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Phyrst Phamly: A Phryst Tradition for Over 40 Years

Posted by Pat Baxter on 10/22 at 04:37 PM

If ever you should make your way over to The Phyrst on a Saturday night at around 10 o’clock, you’re more than likely to hear the janglings and ramblings of the banjo/guitar group known as the Phyrst Phamly.  This is a group—founded about 40 years ago—that appeals to those whose tastes reside in country and western, blue grass, and other similar genres.  If you’re a fan of the banjo and country music in general, chances are you’ll love this band.  However, for those (such as myself) who don’t much care for country, you might still enjoy their interpretations of known mainstream songs inside and outside of the top 40.  Or you might just like the rustic bar with female bartenders dressed in clothing sure to guarantee tips.

In any event, here’s a review of what I experienced at their show a week ago:

I entered the Phyrst 10-15 minutes after 10PM and saw the band still setting up.  I decided to make my over to the bar to get my drink on, and was greeted by a lovely female bartender in clothing that made it difficult for me to keep eye contact, if you know what I mean (this may have been the highlight of my month, if not year…but I digress).  After purchasing my decent, yet inexpensive, Yuengling lager, I decided to check out what was happening on stage.  For the next 10 minutes I watched about 30 different mic checks and mic stand adjustments.  The band then kicked things off around 10:35PM.

They started with what apparently is their standard opening theme song called “Saturday Night.” A few patrons seemed familiar with the number as they were singing along at times.  This song seemed to me particularly lame, and after a few Lawrence Welk-type songs (Raise a Raucos, Sway Song) it looked like it would be a rough night.  But then they did a series of covers that worked surprisingly well.

They went into a rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads.”  This seemed to get the crowd going a bit as the lead singer Kathy DiMuccio encouraged folks to sing along.  They then went into some Johnny Cash with “Ring of Fire.”  After doing an OK version of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout,” things got genuinely interesting with a cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.”  This was followed by the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin.”  This song received one of the bigger pops of the evening.  Playing on without pause, the band went into a sort of nursery rhyme medley consisting of “Oh Suzanna,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad,” and “Bingo.”  Continuing in the same key, the medley segued into the Beatles’ White Album song “Ob La Di, Ob La Da.”  Indeed, for me it was the different take on these cover songs that peeked my interest.  Renditions of reggae, country-rock, 60s-rock, and straight rock provided a fresh take on these covers after having listened to note-for-note versions from standard cover bands for so long.  I also appreciated the diversity of the song selection that was outside of today’s traditional setlists.  They even went into a 4 Non Blondes number “What’s Up.”  This isn’t to say that they didn’t play their share of crowd-pleasers.  Along with the Johnny Cash there was the always affable Jimmy Buffett song “Margaritaville,” Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and other crowd favorites.  But overall, it was a varied mixed.

The musicianship was tight, as well.  Kathy DiMuccio had very good stage presence with animations and audience interaction, even if they reacted just as enthusiastically to “Piano Man” on the jukebox as to the Phyrst Phamly on stage.

Overall, I would say it was basically a pleasant evening.  I even got a free beer from a “peachy-keen” fellow who was trying to empty out the rest of his pitcher of beer.  So go ahead and venture out to see the Phyrst Phamly if you want to see a slightly more unique kind of cover band.

Where: The Phyrst
When: Every Saturday, 10PM

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{name} Author: Pat Baxter
Bio: A native of Pittsburgh, Pat Baxter is now working for WPSU/Penn State Public Broadcasting in video on-demand and multi-media. He enjoys playing guitar and bass, listening to music and watching films. He likes listening to grunge/alternative rock, experimental and prog rock, and jazz/fusion. His favorite rock bands include the Smashing Pumpkins (1990s era), David Bowie, Talking Heads, King Crimson, Buckethead, Frank Zappa, Mars Volta, David Torn, and the Cure.

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