By Daniel Weisberg
Last Friday at the Millcreek Tavern in West Philadelphia was a schizophrenic show that zigzagged between sounds, going from delightfully cheerful to ear-bleedingly entrancing.
Perkasie is a five-piece indie rock/feel-good folk group from Lancaster, PA, home to countless cows and the Amish. Taking the stage with acoustic guitar and keyboard in tow, the band had no problem energizing the crowd with its tambourine-shaking, boot-stomping blend of country and ragtime. With the glossy melodies of its female singer leading the way, her gentlemen band mates provided vocal harmonies and lyrical exchanges that added a charming, familial dimension to the band’s down-home sound.
Easy comparisons would be Woody Guthrie, Simon and Garfunkel, or Bright Eyes’ countrified Cassadaga, but the natural chemistry and playfulness among the band members fostered a comforting aura that’s hard to pre-manufacture. When the band’s climactic jam session had all five members standing side-by-side, switching instruments and exchanging smiles, it felt like watching a family entertain each other in the privacy of its own living room. (Perkasie gets bonus points for having a member whose sole purpose was to shake the tambourine and dance exuberantly for the duration of the set.)
It shouldn’t feel right to follow Perkasie’s catchy, laid-back set with a full-on metal assault, but somehow headliners Powers made it work.
Falling somewhere between Black Sabbath and Black Mountain, this instrumental trio had the crowd in a hypnotic grip from its opening riffs. With heavy, looping, stoner-rock licks swirling around madcap drum fills, Powers transformed the mild-mannered rock club into a dingy metal dungeon. The floor was soaked with beer after the end of the first song, and a crew of metal heads joined together in the brotherly act of shoving each other around. After ripping through a whirlwind thirty minute set with nary a second to breathe, Powers demonstrated the organic, primal energy behind the best doom-metal rhythms.
While it might appear that Perkasie and Powers would cater to different demographics, the bands shared a passion for performance, and their energy resonated throughout the crowd. It was unclear by the end of the night who came to hear indie-tinged folk or face-melting metal as everyone socialized with unpretentious enthusiasm.
(The night began with my band, J. Fox, fulfilling opening duties. I’m only mentioning this in the interest of journalistic integrity and full disclosure.)