Review: A Very Dancey Thanksgiving with Brothers Past and Sonic Spank
For many, Thanksgiving weekend means reunions. It’s a time for family, friendship, and often a return to one’s hometown for food, love, and festivities. Sonic Spank and Brothers Past did just that the day after Thanksgiving, when the two bands played for their home base of Philadelphia at the Blockley. And boy did they give their hometown fans a show to remember.
The show was more than just a gathering of Philly fans. This was also a reunion of sorts for a number of those who have watched many of these musicians grow into what they are today. All four members of Brothers Past, in addition to Sonic Spank drummer Jeremy Worthington, have roots in the small college town of West Chester, about forty minutes outside of Philadelphia. Brothers Past came into being in there, and the band made a name for itself playing a weekly residency at West Chester’s now-closed Rex’s Bar. And for Worthington, West Chester has always been and continues to be home. So perhaps it’s no surprise that a considerable contingent of West Chester music lovers made their way out to the sh0w that night.
What was surprising, however, was the fact that the Blockley, though small, was far from filled that evening. Brothers Past has been touring nationally, has played for large crowds at festivals of all shapes and sizes from Bonnaroo to Camp Bisco to Catskill Chill, and was playing one of the smaller venues in the city they call home. The venue should have been packed. I’m going to lay the blame on the residual effects of the tryptophan. For those of you that bailed that night, you surely missed out.
BP came out strong and played with passion. The jams were tight yet explorative, and the band, particularly during the second set, seemed to be channeling Pink Floyd with its psychedelic, spacey melodies. While the gluttony of Turkey Day may have caused a number of fans to miss out on the show, it hadn’t slowed down the boys of BP in the slightest. The band was in it to win it that evening.
At this point, I must make a confession. I love Brothers Past, I make an effort to see them whenever they are in town, and I never miss their set when they are on the bill of a festival I’m attending. However, this particular night, the force driving my decision to come out to the Blockley was Sonic Spank and the special tribute they had planned. Perhaps you haven’t heard of them – if this is the case, I suggest you check them out immediately, because these guys are going places. They only recently solidified their quartet after Worthington and bassist Dave Palan joined their ranks, and they have dubbed their new sound “Electro-grunge,” which is a spot-on description for their music.
But on this particular evening, the band brought the funk in a serious way with a Michael Jackson tribute set featuring Nicole Shipley on vocals. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a band jam out as hard to Michael Jackson as Sonic Spank did on classic tunes like “Smooth Criminal” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” And Shipley was simply wonderful. At one point, a random girl in the crowd turned to me and said “I can’t believe it – a LADY is singing Michael Jackson! And she’s AMAZING!” This lovely vocalist got MJ down to the “T,” from the notes she sang to the funky fedora on her head.
A little shout out to the drummers and percussionists of the world – you guys and your beats keep our feet moving. And you rarely get the credit you deserve. Both Worthington and BP drummer Rick Lowenberg gave beautifully precise performances, and were a driving force behind the non-stop dance party that went down.
The evening was an overall success, and had numerous fans thanking the bands for the dance-a-thon that had commenced both in-person immediately after the show as well as on the bands’ Facebook pages. If you have a chance to catch either band in the near future, I’d advise you not to miss out. Check out BP’s upcoming tour dates here. Also, keep an eye out for new music from Sonic Spank in the near future – follow their Facebook page and you’ll be one of the first to hear about it.