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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: BODEGA

BODEGA | Photo by Katie Tapman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this http://thekey.xpn.org/tag/indie-rock-hit-parade-live-session/ is a band whose debut album is packed with energy, wit and irreverence. Formed out of the ashes of singer/guitarist “Bodega” Ben Hozie and singer Nikki “Icky” Belfiglio’s previous group, Bodega Bay, BODEGA‘s guiding principles are as much about stylistic exclusion as inclusion. With mantras like “No references to Glam Rock” and “No vocal effects,” BODEGA quickly rose as a fresh and exciting entity in the Brooklyn punk scene. It didn’t hurt that Austin Brown, co-leader of Parquet Courts, took notice and produced the band’s 2018 debut album, Endless Scroll, even employing the same recorder that his own band used for their 2013 breakthrough, Light Up Gold. After the dissolution of Bodega Bay, Hozie and Belfiglio teamed up with a new crew of musicians, including bassist Heather Elle, lead guitarist Madison Velding-Vandam, and drummer Montana Simone . The quintet made a special trip down to Philadelphia to record this session, which showcases a young band that’s already locked into a solid groove.

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: OHMME

OHMME | Photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade session is a band whose co-leaders first met when they were in high school. Formed in Chicago in 2014, OHMME (previously HOMME) is fronted by guitarist Sima Cunningham and guitarist/violinist Macie Stewart. Though both are classically trained pianists, this project finds them exploring overdriven art-rock and intricate vocal harmonies. Cunningham and Stewart are joined in this session by drummer Matt Carroll, who also supplied all the drum parts on OHMME’s newly released debut album, Parts. The record is an energizing concoction of rock, jazz, folk and world music styles, centered around Cunningham and Stewart’s overlapping vocals. Before their Boot and Saddle show (which featured an opening set from IRHP session veteran Renata Zeiguer), OHMME stopped by to perform some of their new songs live in our studio.

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Vogue Evolution: Philly’s DJ Delish leads queer electronic music into the future

DJ Delish | photo courtesy of the artist

The hope for underground music fans with regards to vogue and ballroom culture leaping into the mainstream via FX television drama Pose (on the stiletto-adorned heels of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, and other national TV shows highlighting colorful, performance aspects of the LGBT communities) is that the DJ’s, producers, dancers and emcees involved in crafting and embodying the culture can get a little shine.

Believed to have its origins in 1960’s Black and Latino discos and cabaret clubs, the vogue counter-culture — so named for the dancers who took many of their poses and awkwardly-arched, angular dance moves from the images in Vogue and other fashion magazines as a means of aspirational appropriation — moved from those venues and into underground clubs, community centers, and basements. The music was at first pumping, hard-edged and lesser known disco tracks (like Cheryl Lynn’s “Too Be Real” or Loose Joint’s “All Over My Face”) and eventually, house (Marshall Jefferson’s “House Music” and Derrick May’s “Strings of Life”).

As generations changed, techno-infused house music became the go-to dance beat for vogueing, with songs like Robbie Tronco’s “Walk 4 Me,” and particularly “The Ha Dance” — a rousing, swirling track by Masters at Work that compliments the equally swirling, ninja-like movements of the dancers. As DJ’s like Vjuan Allure (often considered the father/mother of “the Ha” remix movement) became frustrated by dancers only wanting a distinct collection of songs — those songs that had throbbing tribal beats; sassy vocalists chanting; horn stabs to accentuate the ultimate vogue move, the death drop — on the runway or dancefloor. And so, the Ha Remix genre was born.

 As a member of the current generation, DJ Delish‘s music takes the sound beyond what even her influences could have imagined. Her tracks are laced with a deep, resounding soulfulness that speaks to her Philly-injected approach to music. Underneath the slamming club beats are the warm bass and piano lines in songs like “U,” all riding on sinister string arrangements.  But don’t get it twisted: when it’s time to slay, Delish has the ability to do just that — the afro-beat inspired thump of “Men are Doomed” is laced with perfectly timed vocal snippets and an artful placement of the ever-present crash from the aforementioned “Ha Dance” that is the backbone of the genre.

