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It Takes Two: Philly jazz punks Writhing Squares up their game on Out of the Ether, share their favorite duos

Writhing Squares | photo by Peter Kerlin | via facebook.com/thewrithingsquares

Two piece rock bands are kind of the redheaded stepchildren of the scene. They’re treated as an anomaly and a freakish one at that. It’s part of the reason why events like Two Piece Fest, which is coming up at the end of the month, have thrived. There’s a community there, a familiarity and solidarity even among bands that have seemingly nothing in common but their number of members.

Some two-piece bands are formed out of a sense of desperation – they can’t find a third member or somebody quits and they decide to just make a go at it – and others from a drive towards innovation. The word ‘experimental’ gets bandied about a lot when talking about duos, even when they’re playing utterly straightforward music. Still, there’s something to be said for the power of pushing the boundaries of what just two people can create.

If you want to see a prime example of that look no further than Philly two piece Writhing Squares and their sound that’s at the midpoint between prog, pysch, jazz, and punk. Their latest album Out of the Ether was just released on Trouble In Mind Records and they’re playing a record release show tonight at Kung Fu Necktie with Sparrow Steeple and Headroom.

The fact that neither Kevin Nickles or his bandmate Daniel Provenzano play drums wasn’t a deterrent when they decided to start Writhing Squares more than five years ago. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: From a J Dilla tribute to rock n’ rollers galore to so much jazz, we’re looking for love in all the right places this month

Writhing Squares | photo via facebook.com/thewrithingsquares

January might be the traditional time to make resolutions and talk about how we can go about bettering ourselves or whatever it is you’re trying to do with your life but let’s be honest: February is when stuff starts to get real. I can’t help you stop smoking or go to the gym more often, but if you’re resolved to go to more shows I’ve definitely got you covered.

This month is incredibly jam-packed with all manner of events, from avant garde jazz to wild metal to a stacked J Dilla tribute. And that’s all just in the next week! Have you ever just contemplated how lucky we are to be living in one of the best cities in the world? I have. That’s why I do this column. So let’s get started! Continue reading →

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Ramping up Philly DIY with Ramp Local label

Very few labels start on purpose. Normally it’s just something that happens, a confluence of circumstances, an accident – but hopefully a happy one. You or your friends are in a band that’s recorded something and you want to put it out but you don’t think any existing label would be interested and so you say, “It’s DIY music so I can just do it myself! And really, why stop with just this release when I can be a resource for others? I mean, how hard can it be?”

The answer, as anyone who’s ever stumbled into running a label, is simple: it’s close to impossible. There are so many pitfalls, so many ways things can go wrong, so many ways to lose lots of money and have little to show for it but a few hundred records tucked away in storage forever. The rewards are equally plentiful, which is why so many people go down that route.

Jake Saunders has been walking that tightrope since being handed the keys to Ramp Local, the label he’s been running for the last couple years. It was started by Trip Warner of Wharf Cat Records in Brooklyn – home to Urochromes, WALL, Flasher, Bush Tetras, and a ton more amazing bands – as “a way for him to release more experimental, obscure stuff” on cassette, according to Saunders. Since taking it over, he’s expanded things to also include vinyl releases, most recently a record for Harrisonburg, VA “industrial blues” two piece Buck Gooter. More on them later.

Saunders explained that he initially met Warner while booking shows in Brooklyn. He was putting together a compilation that included a track from Sediment Club, who Wharf Cat has worked with in the past, and Warner suggested that Ramp Local could release the cassette. They started working together shortly after that tape, called Eclectic Sessions, was put out in October of 2015. According to Saunders, “After a while, I was kind of just getting into it and he said, ‘You can run this shit, man’ and he handed it over to me no questions asked. I think he just had too much going on.” Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Ring in 2019 with Tuareg desert jams, the return of chiptune legends Chromelodeon, Kenyan benga rock n’ roll, and so much more

Hank Wood | photo by Yoni Kroll

I forget, are we supposed to take flying cars to the gig or just view it on our VR goggles? The future is so complicated.

Welcome to 2019! I hope you’re all totally recovered from whatever you did to yourself on Tuesday and Wednesday and ready to tackle the new year. There’s a lot to look forward to over the next twelve months. Hell, there’s a lot to look forward to just between now and February. So let’s get started with the year’s first Skeleton Key, your monthly news and gossip column covering all things Philadelphia DIY. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: DIY Crystal Ball — Yoni Kroll’s most anticipated Philly music happenings of 2019

photo by Farrah Skeiky via facebook.com/breakfreefest

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key writer Yoni Kroll takes a look at what’s ahead in the local DIY scene.

When I was at Drexel I took this class on “Sociology of the Future” where a big chunk of what we did was learn how to make accurate predictions of what’s to come based on analysis of the past and present. Pretty cool, right? I’d like to say that I learned a lot about prognostication and general soothsaying in this class but considering my, uhh, educational fortitude back then it’s doubtful I showed up half the time.

Still, I don’t need a crystal ball to tell all of you about some of the amazing things we have to look forward to in 2019. So put away those tea leaves and save those complicated star charts for another time and let’s take a look at everything in store for us over the next twelve months. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s best new bands of 2018

Yarrow | photo via yarrowphl.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Yoni Kroll recaps his favorite bands that started in 2018.

What we want from bands is at times a very amusing catch 22: they need to be perfect but not polished, experienced but with a youthful electric energy permeating everything. It’s why you hear people talk crap on new bands. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, they’re doing something new or different or maybe not different at all. It’s why my roommate when I was 20 couldn’t stop talking about how every band I was getting into wasn’t as good as NOFX. True story.

But you know what? I’d rather see a bunch of new bands trying to figure it out than a bunch of old people going through the motions. It’s generally more fun and more interesting. Sure, you might not be able to sing along, but is that really your only criteria for enjoying a band? This year I got to see a bunch of bands that were either just starting or recently coalesced from ‘project’ to actual performance. That includes groups formed for the First Time’s the Charm 2018, a biennial concert held last July “made up of entirely new bands that must include women, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and those with disabilities” all playing their first sets ever.

The goal for the event, which I helped organize, was to create a space for those who have been marginalized in our music communities. It was a resounding success, we donated $1500 to music education non-profit Beyond the Bars, and most importantly eight brand new bands were unleashed on Philadelphia. While continuing past that initial performance is not necessarily a goal of the event, a number of bands from this year and past First Time’s the Charm concerts are still playing out regularly. That includes Teenage Bigfoot and Marge from the 2013 edition, Aster More, Taxes, and Full Bush from 2016, and Babe Grenade, Pritty Gritty, and GRIT from this past year. And yes, those are two bands with ‘Gritty’ in their names well before it was cool to do so. That’s how awesome First Time’s the Charm really is.

Without further ado, here’s some of the best new bands that I saw in the past year. Most of them don’t have any recordings yet, so keep an ear to the ground for that. Think of this also as a list of bands to look for in the coming year because I’m sure they’ll all be doing cool stuff. Continue reading →

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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 →