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Heroes Matter: Remembering Stan Lee with King Britt, Camp Candle, Kindred, and more from the Philadelphia music scene

Embed from Getty Images
On Monday morning in Los Angeles, Stan Lee was rushed from his home by ambulance, where he would later be pronounced dead at 95 years old.

The co-founder of Marvel Comics, Lee (along with his collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) created a number of beloved characters such as Spiderman, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men, The Avengers and more, leaving behind an indelible mark on the pop cultural landscape. These characters and the stories told through them were more than just a means of escape, they were in many ways, a moral and sociopolitical reflection of our world that challenged us to make it better.

In the wake of a worldwide outpouring of grief and gratitude expressed for Lee, we asked members of our city’s music community to share their thoughts on a man whose vision expanded the limits of our collective imagination. Continue reading →

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Banned In Philly: Watch Metallica’s infamous CoreStates Center parking lot concert from November 11, 1997

Metallica in Philly in 1997 | via metallica.com

“They tried to shut Metallica down,” James Hetfield told a TV camera as his cozy tour van made its way across the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The date was November 11, 1997, and Hetfield and his bandmates — Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted, and Lars Ulrich — were chatting with MTV’s Matt Pinfield on their way to the sports complex in South Philadelphia, where the American metal overlords were slated to play a free concert.

The gig was hotly anticipated as much as it was embroiled in controversy, and the fan club concert film Banned In Philly (which you can watch a VHS rip of below) gives you a taste of the landscape surrounding it.

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The Skeleton Key: The ABCs of November with Adrian and Ali, Bowerbird and bugs, CraftNOW, Daydream Nation, and more

On The Water | photo by L.J. Brubaker | goodolljb.biz | courtesy of the artist

These days it’s so tempting to revel in the awfulness of the world, to throw your hands up and just give in to this feeling that nothing will ever change. Bad news has been coming from all sides and whatever respite we can get is incredibly fleeting. I’m reminded of the song “Another Happy Day” from 90’s Westchester punks 2.5 Children Inc. that has the line, “You said cheer up and I’m trying / But it’s hard when the whole world’s dying.” And that was written almost 25 years ago! Continue reading →

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Representation Matters: Why the To The Front art show is a game-changer

The Regrettes | photo by Courtney Coles | courtneycoles.com

Riot grrrl is not dead. The spirit of the 90s feminist punk movement is thriving in a touring art show that comes through Philly this week.

Characterized by hardcore bands such as the iconic Bikini Kill, the Riot grrrl scene promoted empowerment women and addressed issues of rape, violence, sexuality and patriarchal oppression. Bikini Kill frontperson Kathleen Hanna fought to create a safer space for women in the punk scene. At shows, women were typically elbowed to the fringes of the crowd by aggressive moshers, but Hanna famously summoned women towards the stage as a form of protection, calling out, “All girls to the front!”

Flash forward twenty years. The music industry and art world have made strides of inclusivity, but the scene is undeniably still dominated by those bestowed with privilege, the majority composed of cis, straight white men. Devastating cases of sexual assault surface constantly, signalling an abuse of power and lack of safe spaces in the community. Additionally, artists of color, as well as female-identifying or non-binary artists are often pushed aside, their work going unrecognized.

To The Front is a traveling photo show that brings pushed-aside work into the limelight. The name is a nod to Bikini Kill and ultimately the riot grrrl movement, embodying the same message: give unrepresented artists a voice. The show was conceived by LA-based photographers Erica Lauren Perez and Courtney Coles. In 2016, Perez was injured with a dislocated knee and was prevented from touring. Doing a gallery show was something that had been on her mind while in recovery. She attended a show where Coles was showing work, which highlighted women of color in different mediums, and both were inspired by the theme and central message. The duo curated their own LA show in January 2017, which consisted of only four photographers, including Carly Hoskins and Danielle Parsons.

“We both were into the idea of having a music-photography based show with a few of our friends. We didn’t think it would be anything beyond the LA show, but the turnout and the feedback was really positive and it built naturally,” Perez commented in a recent interview with The Key. “We wanted to include people that have inspired us and it’s turned into this way bigger thing.” Continue reading →

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And now, eight minutes of Bad Brains playing City Gardens in 1991

Bad Brains in Trenton | still from video

Is there a venue in South Jersey more legendary than City Gardens? Is there a band in punk more fraught with turmoil than Bad Brains?

Here’s a snippet of a night on October 20th, 1991, when the energies of the Trenton club and the energies of the D.C. icons converged. Of course, it’s the third or fourth make of the Bad Brains lineup…so their energies are probably not the same as they were in the “Banned in D.C.” years. Core members Dr. Know on guitar and Darryl Jennifer on bass are rocking their distinctive interplay throughout, but if you’re looking at that grainy VHS transfer footage and thinking “Hmmmm, I don’t remember H.R. being that ripped,” your eyes are not playing tricks on you.

