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The best kept secret in music


"DIY Reviews, Top 12 Do-It-Yourself Reviews"

The New Song
Produced by Ian Cross and Townhall

This quintet of young multi-instrumentalists met while studying jazz in college in Philadelphia, Pa. After putting their formal music educations aside, they hit the road and the studio, teaming with seasoned producer Ian Cross. Townhall’s repertoire is a groovy, all-inclusive blend of everything from neo funk, folk and soul to reggae, jam and jazz. And while most bands in this genre find it difficult to capture the energy and essence of a live performance, they have somehow eluded that problem in The New Song.
Their second release—but first studio album—contains 12 tracks of interesting, intelligent and deliberate arrangements. A nod to the classics is detectable throughout, from Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and Marvin Gaye to a glimpse of early Genesis on “Ellie Mae.” Listening to The New Song is like a trip around the world or through time. It is a collection of sonic trends from many generations, past and present, and gathers influences from a variety of regional styles. There is a surprise waiting around every corner. In the midst of the title track, you find yourself on the streets of New Orleans listening to a brass band, while “Chevy” concludes with a moment of free-form jazz. This is real music for real music fans. —LN

215-627-1308 - Performing Songwriter

"Four Star Review by Thom Jurek"

Townhall, a Philadelphia, PA, quintet, is a creative, sophisticated band who has no interest in boundaries or categories. Like the jam bands of yore and the current crop of long-winded music-makers, they blend various genres of music on their debut album, but unlike their contemporaries (Phish, String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, Mr. Bungle, Leftover Salmon, etc.), they have the ability to actually write songs that stand on their own apart from musical improvisation. Their melodic sense is inseparable from their musicianship. Plus they are funky -- groove is inherently important in everything they do. The album opens with "Confusion," a horn-driven funker with trombones, trumpets, and clarinets sparely issuing a call to the lyric as the upfront bass and drums call the guitar into the mix. George Stanford, who fronts the band as vocalist and trombonist (most of the time), knows how to phrase to such a greasy backdrop. On "Premonitions," the very next cut, dubby reggae bass and double-time scattershot drums create a backdrop of a melody to get down into; the horns fill in the backgrounds and the guitar provides a happening middle bridge to hold everything together. Other standouts are the haunting ballad "Ellie Mae"; the title track, which sounds like a Latin band meeting a bluegrass group who wants to be a soul band; and the beautiful Al Green-styled soul of "Chevy." No, Stanford can't sing as well, but his expressiveness, sensitivity, and under-delivery are reminiscent. In all, this is as fine a debut as you are likely to find if musical adventure is your thing. This is passionately played, wonderfully executed, and cannily creative music by a band in full command of their abilities. Recommended. -- Thom Jurek - All Music Guide

"Better Than Jam"

Better Than Jam

They’re talented and they can improvise, but please don’t compare them to Phish.

Tim Sonnefeld, bassist for the Philly-based rock quintet Townhall, isn’t just a guitar player ­ he’s a virtual music virtuoso, and can play Dobro, guitar, and banjo, plus probably anything else you put in front of him.

Just like the group’s main vocalist George Stanford, who also plays trombone, and co-vocalist Nate Skiles, who plays everything from trumpet to guitar. The remaining members Mark Smidt (who plays trumpet, bass, and flute) and percussionist Kevin Pride also know how to switch it up when it comes to playing a variety of soulful instruments.

Just don’t be fooled: Townhall is not a jam band.

Good musicianship doesn’t necessarily equal hour-long sonic sessions at the Philadelphia-based quintet’s shows, which can be a relief to some looking for quality songs without all the excess. “There’s a certain improvisational element to the structure of our songs,” Sonnefeld explained, “but I am personally not a fan of jamming. The whole 20 minute psychedelic excursion never really did anything for me.”

You’d never expect those words to come out of the mouth of someone whose band is often lumped into the same category as your typical hippy-magnet bands like String Cheese Incident or the Disco Biscuits. But maybe that’s because these guys aren’t what they seem at first. For instance, Townhall isn’t a particularly political group either, despite its name.

The real story behind how they came to be called Townhall is actually far from anything involving Democrats, Republicans, or whether George Bush is evil (ahem) or not: The band’s name pays homage to an album created by Charles Mingus, a jazz composer, who is one of Sonnefeld and Pride’s favorite musicians. The name Townhall stuck, just as the group’s catchy melodies will in your head ­ such as the recently released rap-filled, smooth groove called Kick the Can ­ whether you like it or not.

Each member of the Townhall quintet attended the University of the Arts in Philly, but “we all quit,” Sonnefeld said. “It was a good move, I felt. My mother didn’t think so.” Hopefully, Mom has changed her tune by now, since Townhall has developed quite a following in the City of Brotherly Love: The group has already received rave reviews from Philadelphia Weekly and The Daily News.

Although Townhall has gone over well in Philly, a recent hot topic on the group’s message board is a controversy over the fact that The New Song, the group’s latest disc, is featured on MTV’s The Real World: Paris. Some fans see this as a musical death wish (or as selling out ­ go figure) but by others as a valuable way to get more exposure.

