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What Philly’s ‘Ladyfest’ Means for Women in Music

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Being a woman in the music and arts scene has never been easy.  Even today, despite advancements towards gender equality, countless barriers to female empowerment exist. In honor of Ladyfest Philly—hitting our city this Friday through Sunday—we talked to Ladyfest organizers and musicians about specific challenges they’ve encountered—and how Ladyfest aims to chip away at the prejudice.

“When I first began to play [guitar], I found boys to be effortlessly intimidating,” writes Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster over email. “I had no confidence in my playing because I didn’t have quite as many strong reference models.  It took me a long time and a lot of sweat to get past those feelings of inadequacy.  If I didn’t actually enjoy playing so much, I probably would have quit.”

It’s hard to imagine a guitarist as skilled as Paternoster (who was named the 77th greatest of all time by Spin magazine) feeling anything but confident in her abilities. Yet the New Brunswick, NJ shredder—whose band headlines Sunday night at Ladyfest—is but one of thousands who’s overcome cultural and structural challenges to find her place in the scene. Ladyfest aims to combat these challenges by fostering a positive environment for lady rockers and fans—through music, arts, and workshops—and will hit Philly this Friday through Sunday, June 7 through 9.

A grassroots organization formed in 2000 in Olympia, WA, the first Philly edition of Ladyfest took place in 2003. Ten years later, a new group of organizers (with some old faces) decided to bring it back.

“While living abroad, I watched from afar as many of my friends played, attended, and organized Ladyfest Boston,” says Grace Ambrose, a Ladyfest Philly Committee member, and DIY booker for various Philly spaces, who was inspired to bring the celebration to her city.

“I had met Bryony Beynon, an amazing feminist punk organizer in London (who is reading at Ladyfest!) and she made me think about my own network of rad ladies making rad things happen back in Philadelphia,” Ambrose says. ” I wanted a way to activate that network, in one massive way, to make people sit up and pay attention. Shortly after I moved back to Philly, I called the first meeting and was amazed by the response. Most of the women who participated from the very first meeting are still involved.” Continue reading →

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Folkadelphia Session: Christian Lee Hutson

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Throughout the week, we’ll be presenting new sessions from three exciting songwriter instead of our usual single release. It just so happens that we were lucky enough to record stripped-down sets from Amanda Jo Williams, Christian Lee Hutson, and Kevin Killen all on the same afternoon of Saturday, March 23rd. We’ve adored each of these musicians for a while now – playing them on radio show, seeing them in concert, following them online – so it was a bit of a coup to record them in one shot. Each approach the art of songwriting with a unique voice, perspective, and flair, but in the end and especially in this bare bones format, they all exemplify that vague “Folkadelphia” sound. Honest songs from honest folk.

We started off with Amanda Jo Williams this past Sunday and now we’ll hear from Christian Lee Hutson.

Christian Lee Hutson will never break up. At least that’s what the button he gave me says (also it’s the name of one of his EPs), but it feels true. He’s a faithful guy. He’s preaching from the pulpit at the end of the bar. The songs that make up his latest full length The Hell With It have the feel of having been scrawled on whiskey-stained napkins while the house country band plays us into the lonesome night. A mass for the brokenhearted. Hutson himself is not a somber fellow – in fact, he’s rather jovial and appreciative, which tinges the songs he sings with a kind of hopefulness, like things are about to turn around. I have faith they will.

Christian cut a few of his songs down to the core for our Folkadelphia Session – simply moving vocals and guitar playing. You might pour yourself something strong before streaming.

Check back on Friday for Kevin Killen’s Folkadelphia Session.

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Watch Local Natives perform “Breakers” on The Late Show with David Letterman (playing The Electric Factory on 9/28)

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California pop rockers Local Natives gave a wild performance of “Breakers” on The Late Show with David Letterman last night.  Promoting their recent Hummingbird record, the band will be making their way to Philadelphia for a show at The Electric Factory on September 28th; tickets and information for the XPN Welcomes show with Wild Nothing can be found here.  Watch the video of “Breakers” below.

