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Broadside Electric • 321 Grayling Ave., Narberth, PA  19072
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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 of music.

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)
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