Live Review: Grocer, Grace Vonderkuhn, Flanafi With Ape School, Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 4, 2021


With a two-month cross-country tour behind it, Grocer headlined a solid three-band, local-ish bill at PhilaMOCA, sounding even tighter and more dynamic than the quartet did at its last Philly show in July. From instant classics like “Better Now,” “Know You” and “Don’t Touch Me” (from May’s Delete If Not Allowed) to newer material, Grocer proved to be the rare rock group with three lead singers and no weak links. Three of the four band members had birthdays this week, and that was just one of the many reasons to celebrate the homecoming.

Focusing on much-awaited album Pleasure Pain, Wilmington, Del.’s Grace Vonderkuhn tapped into the exquisite, infinite tension between the lightness of being and the heaviness of becoming. Dave McGrory’s amped-up drums were the perfect counterweight to singer/guitarist Grace Koon’s assured guitar lines and emotive vocals, while Brian Bartling’s earthbound bass served as solid ground for his more attention-grabbing bandmates.

Flanafi and Ape School’s collaborative opening set hummed and burbled with life, momentarily echoing Animal Collective’s spirit of genre-melding experimentation and Elephant 6’s approach to psychedelia before folding in more shimmery and funky influences in a synthesis all their own.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich