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The best thing to come out of Bill 160016 was the conversation

Bill 160016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Bill 160016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Yesterday, Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla announced that he’d withdraw his controversial music venue legislation – putting an end to something that, as I saw many voices echo on social media yesterday, shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

But in all the uproar over Bill 160016, there was one massive positive – and that was the collective conversation that emerged from the Philadelphia music community. When BillyPenn broke the story on Wednesday, January 27th, it didn’t take long for it to climb right to the top of our collective Facebook feeds. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Cayetana

cayetana
Cayetana | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Philly’s been known over the years for jazz, having been home to heavyweights like Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Billie and of course, Philly Joe Jones. We’ve been known for hip hop, most widely recognized for the Roots and Fresh Prince, Freeway or Beanie, but with roots deep into the heady days of the conception of the genre reaching all the way back to Lady B’s “To The Beat Y’all” and Schoolly D’s seminal gangsta rap cut, “PSK, What Does It Mean?” We’re known in the national musical consciousness for that golden era of the 70’s, Hall & Oates, The O’Jays, Billy Paul, and Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia Soul.

When it comes to indie rock and punk, though, Philly has been somewhat outshined in decades past by the likes of Sub Pop’s Seattle or, say, “college rock” benchmarks out of Athens and Austin.

But an indie rock scene has been simmering here for years, from Shai Halperin’s unheralded aughts bands The Capitol Years through better-recognized successors, Kurt Vile and his War On Drugs. These days, original, talented, fresh-sounding, local rock bands are dutifully packing our favorite bars and show spaces in billed shifts on any given weeknight, making noise in every neighborhood.

Enter Cayetana, perhaps the most polite and respectful rock band you’ll ever meet. Maybe they look familiar, where a recent Stereogum article cast them as the poster children of Philly’s DIY scene.

But if singer and guitarist Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen could ever appear to you to be some sort of archetypal group, you’ll find it challenging to compare their sound to any other. Their brand is unique, self-conscious punk with substantive, introspective lyrics packaged behind killer hooks.

And good news for us: they’re honing their stagecraft locally these days, on a break from touring to work on their second LP, with a new EP just out to whet your appetites. Catch them at PhilaMOCA this Saturday for a 7″ release show and, again at Union Transfer in February when they open for The Loves Ones’ sold-out reunion show. And, well, RIP Golden Tea House.

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A Trailblazer Returns: Philly producer Bud Ross on emerging from retirement in the digital age

Bud Ross | Photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com
Bud Ross | Photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

“I left music for a job selling Cadillacs. Six months ago, I retired and returned to music, my true love…”

Despite being active in the Philadelphia scene at a time when the city was in the midst of a full fledged musical revolution, singer / songwriter and guitarist Bud Ross is not a household name.

Born in Detroit in 1940, Ross’s family moved to Chestnut Hill when he was a toddler. As the sounds of doo-wop and early rock n’ roll swept in and reshaped the country’s cultural landscape, Ross got bit by the music bug and began singing. He first explored his musical gifts performing at school talent shows and “serenading nuns” at the local recreation center with tunes like Nat King Cole’s “Answer Me, Oh My Love.” Like many kids across the country, Bud Ross would form his own groups, writing songs and singing harmony around town. Continue reading →

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Drum Like A Lady: Rhythm runs in the family

Drum Like A Lady event at Dahlak | photo courtesy of Drum Like A Lady
Drum Like A Lady event at Dahlak | photo courtesy of Drum Like A Lady

Often times drums are seen as a man’s instrument.

The sounds can be disruptive; producing a powerful rhythm takes an enormous amount of energy. Far be it from a woman to choose not to stand in the spotlight as a singing diva. When one does see a woman behind a set, a feeling of wonder, confusion, and awe is born. This does not mean that women like Sheila E., Meg White, and Cindy Blackman did not completely hold their own when it came to playing the drums – but their choice of instrumentation was more than musical, but a little bit political.

The prior description is one of a rock ‘n roll aesthetics. Yet in African cultures, where the drum was born, there still seems to be a strong male dominance over the instrument.  Here in Philly, LaTreice Branson and her sister Paulette are creating a space where women drummers of all backgrounds and skill levels can come together and play music without pressure and pretense. Drum Like A Lady is where all the magic happens once a month at West Philly’s popular Dahlak Eritrean Restaurant.

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Sound and Place: Low Cut Connie

Adam Weiner and Finnemore of Low Cut Connie with Ray's Happy Birthday Bar owner Lou Capozzoli | Photo by David Norbut | dnorphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Adam Weiner and Dan Finnemore of Low Cut Connie with Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar owner Lou Capozzoli | Photo by David Norbut | davidnorbut.com | courtesy of the artist

Sound and Place is a recurring series where we take Philly musicians to their favorite places in town. For this installment, we sit down over pints and PBRs at Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar with Low Cut Connie.

“I like to play in environments where there’s some people in the room, first of all, who are not on our side that we can win over, and ideally there’d be some people in the room who we can uplift in some way.” Adam Weiner took a bite of his apple. “And in here you can find a lot of people on a downward spiral.”

