When Matt Butler, the mastermind behind Everyone Orchestra, curates a “City Show” edition of his festival-oriented improvisational project, he ensures that each event boasts a top-tier level of talent, just as he did at Philadelphia, PA’s Ardmore Music Hall on Friday. The roster of musicians he assembled and their impressive credentials alone are awe-inspiring. The lineup featured Holly Bowling, Dave Dreiwitz (bassist of Ween and JRAD), Adam Smirnoff (a.k.a. Shmeeans, guitarist of Lettuce), Jeff Coffin (saxophonist for Dave Matthews Band), Mike Greenfield (drummer of Lotus), Tim Palmieri (guitarist of various prominent bands including Lotus, The Breakfast, and Bluestar Radiation), Robbie Wulfsohn (singer of Ripe), Sammi Garett (vocalist from Cool Cool Cool and formerly of Turkuaz), and Ernest Stuart on trombone. The lineup for the night was stacked from top to bottom, and for good reason. This special Everyone Orchestra collaboration was in celebration of Ardmore Music Hall’s 10th anniversary, a significant milestone especially in light of the challenges faced by independent venues in recent years.

The show kicked off with Matt Butler giving the go-ahead to kick off the jams to Dreiwitz. His time in JRAD has proven his improvisational chops, and the thick groove he laid down was quickly assimilated and expanded by Bowling, Smirnoff, and Palmieri. Robbie from Ripe dropped some wild astral bars while Sammi G. added some wonderful, tonal counterpoint to the horn work of Coffin and Stuart.

Next up Greenfield got the call and laid down a snaking, funky beat that brought a smile to Dreiwitz’s face as took the bassline for a joyful walk. From there, Bowling embraced her organ with some lush chord work while Schmeeans threw in some meaty rhythms and Palmieri played the blues. Palmieri continued his bluesy jamming in the next song, which he got going with a fierce and heartfelt line. The rest of the ensemble quickly found places in the rapidly built soundscape, with Holly B. proving to be a fountain gushing with endless melodic ideas.

To close out the set, Smirnoff started the fourth jam with a sparse funk line that left Palmieri plenty of leeway to stretch out over the top with some complementary chords. Coffin and Stuart settled into a fun, perky jam and laid back in the cut, popping in to punctuate when the moment struck.

To start off the second set, Ripe’s Wulfsohn continued his reggae-esque contribution, and thanks to Palmieri, Bowling and Schmirnoff, we got our first full-on island guitar barn-burner in the second song of the set. Keeping the tempo lighter and spacier, Butler helped lead the crew through a disjointed but trance-inducing jam that had the mellow crowd smiling and swaying. Following that with a funk jam well suited to the sensibilities of both Dreiwitz and Smirnoff, the horn players had a field day, rocketing up and down the register at will and the range and dynamic range of the show were well stretched. Local horn legend Stuart fittingly closed out the last jam of the set with a reminder of how he earned the love and appreciation of his city.

A lullaby encore, though a bit more energetic than most, was a beautiful close to the festivities.

Matt Butler’s creation once again lived up to its name. Everyone got ample chances to shine doing what they do best, with Butler acting as the shaping entity, never stepping on anyone’s toes but unafraid to restrain a section of the band to bring out something that caught his ear. His two decades at the helm of the EO has gotten his ear well tuned to hear a small idea that, when fleshed out, has the substance to provide a foundation for a potent musical adventure. It’s a masterclass in improvisational songwriting and musicianship done live in real time right before your eyes.

Everyone Orchestra – Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore, PA – 9/22/23