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The Week Ahead: Field Report, Caroline Rose, Cub Sport, Ja Rule and more

Cub Sport | photo by by Sean Pyke | via cubsport.net

Okay, so you slept on tickets for Hop Along at Johnny Brenda’s, and Yo La Tengo at Union Transfer, and Khruangbin at Underground Arts, and now all those shows are sold out. It’s tough, we feel that. But thankfully there are no shortage of gigs this week, starting tonight with Supercunk and Swearin’ art Union Transfer and Mirah at JBs and going all the way through the road-trip-worthy Broken Social Scene show Sunday at Montclair, NJ’s Wellmont Theater. Read on for our picks of 19 concerts to see in and around Philly this week. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Bottle rockets, Satanic Panic, Record Store Day and gigs from Screaming Females to Robyn Hitchcock

Screaming Females | photo by Farrah Skeiky | courtesy of artist
Screaming Females | photo by Farrah Skeiky | courtesy of artist

April Fool’s updates:

Swearin’ is back. HIRS is putting out an album with Shirley Manson from Garbage. Erik B. and Rakim are at the TLA. Oh, and Lou Barlow is playing a small show in a park on the Schuylkill in Southwest Philly. Did I mention that Sheer Mag is recording an album with Hall and Oates? Because that is totally happening.

Okay, so maybe one of those is a lie. I’ll let you figure it out on your own. But as usual in this great city of ours, there’s so much awesome stuff happening that even the absurd seems plausible. I mean, the Eagles won the Super Bowl! Anything can happen. Continue reading →

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Alexander Charles is a Philly bred musical renaissance man

Alexander Charles | photo courtesy of the artist
Alexander Charles | photo by Ian Hirst-Hermans | instagram.com/ihhphila | courtesy of the artist

The first time I encountered the music of Alexander Charles, it popped up on my Instagram feed. The post was a promotion for the “Lost It” video from his 52 Weeks project. I was impressed with the clever use of strings and bass in the production, which makes the song equally chill and dance friendly. The music video was fun and interesting to watch, showcasing various elements of his style a la The Brady Bunch. When I listened to the song again, Charles’ lyrics left a deep impression on me. He was being honest and relatable without the unnecessary flex, cheap use of shock value, or being offensive, and still managed to make a damn good rap song. So naturally, I wanted to know more about him.

Alexander Charles, formally Azar from hip hop trio Ground Up, has been building his career and honing his craft for about ten years now. A proud North Philly native, he blends honesty, fun, and audacity into his lyricism, creating a fresh perspective that’s authentic to himself. I recently got the chance to sit down and ask him about his 52 Weeks project, his love for Philly, his creative process, and more. Continue reading →

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Sewing, Screen Printing and Visual Style: The side hustles of Screaming Females

Screaming Females | photo by Grace Winter | courtesy of the artist
Screaming Females | photo by Grace Winter | courtesy of the artist

Local sweethearts and rockers extraordinaire Screaming Females released their seventh album All At Once on Don Giovanni Records last weekend. If you haven’t given it a spin yet, you really should. The double LP – 15 tracks on one record and demos and an AV Club session on the other – is both impressive in scope and incredibly hard hitting and catchy. So catchy. This is nothing out of the ordinary for the long-standing band, which started in New Brunswick back in 2005, but it’s still very exciting.

That’s actually a bit of a lie: this album is so good and so sonically expansive that it very much is rather extraordinary and to claim otherwise wouldn’t be fair to anyone. Just listen to that first track, “Glass House”, and revel in Marissa Paternoster’s heady guitar licks and her soaring vocals that reach out and match the music in intensity. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Moor Mother exhibition, Bowerbird series, Two Piece Fest XI, and more new music than you can shake a greased pole at.

Slutever plays Two Piece Fest in 2013 | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

While the post-Superbowl riot might be the DIY event of the season, there’s a lot more going on this month than just a bunch of greased poles on Broad Street

Hi! Welcome to the second edition of The Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column just fighting the good fight against mediocrity and boredom. While we might (still) be in the middle of winter, warm weather –  and with it, touring season –  is on the horizon. I promise!

