The premise is simple: David Uosikkinen leads his bandmates in the Hooters, along with a coterie of this city's finest rock-and-soul players, through a project of his own devising, a catalog of his favorite Philadelphia-rooted songs.
You can argue with Uosikkinen's choices, but you can't argue with his enthusiasm or reach ("I Ain't Searchin' ", from Philly late-1960s favorite the American Dream is alone worth the price of admission). Under the moniker In the Pocket, Uosikkinen's shifting collective ensemble released its tracks online (to benefit the Settlement Music School) and now has compiled them on a CD, In the Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia, celebrated with a packed-to-the-rafters concert Friday at Ardmore Music Hall.
This show was more of a 1980s family reunion than record-release gig. The Hooters made their bones at the old 23 East (now the Ardmore Music Hall) as did guitarist Tommy Conwell, who recalled his first gig there 30 years ago after tackling a blistering version of the Dovells' 1963 hit, "You Can't Sit Down," with saxophonist Jay Davidson and Hooters organist Rob Hyman (both doing yeoman work with drummer Uosikkinen throughout the night) rolling soulfully behind him.
Precise versions of In the Pocket's tracks were as much of a prickly pleasure (Jeffery Gaines' sharp-as-a-knife rendition of the Nazz's "Open My Eyes") as were their variations (the Hooters' Eric Bazilian taking the live, nervy vocal duties from Ben Arnold on a jittery version of Robert Hazard's "Change Reaction").
Though the A's vocalist Richard Bush was in full flower throughout his front-man duties (including a smooth, Hooterish take on his "Woman's Got the Power"), it was most impressive hearing Soul Survivors vocalists Charlie and Richie Ingui lend their silken, smoky pipes to an epically dynamic arrangement of the O'Jays' "Backstabber" - one of several non-album tracks rendered throughout the evening.