Life is routinely unfair. There are certain nights in existence where it seems as though there truly is nothing interesting to do. Of course, you can always bank on the reliable options — doing homework, watching Cheaters four times in a row, or having extended conversations with your mother about the comedic exploits of childhood. The real zest of life just isn’t available every night.
Then there are the nights that try to balance the karmic scales by offering up several great options on the same night, at the same time, which leads to undue frustration and expense for those of us who are trying to squeeze the absolute maximum from our time here on “Big Blue.” For me, Wednesday Oct. 13 was one such night in Philadelphia as the TLA played host to Scottish indie-rockers Sons and Daughters while the First Unitarian Church was simultaneously the venue of choice for Saddle Creek Records’ latest band du jour, The Good Life.
I sat in my apartment, fidgeting over a bowl of ramen and trying to decide which of the two shows to tackle. I needed to review Sons and Daughter’s set for this article, but at the same time I’m out and out smitten with The Good Life. Then, in a waft of chicken scented steam, the idea struck me – just go to both.
My night out began with the earlier of the two shows, The Good Life, or at least one of The Good Life’s three openers, The New Roman Times. Despite the advertised start time of 7:30 p.m., and the Church’s consistent record of late starts, I still thought it would be best to be prompt. As a reward, I got to stand around for 20-odd minutes picking through vinyls even though I don’t own a turntable. The New Roman Times took the stage a little after 8 p.m., providing with me four palatable, but ultimately forgettable songs.
At about 8:20, time constraints demanded that I hop on my bike and fly through 24 heavily-trafficked Center City blocks to catch the Sons and Daughters, who were in town opening for Clinic. Unfortunately for the bands, the show drew roughly 150 people into an 850 person space. This was not a factor in S&D’s performance though, as they took the stage and played on like seasoned veterans, an attribute most likely developed from being actual seasoned veterans, as Sons and Daughters features members of the equally great band Arab Strap. Sons and Daughters played a set of infectious country rock that reminded me of 1970s outlaw movies and classic Johnny Cash records, only blended with a Scottish flavor that included Ailidh Lennon’s mandolin work and the deep, almost creepy vocals of guitarist Scott Paterson, the two non-Strap members of S&D. The set was heavily laced with selections from S&D’s latest album, Love The Cup, including the appropriate nod to influence, “Johnny Cash.” By set’s end, S&D had won over the sparse crowd of unresponsive hipsters, including two of whom decided to actually move in joyous unison with the music. I think normal people call it “dancing,” but it’s more of a myth at shows like this than anything else.
By 9:20, I had traversed the streets of Center City and arrived with time to spare for The Good Life’s headlining set. For those of you not in the know, The Good Life is the melodic side project of Cursive frontman and all-around indie sex-object Tim Kasher. The band was back in Philly for the second time in as many months, this time supporting the release of their new full-length (and highly-recommended) effort Album Of The Year. Decked out in a look that can be best described as “haphazard formal,” The Good Life took the tiny Church stage for about the same amount of people as S&D has earlier, although the crowd looked far better in the tiny space than the one at the TLA did. The set was nothing short of phenomenal, as Kasher is one of the best live voices in the business, pulling off his trademark upper-register shouts time and again without flaw. Unlike S&D, who were working under more stringent time restraints, Kasher was able to interact with and entertain the audience between songs with a “talent-show” section and allowing an audience member to smash the neon “party” sign on Kasher’s amp for $20. The band also played material from its previous two albums, putting on one of the best 90-minute sets I can remember seeing in quite some time.
By midnight, the shows had both come to a conclusion. I trekked home to catch some shut-eye, impressed by Sons and Daughters, blown away by The Good Life, and thinking of how life can sometimes be better in huge bursts of good fortune than in balanced shots of ups and downs.
Slade Bracey can be reached at email@example.com.