Lukas Nelson and Co. bring the real

Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist
Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist

Two years ago, Lukas Nelson, his brother Micah Nelson, and the membership of the ragged Promise of the Real were just coming into its own as backing band-collaborators of Neil Young for his Monsanto Years album and tour. The Nelson Brothers and their surfer buddies in Promise had recorded rough, jammy, Cali-countrified albums such as 2010’s Promise of the Real, and 2012’s Wasted, by that time (Micah is a solo artist under names such as The Particle Kid and Insects VS Robots), yet, between this then-new association with Young – to say nothing of their personal and professional lineage, playing and touring with their dad, Willie Nelson – there could have been a fear that legend would overshadow youthful ebullience and individuality.

“Willie’s my dad, Neil is our friend, both are masters and originals; why run from that?” Lukas Nelson told me back in 2015. Besides, with its slow, syrupy 2017 album Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real topping the Americana charts (along with the December 1 release of his collaboration with Young, The Visitor), Nelson & Co have found a sound, a niche and an audience all its own.

With that, they hit Union Transfer on November 14 as WXPN’s Artist to Watch for the month of November. Continue reading →


RunHideFight brings Geeta Simons from motherhood to garage-rocking mother-f$#&ing-hood

RunHideFight | photo by Adam Wallacavage | courtesy of the artist

Toward the end of the mad, bad, 90s in Philadelphia, blunt, forceful guitarist-singer Geeta Simons was part of several essential bands, with the revved-up garage rocking Rockula and the poppy, post-punk Swisher being two of her most notable and notorious. Like other musical artists before her, Simons was effected by two things, for better and worse: physical problems involving the dexterity of her hands, and marriage, then children. So she became, in her words, “freaking Donna Reed, if she was tanned and cool,” for over a decade of (still wedded) bliss, and raising two girls.

Like other artists before her, Simons grew as restless now, as she was a young player – the very manifestation of the 7-year-itch. So, she kicked the kids out of the playroom, so to speak, began demo-ing new garage-ish songs she had composed, then formed RunHideFight with another punk rock mom, Christine Weiser of Mae Pang, as well as Stinking Lizavetta’s Cheshire Agusta and Suffacox, and Jonathan “Brother JT” Terelsky.

Simons debuts her band and her custom-made checkerboard double-neck 24 string (12 electric neck/ 12 electric sitar neck) Chris DiPinto guitar in an opening slot for the legendary Pere Ubu at Johnny Brenda’s on November 14. Continue reading →


Shamir Shamone: Upping the pureness with Philly’s Shamir

Shamir | photo by Jason MacDonald | courtesy of the artist

There are a hundred reasons to write about Shamir Bailey – known professionally as simply Shamir – beyond a recent relocation to Philadelphia. With a piercing contralto/tenor falsetto, Shamir demonstrates a musical curiosity ranging from 90s house, soul, country (all on 2015’s Rachet album), and now, lo-fi rock and fizzy pop (2017’s Hope and its follow-up, Revelations).

The-Vegas-to-NYC-to-Philly transplant has a singular voice, making any song identifiably theirs – be it silly (“90’s Kid”) or heartbreaking (“Like a Bird”) or angrily disgusted (“I Fucking Hate You”) in its lyricism. With Revelations out this Friday, November 3rd on Father / Daughter Records, and a First Unitarian Church gig on the horizon, I got Shamir on the phone to talk about their process, influences and aspirations.   Continue reading →


Lydia Lunch Isn’t as intimidating as you think (unless you let her be)

Lydia Lunch | photo courtesy of the artist
Lydia Lunch | photo courtesy of the artist

Ever since Teenage Jesus & the Jerks and the restless No Wave movement, Lydia Lunch has aggressively made noise (or made aggression, noisily) her primary color palette in which to paint pictures of haunted, hunted souls, rabid sexuality, amber decay or something in-between the three, with provocative albums and new bands to represent such tones and changes.

Lunch’s newest ensemble – Brutal Measures, a live-in-the-studio duo with drummer/electronic manipulator Weasel Walter – is what Philadelphia audiences will see October 22 at PhilaMOCA when she graces this city with one of a fleeting few rare appearances. Then again, she was here last year producing the funhouse art-rock locals Pissed Jeans, so maybe this will become a habit. Continue reading →


Liberian pop lives in Philly

Still from Because of the War

When the Philadelphia Folklore Project hosts the premiere of director Toni Shapiro-Phim’s Because of the War, it isn’t just a celebration of the organization’s stealth (it’s a party for PFP’s 30th birthday with an October 15 screening at International House), but a study of the strength of five women – Phim and four vocalists from Liberia who live in the Southwest Philly and Upper Darby area.

