Oliver Wood Trio With Chris Kasper
Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore, PA – 1/15/2023
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
Ardmore Music Hall is soon to be celebrating its 10th Anniversary as a concert venue. However, the location itself, situated 3 miles outside Philadelphia, PA, has a rock club history spanning more than 4 decades. The words “music hall” might conjure up expectations of a venue with theater seating, ushers, a grand stage, and possibly ornate decor. However, this is not Ardmore Music Hall. Ardmore Music Hall has the look and feel of an intimate rock club; it feels dark and insular. While the venue has a 600 person capacity, including four bars, an ample general admission area, and a large balcony, the small sections of table seating and the overall layout of the space creates a club-like atmosphere and vibe. As Ardmore Music Hall’s stage is not expansive, nor raised high off the ground, audience members have the opportunity to feel closely connected to the musicians playing before them. This is not only ideal for enthusiastic fans but for artists who enjoy the personal connection this atmosphere brings.
The musical performers at Ardmore Music Hall on January 15th were perfectly suited for this intimate club-like environment. The evening’s headline performance was the Oliver Wood Trio, with an opening set by singer-songwriter Chris Kasper. Whether a longtime fan of Kasper, who released his first album in 2006, or newly introduced to Kasper’s musical poetry at Ardmore Music Hall, it was immediately easy to find yourself drawn to Kasper and his music. The warm, folk sound of his vocals, the smooth rhythm of his acoustic guitar and Kasper’s calm, laidback vibe, created the quintessential storyteller. Kasper easily communicated with the crowd, sharing his gratefulness to Oliver Wood for the opportunity to join the tour, as well as his thankfulness to audience members, who enthusiastically applauded their praise throughout the performance.
During the hour-long set Kasper performed songs from his recently released album, Holysmoke, as well as additional numbers from 2021’s EP Stowaways, Vol. 1, and 2017’s O, The Fool. Local Philadelphia violinist, Kiley Ryan, who’s featured on Kasper’s song “State Trooper” on O, The Fool, joined Kasper on stage for several numbers. Ryan is a masterful violinist and the sound and energy emanating from her amplified violin formed an additional layer of texture and beauty to Kasper’s musical creations.
The “chill” but enthusiastic spirit circulating throughout Ardmore Music Hall became increasingly energetic and enthused as the Oliver Wood Trio’s entrance neared. Fans lingering beside the bar or just arriving at the music hall began to fill the general admission area with excitement and upbeat chatter, as eager audience members situated themselves at the edge of the stage ready to become immersed in the music of Oliver Wood, on lead vocals and guitar, Jano Rix, on percussion, keyboards and backing vocals, and Ted Pecchio on bass and backing vocals.
From the first notes of “Fine Line” from Wood’s 2021 debut solo album, Always Smilin,’ the music hall became aglow with the sound of Wood’s bluesy, rich, aching tones, the trio’s passionate harmonies, and the incredibly crafted folk, blues, roots rock numbers. Wood kept the crowd memorized with his distinctive vocals, and his warm, engaging charm throughout the two-hour set. Additional songs from Always Smilin’ included “Kindness,” with its twangy guitar beat, “Came From Nothing,” with beautiful, bluesy harmonies, “Molasses,” with Wood’s passionate lyrics and blues-gospel vocals, and “The Battle is Over (But the War Goes On)”, a powerful protest anthem, originally performed in 1973 by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
The trio performed a range of songs from The Wood Brothers’ catalog, spanning more than 15 years since the release of Ways Not to Lose in 2006. “One More Day,” combined Wood’s signature blues sound, with rich layers of harmony provided by Rix and Pecchio. “Chocolate on My Tongue,” showcased a strong rhythmic bass combined with a Southern guitar-picking vibe, while “Atlas” had an upbeat, country-soul feel. Fan favorite from the album, “Luckiest Man,” had all in attendance singing the heartfelt refrain, “…..What you don’t know is you are the luckiest man. You’re the luckiest man.” Additional songs during the performance included the bouncy, folksy, put-a-smile-on-your face, “Postcards From Hell,” from 2008’s Loaded, “Mary Anna,” from 2011’s Smoke Ring Halo, showcasing powerful harmonies and a country flair, and the feel good, toe-tapping, “Payday,” from the 2017’s Live, Vol. 1: Sky High.
The Oliver Wood Trio and Chris Kasper brought an amazing night of folk, blues, country, and Americana music to Ardmore Music Hall. With its intimate, club-like feel, Ardmore Music Hall was the perfect setting for sharing the passion and spirit of this music that cannot (and need not) be definitively defined, but can definitely be felt by all.