It's a daytime dance party at SNACKTIME's homecoming Free At Noon - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

What is SNACKTIME? The seven-man supergroup simply calls their sound “Dance Music from Philadelphia” – a summation so perfect that writing a better description seems almost foolish. This band reps Philly with more blissful pride and brain-bending musicianship than just about anyone, compelling all audiences to sing, scream, smile, clap and dance along to their infectious and explosive original tunes. At World Cafe Live, a crowd welcomed the hometown heroes back to their city for a sold-out Free at Noon Performance.

The concert came just a week after they returned from opening for the pop-rock group Portugal the Man on their first national tour – and only weeks before they depart again to perform at Austin’s SXSW festival. Their savvy and scrappy origin story began just four years ago, during the live-concert draught of 2020. Sousaphonist Sam Gellerstein rounded up some of the best musicians in the city and began to turn local spots such as Rittenhouse Square into unmissable and desperately needed dance parties. Since then, the band has performed frequently at various venues across the city – including multiple 76er’s games – as well as festivals across the country. Their sound is undeniably Philly and their inspirational, loving spirit could never originate anywhere but here.

SNACKTIME is currently readying the release of their debut studio album and treated hungry fans to live renditions of two recently released singles. First up was “I Don’t Give a Damn,” first heard in their 2022 Key Studio Session, showcasing their characteristically catchy horn lines, followed by the anthemic feel-good sing-along “Together.” The Free at Noon set also offered a preview of the band’s thrilling future, which encompasses a range of moods and musical styles. “The High Life,” which will drop later this month, was reflective and inspirational, while another unreleased track about falling in love with an alien was goofy and groovy. The band’s fun-loving sense of humor was apparent throughout the set, as the bandmates laughed together and cracked jokes between and often during songs. Frontman Yesseh Furaha-Ali brought the heart and the humor, singing and playing alto sax with a charismatic energy reminiscent of James Brown. SNACKTIME has certainly studied the greats. You can hear plenty of the Godfather of Soul’s syncopated style in the seemingly effortless ensemble, as well as some more local influences: think Grover Washington’s silky sax or the undeniable energy of a Roots concert.

Snacktime | photo by Paige Walter for WXPN

Some of the best moments from the show came during performances of tracks from Sounds from the Street: Live, which the band recorded for a live audience at a studio and released in 2022. “SNACKMFTIME” was a particular highlight, bringing the energy to even higher levels, as Ali shouts out local legends: “Yeah I’m talking about Philly, one of the best cities /We home of the Fresh Prince, Kobe, and Meek Milly / We illy, too fresh in the place to be / So let me tell y’all about the band that y’all came to see.” (The song seems to pay musical homage to another icon with a horn line that lovingly references Roy Hargrove’s playing on the D’Angelo version of “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”)

As Ali spelled out the band’s name and led call-and-response chants, the daytime dance party got even more thrilling. On drums, Austin Marlowe was incredible throughout, propelling the group higher with spectacular cymbal swells yet always grounding it all on the one. All the horn players – Gellerstein, trumpeter Eric Sherman, trombonist Michael Spearman, and tenor saxophonist Ben Stocker – demonstrated their musical mastery playing keyboards, guitar, tambourines, and cowbells during various moments. Yet even amongst this blazing brass band, guitarist Larry Monroe Jr. continually threatened to steal the show with some spectacular shredding – particularly on an encore cover of “Purple Rain.” Once again, SNACKTIME showed they’ve got it all. They can spit a few smooth and silly verses, then explode into a half-time hard rock breakdown, flex their jazz chops with a couple solos, and still leave everyone cheering for more. You never know where SNACKTIME will go next but it’s undeniable; they’ll always return home to the unbeatable crowds of Philly.

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