The Other Repo Man: A look at the life of Repo Records owner Dan Matherson

Dan Matherson, owner of South Street music institution Repo Records | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |
Dan Matherson, owner of South Street music institution Repo Records | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |

“We’ve been open, what, 26 years now?” His voice goes up at the end as if he’s asking me. Of course, Dan Matherson is aware of how long his store has been open. He’s just being modest, which is impressive given that he owns and operates a record store, selling music in a physical format even as the industry trends digital.

The first Repo Records opened in 1986 in the main line suburb of Wayne. The side street it was located on was the best location Matherson could find given his tight budget. “The rent was so cheap, like, $400 a month,” he says. The slab of real estate wasn’t the best, but Matherson was able to draw in customers by advertising on train stops and fliers posted around the locality. As his business expanded, he relocated to a second site in Bryn Mawr, where business took off. Eventually, he was able to open a second store on the 500 block of South Street in Philadelphia – the main hub for Repo since the Bryn Mawr location closed in the mid-aughts.

repo records-15
LPs ranging from Iron Maiden to The Front Bottoms line the Repo Records walls | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |

Matherson grew up in Devon, an area in which the few existing record stores were chains, which typically sold whatever was at the top of the charts that week. However, New York was his home away from home, and it was there that he would frequent record stores of a different type. The record stores in New York didn’t care about what was popular. They sold what was good. Knowing there was nothing like this in his Pennsylvania suburb, Matherson found his calling.

He nicked the store’s name from the 1984 movie, Repo Man. Given the movie’s punk rock soundtrack featuring artists like Iggy Pop and Circle Jerks, he figured it would make a good name for his store, which specializes in punk and underground records.

Matherson is a huge fan of punk; he loves bands like Joy Division and The Buzzcocks. In 1981, he traveled to New York to see The Clash play at Bond’s Casino, which he described as “one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”

As he lists some of his favorite bands, it’s clear he’s quite the rock and roll connoisseur. He gravitates towards lots of new wave bands from the late 70s and early 80s such as Wire, The Teardrop Explodes, and especially The Chameleons. In fact, Matherson helped organize a Chameleons concert at J.C. Dobbs when he found out the band had no Philadelphia dates on its 2006 American tour. Continue reading →


How should musicians handle bloggers that want freebies of their physical releases? Here’s what Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner did.

japanese bfastIt’s one of those double-edged swords of being a music journalist. Unless you’re a shameless mooch – the sort our buddies at Philebrity once pointedly dubbed “promosexual” – you probably made your way into the industry so you could turn other people on to artists that you’re personally excited about. However, in the process of doing that, you kinda sorta have to hit up those artists (or their label / industry reps) for freebies from time to time.

As a writer, there are various ways to altruistically handle this. One, simply purchase anything you’re writing about with your own money (nobody does this). Two, approach the artist / their people and ask for a download of the 7″ single / LP full-length / cassette you’re looking to review. Three, if advance leakage and lack of mp3 monetization are a concern for the artist or label, simply make do with a streaming-only version of the music (not as portable as a download, but whatever) and use that in your research.

Amazingly, in 2014, there are still journalists who require a physical copy of a release before they cover it. This recently led to a curious incident involving Japanese Breakfast, the solo lo-fi project of Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner.

The project’s two 2014 EPs are being released as a limited-run cassette, American Sound and Where is My Great Big Feeling via Sea Green Records this month. Zauner was recently hit up by a music blogger for a copy of the aforementioned limited-run cassette, and the exchange was a little disheartening. She was upset enough that she posted the emails to her Tumblr page last night – we’ll leave the blogger’s name out of this on our end, but if you’re curious, Zauner did identify them in her post.

Here’s how it went down: Zauner replied that she couldn’t afford to send a copy of the cassette, however, free downloads are available on her Bandcamp page, and the writer could feel free to review that. “It will most likely sound better on your computer anyway,” she joked. The blogger didn’t find this funny. Continue reading →


XPN Weekend Arts Crawl…celebrating the Schuylkill River and The Blob, the 20th Annual Bastille Day celebration in Fairmount, and more!


