American Football & Pure Bathing Culture - Union Transfer, Philadelphia, 5/17/2019; A Dynamite Pairing If There Ever Was One

Photo courtesy of American Football

It's really sweet when you hear about a group you love being booked to play your town and you find out that they are second billed and although you're unfamiliar with the headliner, when you go listen to their latest release you love them too. Such was the case when American Football & Pure Bathing Culture played Union Transfer, Friday night May 17th.

American Football began their set with an epic version of "Silhouettes", which also leads off their latest album LP3. The song included sections where the xylophone mixed with rhythm elements that almost sounded like something that Yes once played on their Topographic Oceans record. In concert, the rhythmic last section added a trumpet and went right into "Every Wave to Ever Rise", which completed an impressive live suite of the new album's first two tracks.

They didn't just stick to LP3, their set provided a good mix of old and new. With that epic opening, their set started out super strong and it just got stronger with each composition they played. This band, American Football, playing live is a beauteous thing to behold. On the three songs from LP3 that featured guest vocalists (“Every Wave To Ever Rise,” “Uncomfortably Numb” - which the crowd especially loved, and “I Can’t Feel You”), Sarah Versprille of Pure Bathing Culture came out and sang with the band, sounding just terrific.

The first thing about this band that grabbed me was the way their guitar sound sparkles and shimmers. And then its the deliberately unhurried pace of the bass and drums that catches you next, reminding me a lot of the sound of Scotland's Blue Nile. The vocals, at least on record, sound a bit like Prefab Sprout.

I may not have been the oldest person in the room, but it occurred to me later that the crowd was mostly in their teens and twenties and probably were not listening to music during the 1980s and 90s. Heck, some of them were probably not even born yet. I've heard this band called "emo" and I've also heard "inde rock", but I say whatever you call it, American Football has a sound that I cannot get enough of, and their live show was all that and more.

Mike Kinsella - guitarist/bassist, singer
Steve Lamos - drummer, trumpet player
Steve Holmes - guitar player
Nate Kinsella - bass

Watch "Uncomfortably Numb"

Setlist - Click on linked titles to watch
01. Silhouettes
02. Every Wave to Ever Rise
03. My Instincts Are the Enemy
04. Give Me the Gun
05. Honestly?
06. The Summer Ends
07. Life Support
08. Uncomfortably Numb
09. Never Meant
10. I Can't Feel You
11. Heir Apparent
12. Stay Home
13. The One With the Wurlitzer

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Photo courtesy of Pure Bathing Culture

I found every minute of Pure Bathing Culture's set to be a thrill. These two bands are perfectly matched and in my book they could go out and co-headline.

Pure Bathing Culture opened the show with a sound that falls somewhere between Swing Out Sister and Everything But the Girl. It turns out that they recently released a new album, Night Pass. I was familiar with their debut full length, Moon Tides, from 2013; I relish catching up with Pray For Rain (that I somehow missed in 2015) as well as the new one. As much as I like them on record, they sounded even better live.

Pure Bathing Culture's sound is defined by Daniel Hindman's guitar and Sarah Versprille's voice. The backbone of their sound is the rhythm section, which at Union Transfer was provided by their touring members namely Zach Tillman (bass) and Christopher Icasiano (drums). The road band also includes Justin Chase (keyboards); Tillman also adds some keys.

One of the nice things I noticed is that both groups are making well written, well arranged, and well produced music - music to be listened to, music with a meaning, music with a purpose, and not just for the sake of sales. That's incredibly encouraging.

Sarah Versprille – keyboards, vocals
Daniel Hindman – guitar, bass, keyboards

Watch "All Night"

Also watch these videos from the show:

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