Just two days ago, one of Philadelphia’s biggest punk bands, The Menzingers, released its fourth full-length album, Rented World, via Epitaph Records. Following up a surprise record release show in their current hometown of Philadelphia, the band went back to their roots and played an in-store acoustic show at Gallery of Sound in Wilkes-Barre, PA. In order to get into the show, one had to purchase their new record, Rented World on CD or LP and get a wristband for guaranteed entry to see the show and meet the band after their performance.
According to vocalist/guitarist Greg Barnett, this was only the second time that The Menzingers had played an in-store acoustic show. Both nervous and excited, the band put on an excellent performance, playing new songs such as album opener “I Don’t Want to be an Asshole Anymore” as well as old favorites such as “Good Things” and “Ava House”. This was a very special performance for not only the audience, but for the band – for a handful of songs, this was the very first time that these were played acoustic. At the end of the night, Gallery of Sound, with the help of The Menzingers, was kind enough to raffle off copies of Rented World LPs as well as On the Impossible Past cassettes. Check out photos and videos from the performance below.
KISS – keep it simple, stupid. You’ve probably been told this or something similar your entire life. They’re saying that things function best if they’re kept simple rather than made complicated, so this should be factored into the design of whatever it is you’re working on. A similar concept is Ockham’s razor, which says that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. This is all highfalutin fancy-pants talk for simplicity being the key. This is what I’m thinking about when I think about Scranton, PA’s Coal Town Rounders. They’re not particularly flashy or showy, they’re not reinventing the wheel, they’re just making goddamn salt of the earth bluegrass. For one, you’ve got your instrumental chops, two- your tight harmonies, and three- a strong catalog of songs to mine from, so what more do you need? I promise you that if you get these guys in a room together, you’ll be moved to interaction – to dance, to sing, to clap, to grin like a fool. I know that’s how we were acting in the mixing booth during this session, which was tracked live at the WXPN Studio on January 11th of this year. Now, simplicity does not equal untalented or lacking in passion. Quite the opposite, it means that the Rounders have stripped away superfluous musical baggage that does nothing except weigh them down. As a mean and lean acoustic quartet, the boys are nimble and energetic, imbuing their fairly traditional bluegrass twang with a good chunk of reckless abandon, like the crazy train might be coming off the rails at any moment. Whoever needed guitar amps anyway?
Philly psych-pop outfit The Interest Group made a splash before they were even really a band. On the heels of his involvement with local projects Blackhawks and Bananas Symphony, Yohsuke Araki teamed up with fellow singer-guitarist Marissa Lesnick to record a cover of the late 60s nugget “The Boys and The Girls” by The Network. The song was so infectious that, before The Interest Group had a full lineup or had even played its first show, it got a Pitchfork writeup. This set the bar relatively high for the fledgling band, and while it didn’t follow up immediately, it followed up admirably – with last summer’s Passenger 7″, a winning set at Little Berlin’s Fairgrounds Block Party, with another new EP in February, and even more new songs recorded this week for The Key Studio Sessions. The band is fleshed out with bassist Kyle Garvey and drummer Steven Urgo, and the songs they recorded are pure modern pop gold. Rooted in snapy sounds and jangling melodies reminiscent of The Left Banke, 13th Floor Elevators and The Zombies, the band adds nice contemporary experimental florishes – backwards loops, white noise, dissonant breakdowns – making the saccharine more gritty. Listen to their set and grab free downloads below; “Locked On” can be found on EP1, released in February, and the rest of the tracks are brand new. To hear more, mark your calendar for May 14th, when The Interest Group plays the Underground Arts black box with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Yesterday, The Menzingers released their fourth full-length album, Rented World. (Read our review here.) The band surprised its hometown fans when it was revealed that they were playing a secret CD release show at the Golden Tea House last night with Nona and Holy Mess opening. With less than a day’s notice, fans flocked to this West Philadelphia venue. Punk rock time was thrown to the side as the show was sold out before doors were scheduled to open. The Menzingers threw a crazy party, and you can check out scenes from the show in the gallery below.
As I write this article for WXPN I second guess the need to remind readers that radio is not dead, and despite the over saturation of information that the internet has to give us, there is still much to learn from people who dedicate their lives to music. More than just a Facebook status update or a tweet could ever offer.
So, I rewind to 2010, and one of the finest DJ mixes ever. James Zabiela (lovingly referred to as the British J.Z.) contributed to the fantastic BBC Radio 1 series: The Essential Mix. Early in James’ set, expertly shaped and crafted by a love for the movie Moon, there is a show stopping moment when soft synths, rolling snares, and gentle kicks formed together in to an epic, life changing (for me) breakbeat epic. The song: “Past Is Prologue.” The artist: Tycho.
It’s hard to describe music like that to a lot of people. Harder, sometimes, to describe it live. To express the pure joy at the subtle changes in the beat you thought you knew front to back. To express the difference from hearing the blissful synth waves, guitar licks, and drum kicks go from a cheap pair of headphones, to a solid home theater system, to massive dance floor speakers in a club. To sit with people who really, truly appreciate the sound being crafted live in front of them.