The Blobfest 2014 Streetfair is Saturday in front of the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville! This is an annual celebration of the original 1958 cult classic horror movie,The Blob, partially shot in Phoenixville, which was Steve McQueen’s first movie and had a hit title song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In it a jellylike thing from outer space lands in rural Pennsylvania and starts consuming townspeople. The free street fair has a fire extinguisher parade, costume contest, and live music. Throughout the day, several Blob related movies will be screened, including the original Blob, The Blob and Mothra, and The Blob and the Giant Spider. Special guests include Kris Yeaworth, son of the director, and Wes Shank, “the caretaker of the blob silicone,” which he acquired in 1965. And The Blob itself will be in attendance!

image courtesy of
image courtesy of

Over a 2.5 mile stretch of the Schuylkill River on Saturday and Sunday choreographer Alie Vidich’s Invisible River intends to inspire, stun and educate Philadelphia. Vidich melds aerial stunts, dance, theatre, music and the beauty of the Schuylkill itself to ask viewers: what can we do to sustain this river for years to come? Audience members can catch the spectacle for free on the river banks or buy a ticket (in advance only!) for the full experienceboating along as the show moves downstream in a 65-boat flotilla of dragon boats, kayaks and row boats. 

courtesy of
courtesy of

Eastern State Penitentiary presents its 20th annual Bastille Day extravaganza Saturday, and this version of the French Revolution has it all — the experimental cabaret group the Bearded Ladies, baguettes, beheadings, confetti cannons, Tastykakes, and appearances by Napoleon and Ben Franklin! The show is free and many neighborhood restauraunts in Fairmount offer drink and food specials and a French themed bar crawl. You can even find help with dressing like a revolutionary to prepare! Continue reading →


XPN Weekend Arts Crawl…Fourth of July Weekend in the place of America’s birth!

courtesy of Fort Mifflin
courtesy of Fort Mifflin

At historic Fort Mifflin’s Freedom Blast! the American flag is raised at 10:15 Saturday to kick off a day of readings of the Declaration of Independence, cannon and gun demonstrations and tours of the forts casemates (storage areas built into hills)  guided by Revolutionary War era living history soldiers and civilians in authentic dress.  The fort is one of Philadelphia’s gems, and you get an added boost of anachronism with the planes flying overhead to land at the Philadelphia Airport.

courtesy of
courtesy of

The Wawa Welcome America festival, which began earlier this week, gets underway at 10 am Friday with the Celebration of Freedom ceremony on the steps of Independence Hall, made extra special this year since it’s the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision paving the way for integration and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This is followed by a parade through Historic Philadelphia, ringing of the Liberty Bell, and the annual celebration on the Ben Franklin Parkway from noon on ending with the big free concert, this year featuring The Roots, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Aloe Blacc and Vicci Martinez, and culminating as always with fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art!

Historic Philadelphia hosts many other holiday events…

At the Independence Visitor Center Friday, Betsy Ross teams up with the Termini Brothers Bakery to produce the nation’s biggest flag made entirely of red, white and blue cupcakes!

Betsy will be in two places at once because she’ll also be at the iconic Betsy Ross House for Betsy’s Independence Day Bash, complete with a children’s naturalization ceremony and ceremonial bell ringing.

Also Friday Colonial reenactors are encamped at 6th and Market Streets and will perform cannon drills, and John Adams is available for a chat at the Historic Philadelphia Center.

Saturday such luminaries as Martha Washington, Baron Von Steuben, Thomas Jefferson and Octavious Cotto, who was a major in the Union Army in the Civil War and later registered black voters in Philadelphia, will be at Historic Philadelphia sites…and there are many activities for the kids.

one of Will Brown's photos
one of Will Brown’s photos

Aside from 4th of July celebrations, other events are happening this weekend…

The annual Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival is all weekend at Penn’s Landing.  The admission fee goes toward funding childhood leukemia research.

The Awesome Fest presents a free outdoor 20th anniversary screening of The Crow Saturday at Liberty Lands on North American Street in Philadelphia.  This 1994 American supernatural action film was based on James O’Barr’s 1989 comic book and tells the story of a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge his murder and that of his fiancée.  Rochelle Davis, who appears as Sarah in the movie, will be there!

