A brisk evening in the middle of summer is refreshing -- especially when escaping the stuffy heat of a packed rock concert. 222 Ormsby, the DIY performance space in Mt. Oliver, hosted over one hundred and fifty folks for a fine show last Friday. It was the tour kickoff and album release for White Wives --a local supergroup of sorts featuring members of Dandelion Snow, American Armada, and Anti-Flag, but thanks to the City Paper cover article, you already knew that.
Arriving at the inconspicuous venue around 7 p.m., I spotted some clean-cut kids donning t-shirts, tight shorts, and nice haircuts. Predicting a more punk-like vibe (as opposed to the cast of "Skins" outside texting on their iPhones), I shuddered at the possibility of being the oldest person in attendance. Luckily for my sake that was far from true, as there wasn't one specific "scene" present at this show, or one specific age group. Anchors End was up first, and they started the night with a fist-pumping half hour of old-fashioned Lionshead-chugging punk. The crowd cheered.
Allies' energetic, sweat-soaked set was next. The double SG guitar-attack tactically piled overtop moving bass lines and unbroken drumming to achieve this mountain of random rhythms. They burst through eight songs--many of which resembled a marriage between the sounds of older Q and Not U and Mission of Burma. The vocals on "Planet of Sums" and "Grey Capital" were better than ever, and the brand-new songs (expect a new album later this summer--their first since 2008) sounded equally great. They were the evening's definite highlight.
Balance and Composure … it sounds more akin to a self-help seminar than a young, five-piece alternative punk band. Picture a darker Jimmy Eat World or mewithoutyou with more intensity…intensity that sparked the only little mosh pit of the night (this was more of a 'watch and nod your head' sort of crowd). The lead singer's occasional pop-punky scream unbalanced my own mind's composure a bit, but within a song or two I was hooked. A few devotees traveled specifically to catch this eastern-PA band…I don't blame them.
After slamming a cold beer outside I returned to a surprise: a music video set! Blinding lights and professional cameras scattered about the Ormsby space, because graffitied walls and a packed crowd scream "music video opportunity" for most bands--including White Wives. Adding additional instrumentation (everything from keyboards to trumpets to marching percussion), White Wives ended the evening by highlighting material from their new album. The cadence-like intro to "Spinning Wheels" or the joyful "Sky Started Crying" kept the temporary Ormsby residents singing. Soon enough my exit from the 222 Ormsby's sauna was greeted by pouring rain and a sea of wet, smiling faces. How could anyone not smile after all that?
I left Mt. Oliver with three things circulating through my mind: the Balance and Composure song "Kaleidoscope" (my brain has it on repeat as I write); the urge to catch another Allies set much sooner than later; and the reminder that the best shows often take place in the least conspicuous places.