Rocky Votolato / Langhorne Slim / Hoots and Hellmouth @ Philadelphia 6/29

July 5, 2007

R5 Productions, run by Sean Agnew, is my absolute favorite show promotions agency.  In an era (and area) dominated by corporations (Clear Channel, for example), R5 steps up to the plate for indie artists in both the local Philadelphia area and the entire country. I don’t usually like to promote services, but I firmly support R5 Productions entirely; here’s their mission statement–and it’s absolutely true:

“R5 Productions is a Do It Yourself show promotions agency owned and operated by Sean Agnew whose main goal is to provide the Philadelphia area with cheap, friendly, all ages shows, in a honest intimate setting. Philadelphia suffers from a lack of a medium sized all ages venue, creating a situation in which band often play other major east coast cities such as New York or D.C. , but skip over Philadelphia.

“Shows are done in various small to medium sized club locations, halls, warehouses, basements, colleges and universities. Door prices generally remain between $5-$8. And we make sure not to implement over-the edge club policies. There are no over-aggressive bouncers, no security preventing you to go outside, no one charging you $3 for a bottle of water, no one keeping you smushed behind a giant barrier with your favorite band 25 feet away. This type of sterile environment usually creates for a less fulfilling live music experience. As they said in the old days…For The Kids, By The Kids. ”

Rocky Votolato and the opening acts played this particular show at First Unitarian Church, a small basement in the City of Brotherly Love. It’s an intimate venue I’ve always loved, as it seems to embody the music and musical culture I grew up with: DIY, zines, and emotional music. But I digress, onto the show review.

Hoots and Hellmouth opened the evening; I had never heard of them, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. They blew me away. Their music is hard to describe, but it’s some eclectic mix of Gospel, soul, indie, blues, folk, country, and rock and roll.  The two lead singers harmonize incredibly, and the music encourages toe-tapping, hand-clapping, country-styled dancing, and jamboree styled sing-alongs.  Their set seemed to fly by, as they seamlessly blended many different genres into one exciting sound. From Philadelphia, the band had a decent audience, but I imagine they are very unknown to the rest of the world.  Do yourself a favor and see them live, it’s a great time.

Langhorne Slim followed, and though I had never heard any of their music, he seemed to have a large audience. I believe he is co-headling this tour, and is somewhat known throughout the rest of the country.  He has talent, but to follow Hoots and Hellmouth was unfortunate–he simply could not match their energy or performance. Not a bad act by any means, he certainly writes strong songs. It seemed that a large majority of the audience was there for Langhorne Slim, actually.

Finally, Seattle’s Rocky Votolato took the stage.  Though unknown to the mainstream, Rocky has been released more than a dozen records in the last decade.  His live show (backed by a solid band of friends) was extremely solid.  Rocky’s style of folk/indie is strikingly mature for a songwriter that looks much younger in person than you’d expect: his style, lyrics, and songs deal with a culture and issues that seem absent to many modern songwriters.

With so much material of his own, and his previous band (Waxwing) to draw from, his set was varied and never stale. I’m most familiar with his most recent works (2006’s Makers was one of my favorite albums last year), and he played a large amount of material from the newer albums.  Slower, stripped-down songs like “She Was Only In It For The Rain” received full electric treatment, and the results were impressive.

Aside from “Uppers Aren’t Necessary”, Rocky played every song I had wanted to hear, and then a large chunk of songs I had never heard (time to start buying his older works, it seems!). Rocky closed the evening with “Makers”, the title track from the 2006 album. A great show at one of my favorite venues.

Also, I’d like to plug Wonkavision Magazine, a local Philadelphia publication that handed out free copies of their work–I read it inbetween sets, and I’m a big fan.  I’d recommend it to anyone who dislikes weak mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, or similar magazines.  It’s a great magazine centered around the DIY culture, check them out.