Arch Street’s Fabric Workshop and Museum has been exhibiting photography by Ray Metzger, Will Brown, and David Graham. Brown captures still street photos, Metzger is well known for his black-and-white city-scapes, and Graham’s landscape work has been described as “bizarre” and “vibrant.”  The exhibits stay up through the end of the summer.

Spiritual Strivings:A Celebration of African American Works on Paper is at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts  It presents two collections. There are 70 works from the expansive Harmon & Harriet Kelley collection that spans the 20th century and is considered the preeminent collection of its kind (through October 12th)…and Eldzier Cortor:Theme and Variations from a living artist in his 90s who has just made a generous gift of his work to PAFA (through August 31st).


Load-In to Load-Out: A night on the job with Red Fang at The Troc

Getting the stage lights set for Red Fang | Photo by Matthew Shaver |
Getting the stage lights set for Red Fang | Photo by Matthew Shaver |

It was once known as The Arch Street Opera House. Over the past century and a half, it’s been called a lot of things (according to its Wikipedia page, anyhow) including: Park Theatre, Gaiety Theatre, Slocum’s and Sweatman’s Theatre (a personal favorite), and Sweatman’s Arch Street Opera House. Most recently it goes by the name The Trocadero Theater, or it’s more colloquial name, The Troc.

Fast forward 144 years past the recorded birth date, and I find myself trying to prove to a group of diligent, extremely friendly employees that I belong in this prestigious venue a few hours before doors open. A well-established home for movies, comedy, pop and – moreso, I think, than any other venue in Philadelphia – hard fucking rock.

The latter of which is why I was there. My credentials checked out, and I find myself walking through the empty lobby, out in to the spacious arena, around the elevated staging area, up an ancient set of stairs, down a dark, very ominous hallway, and in to “the back room” which also happens to be the literal back room.

Photo by Matthew Shaver |

I guess this is where the fantasy ends, though. [continue]


XPN Weekend Arts Crawl: The 2nd annual Make Music Philly, the 25th annual Manayunk Arts fest and more


The big event of the weekend is the second Make Music Philly, the Philadelphia version of a worldwide event celebrating music on the longest day of the year, the first day of summer. Planned on World Music Day, the global observance encourages the do-it-yourself attitude that makes music so accessible from novices to skilled performers. From 8 am to 8 pm on Saturday, venues all across Philly will host free music events, with highlights being a festival at Clark Park, performances at the Franklin Institute, and shows at the Fleisher Art Memorial. Join WXPN for our kick off at 10AM at Love Park for a play along percussion jam with the Philly Drum Project. We’ll be ending the evening at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing with a harmonica jam session and play along hosted by John Colgan-Davis followed by a concert with Ted Leo and R&B singer Lee Fields & The Expression

ManayunkArtsFestPosterSmal.a8cbf1ea822724e075a3260bed04eeb4126Has it really been 25 years already? It seems like just yesterday when the Manayunk Arts Festival started. This weekend the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary. Go here for more information. Continue reading →


What will the song of the 2014 Summer be?

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

What will the song of the 2014 Summer be? This Saturday, June 21st is the first day of Summer, and Philly is celebrating with Make Music Philly, a day long event of free music all over the city of Philadelphia. During the day on WXPN, we’ll be celebrating on the radio with songs of summer past and present. There’s already been a lot of discussion, and now we’d like you to weigh in. How do we define a “song of the summer?” Quite simply, it’s a song (or songs) that capture your imagination and your soul for three hot months (that would be June-August). It’s a song that becomes the soundtrack to your summer, a song that holds a special memory of a moment during your life, a song that forces you to lower your car windows and turn your radio up. Do you have a favorite song from past summers? What new song do you think is a contender for the 2014 song of the Summer? Billboard is keeping track of the songs of the summer here. We’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of some of our favorite all time songs of summer, including a handful of new releases. Unfortunately, Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” isn’t on Spotify. But it’s on our list.

What’s your contender for the 2014 song of the summer? Is there one song from the past that says summer to you? Let us know in the comment section below.


