Concert Review: The Lawsuits Album Release, with The Fleeting Ends and The Districts at Johnny Brenda’s

Johnny Brenda’s, at the corner of Frankford and Girard Ave in Fishtown, is one of those bars that emits a certain vibe. There’s a lot of flannel. There’s a lot of hair. There’s a lot of hipster. And if you make your way up the second floor on a Friday night, there’s probably a lot of fantastic live music. Such was the case on Friday October 18th, when the venue hosted the album release event for The Lawsuits, the Bucks County bred eclectic rock ensemble who’s first full-length album, Cool Cool Cool, debuted on October 1st.

A small crowd began to form around the compact stage as The Districts, the first prelude to the headliners, opened strong with the lengthy “Long Distance.” About half way through their set, the crowd couldn’t help stepping and swaying to the foursome’s soulful, electrifying rock numbers. The Districts did an excellent job setting the mood for the evening, but for some unknown and perplexing reason, lead singer Rob Grote spent a lot of time towards the end of their stint on stage with his back turned, singing at drummer Braden Lawrence directly behind him rather than at the crowd. But before you could wonder about his choice to barely face forward, The Fleeting Ends were on. The second opening act charmed with a more laid-back and relaxed set. Matt Vantine, the lead vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist/seemingly superhuman performer, proved particularly virtuoso on the keys in “Operator,” a stellar number with a Young The Giant-esque resounding melody. The trio came alive during “Return Address,” with Vantine shining once again instrumentally, this time with an exceptional solo on the guitar rather than the keyboard, though.

By the time The Fleeting Ends thanked the crowd and vacated the stage, the venue was neatly packed. The Lawsuits were weaving around the crowd, climbing on and off stage to prepare and prep their instruments, saying hello to familiar faces and sipping mixed drinks as they set up.  The headliners kicked off their set with the effervescent “Arts and Crafts,” segued into the folkie, upbeat “Onion,” and continued playing every song off Cool Cool Cool in album order. “Dreaming #26,” the first single off the album, saw singer Brian Strouse sounding like Bob Dylan in his heyday, which didn’t disappoint. But the most stunning performance of the set was the stirring “Long Drive Home,” where singer Vanessa Winters’ belted out the song’s magnetic hook with unadulterated, raw emotion and soul.

The Lawsuits put on a mesmerizing show with the confidence of a band that has decades more experience. That confidence no doubt came from performing in front of loyal fans and hometown friends at an intimate venue. There was no shortage of genuine band and crowd interaction, with Winters even holding her drink out to cheers with a crowd member at one point between songs. The intimate setting no doubt made identifying faces in the crowd even easier for the band, and those fleeting moments of fan and friend recognition added to the refreshingly authentic performance. There was minimal standing room, the stage was low, the crowd was close. There was an aura of camaraderie between the band playing and the people swaying that you would be unlikely to encounter in a larger concert space. The Lawsuits were cool, comfortable, and collected—and the performance rendered excellent because of that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.