This concert took place after the second time the legendary and controversial vocalist departed the band along with his brother, drummer Earl Hudson — supposedly, the reason had to do with disagreements over whether Bad Brains should lean more to their punk side, or their dub/reggae side. This short-lived version of the band features Mackie Jayson on drums and Chuck Mosely on vocals, and if you’re picking up a LA style alternative funk rock groove going on with these performances, your ears are not playing tricks on you. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: October is haunted with thrift store discos, horror flicks in cemeteries, and gigs from Swearin’ to Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

“This year Halloween fell on a weekend and me and the Geto Boys were …” Wait a minute! Halloween isn’t on a weekend this year! But even when it falls on a Wednesday I’m still more excited for Halloween than just about any other day out of the year. It’s not just the special, yearly concerts – Dead Milkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, all the cover shows happening around town – though that’s a huge part of it. Halloween is this huge celebration of the weird and the wonderful, an excuse to dress up and have fun and get real obsessed with ghosts. And there’s really no better city for Halloween than Philadelphia, which embraces the holiday the second the clock turns midnight on October 1st.

Welcome to the Skeleton Key, your monthly DIY calendar and column here in The Key. Let’s get spooky! Continue reading →

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A Very Gritty Playlist: What is Philadelphia’s favorite freak listening to?

Gritty the young bul

In an incredible dose of irony, the most unifying thing to emerge from this dumpster fire of a week is something that looks like it crawled out of an actual dumpster fire.

Gritty, the googley eyed dust mop you see above, went from being universally mocked upon his debut as the newest mascot in the NHL, to being universally memed by thousands of folks with Photoshop and free time, all the way to universally beloved — at least in his home city. I mean, the best donut shop in Philly is selling a limited edition Gritty glazed today, and a Bristol brewpub reportedly already has Gritty beer on tap (although, those familiar with the lengthy brewing process realize this is either opportunistic marketing of a beer already in the works, or something coordinated with the Flyers long before the announcement).

So many questions about this character. What is he, exactly? What are his recreational drug preferences? Does he have a good relationship with the city’s other dayglo colored fuzzy sports freak, the Phanatic? And here at The Key, we’ve been pondering a big one all week — what music does Gritty rock to? Continue reading →

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Experimentation, Empowerment, Connectedness: Talking with the SELTZER party founders about their first year of LGBT clubbing in West Philly

A Seltzer party in West Philly | photo by Evie Yui-Ha | @snaxho_ | courtesy of the artist

Sometime in the previous decade, Philadelphia’s underground LGBT / queer community stepped out of the pit and onto the dancefloor, oftentimes transforming those same basements and living rooms that nurtured punk rock and other alternative bands into clubs. Powered amps were lugged, turntables were plugged in, and mics were checked. Out of this explosion of banging beats, and with the influence of Philly’s groundbreaking vogue/ballroom scene, the eponymous “queer dance party” was born. Venues like Elena’s Soul and the Treehouse were West Philly staples, where DJ’s like Seltzer’s DJ Precolumbian carved out a musical identity for themselves despite the odds volleyed at marginalized people.

Seltzer is that new, new though; a roving party building on the legacy of queer involvement in house, techno, hip hop and dance music, injected with the raw, nervous energy of downtown ’80’s New York. As such, it’s more than a movement and difficult to pin down to one specific sound. Certainly, there is the ever-present vogue battle beats or the syncopated rhythm and bash of Philly / Jersey club blasting out of speakers. But its playlist is also informed by world music, EDM, and experimental music– like a Soundcloud autoplaying from a queer, utopian Cybertron. With this eclectic, yet culturally refined soundtrack, DJ Precolumbian, along with Bearcat and the whole Seltzer squad, are all set to push boundaries, move bodies, and foster community all at once. With their one-year anniversary party happening this weekend, we sat down with Precolumbian and got the entire dish on Seltzer and what these parties mean for the future of queer dance sounds in Philly and beyond. Continue reading →

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Watch Hole bring Celebrity Skin to the Electric Factory in May of 1999

Hole at the Electric Factory | still from video

Twenty years ago, grunge was long gone, hip-hop and corporate rock ruled the radio, and Alternative-era stars Hole realized that the only way through was to evolve. On September 8th, 1998, they released their excellent third LP, Celebrity Skin, an album of sunny Southern California pop that flew in the face of the overwhelmingly white male rock critic world who still wanted to pigeonhole Courtney Love and her bandmates in the “angry feminist” box.

Not that there weren’t elements of anger in the songs on Celebrity Skin, or despondency, or themes delivered from a feminist perspective. But they mixed with sardonic humor (the title track) shimmering earworm hooks (“Malibu,” “Awful”) and beautiful atmospherics (“Boys On The Radio”). Even though Hole was always a group with complexity, here they fully owned those complexities and the result was the best album of their career. Continue reading →