The Samples Jam It Out In Ardmore!
Updated: Mar 18
It’s time to kick off the 2020 concert season! My first show of the brand new year is a band called The Samples. This jam band brings a reggae twist to their music, which makes their sound unique.
You may not have heard of The Samples – I know I didn’t before I found out about this show. But this year, I am going to try to check out some bands that are completely new to me. There will still be plenty of shows with my favorites, but I plan on pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I hope you’ll come along with me!
So did The Samples kick off my 2020 on a good note, or a bad one? Keep reading to find out!
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The Ardmore Music Hall is in Ardmore, PA. Ardmore is in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, just about 20 minutes outside the city.
The venue was opened in 1980 as 23 East Cabaret. During that time, it hosted shows by then unknown artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Hootie & the Blowfish. In 1995, the venue changed its name to Brownies 23 East. During that period, mostly cover and local bands played the venue, but it did host some nationally known acts such as Cheap Trick and Los Lobos.
As of 2013, the venue changed names once again to its current name – The Ardmore Music Hall. The venue is independently owned and operated. Chris Perella and Tom Linquist took over bookings for the venue in 2014, and have focused on diversifying the music and events that are held there.
Tip #1: The venue is not operated by Live Nation, so while there is still a fee on tickets, it’s not as much as Ticketmaster. To avoid the fees completely, buy your tickets at the box office. The box office is open Tuesday through Friday from 12 – 5 p.m., or during all public events. Note that if you go to the box office during the day, simply ring the bell on the front door (along Lancaster Avenue), and someone will be out to let you in.
Tip #2: Ardmore has some great little restaurants in the downtown area, which is where the venue is located. We’ve eaten at El Limon several times, which serves great Mexican food. Ardmore is also home to, which is very popular with the craft beer crowd. If you go to the Tired Hands Fermentaria (they have two locations), it’s directly across the street from the venue. You can park at the Fermentaria (you have to pay the meter until 6 pm on weekdays and Saturdays), and just walk to the venue.
Tip #3: If you don’t have time to go somewhere for dinner before the show, the venue also serves food. They recently partnered with Ripplewood Whiskey & Craft, which is located next door, who curated their new menu for them. We’ve eaten at Ripplewood and their food is delicious, so it would be worth giving it a try!
Tip #4: As mentioned, Ardmore is in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. There is ample parking in the area. Some of the lots are metered, so be sure to read the signs before parking. There is also parking in the SEPTA lot directly behind the venue. The rules changed a while back and you are no longer permitted to park in the SEPTA lot – even after hours. You will be towed! If you are coming from other areas, you can take SEPTA regional rail. The Ardmore station is just 100 feet away.
Tip #5: The venue has a couple different show arrangements – full general admission, full seated, partial seated, etc. Make sure to understand the seating arrangement for the show you are going to, and buy your tickets accordingly. If you have reserved seating tickets, you get earlier entry into the venue as well.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rugby Road is a Philadelphia based band that has been around for over 25 years. The band is made up of Kenny Kearns (vocals, keyboards, bass, guitars, etc.), Rich Pruett (drums, percussion and vocals) and Derek Smith (guitars and vocals).
Rugby Road kicked off their career in the New York City Wetlands scene. Once they were ready to settle down more in their personal lives, they relocated to Philly and slowed down on the live performances.
They released their first album independently in 1998 – Times Already Happened. That was followed by a second album in 2001 called Different Degrees. Their latest recording was an EP – III – released in 2016.
While considered a jam band, Rugby Road incorporates more “traditional” rock and roll, with clear influences from bands like Pink Floyd.
Rugby Road may have slowed down from its early days, but they still play live regularly. They have had the opportunity to share the stage with bands like Rusted Root, Phish, and Peter Frampton.
Rugby Road took the stage around 8:15 p.m. They started their set with the three “official” members of the band. By the first song, it was clear that Rugby Road had their roots as a jam band. The first song had a long instrumental section in the middle featuring the guitar work of Derek Smith.
Rugby Road took the stage with their three core members shortly after 8 p.m.
While the next song was much shorter than many “jam” songs, it still definitely had that jam vibe to it.
After the first few songs of the set, Rugby Road invited an additional guitarist on stage. The second guitar added another layer to the songs, which I thought was a big plus.
Rugby Road with their guest guitarist.
While a few of Rugby Road’s songs were a little funkier than others, overall I found their set to be a bit bland and their music repetitive. They did wrap up their set with a Pink Floyd cover, which showed their versatility and the fact that they could delve into the world of rock.
You can keep up with Rugby Road on their website.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
The Samples are from Boulder, Colorado. The band was formed in 1987, and lead singer Sean Kelly is the only remaining original member.
Lead singer Sean Kelly is the only original member of The Samples left in the band today.
