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Review: A majestic second night from The Head and The Heart and Thao

The Head and The Heart | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.comAll photos by Chris Sikich |

The Head and The Heart brought their own take on the intersection of folk, rock, and Americana to Union Transfer for their second consecutive sold-out show Saturday night. The Seattle-based six-piece led by vocalists and guitarists Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell bathed the Philadelphia crowd in a hybrid of music influences including The Beatles, Edward Sharpe, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Walking onstage with their former tourmates Dr. Dog playing overhead showed the awareness and gratefulness The Head and The Heart had of the Philly love. They dove into a set mixing and matching songs from their debut self-titled work and their recently released Let’s Be Still. Johnson and Russell’s harmonies were expertly complemented by the violin-toting vocals of Charity Rose Thielen, bassist Chris Zasche, pianist Kenny Hensley, and drummer Tyler Williams.

Russell worked the stage the most, wandering with his microphone during quite a few songs, including the blue-lit opening track of Let’s Be Still, “Homecoming Heroes.” The lighting was one of the keys to the show’s success, varying between bright and dark with autumnal oranges and spotlights from the side of the stage thrown in for good measure. And then there was the unusual mirrorball on the floor by Williams, onto which another light reflected during songs including “Coeur D’Alene,” giving extra emphasis to the drummer’s sometimes-raucous beat.

The best was certainly saved for last, as the two-song encore began with Thielen strapping on a harmonica and doing the country-esque “These Days are Numbered” solo acoustic basking in a spotlight. And then they closed with fan favorite “Down in the Valley,” a grand moment of musical joy for all in the crowd.

If there could be a rock counterpoint to the many genres of The Head and The Heart, San Francisco-based opener Thao & The Get Down Stay Down were certainly it. With a punk soul and folk heart, lead singer and guitarist Thao Nguyen went through a blistering set consisting mostly of songs from their 2013 release We the Common. And despite some rare Union Transfer sound issues in her set opener, the title track to her 2009 work Know Better Learn Faster, where her vocals were barely audible, Thao and her supporting crew blasted through an 11-song parade of raucous rock and roll. The highlight was surely “We the Common,” one of 2013’s greatest songs, a blazing work of political and social awareness that is a universal call to the conscience.

Portland, Oregon-based folk and country group Quiet Life opened the night.

Review: Shoegaze icons My Bloody Valentine’s return to Philly is mixed, but impressive

My Bloody Valentine plays Philadelphia for the first time in 21 years | Photo by Abi Reimold |

My Bloody Valentine plays Philadelphia for the first time in 21 years | Photo by Abi Reimold |

Last night legendary Dublin shoegaze outfit My Bloody Valentine played in Philadelphia for the first time since a two night stint at the Trocadero Theater in 1992. Thousands of fans packed the Electric Factory and waited in reverent anticipation as a seemingly endless amount of instruments and pieces of equipment were checked and the stage was set.

After over an hour of preparation the letters “mbv” appeared projected above the stage and bright lights blinded the audience. As the lights shined, the members of the band appeared as silhouettes and took their place. Psychedelic patterns began projecting over the entire stage and singer/guitarist Kevin Shields began strumming the chords to “Sometimes” on a thunderously distorted and amplified acoustic guitar. The sound was ear-splittingly loud, meticulously crafted and seemed to paralyze most of the audience, who stood in awe of their heroes as they played a set of career-spanning songs including many new pieces from their most recent record mbv as well as fan favorites from the classic and untouchable Loveless and “You Made Me Me Realise”.

Unfortunately the show did not go off without a hitch. The set was plagued by technical difficulties and many songs needed to be restarted after Shields was unsatisfied by one thing or another. It was hard to tell from the audience exactly what was going wrong but Shields became increasingly frustrated as the night went on and more problems arose. His apologies were the only words he spoke to the audience for the duration of the show, except for the thank you and goodbye at the close of the set. Despite these issues, the performance was incredible and in my opinion the band certainly justified the high anticipation and hype surrounding their return. Check out photos in the gallery below, and videos of the set after the jump.

