World Café Jazz Night…Plus a Little Story Rock

“I was sitting on my throne, for I am King Alon[e],” recites Alon Hafri (alter-ego=King Alon Hafri), clad in a red velvet suit and crown, from the stage at the World Café Live. He deliberately sneers and looks out onto the audience quizzically. No, this isn’t some terrible, interactive children’s performance—it’s the Josh and Pete Band.

A rollicking new force on the local scene, the Josh and Pete Band are a West Philly-based story-rock quartet who understand that music-making—above all—should be fun, and who rocked the crowd last night with a rolling, upbeat blend of psych-pop, carnival rock and sweet, unfettered humor.

They were joined by a trio of jam-y jazz and psych-rock acts—Agent Moosehead, G. Calvin Weston, and the Juice—resulting in a night of lighthearted humor and laidback groovy tunes.

The Josh and Pete Band take the stage second, and already the venue is filled with eager fans. There’s something intensely likeable about these guys—their goofy costumes, innocent smiles—not to mention perfectly tuned 3-part harmonies and jaunty psychedelic ditties.

The band offers a mix of covers and new material, delightfully weaving them all together in an epic tail of a king seeking his queen. “Hey Mr. Bassman” (the old Johnny Cymbal number) is lively and animated, while the Zombies’ “She’s not there” has the audience bopping. The band ends with their take on “Killer Tofu”—the silly cartoon song from Doug and The Beets. These dudes are so much fun—I want to drink a beer with them, then watch them play a house party!

Agent Moosehead are billed as the evening’s headliner, but at the last minute, legendary Philly drummer G. Calvin Weston (who’s been at it for more than 30 years!) is added and Agent Moosehead play third instead. No matter. The cleverly-named 6-piece sounds just as fresh at the 10 spot, winning the crowd with their capricious blend of jazz-rock fusion.

Frenzied guitar plinks, blunt horns, discordant melodies that meander over shifting time signatures and syncopated beats…Agent Moosehead is jazz all mixed up, but in the best way possible. Their 45-minute set is chock full of videogame riffs (I dig their take on Megaman 3) and tightly woven jazz grooves. Front man Chris Dippolito might not be a showman (he spends most of the set hunched over, barely making eye contact) but he’s certainly a composer!

G. Calvin Weston closes the show with his new band, the Nassira Project—a 3-piece guitar/bass/keys unit whose scratchy melodies and jam-y tunes are the perfect vehicle for Weston’s schizophrenic drumming. Dwarfed behind a set of mountainous proportions, the veteran percussionist looks tiny—but pounds on his drums with a fury un-caged. Arriba!

Local boys the Juice open the show, kicking things off with a brief set of groovy neo-psych. As a new act, the Juice still have a few kinks to work out (at one point, they lose their drummer, and have to slow down and catch him again) but when they are on, they are on, galloping through intricate bass lines and runaway keys. A couple months and these guys could be great!

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