There’s been much discussion around the ostensible death of American rock music. Where are all the garage bands? The amps that go to 11? The “old time rock ‘n’ roll” of Bob Seger’s memory? It’s easy to write it off as a lost genre in a sea of one-hit kinderpop, but thankfully, there seems to be a revival underground. In this case, “underground” is code for Philadelphia, and leading that revival with all the gumption of a Bible-thumping Baptist minister is the Americana/blues/and-yes-some-pop/rock outfit The Wayside Shakeup.
Drawing their influence from Motown, Led Zeppelin, jazz, funk and even a bit of prog, the Wayside Shakeup has been carefully honing its craft for years, and, this fall, released its second album, Optimistic. It is, however, the first to feature the band’s current lineup: founding members Rob Volansky (lead vocals), Chris D’Antonio (lead guitarist and vocalist), along with Eric Raible on keyboard and vocals, bassist John McLeod, and drummer Mike Leger.
It’s hard to pin down exactly why the album is so good. The likeliest suspects are the all-too-relateable lyrics (ever hate a job? Read on!), catchy melodies and smooth harmonies. Simply put, these guys put in the man-hours it takes to make a stellar record, and they should be proud. This go-round, they’ve even given us a beautifully-shot video for the title track. Directed by Paul Overstrom, an up-and-coming video/photographer and filmmaker, it stars, what else, the band’s stomping grounds of Philly:
Optimistic begins with its eponymous track, sounding like a misplaced Band cut, left behind at Big Pink (a sound that’s echoed later in the album with the gorgeous “Goin’ To See Her”). Where a handful of tracks are pure folk-rock, there are also some out-and-out rockers, like “Invitation,” with it’s sassy guitar licks and barroom drawl. And though “Optimistic” is the band’s first single from the record, the bouncy Jackson Browne-esque “Tell Me When To Kiss You” sounds like it belonged on Top 40 radio in 1974. Yes, it’s all a bit throwback, but hell yes, it’s all great.
The Wayside Shakeup has already gained quite a following in its native Philly, packing fans into the Trocodero, as well as indie hotspots like MilkBoy and World Cafe Live. Recently, “Optimistic” has enjoyed generous airplay on 88.5 WXPN – no small feat for a local band planning to make it big. Don’t be shocked in a year or so when they’re opening for the Black Keys’ next major tour, or scooped up by a label like Glassnote. But don’t feel too bad for the Wayside Shakeup; they’re preaching the gospel of good ol’ American rock. Bob Seger can sit the eff down.
SEE IT LIVE: If you’d like to catch the Wayside Shakeup for yourselves, their next gig is at Ortlieb’s in Philly on Friday, April 18.