On stage, Brad Oberhofer is a man of many talents. He’s not just the guitarist and lead vocalist for his aptly named band Oberhofer, but an actively at-work orchestrator of everything and nothing. Seeing Oberhofer live is a free-form exercise in creativity. Will he ask the audience for articles of clothing to decorate his mic stand, or leave the stage in the middle of the song to run out and grab a bar stool to stand on and play from in the middle of the crowd? Yes. Both. Or maybe neither. Or potentially something entirely else. Continue reading →
Introducing “High Key,” a new 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 the past few years, Gary Dann’s Boom Room Studios has been the unassuming epicenter of an emerging music community in Philly. Conceived with extraordinary vision, the Boom Room was built with the attention to recording details of experienced and passionate audiophiles, and nestled comfortably next to the venerable venue Kung Fu Necktie and beneath the raging metal-on-metal cacophony of the decrepit Market-Frankford Line infrastructure overhead that frames the entire street with that iconic Philly photo-bleached baby-blue.
Outside the building in the adjacent lot is a small stage that hosts neighborhood music concerts. Inside is Dann’s creative lair. The Boom Room boasts production for artists that include the likes of Zoe Kravitz, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Chris Kirkpatrick, Jaheim, Billy Paul and Beanie Sigel, to name a few, the latter of whom has come to call the studio his “clubhouse.”
Earlier this fall, Laura Stevenson released her fantastic, fourth solo album Cocksure through Don Giovanni Records. Punkier, perkier, and poppier than anything she’s ever done, it marks both a natural progression from and stark contrast to her previous efforts. In preparation for her upcoming stop at The Foundry at The Fillmore to debut the album live, I caught up with Stevenson to discuss the making of the record, how to stay sane on the road, and her memorable first experience playing in Philly… Continue reading →
Inexplicably wearing a surgeon’s mask and light blue nurse’s scrubs, The Districts frontman Rob Grote is relentless as he sits behind a drum set in the smokey basement of a North Philadelphia row home. As he brutally beats the crap out of the instruments as if he was the unhinged percussive offspring of Marky Ramone and Keith Moon, Grote finds himself in an unfamiliar spot; he’s typically anchored at center stage behind a microphone with a guitar dangling from his left shoulder. But this time fellow District Braden Lawrence is the one playing guitar and singing into a microphone, which in this case is hooked up to a cheap PA system being entirely drowned out by the thundering monsoon that is Grote’s abominable drumming.
A crowd full of college-aged kids are delusionally moshing and dancing to the music being performed, creating a ruckus (and surely a fire hazard) to the fast-paced, punk rock sounds coming out of the instruments of Lawrence, Grote and their roommate Breshon Martzall, the third member of the trio, who plays bass and sings. It’s very loud, and nearly impossible to tell one song from another. It’s the sound of Grote and Lawrence’s side project. It’s called Straw Hats. Continue reading →
There’s always roadblocks on the way to success. Resources. Location. Scheduling conflicts. Through these trials, many artists still enjoy a degree of freedom in their ability to break off and let the music do the healing.
For Ryan “Gooch” Nelson, music was the only way to recover, but the ability to play remained just out of reach.
In 2004, Gooch (who was 18 years old at the time) was injured in an accident that left him a C7 quadriplegic, unable to move at all below his neck. Continue reading →
Michael Cormier has a pretty cushy job situation when you think about it. He works out in the verdant hills of Swarthmore doing landscaping. His employers have a garage apartment where he gets to live; it’s also a space for his bandmates in the emerging Philly country-folk trio Friendship to rehearse every week. There are two bus lines, a train and a trolley nearby that can get him into and out of Philly with ease. I ask if he’s working for a school, or a business, or something of that nature; Cormier shakes his head. It’s private property, and he’s working for the family that owns it.
“He’s like the help in Downton Abbey,” jokes Dan Wriggins, the soft-spoken singer guitarist in Friendship. They run through some of Cormier’s other day jobs, all of which are fascinating by metropolitan office-life standards: baking bread in England while studying abroad for three months, baking bread in rural Ohio, working on a lobster fishing boat in midcoast Maine. That last job is actually one he shared with Wriggins and Peter Gill, the pedal steel guitarist in Friendship, when they all lived up north.
“We all grew up in the same town outside of Portland, called Yarmouth, so we’ve always played music together,” says Cormier. This is their first cohesive project, though. “We’ve worked on Pete’s stuff, we’ve worked on my stuff, we’ve worked on Dan’s stuff, and now it’s like fused together.”
This January, the three lifelong friends decided to take the next step with their music; in January, they moved to Philadelphia, a full day’s drive from the area where they grew up, to launch the band. Continue reading →
David Wax Museum, the Americana-influenced folk group hailing from Charlottesville, VA, is set to release their latest full-lengthon October 16th. Guesthouse, the group’s first release since 2012′s Knock Knock Get Up, is a lovely folk album, drawing inspiration from Mexican folk songs – think Devendra Banhart, but with a more produced and accessible sound. In an interview with The New York Times, Wax described his songwriting process: “We just take a brief riff, an inspiration from a moment in a Mexican folk song, and we let that blossom into a song that feels more contemporary.” Continue reading →
It’s an exciting time for the East coast music scene, as the CMJ Music Marathon kicked off in New York City this week. Despite being hosted by our more populous neighbors to the north, CMJ 2015 features an eclectic lineup of Philly bands that are sure to impress. If you’re interested in making the trek up to NYC between now and October 17th, we’ve got you covered with a list of just about everyone from Philly that will be playing at CMJ. There are a lot of bands playing CMJ 2015 though, so if we missed someone, let us know in the comments! Continue reading →
There’s a death-defying, almost acrobatic quality to the post-millennially tense pop of Norway’s Jenny Hval. On two critically adored releases, 2013’s Innocence is Kinky and this year’s Apocalypse, girl, Hval traffics almost exclusively in charged elements—both sonic and philosophical. To witness Hval’s avant-songs unfold is akin to watching an escape artist set up seemingly impossible parameters only to elude total catastrophe with grace and style.
Hval’s music is built on extended vocal techniques, vintage R&B-style interstitial monologues, and molten noise, but there’s a fundamental rock n’ roll giddiness that her work elicits: “Is she going to pull this off? How is she going to pull this off?” The synthesis seems scientifically proven to lure the listener into a total body experience where one can be gently (and sometimes not so gently) provoked. Continue reading →
There’s a type of folk music that’s difficult to listen to in an abstract way, a type that’s difficult to extricate from the rich context of its history. A type that seems to always evoke a sort of timelessness, along with its most prominent practitioners and all of the artists who have carried it into the modern era. Nick Drake. Fairport Convention. Pentangle.
Oh, and “The Battle Of Evermore. “ Obviously.
Toward the end of her until-then lifelong residency in the Philadelphia area, in December of 2010, Meg Baird opened for the late great folk singer and guitarist Bert Jansch at Johnny Brenda’s, at what would be his last appearance here. Shortly following that show – in retrospect, an evening on which the proverbial torch of this tradition and this artistry was arguably passed, metaphorically speaking, between its masters in two generations – Jansch would pass away, sadly, and Baird would uproot, and relocate to the West Coast. Continue reading →