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Mastodon rages on for a capacity crowd at The Electric Factory

Mastodon | photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa
Mastodon | photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa
The best metal band of their generation blasted a capacity crowd at The Electric Factory with an impressive seventeen song career-spanning set on Saturday night. Over the course of fourteen years and five albums Mastodon has unleashed their musical ragings against the dying light and the general frustration of everyday human existence to an ever-increasing audience. Don’t let the “metal” classification scare you off though, theirs is thinking person’s music with complex, constantly shifting song structures and probing, literary lyrics usually provided by drummer Brann Dailor. Mastodon’s albums have frequently been thematic, with subjects like wormholes and being a soul inhabiting the body of the “mad monk” Grigori Rasputin (2009’s Crack The Skye) and Moby Dick (2004’s Leviathan.) Mastodon is on tour leading up to their much anticipated next album Once More Around The Sun that is due out June 24th.

The group took the stage with no fanfare and immediately launched into “Hearts Alive,” a thirteen minute-plus snake-like guitar opus from their breakthrough, Leviathan. Clouds of smoke billowed out from behind the stage, the band was bathed in an eerie grey/green light and the packed floor of the Electric Factory was immediately turned into a bobbing, horn-gesture-throwing, sweaty sea of bodies. At the back of the stage under a huge psychedelic painted backdrop and sandwiched between two huge stacks of amps, Dailor thunderously pounded his drums. Singer/Bassist Troy Saunders bounded around pumping out thudding bass notes and wailing into a mic at center stage. (By the way – Saunders has a Rasputin-like beard, which has it’s own Facebook page.) Guitarist Bill Kelliher and guitarist/singer Brent Hinds anchored the right and left sides of the stage respectively. Kelliher sports an impressive handlebar mustache and an even more impressive array of riffs that he spent ninety minutes dropping on the audience. Hinds is a bearded, burly menacing figure who facially resembles an angry Zeus on stage. He hurled forth lightning bolts from a battered Gibson SG all night long, unleashing blistering volleys of notes and hammering riffs to the crowd’s delight.

As the band played they were constantly bathed in aquatic green and blue lights or sinister red lights. Behind them, three light cannons alternated between blasting out grids of laser lights that segmented the air above the crowd and spewing forth shimmering holographic, 3-D, upside down pyramids of green light. One early musical highlight was “Capillarian Crest” with Dailor constantly leading the shifting gears of the song with his drumming and tight, spiralling interlocked guitar parts from Hinds and Kelliher. Mid-set came two highlights in the form of thrashing speed metal riffs of “Megalodon” and some amazing dark harmonies from Hinds, Saunders and Dailor on the cosmic stoner rock of “Oblivion.” Soon after the fans received a preview of their new album and maybe one of Mastodon’s best songs ever in “High Road,” a chugging rocker with a soaring chorus that manages to sound like something that might be blasting out of radios all this summer while simultaneously still sounding distinctly like Mastodon. They closed with a loud/soft combo of songs. First up was a thrashing rendition of “Aqua Dementia” that whipped the crowd into a moshing frenzy one last time. Mastodon followed it up with the almost prayerful dark beauty of “The Sparrow” which they dedicated to a lost friend before leaving the stage for the night, hopefully to return soon.

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Jazz Fest lights up Center City with an afternoon of eclectic, exciting performances

Charles Washington Combo | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/
Charles Washington Combo | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/

The third Annual Center City Jazzfest was held on Saturday afternoon, pleasing a sellout crowd with sixteen genre-spanning jazz performances spread out over four locations in Center City Philadelphia. The four venues were Fergie’s Pub, MilkBoy,Chris’ Jazz Cafe and Time – all within a few blocks of each other and three of them on Samson Street.

The festival offered remarkable value at $15 per ticket if you bought them ahead of time, so you were paying less than a dollar per artist. Your ticket purchase earned you a wristband that allowed you access to any of the four venues whenever you wanted. Events were running at each venue simultaneously, so like any festival, you had to pick and choose what you wanted to see and hear. I kept on the move and was able to catch partial sets and photograph ten artists on the bill, and at times I definitely wished I could clone myself and see more than one set at once. It was an afternoon full of memorable performances that reminded both the attendees and musicians of the togetherness and pure joy that music can create.