“Each of them was an accomplished touring and recording artist in Liberia for years before moving to the U.S.” says Shapiro-Phim. To this Fatu Gayflor – one of the four vocalists that came to form The Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change – states that each woman had a job “to represent their homeland by singing and dancing,” she says. Continue reading →


Bruce Klauber on life, love, Frank, Buddy, Gene and the swing of big band jazz

Bruce Klauber | photo by Jim Dofton | courtesy of the artist

Along with being the principle literary and video biographer of big band rhythmatists Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, Philadelphia’s Bruce Klauber holds his own legend – local and beyond – as a jazz drummer and vocalist.

As a young man, Klauber played with top-tier instrumentalists such as Al Grey, Charlie Ventura and Milt Buckner. For the better part of this decade, he’s been the drumming part of the All-Star Jazz Trio, an inventive outfit whose weekly gigs as a threesome are often highlighted by dynamic local vocalist, Peggy King.

After having recently acted as a technical advisor on the Academy Award-winning film Whiplash, Klauber just released his new book, Reminiscing in Tempo: Farewells and Recollections of Showbiz, Jazz and Drums and, on October 15 at 3 p.m., leads the All Star Trio, the 15-piece Monday Blues/Jazz Orchestra, and vocalist extraordinaire Mary Ellen Desmond through an afternoon of swing at World Cafe Live Upstairs and “A Big Band Salute to The Legends of Jazz Drumming.” Continue reading →


Playing the Fool: Rinde Eckert

Rinde Eckert | via

When Rinde Eckert presents My Fools: A Life in Song October 6-7 at Bryn Mawr College’s Hepburn Teaching Theater in Goodhart Hall, it won’t just be a “where-the-hell-you-been-welcome-back.” Sure, the artist hasn’t played Philadelphia since his American Music Theater Festival premiere of his 1989 work, Power Failure.

But My Fools is a celebration of one of the avatars of musical genre-juggling, performance-art-opera, a man with ten radically diverse albums under his belt, a handful of admirable characters at the tip of his pen, and more Guggenheim grants than you’ve had hot meals.

Recently (like last weekend) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater where he performed the forlorn “My Lai” with his longtime friends in Kronos Quartet, Eckert – as an interview subject, just hours before show time – was friendly, charmingly smart and forthcoming. Continue reading →


Snap, Crackle, Pop: The music of the Fringe Festival 2017

Close Music for Bodies at Fringe Fest 2017 | photo courtesy of the artist
Close Music for Bodies at Fringe Fest 2017 | photo courtesy of the artist

Tell Nick Stuccio, the president and producing director of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, that for this – his 21st fest – the topic of our discussion is “music” and he all but busts like a hot water pipe. “

Great great idea; no one’s ever focused on the music of the Fringe. Whether separate events, concerts or as part of the productions, music has always been so crucial to the Fringe.”

For Stuccio, the rich wellspring of music that is the soundtrack to the Fringe has always been a most “excellent through line” from show to show. “And there’s a deep, diverse wellspring of music to speak of, most particularly this year,” says Stuccio, remarking on everything from Martha Graham Cracker’s vocal soul Olympics to the accordions pumped by none other than alterna-musician Elvis Perkins who composed for, and collaborates on stage, for Geoff Sobelle’s apt-titled HOME production.

“I’ve been friends with Elvis for years, since high school, and he was really anxious to be part of this production after we talked about it forever,” says Sobelle, stating that the music for HOME, an impressionistic brand of folk, is “exactly the sort-of mash-up for which he’s known.” Continue reading →


More Than Jake: Jake Clemons goes beyond what you think you know of Fear + Love

Jake Clemons | photo courtesy of the artist

Calling from a solo tour stop in Montreal, saxophonist-singer Jake Clemons offered up a smart and pleasant, conversation and a humble man’s attitude when it came to being a guy you (think) you know from brand-name family ties, literal and figurative. Soft-spoken and easy to laugh, Clemons seemed pleased to open up about the studied songwriting process and the emotional connections to the songs on his new album, Fear + Love, a record he’ll pull form at World Café Live this Wednesday September 13. Continue reading →


Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing: Somebody Get a Throne

Queens of the Stone Age | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

The glam-sludge-boogie rock of Queens of the Stone Age and its singer-guitarist Josh Homme didn’t need Iggy Pop (their rough collaborator on his Post Pop Depression and its accompanying 2016 tour) to validate their sound or standing. Since leaving the stoner metal Kyuss and releasing its eponymous debut in 1998 (with the epic Rated R and Songs for the Deaf to follow, respectively in 2000 and 2002), Homme’s big swagger has been his signature – a downright brand. Yet, at Thursday night’s celebration of his newest QOTSA album, Villains, at Festival Pier, Homme found nuances on the art of swagger he may not even realized existed before working with Pop.

With a cool evening’s breeze behind them, the black-and-red-clad Queens and its front-man Homme kicked out the glam jams of “My God is the Sun” and the sudsy sludgy “Turnin’ on the Screw” with the menacing finesse of Noel Coward in a leather bar. Continue reading →