Reimagining Ortlieb’s: Domenic Palermo of Nothing and Kyle Costill of BITBY have big plans for the NoLibs venue

A view of Ortlieb's from where the new stage will be | Photo by John Vettese
A view of Ortlieb’s from where the new stage will be | Photo by John Vettese

Before he had Nothing, Domenic “Nicky” Palermo spent a decade in the service industry.

He ran the gamut of gigs, from busboy to bartender to manager of multiple bars and restaurants around Philly. And through this time, he always had his music a s a side gig.

But 2014 was a breakthrough year for Nicky’s band. The Philly-based shoegaze group toured extensively around their debut LP, Guilty of Everything, which was released last March by Relapse Records, picked up as an NPR First Listen and named one of the “Best Overlooked Albums of 2014” by Spin Magazine, to name just a few of its accolades.

Nicky left the hospitality industry a year-and-a-half ago so that he could do nothing but Nothing. Then, he was given the opportunity to re-enlist and take on his newest project: Ortlieb’s. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Five Scenes Nikki Volpicelli Saw in 2014

Nikki Volpicelle in front of the Figure 8 wall in L.A.

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, Key contributor Nikki Volpicelli shares her favorite travel excursions of the year.

 As a music writer based out of Philly, I spend a lot of time in the backyard digging up new music to listen to, watch and write about. This year, I had the opportunity to see what other cities and there scenes had to offer, from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Portland to New York City. I ate tacos, saw some punk shows, saw some scientologists, and jumped off of a bar with an 80-year-old man who’s been playing blues covers at the oldest bar in SF every Sunday for 17 years. It all made me realize: the grass is no greener here, there, anywhere. It’s just a different shade.

Continue reading →


Why you should listen to Bear in Heaven’s new album in a thunderstorm

Bear in Heaven | Photo by  Shawn Brackbill
Bear in Heaven | Photo by Shawn Brackbill

Bear In Heaven’s latest record, Time is Over One Day Old, has a telling song called “Dissolve the Walls.” It song starts off as a faraway confusion of conversation, blitzy synth running down a long tunnel as an upbeat womanly chorus chants: “Let the walls dissolve/ till there’s no room at all/ there’s no ceiling, no floor/ no windows, no door.”

Given this particular track and the cover art of the 2014 album (on which I can’t help but see a galactic rolling paper), you might think you could easily file it under ‘other worldly weirdness,’ right next to 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the group never has stopped with just one sonic style compartment, so you really can’t file this album as a whole under anything (and not next to any of the group’s previous releases, either).

“We’re always talking about output or creation, so it’s certainly not this, ‘alright, let’s definitely make this an effort to strip things back…’” says Adam Wills, guitarist and co-founder of Bear in Heaven, and writer of the song. The group, which headlines Johnny Brenda’s tonight, began 10 years ago as a project between Wills and co-founder/vocalist Jon Philpot. Continue reading →


21st Century Psych: Temples carry golden age traditions into the digital age

Temples | photo via
Temples | photo via

We are not experiencing a psychedelic revolution. Psych music, since its inception, has oscillated through pop culture. In the beginning, when love, drugs and the Beatles were free, the Byrds spun their dark web of bad trip/good trip to a lesser audience. The 70’s saw momentum from groups like T.Rex, with their fearlessly tripped-out glitz and glam rock. In the 80’s, I’m sure there were some dark underlords dosing people with anti-disco, and the 90’s had the Brian Jonestown Massacre, keeping the scene very much alive and kicking.

“There have been bands every decade who’ve revived what’s good about that Golden era of music and kind of carried it on to the next generation,” says Thomas Warmsley of the UK-based psych-pop group Temples. It’s a few hours before the group’s set at London’s Latitude Festival, and we’re on the phone discussing the past.

Continue reading →


Interview: Power punk four-piece Potty Mouth on their breakout year and their trip to Boot and Saddle

Photo via
Photo via

“Visibility as a band made up of women is very important to us,” says Victoria Mandanas. “There is great value, for girls and young women, especially, in seeing bands made up of women or with female members.”

The drummer of the all-women power-punk quartet Potty Mouth, currently touring with her bandmates in support of its new record (and playing Boot & Saddle on Thursday), adds “I think about my band and our music in the same way, and I hope that others will try to do the same.”

