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Philly Progress Report 2016: What’s new, what’s next in the music scene

Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast | photo by Morgan Smith | phobymo.com | courtesy of the artist

The halfway point of 2016 is nigh, making this week an opportune time to look back over the past six months and take the pulse of the Philly music scene. But in a way, that’s easier said than done. As The Key’s staff of contributors weighed in on regional releases we dig in a Facebook group conversation earlier today, the names kept on flying – from the hip-hop sphere (Hardwork MovementLushlife) to singer-songwriter folk (Birdie Busch, Rosali), indie rock (Swanning, Hurry) experimental (Nick Millevoi, Mary Lattimore) and more.

As our Marc Snitzer put it: “It’s only June and that list is huge. We all know how much talent the city boasts but when you go ahead and list it out, it’s bonafide bonkerz.”

Suffice it to say, the Philly music scene is tremendously healthy – and here’s a look at what’s made it thrive so much this year, along with our prognostications for the second half of 2016. The list is thorough but admittedly far from complete…know of anybody we forgot? Shout them out in the comments.

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Listen to Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES shoutout Hop Along on the How To Be Amazing Podcast

The almighty @chvrches at #Firefly2016! 🙌🏻🙏🏻💃🏻

A photo posted by WXPN (@wxpnfm) on


They may hail from across the pond, but we here at The Key are no strangers to CHVRCHES. They took over the Electric Factory last October just after releasing their sophomore album Every Open Eye, played XPN’s SXSW showcase in March, and we were even lucky enough to catch the at Firefly over the weekend.

On Monday, the latest episode of the How To Be Amazing podcast was released, and it features CHVRCHES’ own Lauren Mayberry. She sits down with host Michael Ian Black for an engaging and enjoyable hour long chat, discussing her recent move from Glasgow to Brooklyn; speaking out against misoginy and the role of women in music; the fact that she pronounces schedule as “shed-jule” but claimed to not have an accent; how a TED Talk changed her life, and much more. At the end, when Black asks for music she’s been listening to lately, Mayberry shouts out Philly’s own Hop Along (!!!). You can (and should) listen to the podcast below. Continue reading →

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Listen to David Sweeny (aka Johnny Showcase) on the 25 O’Clock Podcast

Johnny Showcase
Johnny Showcase | Photo by Jeremy Quattlebaum for WXPN

Anyone who has seen a show from Johnny Showcase and The Mystic Ticket know that what they do on stage is more than just an ordinary concert. They are musicians who wholeheartedly commit themselves to taking on a character and do so to make the event an experience like no other for their audience. In describing the latest episode of his 25 O’Clock Podcast, Dan Drago admits that when he contacted David Sweeny (aka Johnny Showcase) to come on the show, Sweeny countered by asking if Drago wanted to interview Sweeny himself, or his character, being Johnny Showcase. Yes, it is a tad confusing, but it speaks to how serious Sweeny is about his transformation into a performer separate from his everyday self. Continue reading →

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Hinds bring the party to a Monday night at Union Transfer.

Hinds | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com
Hinds | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com

After a terrible weekend, I believe that many of us needed a release.  Monday isn’t a prime party day, but I needed the positivity, I needed the community, and I hadn’t really planned it, but I needed this Hinds concert at Union Transfer.  Their unbridled optimism, mixed with a hard dose of good old rock and roll was what plenty of people needed.  Garage, lo-fi, whatever you wanna call it, it’s undeniably fun. Continue reading →

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Watch Lil Uzi Vert climb from the Roots Picnic stage to a rooftop to the XXL Freshmen Cover

Lil Uzi Vert at Roots Picnic 2016 | via Okayplayer

Lil Uzi Vert is a name that’s been on the lips of hip-hop prognosticators for the past year and change. His rabid fans and the hype they create has led to more than a few “next big thing” proclamations, and one look at his performance from Roots Picnic shows you just why. The 21-year-old, who hails from the Francisville section of Philly, was in the midst of his song “WDYW” – a hammering rager with a clubby beat – when he decided to take shit, literally, to the next level.

