Larkin Poe with Tall Heights
Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia – March 10, 2023
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
Across the range of musical genres a number of family bands emerged during the past half century. These have included The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, the BeeGees, the Isley Brothers, and the Jonas Brothers. While most family bands have consisted mainly of brothers, there’ve also been several sister groups, namely Sister Sledge, The Pointer Sisters and currently Haim and Larkin Poe. There’s nothing quite the same as the bond shared by siblings. It’s a connection born from a joint background, collective exposure, common knowledge and mutual understanding. Many of these siblings began their musical journeys at a young age, inspired by musically inclined parents and family members and/or music-enriched environments. These surrounding often provided a foundational love of music from which sprouted the desire to learn an instrument, sing, write songs and perform, and siblings frequently cultivated this creative process together. When this togetherness continues to grow and flourish the result is “a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts”… a musical group with added depth and connection that’s hard to duplicate outside a familial relationship.
The fact that sister groups are less common is not surprising knowing that female-led bands are in the minority overall. While it’s unquestionable that there are differences in the sound, energy, look and feel of male-led bands and female-led bands, great music is great music, regardless of the gender of the musicians. While gender does not play a role in the skill or quality of one’s music, I was unsure if, or how much, it might be a factor contributing to the
crowd at Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia on March 10th. On that evening I was attending my first Larkin Poe performance, a blues/roots rock band formed in 2010 by sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell. Friends had shared rave reviews about the band and I’d listened to some of their powerful, bluesy, roots rock music but I had no idea who or what to expect at their live performance. I wondered about the fanbase of two young female rockers. Would it be a majority of similarly aged women? Would gender not be a factor but would it generally be a millennial crowd? How large would the audience be, how vocal, how energetic?
In addition to having little idea about what to expect from the evening’s performance, I had no idea what to expect with regards to Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia. The 1,000-capacity music venue, which is also a bowling alley and restaurant, opened in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia in November 2021, making it the fourth Brooklyn Bowl location. The venue is situated next to the Fillmore and part of Fishtown’s revitalized entertainment area, including the Punch Line Philly, Philadelphia Distilling and the Other Half Brewery. Entering Brooklyn Bowl Philly you immediately feel a vastness to the space, due to the open, raftered ceilings, while simultaneously feeling a vintage coziness, due to muted lighting and rich warm colors. The venue has two levels, with two large bars on each floor. The open area on the lower floor has big leather sofas, lounge chairs and tables for eating, drinking and socializing, as well as bowling alleys with accompanying sofas and tables. Vintage-like carnival tapestries line the walls and create an overall feeling of old world nostalgia and charm. The carnival theme continues onto the second level, where a large “AMUSEMENTS” sign serves as the bar backdrop, Skee Ball boards hang behind a service bar and multiple carnival tapestries cover the walls. Second floor bowling lanes are tucked away towards the back, as the focal point of this level is the stage, with an ample general admission area and a raised VIP section alongside.
On March 10th, as the general admission space began to fill, the dimmed stage lights became aglow with blue and purple hues for the arrival of the evening’s opening act, Tall Heights, a progressive folk, indie pop duo, with singer/guitarist Tim Harrington and singer/cellist Paul Wright, and touring percussionist/singer Paul Dumas. The duo formed Tall Heights in 2009, independently released their debut album in 2013 and in 2022 released their latest studio album, Juniors. This album has been noted to infuse an electrified pop sound into their acoustic folk roots, showcasing the range of current folk rock. However, the evening’s performance did not feel as if it was about electronics or pop, but rather the melodic beauty of Harrington’s guitar and Wright’s cello, paired with their blended, vocal harmonies, and backed by Dumas’ smooth rhythmic beats. The crowd filling the floor remained fully engaged, many singing along, throughout the 30-minute set, which included a range of numbers from the the duo’s decade of releases.
While the audience dispersed with Tall Heights’ departure from the stage, the floor became more densely packed upon the impending arrival of Larkin Poe. Fans standing towards the back, a step up from the floor space, were also afforded a full view to the stage. Surveying the eclectic crowd it was clear that gender, age and background were not contributing factors for Larkin Poe’s fanbase in Philadelphia that evening. The common factor amongst members of this crowd was a love for powerful, heartfelt, blues rock music, performed by amazingly skilled musicians, who passionately connect with their audience and one another.
From the moment the Lovell sisters burst onstage, accompanied by a brilliant flash of stage lights, until the final bows, their performance remained truly electrifying. Rebecca on guitar and lead vocals moved about the stage with amazing presence, jamming on her guitar and singing with a broad smile and a twinkle in her eye. Megan’s performance, though outwardly more subtle, was equality impressive as she displayed considerable focus, passion and skill on the lap steel. Adding an impassioned rock beat was drummer Ben Satterlee who performed with boundless energy, his sticks rising high in the air before rhythmically crashing on drum kit, with an equally spirited expression across his face. Bass player Tarka Layman, frequently played with eyes closed, remaining tuned into the moment and music.
Having released their most recent album Blood Harmony in November 2022, the band opened the evening with “Strike Gold,” followed by “Kick the Blues” and “Summertime Sunset.” The set included a number of songs from Larkin Poe’s catalog including “Blue Ridge Mountains” and “Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues” from 2018’s Venom & Faith, as well as “Preachin’ Blues” and “WantedWoman-AC/DC” from 2017’s Peach. Rebecca periodically addressed the crowd throughout the hour and half set, enthusiastically sharing sentiments including, “Music can change the world” and “We have songs for all the special occasions in our lives.”
Providing commentary on various numbers she passionately shouted, “This song is for all the strong ass ladies in the house,” before the band began performing the high energy, knock-em dead “She’s a Self Made Man,” the title song from the band’s 2020 album. Rebecca also explained the origin of “Mad as a Hatter” from 2021’s live album Paint the Town, sharing that it was written about their grandfather, who struggled with mental illness. “Mental illness is something important for all of us,” she expressed with heartfelt emotion, before segueing into the touching, lamenting number. “Southern Comfort,” from Blood Harmony was noted to have brought attention and good fortune to the band when the Southern Comfort whiskey company was so enamored with the song that they reached out to sponsor the band. “So, this song is brought to you by Southern Comfort,” shouted Rebecca, as cheers rang out in the crowd. “Bolt Cutters & The Family Name,” “Bad Spell” and the final song of the evening, “Deep Stays Down,” were all fantastically from Blood Harmony.
Thirteen years ago these sisters, barely 20 years old but already seasoned performers, built a sibling band on a foundation of shared musical endeavors, familial camaraderie, emotional connection and incredible artistic skills. Their ongoing creativity and family bond has continued to propel these women forward, helping Larkin Poe to flourish. What a sonically beautiful example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Here’s to sisterhood and music!