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Jessie Reyez is ready

Jessie Reyez at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you want to look at a moment of definition in one’s career without DEFINING one’s career, it came for shushing singer and frank-as-fuck songwriter Jessie Reyez during her performance at the Made in America festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. The whole crowd watched and sang along with her every song as she stalked the stage in cut off shorts and a Scarface t-shirt (the movie, not the rapper). Just a few nights earlier, the Canadian-Colombian folk-rap singer had turned in bolt-upright electrifying performances at the VMAs, and on the night previous to MIA landed on Eminem’s surprise album Kamikaze, which features Reyez on two songs: “Good Guy” and “Nice Guy.”

That was but one of Reyez’s perfect storms.

“Oh man, you can say that,” she laughs. “That moment was surreal. Thank God I have a great team that has been working its asses off, because we’re just all moving so fast. Sometimes, you barely get a chance to appreciate what is, you know? It is difficult to stop, and take it in, because everything is ‘go go go.’ No sooner than I get a moment… I’m pulled into the present.” Continue reading →

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Consider the Angles: Abi Reimold on combining passions for introspective music and outrospective photography

Abi Reimold
Abi Reimold | photo by Emily Kuhar | courtesy of the artist

While Abi Reimold’s song are intensely personal, their love of photography is based around capturing others. On their album covers, they combine the two passions. The photograph on their most recent LP, 2016’s Wriggling, centers around a bowl of worms on a clean white table, the creatures writhing and wrapping around each other.

“I just liked the idiom: ‘opening a can of worms.’ I felt like that would tie the songs together very well,” Reimold said while munching on a salad bowl, seated across from me at a table on Walnut Street. “[It’s about] getting through things, and even though you can be in a situation or a mindset, and feel those feelings, that doesn’t mean that’ll be something permanent.”

Reimold recounted taking the shot that would become the cover of Wriggling. Filmmaker J. Miller was documenting the process, the room was set up. They just needed one thing: the worms. For that, Reimold went to their gardener friend, Katy.

“She was like, ‘Actually, I have a bunch of worms in my bathtub!’ It was really serendipitous.” Continue reading →

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Dave Hause talks new September Haze EP with Helen Leicht on XPN Local

Hause
Dave Hause | photo by Jessie Deflorio | courtesy of the artist

Cali-based, Philly-at-heart singer-songwriter Dave Hause releases his latest project, September Haze, this Thursday, November 1st. The EP includes four new songs, as well as a cover of Brandi Carlile’s “Hold Out Your Hand.”

Last night, Hause called in to the XPN Local Show to premiere the Brandi cover, as well as another song called “Lemon Hill”; in addition, he talked about the new project, recording with Eric Bazilian of The Hooters, and what he’s been up to since we heard from him last in 2017 at the XPoNential Music Festival.

Listen to the full interview below; for more from September Haze, check out another song called “Steady Now,” streaming at Brooklyn Vegan.
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That Was Then, This Is Now: An oral history of Philly hardcore cult favorites Flag Of Democracy

Flag of Democracy | photo by Yoni Kroll | courtesy of the artist

Picture this: it’s 1982 and punk and hardcore are beginning to take hold in Philadelphia. Three obsessed and eager teenagers decide to form a band. As luck would have it, their friends are booking the show of the year — Washington D.C.’s Minor Threat, considered at the time one of the finest bands around and today to be absolutely legendary — and these suburban teens are asked if they’d open. The band goes up on stage and rips through a fantastically wild set despite it being their first show ever. Everybody is blown away.

In the movie version of this story that would be it. Maybe they learned a valuable lesson. Maybe they didn’t. The final scene is one of those epic montages showing everybody growing up and the reunion three decades on where you might think they’re all normal adults who aren’t angry at the world because they’ve figured it all out but surprise surprise they show up in leather jackets ready to play their second show ever! Roll final credits and …

But wait: this all actually happened and that band, they’re still playing breakneck pissed off hardcore punk. In fact, they never stopped. That’s the world of Flag of Democracy, one of the finest acts to ever come out of Philadelphia and to this day a cult favorite around the world. Continue reading →

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Years & Years and Troye Sivan: Queer pop turns a corner

Years and Years | photo by Ed Cooke | courtesy of the artist

If queer pop with subtle, social message points about the ups and downs of the movement for LGBTQ equality and a sense of lyrical sexual freedom had banner years, they would be 2015 and 2018. Those are the years that Australia’s Troye Sivan and England’s Years & Years (and its frontperson, Olly Alexander) first made themselves known in larger, broader ways.