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Father John Misty releases video for “Funtimes in Babylon,” perfume called “Innocence, by Misty” (playing Union Transfer on 6/8)

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Father John Misty put things quite bluntly in a comment for his new video of “Funtimes in Babylon” off of last year’s stellar Fear Fun:

Music videos don’t need blurbs. It’s like putting a brief summary before a Garfield comic strip. Also when did everyone start calling them ‘clips’? A ‘clip’ is an excerpt of a whole, I thought. Whoever post’s this, don’t spoil the ending in your blurb, which will probably read like this: “Seattle based folk beardo Father John Murphy mopes around a deserted, apocalyptic landscape (and shows off some of those infamous dance moves) in this Josh Tillman directed clip for ‘Funtimes In Babylon’.

Keeping the curveballs coming, the Seattle / L.A. musician has announced the release of perfume called “Innocence, by Misty” in conjunction with SANAE Intoxicants (the same company that released Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s line earlier this year).  According to the company, Tillman’s scent “has pure botanical fragrances of Sweet Orange Oil, Tunisian Neroli, Mimosa Absolute, Violet Absolute, Jasmine Grand, Bourbon Vanilla, and Linden Blossom.”

Watch both the “Funtimes in Babylon” video and a promo for the fragrance below.  Father John Misty will headline Union Transfer on Saturday, June 8th; tickets and information can be found here.

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Watch an in-studio performance of Steve Gunn’s “Lurker” (playing Johnny Brenda’s on 6/22)

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Guitarist / singer-songwriter Steve Gunn and his band took to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Sound Studios to record a live session video of “Lurker” from his upcoming Time Off LP (via Paradise of Bachelors).  With John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp on bass, the song’s lyrics recount observations of Brooklyn denizens while Gunn’s American primitive / Indian raga influenced fingerpicking elevates the story to hypnotic levels.  The band will celebrate Time Off‘s release with a show at Johnny Brenda’s on June 22nd; tickets and information can be found here.  Steve Gunn will also be re-pressing his 2009 full-length Boerum Palace on purple vinyl through Three Lobed Recordings; more information on that release can be found here.

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Instagram Recap: Who is #GUITARCULES and why do they rule so hard?

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Last night the gang at Guild Shows kicked off their month curating the Tuesday Tune-Out series at PhilaMOCA with a performance like few have ever seen. Not much was known about GUITARCULES going into it – we couldn’t find any videos of this monster riff-centric supergroup on YouTube or Vimeo – and the images that exploded across my Instagram feed last night gave but a few other clues.

One of the players was clearly Greg Labold, of BandName and other musical pursuits. The band wears brightly colored masks that fall somewhere between The Residents and Slipknot. They released an album to Bandcamp yesterday afternoon. And, well, it looks and sounds like totally ridiculous mayhem and the performance clearly ruled hard.

My curiosity piqued, I was able to contact the drummer of the group – who preferred to remain anonymous – and they described the show over email as “pretty fucking outrageous” – which, I’d expect no less of a group who’s lineup consists of 4 guitarists, 2 bass players, 1 drummer and guest percussion. “We played way too long,” the drummer writes. “Eric [Bresler, programming director at PhilaMOCA] was very patient with us though. haha. We had 20 minutes of music and our set was an hour including a 25 minute guitar solo competition.” Day-em. Crank the album below, check out a selection of Instagram photos after the jump, and look for more from GUITARCULES at their Facebook page.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mic Stewart

Philly rapper Mic Stewart isn’t an easy guy to pin down. He’s a tall, somewhat scruffy fellow with a long ponytail – but as the hook in “Peaceworld (Outro)” goes, “long hair / don’t care.” Like as if to say he won’t let himself to get caught up in your backpacker pigeonholes, something he addresses more directly in the snappy single “I’m Not From Brooklyn” (performed in a jammin’ medley during our Key Studio Session with two other cuts from his new Peaceworld LP). Aside from addressing stereotypes and presuppositions, Stewart’s music focuses heavily on a Zen-like drive for inner peace and self-discovery via razor-sharp rhymes – as the story goes, he dropped out of college to focus on his musical dreams, and after a heard-fought year (and collaboration with DJ Stradegy, who backs him in these recordings) he ultimately won a Red Bull-sponsored freestyle competition and began playing stages as broad-ranging as the 2012 Roots Picnic, Chill Moody’s landmark headlining gig at the TLA in December, and this weekend’s show at The Blockley with Mobb Deep (enter to win tickets here). At the risk of saddling him with the equally loaded, constrictive “positive hip-hop” label, there is something positive about Mic Stew’s music, message and story. Dig into it below.