Saturday, August 27, 2011
Cup ‘O Joy, Green Bay, Wisconsin
To catch their performance is to catch lightning in a bottle. This performance was no exception. Photoside Café, a four piece spiritually based, folk / rock band hailing from the Northern Illinois / Chicago area, are known their eclectic style, a sometimes heartfelt / sometimes in-your-face lyrical story line, and a very real audience connection. This live performance hailed all of these virtues and more. This concert was recorded to be one of three possible components for an upcoming audio / video offering.
The acoustic 14 song set was performed sans drummer Jason Chatterton due to scheduling conflicts. The performance was given by Naphtali Marshall on acoustic guitar and vocals, Matthew Gadeken on violin and backing vocals and Craig Hobson on electric bass. Marshall’s light, airy, weathered voice adds an emotional charge to their songs seldom found in contemporary music. With uber-skilled violin work and a solid foundation of crisp bass play their music fills the listener’s imagination with vision and purpose.
The concert’s set list included 9 songs from Photoside’s debut album, The Beauty of Innocence Remains and new material from an album whose creation is in progress. The upcoming concept album is forged from a trilogy performed for the first time during this concert, and is focused on internal spiritual change. Its message is the progression of what we go through in life, dealing with life’s conflicts. The overall effort of the concept album will be anchored around these 3 acoustic songs, with an additional 2 to 3 songs dealing with the message of each piece of this trilogy.
The opener, ”Black Heart”, provided a dramatic entry to the evening with a song whose breaks give way to the emotional depth of the song. With a refrain pleading for Christ’s love to enter our lives, ‘I’m in over my head, set my soul free’, this song speaks to the longing of all Christians. The light rocker, “When Beauty Sings”, showcased Marshall’s emotion filled voice, setting the stage for one of the best covers I’ve witnessed of The Beatles “Come Together”. Here, the 3 piece acoustic shined despite a lack of percussion, highlighted by the violin replacing the sometimes violent lead guitar with synth-laden lead making this version distinct and highly memorable.
“Despair”, the first of the new trilogy, is a softly performed song telling the story of one’s early hope crushed by the daily pressure of life leading to despair. Well placed in the set list was the song “Don’t Care”, which shares a conversation between man and God where man asks ‘Do we have a little love left in this place, can we give a little heart to the human race?” And God’s reply, ‘You know that I want you by my side, just take my hand. You need to know that you’re beautiful to me’. The slower, heart-felt “Sweet Fascination” brought out the crowd’s interaction just in time for “Welcome Home”, a powerful message of social justice. A well-played bass accented the acoustic guitar, while a superb violin solo lead to a tempo change making the listener feel as if they indeed had been welcomed home.
The second of the trilogy, “Rescue”, continued the story of saving grace. The story line tells of being rescued from despair by God’s grace with heartfelt lyrics and soft melody. Lead singer Marshall loosed a family secret giving this song greater meaning for its author, making the audience promise to not tell of the stork’s migration - any clue? After some related audience feedback, the band shifted into high gear with the crowd favorite “Kill Your TV.” If there could be metal performed by a 3 piece acoustic group, this is it, proven by a quiet violin entry quickly followed by the band exploding with sound and lyrics telling of the lies the media extolls. “Bittersweet” and “The Old Bridge” lead the audience back to soul searching through good story telling.
The first of two new offerings started the set’s end. “Crash & Burn” began with the Marshall’s caveat, ‘We’re working out the kinks, so the title is appropriate.’ The final piece of the trilogy came with “Aftermath” telling of the positives we experience after being rescued from despair by God’s love and grace. The finale “Beautiful Release” is the title song of the band’s debut album. Again, the band’s connection with the audience was apparent with the statement, ‘This song has many time signatures and without our drummer we may stray from the tempo so hold off on clapping, it could through us off. Then again, if you clap in the beginning we have an excuse!’ Of course the audience could not refuse and early clapping lead to much laughter by all and the beginning of another great song.
Their songs are epitomized by their story telling of personal, spiritual, and cultural issues. Their concerts are exemplified by their show of emotion, audience connection, and musical prowess. Through their offering of a powerful musical experience, the ebb and flow of band’s combined musical efforts provide a message inlaid to a story, accented by incredible violin play. The experience becomes an emotion-packed memory leaving the listener grappling with the issue at hand while facing lightning caught in a bottle.