The account of it by Okayplayer’s Elijah C. Watson is particularly vivid. Continue reading →

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The Superweaks bass player Corey Bernard passes away at 22

On Sunday morning, local musician Corey Bernard passed away suddenly at 22. The New Jersey native and multi-instrumentalist spent the last few years playing bass in The Superweaks alongside his brother, Evan.

The announcement came from Evan via The Superweaks’ Facebook page. He wrote:

My baby brother, our bass player Corey passed away today. I loved him so much. It was incredible to be able to write music with him, play unbelievable shows with our favourite bands we could only dream of as children. I will always cherish spending countless hours bickering and farting in the van driving around the country. I will never, ever forget the experiences we have shared. Thank you for always challenging me to be a better person. I will always love you Corey.

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Seizing the Moment: The Birth of Needlove Records

Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst
Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst

In the fall of 2014, Needle Points were approached by Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog with interest to produce their next album. It was to be the neo-psych ’n’ rollers’ second album, following up their six-song LP, Bom Tugangu, that they self-released the year prior. However, the album has yet to see the light of day.

After spending two weeks at Mt. Slippery studio with McMicken, the band spent the next year and a half shopping the end result around to multiple record labels. They received varying levels of interest, as local as Brooklyn and as far away as England. Ultimately the band decided it would be in their best interest to release it on their own. They would utilize it to get their own record label, Needlove Records, off the ground with plans to finally release the new album later this summer.

The startup record label will be run by Needle Points’ lead singer Colin Holloway and drummer Jordan Kaplan. Having already released their own Bom Tugangu debut and through their dealings with other musicians and labels through their work with McMicken, the two definitely have some do-it-yourself experience under their belts.

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The High Key Portrait Series: Brian LaPann

Brian LaPann | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | <a href=http://www.hellerhound.com/ target="_blank">hellerhound.com</a>
Brian LaPann | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.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.

Although New Jersey native Brian LaPann had enjoyed a modest following fronting Jersey-based blues-rock band 61 North, he says the draw of Philly’s music community compelled him to make the leap a few years back to set up shop near one of South Philly’s hottest neighborhoods, and to begin work with some of the local musicians whom he admired most. Here LaPann honed his skills as a lead guitarist, and considered a broader diversity of influence and instrumentation as he wrote, recorded and produced his latest EP. Continue reading →

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Why the heck was the Jim’s Steaks line singing Boyz II Men at 3 a.m.?

Jims Steaks crowd singing Boyz II Men | photo courtesy of Ernest Stuart
Jim’s Steaks crowd singing Boyz II Men | photo courtesy of Ernest Stuart | instagram.com/onlyernest

Well, there’s certainly an easy answer to the question I just posed: because it’s a freaking awesome song. Because it’s a timeless Philly classic. Because everybody of a certain age (read: 30+) knows it word-for-word, and many people in the much-younger and much-older demographics are nonetheless familiar, and can still follow along.

But more specifically, there’s the video as captured by Philly lounge/rock/theatrical impresario Johnny Showcase, which went viral on Facebook yesterday. Without a lot of context or commentary, it just shows the scene – a hungry crowd at 3 a.m. spontaneously breaking into song and belting out “End of the Road,” the multi-award-winning 1991 hit by Philly R&B heores Boyz II Men. Showcase concludes “this is why I love this city.” Continue reading →

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Listen to SoFAR Philly’s Carolyn Lederach on the 25 O’Clock Podcast

Carolyn Lederach
Carolyn Lederach | photo by C.J. Harvey | cjharveyart.com | courtesy of the artist

On the latest episode of the 25 O’Clock podcast, host Dan Drago shifts his sights from the scene to behind the scenes as he welcomes Carolyn Lederach to the show. Best known as curator of the mothly SoFAR Philly living room concert series, Lederach has also made a name for herself locally as a photographer, blogger and – more recently – an artist manager working with The Sun Flights and Josh Miller.

On the show, Lederach and Drago have a wide-ranging conversation. They discuss the nature of her shows and how it can be a more fulfilling experience to see an artist in a living room with 50 attentive people than in a club with 200 chatty, drunken people. Continue reading →