Charles Washington Combo | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/
Charles Washington Combo | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/

The opening act of the fest, vocalist Rhenda Fearrington set the tone for the day. She and her four piece backing band gave a spirited and powerful performance that rocked the tiny upstairs at Fergie’s Pub. Another highlight of the sets at Fergie’s were the Jazz guitar stylings of Mike Kennedy, who was backed by a tight three piece keys, upright bass and drum trio. Of all the locations used for Jazzfest, Fergie’s best recreated the intimate, packed clubs that many Jazz greats cut their teeth in. The small upstairs room got more and more full as the day went along, and many fans seemed to set up shop there for the afternoon.

The events held upstairs at Milkboy also got more and more crowded as the afternoon went on. This venue hosted impressive sets by Giovana Robinson and Justin Faulkner. Panama’s Robinson and her group pleased the mid-afternoon crowd with a set featuring her passionate vocals and distinctive style of music – a mix of pop, world music and Jazz elements.

Kimmel Center Creative Music Program | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/
Kimmel Center Creative Music Program | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/

Late in the day Philadelphia native Faulkner’s thunderous drumming led a trio through an hour of groovy, prog-like space jazz to a packed and rapturous audience that included many of the other musicians from other bands on the bill.

Chris’ Jazz Cafe’s dinner theater-like set up and large stage area were a perfect fit for the musicians who played there on Saturday. Early in the day the Cafe hosted a fourteen piece Jazz orchestra of youths from The Kimmel Center Creative Music Program for Jazz. Despite being young they proved to be old souls with a swinging, powerful ensemble performance that showed that Jazz has a bright future in Philly. Later in the day the stage was owned by Joanna Pascale and her band. Pascale delivered an well received set of torch songs and included a meditative and memorable Jazzy take on Carole King’s classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”

Trio Up | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/
Trio Up | Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/

The Time restaurant hosted some of the best shows of the day in it’s large mirror and clock filled bar area. The bar area featured a lot of open standing room space, natural light and two large sliding windows behind the stage area that were usually open. The open windows allowed passersby and fans who couldn’t fit into the frequently packed venue to hear some of the music outside. Early on, trumpeter Charles Washington led a five piece backing band through an excellent set that evoked the spirit of the early Miles Davis combos.

After them brassy Brooklyner Miss Ida Blue drew one of the largest, most enthusiastic crowds of the day. Her look was eye-catching: she aptly described herself as a “vamping dame” in one of her songs. Miss Blue and her clarinet/trombone/banjo and tuba backing band delivered a raucous set of her innuendo-laced Jazz that had the crowd roaring with laughter and appreciation for her singing and the group’s talent.

Next up was Stacy Dillard who had the crowd smiling, bobbing their heads and exchanging “did you hear that” glances as he blasted out complicated runs of notes on his sax while leading his trio through an impressive and powerful hour of music. Last up at Time was Trio Up, composed of virtuoso performers Rick Tate on Sax, Ronnie Burrage on drums and Nimrod Speaks on bass. They showed their mastery of their instruments and their ability to create beautiful music together during a highlight-filled hour of muscular and complex Jazz that thrilled the packed restaurant.

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A resurrected Rocket From the Crypt bring high energy to a sweaty Underground Arts

Rocket From the Crypt | Photo by Pete Troshak |
Rocket From the Crypt | Photo by Pete Troshak |

San Diego’s Rocket From The Crypt proved they were back from the dead last week, rocking a sweaty, aggressive packed house at Underground Arts. The group disbanded in 2005 after fifteen years and seven guitar-and-horn-fueled punk albums together, including the classic Scream, Dracula, Scream! in 1995. The band was also known for saying that anyone that got a Rocket From The Crypt tattoo would be admitted to any show by the band for free. They reunited under the most bizarre circumstances, due to a children’s TV show. Singer John “Speedo” Reis is a recurring character on Yo Gabba Gabba called “The Swami” and the band reunited to play on an episode in 2011. One thing led to another and the band has since played some dates and a handful of festivals, sticking to their old material while being warmly received by fans that never expected to see them together again.

Timothy Olyphant look-alike Dan Sartain opened, delivering a memorable forty minute rapid fire set of his rumbling rockabilly punk rock. Joined by just a drummer, Sartain sweated and bashed out chords on his battle-worn Silvertone hollowbody guitar. The Ramones influence is obvious in his music and fittingly he kickstarted most songs with a hearty 1-2-3-4 countdown. The crowd seemed very familiar with his material, and sang along frequently. Sartain seemed to really appreciate the crowd’s reaction, and proved he was one of them by showing off an old Rocket From The Crypt tattoo on his upper right arm. Sartain has a new album called Dudesblood due out soon.

