We have our fair share of unconventional music venues in Philadelphia, but this one may be the most innovative — and it also may be one of the Philly music scene’s best kept secrets.
Each summer for the last couple of summers, longtime Philadelphia tour guide Sebastian Petsu, in collaboration with Bowerbird, has hosted the Double Decker Music Series, which is pretty much just what it sounds like — a concert held on a double decker bus. These are the kind of buses you typically see toting tourists around Old City, but while you will see plenty of historic sites in this series, this is certainly not your everyday tour of the city. Continue reading →
A lot can change in a decade – friends move away, beloved haunts close, and we change as we move through the world. So it’s cool when there’s something tangible that captured those friends, places, and versions of self that can be revisited ten years down the line, bringing up warm memories and acting as a touchstone for our personal and creative growth.
For Birdie Busch that “something” is The Ways We Try, her debut record that was released in September of 2006. The local musician, who has since grown into an irreplaceable fixture in the Philadelphia neighborhoods she’s called home over the years, realized the milestone just in time to reflect on the record on her website.
On a Saturday evening in early October, Fishtown institution Johnny Brenda‘s is bustling with hungry and thirsty customers, out for a fun night. Patrons are enjoying drinks and conversation, challenging friends and strangers to numerous games of pool. While everyone is chatting away downstairs, Emily “Birdie” Busch spends the afternoon and evening transforming the upstairs venue space in preparation for her big show later that night. Continue reading →
At eight o’clock the doors open and the crowd begins forming shortly after. People get their drinks and converse with friends while waiting patiently for the first band to take the stage.
Finally, around nine o’clock, Charlie and April are on stage. Birdie does a quick introduction to get things started.
…And they’re off!
Charlie and April’s upbeat music and successfully got the dancing started. The young nephew of Charlie even joined in on tambourine for their last couple songs.
At the end of the opening set, a DJ was there to play some records, keeping the the crowd entertained in between sets.
Once people had a chance to refill their drinks and chat about the first set, The Brother Brothers took the stage.
The Brother Brothers (currently based in New York) had the audience intrigued with an acoustic set, and kept audience members dancing.
As they finished their set, fans headed to the merch table.
There was another round of record playing and a quick dance set, drinks were refilled, and Birdie Busch took the stage to start the final performance of the night.
Before they play the first song, Birdie talks to the audience about the candle she lit and is holding. She acknowledges that many people have lost friends, family, and others in recent months. This is what the candle represents. She hands it off to an audience member and the band begins playing.
As Birdie plays a full set, fans are entertained and dancing the whole time. As the the final song finishes the crowd begins applauding and don’t stop until the band comes back out for an encore.
Then, after playing one encore song Birdie and her band return to the green room to catch their breath, high five each other, and have a quick post-show chat…
…and now it is time to clear the stage and pack everything back into the car
And the musicians have left the building!
With the fans moving on to the next segment of their Saturday night, the stage emptied, and cars packed with equipment, Birdie Busch’s fifth Philly Opry has come to a conclusion. Here’s looking forward to its return.
Below, check out a full gallery from the show, which took place at Johnny Brenda’s on October 8, 2016. Click here to go back to the start.
Long before the bar is stocked and bar stools are put in their places, the artists arrive with equipment and decorations to be placed on stage.
Each of the band members arrive at different times, but once everyone is there the equipment is unpacked. After a discussion on where each piece goes on stage and a stage plot is sketched out the band begins assembling equipment and setting the stage.
Once the stage is ready to go, the band takes a quick coffee break and relaxes before they soundcheck. Luckily for them, La Colombe is just down the street.
Meanwhile, as the stage is being set up, Birdie and some friends finish putting up the decorations.
They also set up the merchandise table…
They finish writing up the the guest list…
…and they write out the set list for the show
And, with all of the set up finished, it’s time for Birdie and her band to soundcheck.
During soundcheck, bartenders can be found preparing the bar for the night.
Downtime between soundcheck and the show starting let the band hang out for a bit with friends and grab a bite to eat. The Brother Brothers are warming up backstage to prepare for their set later.
Orchestral Icelandic outfit Sigur Ros are at the Academy of Music tonight. Led by Jónsi, the post-rockers will perform two sets, pulling from their expansive catalog that includes standout records ( ) and Takk…. along with 2013’s Kveikur. Tickets and information for the all-ages concert can be found here. Watch “Óveður” below, released this summer.
Though some details are still being withheld, we now happily know for a fact that Birdie Busch‘s 5th Philly Opry will happen at Johnny Brenda’s on October 8th. The evening of special guests, collaborations and general musical merriment took a year off in 2015 but promises a return to its mid-20th century variety performances, inspired by the classic shows of Dick Cavett and Johnny Cash.
Philly singer-songwriter Birdie Busch just released the sweet and subtle new LP Thunder Bridge, a collection of songs inspired by Sun Ra and Nick Drake that started out as a project for a friend and her newborn child that evolved into something more.
A couple weeks ago, Busch celebrated the new record with a headlining performance at South Philly’s Boot & Saddle; every song on the new album made it into the setlist, along with tunes from 2013’s Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night, several from 2007’s Penny Arcade and one reaching all the way back to 2005’s The Ways We Try. Continue reading →
“High Key” is a 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.
Birdie Busch’s new record Thunder Bridge is beautiful, meditative, with an attention to production details and sonic textures that would make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Jeff Tweedy envious. Recorded in Germantown, Busch’s sixth LP sees the introduction of longtime friend Jaron Olevsky as keyboardist, as well as co-producer along with her partner, bassist Todd Erk. It’s a pensive, reflective collection of eight tracks that might remind you of Lucinda, Feist, or the moods of Beth Orton, and you’ll be comforted to know that Busch is a local Philly girl too.
What’s more, on June 18th, the Philly songstress will host a record release party at Boot & Saddle in celebration of the new work (get tickets and more info here). She’ll also be around town with a handful of show dates this summer, and come Fall, Johnny Brenda’s will host her seventh annual Philly Opry, a night of music cultivated by Busch, and conceived to mix-and-match local and traveling acts.
In her interview with us, Busch related her eclectic influences, her love for the city and its arts community. She speaks thoughtfully, poised with deliberation and without calculation, and throughout shares her contagious outlook of renewal and rejuvenation, whether it’s with reference to her relationship with live performance or just walking or biking the city’s streets and neighborhoods. Continue reading →