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A banterous night with Angel Olsen (and Paul) at Union Transfer

Angel Olsen | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Gazing into the eyes of the audience like a cat who wants attention, Angel Olsen ever so slightly grazed the strings of her ’79 Gibson S-1 as she sung the words “I ain’t hanging up this time / I ain’t giving up tonight.”

The 1,200 people inside the sold-out Union Transfer sang it with Olsen, who was decked out like Lady Stardust, wearing a glammy and metallic one-piece spacesuit-looking outfit. It was the moment the audience had been waiting for, and they didn’t have to wait very long for it. After opening with “Hi-Five,” a track from Olsen’s 2014 record, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, she dove straight into “Shut Up Kiss Me,” the radio-hit that propelled her into the spotlight. Seconds later, the rest of the band, sporting grey-blue pants and blazers and bolo ties, chimed in for the chorus in their ongoing sloppy-cool, not-trying-too-hard musical style.

It was a ballsy move. Playing your hit song so early on in the setlist? it can open the door for a steep drop-off in energy as the night progresses. But Angel Olsen’s a pro. This ain’t her first rodeo. Continue reading →

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Ron Gallo scares me (in a good way) at the First Unitarian Church

Ron Gallo | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Did you know that every single time Gene Simmons says that rock is dead, a new great rock and roll album is born? Seriously. It’s an actual fact. Or at least I think. Anway, one of the latest people to disprove Simmons — whose idea of rock and roll is to dress up in gothic clown costumes, blast pyrotechnics and sell action figures to distract from the mediocre-ness of his band’s music — is Philly’s own Ron Gallo.

Gallo, who sadly left us for Nashville about two years ago, came back to the city that loves him most (no offense, Nashville, but it’s true) last night to showcase the latest iteration of his ever-evolving style. No longer was he “Americana Ron” or “Roots Rock Ron.” This time around he was “Rock and Roll Ron,” with some other stuff mixed in as well. Continue reading →

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PHOTOS: Bully at the First Unitarian Church

Bully | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Backed by a custom cardboard poster rendering their name in Jello shots (thanks, Paul Vile), Nashville four-piece Bully — the rock and roll trio fronted by singer-guitarist Alicia Bognanno — played the First Unitarian Church basement on Tuesday night. The band is on tour in support of Losing, its second LP and first for Sub Pop. See photos from the show below, and check their U.S. tour dates — which take them all around the country straight through to March.  Continue reading →

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Against Me! brings a sense of community to Union Transfer

Against Me! | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

During the drum intro of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” frontwoman and trans hero Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! announced that she feels uncomfortable in her body 99% of the time, but the 1% of the time she feels comfortable “is right up here onstage with all of you.” That moment, which was about halfway through the set, was a victory for anyone who had been marginalized, picked on or harassed because of how they look, because of who they love, because of who they are. It allowed people to let their guards down, and the crowd’s energy became noticeably more enthusiastic as a result.

That’s not to say it wasn’t enthusiastic to begin with, mind you. From the very beginning of the show, which kicked off with “True Trans Soul Rebel,” the show had all the characteristics of a killer punk show – tattoos, denim vests covered in patches, and enough mosh-energy to power ten city blocks. But by the end of the show, that figure probably doubled to 20. Continue reading →

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Mondo Cozmo finds its calling at Union Transfer

Mondo Cozmo | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

After bouncing around in a few bands earlier in life, including Laguardia and Eastern Conference Champions, Bucks County native Josh Ostrander finally found his calling with Mondo Cozmo in 2015 where he and his band began to pick up steam with the first single, “Shine.” Eventually, one great song would eventually turn into ten when the band released its debut album, Plastic Soul, early last month while the band was on tour playing Lollapalooza in Chicago.