After Sartain’s set ended there was a forty five minute wait for Rocket From The Crypt to take the stage, which led to some grumbling in the sell-out crowd. All was forgiven when the band hit the stage and ignited the crowd with a trio of songs from their ‘95 EP The State of Art is on Fire – “Light Me,” “A+ In Arson Class” and “Rid Or Ride.” What followed was an intense twenty-plus song set spanning their career with neither the band nor crowd taking their foot off the gas pedal till the end. The six piece band barely fit on the small stage and the crowd was even packed around the open sides of the stage, giving the show a claustrophobic but exciting vibe. The crowd cheered and smiled throughout, regularly surging forward to get closer to the band. The highlight of the night was a swaggering blitz through the first three songs from Scream, Dracula, Scream! – “Middle,” “Born in ‘69” and “Rope”.that sent the crowd into a sweaty, moshing, roaring frenzy. The band’s performance spoke louder than words, and it said that this is a band that is still powerful and that can have a future to add to their past success. Here’s hoping that they stay together and make more music.

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Karmin kicked off its Pulses tour with a high-energy TLA show

Karmin | Photo by Pete Troshak | shak74.com
Karmin | Photo by Pete Troshak | shak74.com

The story of Karmin is one of the most interesting in music the last few years. Engaged pop duo Nick Noonan and Amy Heidemann started out covering hits by other artists in an attempt to show off their talents. They amassed millions of views on YouTube and fulfilled the dreams of every struggling musician by getting signed to a major label. They got backed by Questlove of the Roots here and here. They released an EP called Hello in 2012 that yielded a hit in the form of the inescapably catchy “Brokenhearted.” Everything seemed to be going their way, but then the ride got bumpy. The first full length album, Pulses, has been complete for over a year but in limbo due to disagreements between Karmin and Epic Records. The band is out on the road for their first tour as headliners despite the album not being for sale (it’s scheduled for release 5/25), and gave an impressive show at the Theatre Of Living Arts on Friday night on one of the first dates of their Pulses tour. Continue reading →

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Peter Hook treats The Troc to a three-hour extravaganza of New Order and Joy Division (photos, review, setlist)

Peter Hook | Photo by Pete Troshak | www.flickr.com/photos/petryfrompaAll Photos by Pete Troshak | www.flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa

Former New Order and Joy Division member Peter Hook and his band The Light rocked the 143-year-old Trocadero Theatre for nearly three hours on Saturday night. The band is on tour playing the New Order albums Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies in their entirety along with assorted B-sides from those albums. Early arrivers were rewarded with a surprise when mysterious opening band “Slaves Of Venus” turned out to be none other than Hook And The Light performing a set of Joy Division songs.

Hook sported a mohawk, looked fit enough to dominate a rugby scrum and stalked the stage with a certain well-earned swagger. He swapped between his trademark bass and guitar as needed and handled all the lead vocals impressively, especially the Joy Division songs which he delivered in a haunting way that would’ve made the irreplaceable Ian Curtis proud. Hook was backed by his son Jack Bates on bass, David Potts on guitar, Andy Poole on keyboards, and Paul Kehoe on drums.

Bates and Hook occasionally both played bass simultaneously, which helped to recreate the bass heavy nature of many of the Joy Division and New Order tracks. Bates resembles his father both in look and skill when playing, both hunch over their basses intently, nimbly but fiercely plucking the strings. Potts is the secret weapon of the band though, providing stinging notes and sheets of guitar texture to the electronic based sound of the two bands.

The lighting was kept minimal during this intense seven song opening set. Highlights were a pounding, primal “Dead Souls” and the gothic, starkly beautiful B-side “In A Lonely Place.” After a brief break, the band returned to the stage to play New Order songs. They kicked off this part of the show with “Ceremony,” honoring the legacy of New Order by playing a powerful rendition of their first single to the delight of the hardcore fans who packed the venue. They then played the entire Movement album. Hook and the Light recreated the album perfectly, with highlights being a hard driving “Chosen Time” and a fierce “Denial.” Next came another short break then Power, Corruption & Lies.

