My freshman year of high school, I joined the track and field team and met two men: Dwight Dunston and Keenan Willis. They had both graduated years earlier, and were returning to their old school to coach the track team. I learned they were rappers, and the following year, they laid down some bars while I played piano at what essentially equated to a school open-mic (video evidence of this exists here). You may know Dunston and Willis as Sterling Duns and Rick Banks, two emcees in Hardwork Movement, a name I’m willing to wager will someday be called the most important within Philly’s independent hip-hop scene. Continue reading →
Six months ago, a friend of mine suggested I check out a guy named Kevin Morby. “Sounds like Bob Dylan,” I remember thinking to myself. Since then, I’ve seen Morby and his band three times, each show more rockin’ than the last. His Monday night set at Boot and Saddle was different for a couple reasons; it was my first time seeing him both outside of a festival setting, as well as my first time seeing him following the release of his 3rd LP, Singing Saw,this past April.
Monday night’s set brought with it a few more firsts. Morby played—for the first time ever, he told us—a 30 second-long song he wrote about Philly street names to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Blues Run The Game” (“Meet me down at Broad,” he sang). It was also my first time hearing a new Morby tune called “Tiny Fires,” which sounded more like early Wilco than Dylan.
But what’s best about a Kevin Morby show is not the new, but the old (or rather, the sounds old); mellower tracks like “Miles, Miles, Miles,” “Parade,” and “Black Flowers” (which, along with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place To Fall,” he played solo) would feel right at home at The Gaslight Café (of Greenwich Village). CBGB might be a better fit for tunes like “I Have Been to the Mountain” and “The Ballad of Arlo Jones,” on which guitarist Meg Duffy (whose solo on “Destroyer,” may I add, lead me believe that she is some sort of real-life guitar goddess) dug in and let loose. Continue reading →
How do you write about your favorite band? Do you tell your readers to take everything you are about to say with a grain (or heap, more like) of salt because you’ve been a Wilco fan since before you were born (literally)? Or do you decide to embrace your innermost fanboy and scrawl out a review brimming with those adjectives we music critics employ when we like what we hear? And when it’s your first time seeing Wilco in your home city of Philadelphia since their show at the Tower Theater in 2008? It all seems a nightmare for any modicum of journalistic integrity to me. Continue reading →
Most people who have written about Quilt say that their music comes from a different time. It’s “vintage.” “Woodstock-era.” “You can practically smell the patchouli burning.” And they’re right: Quilt have mastered the art of musical time travel. But they also do their fair share of teleportation.
Their patchwork breed of psych-rock revival is rife with sounds from the East— singer and guitarist Shane Butler spent the first year of his life in India and practices Mantra chanting to this day. The strings on their 2016 LP Plaza are inspired by the music of Serge Gainsbourg, Butler’s fellow front-person Anna Rochinski told me.
Though their songwriting has grown more poised and their production more polished with each record, Quilt is a band that likes to wonder. “Are you looking for an answer? Are you looking for a cure?” they all sing on the “O’Connor’s Barn” chorus, “Maybe you should want more.” And I do. Plaza is just two minutes more brief than 2014’s Held In Splendor at 40 minutes, but it’s been glued to my turntable since it came out (not to mention I had to leave their set early to catch a train home from Brooklyn).
When Courtney Barnett made her Philly debut at Union Transfer back in February, 2014, I was there, my camera and notebook in tow. Of that glorious evening, I wrote the following:
Believe the hype. Courtney Barnett is for real, and she hasn’t even released a proper album yet… Watching Courtney Barnett and her eponymous band at UT on Thursday, I could not shake the nagging suspicion that I was witnessing the birth of a star. Shine on. Continue reading →
Atop a velvety-red high school talent show style curtain, life flickers nervously into a heart-shaped neon sign that reads, “No Photography” as if it has watched over the old Spaghetti Warehouse floor for years. Father John Misty’s band takes the stage and greets the sold-out Union Transfer crowd’s ovation with the swelling intro to I Love You, Honeybear, the title track off Misty’s cherished 2015 love-LP. Josh Tillman, the man behind the moniker, prances on stage donning black head-to-toe, topped with a big ol’ hat I can only assume he snagged from the Scarecrow of Oz in exchange for some ‘shrooms and a private show. After staggering about the the stage bathed in blood-red light, his golden pipes a-blazin’ microphone stand a-flailin’, Father John bids us goodnight and his roadies begin unplugging guitars and packing up. Concert over. Continue reading →
I hate to write reviews that sound like movie trailers, but the following needs to be said. In a world where much is the same, Lake Street Dive do things differently. In a world where drummers tune their toms low enough to make your innards shudder, Mike Calabrese tunes up (I’m also pretty sure he plays Spizzichino cymbals, which are any jazz drummer’s dream). In a world where, anywhere outside jazz clubs, low notes come from an electric bass, Bridget Kearny plays upright. In a world where bands seek to fill out their sound, Lake Street Dive strips it down. But being different only gets the glass to half empty. Lucky for me (and the rest of the sold out Union Transfer crowd), Rachel Price is nothing short of a virtuoso and the whole band seemed to be having more fun than just about anyone I’ve seen on the UT stage. I suppose there’s a reason there was a line around the block on a frosty Philly evening to see the Boston natives last night. Continue reading →
It’s no secret that the Kopecky Family Band is not really a family, but with or without shared bloodlines, these Nashville rockers managed to make us all feel at home Friday night at Union Transfer. Their records are solid, of course, but there’s something about seeing them live that brings out something that’s just plain likable. Frontman Gabe Simon humbly introduced himself to the front row as he set up his own pedalboards. He even remembered seeing me at their killer TLA show from about a year back. But a nice guy does not a great musician make; we care about the sounds, and there’s a reason the Kopecky Family Band continues to have me coming back for more. Continue reading →
I’ve long said that Warpaint’s 2014 self-titled LP was the kind of music Radiohead should be making. Then again, the very fact that the Los Angeles 4-piece is churning out records at (or really, above) the standard of the most influential band in music is saying something (and it’s not just because they too work with Nigel Godrich). And by no means is Warpaint just another Radiohead pastiche project; they’ve nestled themselves quite comfortably into their own corner of the music world. So while you might think it would be entirely unfair to compare what happened last night to a Radiohead show, the very fact that I can’t get Warpaint’s ethereal images and haunting sounds out of my head is testimony that really, you can. Continue reading →
The NSEA Protector has landed, and its shipmates might just be human. Only the spaceship is actually Broken Bells’ set of sci-fi stage adornments and the shipmates happen to be James Mercer and Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), two of the 21st century’s champions of songcraft. It’s no secret that this unlikely duo aspires to an astral cyborg aura, their 2010 video for “The Ghost Inside” featuring Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks as a cash poor humanoid on a space shuttle in search of her dream planet. But try as you may, there’s no keeping these guys from touching down on Earth to put on a stellar dynamic – and notably human – live concert. Continue reading →