An all-star group of Philadelphia musicians will play Phoenixville’s Colonial Theatre this Saturday, October 19, when David Uosikkinen's project In The Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia performs to celebrate the release of the new single and video short, “I Saw The Light,” originally recorded by Todd Rundgren in 1972. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show range from $19.50 to $34.50, and are available here, or by calling (610) 917-1228.
David Uosikkinen will always be best known as the drummer for the Hooters, one of the top bands to originate from Philadelphia in the 1980s. For the In The Pocket project, the Bucks County native still plays the drums, but he has also assumed the roles of local music archivist/historian and benefactor.
Every few months, Uosikkinen brings together a group of established Philly musicians to cover a song that was either originally recorded in Philadelphia or originally written and performed by Philadelphians. Each song recorded for In The Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia, can be downloaded on iTunes or Amazon.com. A full-length, live CD (recorded this past January at the Colonial Theatre), can be purchased on the In The Pocket website.
A portion of the proceeds from the downloads, CD sales, and live performances benefit Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School, which provides music and arts education to children and adults without regard to age, race, or financial circumstances. Alumni of the school have included Kevin and Michael Bacon, G. Love, Stanley Clark, and Kevin Eubanks.
In a recent telephone interview, Uosikkinen said that the In The Pocket project originated when he was brainstorming for ideas for a solo album.
“In The Pocket started in October 2010,” he said. “I had moved back to Philadelphia from California. The Hooters were in a little bit of a hiatus and I needed some other things to do. I thought that maybe I would record a solo record. I don't consider myself a songwriter per se, so I decided instead to do a concept record. It's different than doing a cover record. I wanted to do an album where there was a thread that connected the songs together.”
Uosikkinen says he spoke with Hooters publicist Dallyn Pavey of Dish Public Relations about different concepts for the album.
“I think I came up with some dumber ideas and she came up with some better ideas,” Uosikkinen says. “But when the Philly idea came up, we both knew that was it.”
While living in California, Uosikkinen worked for MP3.com, and wrote about music for an online magazine entitled “In The Pocket: Essential Songs of Pop and Rock.” Uosikkinen decided to use a localized version of the title for his project.
The Hooters rose to fame in the early 1980s – a time when the local music scene was ripe with talent. Artists like the A's, Beru Revue, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, Jack of Diamonds, Bad Sneakers and Robert Hazard were packing area clubs playing original music.
Although the bands were playing the same venues, Uosikkinen says the artists rarely had the opportunity to get to know each other.
“I knew the guys in the A’s,” he says. “They were the first band to go out and get signed. They got a deal with Arista. I think there was more of a healthy competitiveness back in those days amongst the bands. I didn't get to know them all that well back then, but I certainly was a fan of a lot of those bands. They were all really great.”
For In The Pocket recordings and performances, Uosikkinen gathers together a revolving group of musicians that includes members of the Hooters, the A's, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, Smash Palace, the Soul Survivors, and Beru Revue; studio musicians like TJ Tindall, William Wittman, and Jay Davidson; and solo artists like Jeffrey Gaines and Ben Arnold.
Uosikkinen says that he's not trying to record a definitive collection of Philadelphia music. Songs are often chosen for more personal reasons. For example, “Soon You'll Be Gone” was a song originally recorded by Jamaican duo the Blues Busters that the Hooters performed live in the early days of the band. The song was recorded by the In The Pocket band as a tribute to original Hooters members John Kuzma, who played guitar and sang the song live, and Bobby Woods, who played bass. Both Kuzma and Woods have since passed on.
“‘The Essential Songs of Philadelphia’ could also be called ‘The Essential Songs of Dave.’” Uosikkinen says. “I'm just a guy who loved music, and everything that came out of the Philly scene. I was just sucking it in and learning from it. This is what made me tick.”
For In The Pocket sessions, the musicians record live in the studio, with as few overdubs as possible.
“These days, people record in their homes, and often bands don't record together anymore,” Uosikkinen says. “When the Hooters started making records, we would be in the same room cutting tracks together. That's the way it worked. I wanted to record that way again.”
Among the artists scheduled to perform with Uosikkinen at Saturday's show are Richard Bush of the A's, Tommy Conwell, Greg Davis of Beru Revue, John Lilley and Fran Smith, Jr. of the Hooters, Wally Smith and Steve Butler of Smash Palace, Graham Alexander, Jeffrey Gaines, and Ben Arnold. Also performing is singer-songwriter Cliff Hillis, a native of Phoenixville, who sings lead on “I Saw the Light.”
“Cliff Hillis was the natural choice to cover [‘I Saw the Light’],” Uosikkinen says. “Cliff has molded himself as a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer, very much like Todd Rundgren. He has those same power-pop sensibilities that I loved in Todd's earlier work."
Fans attending the Colonial Theatre show can expect to hear all of the songs recorded thus far for the In The Pocket project. The group also performs songs made famous by the Philadelphia bands represented, like the A’s “A Woman’s Got The Power,” Tommy Conwell’s “I’m Not Your Man,” and Jeffrey Gaines’ version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” as well as some surprises.
Also debuting on Saturday will be a video feature for “I Saw the Light” by Steve Acito of Bluewire Media. As he has done for the previous seven songs recorded by the In The Pocket band, Acito films, edits, and produces what is essentially a long-form music video that captures the behind-the-scenes recording process, interspersed with interviews of the band members and a performance of the song.
“I wanted people to be able to feel and experience the creative process,” Uosikkinen says. “These days, people buy MP3s, and they don't get any kind of real artwork, liner notes, or album jackets. I wanted to put this whole package together. Steve is a big part of delivering what people see and how they grasp the whole concept of this thing.”
By recording and releasing songs individually, Uosikkinen says the In The Pocket project has had a longer lifespan than it would if the songs were released all at once on a single album.
“The thing is, you put out a record and it’s done in a few weeks,” he says. “One of the things that we found by doing this project the way we have, is that it continually has room to grow. It's ongoing.”
Uosikkinen says that there are numerous musicians with Philadelphia connections with whom he'd eventually like to work. He hints that a song by Philadelphia legend Kenn Kweder, or something from the early days of Daryl Hall and John Oates might be recorded in the future for the In The Pocket project.