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And now, eight minutes of Bad Brains playing City Gardens in 1991

Bad Brains in Trenton | still from video

Is there a venue in South Jersey more legendary than City Gardens? Is there a band in punk more fraught with turmoil than Bad Brains?

Here’s a snippet of a night on October 20th, 1991, when the energies of the Trenton club and the energies of the D.C. icons converged. Of course, it’s the third or fourth make of the Bad Brains lineup…so their energies are probably not the same as they were in the “Banned in D.C.” years. Core members Dr. Know on guitar and Darryl Jennifer on bass are rocking their distinctive interplay throughout, but if you’re looking at that grainy VHS transfer footage and thinking “Hmmmm, I don’t remember H.R. being that ripped,” your eyes are not playing tricks on you.

This concert took place after the second time the legendary and controversial vocalist departed the band along with his brother, drummer Earl Hudson — supposedly, the reason had to do with disagreements over whether Bad Brains should lean more to their punk side, or their dub/reggae side. This short-lived version of the band features Mackie Jayson on drums and Chuck Mosely on vocals, and if you’re picking up a LA style alternative funk rock groove going on with these performances, your ears are not playing tricks on you. Continue reading →

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Battle of Who Has The Best Instruments: Cake, Ben Folds, and Tall Heights face off at The Mann

Cake | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

Last night, Ben Folds and Cake brought their double headlining tour to the Mann Center, the two alt-rock legends rocking the house with their idiosyncratic brands. One might be able to draw all sorts of comparisons and reasons as to why a co-headlining tour between these artists works so well, but I personally am willing to bet it began as a competition as to who could bring the best instruments. Folds’ lineup consisted of piano, of course, but also featuring opener Tall Heights as a backing band, who played on guitar, cello, cocktail drums, and adding a bass harmonica in lieu of an electric bass. Cake, not to be outdone, included an act of  bass, drums, and guitar, with trumpet, melodica, and vibraslap, among several other percussion instruments. The two iconic groups were matched in wit and in talent, and their use of audience participation almost hypnotic. Continue reading →

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#NowPlaying at The Key: Eight must-hear songs by James Blake, Palberta, Mykki Blanco and more

James Blake | photo by Brianna Kehone for WXPN // Palberta | photo courtesy of the artist // Kanye West | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

This week’s song selections from Team Key include music that reminds us of a low-budget indie rom com, possibly one involving robots, a minute-long blast of unconventional energy, a sensitive offering from a complicated and confrontational artist, and more.
Continue reading →

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#NowPlaying at The Key: Eight must-hear songs by illuminati hotties, Parquet Courts, Mykki Blanco and more

Illuminati Hotties | photo by Kristy Benjamin | courtesy of the artist // Parquet Courts | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN // Mykki Blanco | photo by Bruno Staub | courtesy of the artist

Pop stars expanding into reggaeton, indie rockers dabbling in pop, relatable summer jams and more — this is what we’ve had in heavy rotation at Key HQ this week. Continue reading →

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On Philly’s Great Weights and the future of hardcore

Great Weights
Great Weights | photo by Carolyn Haynes | courtesy of the artist

In the early 90s, the hardcore scene pretty much meant slight variations on a single thing: angry dudes being loud and screaming on stage in front of angry dudes being violent and shoving each other around in the crowd. In some circles, it still means exactly that. Elsewhere, things have grown more nuanced.

Twenty five years ago, Riot Grrrl was a feminist response to the cishetero white male dominance of 90s punk; emo embraced a sensitive, introspective outlook to counter all that rage-for-rage’s-sake. Both subgenres and their offshoots brought us brilliant records, though neither was without its faults — from internal division rooted in scene politics to predatory sad boys using the relatability of their feelings to take advantage of their fan base.

Which brings us to 2018. Is there still something that gives punk a purpose? Or is it just basement shows, ten-year-anniversary full-album tours (or fifteen, or twenty) and little bigger-picture momentum? As somebody who has been a mere observer on the periphery of the scene for my entire life, I’m sure my answer is different than somebody else in the thick of things. But I see the future of punk and hardcore in inclusive labels like Get Better Records and their “QUEER AS IN FUCK YOU” mantra; in events like Break Free Fest, which puts artists of color and other marginalized voices front and center (which, isn’t that act of uplifting kinda the point of a counter-culture?); and in bands like Great Weights. Continue reading →

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Nervous Dater and Eight will open for Hop Along at Union Transfer this May; Hop Along will play Free at Noon next week

Hop Along
Hop Along | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist

Anticipation for Hop Along‘s triumphant return is building quickly. The band has now shared three singles from their forthcoming album Bark Your Head Off, Dog — if you haven’t already been listening to “How Simple,” “Not Abel,” and “Prior Things,” I kindly suggest that you do that right now. The full album comes out next Friday, April 6. Continue reading →

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Great Weights overcomes self-destructive habits on “After The Drive-In”

Great Weights | photo via greatweights.bandcamp.com

Great Weights have such a necessary, important message that they don’t need to shout to get it across, but it sure is great when they do. The songs on the band’s self-titled EP, which will be released April 13 via Bunny Cat Records, are fueled by a deep anger at the state of the world and an unwavering urgency to change it. Continue reading →

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The anger that fuels Great Weights’ “Morning Sickness” is both personal and universal

Great Weights | photo via greatweights.bandcamp.com

Great Weights call themselves “a band born out of anger and neglect.” More specifically, the band formed out of a collective frustration with underrepresentation in the music scene and a strong pull toward trying to end it. As the story goes, band members Meri Haines, James De La Vega, Al San Valentin, Pat Higgins took time away from their respective projects, coming together to record what would become Great Weights’ first EP.  Continue reading →

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Flawless, Fuzzy Punk: Listen to Eight’s self-titled EP

Eight | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist
Eight | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist

After sharing a video for the sunny and anthemic “839” a few weeks ago, Eight are back with a new release — the five-track EP, called Eight, is out now via Dead Broke Rekerds. The Philly power trio released their first EP, EIGHT, in 2015 and joined us for a Key Studio Session early this year to play some of their new songs. Continue reading →

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Watch Eight’s new video for “839,” catch them at the church this Friday

Eight | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist
Eight | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist

Since the release of their debut EP EIGHT almost two years ago, Philly power trio Eight have been lying pretty low. They’ll pop up at shows around town every now and then, and joined us for a Key Studio Session earlier this year. Now the band — whose supergroup lineup includes Mimi Gallagher (Year of Glad), Cat Park (Amanda X) and Pat Brier (Queen Jesus, Three Man Cannon) — are back with a spirited video for “839” and news of 7″ to be released on Dead Broke Rekerds. Continue reading →