The Key Presents: American Trappist

American Trappist | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

It was always about coming home. For Joe Michelini, American Trappist is the natural extension of the scenic route into the self.

When we travelled to Asbury Park together last month, the native New Jersey son was clearly in his element, pointing out landmarks to the both personal and professional. As we’re cleaning up after filming in Asbury’s historic Convention Center Hall, Joe looks wildly around and points up into the stands. “That was my seat. I saw my first concert in this room.”

From The Boss to Trappe, the Convention Hall has played home to countless musicians down through the years. And even as the town that Joe fell in love with as a child has begun to change tangibly and more immaterially, it still remains a sort of sanctuary for the road-worn Michelini. River City Extension died here. American Trappist was born here. The road ends, begins, goes on, comes back. That’s what getting even means.

This is The Key Presents: American Trappist.
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Actually Maybe Do Call It A Comeback: LCD Soundsystem at Brooklyn Steel

LCD Soundsystem | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

LCD Soundsystem isn’t having a bad year for a band that’s been dead for the better part of a decade. Last night in Brooklyn, they played the 5th show of their 2nd New York residency this year. With a world tour culminating in a 3rd, 10-day stand at new venue Brooklyn Steel, they’re really laying it on thick. All told, that’s 22 shows at the venue that the christened back in April, with the original 5-night run. I have yet to meet a single person in real life who’s mad that LCD is playing so many shows — and why would they be? This is a band that was an absolute standardbearer for the oughties fledgling indie/dance/whatever-core scene that they now reign over as ensconced legends. Continue reading →


The Key Presents: Half Waif

Half Waif | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

The weather’s bad, but it holds. Between setting up and short takes while the rain isn’t too hard, Nandi Plunkett throws an industrial trash bag over her keyboard as a makeshift cover, but even the intermittent April showers can’t get her spirits down too much. Resiliency is a big theme of Half Waif‘s music, and in Plunkett’s life, as well. Between passing clouds, Nandi and guitarist Adan Carlo play completely new arrangements of two Half Waif tracks from the recently released form/a EP. In the secluded side yard of the MAAS Building, the intimate strength of Half Waif springs to resounding life. This is The Key Presents: Half Waif. Continue reading →


Future Perfect: Future Islands Break It Down at the Fillmore

Future Islands | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

This kinda thing doesn’t happen by accident. A band like Baltimore’s Future Islands doesn’t go from under-the-radar to overnight sensation without putting in the legwork. And while frontman Samuel T. Herring does put in a lot of literal leg-work with his wild dance maneuvers on stage, the band’s path to the huge stage at the Fillmore on Monday evening took more than a fair share of emotional lifting, as well. New release The Far Field (out last month on 4AD) plays out less as a breakup record than a forlorn catalog of Herring’s sins.

With a bombastic legacy of hits and smashing live performances to live up to, a down note might not have been what newcoming and long-lived fans were looking for. But seeing is, as they say, believing. For many, the infamous 2014 Letterman performance remains both introduction and centerpiece of the Future Islands brand. But three years removed, many now know the band — and the bombastic frontman — as something more three-dimensional than simply a great showman. While the dance moves perpetually continue to impress, they seem a little bit less pronounced than the twin sold-out shows I saw at Union Transfer in early 2015. Continue reading →


Play It Right: Sylvan Esso at Union Transfer

Sylvan Esso | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |


It’s hard to imagine many bands that are more just plain fun than Sylvan Esso. And last weekend during two very sold-out shows at Union Transfer, they both had fun performing and shared their magical sense of passion and humor with an adoring crowd of fans. I had been waiting to see the band again for almost two years, since first encountering them in Wisconsin at Justin Vernon’s inaugural Eaux Claires festival — and getting to see their explosive presence touring behind the just-released What Now did not, of course, disappoint. Continue reading →


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 →


NonCOMM Recap: Kyle Craft comes out larger than life

Kyle Craft | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

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 →


NonCOMM Recap: Bash & Pop take it all the way

Bash & Pop | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

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 →


NonCOMM Recap: The Districts never let us down

The Districts | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

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 →


The Key Presents: Cayetana

Cayetana | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

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 →