Bi-Co News, 12 December 2000
The bi-co's most successful band:
Broadside Electric celebrates 10 years
Probaby the bi-college community's most successful band, Broadside Electric,
recently celebrated its tenth anniversary with a musical festival. The show
featured the band in all its incarnations; line-up changes have forced the
group to re-invent itself three times since its inception, and each version
of the band played a set. A number of other musical acts provided ample
entertainment in the intervening moments as Broadside members rested.
This added up to a very long (5-plus hours) but thoroughly enjoyable night
Their catchphrase, "folk music with teeth," is a suitable way of describing
the band's eclectic, electric folk sound.
Often inspired by traditional tunes or lyrics, the group's songs are
nevertheless unmistakably their own creations. Another of the band's
selling points is its use of unusual instruments; the concertina,
mandolin and Appalachian dulcimer come to mind as examples of this,
though their website (www.broadside.org)
has a list of about 30 other instruments they've used through the years.
The band was formed in 1990 by Tom Rhoads (HC '91) and Jim Speer (HC '90),
who had been playing together for about a year previously, and also
included Rachel Hall (HC '91) and Helene Zisook (BMC '92). Its first full
gig, in Haverford's Lunt Café, took place 10 years ago last Friday.
For the first seven years of its existence, the band consisted exclusively
of former Haverford and Bryn Mawr students; though Hall left after the first
year, she was replaced by Melissa Demian (BMC '93), who remained with the
group until 1994 and was not immediately replaced when she left. With the
addition of Joe D'Andrea and Amy Ksir in 1997, the band transcended its
original college-band flavor and took on a more rock-like feel (D'Andrea
is a drummer).
Despite membership changes, the band managed to grow throughout the years,
and is now Philadelphia's "leading and longest-lived electric folk band."
According to Rhoads, the band's growth has been marked by increased
originality and experience, and an understanding of the need to play to
their strengths. He notes that "we have given up on some of the more
eccentric things we used to do ... we used to play extra parts with our
feet, and switch instruments in the middle of a song ... and do deliberately
annoying and ludicrous stage antics."
Though Rhoads professes a relative dearth of clowning around on stage, the
show was certainly still entertaining, and not without laughs. Time between
songs or between sets was filled with random acts of silliness, and playful
heckling from fans, with whom the members of Broadside Electric seem to have
developed an extremely strong rapport. At one point, Ksir was cheered on by
friends in the audience who spelled out her name with their arms á
la Village People's YMCA.
Audience energy built until the last set, where all seven past and present
members of the band performed for the first time together. Indeed, the group
had never played together until the previous day. Though the idea for the
reunion concert originated last spring, rehearsals had to be conducted on
the phone or by swapping MP3s since the musicians are spread across three
states and two countries (Demian lives in England). Despite their lack of
familiarity with one another's playing, this act went off without a hitch,
and was some of the most exuberant playing of the night.
Other notable acts included Mike Agranoff, who made a touching homage to
early FM radio, before it was putrefied by insipid DJs and Top 40 songs.
Ray Ashley and Joe D'Andrea were the only real 'rock' act of the night;
they brought their unique variety of progressive rock to the stage, D'Andrea
with his drum set and Ashley playing a two-handed, tapped Warr guitar.
Broadside Electric frequently plays in the tri-state area and has recently
put out an album, With Teeth, which is available through
amazon.com or through their record label, Clever Sheep Records,
and at some Philadelphia-area stores, including (usually) the Borders Books
& Music in Bryn Mawr.
- Abby Mathews (Assistant Arts & Living Editor)