Dan Campbell, Philadelphia’s pop punk poet laureate and singer of The Wonder Years, brought his solo project/character study Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties home to an extremely sold out Foundry Thursday night, capping off a tour in support of his latest entry into the Aaron West saga, Routine Maintenance (released this May on Hopeless Records).
Following two impressive sets by indie pop bands Diva Sweetly and Pronoun, Campbell, guitar in hand, walked onstage as Aaron West, his Long Island Llewyn Davis-type troubadour character who can’t seem to catch a break. Continue reading →
The current venture: the tailend of a U.S. tour in support of the Against Me! bandleader’s 2018 solo record, Bought to Rot (released last fall on Bloodshot Records), with her backing band the Devouring Mothers. Friday night’s show at Underground Arts served to highlight Grace’s deft songwriting talents and showcase Bought to Rot’s freewheeling “mixtape” sensibilities onstage. Continue reading →
I first heard “The ‘59 Sound” on an HP laptop computer, through Apple earbuds, streaming from New Jersey upstarts The Gaslight Anthem’s MySpace page in July 2008.
For any young fan, the impression that a piece of music leaves can feel like a hot iron imprinting itself into our skin. That is, if the stars are aligned, so to speak. Until this point, The Gaslight Anthem was rapidly building buzz among punk rock circles, on blogs and message boards and in bars and basements. With one full-length album and one EP behind them, the band signed with indie label SideOneDummy to release a follow-up to continually growing anticipation.
When The Gaslight Anthem released the title track to The ‘59 Sound that July, it felt like serendipity. Here is a young band absolutely bursting with potential that very well appears to be exceeding every expectation. (I vividly remember feeling very 17 years old and absolutely floored by the confidence, power, and conviction to a singular vision that “The ’59 Sound demonstrated.) One month later, The 59 Sound was released on August, 19, 2008, jettisoning The Gaslight Anthem to near-ubiquity among rock music fans of most kinds and cementing an impact in contemporary punk rock. Many regard it as a minor rock and roll masterpiece.
Which, of course, brings us to last Wednesday, August 15, 2018. A near 10 years since the release of The 59 Sound, at a sold-out FIllmore (a Philadelphia venue that did not exist in 2008), a stop on The Gaslight Anthem’s ‘59 Sound 10-year anniversary tour. Continue reading →
2018’s Peace & Noise concert series wrapped on Wednesday, Jan. 31 with an immensely sold out show headlined by Philadelphia’s The Wonder Years.
Given the collective high the city has been riding on since the Eagles earned the NFC Championship title—and advanced to Super Bowl LII this Sunday—the second-annual set of benefit concerts could not have ended on a more raucous note.
Following sets from Brooklyn’s Nervous Dater (whose tightly written LP Don’t Be a Stranger remains among 2017’s hidden gems) and Philly flagship punk band Mannequin Pussy, The Wonder Years took their place onstage—in hometown hero fashion—to a room-encompassing rendition of “Fly, Eagles, Fly,” kicking off a 15-song set composed of material spanning their now-dense ouvre of working class, near-theatrical, shoutalong pop punk. Continue reading →
Sounds like a setup for some classic olde thyme comedy, but The Tasty, located at 1401 S. 12th St., is the real deal. Since moving to East Passyunk last spring, the breakfast-and-brunch spot has been on my radar as a bustling neighborhood zone for vegan takes on the diner-inspired comfort food we all know and love.
(Seriously, good luck grabbing a seat after 10 a.m. on a Saturday. The Tasty is generally quite packed with vegans and omnivores alike at any given time of day.)
With a menu boasting tofu scrambles, breakfast burritos, fried chicken sandwiches, pork rolls, cheesesteaks, chicken and waffles, and pastries baked in-house (not to mention the endlessly rotating weekend specials and carefully curated coffee selections), The Tasty’s runaway success is multifold.
Yes, the menu is consistently dope, and dually serves a growing demographic that often has a tough time finding a wider range of options in Philadelphia’s network of diner, and diner-inspired, brunch spots.
But all credit is due to co-owners Kate Hiltz (who manages New Jersey punk band The Bouncing Souls and owns Chunksaah Records), Sofia Baltopoulos, and Restorations guitarist/keyboardist Ben Pierce, who imbue The Tasty with a sense of community, care and white-knuckled work ethic that stems from their collective—and extensive—background in a do-it-yourself music scene.
Since The Tasty celebrates one year in business this month, I recently sat down with Hiltz, Baltopoulos and Pierce over vegan Buffalo wings to talk about its first 12 months, absurd city bureaucracy, and why punks are the best at getting shit done. Continue reading →
Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Marc Snitzer shares five things he didn’t get till this year.
