BY JOE PAONE MATH-ROCK CORRESPONDENT There should’ve been a sign at the door of Milkboy for this show that said, “Welcome back to the 90s.” Lots of familiar faces from back in the day, yet everyone still looked fetching. Milkboy’s second-floor is so reminiscent of the long-gone Upstairs at Nick’s that I expected to see Jamie Mahon stuffing meat into a toilet. At least, I kinda remember that happening back then. Forgive me, the 90s were kind of a blur.
As for the music, it was the proverbial tits. JJL opened the proceedings by molesting the notion of “power trio” in very interesting ways. Jay Laughlin, formerly of local icons Lenola, writes deceptively catchy prog-meets-indie songs that expertly mix Neil Youngish vocals and Mickey Mouse-in-Fantasia guitar FX wizardry that really soars. A full-length (how ’90s!) from these South Philly cats will be a highly welcome development for my stereo (how ’90s!).
I was incredibly excited to see the second band, the criminally overlooked Karl Hendricks Trio, who very, very rarely venture beyond their hometown of Pittsburgh. Karl writes big-ass rock songs whose volume and balls are accompanied by incongruously sad ruminations on girls, women, drinking, women, drinking, longing, jealousy and other stuff that happens when you’re a smart but lonely guy who can’t quite get past all of life’s bullshit. He’s been doing it for 20 years, becoming more and more of a Neil Youngish (there’s that name again) guitar hero in the process. It was a suitably great performance sullied by some sort of difficulty that resulted in a truncated set that ended with a very frustrated Karl cussing up a blue streak at his bandmates onstage. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Jon Solomon’s Comedy Minus One label curated the KH3’s newest release, The Adult Section, which I highly suggest you add to whatever a “collection” is nowadays.
And then there was the great Lefty’s Deceiver, one of the biggest bands in Philly back when I was, like, gettin’ roasted and laid a lot. I really like the two-guitar quartet version of the band, and they delivered the goods big time at Milkboy. Lefty’s music was/is Philly’s own mongrel love child of Chapel Hill’s youthful ebullience, Louisville’s queasy nautical math rock and, of course, DC post-hardcore. Which is to say, their music hits many of my pleasure centers. Simply put, Lefty’s are better than ever, even though the great (and I mean GREAT) drummer Mike Kennedy brought us all down to the earth with some onstage banter about how tough it is to get a babysitter.
Yeah, we’re old. And that’s OK. We’re way less annoying and in-your-face than the Baby Boomers, so… you’re welcome, world. More shows like this one, please.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Paone has attended nearly every Eagles game with his dad since 1978 and he has the lasting psychological scars to prove it. He also runs a PR firm, plays rock music, and hunts New Yorkers for sport. You can follow him on Twitter @Birdlandia or contact him at BeeElevated@gmail.com.