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Tonight’s Concert Pick: The Queers and Dwarves at the Barbary

queers1New Hampshire pop punk band The Queers will perform tonight alongside Dwarves at the Barbary. Founded in 1982 by Joe King, The Queers broke up after two years, but soon reformed to include a whole new line-up. The group is said to be styled on the Ramones model, but deviates from this with prominent vocals and guitar solos. Opening the show is Chicago punk band Dwarves, also founded in the 80s. Created initially as a hardcore garage punk band, the group has since moved to a more punk rock vibe and is known for its wild and unusual live sets. Berkley’s rock and roll group The Atom Age and Philly’s punk rock Bucket Flush will also perform. Listen to The Queer’s “Today I Fell in Love” and find tickets and information here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Made in America, Ruin at Union Transfer, HogMaw at The Depot, Beta Hi-Fi finals at World Cafe Live Wilmington

Philadelphia welcomes the highly-anticipated Made in America festival today, which will take over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the weekend. The gates open at noon, and indie rock bands Walk the Moon (Rocky Stage) and Haim (Liberty Stage) will be among the first sets. Headliner Beyoncé won’t perform until the end of the night, so catch earlier acts like alternative rock band Phoenix and legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy on the main stage. And if you want to get your electronica fix, walk over to the Liberty Stage for Australia’s Empire of the Sun or the Freedom Stage for the UK’s Rudimental. But make sure you don’t miss out on homegrown hardcore punk bands, Balance & Composure and Restorations, who will take to the smaller Skate Park Stage.

Look forward to Sunday’s line-up, which will include a performance by industrial rock headliners Nine Inch Nails and sets by indie pop Fitz and The Tantrums, house and electronica musician Robert DeLong, and New Jersey’s indie punk The Front Bottoms.

Check out Balance & Composure’s video for “Quake” and find tickets and information here.

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Reacting to a controversial verse by Made In America Festival artist Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick-LamarConsidered one of the most talented arrivals to the rap scene, Kendrick Lamar was applauded for his 2012 debut, good kid, M.A.A.D city. The record was honest and undecorated, served with a sublime poetic lyricism that’s been hard to find in contemporary hip hop. It was personal, and it was unusually beautiful.

But last week, Lamar has been recognized for an entirely different reason: criticism of fellow hip hop artists. The California wordsmith appeared on a Big Sean track titled “Control,” which premiered on Monday and included the talents of in-the-shadows rapper, Jay Electronica.

And it was here that Lamar chose to call out no less than eleven rappers, including Philadelphia’s Meek Mill and Pittsburgh’s Mac Miller – and rather ironically, the very artists with whom Lamar had collaborated on the track, Big Sean and Jay Electronica. Continue reading →

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Review: Daughn Gibson electrifies Johnny Brenda’s

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Photo by Madeleine Kruhly

It might take a few listens to become accustomed to Daughn Gibson’s style, let alone appreciate it. But that’s probably fine by the Carlisle singer-songwriter, because he intends to reinvent genre from the ground up – and after a promising debut last year, we realize this XPN Artist to Watch is well on his way.

The Pennsylvania born musician, who recently joined the Sub Pop Records roster, is on tour to promote his July record, Me Moan (and it’s worth nothing that for the first few stops, he played alongside local hero, Kurt Vile). Gibson is recognized for his heavy and rich baritone, which is often compared to that of Johnny Cash, and his penchant for storytelling.

But the singer is known as well for his attempts to blend two unlikely styles: country and electronica.

The union between genres is unexpected, but Gibson is refining his craft and for the crowd at Johnny Brenda’s Friday night, his music worked – and worked really well. Continue reading →

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“The Future of Jazz”: Philly’s Alex Cross Quintet revamps standards at Chris’ Jazz Cafe

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Photo by Jim Laird

As a genre, jazz is quick to be associated with an older generation of musicians, but the Alex Cross Quintet seeks to rework (and revitalize) this image.

The frontman of the ensemble, Alex Cross is a jazz pianist. He’s played a handful of gigs in Philadelphia, performed for the past several years, and he’s done all of this before his twenty-first birthday.

A native of Wallingford, Connecticut, Cross received his first classical piano lesson when he was five. He continued his instruction, but began listening to the likes of Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans in high school and became fascinated by the syncopated drum beats and slow modal harmonies.

So Cross put Tchaikovsky and Chopin on the backburner, took up jazz and has not looked back.

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Alex Cross performs at Chris’ Jazz Cafe | Photo by Jim Laird

“I enjoyed the classical piano,” Cross says, “but I felt that my creative side needed to get out there. With jazz you’re able to improvise, to include your own emotions.”

