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The Skeleton Key: The end of the year, called and counted, filled with reggae, klezmer, punk, film screenings, and more

Pinkwash | photo by Yoni Kroll | courtesy of the artist

Everybody is out here with their 2018 top ten list and I’m still completely obsessed with one of last year’s favorites, the self-titled debut from jazz quintet Irreversible Entanglements. It’s not just the music or the lyrics or the delivery, all of which are, for the record, incredible. Really it’s the fact that I still haven’t had the chance to see them play despite them being from here. Somebody please book this band a show in Philadelphia! Continue reading →

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Music of Metamorphosis: Inside the Butterfly Pavilion performance from Portland’s Visible Cloaks and Philly’s Chrysalis Ensemble

Visible Cloaks | via facebook.com/bowerbirdPHL

It’s easy to understand the appeal of butterflies. They’re beautiful, delicate, very much elegant in a way. But of course they don’t start out like that. Butterfly eggs look like a pile of small beads balanced precariously on the edge of a leaf. The caterpillars hatched from those eggs are decidedly not elegant, though they can look pretty neat. We talk about the transformative nature of cocoons and but that process is violent and rather gory. So while the end result might be this beautiful creature flying around our gardens, that’s not the whole story, not by a long shot.

This Friday at the Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion and Insectarium in Northeast Philly, a group of musicians will be diving deep into the topic. The Bowerbird-presented event, which will be held in the 7,000 square foot pavilion that’s home to thousands of butterflies, features performances from Portland duo Visible Cloaks, who have been celebrated for their minimal ambient synth-driven songs, and Philadelphia’s The Chrysalis Ensemble. Continue reading →

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Buy Local, Have Fun: 10 flea markets, pop ups, and other DIY spots to do your holiday shopping

Cherry Street Pier will be the site of the R5 Productions Punk Rock Flea Market | via Facebook

Say what you will about the nature of consumerism – especially around this time of year – but giving and getting gifts really is great. And if you’re going to shop, you might as well shop local. To that end, we at The Key felt like it was important to highlight some of the various flea markets, art auctions, pop-up craft shows, and everything else along those lines happening between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There’s just so much going on in our city that narrowing this down to ten events was the best way to go about things. The list includes everything from a traditional flea market with a punk rock bent to a vegan pop-up store to an art auction and more. This will be presented in chronological order so think of it as your calendar for the next month. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: The ABCs of November with Adrian and Ali, Bowerbird and bugs, CraftNOW, Daydream Nation, and more

On The Water | photo by L.J. Brubaker | goodolljb.biz | courtesy of the artist

These days it’s so tempting to revel in the awfulness of the world, to throw your hands up and just give in to this feeling that nothing will ever change. Bad news has been coming from all sides and whatever respite we can get is incredibly fleeting. I’m reminded of the song “Another Happy Day” from 90’s Westchester punks 2.5 Children Inc. that has the line, “You said cheer up and I’m trying / But it’s hard when the whole world’s dying.” And that was written almost 25 years ago! Continue reading →

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That Was Then, This Is Now: An oral history of Philly hardcore cult favorites Flag Of Democracy

Flag of Democracy | photo by Yoni Kroll | courtesy of the artist

Picture this: it’s 1982 and punk and hardcore are beginning to take hold in Philadelphia. Three obsessed and eager teenagers decide to form a band. As luck would have it, their friends are booking the show of the year — Washington D.C.’s Minor Threat, considered at the time one of the finest bands around and today to be absolutely legendary — and these suburban teens are asked if they’d open. The band goes up on stage and rips through a fantastically wild set despite it being their first show ever. Everybody is blown away.