Ironically, it’s on “Bag” that Delish really shines. It’s a simmering, playful piece of summery electronic soul that doesn’t ignore chillwave’s reinvention of the genre, but instead transcends it by paying closer attention to modern R&B’s roots. With its sweetly irreverent lyrics reminiscent of Diana Ross’s mid-’70’s, matter-of-fact storytelling on songs like “Upside Down,” words embedded in assured West Philly vernacular, Delish’s voice sits perfectly amongst the stammering synths and boom bap of the bass drum. We sat down with Delish to chop it up about beats, inspiration and where queer electronic music will take us in the future. Continue reading →

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Donny McCaslin and Jason Lindner: The boys of Blackstar go beyond Bowie with Blow and The Buffering Cocoon

Donny McCaslin | photo by Jimmy Fontaine | courtesy of the artist

Tony Visconti and David Bowie walk into a bar. That sounds like the beginning of a joke.

Yet, that very real visit from the pair – in the spring of 2014, into 55 Bar, a longtime West Village jazz joint – is how the relationship between the Bowie-Visconti team, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and his band of renown (drummer Mark Guiliana, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre) began.

Their collaborative work on Bowie’s 2016 Blackstar would have been the stuff of legend even if the British experimentalist had not have died immediately following the album’s release. Blackstar was dark, spacious, free jazz-inspired electronic rock reminiscent of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy and its mad Manhattan follow-up (Low, HeroesLodger, Scary Monsters), yet, boldly new, inventive, genre-less, and often in tune with what McCaslin, Lindner and Co. recorded and performed before that auspicious meeting.

Which brings us exactly to where McCaslin and Lindner are now, with the former’s soon-released new album, Blow, his tour kick-off tomorrow night at Union Stage in D.C., and the newly-rescheduled show at The Foundry of The Fillmore Philly on January 12th, as well as the latter’s first album since Blackstar, The Buffering Cocoon, recorded with his Now Vs Now trio and out September 14. Continue reading →

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Storytelling with Shannen Moser

Shannen Moser
Shannen Moser | photo by Emily Dubin | courtesy of the artist

Some people move to places like Philadelphia for the appeal of city life — to leave the rural or suburban communities they came from far behind. That’s not the case for Shannen Moser. When the songwriter talks about growing up in the mountains of Berks County, Pennsylvania, her words spill out of her. Both her love for her hometown and the influence it’s had on her music are immediately evident; she speaks as passionately about the details of her rural former home as she does about her career as a musician. So if Moser’s songs make you think of back country roads, looming mountain ranges, and crisp fall days, then you’re on the right track.

After five years in the city — years spent becoming a key figure in a music scene that is full of heavier, louder music than her own — Moser still returns to the kind of music that has always come the most naturally to her. She’s back with her latest record, I’ll Sing, out now. It’s 15 tracks of what you could call folk, even country (though Moser herself prefers to just call it storytelling), but either way, it’s music that transports you to a different time, a different place. And yet it’s incredibly real — and proof that Philly music doesn’t have to sound like it comes from Philly. Continue reading →

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Out Of Hand: In conversation with The Jesus Lizard’s David Yow

The Jesus Lizard | photo by Joshua Black Wilkins | courtesy of the artist

“David, very nice to talk to you.”

“Oh, well, you say that now.”

When I think of the days of the so-called Alternative revolution, memories of a musical underground poised to take center stage after Nirvana’s major label colossus Nevermind finally cracked the very polished veneer of the 1980s, I remember being in a state of constant epiphany. Entering relevancy were bands that had been working tirelessly throughout the prior decade, stretching their music across the country via a self-made and self-sustaining network of venues, fanzines, and record stores, and the record labels that saw fit to produce their music. Around this time, The Jesus Lizard was one of the era’s most threatening rock bands.

