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HIRS lines up a hit parade of guests, from Shirley Manson to Laura Jane Grace and Marissa Paternoster, for new LP

HIRS’ Friends. Lovers. Favorites. LP cover art | via SRA Records

The only thing more exciting than the mere existence of a new LP by the always brilliant Philadelphia punks HIRS is the veritable who’s who of feminist and queer icons lending their voices to Friends. Lovers. Favorites.

They include Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Shirley Manson (Garbage), Sadie Switchblade (G.L.O.S.S.), Martin Crudo (Limp Wrist), Alice Bag (The Bags), and Marissa Paternoster (Screaming Females), along with many more. The album will be released April 20th jointly by Get Better Records and SRA Records, and pre-orders are available here. Continue reading →

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The Guests link Popular Music and populist politics on their new LP

The Guests | photo by Kevin Spaghetti | courtesy of the artist
The Guests | photo by Kevin Spaghetti | courtesy of the artist

It would be easy to ignore the message on Popular Music, the new album by Philadelphia new wave act The Guests, because the songs are just so damn pleasant. The band knows this. That’s why they’ve put their politics front and center, making it all almost impossible to ignore. You can hear this in their lyrics, with songs like, “Kicked and Punched, Rounded Up, and Stunned” and “Watching the War” driving home the band’s anti-capitalist, populist platform.

Despite having formed in late 2014, this is The Guests’ first full length release, following two cassettes and a European-pressed record collecting the songs from the tapes. According to guitarist Alki Meimaris, the band, made up of him, Florence Lin on synth, lead singer Christian Vogan, Kyle Seely on drums, and his brother Hart on bass, has always kept the same intentional approach to making music: “The purpose of the band is to make the idea of radical left politics more approachable as a solution to global issues of poverty and inequality, to whoever listens.” Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Moor Mother exhibition, Bowerbird series, Two Piece Fest XI, and more new music than you can shake a greased pole at.

Slutever plays Two Piece Fest in 2013 | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

While the post-Superbowl riot might be the DIY event of the season, there’s a lot more going on this month than just a bunch of greased poles on Broad Street

Hi! Welcome to the second edition of The Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column just fighting the good fight against mediocrity and boredom. While we might (still) be in the middle of winter, warm weather –  and with it, touring season –  is on the horizon. I promise!

There was no better reminder of that than the recent announcement by R5 that Lighting Bolt and Moor Mother would be playing the First Unitarian Church at the end of March. While Lighting Bolt could sell out the Church all on their own, the fact that the good people at R5 are having Moor Mother open makes for a truly amazing and electric night. Which is to say: I really hope you got tickets because it sold out almost immediately. Continue reading →

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Powerful, Poignant, Fun: Open City celebrates City of Ash this weekend

Open City | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of Get Better Records
Open City | photo by Scott Troyan | scotttroyan.com | courtesy of Get Better Records

How much can you pack into just two songs? If you’re Open City, the answer is a ton. The hardcore quartet’s new 7” record City of Ash is seven minutes of incredibly powerful, poignant, and fun music. You might not consider ‘fun’ as being an important quality when it comes to purposely political art, but nobody wants to listen to something that is dull, even if it does share their ideals. Think of it as a ‘the medium is the message’ sort of thing. City of Ash is anything but dull. Continue reading →

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How Philly’s Perry Shall went from basement show punk to in-house artist for Dan Auerbach

Perry Shall
Perry Shall | photo by Alyssa Tanchajja | courtesy of the artist

You might not know Perry Shall by name, but if you’re a music fan in Philadelphia, you’ve almost certainly heard the longhaired rocker in one of his many bands or seen his art gracing the albums and t-shirts of some of your favorite acts. You might have even heard him on WFMU’s The Best Show – he has the show’s slogan WE GET IT / THEY DON’T tattooed on his wrists – or seen the wildly popular SuperDeluxe video about his immense vintage t-shirt collection, 1400 and counting.

He is the very definition of a man about town, though these days that town isn’t just Philly: Shall has been doing much of the art and design work for Nashville-based label Easy Eye Sound, run by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Don’t worry, he’s not leaving us for the Music City. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves this city as much as Perry does and I suspect he’ll never live anywhere else. Continue reading →

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Introducing The Skeleton Key: Our new DIY scene gossip column covering Bowie donuts to a Dead Moon tribute this month

via dischord.com

Philadelphia is a really huge city. Like, absolutely massive. Next time you have the chance to fly into or out of PHL, take a good long look out the window: it really is the sixth largest city in the country, and that’s not even counting what’s referred to as the Greater Philadelphia Area AKA the ‘burbs and South Jersey. For most people, the city is limited geographically to where you live, where you work or go to school, and maybe some other landmarks around town. There are plenty of people who rarely find themselves in Center City and others who have never stepped foot in the suburbs.

As the place for Philadelphia music news, The Key strives to reach all citizens of our great city, no matter where they live. To that end, we present our newest column, The Skeleton Key. Our aim with this is not just to supply all of you with the latest news and rumors about everything going on in the city but also to better promote some of the bands that might be a bit more under the radar.

