In the Pocket shows just keep getting better
In the Pocket shows just keep getting better … and seemingly more fun for both the band members and the audience.
Saturday night’s two-and-a-half-hour, 29-song marathon at a packed Ardmore Music Hall was “Nothin’ But a House Party” — a rollicking evening of Philly-born classics (and a few favorites that originated elsewhere) performed by a staggering collection of local talent.
The project that David Uosikkinen and his now-wife Dallyn Pavey Uosikkinen started nearly a decade ago is, as corny as this might sound, a giant love-fest among like-minded musicians and fans, but it’s also, always, a great night of music and memories (as captured in this photo by Lisa DiStefano).
There’s no reason to review the actual performances (if you were there, you know they were universally great, and if you weren’t, there are plenty of videos floating around to prove it), so instead, here are 20 (relatively chronological) observations from the night:
1. Kicking off the show with a set from charismatic young singer/guitarist (and bassist!) Joey DiTullio is an inspired choice. It assures the energy level is soaring right from the start. Also, his hair should be recognized as its own member of the band. I swear, that thing defies all laws of gravity.
2. Speaking of young and charismatic, great performance of “One of Us” by Alexis Cunningham. More of her next time, please.
3. You’ve gotta love Kenny Aaronson showing up to play on the same day he got back from a concert cruise with the Yardbirds. Good thing, too — the night would not have been the same without him, especially his bass solo on the Stories’ 46-year-old No. 1. hit “Brother Louie.” (Aaronson, of course, played on the Stories’ version and came up with the bass line.)
4. As a Kinks fan, and a Smash Palace fan, and an A’s/Peace Creeps fan, it doesn’t get any better than Steve Butler and Richard Bush dueting on “Sunny Afternoon.”
5. Pete Donnelly was a great addition to the In the Pocket lineup. Talk about a guy who always looks likes he’s having a blast onstage. And it was a killer performance of his band the Figgs’ song “The Trench.”
6. Much has been made, deservedly so, of Cliff Hillis II‘s spot-on vocals on Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light.” He nails it every single time. But equally key to ITP’s brilliant version of the song is the guitar interplay between Steve Butler and Greg Davis. As David said during a recent episode of the “In the Pocket” podcast, that’s like some Clapton-Allman work right there.
7. Greg Davis performing “It’s Good To Be the King” is always a highlight of the night. But equally special was him delivering late Beru Revue bandmate’s Gerry Healy’s killer arrangement of “Moon River,” with enthusiastic support from David, Joey DiTullio, Buddy Cash and Wally Smith. It was one of the night’s emotional high points.
8. “It never gets old,” Greg Davis said of the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway to Your Heart.” “Yeah, but I do,” replied Charlie Ingui. Bull! I am convinced Mr. Ingui is truly ageless, at least judging by another inspired performance of the song he and his late brother Richie made famous 52 years ago. I loved how Ingui was directing the other musicians onstage during the song’s extended outro. Also, kudos to him for pointing out that “Ain’t Nothing But a Houseparty” was originally done by the Philly soul group The Showstoppers. For the longest time, I only knew the J. Geils version and was unaware of the song’s Philly roots.
9. One of the biggest crimes in Philly music history is that the band The American Dream never became bigger. Thank you to founding member Don Lee Van Winkle and In the Pocket for keeping the music alive with their boisterous version of the blues footstomper “My Babe” from The American Dream’s one-and-only album (RIP Nicky Indelicato).
10. The most magical moment of In the Pocket’s show at the Keswick Theatre back on Dec. 28 might have been when former Hooters bassist Andy King joined the collective for the first time. None of the magic was lost when King came back for Round 2 at the Ardmore on Saturday. His lead vocals on “Streets of Philadelphia” (complete with some extended audience participation) and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (which he used to sing with the Hooters, although, as King pointed out, ITP performed the Beatles’ version, not the Hooters’), were once again among the most stirring moments of the night.
11. It was a nice surprise to hear Ben Arnold sing lead on “Time After Time,” one of, if I counted correctly, eight songs the band performed Saturday night that they didn’t play at the Keswick.
12. Hey, Reuben Frank, try to show a little enthusiasm on the keyboards next time, would you? It was great to see you up there during Arnold’s version of “Change Reaction,” even if it did deny Wally Smith the honor of joining David as the only performer to never leave the stage.
13. I mentioned earlier that Charlie Ingui never ages. Neither, it seems, does Richard Bush, who perfectly inhabited the role of the love-struck young punk during the Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl.” Assisted, of course, by the equally ageless Tommy Conwell.
14. Most of the songs on the setlist originated in Philly. Some, like “Sunny Afternoon,” “Lucy” and Winkle’s lead on “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” came from across the pond, but are songs that influenced the ITP performers. Also on that list: Bowie’s “Suffragette City” — and ITP’s version, with Bush on lead vocals, absolutely slayed on Saturday night. David said it was one of the band’s favorite songs to play, and you could tell.
15. “The ‘80s, the ‘80s … are coming back!” When Tommy Conwell’s onstage, it’s like they never left. Conwell’s extended set toward the end of the night, featuring his own material and the Dovells’ “You Can’t Sit Down,” is a reminder that we don’t always have to feel like grown-ups. (Although what’s that saying about “if it’s too loud, you’re too old?” Yeah, the ears were definitely feeling it during Tommy’s set.)
16. Loved Tommy’s battle with the temperamental mic stand during “Here I Come.” Ever the professional, he didn’t miss a note on guitar (although it did cost him a line of the song).
17. A quick shout-out to the horn players, David Kershner and Jim Verdeur, who definitely added to the overall musical experience (and who seemed to be singing along when they weren’t playing).
18. “And We Danced,” with Tommy Conwell and Andy King sharing lead vocals, is a perfect way to end the regular set. The audience knows every word, it’s a bonafide crowd-pleaser, and it’s a throwback to David’s “day job” in the Hooters. In the Pocket’s version is a lot less polished than the Hooters’ version, but that’s a good thing — it adds to the loose, anything-goes feel of the evening. And David and the guys arranged a killer finish to the song.
19. Pierre Robert pulled a Robert DeNiro before bringing the band back for the encore (“F— Donald Trump.”) It was a bit jarring and might have annoyed some of the people in the crowd. Didn’t bother me.
20. The night ended, as it did at the Keswick, with Ben Arnold fronting most of the ensemble on the Youngbloods’ “Get Together.” There’s a Philly-area connection to the song — Youngbloods singer Jesse Colin Young went to Pennsbury High School — but it’s the overall message that makes this a perfect closer to an In the Pocket show. The bond among the performers and audience members is palpable, as is the love in the room. The stage was a little tight for everybody to be up there at once, but they managed to pull it off.
Can’t imagine anyone went home Saturday night disappointed. David and Dallyn, all of the musicians and everybody involved in In the Pocket deserve nothing but praise for bringing so much joy to so many people through the power of music.
Finally, a shameless plug for the “In the Pocket” podcast, which I’m honored to co-host with David each week. Many of the people who performed on Saturday night have joined us on the show, so if you want to hear the stories behind their songs and careers, please check it out. All 31 episodes are available at