By

Wall of Heroes: How a GAMP music teacher inspires students by honoring the departed

GAMP Mural | photo by Nicholas Mehalick | courtesy of the artist
GAMP Mural | photo by Nicholas Mehalick | courtesy of the artist

Among any number of other anxiety-inducing occurrences, 2016 will be remembered as The Year That A Whole Lot of Famous People Died. But beyond our surface-level mourning, our requisite posting of YouTube clips and vintage photos, there was a more thorough consideration of these lost artists and their significance. Who were they as people? What did they stand for artistically and socially, and what lessons can we carry forward from them into the next generation?

Philadelphia school district teacher Nicholas Mehalick takes the deeper approach. Last year, the AP teacher at Girard Academic Music Program worked with his students to create a classroom mural memorializing David Bowie, Prince and Alan Rickman, all of whom passed away last year. As Mehalick explains it, it’s a celebration of sexuality and race, of human complexity and ultimately of unity. His class finished it before summer break, and it became an integral part of his instruction during the fall semester.

Mehalick reached out to us over the holiday about the mural, and we swapped emails to get more information on the project — his responses are thorough and illuminating, and you can read them in full below. Continue reading →

By

A Decade of Johnny Brenda’s: Reflections and portraits

https://www.instagram.com/p/BKUjEV6ADcn/

Ten years ago this fall, Johnny Brenda’s opened the door to their new upstairs show space, and it celebrated the anniversary back in September with a couple nights of all-local shows. During that run, several of the staff and performers were kind enough to sit down for portraits and offer their thoughts on what Johnny Brenda’s means to them and the community. Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Queen of Jeans’ favorite Tweets of 2016

Queen of Jeans | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN
Queen of Jeans | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Philly indiepop four-piece and Twitter enthusiasts Queen of Jeans share their favorite Tweets of the year.

2016 was super super rough, and while we lost so many inspirational people and even our hope at times, music continued to provide the greatest medicine (and we’ve even gotten to share some of our own in the process too, which has been a saving grace –thanks xpn)! Here are a few artists this year that kept our hearts happy on the interwebs, specifically on Twitter. Don’t stop beliebing! – Miri, Mattie, Nina & Patrick Continue reading →

By

Hope Thru Hip-Hop: A fresh after-school program for Philly’s youth

Photo by Michael Boyle | courtesy of the artist
Photo by Michael Boyle | courtesy of the artist

When I was in high school, there were no hip-hop oriented after school programs to help cultivate my talent. All I had since I started rapping at age fourteen were whatever beats I could steal from random tapes, a notebook and my own brain to learn as much as I could about the craft I was beginning to pursue. I would have loved to have an organized group of mentors and peers to share in my love of hip-hop and to help develop what I wanted to do within the culture. Fortunately for the hip-hop inclined youth of Philadelphia, there is such a program: Hip-Hop Heritage, meeting at The Academy at Palumbo in South Philly.

When Aaron Sarkar, the Youth Programs Director for Hip-Hop Heritage, asked me to come perform for the kids and to speak about my own experiences as a hip-hop artist, I immediately obliged. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak to young aspiring hip-hop artists and enthusiasts like I wish someone had done for me, so this was something I was anxious to check off my bucket list. Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: 2016’s ten best Philly artist portraits

Spill | via the artist’s Facebook page

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, our Chad Snyder takes a look at some of the most eye-catching promo photos from Philly artists we’ve seen this year..

For a lot of people, a musician’s image is just about as important as the music itself. The release of a new album usually signals a deluge of photos, videos, and artwork, providing context to the themes and sounds the project explores. It’s a visual side dish to the aural main course, and one of the required components to this feast is usually a new portrait of the artist. Usually, they’re just simple shots of cool people looking cool, but sometimes, the photos transcend mere documentation and stand on their own. Take the photo of Spill above, which actually features members of the band spilling champagne on each other (classic). Since I’ve started writing for The Key, I’ve seen a lot of promotional photos from Philly artists, but here are just a few that stood out from the pack. Continue reading →

By

Bowerbird and REC Philly set up shop in new University City venues

Philadelphia’s music scene is about to get even more eclectic thanks to an exciting new pair of venues, as the Philadelphia Weekly reported last week. Whether it’s the intimate and avant-garde or an incubator for up-and-coming creatives, there’s something for everyone here, now more than ever. You maybe, maybe had an excuse before, but if you can’t find a good show to go to in 2017, it’s now, officially, all on you. Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Josh Pelta-Heller makes sense of 2016 through concert photos

Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, photographer Josh Pelta-Heller shares a collection of photos that highlight this year’s great moments of music in Philadelphia.

“2016 Sucks!”

It’s the generously sanitized version of the by-now-common mantra of many, as we plunge headlong into yet another unseasonably warm holiday season (this past Thursday’s cold snap notwithstanding), as our climate changes viscerally. This December probably won’t step up to break the trend of warmest months on record, but it will bring home a year of painful passings of a seemingly inordinate amount of beloved artists and cultural icons, and one that saw the anomalous rise to power of an unrepentantly solipsistic oligarch in an election that was at best questionably democratic and at worst finds even the sanest among us checking our toilet bowls for Russian spies again like it was 1962. Cue Dylan’s “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” maybe more relevant now than ever, even as we all watch in real time with mouths open as a once-satirical sentiment becomes the unchecked New World Order.

Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Main Street Music’s best-selling records of 2016

Wilco listening party at Main Street Music | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN
Wilco listening party at Main Street Music | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, we bring you Main Street Music‘s 20 records that flew off their shelves.

Manayunk’s resident record store celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year, so they know a thing or two about selling vinyl. Their customers also seem to know their stuff: the shop recently shared a list of their best-selling records of 2016 on Instagram, and it’s packed with great bands that also made the XPN rotation this year like Car Seat Headrest, Pinegrove, Dr. Dog and more. View the full line-up and dig into a video playlist of the albums below.

Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Discoveries of 2016

Harmony Woods | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Harmony Woods | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. To kick off the series, Key editor John Vettese recaps six of his favorite Philadelphia music discoveries from the past 12 months.

Ah, Philly. Keep on being awesome. It’s once again time for me to look back and reflect on the past year of music that came out of our community, and once again I’ve had a harder time than ever narrowing it down.

Locally rooted artists are breaking into the broader music conversation, whether they remain at home (Modern Baseball‘s Holy Ghost receiving international acclaim) or venture outward to other cities and scenes (Michelle Zauner’s sometimes-Philly / sometimes-Brooklyn Japanese Breakfast, Ron Gallo and Liz Longley taking up residence in Nashville). More people than ever are moving from other cities to Philly – including The Dove and The Wolf, who got their start in Paris. And as always, artists like Dr. Dog (who released an impressive two albums in 2016), Kurt Vile (who celebrates New Year’s Eve at The Fillmore) and The Roots (still rocking the late night TV party) rep the city on a national scale.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s my annual reflection on artists who I had not heard of prior to this year, who totally bowled me over and made me want to find out everything about them. These are artists that deserve to be one of those high profile artists in coming years. These are my favorite music discoveries of 2016. Continue reading →