By

Still Freaky After Thirty Years: Revisiting Philly’s fearless EDO ahead of their School of Rock gig

Edo, circa 1994

Philadelphia always gets typecast as the underdog, this city of illusion-of-grandeur miscreants that drastically wants to be NYC or D.C. or whatever else but can’t. You probably know of the “6th Borough” label or the Rocky lovable loser trope or any of the articles that question why anybody would even try and find success in our wonderful city. Hell, even the Fresh Prince had to move to Bel-Air before he could make something of himself.

This is nonsense. Philly doesn’t want to be New York or anywhere else. Like we’re supposed to care about what goes on in those high-strung, obnoxiously stressful cities and somehow bend and break ourselves to fit that mold. What’s great about this city, our city, is that we’re not that. We don’t have to play by their rules. People in Philadelphia have always created their own scenes and that music, that art, is the essence of what makes us unique. It’s weird, freaky, and very much does not need to fit in.

Step into any West Philly basement and you’re almost guaranteed to see a band that sounds like nothing else out there and absolutely slays. If you were the kind of person to look for clues in history, here’s a hint: it’s been almost five decades since Sun Ra and his Arkestra landed in Germantown and rewrote the rules of jazz and really music as a whole. There is literally no end to the examples of Philly bands that have decided to do whatever it is they felt compelled to do, even if nobody else cared. Underdogs we are clearly not.

“I don’t know enough about other music scenes to know if all cities have it, but I feel like Philadelphia has such a strong undercurrent of weird shit.” That’s Eliot Duhan, lead singer of a band that’s a perfect example of all that: EDO. Since their formation at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD back in 1987 – they moved to Philly soon after graduation – the band has continuously defied norms and expectations. Somewhere between Frank Zappa’s matter-of-fact weirdness, the Butthole Surfers’ freakout rock, and the outer space groove of Parliament Funkadelic, EDO (the meaning of the name has been lost to history) occupies a singular position in Philly punk history, even if you’ve never heard of them. Continue reading →

By

Maximizing Time: Philly’s Justin Duerr on constant immersion in music, writing and visual art

Justin Duerr performs with Northern Liberties | photo by Yoni Kroll

You might know Justin Duerr from Resurrect Dead, the award-winning documentary he helped make about Toynbee Tiles, the colorful and mysterious messages embedded in roads in Philadelphia, NYC, and elsewhere. You might know him from his bands, including the long-running ‘ghost punk’ outfit Northern Liberties or the acoustic duo Get the Great Cackler he does with his partner Mandy Katz. You might have seen his one-of-a-kind art on a t-shirt or a show flyer or maybe hanging on your friend’s wall. Or you might just have seen Justin intently walking around Philadelphia, tattoos stretching from the side of his head to the tops of his hands – including a portrait of pop singer Cyndi Lauper gracing his left hand – and wondered, “What’s up with that guy?”

Opening Friday at the Magic Gardens on South Street, Time’s Funeral: Drawings and Poems by Justin Duerr is a gallery exhibition including small, stand-alone pieces and huge posters that are part of an on-going storytelling series that Justin has been working on for almost two decades. As an added bonus, he’ll be playing music at the opening night. Continue reading →

By

Yalla Habibi! Philadelphia’s first ever Middle Eastern punk festival, YallaPunk, starts tonight

Puzzlehead
Vancouver’s Puzzlehead plays The Barbary during YallaPunk | photo courtesy of the artist

“YallaPunk is a direct response to negative depictions of populations of Middle Eastern and North African descent in mainstream media. This event is meant to highlight creative accomplishments of MENA individuals and serve as a safe space forum for discourse about social issues. The idea is to celebrate music, art, film and other cultural artifacts created by this particular population in an intersectional and inclusive space free from sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and bigotry.” – From YallaPunk.com

Even though this is the inaugural YallaPunk, the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) punk festival happening this weekend at various venues including Johnny Brenda’s and The Barbary, its roots stretch back more than 16 years to Blacksburg, Virginia. Festival organizer Rana Fayez grew up there, a young Arab-American immigrant trying to adjust to a new country. She had been in the United States for just a year when September 11th happened and everything changed.

After a particularly bad altercation with some older classmates who accused her of being complicit with the attacks, “… I thought ever since that people think I’m violent now, people think I’m not a good person. I felt very separated from my peers. I felt very isolated.” She soon found a home in her local punk scene. As she explained, “[Punk] gave me the guts to say: ‘I am who I want to be, not who you tell me to be.’”

Punk wasn’t just loud, angry music and a feeling of rebellion, though that was all very important. According to Fayez, “It was liberating. It was free. Punk rock shows were a sanctuary for me because I could exist [there] and a lot of my friends really accepted me.” Continue reading →

By

Meet the music makers of the Philadelphia Folk Festival Campground

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

Hours after Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo wowed thousands on the main stage at the 56th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival last weekend, Andy Walko wowed a couple dozen people over in the Hoagie campsite where a pickup band was running through the standards.

Walko isn’t a professional musician. A retired schoolteacher with a lifelong love of music, he’s been coming to Folk Fest for close to four decades and playing upright bass in the immense campgrounds adjacent to the stages for about half that time. It might not seem like he deserves to be mentioned in the same paragraph as the world-famous bluesman Taj Mahal, but Walko is just as important as any other performer at this volunteer-run festival in beautiful Upper Salford, PA. Continue reading →

By

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 →

By

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 →

By

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 →

By

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 →

By

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 →

By

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 →