Key Fest At-A-Glance, Part One: A high-energy indie / punk opening with Cayetana, Commonwealth Choir, Hurry and Slingshot Dakota

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Slingshot Dakota | photo by Megan Kelly
Slingshot Dakota | photo by Megan Kelly | keganmellyphotography.tumblr.com

The first-ever Key Fest is nearly upon us, and anticipation around these parts is high. Three nights of music by Philadelphia artists, a spectrum of sounds and styles, and a lot to look forward to. It’s essentially the first time a local venue has turned over three nights of their calendar to us and said “here, have fun” – and we tried to do right by them in curating three unique bills of artists that we felt worked alongside one another and, more importantly, that we’d want to go see.

All this week, leading up to opening night, we’ll bring you night-by-night Key Fest At-A-Glance rundowns, telling you who these artists are we booked and why we’re pumped to have them on the show. To begin at the beginning, let’s look at opening night.

Thursday, April 23rd – Punk / power pop / indie 

Hurry is a band we’ve been following for, jeez, almost four years at this point. So long that when I link you to our original post about them, the page looks all wonky and formatted weirdly. Don’t judge us; The Key was still a very new blog. Frontman Matt Scottoline played bass in Everyone Everywhere full-time at that point, and Hurry was just his fuzz-pop My Bloody Valentine-influenced recording project that landed on Bandcamp and caught our ear. Since then, EE has been way back-burnered and Matt has turned Hurry into a viable, full-time thing with a solid LP, Everything / Nothing, filled with sophisticated power pop in the vein of Big Star, Teenage Fanclub and Weezer. They play an impressive-slash-ridiculous amount of shows at venues and basements and other spaces around town, something Scottoline can be self-deprecating about on social media and at the merch table – one shirt skewers their perennial-opener role with the slogan “I saw Hurry open for a band I like”…and yeah, we do have them playing first on Thursday night (sorry guys). But really, Hurry’s drive is remarkable, and one listen to their songs shows why – they’ve got something great going on. Get there early on Thursday night.

Commonwealth Choir hails from the fertile Doylestown music community – home to styles both Americana (Levee Drivers, The Lawsuits) and punk (Circa Survive, Balance and Composure). Their sound doesn’t fit in either of those worlds, though, leaning more towards hooky, riffy, amped-up power pop nuggets in the vein of The Replacements, Squeeze and Guided By Voices. They call it “golden age indie rock,” and that description pretty much tells you what you need to know. Frontman Davis Jameson Howley is a charisma machine – and you might recognize his mug from the WXPN Vinyl at Heart billboards around town bearing a photo shot when the Choir played last summer’s XPoNential Music Festival. We’re stoked to have them perform for us again on the more intimate MilkBoy stage, and we’re equally stoked to bring you a first listen to their new single “Palace,” which you can check out below.

Slingshot Dakota is the most exciting sort of duo: the type that sounds full-band massive, but is actually the product of two people who are just really really good at their instruments. On drums, Tom Patterson, and though he’s a powerhouse that could percuss you across the room if you let him, he’s equally skilled at the art of restraint if the song calls for it. On keyboards and vocals, Carly Commando, who can sing most TV theme songs from the 80s on demand, but would much prefer to play indie-punk jams with reckless abandon while belting out sweet vocals. Their 2012 record Dark Hearts touched on a range of emotions, from joy to tragedy, and even if the song is more solemn, these guys have the best time onstage. Sure, you could draw easy parallels to similar couple-duos if you so choose (Mates of State, Matt and Kim, etc.)…I will take Slingshot Dakota over those bands any day. Lately they’ve been hiding away in their Lehigh Valley home, recording their new album with producer Todd Scheid; very much hoping we’ll hear some new jams during their Key Fest set, which is also their first Philly appearance in a while.

Cayetana‘s Nervous Like Me was voted best album of 2014 by The Key’s critics, and deservedly so. Frontwoman Augusta Koch’s songs are honest, direct and true-to-life…there’s no bullshit, no artifice, just real stories about real people and real emotions, set to hooky punk rock nuggets that demand repeat listens. The band first caught our ear in 2013 when a Bandcamp demo started circulating and the song “South Philly” gave what I described as “an incisive, observational look at rowhome life that’s a world away from the trendy Passyunk Ave strip.” They also have an beautiful, aching number called “Miss Thing,” an ode to Koch’s grandmother and the experience of aging, captured with splendor in the band’s Shaking Through session. And, hell, an entire album of equal measure in Nervous. If you haven’t heard it, what are you waiting for? The band just got done a U.S. tour with pop-punk icons RX Bandits, and opens for Alkaline Trio at the TLA next month. In between, they recorded a session for World Cafe with David Dye (listen for that next month as well) and join us to headline the opening night of Key Fest. We’re beyond thrilled.

Key Fest Opening Night takes place at MilkBoy, 1100 Chestnut Street, on Thursday, April 23rd. Doors for the 21+ show are at 8 p.m., tickets are available now, more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Don’t miss part two of our Key Fest preview series and read Part Three here.

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