i99 Radio celebrated five years of 24×7 commercial-free radio (and still going strong!) last Friday at The Barbary. The featured headliner of the evening was cosmic rockers, DREAMERS, who flew all the way from Los Angeles to play for the sold out event.
A great evening of rock was lined up before my boys, DREAMERS! Kicking things off was Chester-area cover band, Electric Church, fronted by Nick Hopton. The four piece kicked things off with some Zeppelin and Queen and moved through a score of 70’s heyday arena acts like Bowie, Pink Floyd, Cooper, AC/DC and more before bringing down the house with Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” Hopton’s interactions with the crowd were fun to watch, as both he and the participants roared along to the songs. Electric Church is the kind of cover band that will take a classic song we all know and add something just a tad extra to it to make it their own. The standout of the set was the mashup of “Another Brick in the Wall” and “School’s Out,” a la Hollywood Vampires.
Sandwiched in the middle of the night were Philly locals, The Great Enough. I had previously seen them a month prior opening for The Unlikely Candidates when they hit 118 North. Always a fun time, these eclectic indie rockers were loving the hometown crowd they hadn’t seen in a while. That is, until their last song of the evening. Unfortunately, there was a strict curfew in effect at The Barbary that evening, so as lead singer and guitarist Bright Kelly was announcing their gratitude to the Philly crowd and about to start their last song, the unthinkable happened—they cut his mic off!! After The Barbary house DJ was unmoved from some crowd protest, The Great Enough swiftly packed up their instruments and thanked the crowd before exiting the stage.
i99 founder and host for the evening, Ryan Smith took to the stage with partner in crime, DJ Fran Chismar to thank the listeners, venue and of course the bands of the evening before announcing the headliner, DREAMERS. I first saw this killer trio in 2015 when they were direct support for Stone Temple Pilots ft. Chester Bennington. Over the years, their style and sound has evolved, but these guys are always a great time and will rock your face off.
Aside from a handful of one-off festival appearances, the i99 Birthday Bash marked one of the first proper headliner sets from DREAMERS after the release of their highly anticipated sophomore record, LAUNCH FLY LAND April 26th. The record serves as the band’s first proper release with drummer, Jacob Wick, as their debut—This Album Does Not Exist—was actually recorded with original drummer, Chris Bagamery. I truly feel the long-awaited record is the band’s strongest work to-date and cannot wait to see where it takes them; not anywhere close to a bad track on it.
9:40PM and the lights drop in the already dimly lit bar, an introductory back track plays and three figures emerge onto the stage. The recognizable screech of Nick Wold’s guitar is heard as the band kicks into their single from last summer, “SCREWS.” The packed floor was dancing along right into “DIZZY,” a new offering from the LP. “How’s everybody doing? It’s great to be back in Philly” Wold comments, after the band rocks through the more subdued “All Washed Out.” “It’s nice to have a full set and not just a half hour like we’ve been doing lately,” he adds. “WE’RE GONNA GET REALLY ROCK ’N’ ROLL TONIGHT!!”
Nick lived up to the really rock ’n’ roll bar he set right after that, breaking a string during “To the Fire” ! Biding time during the string change, Wold wished the crowd a Happy Philadelphia Beer Week, following up with, “…is that a thing? …drink some beer anyway.” After re-stringing, the band started into another new cut from LAUNCH FLY LAND, “Insomniac,” with a long, sludgy intro, reminiscent of Weezer. The heavy baseline Marc Nelson laid down during was outstanding; the man never holds still, always bouncing around the stage. Already a great cut from the record, those added elements made it a set highlight from the night. Of course, seeing the entire floor jumping, throwing their hands and howling to DREAMERS’ first hit, “Wolves (You Got Me)” is always a fun highlight from every show. “Wolves” is that collective moment amongst the crowd where you see everyone forget their problems they came to the show with and just let go; it’s a beautiful experience.
So beautiful perhaps it moved Jacob to come out from behind the drum kit to toast the crowd a song later, after “Black & White.” Nick quick to point out again, “See?! He’s celebrating beer week!! The drumming is gonna get even better now!!” Joking aside, Wold announced the next song was very personal to him and very sad, urging the crowd to “listen to the goddamn lyrics, alright? I have to figure out how to play this,” as he tuned his guitar. While the song details a love interest the protagonist can never obtain, yet they linger on for various reasons, I would call “Someway, Somehow” anything but a down moment during the energetic set.
The pace was quickly picked back up with the most appropriate song for a birthday party—“Celebrate.” The synths and guitar on this uplifting number sounded especially crisp as everyone on the floor danced with one another, waving their hands to and fro on the “cele-bra-a-a-a-ate” choruses. The grand finale on this number however, was when everything cut out—purposely, not like that time the opener got cut by the soundboard—but Jacob on drums as Nick and Nelson lead the crowd in an extended clap-out, similar to the subdued ending on the album version of the track.
The end of the almost-hour slot was approaching as DREAMERS started into “DRUGS,” which seems to be a fitting, relatable song for their mostly millennial-based fans. Before current radio single, “Die Happy”—which recently came out with a brilliant new video—Nick introduced it as a special song for the fans about why they do this, why they make music, why they tour.
After the dedication to the fans, the boys thanked the crowd for a great night and wished i99 a very happy birthday before closing out with their smash hit, “Sweet Disaster.”
The i99 Radio Birthday Bash was a lovely Friday night out and it was great to not only see a full headliner set from DREAMERS—who do not seem to headline nearly enough these days!!—but to hear their kickass new songs live in concert alongside other fan favorites. Be sure to catch DREAMERS on tour with 311 and Dirty Heads the months of July and August if they’re coming to your area (HINT HINT Philly peeps: there’s a Jersey date and some New York shows that might work, depending on where you live)!! A full list of these opener dates can be found over at their website here!