Tycho is just one arm of Scott Hansen’s art collective. The other portion, known as ISO50, also figures prominently in to the live act. As Tycho the band puts out wave after wave of chilled out, melodic breakbeats, washing the crowd over with euphoria (organically or not), ISO50 gives them the visual components to match. It’s hard to say for sure that they played all of the hits, if only because everybody has a different idea of what their favorite style of Tycho song is. For me personally they hit all of the high notes with an epically reworked beginning to “Dive”, the masterful “Hours”, “Past Is Prologue” and it’s scattershot drums, as well as the newest hits in the repertoire: the new classic “Awake,” and the pop-infused gleefulness “Montanta.” On the screen behind the band, the 70’s tinted artwork of ISO50 ebbed and flowed across a massive canvas. It is truly something meant to be experienced rather than attended.
Before their limited cassette release at their show this Thursday at Ortlieb’s, Philly Tapes Philly have shared a sneak peek of their collaboration Weekender and Delco Pacers. Originally conceived by members of Commonwealth Choir and Big Tusk, Philly Tapes Philly brings local bands together to play each others’ music, record it in the old analog format, release it on cassette tapes, and hopefully gain some new fans.
Philly Tapes Philly Volume 2: Weekend in Delcois out this Thursday, April 24th, at the release show at Ortlieb’s. But before you go grab a FREE copy of their joint tape (if you’re one of the first 50 people in the door) at the show, check out this preview of the recording process. Watch a video below via Bob Sweeney, see a gallery of photos by Wendy McCardle and get more details on the show here.
Harrisburg, PA is not exactly what one would call a prime destination when it comes to seeing live music. Often in the midstate, it seems that the state capitol gets passed over by the bigger tours that hit Hershey and the smaller acts which choose longstanding venues in Lancaster. In the face of the status quo, Hellogoodbye & Vacationer played a rousing show at Federal Taphouse in Harrisburg on Saturday night, to mixed success.
After a brisk set from locals Very Americans, Philadelphian chill-masters Vacationer took to the stage, and dove headfirst into a huge set. Bombastic, bassy and sonically sprawling, Vacationer’s sound is something which goes beyond a simple definition to something greater than the sum of its many instrumentated parts. Even though lead singer Kenny Vasoli joked that “this is that chillwave, trip-hop stuff that all the kids are talking about,” both tracks from their debut 2012 LP Gone - and new material from forthcoming Relief – showcase that the group is anything but chill when it comes to standing out from the pack.
As tight-knit as the band came across, Vasoli confessed that he wasn’t exactly feeling it at the start of the set. Halfway through, he came around and acknowledged that he had “got everything worked out”, and the already engaged crowd surrendered fully to the good vibes in the room.
After bouncing through “Warmer” – the b-side from their new single “The Wild Life”– Vasoli laughed and said “Don’t hurt yourself when you put that one on at home. Just let the chill-copter go for a spin, get in and take a ride.” The smattering of new songs in their set couldn’t have come at a better time of year; with temperatures on a rise, these songs are certain to be summer standards suited to both pool partyers and beach bums, alike.
When I caught up with the band before the show, guitarist Ryan Zimmaro noted that Vacationer was excited to be back in Philadelphia (catch them at Underground Arts on Thursday the 24th), and said that the hometown show would be a perfect energizer to help them power through the back half of the tour.
Bounding onto the stage which Vacationer had vacated, Hellogoodbye took the energy of the small-yet-excited crowd, and transformed it from chill to energetic. Fans who had been vibing hard to the downbeat tones of the previous set flowered into bouncing dancers as Forrest Kline and the other members of Hellogoodbye pulled out all the stops and tore into a setlist jam-packed with crowd pleasers. Kline blurred the line between band and audience, often taking advantage of the loosely packed area in front of the low stage to jump down and sing in the crowd, or take selfies with anyone who wanted them. At one point, Kline even stood in the front row and chanted for a certain song, then jumped back on stage and said “alright, alright! This one goes out to that guy with the crazy mustache in the front row.”
Antics aside, Hellogoodbye has their own unique breed of energetic pop down to a science, and their snappy set reflected it. Initially worried about the absence of a horn section (personally my favorite part of Hellgoodbye’s sound), my fears were quelled when the group solidly executed that simply fun feel which they are so known for.
Alongside the summery riffs of 2010’s Would It Kill You? songs from 2013’s more electric Everything Is Debatable surprisingly enough didn’t seem out of place, especially coming on the heels of Vacationer’s similar sound.
Towards the end of the encore, a fan shouted a request, to which Kline replied “We play whatever we want to play!” No one in the crowd could help but smile as the band finished strong with an energetic, crowd-surfing rendition of “Here (In Your Arms)”, the very song that the fan requested.
Even though some might call a show with less than two hundred attendees a total bust, Vacationer & Hellogoodbye proved to be good sports about the whole thing. Taking it in stride, and still giving it one hundred percent, the bands gave Harrisburg an intimate show to be proud of, and certainly one that those in attendance are not soon likely to forget.