NEWTOWN SQUARE—It's late March, spring supposedly has sprung, but in Newtown Square apparently Mother Nature forgot. Thank goodness for Chris Despo. His music brought warmth and sunshine to another cold Pennsylvanian night.
Saturday, March 26, Despo played two shows at , both fully sold-out. As one of the first performers to play the coffeehouse, Despo's show proved how far both him and the venue has come in the past five years.
The double show celebrated the release of Despo's debut album I Am the Moon. His main goal with the album was to "make something people would enjoy listening to." This simple goal was achieved throughout the evening's performance.
Despo and his band played a variety of songs all with a fun, feel-good vibe. His music would appeal to fans of O.A.R, Dave Matthews Band, and maybe the Dirty Heads. He admitted he is still growing as a musician, but his ability in incorporate different styles into his music is key to defining his sound.
"We definitely had a lot of changes during production that were for the better. A song called 'Don't be Fooled' goes from pop to reggae back to pop. It just sort of happened. We didn't like the bridge to it so we decided to explore. Reggae was the answer," he explained.
Despo doesn't just blend genres and styles of music, he also mixes up age groups. During the day he teaches health and physical education to elementary school children. He enjoys playing for his students, but will sneak a few kids’ songs into his "grown-up" sets.
Saturday night's show included a cover song originally by children's musician Ellis Paul called "The Dragonfly Races," which is one of Despo's favorite songs to play. He doesn't play too many covers for coffeehouses and college gigs, but when he plays at bars, it’s a different story.
"I will play a bunch of my favorite covers when I play at bars, helps keep the drinkers in their seats," he said. Another song he loves to play is Elton John's "Rocket Man." It was one of the first covers he learned how to play.
The evening show was filled with lively songs that got the crowd excited and a few somber songs that could have brought the crowd to tears. He dedicated an upbeat song to his mother. He sat down at the piano, "for the first time live" for an emotional tribute to his father who recently passed. He also played a song for his grandmother, who he described as the type of woman who enjoyed a hot dog and a beer on a summer day.
Despo was the star of the evening, but his band could have easily stolen the show, especially Alfred James. The audience of Burlap and Bean were treated with James' amazing ability on the cello, mandolin, and didgeridoo. Yes, didgeridoo.
The second show of the evening featured a jazzy, funky tune called "Rikki Tikki Tavi" led by James. The later show, in general, had a louder, funkier feeling that allowed the band to jam just a little more.
Despo ended both shows with the first track off of his new album, entitled "Keeps Me Waiting." It was the perfect ending to the show. Its energy could buzz in listeners' ears hours after the show. As an opening track, it is the type of song that pulls you into the album and makes you want to start it all over again.