Sonnefeld insists that having the album on MTV is really not that big of a deal. “We sent it to all kinds of record labels and I guess the people at MTV dug it and were like, ‘we could use this,’” Sonnefeld said. “It’s not like we got paid much for it; they gave us like $5 or something ridiculous. But if somebody hears it, good.”

Townhall has opened up for some interesting cats already. Like Lynyrd Skynyrd, for instance, believe it or not. “Of course, there were a few guys up front like, ‘go to hell! We want Skynyrd!’” Sonnefeld said of the show. “But I really expected the whole crowd to turn on us.”

Luckily, that didn’t happen. But Sonnefeld did have a “weird kind of stage fright. It was more like [fear] because this crowd obviously wasn’t going to love us.”

Give them time. Townhall’s music hasn’t quite reached that far outside Philly yet, so financial concerns are part of why the band hasn’t hopped on a plane to tour the rest of the world ­ yet. “To go out and play in Kansas to like three people, we’d pay so much in gas and food and tolls to get out there,” Sonnefeld said. “It’s hard to do it but I’d love to.”

Don’t worry. If the popularity of The New Song in Philadelphia is any indication, it seems like the long, strange trip down the road to success is certainly in Townhall’s future. - Pulse Weekly


Radio Airplay:
Kudzu Killer (Live at The Point)
Confusion (The New Song)
Premonitions (The New Song)
Chevy (The New Song)
Kick The Can (Released Single)
(Plus other's tracks that are being spun on small college radio that we don't know about)
Night Patrol (American Dreams, In Pre-Release)
When I Get Home (American Dreams, In Pre-Release)

Albums Released:
Townhall EP
Townhall, Live At The Point
Townhall, The New Song
Townhall, Kick The Can & Running Man (Released Single)
Townhall, American Dreams (To Be Released February 2005, Advance Copies Now Available)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Townhall plays Rock & Roll with a nod to their musical mentors who helped form genre. While often drawing comparisons to John Lennon, Paul Simon or Van Morrison, make no mistake about it, Townhall’s music is truly their own. “Just when you think everything is tired and no one can do anything new a band comes along and re-ignites the whole thing.” Jim Sutcliffe, Electric Factory Concerts

They met in music school in Philadelphia, PA. They played together regularly as classmates and within a year they had become Townhall. The band began touring immediately winning over fans with their high energy live shows. “Townhall gave an inkling not only of their potential massive appeal on the road…these very young, but amazingly versatile players had the joyous crowd dancing at the lip of the stage during their set which was a strong indication of things to come.” Simon Glickman, Hits Magazine.

Since forming in October of 2000 Townhall has played almost 600 shows developing a strong and loyal fan base in the northeast and southeast sharing the stage with a diverse group of artists including The Wailers, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, Buju Banton, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Les Claypool, Lynryd Skynryd, moe., G Love and The Dixie Hummingbirds among others.

They have also released four CDs including a 4-Song EP, Live at The Point, a double-disc Live CD, The New Song, a studio album and Kick The Can, a 2 song single. Both the double-disc Live CD and The New Song received substantial radio support. Live at The Point, released in October 2001 was added to over 100 stations and earned the band a spot on the nationally syndicated show, Live At The World Café. The New Song, released in February 2003 more than doubled it’s predecessor’s success and charted in the top 25 on CMJ and top 50 FMQB Public Breakout charts. The album was added to over 200 stations including WXPN and Y100 in Philadelphia and WFUV in New York. In May 2004, The New Song was reviewed in Performing Songwriter’s Top DIY Albums. In September 2004, The album was given “Honorable Mention” in Philadelphia Weekly’s Top 100 Philly Album’s of all time.

In 2005, Townhall will release their second studio album, American Dreams. The songs stick in your head. The arrangements are perfect and beautiful and the recording and production stand tall against any great album. Once again, the sound proves their skill to be as striking as their versatility. For many, it’s a surprising evolution from an often mis-categorized band, however, there’s no mistaking this song driven album, for anything but a great collection of songs that have the mainstream appeal to make this album an American classic.

American Dreams was mixed by Brian Malouf who is considered one of the top recording and mixing engineers in music. The former RCA executive has worked with such superstars as Michael Jackson, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Queen, Stevie Wonder, David Byrne, Prince & Rage Against The Machine, the Singles soundtrack and the Top Gun soundtrack.

With the sole exception of Smidt, who hails from Los Angeles, Townhall is homegrown in and around Philadelphia. Kevin Pride grew up in the Northeast section of the city, while Stanford is from the suburb of Narberth. Tim Sonnefeld is from Phoenixville, and Nate Skiles came from Lancaster. Before coming together as a unit, each member of the band played music from a very young age. They honed their skills independently and with different ensembles and distinguished musicians.

Music lovers everywhere have embraced the unique sound of Townhall, starting what has become a vast and loyal fan base that continues to grow.

“Townhall is a unique band with a unique musical vision. At a time when most new rock bands adhere to lifeless trends, Townhall breathes new life in to the singer-songwriter genre with interesting and eclectic twists and turns.”
--Bruce Warren, WXPN, 88.5