The band’s beginnings started in Burlington, Vermont when Kelly met Charles Hambleton at an open mic. The two formed a band called Secret City in 1986. They eventually moved to Boulder, where they met the other original band members and officially became The Samples.
In 1988, The Samples went out on their first national tour. They played mostly to college audiences, who shared the music through bootleg tapes. Their first album – The Samples – was released in 1989. The band was immediately compared to The Police due to the reggae sound of their music.
We spotted a “taper” at the show Saturday night. Bootleg tapes is how The Samples got their start.
The band was quickly signed to Arista Records. However, the relationship didn’t work out when the band felt the record label wasn’t doing a good job of marketing their album. The label also wanted the band to change their sound.
The Samples left Arista Records and signed with independent record label W.A.R.?, who released their next album – No Room – in 1992. The album contained what became some of their most popular songs and led to continued success on the road.
In 1993, The Samples released The Last Drag. The album saw a complete reinvention of The Samples’ sound, gravitating more towards rock and pop. Their popularity continued to grow. In fact, you might recognize a band who opened for them in the early ’90s – the Dave Matthews Band!
After their contract with W.A.R.? expired, the band signed with MCA Records and released the album Outpost in 1995. Unfortunately, MCA was going through a lot of changes and they dropped The Samples shortly after the release. In addition, the band itself was in limbo with only Sean Kelly and Andy Sheldon remaining.
The band decided to recruit new members and carry on. They even re-signed with W.A.R.? After releasing Transmissions From the Sea of Tranquility and Here and Somewhere Else, the band recorded a concept album called The Tan Mule. The Samples had grown frustrated with their management, and the concept album was intended to be so bad that their management would release them. It worked, and the band went back to being independent.
In 2008, The Samples announced on their website that they would likely not be continuing. Lead singer Kelly, however, continued to perform under the name The Samples, but with new band members. The original line-up reunited for a one-time only performance in 2010 at Mile High Music Festival and again for one show in Denver in 2014.
The band’s 11th studio album – America – was released in 2014. Their most recent recording – Indian Summer – is out now.
The Samples took the stage shortly before 10 p.m. Despite the late start time, the band played for more than 2 hours, finishing shortly after midnight with just a short encore break.
By the time The Samples took the stage, the venue had filled up and the floor was packed. And while I wasn’t familiar with their music, some of the fans on the floor below me (I watched the show from the balcony) certainly were. They were singing and dancing from the first notes!
The floor was packed by the time The Samples took the stage!
I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of jam bands. I think a lot of them get in a rut and their music starts to all sound the same. Not The Samples! One of the most impressive things about them, is that they have a lot of different sounds.
In some instances, The Samples remind me a lot of The Police. Lead singer Sean Kelly’s voice even sounds like Sting on certain songs. Their song “African Ivory” is a great example of that.
At other times, The Samples remind me a bit of Blues Traveler and Kelly sounds a little like John Popper. On the total other end of the spectrum, both songs they played off their new album – Indian Summer – were almost ballad like and had more of a folk music feel.
It was the first time The Samples had played the music from their new album live. In fact, Kelly had a printed sheet with the lyrics of the songs taped to his monitor, and still struggled with them a bit. He joked about it and said that it was a lot easier to play the songs in the studio and record them, than play them live.
Kelly used a flashlight to light up the lyrics to the new songs that he had taped to his monitor.
The Samples are a lot of fun live. Their music keeps you dancing and puts a smile on your face. And their personalities on stage are a lot of fun too. Kelly got funnier as the night went on (and as he had a bit more tequila).
The guys clearly love playing together and having fun on stage!
The Samples are also clearly appreciative of their fans. They noticed several bigger fans in the crowd, and called them out by name, including super fan Dan who was there with his wife and young daughter. Kelly also invited one fan up on stage to sing with him on a couple of songs.
One lucky fan got to come up on stage and sing a few songs with the band.
There were really only two downsides to the show. First, things were a little chaotic and disorganized from time to time. Kelly struggled each time to get the lyrics sheets taped to his monitor and balance a flashlight on a fan so he could see the words. It was clear that these guys are on a next to nothing budget and doing it on their own. Second, Kelly mentioned a couple of times that he had a lot of back problems. He appeared to tweak his back towards the end of the show, and he was clearly uncomfortable for the last several songs.
There was a little bit of chaos going on, with papers on the stage everywhere.
But all in all, The Samples were a great discovery and I will definitely go see them again. I’m glad I tried something new for my first show of the year!
Show #1 of 2020 was a success, and I discovered a new band!
The Samples are currently out on the road this winter and spring. You can see their future tour dates on their website.
Have you seen The Samples before? If so, what did you think? Let us know! Comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
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