Cross explains that since jazz seemed like the perfect fit for him, he decided to make it his primary focus in college. Now a rising junior at Temple University, he majors in jazz performance. Cross began his studies by concentrating solely on perfecting his technique and mastering the works of established musicians — but once he started to explore composition, Cross looked for additional avenues that would allow him to refine and experiment with his abilities.

“I realized it was good opportunity and a good time to start my own group,” says Cross. “It’s one thing to sit in a practice room and go over ideas and find your own sound. But the second you get on the bandstand, you have to try to let everything happen naturally.” Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Bleeding Fractals at PhilaMOCA, Beth Orton at World Cafe Live, Rich Mystics ft. Eric Slick at North Star Bar

Bleeding+Fractals++3For tonight’s installment of the Tuesday Tuneout series, Maggot House Records are bringing Bleeding Fractals and Cool Points to PhilaMOCA. The former is a post-punk rock band which features sharp and driving riffs and screaming vocals (the group claims to have been founded on a shared fear of city bears). The latter, Cool Points, is similarly based in punk noise and lead by talented singer Jill Mallon. This event will also include a screening of the documentary, My Basement is a Shithole, which explores the basement show culture in Philadelphia’s punk music scene. Take a listen to “Colfax Kids” by Bleeding Fractals (which are apparently an unusual sort of mathematical set) and find information on the show here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: 2nd Street Fest in Northern Liberties, The Last Poets at The Blockley, Reggae in the Park at The Mann

Today from noon to 10 P.M. in Northern Liberties, the 2nd Street Festival brings a variety of food vendors, crafters and local musicians to the neighborhood. Four stages are in place for performances and other events, which have all been programmed by the Philadelphia Folksong Society. The line-up is extensive and is sure to not disappoint, including acts such as Laser Background, the West Philadelphia Orchestra and headlineres The Low Anthem. Take a look at the video for The Low Anthem’s single “Boeing 737” and find tickets and info here.

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Free Performance: Whirr and Nothing at AKA on 8/10

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Whirr

We just got word that A.K.A Music, one of our favorite Philly record stores, will co-host a free in-store performance on August 10th presented by locally-based music blog Yvynyl. The event includes sets by Whirr, a psychedelic rock sextet from Oakland lead by former Deafheaven guitarist Nick Bassett, and Nothing, the Philly heavy shoegaze group (and Key Studio Sessions alums) fronted by Dominic Palermo. The 2 p.m. performance is all-ages, which is awesome news for the under-21 fans who can’t make it to see both bands play Kung Fu Necktie‘s This is Hardcore After Party (21 and over). Below, listen to the track “Flashback” by Whirr, watch Nothing performing in our studio for the Key Sessions (care of BITBY) and find tickets and information here.

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Livin’ On Prayers and Passion: A South Philly school makes music despite obstacles

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Photo by John Vettese

Located in a high-need section of South Philadelphia, the Andrew Jackson Public School had been without a music education program for thirty years.

That was, until the arrival of Chris Argerakis. He has since introduced drumsticks and guitar picks, rooting rock in Andrew Jackson’s curriculum.

Joining the teaching staff five years ago, Argerakis has acted to build a program to provide a practical music education. He does so in spite of a shoestring budget from the School District: $100 for the year.

“I could teach the kids out of a textbook or I could try to get them instruments. I went with what I could put in the kids’ hands,” he says. Though as budgets continue to be slashed, the program’s long-term future is uncertain.

A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Argerakis was educated in public schools before attending The University of the Arts, which he says was crucial to his development as a musician.

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Mural in the music hallway of Andrew Jackson School | Photo by John Vettese

After graduation, Argerakis moved to Los Angeles to score for films. He was an apprentice for two composers while finding independent work for cinema and theater. But after eight years, Argerakis returned to his hometown to pursue a graduate degree in music education from his old alma mater.

“Teaching had always been on the backburner,” he says, “I started on a whim. My neighbor overhead me practicing when I was 19 and asked if I could teach her daughter.”

After finishing grad school – during which the instrumentalist cemented his interest in musical instruction – Argerakis quickly found the post at Andrew Jackson and has been employed there ever since. And for teacher and students, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, these several years have been extremely valuable. Continue reading →

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Watch: AlunaGeorge perform live on BBC (playing Made in America 9/1)

AlunaGeorgeHaving just released their debut album, Body Music, London electronic duo AlunaGeorge visited BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge to perform a short set, which included a cover of Naughty Boy and Sam Smith’s “La La La.”  A former member of the band My Toys Like Me, Aluna Francis provides light and high-pitched vocals, both refreshing and sincere. Her partner, George Reid, works on the production side to slow down and glitch up the original dance favorite — techniques which are subtle, but certainly effective. You can see the duo this side of the Atlantic during Budweiser’s Made in America concert on September 1st. Check out the video for their live performance below and find tickets and information here.