The Jesus Lizard, whose origin can be traced back to Austin, Texas in 1987, were nihilism personified, a beautifully antagonistic and often vulgar foursome who, in their early days as artists for Touch and Go Records, earned the title of Best Live Band. Unfiltered, blistering, and energized, it was vocalist David Yow who matched every decibel that the other band members (guitarist Duane Denison, bassist David Wm. Sims, and drummer Mac McNeilly) could conjure with sweat and (likely) blood, his clothing-optional and confrontational style the stuff of legend. “Well, I like it when things get out of hand,” Yow explains. “I always hoped that things would get out of hand because it’s a lot more fun that way. I mean, pretty much for everybody except David and Duane. Other than maybe dressing up in a funny costume or something like that, I rarely if ever had a pre-conceived notion of what I was going to do other than just play the show.”

Following a successful run of performances last December, and an invitation to perform at this year’s Riot Fest in Chicago, The Jesus Lizard decided to hit the road again, adding eight more shows to the series — including one tonight at Union Transfer. Prior to December, the band hadn’t toured since 2009. Continue reading →

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R.I.P. Rich Quick, a unifying voice on the Philly hip-hop scene

Rich Quick
Rich Quick | still from video

At around 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon, rest in peace shoutouts began pouring into Richard Strey’s social media accounts. As it appeared, the Woodbury, NJ underground rapper, better known as Rich Quick, had passed away.

His passing came as a shock to many. On his Facebook page, numerous heartfelt eulogies, memories, and mentions of disbelief flooded the page of the late MC who had strong ties to the Philadelphia hip-hop scene. Continue reading →

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Did you know Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” video is the product of Philly animator Justin Richburg?

Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” video | still from video

Justin Richburg is the 29-year-old, Philadelphia-based animator behind the video of Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer.” Richburg is credited for the character designs, and collaborated with co-director Ivan Dixon for the animation work. Directed by Donald Glover, the video is coated in the balmy haze of summertime and depicts Childish Gambino strolling down a suburban neighborhood street beneath rosy-tinted skies. There are cameo appearances of hip hop artists and icons such as Drake and Future, Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott, Solange and The Weekend, but the most talked-about scene was that of a crying Kanye West in a Make America Great hat being hugged by Michelle Obama.

Despite his rising fame, Richburg remains draped in privacy and anonymity. In interviews he appears nonchalant and shruggingly perfunctory in responses to questions, never diving too deeply to reveal his own motives. Perhaps the statement on his website captures his attitude best: “What can I say about my art is that it’s inspired by life, the media, New Jack Swing and to kill the game point blank.” Continue reading →

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Entering Kazuashita with Gang Gang Dance’s Brian DeGraw

Gang Gang Dance | photo by Ari Marcopoulos | courtesy of the artist

Seven years after blowing minds with 2011’s Eye Contact, the alchemists of Gang Gang Dance finally re-surfaced this summer with their most beatific sounding album yet in Kazuashita. Its ethereal ambience juxtaposes with lyrics that emerge from the ether to reference police brutality, the protests at Standing Rock, and several other forms of tumult that inform life at large.

To hear founding member Brian DeGraw tell it, making the record didn’t come without its own share of struggle. Ahead of the band’s show at Boot & Saddle this Thursday, we talked about how the record came to be, how the band’s process of making music had to change, and what to expect when they take the stage this week. Continue reading →

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Watch Wallace try to keep her cool in the band’s latest video

Wallace
Wallace | photo by Katy Mauer | courtesy of the artist

A classic coming of age song, frontwoman Wallace Gerdy finds herself disapproving her best friend’s choices on her most recent single, “Keeping Composure” by Wallace. The track was released last month, and earlier this month the single received the music video treatment, animating the lyrical content of Wallace’s displeasure of her friend’s choices at parties, or maybe just in general. A song birthed by change, Wallace sings “It’s hard to keep composure when your best friends are getting high in the next room.” Continue reading →