And it seems others are. The Northampton, Massachusetts group’s first LP, Hell Bent (released on Old Flame Records last September) was previewed as an NPR ‘First Listen.’ The group was named one of Spin Magazine’s ‘Best New Artists,’ as well as a Nylon Magazine ‘Band Crush’ and countless other word combinations that all pretty much mean the same thing — Potty Mouth is on the rise, going places, and right now the group’s heading up and down the East Coast in support of 10-tracks of linear, bass-driven power punk that seems split from some combination of late 70’s punk and the roaring womanly intellect made popular by the 90’s Riot grrrl movement.

The tour around this record — which follows 2012’s Sun Damage EP — was defined in part by the national DIY sub-scene that Potty Mouth finds comfort and companionship within. The women write their own songs and have experience booking their own shows. Half of the members even taught themselves how to play their instruments so that they could be in this band, together. This month, the group will be sharing bills with like-minded punks including Nothing, Waxahatchee and Radiator Hospital (to name a few). Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Nikki Volpicelli’s 5 Behind-The-Scenes Women of 2013

Photo courtesy of Nicky Devine
Photo courtesy of Nicky Devine

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributor Nikki Volpicelli highlights women doing amazing work this year.

…because every single one of these women (and many more) deserves a shout out before this year ends.

Nicky Devine
Sometimes Nicky Devine is sitting at the bar at Johnny Brenda’s with a keen eye on the running of the evening’s concert. Other times you can’t find her at all because she’s sprinting around the venue, making sure everyone going on stage is happy (and wanting to return to our lovely city to entertain us again). That’s the life of a Production Assistant. Devine splits her time as a PA and a Production Supervisor for Weathervane Music, managing the production and release schedule of monthly Shaking Through sessions. She’s also Festival Director at the annual 2nd Street Festival, and if you’ve ever experienced the panic attack that is trying to maneuver your way through NoLibs on this day, you can begin to understand the impossibility of running the whole operation.

Carly Marcoux
“Who asks these questions?” Was the first question I asked myself after reading this super well crafted Q&A with fuzz-rocker King Tuff (one of my favorite artists this year). I took to the side bar of the Philly Girl About Town blog for an answer and found co-editor Carly Marcoux. Compared to some of its online peers, PGAT only posts a few choice interviews and reviews per month, but Marcoux keeps busy, holding down a day job and playing drums on the side (and singing) in The Pretty Greens – a feminist fuzz-garage group that periodically publishes a pop-art fanzine called Pretty Signals (Issue #2 came out in August). SheT also plays in No Other and freelances for Tom Tom Magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to female drummers.

Continue reading →


Exploring the animated side of garage-psych royalty King Tuff (playing the First Unitarian Church tomorrow with WAVVES and Jacuzzi Boys)

TuffThere’s something cartoonish about King Tuff. Most of his album art portrays hand-scratched drawings of large-nosed longhairs and magic bats. In his music videos, a paint stick follows him around to shimmer the scene neon every once in awhile. His band could also emanate this kiddishness, with make-believe aliases like Magic Jake (his bassist), and Captain Cox (his engineer). But there’s something about his sound, too, that illustrates him. It’s this rabbit-from-a-hat sonic madness of hard drum patterns and fuzzed-out electric guitars. It’s also his voice, which until you see him live doesn’t quite make sense — like a hoarse Alvin the Chipmunk might sound when you slow down the recording just enough so that it could be considered human.

This year, his 2008 record, Was Dead, was reissued and released on Burger Records — for which anyone with footing in the sounds of all of those fuzzed-out garbage pail kids coming in from the West Coast (Ty Segall, No Bunny, WAVVES, the Memories, et al.) should be eternally grateful. It is a record filled with a series of hooks strung together in one cleverly-crafted album. There’s nothing to skip, it’s all here re-packaged in a vibrant blue sleeve with the hot pink scribble-scrabbled face of King Tuff himself.

“I recorded Was Dead with my friend in a giant ballroom, this was was in Vermont,” Kyle “King Tuff” Thomas explains over the phone last month. The longtime guitarist and songwriter moved from Vermont to Los Angeles a little over two years ago and jokes “I haven’t done shit since I got to LA… just frying my mind in the rays.”

Continue reading →


Energy, confidence and devil sticks: Toy Soldiers celebrate The Maybe Boys at Johnny Brenda’s

Toy Soldiers | Photo by Mike Bucher |
Toy Soldiers | Photo by Mike Bucher |

All photos by Mike Bucher |

Toy Soldiers released their newest record, The Maybe Boys, this past Tuesday and celebrated last night with a sold-out release party at Johnny Brenda’s last night. Overheard within the crowd before the five-piece took stage: “I’ve never seen so many people I don’t know but from seeing them at Toy Soldier’s shows.” Said crowder noticed the Levee Drivers, TJ Kong, and members of the Get Real Gang in the attendance.

