@ The Fire, 3/4/14

3 songwriters and one band made up last-minute showcase at The Fire here in Philly on Tuesday, each with unique projects and sounds. I heard of the showcase from Michael Savino who fronts, and is the project Tall Tall Trees. Michael put the lineup together with talent from NYC and Philly. The night was sparsely populated with fans, tho Michael did bring a fair amount of folks on this cold winter evening.
Tom Zamostein’s project is Bastards of Earle. The title enough suggests one who does his own thing and does it well. Tom is something of an icon in terms of Philly’s own music scene. I last saw him when he was performing with the North Lawrence Midnight Singers at the now-closed Tritone. Tom’s solo effort was full of energy, generally kicking up energy with his tomato-red shoes, also sporting a brown suit jacket and old-school hat The songs fit nicely on the musical shelf near those of Springsteen and Westerberg. One line from one song, “Downtown Girl”, possibly, makes reference to a ‘cubic zirconia polyester smile’. Another song, about London and Camden in the UK, easily could be referencing NYC instead, as his smile and impassioned delivery a delight to watch. A favorite tune from the set, and the available media on his website is the tune Weightless.

Tall Tall Trees had shared billing the night before at the beloved Pete’s Candy Store in northernmost Brooklyn with Heidemann. Monika Heidemann presented music that has an 80’s throwback feel. I was struck by her personal style, which reminded me a bit of Chrissie Hynde, and a commanding mid-range voice. The songs appear a bit provocative tho I think its’ the voice that makes them so more than the lyrics. Monika was recently in a band that shared her interest in 80’s music. Nowadays she appears solo with a warm bass and synth and loops.

Tall Tall Trees is just Michael these days, as he approaches the release of a solo album features his banjo wizardry. I couldn’t remember when we had last crossed paths but he spotted me instantly upon arrival. On the previous albums, Michael had 4 others aboard for the sound. Tonight he was solo, with his trusty, space-age banjo weapon, complete with an electronic device that provided green and red visual effects on the banjo’s body. He gave the keys to those effects to an audience member for the bulk of the show. Michael performed mostly new material, such that will appear on the new album which had been successfully fan-funded. His delivery was rather spontaneous, consistently channeling energy from someplace, putting a fair amount of it back into the banjo. He engaged the audience in rhythmic clapping a few times, thoroughly enjoying the moments along with us. There was some comic use of some recorded spoken word in a few places; I can hear him using this technique a bit more in recording.

Here’s VIDEO of Michael in action. This was my first attempt at HD video with my new camera.

The Late Saints are a new Philly band, only together as a 3-piece for 2 months. Led by Italian-American Jacopo, the band has a range of sound that recalls some gypsy approach, some klezmer, and the notable use of kazoo as accompaniment on half the songs. Yes, kazoo! Honestly I can’t pick a favorite between the songs. We had a great conversation beforehand about contemporary Italian music.

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