Items Tagged Philadelphia: A good week for rock and roll

Thee Minks | via

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

It’s been a busy several days. A Latin rock show on Wednesday, a solid lineup of DIY scene singer-songwriters on Thursday, a queer punk rager on Friday, a revered rapper from Chicago tonight. It’s been one of those weeks where I barely get to catch my breath, where I barely get to pause and look around — and reflection-time is important. Continue reading →


Download Roof Doctor’s farewell EP, So Long and Thanks For Nothing; see their last show tonight at PhilaMOCA

Roof Doctor | Photo courtesy of the artist
Roof Doctor | photo by Mariel Celentano | courtesy of the artist

Over the past five years, Philadelphia four-piece Roof Doctor has brought tight-as-hell instrumental jams and a healthy dose of cutting snark to the local basement show scene. That concludes tonight, as the band plays its farewell show at Eraserhood performing arts space PhilaMOCA. To go out with a couple new jams — and leave no piece of recorded content unreleased — Roof Doctor unveiled one final EP, So Long And Thanks For Nothing, a title that couldn’t be more them if it tried. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Downtown Boys at Everybody Hits, Laura Stevenson at Boot and Saddle, Strange Parts at Bourbon and Branch and more

downtown boys
Downtown Boys | photo courtesy of the band

Providence revolutionary rockers Downtown Boys have been making a lot of noise on the underground level the past few years, and with a new deal on Sub Pop Records, this punk five-piece is poised to fight the good fight at a much bigger level. The band just released its latest single, “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)” — which it told NPR was “a declaration of one’s ability to decolonize one’s mind, and the importance of fearlessly unlearning the ways white supremacy conditions people to think and exist.” Listen below, wait with baited breath (like us) to get word on Downtown Boys’ upcoming Sub Pop LP (no details are available yet), and check the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and information on the band’s headlining show tonight at Everybody Hits.
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Watch Phife Dawg rock a Ricky Watters jersey onstage at Penn’s Annenberg Center with A Tribe Called Quest

Q-Tip and Phife Dawg onstage at Penn's Annenberg Center | still from video
Q-Tip and Phife Dawg onstage at Penn’s Annenberg Center | still from video

The thing about hip-hop icons A Tribe Called Quest — they were purists all the way, coming up during the three-MCs-and-a-DJ era, and that’s how they always brought their show to the stage. Even when their sound evolved beyond its sampledelic beginnings, even when original arrangements and instrumentation became part of their records, the live show always remained true to the classic hip-hop form.

Certainly, in nightclub settings, this rocked the freaking house; as the venues got bigger, though, results were more mixed. As much as the 90s were a golden era of hip-hop, and Tribe was very much a band responsible for breaking down the barriers of genre to reach bigger audiences, mainstream promoters and show producers were still very much confused by it as a live art, clearly didn’t know what the heck what to do with it in big rooms — which is why my two encounters with the band in its heyday were very mixed.

Seeing them open for the Beastie Boys at the First Union Center in 1998, their mix pumped through the massive and reverberant arena without much in the way of sonic reinforcement; their performance was live as hell, but from the stands it sounded like Tribe was lost in a cavern. Playing the Vet for Temple’s football homecoming that fall, they only got a couple songs in before the performance got called.

However, this video I came across today — as I reflect on the anniversary of Malik Isaac “Phife Dawg” Taylor’s passing — sits more comfortably on rock-the-house side of things. It was April 18th, 1997, and the band was playing the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a pretty spacious room, and you can hear the booming mix trying to find its proper space within the walls. Q-Tip mentions mic problems throughout the set, and even freestyles about the topic at one point. But once DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad finds his sonic groove — I’d put this at about the 8 minute and 20 second mark, a remarkable transition from “Buggin’ Out” into “Oh My God” — it’s truly OMG amazing.  Continue reading →


The War on Drugs will release a new song, “Thinking of a Place,” on Record Store Day

the war on drugs
The War on Drugs | Photo by Kate McCann |

Since announcing their new home at Atlantic Records back in 2015, we’ve been waiting with baited breath for new music from The War on Drugs. And waiting, and waiting. And today, we have finally have some news: the band’s first song since 2014’s acclaimed Lost In The Dream LP will be called “Thinking Of A Place,” and it comes out on Record Store Day. Continue reading →


