Friday, June 26, 2009

Heirloom and Brendan O'Neill at Skylight 307

Skylight 307 is a hip new guerrilla art gallery above Artist and Craftsman in Old City Philadelphia. It is being used as an occasional art space and low-key performance venue by the staff of the great art store below while the landlord looks for a permanent tenant. They have some cool First Friday events, with new art, a talented jazz group, and free wine and beer. Check it out: it’s at 307 Market Street, upstairs.

Last Sunday, June 21, I spent father’s day night at this space listening to a series of acoustic duos. When I say acoustic, I mean acoustic. Apart from a few songs at the beginning of Heirloom’s set, when they used an electric guitar and a keyboard with practice amps, all the acts played unplugged, no mikes. The sound was incredible --- this space has awesome acoustics and begs to be used as a similar performance space soon.

The first act was a great male and female duo now known as Heirloom (previously Twilight Rookery, they changed their name to avoid any connection with that stupid vampire series). It is fronted by multi-instrumentalist Meggie Morganelli, a classically trained middle school music teacher. Meggie has an incredibly powerful voice and a great appreciation of English and Appalachian folk music. Their covers of these tunes blended perfectly with their well-crafted original songs. Guitarist Stefan Zajic writes the lyrics and plays a pleasant finger-picking style. Meggie switched from electric piano to dulcimer to guitar and back to dulcimer for a rousing folk-inspired rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” their closing tune. She has a natural folky beauty that is a perfect look for the duo, and for the show she wore her hair in a classic hairband to really look the part. These guys are talented folksters and deserve more praise on the Philly acoustic music scene. Look out for them.

The middle act, Rachel Andes, an extremely talented singer, also played as an acoustic duo. She was followed by Brendan O’Neill. Brendan was backed by talented bassist/guitarist Kevin Voightsberger on guitar. Kevin’s played with a bunch of successful groups in many genres --- funk, jam, reggae, Irish, and folk. I know him from his days with Bradsfield Martini and his work with Illinois singer-songwriter Peter Adriel. Brendan plays really accessible and catchy original songs that brought to mind such acts as Elliot Smith, Coldplay, Oasis, and Bright Eyes. He’s poppy but sincere, with an emotive voice, chord-driven melodies, and a strong presence. Kevin is a great guy to work with and I think he would benefit to play with a group of modest backing musicians who would give him a solid backing without overtaking his pleasant songs.

I forgot to ask the acts about upcoming shows, but I know Heirloom are playing the Tritone July 19th and I’m sure they both have other shows coming up.

Brendan O'Neill at Fergie's

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