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Farewell, Trocadero: Remembering the famed Philly venue in 20 concerts

Red Fang at The Troc | photo by Matt Shaver

If your social media timeline was anything like mine, last night it was filled with photos of ticket stubs and memories of the fabled Chinatown club The Trocadero, in the wake of reports that the venue is closing this month.

Though The Troc itself has yet to make any kind of official announcement or statement on the matter, it certainly seems as though its tenure in Philadelphia is ending; fewer and fewer concerts have been showing up on the calendar of its 1000-capacity main room, and its schedule since the beginning of 2019 has been filled with cancelled, postponed, or moved-to-other-venue shows. Continue reading →

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Shakermaker: Watch Oasis play the TLA in March of 1995

Oasis | still from video
What a difference a few years makes. When Oasis wrote “Rock and Roll Star,” the opening track to their 1993 debut Definitely Maybe, they were not, in fact, rock stars. That’s what’s the song is about: living their life in the city, trying to find a way out, chasing their dreams even if they seem unattainable. It’s their “Thunder Road,” if you will, with Manchester and its surrounding burgs standing in for Springsteen’s Freehold, New Jersey — and by the time Oasis finally landed a proper U.S. tour that brought them to Philadelphia, the song was no longer a fleeting moment of glory in an otherwise humdrum existence. It was their life. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: March into spring with gigs galore, from Tuvan throat singers to heavy metal headbangers

Jim Shomo exhibit flyer | courtesy of the artist

Major announcement time, Philadelphia: it’s finally springtime! Go out into that sunshine and enjoy yourself! Don’t give me that look; I know it doesn’t look like it. I know that technically speaking we have two more weeks until the official start of the season. But it doesn’t matter. I am ready for winter to be over and if you are too – not judging! I was grinning ear-to-ear while riding my bike through the snow just a couple days ago – I have a full calendar of things going on.

Get that started tonight with the sweet stylings of Merge Records rock n roll powerhouse Mike Krol (no relation) with TVO and Wildflowers of America at Boot & Saddle. If you haven’t listened to these bands, you owe it to yourself, even if you’re not able to get to the show. I’m bumping the new Mike Krol album while writing this and it’s putting me in the best mood. TVO is great and if you haven’t seen Perry Shall’s Wildflowers of America yet I really don’t know what your problem is.

That band just announced a show in West Philly in April with Big Eyes and Dark Thoughts and at some point in the near future they’ll finally put out their debut album. If it’s even half as fun and catchy as their live set it’s going to blow everyone’s mind. Continue reading →

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Up Up with People: Philly’s LiveConnections adds inclusion to its public service mission statement

Movement artist Shavon Norris and students from Our Lady of Confidence create movements that will accompany the lyrics of LiveConnections’ new, fully accessible choral music | photo by LiveConnections staff

Melinda Steffy, Executive Director of LiveConnections, sounds winded when we speak. Not because she has scaled a thousand steps and is catching her breath. Rather, it is because Steffy is crossing T’s and dotting I’s on every detail going into A Song Everyone Can Sing: a Community Sing,  a grand communal event on Sunday, March 10, at the Temple Performing Arts Center that acts as the centerpiece of LiveConnections’ 10th season.  Along with its usual mission of community building and inspired education through the act of collaborative live music making, the not-for-profit LiveConnections — founded in 2008 by Hal Real from World Café Live, a home to the LiveConnections Presents concert series — brings accessibility and inclusion into its socially responsible mix with A Song Everyone Can Sing. Continue reading →

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20 Years of Grandiose Hip-Hop: How Things Fall Apart taught The Roots to balance art, commerce, and deeply personal perspectives

The Roots, circa 1999

“We had given most of our adult lives to that point to the band. What if success never came to us, or never came in the form we expected? – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

As a teenager growing up in Philadelphia in the mid-to-late 90s, radio was a really big deal. Guided by that old algorithm of the human spirit, a handful of radio shows and the DJs and personalities that captained them fed and diversified my ever-growing musical appetite, from J. Michael Harrison’s electric Jazz fusions on Temple’s The Bridge, to the quirky Indie Rock of the Sarah and Laurie Show from Princeton’s WPRB. I’d bounce off my bedroom walls to sounds of mainstream Alternative Rock on Y-100 and fall asleep to the ambient soundscapes of John Diliberto’s Echoes and Chuck Van Zyl’s Star’s End on WXPN.

Like many kids, I’d often call into radio stations and request whatever songs I wanted to hear. Unlike most kids, the budding archivist in me would compel me to press record on my combination radio / cassette deck each time one of my request calls made it on air or my name was shouted out by a show’s host. By the time I graduated high school and I had filled up a tape of my radio mentions and shout outs.

One night, a new song by Philadelphia’s own The Roots had come across the airwaves and floored me. Slick and modern, the song fused lovelorn verses from Black Thought and a pre-fame / pre-Ruff Ryders Eve with a killer hook sung by Erykah Badu (and written by Jill Scott). Two bars into the song’s final chorus, the plodding, straight-forward drum beat that Questlove had held lockstep for the entire song transformed into something altogether different. Continue reading →

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The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia: “When Somebody Loves You Back” by Teddy Pendergrass

Teddy Pendergrass’ 1978 album Life Is A Song Worth Singing

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, The Key is recapping 14 songs that scream “love” just as strongly as they scream “Philly.” The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia continues with “When Somebody Loves You Back” from Teddy Pendergrass’ 1978 album .

There’s an amazing scene (one of many) in the extraordinary new Showtime documentary, Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me, a look at the Philly R&B superstar who sang lead on so many classic Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes songs, and who then went to an incredible solo career. In the clip, Pendergrass appears on television talk show host Tom Snyder, who introduces him by saying “May I just list four songs? ‘Come Go With Me,’ ‘Close The Door,’ ‘Turn Off The Lights,’ ‘Do Me.’” After a quick pause, both laugh, and as Pendergrass extends his arm for a handshake, Snyder aks “Have I got it?” Pendergrass, lighting up with a big smile says, “You got it.” Continue reading →

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Watch a trailer for Showtime’s Teddy Pendergrass documentary If You Don’t Know Me

Teddy Pendergrass | via Rolling Stone

On the one hand, Philadelphia icon Teddy Pendergrass was, as XPN’s Bruce Warren described him earlier today, “Philly International’s ultimate love man.” His sensual singing style was unparalleled, and his songs touched on themes of love from every imaginable angle. On a bigger level, he was a hard-working, ambitious, and energetic recording artist and performer who literally sweated charisma…and he’s also somebody with one of the most amazing life stories of resilience and overcoming physical trauma to continue creating music. 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 creative community finds a new hub at CCP’s Spring Garden Records

Aviance performs at the Spring Garden Records launch party | photo courtesy of the label

Spring Garden Records is an ambitious new project by Community College of Philadelphia launched at the tail end of 2018. A collaboration between the school’s Music department and department of Strategic Initiatives, Spring Garden Records is a record label where students, staff and community members produce, record and release their music in-house.

Music department head Paul “Starkey” Geissinger is a renowned composer and electronic musician who serves as director of Spring Garden Records. Geissinger has been spearheading the program’s launch for the past few months and envisions the project as an incubator for the city’s musical talent.

“I wanted to create a musical hub for creativity in the city, something I think we are missing,” he says. “CCP is a great place to do it, since we have a sound recording and music technology program, and most of our students are Philly residents who plan to stay and work in Philly upon graduation.” Continue reading →