With summer in the air, Of Monsters and Men serenaded a sold-out crowd at Festival Pier on Saturday night. Opening the show playing behind a curtain, this Icelandic group showed how well it rocks theatricality. The Monsters turned the drab parking lot of a venue into a sea of men and women swaying, clapping, and singing along to their well crafted pop throughout the evening. And rather than making the set about their smash masterwork “Little Talks,” which the crowd ate up with every sing-along line, Of Monsters and Men followed it with “Lake House” and the spectacle of a colorful confetti explosion. Ending the encore with the ballad “Yellow Light” at first seemed an odd choice, but it sucked the crowd more and more with its mini-epic nature, climaxing with another rain of confetti, sending the seven-piece and a sated crowd off in a haze of dreamlike wonderment.
Brooklyn based indie rock group The National made a stop in Philadelphia as part of their tour supporting their most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me. Torrential rainfall as a result of remnants of tropical storm Andrea did not sway the fans nor the band from putting on an incredible musical experience, but the contrary: The National listeners ranging from soggy to dripping were brought together through their collective wetness and love for what Stephen Colbert dubs “the hippest indie thing out there”.
After taking the stage with their typical low-fi video tour following the group through the backstage corridors all the way onstage, this band “about songs” (as Annie Clark of St. Vincent categorizes them), opened up with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” off the new record, a song that confirms many fans’ suspicion that saturnine baritone frontman Matt Berninger has a bit of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana in him. Continue reading →
Portland indie-punk power trio The Thermals returned to Philly on Saturday with their new album, Desperate Ground, in tow. Before the band played to a teeming crowd of devoted fans, local favorites Hop Along and Cayetana turned in impressive performances.
First and foremost, shout outs to Cayetana for their opening set. I saw this Seattle-esque punk three piece play an awkward set in a north Philly basement earlier this year that left me skeptical of their merits. This time, everyone outside Union Transfer was raving about how much they rocked the crowd, particularly Kelly Olsen, who pushed her heart out on the drums and into the crowd.
Hop Along was even more impressive. Frances Quinlan’s raspy siren voice leads me through a raw, childishly uninhibited path. Her abstract lyrics and pounding rapid riffs take my heartstrings for a leash. Mark Quinlan’s work on the drums honestly sent me into a trance for “Young and Happy,” and supported the ensemble of Frances, bassist Tyler Long and second guitar player Joe Reinhart (formerly of Algernon Cadwalader). Hop Along opened with a brand new song called “Sister Cities” – it’s a rager and it’s catchy, and will be released in next week’s installment of the Shaking Through series – rightfully finished with their biggest hit, “Tibetan Pop Stars, but the whole album resonates with this writer. My only complaint is they played at a faster tempo than what’s released on Get Disowned, but I also understand the time crunch and anxiety muddled into being an opening act at Union Transfer.
The Thermals took the stage permeating electricity and facing honest-to-god crowd worship. The Oregon three-piece’s whole set was intense; lead singer Hutch Harris and drummer Westin Glass repeatedly jumped into the crowd to dance and be surrounded by their Philly devotees (because there is really no other way to describe the crowd’s reaction to when they started playing). Harris has the rawest face I’ve ever seen playing a set. It contorts into a pleading frown, and it shoots through to his pulsing neck veins and rigid shoulders every time he slams down on his guitar. The pit swelled when they started playing “How We Know” a few songs in and lasted until their final encore of “No Culture Icons.” By “Here’s Your Future,” the pit spanned the length of the stage in a clapping, dancing, nodding moshing mess of human beings. Check out a gallery of photos from the show below.
The Snails, Cave Life, Rasputin’s Secret Police (above), and Cousin Brian played a house show in Fishtown on Friday night at a spot christened “The Old Folk’s Home.” Photos by Abi Reimold
The show kicked off around 8:30 with an energetic set from roots/reggae band The Snails. This seemed to come as a happy surprise to most of the crowd, many of whom took to dancing along to the laid-back tunes which featured technically impressive but always tasteful guitar and organ solos alongside singer Todd Fausnacht’s bluesy vocals. The Snails were soon followed by Cave Life, a new trio from Delaware, playing their very first show. Their set started off with an unfortunately uninspired attempt at post-rock which featured some cool guitar effects but failed to hit home in intensity. The rest of their set continued in a more agreeable fashion and consisted of about five or so tunes that were reminiscent of the more upbeat side of Broken Social Scene.
About half an hour went by as the third band, Rasputin’s Secret Police set up their equipment. A large portion of the show’s attendees were here to see this Drexel Hill two-piece and as the anticipation grew and drinks were imbibed the crowd became noticeably eager. RSP didn’t fail to deliver what everyone wanted – loud, dirty guitar, intense drumming and eerie vocals. Their set was mostly brand new songs and everyone from the superfans in the front row to those hanging in the back of the room seemed more than pleased. The show was rounded out by rowdy punk band Cousin Brian, who also seemed to bring a sizable portion of the crowd. Cousin Brian’s performances rely more on inspiring energy in the audience than exact execution of their respective parts, but all attendees were pleased by their presence.