The singer, pianist and frontman of Low Cut Connie sat in the back of Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, a South Philly institution known for its personality, down-and-out charm and festive merrymaking. To his left was band mate, drummer and guitarist Dan Finnemore. To his right sat Lou Capozzoli, Ray’s owner and a longtime musician in his own right.

It was a rainy Wednesday night in early December, the bar relatively quiet at first, quickly filling with neighborhood regulars clouding the room with smoke, filtering back to greet Capozzoli, Weiner and Finnemore. The latter two had all but wrapped up a year of touring behind Low Cut Connie’s rambunctious, bombastic, yet refined and smart third album Hi Honey, out last April.

The trio sat at a table, the charming message “Music makes me smile,” painted on the wall behind them, huddled around a few sheets of paper, some of the typed text crossed out and amended in pen. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Sonni Shine

sonni shine
Sonni Shine | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

After six years writing and recording four albums, and playing over six-hundred shows together, The Underwater Sounds are parting ways. If that makes an interview with frontwoman Sonni Shine sound like a bit of a bittersweet epilogue, consider all that’s on the horizon for this reggae/soul/ska artist, as she teams up with so many other talented Philly musicians for new projects.

This Spring, it seems Sonni’s mellifluous vocals will be everywhere, lucky for us, on everything from a new EP from reggae crew Cultureal – executively produced, mixed and mastered by Phil Nicolo at Studio 4 – to a new collaboration with electronic-dub DJ goldenSpiral, “Eternal Life,” to a Sade tribute show at Bourbon and Branch on May 7th along with Zeek Burse and members of WorldTown. If that’s not enough, the singer says she looks forward to a project of her own as she lends her soulful voice to some independent material she’s been working on, music with more of, as she puts it, a “soul-folk/roots vibe.”

For now, The Underwater Sounds offer you a music video for “My Future.” The second installment of the band’s September 2015 release, Visions of Love and Light, will be available at their “Final Farewell” show at Underground Arts on Friday, February 5th, and all who attend will receive a download card.

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Load-In to Load-Out: The Districts pack it in for a celebratory Electric Factory gig

Photo by John Vettese
The Districts’ guitar cases line the Electric Factory stage | Photo by John Vettese

It’s a special occasion the first time a Philly artist headlines the cavernous Callowhill venue The Electric Factory. We’ve seen it with Dr. Dog, we’ve seen it with The Wonder Years.

When you step out on that stage, and you know in your head that it’s the same room you crowded into so you could watch your favorite bands as a teenage kid – maybe you took the subway downtown from your neighborhood, perhaps you drove in from the surrounding burbs and grabbed sketchy street parking, nervously hoping that your car would be there when you return, or you waited on Spring Garden Street for your parents to pick you up at the end of the night. It’s that place, only now you’ve got this view you never had before, not of the stage but from it, looking out at an enormous room. And it’s packed. And it occurs to you that these people are there to see you…

I’ve heard it described as humbling. I’ve heard it described as exhilarating. You can call it some serious circle of life stuff. And it’s something that Philadelphia by-way-of Lititz rockers The Districts experienced back in November as they wrapped a year of heavy international touring in support of their acclaimed debut LP A Flourish and a Spoil with their biggest headlining hometown show, and one of their biggest shows ever.    Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Chill Moody

Chill Moody | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com
Chill Moody | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

All you Philly rappers and hip-hop fans reading this — think on the times you’ve been in your car singing along with Cody Chesnutt on the chorus of “The Seed (2.0),” and along with Black Thought on those verses too. Maybe you sang along live and loud too last July, when the Roots played “You Got Me” to a packed Parkway.

It might be easy enough to run those lyrics in the safety of your own home, or at karaoke one night up at Yakitori when your friends were too drunk to call you out properly because you mispronounced “Elysee Montmartre.” But even the biggest Roots fans might start to sweat, should they happen to be asked to perform those two tracks 1) live, 2) to a hometown audience of thousands, and 3) in front of Thought, Quest and company.

Chill Moody was tapped to do just that in October, with just a couple days to prepare, when The Roots were inducted onto the Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame.

As someone who’s by now shared everything from high schools and neighborhoods with the likes of Will Smith and Schooly D to a stage with The Roots, Chill Moody stands for Philly hip hop as a proper prodigal son, vetted and venerable. On topics of all things Philly arts, from Jane Golden’s prolific Mural Arts program, to our locally celebrated and nationally renowned rap artists, Chill Moody explains why Philly can have #NiceThings. Continue reading →

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PHL to ATL: A disposable camera travelogue from RECPhilly’s music roadtrip

Team RECPhilly mobbin out  at Atanta's A3C conference | Photo via RECPhilly
Team RECPhilly mobbin out at Atanta’s A3C conference | Photo via RECPhilly

This fall, Philly music startup RECPhilly rounded up about a dozen and a half members of its extended fam, piled in two vans and drove south to Atlanta for the A3C Music Conference, an annual gathering that over the past decade has grown into the SXSW of hiphop.

Along with attending a bevy of panels and networking meetups, the group was responsible for one of the showcases – and a lineup featuring Philadelphians Milton, Armani White, Voss, Tierra Whack, Theodore Grams and Eddie Madird.

Taking a cue from Noisey as well as ImposeMagazine, we sent the REC #squad off with a bag of disposable cameras to document their week in ATL. Continue reading →