Blessed are the Faithful: A Night With the Del-Lords at Brighton Bar

Scott Kempner and Eric Ambel

Why am I obsessed with the Del-Lords?  If you've seen them play live, you already know.  The band embodies the spirit of rock and roll--four extremely talented guys who clearly love what they are doing, and who give the music their all. One guitarist of the calibre of either Scott Kempner or Eric Ambel would be enough for any band, but the Del Lords have them both.  Kempner, Ambel, and powerhouse drummer Frank Funaro trade off on lead vocals--again, more than enough talent for one band.  And the newest Del Lord, bassist Steve Almaas has really clicked, bringing energy and enthusiasm to their live show.

Scott Kempner and Steve Almaas

Of course, none of that would quite matter if the songs themselves--rootsy garage-band-style rock and roll--weren't flat-out great. Scott Kempner's songs are studded with lyrical gems.  Lines like "The rich come first/the poor come last/the whole world sticks it to the middle class," ("Get Tough") and "I've never been any farther west than the shores of Jersey/but I guess dreams are created by a God in his infinite mercy" ("Cheyenne") are underscored by music full of heart and NYC-style gutsiness.

The Del-Lords are embarking on a brief tour of the midwest before heading to Europe.  See them if you can.  Friday night, we were the lucky ones: they played in Long Branch, New Jersey at the Brighton Bar and we drove two and a half hours in rush hour traffic to be there too.  In fact, we would have driven a lot farther for the chance.

This was our second Del-Lords show, and if anything, it was even better than the first.  I thought about shooting some video to share here, but that would have meant standing still for a whole song, and that was just NOT happening. Life's too short to not dance at a Del-Lords show.

Eric Ambel

Instead, here's audio of my favorite song on their new release, Elvis Club, an album full of great material.  Eric Ambel's voice is haunting.  And Scott Kempner's lyrics?  The first time I heard the line, "I'm flying/silhouette against the sky/I'm flying/gonna disappear into the night," I had that socks-knocked-off feeling poetry sometimes gives me, when a line or image feels both surprising and inevitable at once.

Also, when the guitar really kicks in--you'll know what I mean when you hear it--I get chills. Every single time.

So the show was great.  And afterwards, I hoped I'd get to take a picture with at least one of the guys in the band.  But Friday was my lucky night: I got my photo taken with four out of four Del-Lords!

The pictures are blurry and in each one my eyes have that freaked-out-cat-in-the-headlights glow,  but I don't care: I'm going to print them out for my rock and roll memorabilia wall, or as I've come to think of it, Hard Rock Cafe: Havertown.  And of course I can't resist sharing them with you here.  (If you haven't already, click on the audio link above and listen while you look at the following pictures.  Indulge me here.)

With songwriter, singer, and guitarist Scott Kempner
With Frank Funaro: He plays the drums!

With guitarist and vocalist  Eric Ambel, aka Roscoe.  

With bassist Steve Almaas
Thanks to our friend Bill Poandl for taking these!

You can tell from the photos how nice the guys in the band all are.  You can also tell by the way we're all beaming what a great night of music it was.  During and after, the whole room was lit up with joy, enough to buoy us up for the two hour drive back to Philly.

I also have to add that the Brighton Bar is now one of my favorite places to see music.  It's a tiny little place--mostly bar and stage--and exactly what a rock and roll club should be--gritty and intimate, practically echoing with music history.  Before the Del-Lords took the stage, a band called Trash Mavericks played, and they were fantastic too--the quintessential Jersey Shore bar band.


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