With both starting their careers as actors (Sivan continuously, in this year’s Boy Erased), each explored the melodic ends of ambient dance-pop since their start: Sivan with 2015’s Blue Neighbourhood and 2018’s Bloom, Years & Years with 2015’s Communion, and 2018’s Palo Santo. Further connecting the two is each act’s upcoming tour schedule. While Sivan headlines The Tower tonight, Years & Years play Theatre of Living Arts, October 10. Continue reading →

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Falling Back Into It: Allison Crutchfield on the new era of Swearin’

Swearin
Swearin’ | photo by Alexander Rotondo | courtesy of the artist

It wasn’t long ago that Allison Crutchfield swore off the possibility of a future for Swearin’. 

The band she co-founded with singer-guitarist Kyle Gilbride and released two albums with dissolved not long after the songwriters’ romantic relationship did. Swearin’s breakup, perhaps inevitable at the time, gained a sense of finality as the years stretched on.

“We really had an idea about how this band was just gonna be,” says Crutchfield now, looking back on the events that led to Swearin’s end. “And so when we broke up, it was because none of us could imagine the band existing in the way that we were.”

Until recently it didn’t seem likely that Swearin’ would be revived. Its members moved on to other projects, and Crutchfield released her first solo album, the fantastic Tourist in This Town, last year. But then a conversation between Crutchfield, Gilbride and the band’s third core member, drummer Jeff Bolt, led each of them to admit they missed Swearin’. Weighing what it would take to do the band again, they realized it could be possible — just with a different approach than before. Continue reading →

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Experimentation, Empowerment, Connectedness: Talking with the SELTZER party founders about their first year of LGBT clubbing in West Philly

A Seltzer party in West Philly | photo by Evie Yui-Ha | @snaxho_ | courtesy of the artist

Sometime in the previous decade, Philadelphia’s underground LGBT / queer community stepped out of the pit and onto the dancefloor, oftentimes transforming those same basements and living rooms that nurtured punk rock and other alternative bands into clubs. Powered amps were lugged, turntables were plugged in, and mics were checked. Out of this explosion of banging beats, and with the influence of Philly’s groundbreaking vogue/ballroom scene, the eponymous “queer dance party” was born. Venues like Elena’s Soul and the Treehouse were West Philly staples, where DJ’s like Seltzer’s DJ Precolumbian carved out a musical identity for themselves despite the odds volleyed at marginalized people.

Seltzer is that new, new though; a roving party building on the legacy of queer involvement in house, techno, hip hop and dance music, injected with the raw, nervous energy of downtown ’80’s New York. As such, it’s more than a movement and difficult to pin down to one specific sound. Certainly, there is the ever-present vogue battle beats or the syncopated rhythm and bash of Philly / Jersey club blasting out of speakers. But its playlist is also informed by world music, EDM, and experimental music– like a Soundcloud autoplaying from a queer, utopian Cybertron. With this eclectic, yet culturally refined soundtrack, DJ Precolumbian, along with Bearcat and the whole Seltzer squad, are all set to push boundaries, move bodies, and foster community all at once. With their one-year anniversary party happening this weekend, we sat down with Precolumbian and got the entire dish on Seltzer and what these parties mean for the future of queer dance sounds in Philly and beyond. Continue reading →

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Philly State of Mind: Listen to Derrick Hodge’s guest DJ set on WXPN Local

Derrick Hodge | photo courtesy of the artist

The closing night of this year’s Philly Music Festival might just be the most unique and exciting part of its lineup. Derrick Hodge, a Philadelphia born-and-raised bassist, composer, producer and jazz luminary, curated a night of music called Philly State of Mind, where he’ll perform alongside a revolving cast of his peers and mentors — including James Poyser, a pianist known for his work with The Roots; Eric Wortham, another keys player who has worked with Jill Scott and Adele; Jaleel Shaw, a renowned saxophonist; DJ Rich Medina, one of the best turntablists to come out of the 215; plus a bevy of unannounced guests and surprises.

Basically, it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime gig for jazz fanatics, as well as a good introduction to our city’s contemporary jazz lineage for newbies, and Hodge called in to the WXPN Local Show this week to get us hype for the gig with an interview and guest DJ set.

