May 19, 2017 by Brian Cruice
If you’ve ever listened to the music of the Family Crest, the term “bar-band” is likely to be the last thing on your mind. Yet, that is where they found themselves positioned May 10, playing to a crowd of 80 or so in the back room of South Philly’s Boot & Saddle. It was the strange combination of venue and band that first interested me in attending this show.
Opening for the Family Crest was OhBree, a local band, which has been working on and off for years and will soon be releasing their third album, “Burn Bridges, Burn Pies.”
Taking a narrative based writing format, lead singer Andrew Scott jumped through tempo and structure changes as the rest of the seven-piece band bounces around stage like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Scott’s cartoonish vocals added to the circus-esque feel of the show, which made for a pleasantly surprising if unbridled set. OhBree are certainly an acquired taste, but I left wanting more.
If OhBree were enjoyably amateurish, then the Family Crest is what you want when you say professional. Arriving on stage in matching black jeans and deep navy button downs (save keyboardist and flutist Laura Bergmann, who wore a matching dress), the band lead off with “Sparks,” the first song from their new EP “Prelude to War.”
I was initially worried about their sound fitting into the small room, and the mixing for OhBree was not great, but the song managed to back all of the punch of the excellent studio version. Lead songwriter and vocalist Liam McCormick delivered the grandiose chorus “As our hearts shake off sparks, we grow” as the rest of the band sang with him, every voice audible despite the lack of microphone.
After each song the band is forced to banter, since they have seemed to written with a separate tuning. They remained extremely flattered throughout the performance, happy to just be playing these songs in a live setting. The band’s strongest songs are all ballads that build to cathartic endings, and each successive tune seemed to top the next. Each member gets to take a turn leading the charge as well, whether it was the undeniable violin hook that plays off the vocal melody of “Can You Stay” or the jaw-dropping cello opening to “Beneath the Brine”.
By the time the band brought out the bongos and cowbells for lead single “Mirror Love”, I was just as hooked as the die hard fans who were singing along to every word. The band not only managed to strike a wonderful balance of pop structure with classical virtuosity, but they fit it in the back room of the local vegan bar and that has to count for something.