The Longshot brings Billie Joe Armstrong back to the basement in a sweaty, glorious First Unitarian gig

The Longshot | still from video

It’s sort of surreal to see Billie Joe Armstrong play in the Church basement. Not that he hasn’t played venues like this while Green Day was starting out, but to see the guy who’s sold out countless arenas and festival grounds play on top of the alphabet carpet in front of a couple hundred people is still odd. What’s even more odd is not hearing Green Day songs.

Armstrong announced his new project The Longshot and its debut album Love is For Losers as a bit of a surprise, with no one really knowing whether it was a solo effort, a project with his sons or with new band members. The retro-garage rock sound he had been toying with since Green Day’s 2012 lukewarm-at-best trilogy of albums Uno, Dos, and Tre (and even dating back to their not-so-secret side project Foxboro Hottubs), finally felt a bit at home with this new project.

It gave Armstrong an opportunity to add some kitsch and playfulness without the constant looming shadow of lofty expectations and Green Day fans waiting to tell him why he’s not punk anymore.

And playing a string of shows at tiny venues seemed to give Armstrong a chance to go back to his youth without any feeling of forced nostalgia. He was really having fun, and he really seemed happy. In the wood-paneled sauna conditions of the Church, Armstrong proclaimed that it was “one of the coolest venues” he’s ever played in his life.

“This place is a church, a gospel choir upstairs, and now a punk rock show. Let’s go to punk rock church.” Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brendan Menapace’s favorite concert moments of 2017

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Brendan Menapace reflects on his concert highlights.

We are spoiled when it comes to the amount of good shows that happen in Philadelphia. Every night of the week there’s something going on. So, needless to say, I’ve been to a handful of shows this year. I won’t recount what my favorite shows of the year were per se, but I do have a few specific memories from the shows that stand out to me as the year comes to a close. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brendan Menapace’s artists that should just move to Philly already

Pup | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Brendan Menapace beckons a handful of bands to move to the 215.

Philadelphia is awesome. We know this. From huge rooms with expensive sound systems and multiple bars to batting cages, we have some of the best places to check out live music in the country. We’ve cultivated the growth of artists that are now world-renowned, and we’ve played adoptive home to artists who have moved here. I think it’s great that bands and artists want to move to Philly, especially coming from places that used to be the hubs of culture, like New York or LA. Given how huge Philly is (and thanks to the condos that are popping up everywhere, we guess?) we have plenty of room for more people. So, here are a few bands that I think should just move to Philadelphia already, rather than prolonging the inevitable. Continue reading →


The Districts’ Rob Grote reflects on backing Daniel Johnston with Modern Baseball

Daniel Johnston | photo by Jackie Young | courtesy of the artist // Rob Grote of The Districts | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

When The Districts’ Rob Grote and Braden Lawrence attended a Daniel Johnston concert as teenagers, Grote remembers dreaming of a day when they could be a part of Johnston’s backing band himself. Little did he know that, in a few years, he’d not only get the opportunity to be a part of a rare Daniel Johnston tour, he and his band would pretty much direct the entire evening, albeit with a little help from some local friends.

“We all really like his music a lot, and it was definitely an influence on us,” Grote says. “Braden and I saw him at Union Transfer when we were still in high school, and the opening band backed him. Ever since then, backing him has been a dream of ours, although unrealistically we thought. We’re super honored to get to do it!”

Now, all these years later, Grote and his Districts cohorts have since moved from Lititz to Philly for school, left said school, and have become keystones of the city’s music scene with a devoted following in the U.S. and abroad. And, just like he dreamed about those years ago at Union Transfer, he and The Districts will be joining Daniel Johnston as the support for Philly date of the enigmatic singer-songwriter’s final tour. Continue reading →


Cayetana take control with New Kind of Normal and Plum Records

Cayetana | photo by Jess Flynn | courtesy of the artist
Cayetana | photo by Jess Flynn | courtesy of the artist

The concept of Plum Records came in a dream. Well, the name of it did at least. The idea of putting out music themselves was something Cayetana had toyed with for a while. And it wasn’t a decision they made without lots of consideration.

“I think the decision mostly was born out of the idea that we wanted as much control over the timing of the record and how it was rolled out,” drummer Kelly Olsen says. “Because, you know, we have a lot of friends in bands who have done a lot of different things and worked with a lot of different labels. Through talking with people, we kind of realized that to have as much control over how the whole thing happens and how it rolls out, to have control over our own product and music and creativity, we decided that doing it ourselves made the most sense. And it’s been working out really well. We’ve been enjoying it.”

