[An electronic documentation of the music scene in
Bucks County, Pennsylvania]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Live Review: Drink Up Buttercup

Drink Up Buttercup | The Cigar Parlor | 11.17.06

No matter how many times I go to the Cigar Parlor to see a show, I'm always amazed at the phenomenon surrounding this living room-sized venue in Doylestown. The Cigar Parlor is the furthest thing from a traditional music venue; it lacks a good PA system, food and drink, and any shred of proper advertising. Plus, at $7 a head, it's not exactly a bargain to get in the door. Still, come Friday or Saturday night, there's a line down Main Street of anxious music fans hoping to get inside.

These days the busiest nights at the Parlor belong to a tight-knit group of (mostly) Doylestown musicians including Drink Up Buttercup, Peasant, Christina Ward, Aderbat, and a few others. This group, which I like to call the "That Works crew," have made the Parlor their own, by mastering the art of online networking and marketing, while playing as many all-ages shows as possible. That Works Records is Peasant's label, and although the only releases on the label belong to him, all these musicians operate like labelmates, bound by similar musical styles and friendship.

This camaraderie is one of the reasons Drink Up Buttercup packed the Cigar Parlor this past Friday, despite only existing as a band for a few months. The group is the latest project of James Harvey, whose last band, Playwright, recently called it quits. Harvey has been playing solo shows under this new moniker, but just recruited a new drummer, as well as the bassist and keyboard player from Playwright. Judging by the size of the all-ages crowd on Friday, it appears the following he built from Playwright has also carried over.

Like Playwright, Drink Up Buttercup belongs to the same indie rock category as The Decemberists or Arcade Fire. Pop-oriented and acoustic-based, it's the perfect setting for Harvey's tenor vocal range and quirky lyrics. The difference as compared to Harvey's past efforts is his (admitted) recent discovery of late-era Beatles' albums. He sounds now as if he's taking himself much less seriously, attempting unorthodox songwriting and experimentation, and at times, ditching Shakespeare for Sesame Street.

At the moment, Drink Up Buttercup's live show is still evolving due to simple fact that the band is so new. Obviously under-rehearsed, Harvey and his cohorts made up for any shortcomings with passion and spontaneity, arming the first row of spectators with tambourines and turning otherwise childlike ditties into rock 'n' roll crescendos. In such an intimate environment, the shorter sing-a-longs, like "Land Of Beers," "Mr. Pie Eyes," and one with a guest appearance from Peasant, translated better than the heavy-handed epic jams. The band's only real miss step was an out of place cover of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So." It was hurt less by the lack of electric guitar and more by the fact that most of the under-age audience didn't seem to recognize it. The song is more than ten years old, afterall. However, the band did scored points for actually singing the guitar solos.

If the Weezer cover was lost on the audience, the rawness of the atmosphere was not. Shows like this provide a chance for these kids to watch their peers pour their guts into their music. They obviously appreciated Drink Up Buttercup and openers Fire After Midnight and Pennylise (both of Doylestown's Cosmic Troubadour Records), as well as The Cigar Parlor as a venue. With the city's music scene out of reach and the suburbs filled with martini-laden venues like Puck, it looks like the phenomenon will continue.


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