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The Holmes Brothers open the Ardmore Music Hall

Back in business, in the space that once housed the 23 East.

The Holmes Brothers open the Ardmore Music Hall

Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon at the Ardmore Music Hall, September 20, 2013. (Photo by Dan DeLuca/Staff)
Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon at the Ardmore Music Hall, September 20, 2013. (Photo by Dan DeLuca/Staff) Dan DeLuca

The Ardmore Music Hall opened on Friday night, with blues-gospel-country trio The Holmes Brothers the first act to grace the stage at the storied space on Lancaster Avenue on the Main Line.

Expect the 600 capacity standing venue to be packed on Saturday when The Hooters headline, no doubt drawing many of the former denizens of the 1980s and early 1990s Ardmore club the 23 East, who also showed up Friday for blue eyed soul act The Billy Price Band. The horn heavy act, who played the room frequently back in the day, followed the Holmes Bros.

The room is a more than welcome addition to the starved for legitimate live music Main Line. No telling whether guitarist-keyboard plater Wendell Holmes (on the left), falsetto voiced drummer Popsy Dixon (to his right) and bass player Sherman Holmes (not pictured) were thinking about that when they did their call and response routine during "Jesus On The Mainline," in which the song's title is answered with "Tell him what you want!." But on Frifay night, anyway, it seemed like most of the suburbanites in the room would have responded that they really wanted was a spiffy new music club a few dozen steps from the Ardmore train station where they could greet each other and say: 'Seems like old times."

The Holmes Brothers are a terrific band that haven't been buzzed about all that much since they emerged with In The Spirit and went on to record for Peter Gabriel's Real World label in the '90s. They're more than worthy of continued celebration. The range of the Christchurch, Virginia-natives'  talent was apparent Friday night as they covered Jim Reeves' countrypolitan classic "He'll Have To Go," did justice to the empathetic blues of Elmore James' "It Hurts Me Too." Wendell Holmes sang a tender original love song to his wife of 40 years, Barbara, who was in the audience,and also waxed triumphant about beating back "the Devil" who poisoned him with cancer five years ago.

The coming lineup at the Music Hall isn't thrilling, and is a little heavy on 1990s retreads like Edwin McCain and Filter. But there are some solid bookings.  Fountains of Wayne, Soul Asylum and Evan Dando are on a triple bill Oct. 6, Bayou soul songeiter Marc Broussard plays Oct. 11, Kid Rock consort gone country Uncle Kracker is on stage Oct. 19 and quicky picking bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers play Nov. 22.

It's a bar room more than a listening room, but the sound quality was good on opening night. The mix was fuller farther back from the speakers that hung above the stage, than right up front on the dance floor. A balcony runs above the bar on the left hand side of the stage as you face it, and allows good sightlines for those leaning up against the rail. Craft beers and food with lots of vegan/vegetarian options (via Firinji, whose original storefront is across the street on Lancaster Ave.) is being  served. And while the room maxes out at six hundred when all tables and chairs are removed, curtains will allow for various sections to be closed off to vary the capacity and create a more intimate feel.

A 2010 Holmes Bros. performance of "Amazing Grace" is below.

Previously: Philadelphia Walk Of Fame inductees Follow In The Mix on Twitter

Dan DeLuca Inquirer Music Critic
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Encompassing the sounds and beats of the city, we're here to turn you on to the local notables and under-the-radar artists, while showing you more of the bands and hot spots you already know and love.

Dan DeLuca Inquirer Music Critic
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