And from that, Plum Records was official, and would be the imprint for Cayetana’s new album, New Kind of Normal. It’s a fitting name for the circumstances around putting this album out. Learning how to run a record label is pretty tough, to put it lightly. There were a lot of things that they weren’t aware of or didn’t know how to do, but they learned by doing, and now are starting to feel comfortable with it. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brendan Menapace’s six songs from the future

The Menzingers | photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, as we’re about to step into another calendar year, Key Contributor Brendan Menapace picks his favorite songs from the future.

Every year, when I’m compiling a list of my favorite music from the year, I always end up with a few songs that were released as singles before the actual album comes out the following year. I never know whether I should include them or not with the current year or wait. This year, I gave them a list of their own. Here are the top six songs released this year from 2017 albums. Continue reading →


Grabbing beers with Spill on the eve of their album release

Spill | photo via

Andrew Gelburd, Marco Florey and Brandon Gepfer decided that, after the end of their previous project (emo-punks Placeholder), they wanted to keep going together, but didn’t feel right continuing under that band name. Fast-forward to today in December of 2016. Their new project Spill just released its first full length, Top Ten, via No Sleep Records.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” guitarist / vocalist Gepfer says. “I’m happy to finally have it out there and to be able to touch the physical product.”

After initially tracking it in March at the Headroom with Kyle Pulley, the band spent their summer shopping the record to labels, finally inking a deal with No Sleep, whose stable has included The Wonder Years, Balance and Composure, La Dispute and more.

“It was a lot like applying to college back in ’07,” Gepfer says. “A lot of wait lists, but when I finally got accepted to one I really felt a part of the team and family, and became proud. Parents were nervous, but I knew it was the perfect fit.” Continue reading →


Eric Slick tells us how Dr. Dog’s surprise charity album Abandoned Mansion came to be

Dr. Dog | photo via

Surprise! There’s a new Dr. Dog album out today that no one knew existed (except the band and I’m guessing some of their friends). To sweeten the deal even more, all proceeds from the album go toward the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The album, called Abandoned Mansion, is what the band described in an introductory missive as “Easy Peasy listening.” That’s to say that, as opposed to the “blips and bloops” of the band’s February release, The Psychedelic Swamp, Abandoned Mansion takes a more simplistic, traditional approach.

Drummer Eric Slick, who doubles as one-third of Philly’s Lithuania, said that the band actually recorded Abandoned Mansion before The Psychedelic Swamp, but had to let it sit on the backburner for a bit.

“We recorded it before we went into the studio to record The Psychedelic Swamp with the intention of getting it out before The Psychedelic Swamp,” he says.

In contrast to Swamp’s complex layering and production ambition, Abandoned Mansion is pretty much just the band playing live with mostly acoustic instruments.

“The intent of the record was to make something simple and elegant,” Slick says. “I think we’ve kind of gone into different trends in the band. We’ve moved toward this more psychedelic, noisier side—an experimental side—and then we’ve got this simpler side. So it’s just another exploration of our simpler side.” Continue reading →


Why is The War on Drugs’ Anthony LaMarca selling his guitar?

Anthony LaMarca | photo by Lisa Businovski | courtesy of the artist
Anthony LaMarca | photo by Lisa Businovski | courtesy of the artist

Many musicians scan the likes of Craigslist on a daily basis, seeing what kinds of instruments and gear pop up around their city. For musicians in the Youngstown, Ohio, area, one 1969 Fender Jaguar stands out. And it’s not just because of it’s worn, vintage beauty.

It’s because it belongs to War on Drugs guitarist/keyboardist Anthony LaMarca. LaMarca plans to donate all of the money received from the guitar to those affected by Multiple Myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer that he has been receiving treatment for. The idea to donate his own possessions came from a chance phone call he received. Continue reading →


Vocals Only: Andy Hull on scoring a film using only his voice

Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra
Andy Hull | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Fans of Manchester Orchestra know that Andy Hull’s voice is sometimes at its most powerful when it’s quiet. Sure, he can push his volume and power over the sailing, distorted guitars, but it’s when he’s at his quietest where he lets much of his emotion come out through trembling melodies and rich harmonies. You can also hear it in his solo project—Right Away, Great Captain. Now, along with Manchester Orchestra bandmate Robert McDowell, Hull used the power of the voice, and the voice alone, to score the film Swiss Army Man, which stars Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. And it was not easy. Continue reading →