It was a full house at Union Transfer on Saturday night as Philadelphia welcomed home Kurt Vile & The Violators for the last show of their U.S. tour. With strong openers and a career-spanning set list from the hometown hero, the night was jam-packed with stellar performances and a lot of love.
There’s an image of a couch and a heart on Vile’s now infamous Fishtown mural that reprises the line “There’s a place in my heart for all of my friends” from Wakin On A Pretty Daze’s “Goldtones” and that seemed to be the sentiment the Lansdowne native was going for during his set. An intangible sense of community could be felt between the crowd and the frontman, despite minimal verbal interaction. It was the clear the audience was well-versed in Kurt’s discography as they welcomed each eclectic twist and turn of the set list with claps and cheers. As Vile stood on the stage dressed in all white, surrounded by a hazy fog with a scaled-down version of the mural behind him and Technicolor lights bouncing around, the effect was similar to that of flying through the clouds during a sunset when the light cuts through just right – transcendent, magical and rare. Continue reading →
Nashville duo JEFF the Brotherhood raged through Kung Fu Necktie like a hurricane last night, leaving nothing but scorched eardrums and satiated fans in their wake. The show marked the first of a two-show mini-residency that continues tonight at 8 pm.
It was an epic night for JEFF fans, as the band—who for the past ten years has toured as a duo—debuted their expanded line-up for Philly, playing half their set as a two-piece, and half as a quartet. Early numbers were brash, rash, and frenzied, as the band tore through songs with abandon—while later ones were thick, heady, and dripping with psychedelics.
The brainchild of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall, JEFF the Brotherhood came together 12 years ago in 2001, and gigged extensively before breaking through on the indie front in 2009. Early songs were released through their own Infinity Cat Recordings label; in 2011 they signed with Warner Bros. Records to release their seventh LP, Hypnotic Nights, produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.
Both early and later tunes were represented last night, as the band took the stage without a setlist, responding to crowd input and their own whims. The first half of the set saw the brothers shredding through ragers like “Heavy Days” and “Noo Sixties”—Jamin’s beats providing a solid foundation for Jake’s wily guitar licks—as well as easygoing jammers like “Mellow Out.” Clad in all white, with unshakable focus, Jamin was the band’s beating heart, while the devilish Jake, dressed all in black, with long hair and a custom-built, three-string guitar, was its impish, mischievous soul.
For the second half of the set, JEFF expanded its line-up to include a second guitarist (a regular six-stringer) and a keyboardist, whose added power allowed them to tackle more complex numbers, like the motorik-turned-electropop grower “Wood Ox” and the sludgy, Weezer-meets-Nirvana-esque “Dark Energy.” Single “Sixpack” was an easy highlight, with its fist-pumping chorus of “oohs”—while older tune “Heavy Krishna” allowed for maximum psychedelic indulgence, both brothers rocking with abandon for the equally hyped-up crowd. We love JEFF as a two-piece, but last night they proved the brotherhood includes all those who believe.
JEFF the Brotherhood might have tore the (metaphorical) roof off KFN, but early sets from Brooklyn’s Hunters and Philly’s The Bad Doctors were likewise shred-tastic. Hunters blew through the space like a wildfire, front woman Isabel Almeida shrieking and flailing like a pink-haired Karen O.—while The Bad Doctors combined metal riffs and Matt McDermott’s schreechy, impassioned vocals with electronic, new wave grooves to surprising effect. We can’t wait to experience it all over again tonight!
JEFF the Brotherhood plays Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., tonight, May 17, with Hunters and Bad Side. The 21+ show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15. More info can be found at the venue’s website.
It was quite the elegant affair at Union Transfer last night, and everyone and their mother was there (literally). Folksinger Sam Beam took the stage in a suit with slicked-back hair, followed by his band of 13 (yes, 13) who were all dressed to the nines. Backup singers in long black dresses, the horn section in dapper jackets – everyone looked ready to impress. Over the course of the 100 minute set, Iron & Wine played selections from more than 10 years of music to a very eager, if fickle, sold-out crowd.
Starting the show on an upbeat note, Iron & Wine’s horn section do-wopped and sashayed through the “The Desert Babbler” from April’s release, Ghost On Ghost. While older fans of Iron & Wine have brushed off the band’s more recent releases in favor of the beautiful melancholy that is Sam Beam’s solo work, it could not be denied that the group onstage was having a great time. The crowd, however, was reluctant to warm up until a few songs in. Continue reading →