It must be admitted: I spent a couple of decades in a musical desert. After our early years of passionately following some local bands and going out to see them every chance we got, catching some amazing concerts by better-known bands that happened to hit our towns, even being subscribers to the local symphony for a while . . . well, things changed. We hit our 30s. Careers got serious, and as non-drinkers we had little patience for the bar scene. You’d go to see a band that was supposed to start at 11 PM (already late by our standards), and at 12:30 they’re still not on, and we have nothing but the stench of cigarettes and chicken wings in our clothes to show for it. Theater shows were better and timelier, but didn’t usually feature the local music scene. Then came kids and the club scene just became out of the question. it didn’t mean we never got to see anyone, it just made it more rare, and often the band wasn’t the center of attention.
We were lucky in that Albany, Schenectady and Troy all had active summer concert series that often featured excellent national acts. Los Straitjackets often played outdoor shows, including an amazing one in Schenectady’s Central Park where a giant pile of sand had been placed in front of the stage so there was a place for the babies to play – a little baby mosh pit that kept them all occupied while we got to enjoy the band. There were other shows there, and on Troy’s riverfront or Monument Square, and in Albany in Washington Park or on the Empire State Plaza. (Or even, on rare occasions, the weekly series we called Puke in the Park. Its real name was Alive at Five, but it was almost entirely about public drunkenness that also just happened to have a band. Unfortunately, it was sometimes a band i wanted to see.) But still, we weren’t exactly connected to the music scene, and certainly didn’t have a sense of very many local bands.
Then we moved to the outskirts of Philadelphia, empty nesters with time and the will to go out and be entertained at the numerous coffeehouses, clubs and venues that are willing to put on a show on time. (Listening rooms: what a concept.) And we made friends with folks who were very much part of the local music scene, and found out that here in Philly, there was a rich heritage of super high quality artists and bands that have tremendous local followings, but that may not be very well known elsewhere. I’m still catching up on some amazing music that I never had a chance to be exposed to over the past couple of decades, just because we weren’t around here.
Through our amazing local coffeehouse – where we just started randomly going to see shows, because they were so cheap, there was nothing to lose – we discovered local favorite Cliff Hillis, who has been in, still is in, any number of very well-loved Philly/Delaware/Maryland bands. Through Cliff, we learned of one of his bandmates, John Faye, who has also been in any number of local legendary bands and at that time was leading a group called John Faye and Those Meddling Kids. Both are masters of powerpop songwriting, and super entertaining players. Through their connections I’ve learned about any number of other musicians I would have had no idea of. (Check out Cliff’s Bandcamp here and John’s Bandcamp here.)
Early in the pandemic, John was featured in a pandemic collaboration with The Jellybricks, doing a fun cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.” Once again, I had never heard of The Jellybricks, no idea who they were, no idea what they were about. But I saw John playing with them (virtually), and decided to check them out. Well: wow. They’re a band from Harrisburg, PA with powerpop chops strong enough to get released on Wicked Cool Records, the garage rock label that I became familiar with because of the Underground Garage channel on Sirius way back when. Favorite acts like The Cocktail Slippers, the Chesterfield Kings, and the Dollyrots are on Wicked Cool, so The Jellybricks are in good company as far as I’m concerned.
I checked them out the way you check anyone out these days: YouTube videos. And it turns out these guys have some tremendously creative videos – absolutely captivating. We played them a number of times and then decided, why yes, we would like their latest album on vinyl, thank you.
So I ordered their 2019 album, “Some Kind of Lucky,” still fairly early in the pandemic when things weren’t moving too quickly, and I only knew it would arrive eventually. That was fine. (I was buying through their Bandcamp, so I got the digital download right away anyway). And one day, to my delight, the record arrived! I checked the condition, confirmed it was the record I expected, and set it aside, something to be dealt with later. It stayed in its shipping cardboard, set off with some of the other stuff that had piled up in our tiny rooms as we all tried to sort out how to live in 2020.
And then one day I thought it was time to grab it and play it and . . . it’s nowhere. I can’t find it. The record isn’t anywhere, there’s no sign of the white box it was in, nothing. Reluctantly, all I can do is assume that someone thought the shipping box was a) empty and b) eligible for recycling, and out it went. As it still hasn’t reappeared in the nine or so months since, that has to be what happened. Disappointing, but human error.
The thing is, I really wanted that record. And I’d been listening to the songs, and I loved them, and I would love them even more on vinyl, because that’s how I’m listening to music about 80% of the time these days. It ate at me that the record is gone, and it would always eat at me if I didn’t replace it. So . . . I order edanother copy. Wait another few weeks, and the replacement arrived. Actually, two replacements arrived. Two copies of the album were in the shipping box. So: first I had one copy, then I had none, and now I have two. I’ll make it up to them someday, but I wasn’t tempting fate by trying to send one back.
The album itself: it’s a powerpop dream, a delight beginning to end. These guys are great. I highly recommend checking out their videos for Mrs. Misery (from this album), and About The Weekend (from their 2014 “Youngstown Tune-Up”).