Disc Makers: Back in the vinyl business after 15 years

According to this blog post, Disc Makers, whose main offices are in Pennsauken, New Jersey, are back in the vinyl business after 15 years. This past Thursday, Disc Makers’ CEO Tony van Veen wrote in a blog post on their site:

As of this week, Disc Makers is back selling vinyl record pressing services to independent artists. The rise of vinyl is one of the most improbable stories of the past several years, but it’s real. For each of the past five years, we’ve contemplated whether to get back into the vinyl biz. Every year we thought it was a passing fad. But now, after five years of 35% annual vinyl record sales growth (every year), we’re back to being believers!

Whether it’s nostalgia, or hipsters, or that warm analog sound, vinyl is back with a vengeance! And I think it’s here to stay for a while. So now those old Hamilton presses are cranking again. I can smell that unmistakable smell again, and I experience the tactile, pleasurable feel of sliding that beautiful 12” disc out of its protective paper sleeve.

Returning to the manufacturing equipment the company sold off two decades ago, Disc Makers is now offering high-quality 7 and 12 inch vinyl records in various colors, two different weights, and a variety of record jacket packaging. “It’s not back to the future from our perspective; it’s forward to the past,” says van Veen.

For more of the story, check out the video below.


Read Dean Ween’s hilarious story about stealing Carlos Santana’s gear for a night

photo via

Okay, so this is something you simply couldn’t make up if you tried. You know the guitar solo from the Ween song “Transdermal Celebration”? That one single from the quebec album? That was recorded with Carlos Santana’s gear without him knowing.  

According to a in a (grammatically questionable) post on Facebook this week, Dean Ween told his “favorite Ween story of all time”: how his roadie at the time also just happened to work for a backline company (those are essentially companies that will supply or help transport a band’s gear to their concerts for them) and tipped him off that Ween’s shipping company would have Carlos Santana’s gear in transit at his backline company’s storage facility.  As a result, Ween decided to break in to the facility at 2 in the morning and record the solo to “Transdermal Celebration.” — the very take that appears on the album — through Carlos Santana’s PRS and Mesa Boogie amp.

“What needed to be done was immediately clear to me, I had an opportunity to play the solo on “Transdermal Celebration” through Carlos Santana’s amplifier and guitar. I had one shot at it, it meant taking a hard disk recorder to a storage space where all of Carlos’ stuff was sitting in transit. I arrived at 2am. We (very carefully) unpacked his equipment and set up his stage gear and in one take I recorded the guitar solo for “Transdermal Celebration” (the one that appears on the album, playing thru Carlos Santana’s guitar, pedalboard, and amplifier. The whole think took 10 minutes and we were terrified we were going to get caught. A lot of people would have lost their jobs. We got the fuck outta there relly fast after that. So the solo on “Transdermal Celebration” was played thru all of Sanatana’s shit in what resembled an early morning bank heist or something”

Check out the whole story, which is backed up with photographic evidence on Dean Ween Group’s Facebook page here.


Two of Philly’s best AM radio station airchecks in one

From the late Fifties through the late Seventies in Philly, two AM radio stations that were a large part of our radio listening were WFIL (Famous 56) and WIBG (Wibbage). Over the years, both stations had legendary DJ’s; WFIL had George Michael, Long John Wade, Diamond Jim Nettleton, Jay Cook, Dave Parks, Dr. Don Rose, Jim O’Brien, Banana Joe, Brother Lee Love, and other greats. WIBG (99AM) had Hyski (Hy Lit), Joe Niagara (The Rockin’ Bird), Jerry Stevens, Frank X. Feller, Don Cannon, and John “Records” Landecker. We were enamored by these “Boss Jocks” who captured our imaginations with the “Pop Music Explosion.” We loved their station jingles, their overly reverbed microphone processing, the “Million Dollar Weekend” giveaways, their “Beat The Bomb” contests, their “hitline requests.” There are many air checks on the internet of these stations, but one of the best we recently stumbled upon is a combined WFIL and WIBG that also includes a segment of when WIBG went off the air and “died.” It’s a classic piece of radio history.