The boys opened up with an enormous rendition of “Heart in a Mousetrap,” and weaved in and out of old and new songs, shouting out the record’s producer, Bill Moriarty, before performing its first song, “Tell the Teller.”

Thing is, I’d never been to a Toy Soldiers show before last night. I’d also never been to a show with a live devil sticks performance until last night. It’s been sometime since I’ve had that problem where my shoes stick to the floor that’s sticky with so many spilled beers, but no one in the room last night was holding back.

On stage and off — it was the same energy, same confidence through and through. Absolutely everyone is dancing, from front man Ron Gallo on stage and members of the audience, who whip each other around frenzied-like. It’s no wonder about the beer thing, no one’s worried about a little spilled beer.

It’s a community effort and it’s obvious that most of the crowd has never missed a show. In fact, a ton of the crowd is a part of this particular music community, playing side-by-side with the outfit more often than not. Maybe this show is a way of forgetting the day, whatever happened during it, and to kind of just bask in Toy Soldiers’ energy and the group’s loud, fiery onstage presence.

One lucky member of the audience even got to get on the devil sticks for the entirety of “Throw Me Down,” a few minutes before the show ended and there was a mad dash to pick up the ceremonious vinyl from the merch table.


Unlocked: Bad Braids’ Megan Biscieglia’s “Songs I Love at the Moment”

Bad Braids’ Megan Biscieglia / Photo by Elizabeth Lennox
Bad Braids’ Megan Biscieglia / Photo by Elizabeth Lennox
Bad Braids’ Megan Biscieglia has musical tastes that range from 70′s Britfolk, Indonesian and Tamasheq crooners to Black Sabbath and The Everly Brothers. Today, she made a special playlist for The Key, admitting, “I get a little obsessed with songs and will listen to them over and over and over until I can’t listen to them anymore. These are some of the songs that at the moment, are on that constant stream.” Check out her complete video playlist here, as well as her lovely anecdotes about the music. Bad Braids play the Rigby Mansion tomorrow to celebrate the May 1 release of Supreme Parallel and the kick-off to her European tour.

Trees – “Murdoch”
Megan Boscoeglia (MB): This song is beautiful and a little bit scary. I have an urge to fill this playlist with only Trees, Fairport Convention, and The Incredible String Band, but I will refrain from doing so.

Dara Puspita – “To Love Somebody (Bee Gees cover)”
MB: This is a 60′s girl group from Indonesia who played their own instruments  I found this on a blog once and fell in love with it. Their other song “Lonely Street” is also one of my favorites.

Black Sabbath – “Wizard”
MB: If you put this song on [every] morning, first thing when you wake up, it is guaranteed you will grow a little more badass as each day passes.

TwinSisterMoon – “Spells”
MB: I accidentally downloaded this while trying to download something else. I’ve found a lot of really great music that way. I thought while listening that it was for sure from the 60′s, but it is current and they live in France. This song kind of kills me.

Patti Smith – “Lands”
MB: Patti Smith is intense. I have always liked her music, but never really got into it until I read her book a few years ago.
Continue reading →


Unlocked: Q&A with Megan Biscieglia of Bad Braids

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 4.00.25 PM

Before next Wednesday’s release of Supreme Parallel, we swapped email Q’s and A’s with Bad Braids’ Megan Biscieglia, the 25-year-old songstress behind the group who started writing and recording on her own music back when Talkboys were still topical. This Saturday, she’s celebrating the coming of her second full-length album (and her European tour) with a release show at the fantastical Rigby Mansion in Germantown. We got a preview of Parallel last September, when Biscieglia performed an intimate bathtub version of “White Mane” at Rigby for Out of Town Films. Fingers crossed, Saturday’s event will turn just as magical.

The Key: What is your connection with the musicians you chose to collaborate with on Supreme Parallel?
Megan Biscieglia: All the musicians who played on SP are very dear friends of mine. I’m lucky enough to have a close knit group of friends who are all incredibly talented. Paul Christian recorded most of the album and can pretty much play anything/ do anything/ fix anything/ is a wizard/ not human. Paul, April Heliotis, Cameron Vance, and I sometimes play in another band fronted by Mike Bruno, the Black Magic Family Band. We were all already accustomed to playing music together, so it made sense to ask them to play on my record. I knew their vibe and I knew whatever they did would be special. I met Jesse Sparhawk at a show we played together at the now defunct Emoda Gallery. I love everything he makes and feel honored he is on my record.