Power… is on just about every best album of the eighties list, and despite it’s dark title and subject matter it has a brighter sound than the rest of the songs from this show. The mood lightened during the playing of this album, the band played louder and looser and the crowd was dancing and singing even up in the balcony. The highlight of this this set was the late double shot of electronic music excellence “Ultraviolence” followed by “Ecstasy.”

Late in the Power… set, Hook stopped to tell the audience “You’ve made an old man very happy,” leading to a huge passionate cheer from the crowd. After finishing the album another brief break came before the encore. The band closed with a powerful three song run of the underrated but memorable “Everything’s Gone Green,” a throbbing version of “Temptation” and the ultimate show closer “Blue Monday.” “Blue Monday” featured the band at peak form with Hook banging on a drum machine and firing off notes occasionally on guitar and Poole adding a swirling chorus of electronic angels and pulsating runs on the keys. Late in the song came the most memorable chill-inducing moment of the night, as Hook and son Bates stood next to each other and both unleashed that memorable twenty-two note, echoing warpath-like hook of the song, driving the song and show to a perfect conclusion. Check out a gallery of the show below, and complete setlists after the jump.

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Review: Best Coast bring sunny California to the TLA

Best Coast arrived in Philly on Wednesday night bringing their brand of sunny California guitar pop to an enthusiastic crowd at the Theatre Of Living Arts. Early arrivers were rewarded with a strong performance by LA’s The Lovely Bad Things. They complimented a fan wearing a Sub Pop t-shirt and then proceeded to deliver a high-energy performance that would make that label proud, swapping instruments, bouncing around the stage and all taking turns singing. Next came New York’s Guards, on tour in support of their excellent In Guards We Trust album. Leader Richie Follin held his guitar over his head frequently and waved it out over the crowd during a powerful and crowd moving performance of the band’s psychedelic rock. (Check out their session with World Cafe’s David Dye here.)

Best Coast then took the stage to a roar from the crowd. The band is still on tour for last year’s successful The Only Place, playing a twenty-song mix of songs from their two albums and a couple of new songs. Highlights from early in the set included a moving, droning performance of “Last Year” followed by a sun kissed version of their ode to California, “The Only Place.” The prize of the night came in the form of two new songs. The first was a danceable rocker called “Fear Of My Identity” which the crowd reacted to with approval. The second was a shimmering new number called “Who Have I Become” which featured some stinging guitar work from Bobb Bruno. Late in the set came a slow starting “When I’m With You” with singer Bethany Cosentino playing the first verse slow by herself and then the band kicking in loud and fast. They played the song at a much faster pace than the recorded version, turning the floor of the club into a smiling sweating dancing mass.

The band returned for their encore with “Do You Love Me Like You Used Too.” When the band headlined Philly last year when The Only Place came out, Cosentino admitted that she added the song to the set list reluctantly, but did so because the fan response to it was so powerful. In their second performance here, the band played the song with an energy and intensity that shows the fans asked for the right thing, and they demonstrated their approval in the form of a loud response to the number. The band closed with the beautiful, yearning wall-of-sound “Boyfriend,” and sent the crowd out into the hot outdoors wishing for more summer nights like this.

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Emotional highs and glorious lows with Delta Rae, ZZ Ward and Martin Harley (review, photos)

The “Fire and Shine” tour arrived at on Wednesday night to a packed house at the TLA on South Street. Opener Martin Harley dazzled with his lap slide prowess in a short entertaining set. The highlight was a performance of his song “Winter Coat” that was prefaced with a story about how it once made two tough biker guys at a show get all mushy.

Co-headliner and Abington, PA native ZZ Ward hit the stage next, leading led her tight band through an exciting hour of her smooth mash-up of Blues, Hip Hop and R and B. Highlights were a touching acoustic “Last Love Song” and set closer “Move Like U Stole It” that had the crowd grooving along.

North Carolina’s Delta Rae closed out the night. They made the full house sweat on a cold wintery night with a powerful performance full of roller coaster emotional highs and lows and glorious harmonies. Early in the set songs “Morning Comes” and “Holding Onto Good” were high points but they saved the best for last. For their encore they headed out into the crowd for an exuberant, sweaty acoustic sing-along version of “Hey Hey Hey” that featured back-up vocals from everyone in the crowd.