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21st Century Psych: Temples carry golden age traditions into the digital age

Temples | photo via www.facebook.com/templesofficial
Temples | photo via www.facebook.com/templesofficial

We are not experiencing a psychedelic revolution. Psych music, since its inception, has oscillated through pop culture. In the beginning, when love, drugs and the Beatles were free, the Byrds spun their dark web of bad trip/good trip to a lesser audience. The 70’s saw momentum from groups like T.Rex, with their fearlessly tripped-out glitz and glam rock. In the 80’s, I’m sure there were some dark underlords dosing people with anti-disco, and the 90’s had the Brian Jonestown Massacre, keeping the scene very much alive and kicking.

“There have been bands every decade who’ve revived what’s good about that Golden era of music and kind of carried it on to the next generation,” says Thomas Warmsley of the UK-based psych-pop group Temples. It’s a few hours before the group’s set at London’s Latitude Festival, and we’re on the phone discussing the past.

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Love for Locals: Why XPoNential performances mean more to hometown acts

The Lawsuits | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com
The Lawsuits | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

For the touring acts playing – and certainly the audience watching – this year’s XPoNential Music Festival can be summed up as a fun weekend full of great music, great people and relatively little rain.

But for local bands playing the festival, it means just a little bit more. For some, it was their first time playing outdoors in a festival setting. Others were returning to play for the third or fourth time. Several artists thought their sets went well, but a few had technical difficulties or other problems to work through.

From the Marina stage to the Susquehanna Bank Center, the hometown audience seemed to clap a little louder and listen a little more intently to the local acts. For Philly-based pop rock outfit Viv and the Revival, the first act to perform Friday, the admiration even elicited shouts of, “You rock!” and “Way to start our festival!” from the crowd. Continue reading →

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Tales of the Open Road: Get Real Gang leader Juston Stens on riding his ’72 Triumph cross-country to write and record Share the Road

Juston Stens | Photo by Ellie Tremple | courtesy of the artist
Juston Stens | Photo by Ellie Tremple | courtesy of the artist

About 45 minutes before I’m supposed to meet Philly pop rebel Juston Stens for a poolside cocktail at North Shore Beach Club, I get a text: “Kate, I’m so sorry. My van broke down in South Philly. Should we reschedule?”

I’m headed back to South Philly myself, and his van just so happens to be near my neighborhood. So I tell him no worries, we can do the interview as he waits for a tow. It’s about 90 degrees out and by the time I reach him, he’s already been waiting 4 hours. “They sent a guy out already, but the trailer bed wasn’t big enough,” he quips, gesturing towards his monolith of a vehicle.

Considering how long he’s been waiting, he’s in a surprisingly good mood. He apologizes profusely for ruining our pool plans, then eagerly starts describing his new record. When the tow truck arrives, he chats with the driver, then helps push the van into a parking spot post-tow. “I work as a mover, part-time,” he tells me, unphased by its enormity. “This is nothing.” Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Keeping mountain minstrelsy alive with Marah

Marah | Photo courtesy of the artist
Marah | Photo courtesy of the artist

The underdog set of this XPoNential Music Festival belongs to Marah – one known as a raucous Philadelphia rock band, now a raucous Central Pennsylvania folk band. Led by Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith, its project of late is the excellent 2014 offering Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, where the six-piece recorded its own rearrangements and renditions of songs collected in 1931 by folklorist Harry Shoemaker.

This is where the underdog aspect comes in: as Dave explains, the songs they drew from – while they are as striking and resonant in a modern context as I imagine they might have been three-quarters of a century ago – are nonetheless the music of the people, everyday real people, the sort that cultural critics might tend to eschew and not anthologize in favor of somebody more…I don’t know…poetic. But this is poetry nevertheless. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Catching up with Our Griffins

Our Griffins | Photo by Daniel Jason Savage
Our Griffins | Photo by Daniel Jason Savage

Atmospheric rock ensemble Our Griffins released its debut full-length Michael Boyd in September and has spent the ten months since establishing its presence in Philly and beyond. Led by Easton’s D.J. Brown, the band has sharpened its game as an evocative live act – some moments recall Bon Iver, others explode like The Appleseed Cast – appearing on the Communion Music showcase in the spring and being spotlighted in Root Down in the Shadow’s Cover Club series. “It’s been solid,” Brown tells us. “I definitely learned a lot from the whole cycle of things.” Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: The Districts get a little help from their friends

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

There are few things that can be as debilitating for a young band as finding out that your tour van – including all of your gear inside and all of your tour earnings – was stolen right out from under your nose. That was The Districts’ now widely-known story in early June. But the Lititz-bred, Philly-based band was able to get by with a little help from their friends, even when they were nearly 900 miles away from home. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Ryan Kattner of Man Man talks kids, celebs, and how we should all bring him cloaks for #XPNFest

Honus Honus (Photo by Rachel Barris)
Honus Honus (Photo by Rachel Barris)

I’ve been a fan fan of Man Man for almost a decade now—the same amount of time I’ve lived in Philadelphia. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think there’s something quintessentially Philly about this wacky foursome—something passionate, and unhinged, and maybe a little sweaty—with a big heart underneath all the face-paint. For the past 10 years, I’ve loved watching them grow with the city, transitioning from a ragtag group of gypsy punk weirdos singing fantasy-inspired chants—to a (more) polished quartet crafting real moments of heartache—while never losing their unique essence.

From the start, front man Ryan Kattner (a.k.a. Honus Honus) has been the driving creative force behind the band, as well as one of our fave interview subjects. One year after our last chat, I rung up Kattner again, in advance of Man Man’s set at XPoNential Fest. We talked kids, celebs, and audience requests—read on to get the full scoop. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: Escaping the everyday with Jersey singer-songwriter Ginger Coyle

DSC_6099 32
Photo by J. Potenta

There is nothing ordinary about Ginger Coyle.  From her style as a vocalist to the lyrics in her songs, she shows us that creativity has been an innate thing for her ever since she was young.  She is proud to be making music here in the Philly scene (she lives just across the bridge in South Jersey) and is excited to take the XPoNential Music Festival stage this weekend.  This week, we swapped emails with Ginger to get to talk about blasting Billy Joel and Carole King, to get a taste of her new single “The Big Picture” and see who she’s excited for at XPoNential. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Artist Spotlight: The beat-heavy road to the top of Marian Hill

Photo by Paul Gilmore via facebook.com/marianhillmusic
Photo by Paul Gilmore via facebook.com/marianhillmusic

Of all the shining local stars we’ve featured on WXPN, few have seen their fortunes rise quickly as Marian Hill. When they take the stage this Friday at the XPoNential Music Festival, they will be doing so on the heels of escalating tour momentum, glowing reviews in national news outlets, and a boatload of raw talent – all of which has come together within only a year-and-a-half of their official formation.

It would be foolish, however, to think too much of the duo’s relative youth (both as a band and as 24-year-olds). Vocalist Samantha Gongol and producer/beatsmith Jeremy Lloyd possess the rare mix of gracious humility and insatiable, studied ambition that strongly correlates with creative longevity.

“We still have a long way to go, but already realizing so many dreams and having this type of audience…it’s been out of this world,” says Lloyd. Continue reading →

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

“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.

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LPs ranging from Iron Maiden to The Front Bottoms line the Repo Records walls | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

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 →

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