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Black Stars, Vita & The Woolf and Bueno and The Goods @ Bourbon and Branch.

June 2, 2014

5:29:14_BlackStars_Bourbon&Branch_JUMP_DarraghDandurand_02Text and images by Darragh Dandurand.

Tobacco smoke circled around the door to Northern Liberties’ Bourbon and Branch while the sound of bass lines pounded from the inside. On Thursday night the small, second-floor venue filled up fast for a line up featuring Philly’s own Black Stars and Vita & the Woolf. Openers Bueno and the Goods and The Valhallas played short sets in the dimly lit bar, warming up the audience for a long run.

Had someone not heard the punky alt-rock Bueno and the Goods were bringing, the candy-colored lighting bouncing off the stage might have fooled someone into thinking the postage stamp-sized venue was a mini-discotheque. The three-piece band played a few songs, though their lyrics could hardly be heard. Each musician was fairly focused on their own instruments and barely acknowledged each other while jamming out. Their tunes carried an upbeat sound but left me wanting something a little more polished.

Next, Jen Pague of Vita & the Woolf slowly ascended the little wooden step stool at the front of the stage in a vintage, floral patterned gown swirling at her ankles. She casually took a swig from a slightly dented beer can and addressed the audience, the largest of the night, who cheered her on as she finally placed her hands on the keys of her piano. The two-tiered keyboard was covered in a cloth, seemingly knit from some rosy-tinted yarn, decking out the set up in a hippie-dippy kind of way. With eyes intensely locked on her drummer off in the corner and hidden from the light, the duo kicked right into their set, even pulling out one or two encores by the end of it. Pague’s voice hit every note imaginable, from guttural lows to hummingbird highs, while the audience cheered after each of her vocal solos.

The evening’s closer, Black Stars, took the stage before midnight, much to the delight of two or three devoted, tipsy fans waiting for the rock band to rock out. Perfection pulsed from the quartet, all of whom were in absolute sync and rhythm the whole set long. They band played some original songs but quite a few covers as well, which had most everyone in the place singing along to Zeppelin and other classics.

Lead singer Nik Greeley bounced around the stage, stood on the bass drum, jumped off of amps and rolled around on the floor narrowly dodging beer puddles and the feet of several patrons who kindly moved out of his sporadic way. Black Stars energy won them the pleasure of giving into at least four additional numbers after they said ‘good night,’ encouraging lead guitarist, Dre DiMura, a chance to shred his heart out on his knees under the sickly glow of orange filters.

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