(Full disclosure of the writer: Since discovering Rosu Lup a bit more than a year ago, I have become friends with a few of the members, and contributed the biography to their website)
The past few weeks have been a stark reminder that the largest portion of the creative landscape are not the millionaires or even thousand-aires I sometimes get to cover. Many of them are working class, as blue collar as the city they call home. Philadelphia has been an explosion of working class musical talent is the scant 5 years that I’ve lived and loved here. For Rosu Lup, that has culminated in a breezy album called Is Anything Real.
They sure know how to throw a hell of a party to celebrate.
“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.
For fans of Philly’s local music scene, it hurts a little to have to use the word “former” to describe Meg Baird’s residential whereabouts. The singer uprooted from her longtime home here about four years ago and settled into San Francisco, a transition she reviewed briefly with The Key for an interview last August, in advance of a show at Johnny Brenda’s where she shared a stage with friend and frequent collaborator, Philly-based harpist Mary Lattimore.
Luckily for Baird’s fans, whatever coast she’s living on, she has been as prolific as ever. Last year saw the release of her third solo album, Don’t Weigh Down The Light, where she was accompanied throughout by Charlie Saufley for a return more toward the fuller sound of records made with her Philly-based band, Espers. Baird premiered a music video for the title track from that record on NPR last December.
Lattimore is celebrating the release of new music of her own as well. Her new record At The Dam hit stores on March 4th – it’s an album of experimental harp music that she improvised as a document of recent trips in California and Texas. Having recently garnered a Pew Fellowship, Lattimore is looking forward to an upcoming tour playing a number of European dates. Though she’d played throughout Europe before — as a duo along with multi-instrumentalist Jeff Zeigler, opening for Steve Gunn, or as part of Thurston Moore’s band — Lattimore looks forward to the autonomy and accolade of this tour as her first international venture as a solo headlining artist. Continue reading →
It’s great when musicians share photos they’ve taken on tour with fans – it’s like you’re one step closer to being out on the road with them, seeing what they’re seeing and getting a glimpse into how they unwind between shows. Brianna Collins of Scranton’s Tigers Jaw recently shared a few new prints in her Big Cartel store from past tours and trips, including a breathtaking foggy snap of Snoqualmie Falls in Washington State (made famous in the opening credits of Twin Peaks), some resting wildlife in Japan’s Nara Park and the original photo used for the band’s 2013 Hum 7″. The prints come with a handwritten note and are numbered. Check them out here and listen to Tigers Jaw cover The Cure’s “In Between Days” below.
For years, the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philadelphia has been an eclectic and progressive area. Holistic cafes, independent bookstores, grocery co-ops, and international eateries have been a mainstay on the Baltimore Avenue strip. Being that Cedar Park is only a hop, skip, and a jump from The University of Pennsylvania, in recent years, gentrification has taken a hefty bite out of the neighborhood. Area watering holes like Abby’s Desert Lounge, Third World Lounge, and Best House have closed – the later two being replaced with kitschy bars that cater more towards the influx of hipsters than the residents who have been living there for years.
Despite the unstoppable growth of University City, many of the restaurants and hangouts have maintained and adapted to the changing surroundings. One space in particular is Dahlak Paradise, located at 4708 Baltimore Avenue. Dhalak, as the locals call it, is an Eri-Ethiopian Bar and Restaurant that serves traditional East African cuisine in an authentic Habesha setting. In the back of the Restaurant is a narrow bar that is, more often than not, super crowded. The bar area leads to a back patio area where drinkers can get a breath of fresh air or step out for a smoke. Continue reading →
In an article for Red Bull Music Academy Daily, Laurent Fintoni dug into the history of neo-soul in Philadelphia, a phenomenon that took off when a crew of now-legendary artists and producers (including Questlove, King Britt and Dozia Blakey) made a home at Silk City on Monday nights in the 90s. They called their live set / DJ clubnight experiment Back2Basics and created a breeding ground for R&B, soul and hip hop performers from around the world.
One of our favorite Philly records of 2016 so far is Wriggling, the remarkable debut by singer / songwriter / guitarist (and Key intern alumnus) Abi Reimold. It’s a dynamic record that draws heavy emotions into cathartic songs via guitars and drums and Reimold’s uniquely powerful voice, as well as her skill as a writer – points of it recall Cursive, Sharon van Etten, Nina Simone and Jason Molina.
On the heels of the album’s January release on Sad Cactus Records, Reimold went on a week long solo tour of New England, and our contributing photographer Rachel Del Sordo tagged along to tour manage, sell merch and act as documentarian. Today, she posted an extensive gallery of photographs from tour on her website. Continue reading →
WKDU recently stumbled along some pretty interesting recordings back in February. After digging into their archives and searching through mounds of tapes that had “completely disintegrated into a pile of dust and polymer goo,” a DJ found a recording of jazz funk band The Production performing at the Kim Graves nightclub from late 1978. Continue reading →
For the better part of the last four decades, the City of Philadelphia has been known for having some of the world’s best DJs. In addition to being technically proficient and possessing an expansive knowledge of music, many of our city’s DJs also have a reputation for injecting a deep social consciousness into their craft that influences the music that they play, educating listeners while moving butts on the dancefloor.
Bruce Campbell Jr. (aka DJ Junior) is one such DJ whose musical talents intersect with his desire to educate and speak to greater social issues such as race, poverty and our country’s educational system. Dust + Dignity, the multimedia art exhibition that Campbell has curated opening tonight at The Painted Bride is a culmination of those interests and mission. Continue reading →
For the second year running, the folks at NPR Music held their Tiny Desk Contest this winter, with artists all over the country competing to be a featured performer on the endlessly popular Tiny Desk Concert video series. Word is the winner will be announced tomorrow morning, so just like last year, we here at The Key compiled a list of nearly every Philly area musician who entered.
Last year, NPR told us that Philadelphia artists contributed 75 videos to the 7,000 overall entries. This time, we’re counting 131 videos…almost double.
Each group reconfigured their setup for an intimate performance, staged behind a desk of some sort. The mix and variety of styles parallels the variety of musical talent pouring out of this city right now. And this isn’t even all of it. Continue reading →
Lushlife, a.k.a. Raj Haldar (the focus of this past weeks UNLOCKED series), and CSLSX (pronounced casual sex, if you’ve only ever seen it in print), have put together something really special with Ritualize.CSLSX’s production is bursting at the seams with elements of classic hip-hop, indie rock, and shoegaze.Let’s call it dream-hop.Raj’s lyrics are planted firmly in Philadelphia, but peppered with so much more that widens the appeal, and with a flow that recalls the golden era of rap.Marrying these two together solidifies what will hopefully be a word wide hit, if only on the level that underground albums become world wide hits.It’s a wholly unique experience that I’ve not heard anything like since DFA produced Automato’s album a decade ago (and that quickly got buried in the underground). Continue reading →