Right in the heart of Fishtown sits the gem of Philly’s live music scene, Johnny Brenda’s. One of the best small venues for over ten years, the place feels like a shrunken down gothic opera theater with a balcony overlooking a turn of the century burlesque club. I often leave feeling like the bands I’ve seen have played a personal show for me. I know the next time around they will be playing a much larger venue but feel ecstatic I got to see a rising band playing music they love, for the love of live music. Ivan & Alyosha and Twin Forks (formerly Twin Falls) show on Thursday was no different.
I only knew two things about the bands Ivan & Alyosha and Twin Forks before seeing them live. 1. Twin Forks was a new band formed by Chris Carrabba, the lead singer of Further Seems Forever and Dashboard Confessional. And 2, Ivan & Alyosha were the headlining band and the show sold out, fast.
Before Twin Forks took the stage to open the night, there was a buzz beaming across the venue floor. Already more packed than I am used to seeing at the venue for an opening act, I sensed that something special was about to take place and I was the only one who had yet to discover why. I asked people around me who they were there to see. Three girls next to me said they were excited for Chris Carrabba and a couple behind me expressed how amazing Ivan & Alysoha are.
Soon after 9:00 pm, Twin Forks emerged out of the dressing room and began taking the stage. Lead by Chris Carrabba with an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest, three other band mates followed. Chris took center stage behind a microphone, an adorable girl with a mandolin, who I would later find out is Suzie Zeldin from the band The Narrative, took the far left microphone. One gentleman picked up a bass, the other jumped on drums. Chris started to strum his guitar, the mandolin started to pick and I instantly knew that I was in for something different compared to Chris’s past musical endeavors. The band started to build and come together and exploded into happy indie folk rock led by Chris’s powerful, emotional vocals. By the end of the song people had their feet stomping, hands clapping while Chris sang, “That’s the love that can’t be broken!” This would be a recurring theme for the rest of the night, and I was 100% OK with that. The strongest songs came when Suzie and Chris sang together, weaving their happy vocals with lyrics about love, reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s “Home”. You could sense from Chris’s lyrics and the happiness in his new found sound that he had fallen in love with music all over again. His days in Dashboard were behind him and he was 100% OK with that.
By the time Twin Forks ended their set and left the stage the energy in the crowd was contagious. The feeling I had at the beginning of the show about something special happening tonight WAS happening and this would only get stronger once Ivan & Alyosha took the stage.
The crowd started to clap and cheer as the 5 piece, all male band Ivan & Alyosha walked into the room and commanded the stage. With a drummer in the back, three guitars and one bass up front, lead singer Tim Wilson began strumming his guitar and his fellow band mates followed as they all burst into more indie folk rock. The couple behind me bounced up and down singing along with the intricate harmonies of the four men singing onstage backing Tim’s lead vocals. Guitars soared, harmonicas slide back and forth across smiling mouths and the band all danced together while Tim sang, “The sun was shining through my window; we’re making music, making music!” There was no doubt that the sun was actually shining through a window across the band when they were creating these songs. Their songs had traces of The Lumineers, Arcade Fire, and Simon and Garfunkel with soaring group harmonies reminiscent of Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes but raw, less produced and less commercial. The crowd once again started stomping their feet and clapping their hands along to the bands lyrically compelling, uplifting, motivational songs. I found myself singing along with the crowd and even though I did not know any of the lyrics it didn’t seem to matter.
By the time the night was over we were all one big, sweaty, happy mess. Both Twin Forks and Ivan & Alyosha shined as rising indie folk bands and I walked away ecstatic I got to see them at a time when they were playing music they love, for the love of live music.
At the end of the show I had a chance to talk to Suzie Zeldin and Chris Carrabba from Twin Forks, who were some of the nicest musicians I have ever had a chance to talk to:
JC (Midcoast): Suzie, you were one of the most adorable people I have ever seen onstage, how did you end up singing in Twin Forks and was that a mandolin?
Suzie: Awe Thank you! Yes, that was a mandolin! I have been part of an indie rock band called The Narrative out of Brooklyn for five years now. A few years ago a friend who knows Chris suggested that we send each other some material. Since Chris lives in Florida we would email each other songs back and forth and it started from there. I did some guest vocals with Dashboard and when Chris decided to start Twin Forks he asked me to be part of it. I am really excited to be a part of it; it is some of the happiest music I have ever had a chance to play.
JC: Chris, the last time I saw you live was in 2007 at a big venue in Atlantic City, how did you transition from the sound of Dashboard Confessional to Twin Forks? By the way, that was one of the happiest shows I’ve ever seen.
Chris: Thank you! That means a lot. I have been interested in making this kind of music for a long time now. A few years ago I picked up my guitar and started writing and it has grown from there. You see, being part of Dashboard Confessional the fans expected a certain sound from us. I felt like I had to write songs in the style of Dashboard and couldn’t detour from that. Now I can and it means so much to me that people are enjoying and feeling the love and happiness that I am creating with Twin Forks.
By Jonathan CressonTo read more from Chris Carabba see our interview with him from October, 2012 regarding his Further Seems Forever reunion and new FSF album, Penny Black. *Image and video courtesy of Joe Benozon on YouTube.