All of the songs off this album were performed last night at a homecoming show at Union Transfer with a few extra covers to boot: The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” Continue reading →

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From “2000 Light Years Away” to “21 Guns,” Green Day bridges generations of pop-punk fans at BB&T

Green Day | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

You know what you’re in for when the pink drunk bunny walks on stage. Anybody who’s seen Green Day before knows the tradition; some dude dressed in a pink bunny costume walks on stage before the East Bay punk faves’ set to rile up the crowd in a drunken fashion, sending a message to the audience that this isn’t going to be like any other rock show. There will be antics. There will be tutus. And there will be rock. Continue reading →

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Sheer Mag delivers a TKO of rock and roll hits at Union Transfer

Sheer Mag | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Look, there’s no arguing the fact that rock and roll is alive and well, OK? Only a fool would say it’s dying. But here me out: if you tried to sell me on the idea of riff rock being a lost art, perhaps I could be persuaded. There’s a flurry of great rock and roll bands out in today’s scene — many, like Strand of Oaks, the War on Drugs and The Districts are from Philadelphia — but how many truly fit within the realm of shredding, riff-oriented rock and roll? I could be wrong, but it seems as if it’s a declining amount. Ever since the early 2000s, successful bands like the Foo Fighters, The Strokes, Spoon and Wilco have written songs around hooky lyrics and melodies pounded through loads of distortion. It’s a formula that’s been proven successful. All of those bands are tremendous, some of them legends, even. But you know what? Sometimes I just want to hear a freakin’ guitar solo. Not just guitar solos either, but songs based around riffy and flashy guitars in the realm of Led Zeppelin or AC/DC.

Punk rooted Philly faves Sheer Mag, who often gets compared to Thin Lizzy, is just that. Saturday night at Union Transfer, Shredder-in-Chief Kyle Seely provided riff-oriented rock at its finest, oozing every note from his Marshall amp with the prowess of an inebriated early-70s Jimmy Page. Frontwoman Tina Halladay added to the aesthetic, as she strutted her stuff and sang about left-leaning politics with the pissed off sneer of John Lydon in his heyday. The band opened the show with the same song they open their latest album, Need to Feel Your Love, “Meet Me in the Street.” The gritty straight-up rocker eventually gave way to the more disco-oriented (yes, disco, you read that right) “Fan the Flames,” making the first two songs of the show a better one-two punch than any you would have seen thrown in the Mayweather-McGregor fight that night. Continue reading →

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Katie Ellen introduces themselves to a psyched PhilaMOCA audience for Cowgirl Blues record release show

Katie Ellen | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Meet Philadelphia’s most exciting new band: Katie Ellen. You’ve seen them around, opening for Cayetana and various other bands over the past year or so. You also might know frontwoman Anika Pyle from her previous, Brooklyn-based band called Chumped. But without a true, full-length LP, you likely never put a name to the face. But that changes today. Continue reading →

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Chaos, Unity and Rock n’ Roll: In deep with Low Cut Connie

Low Cut Connie | courtesy of the artist
Low Cut Connie | courtesy of the artist

Sitting across from me at an uncomfortable metal table outside of Anthony’s Italian Coffee House in the Italian Market, Low Cut Connie’s flamboyant front man Adam Weiner swipes through cheeky black and white pictures of scantily-clad, partying people on his phone. He holds his phone towards me so I can see the pictures too. Pretty closely. In perfect detail. Maybe too much detail.

As he flips through the pictures, he cracks an impish smile and lets off a nostalgic sigh, as if he’d been describing his first kiss or senior year prom date. In front of him sits a large disposable cup of coffee he bought for $3 and change at Anthony’s, which is surely empty by now. It’s approaching 6 p.m. as Weiner and I near the end of a long two-hour interview, which has had its ups and downs. You could say it’s ending on a high note.

“You look at these pictures and you say, what a fucking great mix of people, you know? It’s all just a few hours with Low Cut Connie,” he emotes as the mid-November wind tussles with his stark black wavy hair. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks spaces out Hard Love, rocks out with Baroness at Union Transfer

Strand of Oaks | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Almost ten hours after walking offstage at the World Cafe Live, Strand of Oaks walked onstage at Union Transfer to play their second show of the day. Donned in all black attire and carrying a Goldtop Les Paul, Tim Showalter and co. blasted out the first chords of “Taking Acid and Talking to My Brother,” the psychedelic closer off the band’s latest album, Hard Love. Continue reading →