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Review: Cheers Elephant’s “farewell for now” and Kopecky Family Band’s return to town is a winning ticket

Kopecky Family Band | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Kopecky Family Band | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

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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Watch Kopecky Family Band perform “Heartbeat” in a hotel pool for Out of Town Films (playing The TLA 11/23)

When the rain hammered down at this summer’s XPoNential Music Festival, Nashville’s Kopecky Family Band retreated to their hotel pool with the Out of Town Films crew. This summer we saw their reverberant performance of “Are You Listening.” Today, the Out of Town gang released a “b-side” performance of the band’s single “Heartbeat.” Watch it below. XPN Welcomes Kopecky Family Band to The TLA on Saturday with Cheers Elephant; tickets and info here.

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“We don’t want to be an L.A. band, or a California band. We want to be a national band.” Cheers Elephant talks beer, Philly and their move west.

Touring the hops cellar at Victory Brewing (photo by Kate Bracaglia)
Cheers Elephant (from L to R: Derek Krzywicki, Robert Kingsly, Travelin’ Mat, and Jordan del Rosario) touring the hops cellar at Victory Brewing (photo by Kate Bracaglia)

There comes a time in many bands’ lives when a change in scenery—whether temporary or permanent—becomes necessary in order to further one’s creative vision. The Beatles famously journeyed to India before composing The White Album, and Sun Ra moved his entire Arkestra from NYC to Philly before creating Space Is the Place.

And so it goes for Cheers Elephant, locally born-and-raised, who this winter will move to California—as a band—for new opportunities, new inspiration, and a new perspective on life.  We caught up with the dudes of CE at one of their favorite places: Victory Brewing in Downingtown. The band’s roots lie in the Chester County borough as well, and the brewing facility is situated in the same complex as their longtime practice space at Downingtown School of Rock. Many a night involved a hike across the parking lot to jam after sharing a round, or vice versa.

It’s been eight years since Cheers Elephant came together, and since then they’ve grown tremendously—from a bunch of kids drinking variety packs in bassist Matt Rothstein’s parents’ basement (the name Cheers Elephant originated in one such session, when singer/guitarist Derek Krzywicki said it jokingly with a French accent)—to a polished, high-energy rock quartet, with a solid following, impressive tour schedule, and regular air play on local radio. They’ve become a close-knit unit who can goof off while touring the Victory hops cellar (see above!) but still churn out tight pop songs like “Doin’ It, Right.”

“We’re all basically like a family,” says guitarist Jordan del Rosario

CE2
photo by Kate Bracaglia
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Just Announced: Haim performing at The TLA on 5/14

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

Former XPN artists to watch Haim have announced a U.S. tour that brings them to The TLA on May 14th.  The sister trio broke through the buzz at the 2012 SXSW festival, taking the next year to tour across the States and Europe while recording a debut record that was released in September.  Tickets go on sale Friday, November 22nd at Noon and will be available here.  Watch their video for “The Wire” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: XPN Welcomes Polica at Union Transfer, XPN Welcomes Drive-By Truckers and Old 97′s at The TLA, Philly Sings Philly at The Fire

Polica
Polica

XPN welcomes Polica to Union Transfer tonight.  The Minneapolis achieved critical success following the release of their 2012 debut Give You the Ghost, spurred by singles “Dark Star” (which landed at #388 on last month’s 885 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium countdown) and “Wandering Star.”  On their new record called Shulamith, Polica took their synth / bass / double drumset / vocal arrangements even deeper, creating an incredibly dark and heavy environment that verges on frightening at some points (while staying instantly catchy and intriguing).  Tickets and information for tonight’s all-ages show with Marijuana Deathsquads can be found here.  Watch the video for “Warrior Lord” below.

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Kompa Party: Blayer Pointdujour will open for T-Vice at The TLA on 12/21

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Local world / rock / hip hop collective Blayer Pointdujour & The Rockers Galore are set to open for Haitian kompa group T-Vice at The TLA on December 21st.  The slot is somewhat of a milestone for Pointdujour, who says opening for T-Vice, one of the biggest kompa acts in the world, has brought his vision for the band full circle.  Tickets and information are available here.  Watch T-Vice perform live in Montreal below, followed by Blayer Pointdujour & The Rockers Galore performing “Dirty Kompa Party” at Kung Fu Necktie.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Janelle Monae at the Electric Factory, Colin Hay at Keswick Theatre, Deltron 3030 at the TLA and more

monae
Retro starlet Janelle Monae will grace the Electric Factory stage tonight. Monae released her critically acclaimed third album, The Electric Lady, last month. Despite her old-school flare, there’s nothing dated about Monae’s music. She’ll make you want to dance (“Q.U.E.E.N.”, “Dance Apocalyptica”) and be seduced (“Primetime” featuring R&B crooner Miguel). Check out her new “emotion picture” for the latter below. Get tickets here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ali Wadsworth at Ruba Club, The Deli’s 5th Anniversary Bash at PhilaMOCA, River City Festival at Penn Treaty Park and more

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 9.30.04 PMAli Wadsworth is not a new voice in Philly by any means, but she’ll be releasing her debut solo LP at Ruba Club tonight.  The celebration will be an incredible one: a cocktail hour, sets by Auctioneer, Thom McCarthy and Divers and a “super top secret party band” will surround the centerpiece performance by Wadsworth and her band. Before striking out on her own, Wadsworth was a member of Unlikely Cowboy with Good Old War’s Dan Schwartz, Goldiebox with her sister Claire and Philly super-group Fantasy Square Garden.  The new album, recorded by Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man), features songs written for Wadsworth by her friends and fellow musicians.  Tickets and information for the all-night party can be found on the Facebook event page.  Watch Wadsworth perform “Still Not Over You” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology below.

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Just Announced: Lord Huron will play The TLA on 2/8

LordHuron

Los Angeles dream-folk outfit Lord Huron has announced a headlining date at The TLA on February 8th.  The mystical and majestic band made its Philadelphia debut almost one year ago during the release of its debut LP Lonesome Dreams and has been back several times since, recording a World Cafe session, playing this summer’s XPoNential Music Festival and most recently supporting Alt-J a few weeks ago.  Tickets for the all-ages show go on sale October 4th at noon via Live Nation.  More information will be available here.  Watch Lord Huron’s video for “Lonesome Dreams” below and read an interview with frontman Ben Schneider here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Screaming Females at First Unitarian Church. Immortal Technique at the TLA, Jimmy Cliff at the Keswick Theater

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New Brunswick’s Screaming Females come to the First Unitarian Church tonight for a label showcase with Waxahatchee and Tenement.  The indie punk trio, fronted by powerhouse vocalist / guitarist Marissa Paternoster and formed in the sweaty basements of North Jersey’s buried punk scene, released its fifth studio record last year on Don Giovanni, receiving critical acclaim from Pitchfork, Stereogum and A.V. Club.  In the spirit of label collaboration, Screaming Females and Tenement just released a split 7″ that will be available during the fall tour.  Tickets and information can be found here.  Watch Screaming Females’ Tiny Desk Concert on NPR below.

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