I’m starting to wonder if the ripple effects from discovering Frank Turner will ever stop. There’s always something, some association or connection made, that can be traced back to him. I’ve met so many brilliant, creative people and have been exposed to so much fantastic music because of him. And, if not for Frank, I would never have realized that there’s an artist from my own home city making his own brand of honest, affecting music that’s become as important to me as Frank’s own catalog.
Frank and the Souls kicked off a short tour with a show in Reading, PA, last September, and despite its relatively close proximity to my home, I very nearly didn’t go. My mom and I had spent the week before crisscrossing Massachusetts and Connecticut, following two of our favorite bands, Parsonsfield and JD McPherson. We had planned on traveling to the far northeast corner of Mass. to see JD on the last day of our trip, but that was before Frank announced the date in Reading. My mom was intrigued by Frank – she knew how much his music had come to mean to me, she knew how much I enjoyed his live shows and she wanted to experience it for herself. So after a bit of discussion, we decided to bag the trek to Newburyport (sorry, JD!) and head home for Frank’s show. It ended up being a pretty momentous decision for both of us – Mom because it sent her down the rabbit hole of FT fandom and me because I would discover Dave Hause.
A local FT fan-friend told me that I had to get there early for that particular gig because the second opener, this Dave Hause guy, was a favorite artist of his and wasn’t to be missed. Now, I ALWAYS arrive early to shows so I can get as close to the stage as I can once the doors open, so that wouldn’t have been a problem anyway. But my friend’s enthusiasm for his music added a new element of intrigue and anticipation and, despite not having heard a single song of his before, I was looking forward to Dave’s set (almost) as much as I was looking forward to Frank’s.
At this point in my concert-going life, I’ve seen a lot of opening acts. Even if I wasn’t worried about getting a spot at the rail for the headliner, I’d still want to watch the openers. Most of them are a pleasant distraction from the fact that you’ve been on your feet for hours and have hours to go until the evening ends. A few are trials to be endured, where your eyes might glaze over with boredom or you might grit your teeth and desperately hope you stashed ear plugs in your pocket to drown out the noise. But rarer still are the times when you discover a new favorite musician. These bands, through some magic alchemy, capture your attention from the very first notes. Your jaw drops, your toes start tapping, your head starts bobbing and you realize after the forty-five minute set (which goes much more quickly than it normally does) that you’ve effectively just had your mind blown. It’s only happened to me twice, and one of those times was for Dave.
I don’t have any photo documentation from that show, which is unusual for me, who spends the majority of each concert with my phone in my hand, waiting and hoping to capture some awesome rock ‘n’ roll moment. But I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to waste precious storage space on a band I didn’t know when my favorite Englishmen were on deck. So my phone stayed in my pocket, leaving me with no visual mementos from the event and I regret that more than I thought I would. But because my focus was entirely on the stage, I remember the show vividly. Dave (whose last name is “pronounced like ‘pause’ or ‘cause’, dammit,” per his Twitter account) may be small in stature but is a veritable force of nature on stage, all stomping feet and gesticulating hands (when they weren’t shredding on his guitar), exhorting the crowd to join him. His voice, powerful, gravelly, plaintive, is compelling, so even though it was the first time I heard his songs, I knew they were songs I could love. I didn’t catch all of the comments he’d made during his set, partly because I didn’t know a single thing about his back story, but from what I gathered, he was putting the finish touches on a new album, his third as a solo musician, having played in a few Philly bands prior to that, and his band that night, with the exception of his brother Tim on guitar, was comprised of local musician friends because he hadn’t yet pieced together a permanent touring band. Regardless, I was enthralled, and after the show, I stopped by his merch table to buy a CD…and proceeded to listen to almost nothing else in the seven months since.
(Thankfully someone else had the wherewithal to record something that night. ;-))
Dave’s a local guy, born and raised in Philly, and it’s appalling to me that, with the exception of the great WXPN, he gets no love from local radio stations. His brand of rock ‘n’ roll is as real and honest as it gets; he sings of the despair and the heartbreak and the hope of working class people. And maybe that’s why his music rings so true – having grown up in the shadow of Philly myself, I know the people and the places of his stories. Because make no mistake – a storyteller is exactly what he is. There’s nothing I love more than an album that, from start to finish, tells a complete tale. Not only do all three of his albums do that on their own, but taken as a whole, they tell a larger story. Resolutions tells of youthful optimism and hope in the face of insurmountable odds; Devour is the despair that overwhelms when those dreams are shattered; and Bury Me in Philly is the rediscovery of hope after emerging from the void. All three are stellar, but I think that Devour is a masterpiece, though Bury Me in Philly is rapidly rising in my estimation. That I haven’t been able to stop listening to it – have been compelled to listen to it – since it was released in February speaks volumes. Hearing the new songs live has solidified my affection for the new album.
I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the Philly record release show in February (right after I got back from seeing Frank in Boston, as a matter of fact), which (unsurprisingly) ended up selling out, and ended up being just as raucous and joyous as I knew it was going to be. Dave had finally assembled his band, called the Mermaid, an insanely talented group with an incredible aesthetic. And the roof damn near blew off the venue when they were joined by Eric Bazilian of the band the Hooters, who is also a Philly native and produced Bury Me in Philly. Seeing them play a full set of old and new songs was such a pleasure, though, like always, it was over too quickly. But they were tapped to open for Frank Iero and the Patience, which meant that they were back in town again a couple months later and is where I spent two evenings last week. A jaunt to Philly with my parents (rock ‘n’ roll fiends, the both of ‘em) one night, a quick solo trip to Lancaster a couple nights later, and trying to not think about the Baltimore date I missed because I was at a wedding. Even in the two months since the show at Boot and Saddle, the Mermaid have gotten better, more cohesive, and I can’t wait to see how good they are by the time they come back to town for the XPN’s festival in July. That doesn’t mean you need to wait until then though. Go see ‘em if they stop in your town. And if your mind gets blown, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dave Hause and the Mermaid are: Dave Hause, Tim Hause, Kayleigh Goldsworthy, Miles Bentley, Kevin Conroy