Philadelphia Grand Jury + I, a Man – Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne (8/11/2014)

It’s been three years since Joel “MC Bad Genius” Beeson and Simon “Berkfinger” Berckelman officially called it a day for the much-loved Philadelphia Grand Jury, and judging by the sold-out crowd at Ding Dong, the love has not waned.

An excited chatter spread throughout the venue, people laughed and spilled beer and a guy tried to show me an iPhone video of him getting a blowjob.

I, a Man played a solid set; their chiming guitars all washed in delay yet still delivered with enough distortion and sustain to be dynamic in parts. Being the local support, and a few sound problems, meant they didn’t seem to really get the audience’s full attention but they did well nonetheless.

The charismatic down-to-earth personas and seemingly overwhelming desire to bring the party have always endeared The Philly Jays to their audience, ensuring despite the pop leanings of the melodies, they’ve all the hallmarks of a cult band, laying claim to a small but dedicated fan base.

Grabbing his bass and walking to the front of the stage, the bearded, wild-eyed Bad Genius launched into the opening riff of Ready to Roll, which seemed to speed up as soon as Berkfinger and original drummer Dan “W. Sweat” Williams joined in behind him. With the opening call of, “I just want you to know/that I am about to get my game on,” this was a statement of intent from the band.

Moving straight into Growing Up Alone, one of the highlights of their 2009 album Hope is for Hopers, the relationship between the bass and guitar parts created a heavy, soulful and melodic sludge, upon which Berkfinger’s pretty vocal melody sat perfectly.

Even on their poppiest tunes, such as set highlight The New Neil Young, the heaviness of the rhythm and the loose energy of the delivery had both a groove and punk edge, defining characteristics of the Philly Jays’ sound.

As the set progressed, the energy amped up, until finally Berkfinger was sitting astride an audience member’s shoulders while belting out the band’s Like A Version cover of 99 Problems, as the throng around his ankles went nuts.

Going to the Casino (Tomorrow Night) and I Don’t Want to Party (Party) rounded out the set in a typically exuberant and sweaty manner, reminding everyone just what a great band they’d been and how much we have to look forward to with the promise of a new album.

Originally published in Beat Magazine on 18/11/2014. View original article.

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