There was no better reminder of that than the recent announcement by R5 that Lighting Bolt and Moor Mother would be playing the First Unitarian Church at the end of March. While Lighting Bolt could sell out the Church all on their own, the fact that the good people at R5 are having Moor Mother open makes for a truly amazing and electric night. Which is to say: I really hope you got tickets because it sold out almost immediately. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s favorites from the Philly DIY scene

S-21 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Yoni Kroll highlights the best of the Philly DIY underground.

You know what really grinds my gears? Those people who go on and on about how, “There’s no good music being made anymore.” You know who they are: all they want to do is tell you about how music ended in the 60s or the 70s or the 80s or … well, I can’t imagine anyone would say that about the 90s. But it’s a possibility. Anyway, they’re wrong. They’re quite wrong. And you know how I know that? Cause here’s a list of some of the best DIY music to come out in Philadelphia alone just in 2017.

So read it, check out all the bands listed, and the next time somebody tells you that there’s no good music anymore, show them this list and laugh in their face. Continue reading →

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Amps and Allyship: SRA Records’ BJ Howze on erasing boundaries in the punk scene

BJ Howze | photo courtesy of the artist
BJ Howze | photo courtesy of the artist

A quick visit to Philly based punk record label SRA Records‘ website reveals the quirky, jagged sense of humor that belies the countenance of label owner BJ Howze, a person whose personal growth has been as steady and pointed as his releases. If you were a fan of BJ’s noise-and-drums duo Hulk Smash and their in-your-face, “The Onion headline if written by Chomsky as heavy metal lyric” brand of punk, then you know what I’m talking about. But despite the adherence to punk’s need to shed light, tongue-in-cheek, on the troubling nuances of living in the world, it’s the evolutionary process — the growing up, the having kids, the accepting of your social position in the world and what kind of positive power that can yield — that has kept SRA continually challenging staid long-held punk notions of do-it-yourself, broadening the concept of punk community but retaining all of its power, humor and intelligence. From releases by agit-grunge outfit Psychic Teens, to the blistering wall of noise political chaos of Soul Glo, the label has stretched its sonic boundaries. By opening up his studio and label while providing support for bands that feature historically marginalized people, BJ has vowed to push social boundaries as well.

After seeing him around the punk scene for years, I finally officially met BJ after my band (Solarized, whose debut LP BJ also has agreed to release on SRA) played a show at a dive bar in South Philly and we’ve been making moves to work on projects together ever since. And while our prog-rock synthwave band might not ever see the light of day– and besides, BJ does duty with his wife and principle song-writer Helen in the band Dialer, holding it down in that admittedly slight genre already– it was an honor to work with him as he graciously lent his expertise to an event I put together, Electrifest (a queer/lgbt empowering event highlighting the avant-garde queer and POC led music scene on the east coast). We sat down with BJ to discuss the maturation process and what it’s like to help erase boundaries in the strange, often bewilderingly unforgiving world of punk rock. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Megan Cooper’s top ten train tracks (a commute playlist for 2017)

Chastity Belt | photo via chastity-belt.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Megan Cooper shares the soundtrack that kept her sane on SEPTA.

This past year, I’ve spent a quite a bit of time on public transport. Not having a car, while splitting my life between the ‘burbs as I finished up school (woo I’m done!) and the city as I worked and went to many a gig, you could say the R5 Regional Rail line was —  for better or for worse — sort of like a second home to me.

