@ North Star Bar, 3/14/14


Friday’s event at North Star Bar was acoustically and aesthetically driven, with talent from NYC and NJ represented well. I hadn’t been to the Fairmount venue in a good while, nor had I the opportunity to quaff a Troegs, very nice crisp local beer, before settling in. The audience was light on attendance but grew a bit more enthused as the evening lasted.
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Andrew Whitman from central NJ started off in trio format. Andrew, late of the local rock band The Moccasins, is taking a different turn with his music. Andrew was on acoustic, flanked by Carter Murphey on banjo, and Matt Lewis on backing vocals. Andrew mentioned to me that they have been going after a Jack Johnson and G Love sort of sound. They do have that sentiment in place, perhaps Andrew being more like Jack, and Matt as G Love. “The Beat Of Life” along with one other tune toward the end, were my favorites, with very good vocal harmonies. As Andrew puts it on his Facebook page, the songs they play are “songs that get us through the beat of life”. Good, clean fun from this trio. I wonder if there’s a fuller sound to them.
012 017 022Rocky & The Pressers from The Bronx, NY play Philly every month, while touring the Northeast and when they’re not playing An Beal Bocht in their stomping grounds. In fact they were to play on a bill with the sainted King Django in north NJ on Saturday. They had a good deal of merch displayed including T-shirts, CDs and stickers. They are a 6-piece that include 2 guitars, mandolin, percussion, drums and bass. Guitars up front, all else in back. I was instantly recalling the sounds of roots reggae, even ‘lovers rock’, the sort of sound that Gregory Isaacs and Freddie McGregor popularized. The Pressers kept things pretty simple, Danny McDonald was active on guitar for the most part, and contributed tenor sax on a few. I believe it Eric Sullivan at the lead and acoustic, along with Mario Rincon playing one of several guitar-type instruments. Rocky was tucked in back on bass. Part of one tune saw Eric take out a melodica. Favorite songs included “Walk Your Dog” and “Never Dry”. 032 035 036 039

Alan Semerdjian is Mr. Semerdjian to many teens in the NYC school system, teaching English, tho it wouldn’t surprise me if he got out the guitar to teach them words or the art within a song. This is Alan’s life, one that focusing on communicating his thoughts and feelings in a number of ways. They take the form of various sorts of visual art, of poems, and song. As evidenced on his general art website, his artistic experiments led to the creation of ‘artpoems’. Friday’s solo show as the headliner saw him play an extended set, slowly drawing in the remaining audience. One audience member near me was enthusiastic about his song “More”, which did, indeed, raise the vibe of the room. He played a mix of songs from his solo material and a couple from his prior band Surreal. It was Alan’s first gig in Philly in several years and he expressed appreciation for the sound quality. Some of the stage patter was devoted to the very magic of song, using phrases like “talking dreams”. One tipsy local resident in a faded Philadelphia Eagles jacket pranced about during a good portion of the set in front of the stage. Alan was pleasantly amused at the sight.
MORE photos here:

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Here’s video of Alan (and said patron) with his song “Breakdown”

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