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West Philly’s new Common Beat Music is ready for business

Carlo Frese and Keri Girmindl of Common Beat Music | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

Last August 19th, Carlo Frese’s up-and-coming electronics and instrument repair workshop burned down in a house fire. He lost all of his guitars and amps, everything he was working on, even his tools. Nobody was hurt, but so much was destroyed. Today, almost exactly a year later, Frese and his partner Keri Girmindl are celebrating the opening of Common Beat Music, their store and repair shop at 49th and Baltimore Avenue.

Very much a catch-all music store, Common Beat will sell records, stereo equipment, instruments, and musical gear, as well as t-shirts and other related ephemera. The repair side of things will be just as wide in scope, Frese told The Key: “I’ll work on whatever. If it plugs in the wall and makes a noise, I’ve worked on it.” That assertive, no BS attitude informs a lot of the philosophy Frese and Girmindl have when it comes to running the shop, which is housed in the former location of Marvelous Music. That business closed in mid-July after 14 years first on 40th St. and then on Baltimore. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Lowest Priority

Lowest Priority | via lowestxpriority.bigcartel.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Lowest Priority / Seattle, Washington
lowestxpriority.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

Lowest Priority is Maya, Luna, Elysa, and Kristin (and sometimes Kerry, too). We are a hardcore punk band from Seattle, Washington, and we’ve been around for close to a year and a half now.

Basically we’re a bunch of girls from different background having a lot of fun, jumping around, screaming our heads off, skating, and trying to spread a positive message for girls, queers, and marginalized identities. Our music is fast and the lyrics are very to the point. I talk a lot about my personal experiences and growing as a young person in addition to women empowerment and just exclaiming that, ‘We don’t take no bullshit from no bonehead men.’

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

I’ve been anticipating Break Free Fest for a really long time, and I’m very honored we were asked to play. I’m really excited to be around my people…. The Northwest is very white and there are not a lot of brown and black people in the punk scene around here. Or in general our creative scene is very white. I’m just very excited to be around a more diverse crowd and an environment where we all feel safe and comfortable, vibrant, empowered, and we can all rock the fuck out. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Soul Glo

Soul Glo | photo by Joey Tobin via soulglophl.bandcamp.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Soul Glo / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
soulglophl.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

In our band currently are vocalist Pierce, guitarist Ruben, bassist GG, and drummer Jamie. Soul Glo has existed since July 2014. Essentially our music is the sound of the yelling and cussing in our heads as we field the various microaggressions of our lives.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

When it comes to Break Free, we’re most excited about the commingling of Black and Brown people who make and love to hear punk and hardcore. We’re most excited about being surrounded by those people and hopefully seeing this become an annual event, if it doesn’t exhaust Scout too much to do so. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Body Pressure

Body Pressure | photo by Yoni Kroll

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Body Pressure / Austin, Texas
bodypressure.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

Body Pressure is a band whose message and lyrics are the forefront of our existence and the driving force. I (Faiza) write about my experience as a femme and person of color as well as deconstructing societal constructs created to continue colonization and perpetuate white supremacy. We played our first show in October 2015 with G.L.O.S.S at our favorite queer bar, Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin, Texas and went on our first tour a couple of months ago.

Body Pressure is Bryan Taylor, Faiza Kracheni, Melissa Curtis and Thomas Rabon.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

Break Free is important to exist because people of color are most often bound in communities that are the majority white people and because of that, I personally (often) feel I have to have some sort of guard up or silence myself in ways to appease the white masses. Not anymore. We are here, we exist and we refuse to bow. Being in a space that was created by and for us is a feeling that I am so excited to feel.  Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: S-21

S-21 | photo by Ben Trogdon | vbdbct.tumblr.com | via s-21.bandcamp.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

S-21 / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
s-21.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

S-21 is Cella, Brian, Nneka, Tiff and Cassidy and we’ve been around since September 2015.  S-21’s name comes from the notorious prison that the Khmer Rouge used to commit atrocities on Cambodians in the 1970’s and is particularly personal to Cella, S-21’s vocalist, who is the daughter of a Cambodian refugee and who lost family members due to the Cambodian genocide.  Heavily influenced by Japanese punk metal and mid 80’s US/NYHC, S-21 beats down on white supremacy, genocide, toxic masculinity, erasure, objectification and police brutality.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

We are most excited about sharing a space with other people who have lived through the experience of being black and brown in this world. It’s significant for us to create our spaces and platforms and to not always feel like guests being invited to spaces that are created on the terms and conditions of white musicians, which is more often than not the default dynamic. For us to acknowledge the identity of being a person of color in music is to be real about our shared experiences. Sharing a stage with others who have been able to harness a sense of agency through music and against the standard hierarchy of music is a form of empowerment, and we are excited to have this experience for one day. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Minority Threat

Minority Threat | via minoritythreat.bandcamp.com

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Minority Threat / Columbus, Ohio
minoritythreat.bandcamp.com

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

Minority Threat is Jordan (vocals), Antonio (drums), Winston (bass) and Darrell (guitar). We’ve been doing the band for about two years. We all grew up in punk/hardcore in different cities all over Ohio, and none of us had bands around that spoke on issues from a person of color’s perspective. Once we all met, we decided to make the band we always wanted to see.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

Every other band that’s playing. The lineup is unreal. Continue reading →

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How Get Better Fest is delivering on the promise of hardcore and punk

Get Better Fest 3 | photo by Jeff Hersch | courtesy of Get Better Records
Get Better Fest 3 | photo by Jeff Hersch | courtesy of the artist

Alex Licktenhour wears their identity on their sleeve. Literally. The 27-year-old head of Get Better Records and the driving force behind the festival of the same name recently got the label’s logo, a sunflower bursting out of an upside down pink triangle, tattooed on the back of their arm. That logo, Lickenhour said, is a representation of, “Queerness [and] being non-binary.” Considering the history of the pink triangle being used to mark LGBTQ+ people in Nazi Germany, it also makes an obvious political statement.

This mixture of the personal and the political is reflected in their approach to running the label – going since 2010 – and booking the festival, which is happening for the fourth time at the end of this month. “I feel like through the label [and festival] I broadcast my politics,” Licktenhour explained. “Who is on the label, what I’m talking about. My politics are very open in terms of what I support and what I don’t support.”

Right now that includes a slew of releases from queer grindcore collective +HIRS+ (for whom Licktenhour is an occasional live drummer), rock n’ rollers Thin Lips, the post-G.L.O.S.S. band Tankini, and the final album from folk punk stalwarts Ramshackle Glory. Just as exciting is the recent announcement that the label would be putting out an album by Dark Thoughts, as well as the cassette release of Cayetana’s forthcoming New Kind of Normal.

What’s the unifying thread running through all these bands, outside of the fact that most are from Philadelphia? The label’s no-nonsense slogan addresses that: “DIY label. For the queers. No sexist, no racist, no transphobic, no homophobic, no apologist bullshit tolerated.”

The festival is a natural extension of that, especially since it serves as a fundraiser for progressive and radical non-profits. This year Get Better Fest – April 28th through the 30th – will be benefitting the Trans Assistance Project, Youth Emergency Services, and Women Against Abuse. Shows will be held at Glitter Galaxy, the First Unitarian Church and PhilaMOCA.

 

Continue reading →