the first time he has toured alone in about five years.  The ten-date tour has Melow debuting new material, performing tracks from across his career, and showcasing a new EP of covers.  Among the stops is suburban Montgomery County, where he will play at The Keswick Theater in Glenside on Novermber 2nd.  Tickets for the show go on sale this Friday.  In the meantime, get pumped for his solo tour by watching Meloy play all three parts of The Crane Wife below.