Today, we hit a pretty staggering milestone here on The Key: our 10,000th post, which you’re looking at right now. It’s pretty crazy to think when we launched this Philly music scene blog back in September of 2010 that it would hit this volume of events covered, bands recorded, stories told, music shared, and general thoughts and words surrounding our thriving music community – both the artists that call Philly home and the artists that stop through our city on tour. To everybody who’s been with us the whole time: thank you for reading, for sharing, for commenting and generally supporting what we do around here. For those who are new to The Key: welcome! And we hope to have you around for the next 10,000.
In the spirit of looking back and taking stock, we’ve rounded up our ten most popular posts of all time, per Google Analytics, and it’s a really interesting cross section of what we’re all about here at The Key. Mainstream and underground. Legacy artists and newcomers. A spectrum of genres. And moments that whether funny, frustrating or nostalgic, capture the imaginative musical spirit that’s alive and well in the Philadelphia region. Read the list below, and again, thank you for being here.
10. The Key Studio VIDEO Sessions: A decade of mewithoutYou – December 21, 2011
When we launched a video / interview series to compliment our Key Studio Sessions, I knew that we had to include one of my all-time favorite Philadelphia acts, mewithoutYou. Over the decade prior, the punk-rooted Upper Darby band developed an intense rep for its ever-more adventurous sonic arrangements and arty soundscapes, paired with lead screamer Aaron Weiss’ philosophical lyrics unpacking, life, relationships and spirituality. We talked about the guys about their tenth year of music making, and their hometown. But what I didn’t know was that mewithoutYou would use this session to premiere three songs from it’s fifth-album-in-progress, Ten Stories, released in 2012. Fans across the country went wild.
9. WXPN Local Twelve Days of Christmas, 2012 – December 25, 2012
Every year, XPN’s Helen Leicht rounds up a dozen of her favorites from the Philly scene to write original holiday songs for a free downloadable compilation shared on our Soundcloud page. This installment, featuring exclusive tracks from Good Old War and The Districts, was remarkably popular; also in the mix were tracks from City Rain, Ginger Coyle, Ben Smith and the York Street Hustle.
8. 20 Philadelphia concerts you should go to if you ever invent a time machine – June 4th, 2014
We’ve been lucky getting very talented interns working on The Key every semester, and this summer we have a remarkably awesome crew. Tom Beck pitched us on this relatively straightforward, fun, but undeniably genius idea: traveling through time to see Philadelphia concerts past. He fired up the DeLorean and compiled this list, which includes artists and venues of days gone by as well as great stuff that happened in relatively recent memory. (My favorite line: “Holy shit. The White Stripes played the North Star Bar.”) Of course you can’t fit everything in a list of 20, and where Tom’s personal tastes didn’t line up with our readers’, they let us know. On the blog and on Facebook, we heard lots of cries of “Where’s Live Aid?” and “What about The Beatles?” and moderately cranky digs like “this person was obviously too young to remember such-and-such long-shuttered venue.” Via T.J. Kong’s twitter, there was even an observation that we (regrettably) didn’t include any hip-hop on the list. Tangents aside, Tom’s time machine concept got a lot of conversation flowing, and we may just revisit it again before the summer is out to collect some of what was left behind.
7. Ballin’ Oates: Wu-Tang and Kanye West meet Hall & Oates – November 14th, 2013
This is exactly why my boss Bruce Warren and I work really well together: where I might come across a piece of audio or video and digital musical ephemera and shake my head and be all like “this is STUPID,” Bruce will counter “no dude, it’s really fun” and convince me to run with it. When this mash-up of Philly blue-eyed soul legends Hall & Oates with rap icons Wu-Tang Clan and Kanye West, my snobbish eye-rolling response was “mash-ups? What year is it?” But we went with it, and the response was huge.
6. Listen to Amos Lee cover “Like A Virgin” – May 1st, 2014
Soulful local troubadour Amos Lee is massively popular among the XPN audience, and pretty much any time we report on news from his camp, the story is pretty popular. However, Lee is also an understated master of the unexpected cover version. Longtime XPoNential Music Festival attendees might remember when, in the midst of a set of spacious and sensitive ballads from his Last Days at the Lodge LP, Lee dropped a non-sequitur and on-point rendition of “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. More recently he did a rendition of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” for Grey’s Anatomy, and the local fans loved it.
5. Black Francis to Magnet: Philly didn’t get an encore ’cause Philly didn’t earn an encore – March 6th, 2014
This winter, alt-rock icons Pixies played a stellar Free at Noon performance that had a massively warm atmosphere, mixing cheery singalongs of old faves with new tunes that sounded surprising pretty great. The stage was well set going into the band’s long sold-out show at the Electric Factory that night, but they surprised / pissed off a lot of the audience and squelched the good vibes of the morning by not performing an encore. Which, whatever, encores are stupid and played out, so good for them. But as hyperfans note, they played an encore at every other city on the tour up to that point, and the audience was jonesing for one. To rub salt into the proverbial wound, Black Francis was interviewed for a cover story of the locally-published Magnet magazine where he dropped the bomb: Philly didn’t earn an encore. “We don’t do jazz hands.” Jazz hands? WTF? We brought the story to The Key’s readers, which in our comments and on social media allowed some Pixies fans to catharticlly vent while others discussed the role of the encore in the rock concert setting.
4. Watch Boy George and Black Lips cover T. Rex’s “Bang A Gong” at Free at Noon – April 18th, 2014
In possibly the most surreal Free at Noon performance of all time, the already unlikely matchup of raucous Georgia garage-psych crew Black Lips with new wave icon Boy George teamed up to cover the glam rock classic “Bang A Gong (Get it On)” by T. Rex. Minds were blown at the foot of World Cafe Live’s cozy upstairs stage, and were further blown the world around as our video of the collaboration made its way around Stereogum, Pitchfork and the NME.
3. Download Meek Mill’s new Dreamchasers 3 mixtape – September 29th, 2013
Not long after his Dreams and Nightmares debut LP dropped and somewhere around the time when he was legally prevented from touring, Philly rapper Meek Mill buckled down and used the time to fuel his creative energy into a new mixtape, the third installment of his ongoing Dreamchasers series. We noticed it early and posted it, and – even though you’d never guess from the paltry numbers on the Facebook and Twitter sharing buttons – it wound up in our daily top posts for the next five or six months.
Again with Amos Lee and the covers! This one comes from the rather awesome John Denver tribute that Lee was featured on a year ago, and was a bit of an outlier in that it was one of our first coordinated “exclusives” or “premieres” or what have you. Whatever the reasons behind the post ranking this high, it’s undeniable that Lee both nails the spirit of Denver’s original while also making it his own.
1. This is what the Philly punk scene looked like in the 1980s – September 18th, 2013
As I admit in the very first sentence, this happened completely randomly. A tweet from King Britt led me to a stunning online gallery of photos by Pier Nicola D’Amico. I was blown away; they captured a bygone era of the Philly music community with haunting intimacy and followed its players into relateable settings. It was like looking at an album of dusty snapshots, and it was like seeing some folks I might have bumped into at Golden Tea House just the other day. Before I started editing The Key full time, I was a regular contributor to City Paper and wrote a monthly photography column in the arts section. It’s been a long while since I’d been able to use my writing to explore photography and visual art, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was already getting an impressive local response when NPR Music shared it, and the number of eyeballs quadrupled. I have no idea what the heck constitutes “going viral,” but this is the closest we’ve come. Then again, with images this amazing, how could it not?