Before I move on to this month’s edition, a quick bit of housekeeping: I want to make sure that it’s quite clear that the idea for this is very much in homage to – that’s the nice way of saying ripping off, right? – the great work my fellow Key contributor A.D. Amorosi did for more than two decades at The City Paper, specifically the regular column he wrote called The Icepack. Also, a quick bit about me! I am a music journalist and photographer, a college radio DJ at WKDU 91.7FM, and someone who has been going to shows for way too long. I’ve also started booking bands over the past few years, which is both wonderfully rewarding and the biggest pain in the ass known to man.

Here are some of the topics this column will cover: upcoming shows, news about bands going into the studio or putting out albums, promotion of other bits of music journalism you might have missed, talk about old bands, rumors about new ones, and everything in between. If you want to send in some HOT TIPS or COOL RUMORS – I know you do! – you can reach me via e-mail or find me on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s favorites from the Philly DIY scene

S-21 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Yoni Kroll highlights the best of the Philly DIY underground.

You know what really grinds my gears? Those people who go on and on about how, “There’s no good music being made anymore.” You know who they are: all they want to do is tell you about how music ended in the 60s or the 70s or the 80s or … well, I can’t imagine anyone would say that about the 90s. But it’s a possibility. Anyway, they’re wrong. They’re quite wrong. And you know how I know that? Cause here’s a list of some of the best DIY music to come out in Philadelphia alone just in 2017.

So read it, check out all the bands listed, and the next time somebody tells you that there’s no good music anymore, show them this list and laugh in their face. Continue reading →

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Catching up with Jon Solomon of WPRB, Philly’s (other) Christmas marathon DJ

Jon Solomon on the air on WPRB with his daughter Maggie | courtesy of Jon Solomon

Every year, while all of you who celebrate Christmas are at home with your family and friends – and those of you who don’t celebrate are getting Chinese food and going to the movies – Jon Solomon is hanging out deep in the basement of a building on Princeton’s campus, blasting out holiday tunes over the airwaves of WPRB 103.3FM for 25 straight hours.

For many people, Jon Solomon 25-Hour Holiday Radio Show on WPRB is just as much part of their holiday tradition as decorating the tree or exchanging gifts… or Chinese food and the latest blockbuster film. It begins at 5 p.m. on December 24th and runs through 6 p.m. on December 25th. For fans of DJ Robert Drake’s The Night Before on WXPN, overlap isn’t too extensive — Drake is on hour 17 of 25 when Solomon begins his shift, and it’s easy (and fun) to bounce between the two.

For Solomon, his playlist is not (just) the Christmas music of your youth. While he does end up playing a lot of traditionals, or at least covers of them, he’s constantly on the hunt for songs he hasn’t heard before. Sometimes that’s an actual new track and sometimes it’s one from years ago that just hadn’t popped up before. There are also short stories about the holidays recorded by both strangers and friends, including some pretty well-known names that speak to the fact that Jon has been a highly-regarded DJ on a highly-regarded college radio station for a very long time.

We caught up with Jon two weeks before this year’s marathon — his 29th — to talk about being on the radio for three decades (he started at WPRB as a teenager), his love of Christmas music despite his Jewish background, and his upcoming holiday-themed DJ night at Johnny Brenda’s, which happens tonight from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Find out more about Jon and the marathon over on his website. Continue reading →

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Inside Urban Styles, a new book exploring the intersections of graffiti and hardcore

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore by Freddy Alva is available now | via Amazon

Arguments about legality and aesthetics aside, the term DIY is never more applicable than when you’re talking about graffiti. How much more Do It Yourself is there than putting your art, whatever it might be, directly on a wall for everyone to see? There’s good reason graffiti has been around for all of recorded history: it’s completely accessible but also quite subversive and potentially dangerous. It’s also just so totally badass to write graffiti. You might be doing something illegal but you’re doing something illegal in the name of art. How cool is that?!

There’s a lot of parallels to be made between graffiti and punk. Both rose to a certain amount of cultural prominence in the 70s and 80s. Both owe a lot to people of color who trailblazed the path in places like New York City and Southern California. Both have occupied that funny place in society where they’re both accepted as a sort of protest but also serve as an example of everything that is morally wrong, oftentimes in the same sentence.

So while graffiti is most-often associated with hip-hop, it’s no wonder that there was crossover between the two, a shared movement starting in the early 80s and really coming to a head in the New York hardcore scene of the late 80s and early 90s. Freddy Alva’s new book, Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, is an incredibly in-depth history of that period, documenting the bands, the graffiti crews, and the style and fashion of this cultural phenomenon. Continue reading →

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Festival celebrating DIY publishing in Philadelphia returns to the Rotunda today

A 1982 edition of Savage Pink | via Fanzine Addiction

The Philly Zine Fest has been going strong for 15 years now, an annual gathering of zine makers, zine readers, and just all around zine nerds. They come to The Rotunda every year to share in a community that’s based around a shared love of DIY attitude and ethics and being able to express whatever it is you need to express in printed form. That can range from poetry and art to personal stories to zines about specific topics, like cooking or bike maintenance or politics.

In many ways, the zine, in its most pure photocopied and stapled form, is like a song or album created and recorded by a DIY band. There’s the initial idea that is tweaked and shaped – and tweaked and shaped some more – until a final form is achieved. It’s then ultimately written down or typed out and copied and distributed. Sometimes, if it’s that kind of piece, it can be shared with others in a live setting. Sometimes it’s just between the writer and the reader, a conversation in the hushed tones of mutual experiences and emotions. Seem familiar? Continue reading →