Because although SEPTA often left me shaking my fists towards the sky at impossibly excessive delays, my feelings of seething hatred would immediately melt into warmth and contentment as soon as I’d slump into my window seat — eager for the twenty or so minutes of peace to come. Devoid of road rage and panic that parking spot quests bring, train commutes are a unique kind of solitary experience where the world seems to slow down and stand still as it ironically whirs right past you. So unless you’re on your way to some event you need to get mega hyped for, abrasive and loud tracks don’t really have a place here — at least for me. Though I love me a good ole punk jam, this quiet setting is reserved for reflective mindfulness where chill, soft and introspective songs reign supreme.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of ten songs that served as my trusty train companions this year. Ranging from laid-back and soothing, to somber and melancholic, to atmospheric and poppy, these songs will get you in your head, make you feel many a feeling, and maybe even give your brain a comforting little hug of solidarity. Continue reading →

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Evolution, Not Throwback: Mace Canister Recordings’ Chuck Meehan is a punk scene vet living in the now

Chuck Meehan | photo by Karen Kirchhoff
Chuck Meehan | photo by Karen Kirchhoff for Loud! Fast! Philly! | loudfastphilly.com

Kevin Seconds of the band 7 Seconds might still sing about how he’s “going to stay young until I die,” but he’s in his late 50s at this point, and not getting any younger. That same attitude, this idea of youth as an ideal, has always been one of the pillars of punk. But what if you don’t live fast and die young? You can be like Seconds and still sing those same songs to the same group of nostalgia-seekers looking to regain their past glory or at the very least try and plug in to something that existed well before they were born. Or you can be like Philadelphia’s own Chuck Meehan – same age as Seconds, give or take a few months – and spend your time trying to make the current punk scene better than anything that has ever existed before.

Meehan played bass in hardcore legends YDi in the early 80s, but if you ask anyone who knows him now, that will be way down at the bottom of the list of things they bring up. “Chuck just gets it,” according to Amy Opsasnick, who plays guitar in Ramones-core band Dark Thoughts. “He doesn’t have to rely on living in the past because he is in the present, but can use his past in a positive way — in sharing wild ass stories, pointing out cycles, parallels, and tired trends. He’s more excited about what’s up now.”

When he’s not at his job as a coordinator at an international shipping company, Meehan’s free time is almost completely engulfed by music. He’s a fixture at punk shows across the city. While he sometimes ends up at a more established – read: legal – venue, his heart and soul firmly reside in the chaotic basements and warehouses of DIY punk, spots he jokingly refers to as geographically NOYFB (None of Your Freakin’ Business, in more polite conversation). Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Weather changes moods

Hannah Frances | via hannahfrances.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

I will never not tell you to go see live music in some way or another. It’s part of my role here at The Key — shining a light on the artists that dwell in Philadelphia, as well as the spaces where their art comes to life. It’s just that, often, there’s so much of both of those things.

Friday night, I had a ridiculous amount of gigs to choose between. Two record release parties were on the calendar — one for Radiator Hospital, who headlined the church in support of the awesome and uplifting Play The Songs You Like, and one for Hound, who played Space 1026 to celebrate the asskicking Born Under 76. Technically, there were three, if you consider that The Lame-Os’ opening slot on the Preen / Pears gig at Everybody Hits was in celebration of their new self-titled jawn; and on the non-yay-new-album front, Vita and the Woolf headlined Johnny Brenda’s and The Overcoats played Arden. (To say nothing of huger shows like Ben Folds at The Fillmore, Brand New at the Tower, etc.)

Sometimes we have an embarrassment of riches. Sometimes it’s fine (and necessary) to step away from it all and collect your head. I ultimately chose the Vita show on Friday night — and I’m totally glad I did, it was a thrill to see a band I’d first seen perform to maybe a dozen people at Ortlieb’s a few years back galvanize a sold-out crowd at one of Philly’s most popular venues — but I also haven’t left my house since, pretty much.

And it’s been wonderful. I’ve gotten a lot of reading done, I’ve watched a couple movies, and I’ve listened to a lot of music — stuff that’s been accumulating in my New Music playlist on iTunes as well as new finds on the Philadelphia Bandcamp tag. We are now solidly, seriously in the autumn weather zone, and I’m all-around loving it: the temperature stability after all the seasonal elongation and upheaval we experienced earlier this year, the emergence of playfully macabre decor ahead of Halloween, and the way the turning of the leaves and the cooling of the air guides artists inward to a more reflective headspace.

If that’s the place you’re in as well, you’ll probably find a thing or two to love in the fifteen releases below.

Continue reading →