Date: Thursday, October 3rd. 2013
Line Up: John Brown’s Body, Groundation & The Underwater Sounds
Venue: The Blockley. Philadelphia, PA
I’ve been to the The Blockley a handful of times, located just outside the campuses of Drexel and UPenn. It’s not a large venue, but it gives off a personal vibe, where you can be one with the artist and their music. As a frequent purveyor of music over this summer, I’ve seen a lot of quality shows. This show gave me something new, something fresh and it wasn’t just the music, it was the amazing fans and artists on stage that made me realize what this scene is all about in it’s genuine message of love.
Since I got there a little early, I was able to meet up with fans Bradley and Brian, both originally from outside the city. Bradley, however, is a recent transfer to Colorado. Both of them are members of reggae/rock bands who heard about the show and didn’t want to miss out. “We’re here for everybody. Big fans of the whole set. We actually opened up for JBB in Steamboat Springs, Colorado – so we love them,” said Bradley.
The first band on was, The Underwater Sounds, who went on around 8:30pm. They wowed the crowd, from start to finish, with sounds of funk, reggae and the harmonious vocals of front-woman Sonni Shine. I was new to these guys, but man they really rocked the house, and set the bar for Groundation, who were up next.
After Underwater Sounds performed, I got to talk to Marley, hula-hoop extraordinaire, Seattle native and now Philly local. She told me she was here to see Underwater Sounds after she recently saw them up at Be The Strange Festival in Jim Thorpe, PA. “I haven’t listened to John Browns Body or Groundation so I’m really excited, and I wanted it to be a surprise tonight when I saw them live.”
Groundation came up next and dropped a bomb with a blaring horn section and three vocalists including frontman Harrison Stafford and backup vocalists Kim Pormmell and Sherida Sharpe. Littered with killer drum solos and just one big jam session, they made their presence felt here in Philly after a long awaited hiatus from the east coast.
Talking with saxophone player, Jason Robinson, he told me “It’s been five years since we’ve been out here, but it feels good to be back. Lotta love in Philly.” These guys continued to jam for a 75 minute set and Harrison was frequent to mention that they played a “Message for the people. Its about the oneness of life.”
Once they finished up I headed out back for a photo shoot with our own cameraman Bill Colbridge where we were able to snag group shots of Groundation and John Browns Body. This recent string of dates is the first time JBB & Groundation has played together on the east coast and only the 2nd time both groups have shared the stage together.
While hanging outside, I had a chance to speak with Nate Edgar, bassist from JBB. Now, I have seen JBB perform before and this dude has so much energy on stage, making that bass guitar dance. I was intimidated at first, but what a down-to-earth guy he was. After thanking me for all of the hard work we put in at The Pier, he told me he is an east coast guy himself, explaining “I always get a great east coast vibe, especially down here in Philly. We love to be here and play for this crowd.”
Before JBB headed out on stage, I caught up with Sonni Shine, from Underwater Sounds for a few minutes. As they are a Philly band, she said “It was a dream come true to get on this ticket. We saw the bill and contacted The Blockley, where they told us they already wanted us to come perform, so this worked out great. I have been a fan of both John Browns Body since high school, and Groundation is one of our biggest influences.”
She didn’t feel a gender barrier in being a front-woman and guitarist “It’s not that we are any different, I think we just have an edge, something unique about us.” And with that I heard the sounds of JBB hitting the stage.
JBB brings so much energy and enthusiasm to their performances. In a smaller venue setting, they have that loud, exciting format & every instrument brings a personality with all of the members making their solos count, from the trombone to the guitar to the trumpet.
On April 16th, John Brown’s Body released their latest album Kings And Queens, which received a 4 Star review and is viewed as one of the top released albums of 2013 by The Pier. The album was released via Easy Star Records & six of the 12 songs performed live by JBB, were from their latest album.
What defies a good show into a great show is fan reaction, and there wasn’t one person present that wasn’t dancing and moving around. As the show continued, lead singer Elliot Martin, amped the crowd and traded vocals with lead guitarist Jay Speaker, and as always, my man Nate Edgar found the space to make that bass rock out.
I can’t emphasize it enough, but the “One Love” message is here, it is present in the fans, the artists, and music. Some artists say things on stage or in their lyrics that speak about this or that, but its rare to find artists that actually live by their message and care about the people that listen to their music. In a venue that made you feel like you were up on stage, there were also three bands that made you feel like you were a part of their music and a part of their inspiration.
John Brown’s Body Set-List:
Give Yourself Over
Follow Into Shadow
Old John Brown
What We Gonna Do
Peace in the Valley
What Could Have Been
Merry Go ‘Round
Babylon Rule Dem
Live it Up
Jah Jah Know
Upon the Bridge
Freedom Taking Over (Feat. JBB Horns)
John Browns Body Links: