Kevin Devine at Union Transfer

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I’m a baseball fan. In fact, the guy writing this uses the stage name September Call-Up. And in keeping with that theme I’d like to think of myself as a pinch hitter, or better yet, a middle reliever (I am a lefty after all) – in the sense that the editor of this very website missed the Kevin Devine show in Georgia due to the flu. I then gave her my own version of the “put me in, coach!” speech, since I was all set to attend the Philadelphia offering. She kindly obliged, and now I’m here to review a show from the guy whose first band was named after the ’86 Mets. Full Circle. Play ball!

Leading off was Harrison Hudson, who along with Mike Strandberg, was pulling double duty as a member of the Goddamn Band. The set was full of catchy pop-rock that floated somewhere between a friendlier version of The Strokes and a late 90’s Beach Boys revival (thanks to friends Jesse and Sara for those comparisons – I couldn’t think of anything more apt). The set was short, catchy and kept the crowd engaged, in all a good opener.

Next up was Now, Now who hail from Minneapolis but looked and sounded like they’d be more at home in Brooklyn or Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Their sound was very lush, reverby electro indie-rock. Something that from start to finish sounded more like one long consistent film soundtrack than a collection of individual songs. Devine, himself, noted during his set that they were “cinematic”. Spot on.

In baseball, you put your best hitter in the 3-hole, so appropriately next came Devine with the Goddamn Band. Right from the start this was a more raucous version of the band. There was noticeably more energy. In fact, Devine could hardly stand still. He spent most of the set jumping around like a mad man, which felt an appropriate treatment for the new offerings on Bubblegum.

The set opened with long time crowd favorite “Cotton Crush” then settled in for some of the newer catalogue. “Private First Class”, the Chelsea Manning commentary with its meaningful lyrics and catchy melody is one of my new favorites along with title track “Bubblegum”. Going through the set, Devine played songs from five albums, mostly drawing from Bubblegum and 2009’s Brother’s Blood. The initial set ended with the rocking “Brother’s Blood”.  Afterward, instead of walking off, Devine  politely  asked that we pretend that he did and went right into the encore. The lack of pretense and taking yourself too seriously was immediately shown by the fact that the encore started with a 10 minute long medley of 90’s-2000’s pop/rock hits which seems to have become commonplace at the Goddamn Band Shows and is a crowd pleaser for sure.

The encore concluded rockingly with Bubblegum’s masterpiece “RedBird”, after which the band left Devine on stage with a lone electric guitar where he performed “Safe”, which was beautiful and poignant in the large, quiet room. This was followed by usual closer and favorite “Ballgame”, which seemed to have a noticeably more positive outlook than in past performances of the song. Perhaps a result of Devine’s recent nuptials and a bit of the artist coming through in his work. It’s nice as a songwriter when those things that drive you to put pen to paper sometimes, albeit all too rarely, end up working out in the best possible way. I’m happy for him. It was a nostalgic, touching, welcome end to a wonderful performance. It put a smile on your face, and you feel like you left the game with a win.

Christian Bitto is a songwriter/musician from Philadelphia who performs under the name September Call-Up.

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