Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hey, Neighbor! You Do You Reps Pennsport at EP Release Show

I'm excited to debut a new segment here on Pennsporter - Hey, Neighbor! The idea is to showcase some of the awesome people of Pennsport who are not only talented but also have a passion for the neighborhood and rep it everyday through their amazing work. 

All photos are courtesy of fellow Pennsporter, Tug Haines. If you're looking for a versatile photographer, you can find contact Tug through his website.

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"We'll guestlist you." 

With that simple statement, a short one-line email from You Do You band member Crills Wilson, I knew I had stumbled upon something special. There are few statements that we are able to say unironically that make us really feel like someone. "I'm with the band," is most definitely one of them.

You Do You is (L to R) Crills Wilson, Katie Feeney, Aaron Boczkowski, Alex Baranowski, and Drew Parker



Let's back it up just a bit. It's not important how I found the band You Do You. The important thing is that, somewhere along the line, I discovered a really fun group of people and it was even cooler to learn that they were a band from Pennsport. After getting to know them better, it's clear that they're not simply from Pennsport, either. They LOVE Pennsport. Let's get to know our neighbors, shall we?

You Do You consists of lead singer Katie Feeney, Crills Wilson on the keys and vocals, Fishtowner Aaron Bocskowski on drums, Alex Baranowski on bass and vocals, and Drew Parker on guitar and vocals. These four Pennsporters (and one Fishtowner) fuse rock, pop, rock-a-billy, funk, soul, and whatever else they feel like in to a high-energy and insanely fun show. Don't believe me? WXPN listed their "genre-defying" show at The North Star Bar, to celebrate the release of their new EP The Sweet Sounds of the Funky Sounds as one of their "concert picks" on their blog The Key. You can stream the EP and buy it here. Seriously, it's amazing and it's only five bucks.

I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with them before the show. One thing was certain from the start: they live and breathe Pennsport. They've been reading and engaging with Pennsporter since I started in in March of 2013  -- so much so, that they were initially convinced that someone in their circle of "Pennport Pals" was the Pennsporter. "Which one of you guys is the Pennsporter?! Come out with it" Crills shouted and pointed to different people at the table.

Katie Feeney, who is also the Development Director at Rock to the Future -- a Philadelphia based musical education non-profit, explained how the idea of Pennsport Pals got started and how they came to throw down their roots in the 'hood, "Our friend Natalie has a thing for real estate. She kept finding rentals and trying to lure more of us into "the Port" -- until there were like 14-20 of us all friends living in a .5 mile radius between Reed and Front and 4th and Sigel. It's kind of amazing to be walking distance from all of your best friends." Affordable rent was also a plus, "I think what everyone probably loved about Pennsport initially was the cheap rent and proximity to Mummers and other musicians meant that you could jam with impunity...but now it's definitely become more like home" For a better look at their community, check out the #pennsportpals tag on Twitter and Instagram.

Katie Feeney crushing the stage at The North Star Bar
Pennsport is well-known for it's musical talents as it relates to the Mummer string bands. Walk the streets on any given day between September and New Year's and you'll likely hear one of them practicing for the big day. It's a part of the very fabric of this community. What's interesting is that Pennsport is now home to a cool infusion of "new school" bands that are defying the norm and beginning to blaze their own path in the Philadelphia music scene. Groups like New Sound Brass, You Do You, and (soon-to-be-renamed) The National Rifle have garnered some serious buzz throughout the region that have helped to redefine the Pennsport music scene. Much like with the string bands on New Year's Day,  it's the live show that makes these bands special.

The EP Release Show at The North Star Bar was fun from the start. It was appropriate that the band had a bunch of friends in the house, being that it was a celebration of the new record.  That's just how the Pennsport Pals roll, "We definitely travel in large groups," explained Katie. "Some favorite Pennsport Pal meeting spots in "the Port" are definitely Mekong River, Moonshine, and 2nd Street Brewhouse." Having a pocket of Pennsport Pals in the house provided the crowd a glimpse of the energy they were to expect when You Do You hit the stage for their 11 song set.

