There are so many Frank Zappas to consider that it’s often a struggle to focus on which one to pinpoint. Is he the man who lovingly crafted intricate and tender guitar solos from “Black Napkins” to “Inca Roads”?
Or the silly ribald humorist of “Titties and Beer” or “Bwana Dik”?
Or the high-minded composer behind “Lumpy Gravy” or “Orchestral Favorites”?
Or the psychedelic rocker and jazz-bo of “Freak Out” and “Hot Rats”?
What one can focus on, twenty five years after his death, is that innovative guitarist / composer / socio-political satirist / free expression activist Zappa is more crucial than ever (especially when you consider that the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer will soon get his own hologram treatment) and by, all accounts is having a busy spring by Philadelphia standards. Continue reading →
Before he made a beautifully understated suit-clad performance at the Oscars, before his Figure 8 album cover turned the mural at 4330 West Sunset Boulevard into a L.A. tourist destination, before he tragically died at age 34, Elliott Smith was a singer with an acoustic guitar and some beautifully sad songs, traveling the country and playing gigs.
In April of 1997, Smith was on an east coast run in support of Either / Or — an album which, along with his self titled record from 1995, are essential documents of his minimal, home-recorded Kill Rock Stars years — and the tour came through Princeton, New Jersey’s Terrace Club on April 12, 1997. Continue reading →
The Philly scene is Do It Yourself. It’s nitty gritty, get-down-to-business, we-don’t-need-your-stinking-labels. It is “we got this, it’s easy.” And that’s all well and good. The rockstar as self-made, as taking on everything, as complete auteur of their hard-earned art. It’s a nice image, it just isn’t entirely true.
DIY is, at its very core, collaboration. The truth is the “yourself” is really “ourselves.” It is a collective, a big heap of like-minded people not waiting for anyone to do something they know they can do themselves. It is about communication and honesty, about avoiding the pitfalls of mixing business and art, about succeeding together, not in spite of each other. There is no one able to do it all and, more often than not, those who try end up so bogged down they can barely reach above the surface for air, let alone finish their new LP.
In step Emily Dubin and Jeremy Berkin of Lost + Found MGMT. They aren’t here to take control, they aren’t the big, bad, faceless business crushing the true artists, and they are nowhere near outsiders. It doesn’t take long to realize, as I sit across from the two in West Philly’s Green Line Cafe, they are the essence of DIY; here do it with you, not for you. Continue reading →
Swearin’ is back. HIRS is putting out an album with Shirley Manson from Garbage. Erik B. and Rakim are at the TLA. Oh, and Lou Barlow is playing a small show in a park on the Schuylkill in Southwest Philly. Did I mention that Sheer Mag is recording an album with Hall and Oates? Because that is totally happening.
Okay, so maybe one of those is a lie. I’ll let you figure it out on your own. But as usual in this great city of ours, there’s so much awesome stuff happening that even the absurd seems plausible. I mean, the Eagles won the Super Bowl! Anything can happen. Continue reading →
The phrase, “It takes a village,” couldn’t be more appropriate when talking about the burgeoning scene at Philadelphia’s Global Village Jam Sessions. Community is the focus, and organizers refer to it as “the only concert where the audience is the headliner.”
Recently, at their event on February 22, at the William Street Commons at 3900 Chestnut Street was packed with singers and musicians who wanted to share their talents inclusively.
“The Village is a big ocean, and you just get caught up in its waves,” says event coordinator, Alyssa Ghilardi. “But they never take you under. You’re just staying afloat on top of them all of the time.” Continue reading →
You heard that story about Barbara Streisand getting her dog cloned, twice? I’ve been thinking about getting the same thing done to myself, just so I maybe can go to all the awesome shows happening this month. Unfortunately I went to school for journalism and not biomedical engineering so instead of having a mad scientist lair full of half-baked clones walking into walls while screaming, “I can’t wait for Superchunk and Swearin’ next month!” … I’m writing this column saying the same.
Welcome to the March edition of the Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column. As I sit here working on this, the weather report is calling for nonstop rain and possibly even snow for the next 24 hours. But just because it’s gross out doesn’t mean you should stay inside! It doesn’t keep bands home and so it shouldn’t keep you home. So bundle up and get to the gig. Continue reading →
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 →
As the Philadelphia Eagles head to the Super Bowl this Sunday night, it seems as appropriate a time as ever to flash back to a rare intersection of local football and local music. And no, it doesn’t involve former Eagle Connor Barwin.
“Buddy’s Watchin’ You” was a single produced by the late Philly legend Bunny Sigler and co-written with Eugene “LambChop” Curry, featuring the lineup of the Eagles trading rhymes, cypher-style, in a very late-80s take on pop-crossover hip-hop. This isn’t the blown-out boomboxes of Run D.M.C. or the slick cuts of Erik B and Rakim, it’s more akin to a midtempo jam infused with a touch of Philly soul on the chorus thanks to vocalists Songi Newman and Kia Hughes — and Bunny, no doubt. Imagine the hits from Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel (or Warren G.’s “Regulate,” done several years early) but not as polished, and with lyrics centered solely on the specific things football players do on the field, delivered in varying degrees of quality.
Which, that’s not to totally knock this gem. I kind of love listening to it, it takes me back to school bus rides in the fall and winter of 1988 with Q102 or Eagle 106 on the radio; the hook, with its reference to coach Buddy Ryan, goes on for days. The song was recorded on November 15, 1988, at Kajem Victory Studios; it reportedly was a charity single, but the details on what charity it benefited seem to be lost to the annals of time. Continue reading →
There’s a joke from comedian W.C. Fields that goes like this: “First prize was a week in Philadelphia. Second prize was two weeks.” Fields, who was born in the suburbs of our beloved city in the 1880s, knew its reputation for entertainment was, at the time, laughable. If you were a person in his audience, a person who paid money to be entertained, Philadelphia just wasn’t your bag. Even today, it’s likely you’ve had a conversation with an out-of-town friend that started or ended with them asking, “What’s there to do in Philly, anyway?”
We know there’s a lot. Specifically in music, with the come up of large venues like Union Transfer and The Fillmore, we’re getting less slack for being a flatline between New York and D.C. or Baltimore. Still, despite our scene — rich to us right now — we’re kind of destined to forget the scene that came before us, or the one before that. It’s not our fault, it’s that these historic, exciting, tragic, romantic, piss-stained buildings, banquet halls and flophouses eventually close down. They disappear, and when they do, there’s no one really touting their memory.
Following the recent buzz around 858 N. Broad, a hulking figure in North Philly that was built in 1908 as The Metropolitan Opera House and recently purchased by Divine Lorraine developer Eric Blumenfeld for future renovation, we decided to play a game of Broad street memory lane. Read about some of the special places lodged in the history of the 14th Street music scene below. Continue reading →
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 →