The first time I ever saw Everyone Orchestra was the very last night The Blockley would ever be open. Although, I enjoyed the music that was being played, I was way too wrapped into celebrating the magic that was The Blockley to give the band the attention that they deserved. So when I arrived to see them Saturday, May 9th, at the Ardmore Music Hall I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
If you are unfamiliar with Everyone Orchestra, the band is lead by its founder, Matt Butler, and he is the only consistent member of this experiment in live music. The band rotates with accredited musicians from a wide variety of genres and they play an entirely improvisational set. This particular evening the only member of the band I had prior knowledge of was Aron Magner, the keyboardist of my favorite band The Disco Biscuits, which left me with an opportunity to discover new musicians.
The first set of the concert began with Butler choosing a genre of music and the key in which they would perform. For this instance, he chose Funk in E. The songs would continue to be created on the spot in this formula for the entirety of the first set. Taking lead vocals on the first song and continuing to impress with her vocal skills throughout the show was Durga McBroom, who has done vocals for Pink Floyd. Assisting in vocals as well as blowing my mind on trumpet was Ivan Jackson from High and Mighty Brass Band. The biggest takeaway from the show for me was Natalie Cressman, who assisted with vocals and absolutely owned the show on her trombone. Cressman has played trombone for the Trey Anastasio Band and is also a singer/songwriter for her own band.
The crowd is just as much of the experience as the band itself, as Butler jots down lyrics on a white board and coaxes the crowd to sing along. While the rest of the band blends together to create this improvised song, the vocal section would put their heads together to create a chorus resulting in a fully completed song by the time they finish. Unlike some concerts where you are a passive observer of the show you are expected to help bring the songs to life which adds an additional element of fun and community to the crowd.
The second set of the concert began with choosing a member of the band, allowing them to set the tone of the song, then the band following their lead. During each member’s song they would take turns playing directly off of the lead musician, allowing a display of talent for each musician. Vernon Reid from Living Colour and Moe‘s Al Schnier played guitar while Vinnie Amico also from Moe was on drums. Galactic bassist Robert Mercurio, rounded out this eclectic group of artists. Having been to countless concerts it is easy to allow yourself to get distracted while the band is on, but not at an Everyone Orchestra show.
The music is being created live in front of you and I had an amazing time watching the musicians on their toes. I have experienced many fun nights of music but this one will definitely be remembered. I will be sure to make it out every time this interesting band comes to town.
[Ed. note: I was also at that EO show where they closed out the Blockley, as well as a few others. The Blockey was… a unique place. When it shut down, many of us felt a hole in our souls, not to mention those who lost jobs as a result. One of those is Chris Perella, who booked the shows and managed the venue. Luckily for us, Chris found a new home, and is now responsible for booking the acts at Ardmore. AMH has come a long way since Chris has taken over there, and the lineup has shown it. He’s booked too many sold out shows to count with so many major national touring acts you’ll be seeing all over festival bills this summer. AMH regulars (and Blockley veterans) are something of a family have come to know Chris personally. It was great to see the staff present him with a birthday present just before the start of the second set and to be surrounded by so many wishing him well. The Philadelphia area is truly lucky to have a tastemaker like Chris running the show, so to speak. We look forward to the recently announced outdoor festival, hosted by AMH, Live from the Lot, featuring Dr. John, Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, American Babies, and more! Check out the lineup on the facebook page here and get your tickets now at early bird prices before they go up!]