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Endless Mike and the Beagle Club at The Golden Tea House

Mike Miller and band
Mike Miller and band
Ken Benjes

On January 17th I took the short trip to West Philly along with my girlfriend and good buddy to attend the show at The Golden Tea House. We had a fair amount of difficulty finding the venue, as there was some conflicting information online regarding its location. Finally, we parked and walked around a bit until we found it, which certainly got the night off to an interesting start.

We walked up to the stoop and entered through a big door. Inside, the joint had all the makings of a quality house show--a high-ceiling, open space, band area, and a kitchenette hugging the wall complete with dirty dishes, coffee maker and fridge. Well, that’s not entirely accurate; it’s not strictly a house show setting, although it’s very close. On The Golden Tea House’s website, which is also its Facebook page, it states that it is a "weirdo junk punker venue," and that sums it up quite well.

We arrived just in time to catch the opening band, an all-female four-piece indie punk band called Marge. They weren’t bad, even though their instruments were somewhat out of tune, and they didn’t adjust the PA system very well to accommodate the vocals. I looked them up and they have a decent recording that can be found at Bandcamp, the aptly titled We're Figuring It Out.

Next up was the Philly trio Pocket. Their set was short but impressive. In fact, they sort of had a Diary-era Sunny Day Real Estate meets TopShelf Records thing going on—a perfect marriage of indie rock and punk. Pocket’s sound, in other words, was emotive vocals, technical yet effective guitar playing, hard-hitting and busy drumming, and solid low-end. The PA system still wasn’t adjusted quite right, making the vocals a bit muddy. Even so, it was a very enjoyable set.

Then there was the band we went there to see and hear, Johnstown, Pennsylvania’s Endless Mike and the Beagle Club. First, I should mention that I am a huge Endless Mike and the Beagle Club fan. For me, they’re on the same level as, say, Neutral Milk Hotel, Kind of Like Spitting, The Smith Street Band, Sundressed, and Andrew Jackson Jihad, which are some of my favorites. And their set did not disappoint in the least.

Endless Mike and the Beagle Club’s lineup varies as far as the number of musicians at any given show, with the constant being songwriter and bandleader Mike Miller. At this particular show I counted seven members and an array of instrumentation including electric guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, viola da gamba, shakers, tambourine, acoustic guitar, and vocals. Though it was another short set, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club managed to play originals I recognized from two of the band’s full-length albums, Husky Tenor and We Are Still At War. Before they had even played a single note, however, the attendees moved forward and the floor filled up quickly. And once they started playing—despite an instrument malfunction or two and the lousy PA system (though they managed to tweak the settings and make it work better than the bands that played before them)—the crowd really got into their music, so much so that the floor was sagging underfoot as if it might cave in entirely and drop us into some dark, dank place below. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Altogether it proved memorable experience.

Regrettably, I had to bail soon after Endless Mike and the Beagle Club’s set. But I am very much looking forward to getting out to another of their shows next time they make it to the eastern part of the state.

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