I like to believe that, for the most part, I have my finger on the pulse popular culture and #trendingtopics. I spend a lot of time looking at the Internet and all sorts of blogs and websites that can be found on it. It’s great. I think I was able to talk about Black Mirror like five times at a party last weekend. But I am also stubborn and sometimes it takes a while for my eyes to open up, like dewy flower petals on the first day of spring, to cool-ass shit. Here are five times this has happened to me this year. Sorry in advance that this list is so me-centric, but Time Magazine once named me 2006’s Person of the Year. Continue reading →
Superheaven vocalist/guitarist Taylor Madison is anxious. It’s early December, a few weeks after recording wrapped on the Philly-area post-hardcore band’s second LP at producer Will Yip’s Studio 4. The album follows up 2012’s Jar (released under the band name Daylight) and it is currently off in mixing and mastering land for an early 2015 release through SideOneDummy Records. “My anxiety is far outweighed by excitement,” he assures me. “We’re all just trying hard to be patient and waiting to be able to play this stuff in front of people.”
Between his balance of nerves and eagerness, Madison makes clear there are internal expectations on this record as well. With a blunt transparency that has quickly become his trademark as a frontman, he explains how “none of us want to reach our 30s and hoping we’ll be able to pay our rent next month.” Madison and his bandmates are chasing after something bigger, and based on early impressions alone, they’ve found it. Details remain pretty mum at this point (until their label gives the go ahead), but LP2 is tighter, hits (way, way) harder and presents a fully realized and focused vision of what grunge can look and sound like in the mid-2010s. Superheaven doesn’t shy away from a heavy acknowledgment of its influences and instead bolsters every flag flown on Jar.
I was able to have a quick chat with Madison about the process and scars behind what is certain to be one of 2015’s heaviest records. Continue reading →
“Proficiency” was the common thread throughout this particularly brisk Friday evening at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage. A thoroughly stacked lineup, it’s tough (and downright reductive) to refer to the bands who played before The Gaslight Anthem as “openers.” Based on the draw each act produced during their respective sets, Friday night’s audience would heartily agree. Continue reading →
It’s pretty much impossible to miss the gleeful buoyancy in Strand of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter’s voice when chatting with him. Maybe it’s something encoded into his personality, or maybe he’s still riding the waves of critical and commercial acclaim that the fourth Strand of Oaks record, Heal (Dead Oceans), has been generating since its release last month. Regardless, his cheer is infectious, and that acclaim for HEAL, an examination of catharsis steeped in the burst and bloom of a decades-spanning rock ‘n’ roll (as opposed to “rock”) tradition, is well deserved. But in that month since its release, Showalter has been taking this summer relatively easy, and was happy to catch up with The Key to chat about HEAL, how he manages his songwriting, and his (lack of) preparation for a nearly three-month tour, which starts this Saturday at the XPoNential Music Festival.
The Wonder Years’ 2011 release, Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, with its frequent references and allusions to Allen Ginsberg’s marathon poem “America,” felt like a turning point in singer Dan Campbell’s songwriting. There was something about the way he appropriated Ginsberg’s text to work with his own that broke out of the traditional pop punk tropes. The next Wonder Years record, last year’s The Greatest Generation, established a wide thematic scope in its choruses, couplets and bridges, all reprised in a seven-minute closing track, “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral” — not totally unlike musical theatre. Aside from penning relentlessly catchy pop punk songs, Suburbia and Generation proved Campbell not only capable of viewing The Big Picture in writing a record; he’s highly literate in it.
That’s why Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, Campbell’s conceptual folk-rock solo release, doesn’t come as much of a surprise. We Don’t Have Each Other (out today on Hopeless follows a very rough year in the life of Aaron West, Campbell’s proxy and all-around Llewyn Davis-troubadour-type sad sap. Gone are the heavy, three-guitar-strong power chords that always trustingly flank Campbell’s voice — always vulnerable and without shame — in the Wonder Years. In their place, We Don’t Have Each Other is flush with keys, horns, pedal steel guitars, banjos and what would almost be a heavy-handed smack to the face telling you, “This is Americana! This is a departure!” if the whole thing wasn’t so expertly executed. The opening track “Our Apartment” delivers all of this before the song is even half finished.
Campbell may be trying on hats, but they look pretty good on him and complement his figure. Part of what makes this record work so well is that while the whole idea here is to assume a character, an identity, by no means does that experiment isolate any listener knowledgeable of Campbell’s past work. Instead of making some swift, stylistic left turn, these songs instead feel filtered through that lens of trying something new. “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” and “Runnin’ Scared” feel comfortable in the way the alt-country instrumentation is organized; these could be stripped-down Wonder Years songs, even. But it’s in the quieter, mid-tempo songs, in “Divorce and the American South” or “Get Me Out Of Here Alive,” that feel carry to most excitement, as they stray furthest from Campbell’s assumed comfort zone. Continue reading →