What we're checking out live this week
Friday, March 21: Sam Smith
Sam Smith is a 21-year-old British singer whose silky smooth voice and soulful delivery belie his young age—and who is one of our picks for 2104's next breakout artist. A London native who first rose to fame after being featured on Disclosure's hit single "Latch," Smith turned heads with his powerful falsetto and unshakeable confidence… then quickly followed it up with a guest appearance on Naughty Boy's "La La La," ensuring his spot in the British pop canon. Raised by a crop of empowered females, including his mother, banking guru Kate Cassidy, and weaned on both classic jazz and soul (think Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin), Smith admits he long felt a kinship to powerhouse divas, adapting their passionate and unrestrained vocal style for his own compositions—and eschewing current trends in favor of honesty and purity. He's now poised to drop his debut full length, In the Lonely Hour, this May, which we're quite sure will launch him to super stardom. In the meantime, now's your chance to catch him in an intimate venue, where you almost certainly will find yourself a convert.
8:30 at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St., sold out.
Saturday, March 22: Oldermost
Philly rockers Oldermost craft breezy, windswept tunes drenched in hopefulness and Americana, and this Saturday will celebrate the release of their debut LP, I Live Here Now. Formed 5 years ago when Bradford Bucknum, a bespectacled 20-something with a poet's heart and a musician's mind, relocated to Philadelphia and formed a band, Oldermost grew from humble beginnings to one of the city's most promising up-and-comers, driven by a penchant for melody and staunch local support (it's worth noting that their Kickstarter, formed to raise money for vinyl pressing, surpassed its goal by over $1K.) We dig Oldermost for their ability to perfectly capture both the euphoria and disillusionment of city life in a pop song, and to coax hopefulness with a stirring chorus and strings. For fans of Wilco, Fleet Foxes, '60s folk-pop, and musical catharsis. Before you go: stream singles "Close to the Fire" and "Once I Left" for free via Bandcamp and ease yourself in to the world of Oldermost.
9:15 at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $10. Tickets available here.
Sunday, March 23: Dum Dum Girls
As a music writer, there are few things I love more than watching my fave artists grow: from scrappy up-and-comers with self-recorded demos to established rockers whose modest success means they can at least quit their day jobs to focus on music full-time. Dee Dee Penny, Dum Dum Girls front woman, is one of those successes. A West Coast native with modest ambitions (previous career trajectories included librarianship), Dee Dee starting gigging around Santa Cruz post-college, and self-released her first EP in 2008. The limited run—featuring the snarky, fuzzed-out "Catholicked"—was an underground hit, and before she knew it, she had another EP on deck, a couple of 7"s, and eventually—a record deal with Big indies Sub Pop. That was back in 2011—and while other buzz bands from that time have faded to obscurity since, Dee Dee pushed on, revealing her most tender side yet in 2012's End of Daze, abandoning the haze of previous records in favor of pristine, searing pop. These days, she's touring behind new record Too True, whose soaring melodies finally establish her as the pop star she's meant to be. She plays Johnny Brenda's this Sunday—hope you bought tix in advance though, as this bad boy is long SOLD OUT.
9:15 at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., sold out.
Tuesday, March 25: Grouplove
LA's Grouplove craft deliciously sweet, bubblegummy pop that you might hate for being cloying if it weren't so god*$@% addictive. A power-pop 5-some who erupted into public consciousness in 2011 when their single "Tongue Tied" was chosen for an iPod commercial, Grouplove soon established themselves as your go-to source for summer road trips and pool parties, with an energy-filled live show and a solid string of blockbluster hits, each poppier and more euphoric than the last. Now, 2 ½ years later, they're back with a new record (2013's Spreading Rumors) and a new batch of radio-friendly ear candy. They'll stop by the Electric Factory this Tuesday where the feel-good vibes might be exactly what you need to welcome in Spring. Also on the bill: Sassy NYC power-pop duo MS MR, whose single "Hurricane" was a 2012 highlight, and silver-tongued pop princess Alex Winston, whose unique voice and quirky songwriting make her one of my very fave rising pop stars (check out the irresistible "Choice Notes" right here.)
7:00 at the Electric Factory, 421 N. 7th St., $29.50. Tickets available here.