Last Friday, local Philadelphia rock band RFA hosted a record release show for their new album, Rfa. The four band members that make up RFA met in high school over a shared love of artists like Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Strokes. Flash forward six years, and the group is starting to sell out venues around Philadelphia with their growing fan base.
Brooklyn-based collective Del Water Gap opened the night with a set including songs from their most recent EP like “High Tops,” “Let’s Pretend,” and “Deirdre, Pt. 1.” On the recorded versions, the rhythms are clean-cut and front man Holden Jaffe’s folksy voice is clear above the band. But performed live, the rock-inspired elements of these songs show through, as Jaffe and his bandmates shred guitar solos and jump to the rhythm of the pounding drum. Their performance gave a new and powerful dimension to songs that sound more tranquil in the recordings. Jaffe and the band’s infectious energy was the perfect warm-up to the rock that followed.
Up next was Secret American, a band that merges the sounds of the East and West coasts in a modern take on retro rock-pop. Though the band performed a set of at least seven songs, they only have three recordings out on music streaming services. But this is because Secret American is a band that’s meant to be seen live. Lead singer, Derek Krzywicki led the band in coordinated dance moves that were evocative of 1950’s-era twists and jives. That and their vintage-style clothing added to the old-school vibe of the two guitars, keyboard, drum set, bass, and congas that make up Secret American’s warm and sunny sound.
After a quick transition, the audience came together in chanting “RFA…RFA…RFA” until the four-piece band finally emerged, with lead singer Dan Cousart expressing his thanks for the sold-out show – their first in Philadelphia’s city limits. They plunged into a set that featured fresh tunes from the new album like “Lazy” and “Farewell,” as well as fan-favorites like “Freaking Out,” and “Teenage Love Song.”
What makes RFA different from other local rock bands is their capability to seamlessly piece together different rhythms and musical patterns into one coherent song. In “Don’t Want to Think About It,” they alternate from a fast pace that lets guitarist Christian Turzo burst out with wild solos, to a slowness controlled by a lull in the drums that matches perfectly with a sway of the hips.
RFA manages to balance the poetry of Cousart’s lyrics with the instrumental elements of their rock and roll sound in a way that’s usually difficult for bands to maintain. The crowd’s response reflected this, as the dancing alternated between a friendly mosh pit at the front to more relaxed versions of shuffling and clapping. These infectious rhythms, due in no small part to bass player Brendan McHale and drummer Alec Powell, helped create a community among strangers in the audience by bringing all the intensity of classic rock with an approachable and familiar feeling that is sometimes missing from the more famous musicians.
The energy of their release party, combined with coverage from music publications like POND Magazine and WXPN’s The Key, shows that RFA is a band on the rise. Their lyrics about love and youth in the modern era combine with their characteristically stripped-down four-piece set to put RFA at the forefront of keeping rock alive with the new generation. This new album shows the way that the band members have grown as both musicians and people throughout college together, and I’m excited to see where it takes them next.
Catch RFA live next weekend at the Brick Presbyterian Church on April 14, or at the Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival on April 15.
Photo by Stephanie Defeo.