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Nona, Cayetana, Three Man Cannon, Omar and Martin @ Golden Tea House.

July 29, 2013

nonarecordreleasefbjump-33smallText by Joe Gallagher. Images by Jessica Flynn.

There is no shortage of shows in this city, which over the past five years thanks to the efforts of many promoters and clubs large and small, has cemented itself as a valuable stopover (and even as a place worth reloacting to) for artists.

However, Saturday was a night on which a show really felt like an event.

Presented by The Guild (who are becoming an asset as valuable to this city as the Liberty Bell or the Schuylkill River Trail) at the Golden Tea House, it was at once Nona’s record release show and a showcase for their slightly offbeat peers: Martin, Omar, Cayetana and Three Man Cannon. “House” actually does Golden Tea a disservice: while it may well be a residence for a few people, the actual feel of the place is closer to a proper rock club thanks to its open floor plan and mezzanine. It is by the far the best place to attend a show and live above the law at the same time. 

nonarecordreleasefbjump-3smallnonarecordreleasefbjump-10smallMartin (right), who despite being all of six months-old have two tours under their belt (most recently with their spiritual forefathers Plow United,) kicked off proceedings. The musicianship of this band is unreal. Their verses and choruses skirt the more aggro edge of Green Day’s catalogue, and are bridged by bass-guitar-led breakdowns; most songs they played had a moment where bassist Todd Purse lays a foundation for Pat Graham’s discordant guitar noise. These moments are jarring for a few reasons, not least of which is you’re hearing a pop punk band doing awesome and new things with the form.

Following Martin was another band doing incredible things with a limited form: two-piece Omar (right). “Two-piece” is often synonymous with trebly amateur guitar playing and simplistic “Be My Baby” drumbeats. This has never been the case with Omar, which features Nick Fanelli on drums. Fanelli tends to lead his bands with his drumming by creating a massive din out of constant snare/open high hat hits broken up by the occasional rim shot or tom-fill. Meanwhile, guitarist Candace Martello’s vocals have gotten a lot stronger since Omar’s aggravating hiatus. Some of their songs, 3.5-years-old at this point, still cut me up as if its the first time I’m hearing them. The new material they played last night indicate their eventual new release will deliver.

nonarecordreleasefbjump-12smallCayetana have grown on me exponentially over the last year or so. I don’t really know why it’s taken me so long. Their high-fret bass playing and clean guitar make me think of indie pop groups…I am compelled to cite the House of Love as something I hear in their music. Singer/guitarist Augusta Koch is a really strong and unique vocalist, and was also ringleader a lot of the night: taking the mic during bands’ tuning breaks to crack one-liners, apparently decorating the space beforehand, and presenting Cayetana recording engineer/Three Man Cannon guitarist Matt Schimelfenig with a birthday cake.

nonarecordreleasefbjump-21smallThree Man Cannon (right) almost stole the show for me (were it not for Nona.) They are masters of building and releasing tension. Aforementioned birthday boy Matt Schmelfegig has a voice that relates to Stephen Malkmus’ over plaintive, reverb-effected guitar picking for a verse or two while Spenser Hogans’ rhythm guitar and Pat Brier’s drumming carry the songs to cathartic, screamed heights. Brier and bassist Dennis Mishka are far and away Pennsylvania’s most valuable rhythm section, evinced by their past turn in Tigers Jaw and especially here in 3MC. The build and break of each one of their songs, plus several instrument swaps and turns on the mic made for one of the most enjoyable and compelling sets by a band of this stature I’ve seen in a bit.

The whole reason for the evening was Nona’s recently released full length debut Through The Head. (Full disclosure: lead singer Mimi Gallagher is my sister but I have no stake in this band aside from being their oldest and likely/unfortuntely most dedicated fan.)

Being a young band and putting together a record is no small feat. I feel all too often lately albums are thrown onto Bandcamp pages with no fanfare. Its amazing that releasing music has become so democratized that there is little demand for an all out celebration like the one at Golden Tea House. I’m glad that the effort was made here and this occasion marked because, to put it plainly, Through The Head is a great, huge-sounding record. Nona did it justice live, opening dramatically with the last song on the record and its title track. Singer/guitarist Mimi Gallagher is accompanied only by a shaker and periodic kickdrum hits over two gutwrenching verses until a tidal wave of guitar bass and drums slaps you in the face for the remaining thirty or so seconds. Gallagher is equal parts Dan Yemin and Billy Corgan on guitar: fast, pop-punk riffs balanced by massive solos that stick around for awhile. The celebratory vibe that marked the rest of the night was matched during their set by a messy push pit and two champagne bottles that were fired off and subsequently passed through the crowd.


It was Matt Shimelfenig's birthday.

It was Matt Shimelfenig’s birthday.


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