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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 →

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Hamilton Leithauser induces goosebumps at Johnny Brenda’s

Hamilton Leithauser | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

“You guys should be more quiet,” Hamilton Leithauser sarcastically told the silent audience at Johnny Brenda’s as they scrambled to pick their jaws up off the floor.

Leithauser had just belted out the last chorus of “Sick As a Dog,” in which the singer had crooned the words “I use the saaaame voice I alwaaaaays haaaaaaave” to an awestruck crowd of lucky bastards who managed to procure a ticket to one of the most highly coveted shows you’re ever going to see at JB’s. It was only the second song of the night (Leithauser opened the show with “You Ain’t That Young Kid,” another off of his album with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij entitled I Had a Dream That You Were Mine), and the patrons on the floor and in the balcony had already gotten their money’s worth. What could possibly come next? Continue reading →

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They Came. They Saw. They Conquered: The Orwells at Underground Arts

The Orwells | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN
The Orwells | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

BuzzFeed can suck it. Punk rock is alive and well in the Millenial generation, and if you need proof look no further than The Orwells. The group of early-twenty-somethings who hail from the rural outskirts of Chicago grew up with a punk rock education that’s become increasingly prevalent among today’s college-aged kids. The group’s new album set to come out this February, Terrible Human Beings, will likely be the latest addition to a flurry of great garage-punk albums to come out in recent years.

It’s a list of bands that’s becoming ever more impressive, featuring acts like FIDLAR, Twin Peaks, Speedy Ortiz, Bully, Tacocat, Downtown Boys, The Summer Cannibals, and Philly’s own Sheer Mag. But without a doubt, chief among them is The Orwells. The Orwells have a more melodic take on punk than most other punk bands; it’s a sound not unlike that of The Replacements or The Clash. The band’s two albums to date are brilliant, but the band’s live show is what makes them stand out.

That show was on full display Friday night at Underground Arts. The Orwells kicked things off with the latest single from the new album called “They Put a Body in the Bayou,” sending the overwhelmingly under-25 crowd into a moshing frenzy. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Ultimate Guide to Summer Music Festivals 2016 – Part Two

made in america
Made in America crowd | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

A few months ago, we gave you The Key’s Guide to Summer Music Festivals Part One, and we promised to follow up later in the summer with Part Two. Well, that time is now! We’ve compiled everything you need to know about all the music festivals for the second half of summer, including dates, locations and who’s playing what — with a focus on Philadelphia artists on the various lineups — all presented in chronological order. Don’t worry, you can thank us later. On with the festivals! Continue reading →