Lead singer Katie Feeney is simply electric on stage. Everyone in the house absolutely loved her energy. Her style is diverse but on-point, going from smooth (L.K.B.D) to quirky (Wait a Minute) with ease and country (Darling, My Dear) to trippy 60's rock belter (Shaman, Shaman) in an instant. I can't pretend to know a lot about music but if you gave Janis Joplin a 5-Hour Energy, or a few Victory Golden Monkey's, you'd have a good idea about what Katie Feeney is all about on stage.  "Can I get some more of me?" she joked with the sound guy at one point."I don't want to be a diva or anything." She puts on a seriously impressive vocal display -- no joke.

Drew Parker conjuring up wild spirits during "Shaman, Shaman"

One of my favorite combo of songs was the country-style pairing of Darling, My Dear and Lucille. The cool thing about these tracks is that they have an interesting Pennsport-themed back story.  "Most of the song Darling, My Dear was recorded there (200 block of Wilder) in the basement until our freakin' ceiling collapsed," explained Katie. "We moved to 2nd and Tasker after being homeless on Crills and Lexi's floor for two weeks." They later finished the track at a former band member's house that's west of Moyamensing Avenue.

Lucille on the other hand is a down home, thigh slappin' country song that the band dedicated to Pennsport on stage. It's so much fun to hear them perform this song and riff off of one another while in front of the crowd. Feeney gets jumpy and then quickly grumbles, Drew and Alex bounce through their guitar parts, Crills plinks the keys like a bar cowboy on that white lightnin' and Aaron bangs away on the drums to perfectly set the fun, square dance-like tone that make the song great.

Crills Wilson on the keys
Lil' Birdie is one of my favorite tracks on the new EP and it's incredible live. The blend of smooth vocals and fast paced guitar riffs at the beginning give it a real sexy vibe. This alone would make the song great but then the rest of the bad comes in hard with the funk while Feeney takes her voice from smooth and jazzy to forceful and raspy to take the song to another level. Add to that Crills Wilson banging away on the keys with a one handed mega-solo towards the end and you have yourself an amazing track.

The night rounded out with two classic cover songs in the form of Stevie Wonder's Livin' in the City and Takin' It to the Streets by the Doobie Bros. featuring Michael McDonald. The crowd loved both of these tracks and bassist Alex Baranowski didn't mail it in just because it was nearing the end of the set. Much like Feeney, Alex is straight up all energy, all of the time. You know how funky Livin' in the City is and it was fun to watch Alex keep the band in the zone while working the crowd. At one point in the song, he went from playing back to back with Drew straight to leading the crowd participation overhead clap.

Playing Takin' It to the Streets was the perfect song choice for many reasons. For one, it's an accessible but unexpected song for the crowd. Everyone knows this damn song, especially if you've seen The 40 year Old Virgin. Secondly, it's Michael McDonald at his you-will-never-get-me-out-of-your-head best. He crushes the vocals as only Michael McDonald can and nails it down with a near perfect piano joint. Click that link and there is simply no way around it: you will be singing this song for the rest of the day, probably like this. Lastly, the song showcases all of the bands many talents and diverse range of musical prowess. Their show is a roller coaster ride of genres that keeps you guessing with each song. It's incredible.

Alex on bass
While ending the show with a song entitled Takin' It to the Streets speaks directly to the release of their newest EP, The Sweet Sounds of The Funky Sounds (seriously, BUY IT), it also hammers down how much their music is inspired by their neighborhood surroundings. Katie summed it up perfectly, "We take pride in the neighborhood and think it's Philly's best kept secret." 

So give the tracks a listen and spread some Pennsport love by putting your friends on to You Do You's newest EP, The Sweet Sounds of the Funky Sounds. And, if you see any of these crazy Pennsporter's around the 'hood, be sure to shout "Hey, Neighbor!"



Aaron on the drums

Merch table

















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