Philly native Alec Ounsworth looked out at the audience from behind clear cat-eyed rims.
“I can't hit those notes,” Ounsworth confessed, due to a cold. But fans of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah may argue that the singer's scrapes toward haunting high notes make his distinct style. Ounsworth, who performed from both his solo and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah catalogs, kicked off The Spinto Band's release show at Philadelphia's own Johnny Brenda's on Saturday, Feb. 16.
Ounsworth was followed by Language Problem, a Philly outfit composed of musicians that span the scene from Philadelphia to Scranton, including Brian Langan (Langor, The Sw!ms, Kock 107), Claire Connelly (The Sw!ms, Daylight Savings & Loan), Steve Quaranta (Paper Masques, Yellow Humphrey, Zelda Pinwheel), and Mike Spano (She Policeman, Daylight Savings & Loan). The quartet played zany dance rock with synthy beats and dizzying feedback. Quaranta tossed his voice up high, dancing on his tiptoes in Chuck Taylors. Connelly's driving drumbeat fed heavy instrumentals. Spano and Langan's strings wailed, echoed by swaying hair.
Spinto pal Pat Finnerty (OK Paddy, And the Moneynotes) announced the band in his own weird way, and the Spinto boys took to the stage in front of a colorfully lit, beaded backdrop. The Philly favorites, by way of Wilmington, Delaware, celebrated their fourth LP, “Cool Cocoon,” released by their own Spintonic Records, with a raucous 19-song set. The quintet – lead vocalists Nick Krill and Thomas Hughes, guitarist Joey Hobson, keyboardist Sam Hughes, and drummer Jeffrey Hobson – peppered the set list with six out of 10 songs from their latest release.
“Cool Cocoon” opener and urban angst ode “Shake It Off” was sixth on the list, followed by Joey Hobson's breathy vocals against the mechanical rhythm of “Memo.” During a docile version of “Look Away,” Krill's gentle lilt floated up to the silver cherubs that dangled from the balcony. Thomas Hughes found the high notes Ounsworth had been searching for during “Amy + Jen,” the album's dreamy, indiebilly second track. The crowd went wild within the first moments of “What I Love.” The audience faintly cooed along with the rolling ballad, then Krill bantered about Lucille Ball before spinning into “Na Na Na.” He entreated fans to sing along with the Lucy-esque “na, na, nas,” shouting, “Put your hair up, make it red, and channel Lucille Ball!”
The Spinto Band pulled from their arsenal of sunny indie rock, pulsing with the hum and bounce of video game sounds, and played plenty of early hits and dance anthems. “The Living Things,” off 2012's “Shy Pursuit,” set the crowd – and the band – dancing, then led to muted keys in fan favorite “Summer Grof,” off 2008's “Moonwink.”
The dancey throwback “Trust vs. Mistrust” off 2005's “Nice and Nicely Done” shook up the crowd in time for “Shy Pursuit” hit “Take It.” In “Brown Boxes,” Thomas Hughes boasted the most sinister sounding kazoo that ever took the stage, while Krill strummed like a metronomic robot.
Joey Hobson coyly led vocals on “Leave Yourself Alone,” a “Shy Pursuit” favorite that featured standout harmonies. Nick Krill windmilled his arm while guitaring through “The Cat's Pajamas,” then brought it down to a slow-dance-at-prom tempo. Cult favorite “Oh Mandy” began a string of tunes from the breakout album “Nice and Nicely Done.” True to the recording, “Direct to Helmet” was a spectacular instance of the chemistry between band members, then a flicker of silence sparked the brief, springy, Spintographic Atari anthem “Mountains.”
Hughes warned, “This is a hip shaker,” before launching into piquant Ary Barroso cover “Brazil.” They lingered instrumentally for a spell, then The Spinto Band closed their release show with 2005's supersonic, snare-y, foot-stomping “Late.” The crowd and band, all danced-out, moved toward the bar, the merch table, and the respective exits as the energy of the well-executed, highly anticipated concert drifted into the streets of Philadelphia.