Laura Stevenson talks cover songs, creative streaks, constant touring and making a live record for Planned Parenthood

Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist

Laura Stevenson has been quite busy. Over the past year and a half, the punk scene songwriter fave released her excellent fourth LP, Cocksure, via Don Giovanni Records and went on several back-to-back-to-back laps touring the U.S. and abroad in support of it. She hit the festival circuit last summer, released a live album this winter, and appeared on the Don’t Stop Now covers compilation to benefit the ACLU. Somewhere along the way, she found a minute to marry her bass player, Mike Campbell.

Live At the Vera Club came out in December, with 100% of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood. It captures a night at the storied club and community creative space in Groningen, situated in the North of the Netherlands. The crowd was small, Stevenson recalls in the album notes, and she couldn’t speak Dutch, so she wasn’t as chatty as usual, but the show rules — the band sounds tremendous, from the uppers like “Torch Song” and “Runner” to the slow burn of “Out With a Whimper” and “Renee,” and a delightful cover of “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements.

Stevenson and her band — Campbell, Alex Billig on accordion and keys, John Burdick on guitar, and Sammi Niss on drums – just headed out on an east coast tour that brings them to Boot and Saddle Thursday. When I caught up with Stevenson via phone from the Hudson Valley home she’s lived in for the past few years, she had just gotten back from a solo tour of Australia with the frontpersons of various down-under DIY acts: Iona Cairns of Shit Present, Lucy Wilson of The Sugarcanes and Wil Wagner of Smith Street Band. We began by discussing this photo of them cuddling a chill koala named Waffles at the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane. Continue reading →


Drive-By Truckers, Angel Olsen, Strand of Oaks, Joseph and more will play Wiggins Park at XPoNential Music Festival 2017

Drive By Truckers | photo by Danny Clinch | courtesy of the artist

You’ve heard about the Friday night show at BB&T with Wilco, Conor Oberst and Hop Along; you’ve heard that Saturday will be headlined by Spoon, Amos Lee and more. This morning, we bring you the first wave of artists performing at Wiggins Park during the 2017 XPoNential Music Festival. Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: From the crib to the club to the chamber strings

The Private Sector | via

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

The first time we had a snowstorm this year, I saw a flurry (hah) of activity when searching for Philadelphia artists on Bandcamp. That was, like, barely two inches of snow. This time, we got enough that the region went into full-on shut down mode, and once again the Philly tag is poppin’.

I don’t know that the two are entirely related — I do know that at least one local singer-songwriter, Michael Youngkin, used the day to write, record and mix an entire multi-instrumental ten-song album, and while some points of it definitely sound like an album written/recorded/mixed in a day, other parts of it are actually quite fantastic, and it’s an impressive project in any case. Other artists, it seems, dug into their vaults of yesteryear and dusted off unreleased projects for a digital / streaming era. And others still were probably planning on releasing their jams regardless, and the day off was coincidental. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Bigness at Kung Fu Necktie, Jesse Hale Moore at Bourbon and Branch, A Tribe Called Red at The Fillmore and more…

the bigness
The Bigness | photo by Bryan Karl Lathrop Photography |

Philadelphia pop-rock four-piece The Bigness hit the stage at Kung Fu Necktie tonight; their debut LP Time Traveler, released last year, combined loud riffage with infectious hooks in a big (hah) way. Tickets and more information on tonight’s 21+ show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Jesse Hale Moore

The thing about the retro R&B aesthetic that’s surfaced in the indie rock universe over the past five or so years: so many people do it at a merely superficial level. They do it out of irony, they do it to look cool, they do it for funsies. I won’t name names, but if you know what I mean, you probably know who I mean. And you know that Philadelphia’s Jesse Hale Moore is not one of those people.

This singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has a deep appreciation of not only the smooth and suave style of late 80s / early 90s pop, but also the songcraft that lies beneath. Whether your reference points are Sade and Luther Vandross or the more contemporary James Blake, Moore genuinely loves this music, and it shows in Green End, the record he’ll release on April 7th.
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