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Eddie Bruce’s Latin Casino

Latin Casino | photo courtesy of Eddie Bruce

Though once located at 1309 Walnut Street, the Latin Casino – Cherry Hill’s “Showplace of the Stars” – opened its gilded doors and glittering drapes in 1960 to ring-a-ding entertainment options from Frank Sinatra to Donna Summer. For practically the next two decades, it hosted every swinging, crooning, joking, era-appropriate act you could think (Ella Fitzgerald, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers), until it closed in 1978. Yes, its shuttering was partially due to Atlantic City’s new-found wealth of casino stages, but the Latin was probably a victim of its time, what with disco and new wave music having the flash that a Lanie Kazan and a Rusty Warren once had to fill up the Latin.

I spent much more time at what the Latin became – Emerald City – than what it had been, yet, fondly remember my mom and dad taking me to the N.J. supper club to see New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt, Sinatra and (wow, if memory isn’t failing me), Ray Charles; all of which looked like the illustrious nightclub scene in “Goodfellas” where Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco come sweeping into the Copa and into the waiting arms of mob goobahs and Jerry Vale. It was beautiful.

Philadelphia-based cabaret artist Eddie Bruce has many of the same memories, so much so that he, and event co-producer Bruce Klauber, created Eddie Bruce Remembering the Latin Casino. The show premiered at World Cafe Live in January, and returns this fall with a preview showcase Monday, October 1, and the gig itself on Sunday, Oct. 14 at the Mandell Theater with a 17-piece band, and singer Paula Johns doing her own Ella Fitzgerald routine. Continue reading →

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Vogue Evolution: Philly’s DJ Delish leads queer electronic music into the future

DJ Delish | photo courtesy of the artist

The hope for underground music fans with regards to vogue and ballroom culture leaping into the mainstream via FX television drama Pose (on the stiletto-adorned heels of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, and other national TV shows highlighting colorful, performance aspects of the LGBT communities) is that the DJ’s, producers, dancers and emcees involved in crafting and embodying the culture can get a little shine.

Believed to have its origins in 1960’s Black and Latino discos and cabaret clubs, the vogue counter-culture — so named for the dancers who took many of their poses and awkwardly-arched, angular dance moves from the images in Vogue and other fashion magazines as a means of aspirational appropriation — moved from those venues and into underground clubs, community centers, and basements. The music was at first pumping, hard-edged and lesser known disco tracks (like Cheryl Lynn’s “Too Be Real” or Loose Joint’s “All Over My Face”) and eventually, house (Marshall Jefferson’s “House Music” and Derrick May’s “Strings of Life”).

As generations changed, techno-infused house music became the go-to dance beat for vogueing, with songs like Robbie Tronco’s “Walk 4 Me,” and particularly “The Ha Dance” — a rousing, swirling track by Masters at Work that compliments the equally swirling, ninja-like movements of the dancers. As DJ’s like Vjuan Allure (often considered the father/mother of “the Ha” remix movement) became frustrated by dancers only wanting a distinct collection of songs — those songs that had throbbing tribal beats; sassy vocalists chanting; horn stabs to accentuate the ultimate vogue move, the death drop — on the runway or dancefloor. And so, the Ha Remix genre was born.

 As a member of the current generation, DJ Delish‘s music takes the sound beyond what even her influences could have imagined. Her tracks are laced with a deep, resounding soulfulness that speaks to her Philly-injected approach to music. Underneath the slamming club beats are the warm bass and piano lines in songs like “U,” all riding on sinister string arrangements.  But don’t get it twisted: when it’s time to slay, Delish has the ability to do just that — the afro-beat inspired thump of “Men are Doomed” is laced with perfectly timed vocal snippets and an artful placement of the ever-present crash from the aforementioned “Ha Dance” that is the backbone of the genre.

Ironically, it’s on “Bag” that Delish really shines. It’s a simmering, playful piece of summery electronic soul that doesn’t ignore chillwave’s reinvention of the genre, but instead transcends it by paying closer attention to modern R&B’s roots. With its sweetly irreverent lyrics reminiscent of Diana Ross’s mid-’70’s, matter-of-fact storytelling on songs like “Upside Down,” words embedded in assured West Philly vernacular, Delish’s voice sits perfectly amongst the stammering synths and boom bap of the bass drum. We sat down with Delish to chop it up about beats, inspiration and where queer electronic music will take us in the future. Continue reading →