The Key: You’re leaving to head to Europe for a month and a half shortly after your release show this Saturday. Do you have any advice on booking a tour of that magnitude?
MB: If you decide you want to embark on a journey such as the one I am about to go on, you need to be 1,000% into it. Be ready to spend all of your time, energy, and money. As far as the actual booking of the tour goes, if you take yourself seriously, other people will too. Know that you will be ignored by many, but at the same time many others will be more generous and supportive than you could ever hope for. Get in touch with people who have toured before to book your show, they’ll know how to treat you right. Once you’re gone, be open minded and get weird.

The Key: Have you visited some of the places you’re touring in the past?
MB: Only London.

The Key: Your music has vibrant “folk” aspects to it, but you don’t seem to play many shows with other acoustic and/or folk artists. Your shows tend to lean on the side of dark rock/punk/psych stuff. and metal. Is that a conscious performance decision or is it personal style/taste?
MB: doesn’t happen so much anymore. When I first moved to Philly, I didn’t know many people. The people I did know played in heavier bands. When i decided I wanted to start playing music, they helped me and booked me in whatever show was already happening. Nowadays, I play with all kinds of bands. I like going to shows that have versatility and I’m happy when I get to be apart of them.

The Key: What do you read that inspires your lyrics, and if you don’t look towards books, how do you come up with them?
MB: I’m not really sure where my lyrics come from, they just kind of happen. I do read a lot of fantasy, and though I can’t really say whether or not one book in particular has affected what I write, I can definitely say I have a fondness for and interest in made up places, not of this time and maybe not of this planet. I love getting lost in a book or movie, then looking up and being surprised I’m sitting in my living room. I wanted to create another world for the listener with Supreme Parallel. Maybe a dreamier and hazier world where everything is a little bit foggy and warm and everyone is floating around, a place you can forget your troubles for a second and zone out.

The Key: Aside from singing, you play everything from the lap harp to guitar to sets of wine glasses. When did you start playing music and which instruments did you start with?
MB: I started writing music when I was 6. My best friend at the time and I wrote and recorded songs together on his karaoke machine and on my talk boy. We both played the piano in the recordings and I would occasionally play the bongo. I started playing guitar when I was 15. But didn’t really get into it until I was 20..

The Key: You grew up in South Jersey and went to school in Brooklyn, NY. Now, you’re building a career in Philly, where you’ve resided for the past two years. How did you start performing live, and which city did you start performing in?
MB: I was living in Brooklyn and was in a pretty dark place. My best friend had moved out of the country, my other best friend and I were in the midst of a tragic break up, and I was very very lonely. I didn’t really know what to do with my time and didn’t really have anyone to spend it with. I had written songs since I was a kid, but never really thought anyone would want to hear them. I thought maybe I’d try to play out and in the process I’d meet new friends or maybe a band I could play in. I think that’s what I wanted to do, play in someone else’s band. I had friends in Philly and they booked me at some house shows. I started playing in Brooklyn first though, my first show was at coco66 in Brooklyn and then 2 weeks later is was at the Manton house in Philly opening for Gods and Queens. I went on tour kind of right away, and fell in love with that.

The Key: What made you decide to further your career in Philly as opposed Brooklyn?
MB: New York is too money driven. I was finding it difficult to focus on creative things because I had to hustle so much just to feed myself. All of my priorities were off too, I just wasn’t happy. I started taking music a little more seriously and found happiness in that, but could never really find the time. Philadelphia made sense because I already knew a lot of people here who were doing things I wanted to be a part of. There is a rich artistic community here and it is a relatively cheap place to live.

The Key: BONUS QUESTION: Did you grow up listening to N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys like I did, and if so, how would you rate them as musicians?
MB: No, but I was a Hanson freak. I can tell you that my moms ringtone was once “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake. No one can deny, not even my mom, that song is dope.

Bad Braids’ shares the “release” part this Saturday with local harpist Mary Lattimore (whose “The Withdrawing Room” will be distributed on 300 limited edition black vinyl) and the “tour kick-off” thing with her good friend (and co-conspirator) Mike Bruno, who’s accompanying her to Europe. Go here for more information about the show. Go here