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Folkadelphia Session: Chris Forsyth | Mary Lattimore | Jeff Zeigler (aka the Ultimate Session)

Maybe it was a stroke of genius or maybe it was heat stroke, but during the dog days of this summer, an idea struck me that I knew had to pursue. One of those “ah ha!” moments. We’d wrangle together a group of musicians so amazing, so talented for a collaborative live session that the result would literally be jaw-dropping. There was some serious buzz about the idea around the ol’ Folkadelphia watercooler (note: we don’t have a watercooler, but my audio engineers were visibly impressed and sent me encouraging emails). With that positive feeling flowing, I contacted the association of sorta-Philly musicians: harpist Mary Lattimore, synth player/manipulator/producer Jeff Zeigler (of Arc In Round), and guitarists Chris Forsyth and Daniel Bachman. I say “sorta-Philly” because Bachman lives in Virginia now although he previously lived in Philly (in an apartment with Lattimore no less). They were all ready, willing, and able to collaborate for an improvisational set. What I started dubbing “the Ultimate Session” was in place.

The four musicians were playing on the same bill at Johnny Brenda’s on August 22nd. Unfortunately, due to traffic issues Bachman was unable to make it. While it is certainly a loss, I stand by calling this an “ultimate session” because, for my money, this is a dream team of Philly musicians. It’s almost an extension of our previous session with Lattimore & Zeigler – maybe you’d call it a sequel, back with avengence, back with Chris Forsyth. Whereas the older session drifted casually between atmospheric and oceanic, the new one bites a little harder. Sure, there are still plenty of revelatory sections, moments of supreme sonic purity that make me feel like I’m floating, but darker, mechanical, maniacal elements creep in and permeate the mix. By the end, I have already mentally subbed the music into scenes of ’80s sci-fi thriller films.I’m saying to myself, “this section is the protagonist’s dark night of the soul” or “this would be the meeting between the two love interests in this future version of New York City.” You get the picture.

When the music stops, I don’t feel a finality, but instead just the close of this chapter of an on-going project. Perhaps next time not only Bachman will be able to make it, but other collaborators. Think of the soundscapes! Think of the potential mental soundtracks!

Chris Forsyth’s new album Solar Motel is now available and he’ll be celebrating with a release show this coming Friday, November 15th at the Rotunda. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler perform as a duo on December 4th at Union Transfer for the Rail Park Benefit.

Listen to our past sessions with Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler and Daniel Bachman. Finally, make sure to stop back this Thursday, November 14th for a bonus session featuring Chris Forsyth performing solo acoustically.

Just Announced: Delta Rae playing World Cafe Live 2/21

Photo by Eric Honeycutt via Rolling

Photo by Eric Honeycutt via Rolling

Delta Rae are returning to Philly and are playing World Cafe Live on Friday, February 21st. Tickets go on sale Friday, November 15th at Noon here. The band releases a new EP, Chasing Twisters, on Tuesday, November 19th. A new song, “Chasing Twisters” is streaming at Rolling Stone here. The North Carolina band worked with producers Rob Cavallo and Julian Raymond during the summer on the EP. Below, download a live version of “Dance In The Graveyards.”

Just Announced: Into It. Over It. heads to Philly on biggest U.S. headlining tour (playing Union Transfer 2/22)

Into It. Over It. | Photo by Mitchell Wojcik |

Into It. Over It. (aka Evan Weiss) will head out on a US trek this winter in support of its latest album Intersections. The Chicago-based musician, who is also a member of Their/They’re/There, will prepare a full band show with the help of some musician friends. With emo stylings and aggressive undertones, Into It. Over It. delivers regardless of whether it’s just Weiss alone or with a full band in tow. The tour lands in Philly at Union Transfer on Saturday, February 22nd. Get tickets here and stream “The Shaking of Leaves” below.

Tonight’s Concert Picks: Midlake at Johnny Brenda’s, Yo Gotti at The Troc, Modern Baseball at The Fire

MidlakeFollowing the release of their fourth album Antiphon, Denton rock outfit Midlake is playing on the Johnny Brenda’s stage tonight. “Midlake does grand the way Pink Floyd did,” NPR Music’s Bob Boilen writes in a First Listen review Antiphon. After a daunting departure of singer Tim Smith back in August, the band rose to the challenge and found a truly resounding sound, thick with carefully orchestrated guitars and stimulating keys. Check out details for tonight’s show here. Get ready by watching their new video for titled track “Antiphon” below.

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