Review: A Very Work Drugs Christmas at Johnny Brenda's on Saturday - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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Work Drugs | Photo by Matthew Davis

When you think of Christmas music, Philly smooth-wave band Work Drugs might not immediately come to mind—with their glistening, seductive beats and lyrics inspired by boating. Yet consider it from a different angle—that Christmas is about relaxing, and spending time with loved ones—and it’s actually a perfect fit. No one inspires laidback grooving, or indulgent prancing, quite like Work Drugs, and swaying along to their sparkling beats with a whiskey in hand and good friends at your side feels like the perfect celebration indeed.

And so it went Saturday night at Johnny Brenda’s, when the band hosted their second annual Christmas spectacle and an evening of feel-good vibes. Outside, a storm raged on, but inside the air felt warm and inviting, as the band sang, danced, and shook their way through an hour of lustrous chillwave, drawn from their massive discography.

A duo at its core, the band’s live line-up included five, and sometimes six musicians, whose sultry back-up vocals floated through the air like snowflakes. Tunes like “West Coast Slide” and “Boogie Lights” inspired the dance moves for which they were named…and by the time the band reached its new holiday tune “Never Gonna Be Alone on Christmas,” the venue was filled with dancing couples, drunk on positive energy (and maybe a few beers.)

The band closed its set with a cover of Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” that proved as powerful as it was danceable—before ending finally with “License to Drive.” Leaving the venue that night the air was still frigid…but filled with the holiday spirit, I confess I barely noticed.

Setlist:
Blue Steel
Rad Racer
Ice Wharf
West Coast Slide
Delta
Pluto
Never Gonna Be Alone on Christmas
Boogie Lights
Cursive Ground
Dirty Dreams
Young Lungs

Encore:
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love cover)
License to Drive

The early part of the evening saw sets from Spinto Band spinoff project Teen Men (read our feature on them here), who sparked the party’s very first dance moves with their youth-inspired beats and creative incorporation of visuals (we especially loved the oversized eight-ball on “Question and Design.”) This was the band’s second ever Philadelphia show, and hopefully the first of many more.

Philly symphonic pop fivesome The City and Horses took the stage next, filling the air with lush, multi-part harmonies, live saxophone and flute, and front man Marc Cantone’s blissful melodies. Their lively set included a cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” which proved especially enjoyable, the crowd grinning and singing along.

Philly DJ “Young Mariah Carey” (a.k.a., a friend in a Santa suit) rounded out the night, spinning vintage holiday tunes on vinyl in between sets, and sporting some seriously fly light-up shades. Taken together, it all added up to one pretty much perfect holiday party, from Work Drugs, straight to you.

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