Maybe it was the impending nor'easter. Maybe it was a calm after Fat Tuesday's rioting. Whatever drove an enthusiastic crowd into South Street's Theatre of Living Arts on Saturday night seemed a spirit of sorts - tribes looking for a message. The message came, as it does in most tribal ritual, in the form of rhythm, pulses and impulses multiflavored and deeply grooved.
The night started with a new Philly quintet, Town Hall. Theirs is a slow-low groove, a union of precocious bass and "funky drummer" rhythm bubbling under old-soul melody. That gutsy sound, aided by singer/trombonist George Stanford's unrestrained squawk, was like vintage Van Morrison by borrowing from American blues but paying back in English pounds.