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Jackie Paper: Psychedelic Pop In Kensington.

April 2, 2013

Jump PhillyText by Bryan Wallace. Image by Ryan Treitel.

Over the last few years, our fine city has seen a resurgence of the reverb-driven genre known as psychedelic music.

One of those to ignite the flame is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Joshua Dowell.

And unless you are allergic to first-rate rock ‘n’ roll, Dowell’s voice, backed by a thick coat of gritty instrumentation in his band Jackie Paper, will be received merrily.

JackiePaperReleaseShowDowell is the chairman and voice of the Kensington-based psych garage band, which is named after the character from the Leonard Lipton poem made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit song in 1963.

“Puff, the Magic Dragon shows up and traces Jackie Draper,” Dowell explains. “He picks up the tracing and names it Jackie Paper. They then travel off to the town of Honalee. When they get there, it’s a magical land where he learns life lessons.”

Dowell grew up in an environment that any musician would covet. When he was a child, he had his father’s hodgepodge of musical and recording equipment at his fingertips. By age 8, he was tinkering with multi-track recordings by using a double-cassette player.

“We always had weird instruments showing up at the house that I would play around with, like oil drums, bagpipes and violins,” Dowell says modestly.

Dowell’s current home and the band’s studio is Hong Kong Garden, the venue where local and touring bands play downstairs and dozens of random people show up to have good times.

Walking up the staircase to the second floor of Hong Kong Garden, you are greeted with a choice selection of VHS tapes, Dowell’s paintings on the walls, a 3-foot Christmas tree decorated with naked Ken dolls and a functioning wood stove in the center of it all. It is safe to say that it’s like the magical land of Honalee, only grittier. Whether or not they are learning life lessons, as the fictional Jackie Paper does, is up for debate.

Dowell started the band in 2007. He slowly assembled a pool of local talent, including Patrick Firth on drums, Erin Porter on keys, flautist Michelle Goodwin and Jake Brewer on bass (though he is now on hiatus, replaced by Asher Dark). Since the full band’s formation last February, they’ve performed around the city, as well as in the Garden State.

The sounds of Jackie Paper are reminiscent of 1960s psychedelia like The Chocolate Watch Band. Their tasteful use of pedal effects and distortion, and Porter’s steady sequences on keys blending with Goodwin’s woodwind arrangements, prove Jackie Paper a true revivalist ensemble.

The band is set to put out an EP in early April. This will be the first collection of recordings that will include the current members of the band. Past tracks have been redone by Dowell using multi-track digital recordings.

In addition to releasing their new material, the band has laid the groundwork for a tour. Because of their home venue, they have connections all over the Northeast, as well as in North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee.

They’ll start with a release show at Hong Kong Garden, located in a section of the city  that has seen a rapid influx of musical talent.

“North Philly is the place to be right now,” Dowell says. “It has a real cool thing going on.”

Jackie Paper will perform with Mike Bruno & The Black Magic Family Band, The Big Drops, Seismic Thrust, Chimes and Cold Foamers on Saturday at Hong Kong Garden. See here for details.

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