I am an unapologetic cheerleader for summer. There’s water ice, hang outs down the shore, you can ride your bike everywhere, and most importantly there are outside shows! I mean, say what you will about the beauty of West Philly in winter – and it really is quite nice, don’t get me wrong – but given the choice between sledding down the rock-strewn hills of Clark Park on a ripped pizza box I just found in a trash or sitting around and watching a bunch of bands play while eating ice cream during the annual music festival there, I know where I’ll be.
Clark Park Fest might not be for a couple weeks but there are plenty of opportunities this month to spend time outside while listening to music. That is, if the weather permits. This column is a couple days late because the event I was going to lead with, the Divine Hand Ensemble‘s Concert Atop the Crypts theremin performance in Laurel Hill Cemetery, was postponed not once but twice! Mano Divina’s orchestra is one of the coolest things that happens in our city and these concerts at the graveyard are always amazing, especially since the theremin already sounds like the soundtrack to a spooky ghost story. The new date for this is the 30th, assuming nature permits. It’s also Divina’s birthday so make sure to show up for the party in the cemetery!
On Thursday is the kickoff of this season’s Waterfront Sessions at Spruce Street Harbor Park with indie rockers Harmony Woods and DJ support from The Key’s very own John Vettese. In its fourth year, the series, which runs every Thursday through August, includes performances by Radiator Hospital, Ivy Sole, and so many more. June’s lineup can be found here and information on July’s over here.
Let’s take a break from all these outdoor shows and talk about another great thing that happens around this time of year: new music and new bands. Maybe it’s a byproduct of all those winter months, but for whatever reason when the weather gets warm is when everyone debuts their new project or drops an album or whatever. For example, check out that Michael Beach, Storks, and Sky Farm gig upstairs at Kung Fu Necktie that same night. Not only is Storks, which includes Richie from Watery Love, playing their first show ever but Sky Farm is Kevin Boyer from Tyvek playing solo, which absolutely never happens.
The very next night back at KFN is the Ecstatic Vision record release. If you haven’t been following these raw psych rockers you need to catch up quick because Under The Influence, their new album on Heavy Psych Sounds, is going to be on just about everyone’s best of list by the end of this year. This show, with Narcos Family Band and High Reeper, is the perfect place to start your education. First lesson: bang your head hard.
If that’s not your cup of tea, don’t fret: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is here for you. The multi-instrumentalist and rapper – described by Noisey as “Chicago’s weirdest musician” – is at Everybody Hits that night with Shamir and Soul Glo. I’m still recovering from seeing Soul Glo play one of the most jaw-dropping and just all around amazing sets I’ve ever experienced last week at Break Free Fest. If you missed it, you screwed up and you owe it to yourself to go see them at the batting cages.
One of the best jazz concerts of the month will be held at the relatively small Da Vinci Art Alliance in South Philly next Saturday. The last time Jaimie Branch came through town, the New York Times-lauded avant-garde trumpeter blew the roof off The Rotunda and I can’t imagine any reason to skip this show, especially since she’s playing with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (connected to everyone from Joe McPhee to Pauline Oliveros) and the Oslo-based percussionist Ståle Liavik Solberg. Opening will be locals Dromedaries.
I know I was extolling the virtues of warm weather at the beginning of this column but I forgot to mention one of the best things you can do when it’s too hot out: go to the movies! Outside of all the great and honestly at this point quite dependable programming at PhilaMOCA – especially that Bill & Ted Day marathon on the 9th – there’s also a punk film series at the Lightbox Film Center at the International House this month.
Kids of the Black Hole kicks off on Saturday the 15th with a screening of Out of the Blue, Dennis Hopper’s classic counterculture flick from 1980. The next day is Times Square with Tim Curry as a renegade NYC punk DJ in what is described as a “… girl power manifesto that prefigures the Riot Grrrl movement by almost a decade.” The series concludes on the 23rd with two screenings, Suburbia in the afternoon and a “double feature of teen alienation” in the evening with Over the Edge and River’s Edge from 1979 and 1986, respectively.
Say what you will about almost 40 year old teen punk angst – hold your tongue, those movies are all fantastic and timeless – but Clark Park Fest, the yearly concert in the park that serves as a reminder that West Philly has been the counterculture hub of the city forever, is quickly approaching its fifth decade. This year’s festival, held on Saturday the 16th, features performances by Grandchildren, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, EDO (who I got to write about for The Key back in September), and so many more, including a band from the Unidos da Filadelfia Samba School! It’s going to be a good one.
Speaking of timeless, Italy’s Ufomammut have been churning out Krautrock-heavy, Hawkwind-inspired doom metal since 1999. Truly a force to be reckoned with, they’re returning to Johnny Brenda’s on Monday the 18th with NYC post-punk weirdos White Hills and local psych outfit Gondola, who are coming off their recent triumph of getting to open up for legends Chrome at KFN. I wasn’t there unfortunately but I heard it was great.
The 22nd is the start of Philly Still F’n Shreds, the annual DIY punk festival that has been held for the past few years. While the first and third nights are being held on the relatively small stages at The Fire and Century, the second show will be in the hallowed basement of the First Unitarian Church. With the types of bands playing and the expected huge and boisterous crowd, this is reminiscent of events like Pointless Fest close to 15 years ago. Bands to check out this weekend include: Plague Dogs, Pandemix, Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Neutron Rats, EDS, Demodex, and Devil Master.
On paper, serpentwithfeet and Moondog might not seem like they have much in common. To begin with, the former was only about 10 when Moondog, a musician and poet who spent much of his career performing on the streets of New York City, passed away. But hear me out: they both have a background in – and a noted rejection from – the traditional world of classical music; they both sport some pretty funky headgear (or in serpentwithfeet’s case, a number of tattoos on his face); they both make very catchy and interesting music; and they both have singular nicknames. Now I’m not saying it extends much past that, but whatever I think, that’s enough to say that you should go to both serpentwithfeet’s show with Lee Mo at Johnny Brenda’s on the 26th and a performance of Moondog II by the Arcana New Music Ensemble at University Lutheran on the 30th.
One last concert for the calendar because even though it’s close to selling out I’d be remiss not to mention it: harpist Mary Lattimore is playing at the Chestnut Hill Meetinghouse on the 30th as part of a new series conceived by Atlas Obscura called Sonic Seasonal at Skyspace. The room where the concerts are being held – the Skyscape in question, designed by Quaker-raised artist James Turrell – has a retractable roof which opens the room up to the sky above. It’s been a destination for worshippers and art aficionados since being installed in 2013 and I’m very excited to attend one of the concerts in the series, which will be going all summer long.
Alright, that is it. I hope you have a lovely time outside – on inside, whatever – all month long! Remember, you can always send me hot gossip on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy. I’ll be waiting, lemon water ice in hand.
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