Live Review: Felix Lighter @ Quips (2010.01.16)

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Felix Lighter – “Doug”, Live @ the Chameleon Club

Centered around a shared rehearsal space/ studio, and away from the sometimes harsh glare of Philadelphia and Baltimore, a small independent music scene is starting to grow, flourish, and gain some well-deserved attention in Lancaster, PA. While independent describes their approach, it is the collective power of all the groups that share the studio that give the scene its strength. Over the course of the years, a strong core of musicians and bands has come together to write, record, and play music together. They share stages and shows, and at times even band members. They come together to work on individual ideas and group projects. And while there is a decidedly alt-country feel in the air, there is no one defining sound. Bands tread from one end of the musical spectrum to the other, moving from the more alt-countrified sound of Slimfit and They Were Only Satellites, to the fuzz-folk of Stinging Nettles, to the more rocking improvisation of Felix Lighter.

Recently they have seen the influence of another musical realm as Joe Jack Talcum (guitarist/ singer of legendary punk band The Dead Milkmen) has become involved with the scene. Talcum has provided guidance and a sense of inspiration to the younger bands. He also occasionally plays shows with them, sometimes sitting in during their sets. He even recorded his last album at their studio.

Saturday night at Quips, one of the many Lancaster venues that support live music scene in the area, Felix Lighter played thirty plus songs across a lengthy three sets. It was the type of performance you rarely get to see: a band playing all night, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They played as if they were personally trying to reach every person in the place, from fans right in front of them to those standoffish people at the back.

The first set was a solo acoustic set from lead singer/ guitarist Paul Skozilas that at its conclusion quickly moved into two full-band sets. The two full-band sets featured adventurous, guitar driven rock that would in an instant go from balls out rocking, to an inventive prog-rockish movement, to a subtle acoustic strum. Songs were not neatly tied up in a box. There were dangling solos, jangly jams, and a passionate intensity that brought each song to life. The first set was dominated by old-school favorite “Stomach.” It was a serious work-out in which drummer Marshall Fischer and bassist Adam Horita built a steady foundation allowing room for guitarists Rich Caloiero and Skozilas to work to the slowly building climax, which found Skozilas shredding his vocals as he delivered the final verse in Spanish.

Near the end of the first set, Talcum who had been lurking around the stage all-night, joined the band for a fiery version of Bob Dylan’s “Isis.” This was not the subdued Desire version, but the raging Rolling Thunder version. Talcum brought the heat, delivering Dylan’s classic harmonica lines with a ferocious punch.

The addition of a few covers in their set helped give insight into the wide ranging influences of the band. Dylan, Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Gardenhead,” Dave Mason’s “Feeling Alright,” and Bombadil’s “Johnny” all help to give a brief glimpse into what comes together to make up Felix Lighter’s diverse musical palate.

The 2nd set was classic Felix Lighter: a whiskey-soaked, psychedelic rush of classic guitar rock that found the band stretching out, taking chances, linking songs and finding a groove that got those standoffish people in the back up and moving. It was the type of night you hope to have when you go see live music. It was unabashed fun, it was late nights, it was ripping guitars and hard-hitting drums, it was a discovery of new music that moved you. But most importantly, it was quite simply Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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