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Son Little fights distractions, slays at Johnny Brenda’s homecoming

Son Little | Photo by Sameer Rao
Son Little | Photo by Sameer Rao

As we mentioned in our preview of Son Little’s homecoming show at Johnny Brenda’s last Friday, nothing stops him from putting on a tight, compelling show.

Even though Aaron Livingston dealt with technical difficulties, a restless sold-out crowd, and some audience members showing complete disregard for him during soft songs, he ultimately regrouped and went on to play a stellar set. Joined at times by guests like DRGN King’s Lucy Stone, Son Little tore through a barn-storming and eventually-transfixing (through no fault of his own) group of songs that included cuts from his excellent new self-titled album, some older pieces, and even a sultry cover of Drake’s Hotline Bling. Continue reading →

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Son Little brings his homecoming show to Johnny Brenda’s

Son Little
Son Little | photo by Anthony Saint James

Earlier this year, I bore witness to one of the greatest things any concertgoer can ever see.

It was a WXPN Free At Noon show. The artist: Son Little, the Philly-based singer/guitarist whose minimalist take on old-school soul and R&B repurposes a classic American art form for new ears. Dressed simply in a beanie and nondescript flannel, he was nonetheless extremely magnetic, playing and singing by himself to open one of his songs, I think “Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches.” Everybody in attendance was in the palm of his hand. Well before the release of his highly-acclaimed, self-titled album on indie/rock giant ANTI- last month, he had all the trappings of someone on his way to big things.

Continue reading →

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Do Philly’s mayoral candidates care about the local music community?

Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Kurt Vile performs at Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

We here at The Key, for a number of reasons, tend to avoid being overtly political. But as our hometown nears tomorrow’s mayoral primary election, we’re compelled to wonder what the new mayor is willing to do for the community which we cover, investigate, support, and celebrate.

It’s not easy to be a musician in any city, and a lot of the support that Philly mayors have offered the music scene has been more symbolic than practical. In other words, Kurt Vile may have been given a city medal and celebrated with Kurt Vile Day, but policies such as musicians-only parking zones adjacent to venues remain in the idea stage. Still, musicians from all backgrounds have been an important part of our city’s national and international branding, and candidates should be paying attention to how to make their world better.

So, do Philly’s seven main mayoral candidates (six Democrats in Tuesday’s primary and one Republican) care about our city’s scrappy, diverse, tight-knit and generally excellent (though we’re clearly biased) music community? Continue reading →

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Restorations, Young Statues and Broken Spirit captivate at Johnny Brenda’s

Restorations | Photo by Sameer Rao
Restorations | Photo by Sameer Rao

A brief, humble salutation by a recently de-beareded Jon Loudon preceded three snare hits before Philly’s own beloved Restorations launched into “Misprint” and kicked off a searing set at Johnny Brenda’s. This was the quintet’s first Philadelphia show in months, capping off a long tour in support of their excellent and sophisticated LP3, whose roomy and anthemic songs punctuated key points throughout the set (which also featured many songs from 2013’s LP2). Continue reading →

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Kate Faust turns down at her sky-high Eros EP listening party

Kate Faust | Photo by John Vettese
Kate Faust | Photo by John Vettese

“Could you tell that I was about to cry?”

It’s hard to hear Kate Faust, the singer-songwriter whose RnB-meets-pop-meets-electro songs have teased Key readers for the past few years, when she asks me this. A crowd of nearly 50 people – a similarly-eclectic bunch, featuring members of her family mixed in with local scene mainstays like King Britt, Ross Bellenoit – hovers near us while songs from her upcoming Eros EP play over speakers (Charlie Patierno, who co-produced Eros with Kate, was notably in the audience as well). It’s a bit of a surreal scene, not least of all because of where Kate hosted this intimate, barely-advertised listening party and solo show. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sameer Rao’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches of 2014 (Philly edition)

Brielle | Photo via twitter.com/aprilfoolchild

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Sameer Rao talks about songs that make you feel.

In case you didn’t read and feel what I wrote and felt last year, let it be known far and wide that 2014 was yet another hell of a year for nerve-poking chords, chill-inducing croons, and all manner of music that brought on heavy cases of the feels. And since this was a banner year for local artists of all stripes, we’re making this one Philly-exclusive. Get your tissues out for this list. Continue reading →

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Gear Stories: Mike Polizze of Purling Hiss

Purling Hiss | Photo by John Vettese
Purling Hiss | Photo by John Vettese

The means of production guiding our favorite songs and records are, to a great many, shrouded in mystery and reverential confusion. How do guitars make screaming noises? Do snare drums of different sizes pop at different pitches? What, exactly, is an EQ?

Gear Stories seeks to bridge those gaps by offering insight into what our favorite local artists are playing, what those pieces of equipment mean (or don’t), and highlight the unique means by which Philly musicians and gearmakers are constantly pushing the aural envelope. From Gamble & Huff to Questlove, Philly artists have led the way in sonic innovations and left their imprint on generations of music around the world.

For our inaugural installment, we spoke to Purling Hiss frontman and guitarist Mike Polizze last week while he and the band toured in support of their latest album Weirdon, out now on Drag City records. Among other aspects of his technical evolution, Mike addressed his minimalist set-up and its importance to Purling Hiss’s guitar-centric, hazy sound. Continue reading →

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Sunny Ali and the Kid talk scene politics, The Kominas, and the last Rockers! show of the year

Photo courtesy of artist
Photo courtesy of artist

Amongst punk-leaning and DIY-defined artists in this city, Sunny Ali and the Kid are virtually peerless. Singer/guitarist Hassan Malik and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Abdullah Saeed took their music through an evolution from cheeky rockabilly and minimalist garage rock to a newer sound that incorporates electronics and ethereal soundscapes – all the while vaguely repurposing South Asian musical themes and punk urgency in punchy songs that defy easy categorization.

The band took a significant break through a roughly year-and-a-half-long period that saw Saeed’s journalism work flourish (he works with several publications and writes a popular VICE column on marijuana) and both his and Malik’s ongoing work with The Kominas, a punk band known for songs that similarly play with South Asian and Islamic musical tropes while incorporating lyrics that involve jabs at Western misconceptions of Muslim belief.

As men of Pakistani descent with a comprehensive and intuitive understanding of why their music and livelihoods defy racial stereotyping, Sunny Ali and the Kid personify the mission that the folks behind Rockers! (whose events highlight artists who otherwise don’t fit into the white-male-heterosexual-dominated rock world) take into every show. This is probably why Malik and Saeed are playing their first show in two years by headlining the last Rockers! show of 2014 at West Philly Ethiopian spot Dahlak Paradise.

We caught up with Malik and asked him about their return, race and class in scene politics, handling geographical divides and making music with a mission. Continue reading →

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Halfro releases Squalor, gets funky at album release show this Saturday

Photo by Dan Lidon
Halfro | Photo by Dan Lidon

To see Philly-based hip-hop quartet Halfro play live is to partake in one of the most fun and rare experiences a live show-lover can have: a young band with impeccable execution that gives its always-eclectic audience a raucous party while showing no sign of stagnation.  When the band drops their debut self-released EP Squalor at Saturday’s album release show at 3rd and Girard, audiences will get to hear that energy dropped straight into a lively, sometimes-existential-always-rollicking record that successfully captures a great deal of their live show’s immense power. Continue reading →