I'd never been to Union Transfer before, but it was only a short walk (~11 blocks) away. It's actually amazing the number of venues I can walk to--it's a luxury I don't often take advantage of. The venue was much nicer than I expected. The layout reminded me of St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit--a long floor with 2 balconies on the sides--only well-kept and with more character. Interesting light fixtures, wood arches, and best of all a very nice bar with a decent selection of draught beers (I guess most venues I've been to in Philly have at least some local brews on tap).
The Vandelles were the first opener, competent psychobilly/surf. The drummer was wild, arms flailing, and based on the length of her skirt I think she may well have flashed the folks in the front. As with many bands, I thought that they would have been better off dropping the vocals, which I thought detracted from the songs. As a backdrop, they had projected their Twitter handle (@thevandelles) and a QR code. I mean, I guess you've got to shamelessly self-promote to make it, but QR codes really irk me.
After The Vandelles, I moved up front & center, as I figured The Jesus and Mary Chain would be up next. And, at first, I thought they were: the guitarist's mop could easily have been William Reid's. The stage lights were turned off and only 3 bright lights back-lit the band, something that seemed very much in character, especially with the addition of a fog machine. But it was only a 3-piece with no vocals, and the songs were unfamiliar--although good. They were loud, noisy, and rhythmic and repetitive but that built suspense in a way that reminded me of Caspar Brötzmann Massacre (although the songs were, thankfully, shorter than Caspar Brötzmann's 15-minute dirges). It was everything that I wanted from the show, except that I had no idea who the band was.
After the set, I discovered it was--thanks to someone complaining about them on Twitter--the post-rock group The Psychic Paramount.
People starting pushing their way through the crowd at that point. It's always amazing that however crowded you think the floor is, twice as many people can pack into the same space. Whereas there were maybe 4-5 people in front of me, there were now 6-7 in spite of the fact that I hadn't moved.
When JAMC came out, my first thought was: William Reid has let himself go. He looked like Judah Friedlander, sans the ubiquitous cap. He was wearing a BBC t-shirt ("I hate the BBC..."). Jim Reid looked like a clean-cut older version of Jim Reid, with a sport-jacket over a t-shirt depicting 3 cassette tapes. The drummer was wearing a t-shirt and had a Prince Valiant pageboy haircut. The bass player looked like Lestrade from the Sherlock series, and the rhythm guitarist had a gray pompadour and looked like something between Johnny Cash and David Lynch.
There were a lot of bottles of Heineken on stage, and I have a feeling most of them were Jim Reid's. He was playing with the mic stand a lot, and I was a bit fearful for the audience directly ahead of him. At one point he knocked it over into the crowd, but the guy in front caught it before it hit anyone. He accidentally took a swipe at his brother while swinging it around. He cursed at his brother for tuning his guitar between songs, and it was hard to tell if it was good-natured cursing or not. The vocals were low in the mix, and I thought perhaps that was intentional.
They played nearly all the fan favorites, and I have to say that although much of the crowd sang along, the girl with the Philly/South Jersey accent adjacent to me was both horrifying and amusing. I could have done with a long and noisy feedback piece from the band, but in spite of the noise they are a pop band at heart.
It was a little odd to see a man in a sport-coat singing "I was incomplete/I'm a freak" though. Also, thinly-veiled ("honey dripping") or unveiled ("little skinny girl you're doing it for the first time") sexual references seemed a little creepier from a 50-year-old Jim Reid than they did from a 30-year-old Jim Reid in 1992. But he can't help getting older any more than I can.