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NonCOMM Recap: The Growlers make magic happen

The Growlers | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN

Among the many things that I love about NonCOMM each year is the tangible sense of magic in the air that’s just everywhere. From the joy of seeing old friends and favorite bands play to the joy of discovering a slamming new act, it’s all there. No band better captured that raw feeling of mystery and cautious optimism than The Growlers. Playing upstairs to an absolutely packed room, the SoCal-based band mixed elements of pulp noir and classic Americana to make NonCOMM magic come true. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Kyle Craft comes out larger than life

Kyle Craft | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Living in a post-ironic, post-Portlandia world, it’s with good reason that many things coming out of Portland these days are met with skepticism. Even though Kyle Craft operates out of the rainy northwestern metropolis, his well-heeled Southern roots give him more than an ounce of sincerity that informs his fiery songwriting.  Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Bash & Pop take it all the way

Bash & Pop | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

With matching pinstripe suits, and a band name chosen during a radio station contest, it might be easy to gloss over Bash & Pop as a gimmick act. But watching legendary rocker Tommy Stinson — of Replacements and Guns ‘n’ Roses fame — command the stage during their all-too-brief NonComm set proved that the sum can be much, much greater than the sum of its parts. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: The Districts never let us down

The Districts | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

The end of The Districts newest single “Ordinary Day” rings out with an echoing chorus that includes the line “I’ll let you down again” – more than a little bit ironic, then, that they seem to be just absolutely incapable of letting down a live audience.

As just the third act of 2017’s NonCOMM, there’s still plenty of ground left to cover in the week, and plenty of yet-to-be seen sets and surprises along the way. But The Districts came out swinging, and set quite a high bar for the rest of the week’s performers. With a set filled with material from their upcoming summer release Popular Manipulations, it’s easy to think that the audience might have gotten restless without anything to sing along to, but the case was anything but. New bangers like “Point,” “Salt,” and the absolutely incredible “Violet” (frontman Rob Grote’s favorite track off the new record) rang true and found their mark in the packed upstairs house. Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: Cayetana

Cayetana | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Cayetana are done messing around. Not like they ever were from the very start, but with tracks titled things like “Serious Things Are Stupid” and “Hot Dad Calendar,” it might be easy to lose sight of the depth that the band packs into every ounce of songwriting. With this week’s release of sophomore record New Kind of Normal, things are coming into sharper focus for the band members. But it’s not only due to the the release of a new album– the band also had to dig deep and launch a new record label. They’re all carrying a lot of weight, and wearing it well.

With the new record wrapped up and all but out the door, you’d think they’d all want to take a hard-earned vacation before having to gear up for album promotion and the touring circuit. When we met with them a couple weeks ago for a Facebook Live stream, they seemed totally calm, cool and collected, casually enjoying a nice morning on their South Philly roof deck. It’s a good reminder that they’re taking everything in stride — really living the dream. Working hard, but having fun too, when it comes. This is The Key Presents: Cayetana. Continue reading →

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All These Sick Scenes: Los Campesinos! at the TLA

Los Campesinos! | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

“Enjoy this night, because I know for a fact that we’re not likely to be invited back.” It seems impossible that it’s been six whole years since hearing those words, the last time Los Campesinos! played in Philadelphia. At one of the first ever shows at the newly inagurated Union Transfer, the Welsh post-twee band celebrated the same thing they always have been — that the present is the only thing we’re ever guaranteed, even as bleak as it may seem. It’s a common theme in the band’s work, and existence as a whole. Even while remaining prominent cult favorites, eleven years into their so-called career, the future band has never been assured. At the TLA on Wednesday night, they approached the end of an impossible US tour and proved that there’s a certain kind of charming nostalgia hidden within bitter nihilism. Continue reading →

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Vagabon blasts off with Infinite Worlds release show at PhilaMOCA

Vagabon | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

“You’re a big fish now, though!” someone shouted from sidestage, just before Vagabon launched into “The Embers,” the final song of a stunning record release show at PhilaMOCA on Saturday night. Vagabon — the stage name of one Laetitia Tamko — was riding high on the release of Infinite Worlds, out the 24th on Father/Daughter Records. “The Embers,” a song exploring a more solipsistic landscape, repeats in its refrain that “I’m just a small fish.” While inside, Tamko may feel like a small fish in a big pond, the acclaimed release of Infinite Worlds and it’s two sold-out release shows (Friday night she appeared in Brooklyn with Mal Devisa and Jelani Sai) are ripples indicating that something big is emerging from beneath the surface. Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: You Blew It!

 

You Blew It! | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo racheldelsordophotography.com

No matter which way you slice it, You Blew It! are anything but a simple band. What appears at first glance to be fairly stock-standard twinkly post-emo fare transcends the sum of its parts, both sonically and particularly in the lyrical department. On their latest effort Abendroit — released in November on Triple Crown — the band cashes in its cred with the pop punk crowd and looks towards softer pastures and more still waters. Continue reading →

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Load-In to Load-Out: Eliza Hardy Jones celebrates her breakout year at Boot & Saddle

Eliza Hardy Jones | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Eliza Hardy Jones | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

It’s a dark night in a city that knows how to keep it’s secrets. But on one of the first truly bitter days of December, as the wind howls down South Broad, there’s true warmth to be found inside Boot & Saddle. Hometown hero Eliza Hardy Jones is playing the Boot in a celebration of sorts. As the year ends, she’s commemorating the first year of making and playing music under her own name, a project entirely her own. After years as a crucial member of many other cherished Philly projects — you’re thinking of Buried Beds, Strand of Oaks, and Grace Potter’s band — this is her year. Continue reading →

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In Our Darkness, A Light Shines: mewithoutYou Celebrate 10 Years of Brother, Sister

mewithoutYou | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
mewithoutYou | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

For a band that does an awful lot of protesting their own existence, mewithoutYou are doing pretty well for themselves, 15 years in. On Thursday night, they celebrated a record that begins and ends with “I do not exist,” turning 10 years old — no small feat when you think about it. This closed tautology of self-denial bookends indie punk classic Brother, Sister — and has become an anthem for those searching for something beyond the easy answers. While all of mewithoutYou’s work deals heavily in symbolism and clever turns of phrase, the album doubles down on philosophical questions and existential probing. Billed as “The Sun & the Moon Band,” mewithoutYou again shrugged off that troublesome self in order to play in secret at Boot & Saddle, a venue several orders of magnitude more humble than their usual digs for the special occasion. Continue reading →