In the movie version of this story that would be it. Maybe they learned a valuable lesson. Maybe they didn’t. The final scene is one of those epic montages showing everybody growing up and the reunion three decades on where you might think they’re all normal adults who aren’t angry at the world because they’ve figured it all out but surprise surprise they show up in leather jackets ready to play their second show ever! Roll final credits and …

But wait: this all actually happened and that band, they’re still playing breakneck pissed off hardcore punk. In fact, they never stopped. That’s the world of Flag of Democracy, one of the finest acts to ever come out of Philadelphia and to this day a cult favorite around the world. Continue reading →

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Sammus, Pinkwash and more will play benefit gig for MLC at Everybody Hits

Sammus | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Music might be the healing force of the universe, as Albert Ayler famously proclaimed, but it’s also just an excellent way of getting people together. That’s the idea behind Friday’s benefit show for the Mass Liberation Campaign at Everybody Hits with Sammus, Pinkwash, Soul Glo, and Likes.

The MLC is part of Reclaim Philly, a grassroots organization that, “endorses and supports progressive candidates and policies that fight for a vision of putting working people before the profits of corporations and the super rich,” according to their website. Specifically this campaign is aimed at reducing the number of people affected by mass incarceration. Continue reading →

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“The ethic of taking care of ourselves” fuels new benefit comp with tracks from Void Vision, Plastic Ivy, and more

Casey Grabowski performs as Secret Societies | still from video

Cancer is a cruel disease. It kills slowly, sometimes over the course of years, and even when it’s been cut and irradiated out of the body there’s still always that worry it may come back. Likewise, there is no quick solution, no easy fix. Treating cancer can take years and is incredibly taxing on the body, mind, and last but not least the wallet.

Local musician and artist Casey Grabowski has been living with stage four pancreatic cancer since 2017. Known both in electronic music circles – he played as Nearest, Obligate Surrogate, and Secret Societies and booked events for years – and as the founder of the Philadelphia Zine Fest, Grabowski, a civil engineer by trade, has been unable to work during that time. His wife and main caretaker Michelle Dewey set up an ongoing digital fundraiser that has allowed the couple to tread water while he receives medical care.

Still, even with the help of friends and strangers, they are seriously struggling to get by. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: October is haunted with thrift store discos, horror flicks in cemeteries, and gigs from Swearin’ to Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

“This year Halloween fell on a weekend and me and the Geto Boys were …” Wait a minute! Halloween isn’t on a weekend this year! But even when it falls on a Wednesday I’m still more excited for Halloween than just about any other day out of the year. It’s not just the special, yearly concerts – Dead Milkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, all the cover shows happening around town – though that’s a huge part of it. Halloween is this huge celebration of the weird and the wonderful, an excuse to dress up and have fun and get real obsessed with ghosts. And there’s really no better city for Halloween than Philadelphia, which embraces the holiday the second the clock turns midnight on October 1st.

Welcome to the Skeleton Key, your monthly DIY calendar and column here in The Key. Let’s get spooky! Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Dancehall reggae from Jamaica, psych noise from Italy, post-punk from England…September has you covered!

Hurry Up! | photo via R5 Productions

It’s unreal just how much is happening in Philly this month. I know, I know: I say that every column. But it’s true! Never forget how lucky we are to be living in this great city that has so much going on every single night. Welcome to the September edition of the Skeleton Key. From space rock at PhilaMOCA to Mexican Independence Day at Penn’s Landing to all kinds of punk: we’ve got you covered. Continue reading →

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Volunteer Powered: Meet the people behind the scenes that make Philadelphia Folk Fest happen

Philadelphia Folk Festival | photo by Lisa Schaffer | SkylerBug.com

There’s a lot of things that make the Philadelphia Folk Festival one-of-a-kind. It’s not just that it’s the longest continuously-run outdoor festival in North America, having just completed its 57th year. It’s not just the lineup, which manages to be both entertaining but also diverse and interesting. It’s not even that it’s the first outdoor festival in the United States to take the Keychange pledge to achieve performer gender parity.

In fact, the festival has in many ways transcended the music by creating a community, a family really, that gets together for a few days out of the year to camp, catch up, and watch bands play on the stages and in the campsite. It’s within that group of festival diehards and excited newcomers that you find what truly makes Folk Fest unique: the more than 2,000 volunteers that serve as the backbone for this annual undertaking. Continue reading →