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The Skeleton Key: Multitudes of new music for July, a First Time’s The Charm recap, and gigs from black metal to beatmakers to punk wrestlers

First Time’s The Charm | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

This is a special Skeleton Key and not just because I’m checking in with you a bit later than usual. Don’t worry, my neighbors are still shooting off fireworks all day every day so it’s basically still the 4th and will probably stay that way at least until August. For this column I want to talk about all the new music coming out this month because there’s seriously just so much of it. And check this out: last weekend was First Time’s the Charm which was the debut of eight bands playing their very first sets ever. So much new music! Let’s start with a list because you should always start with a list: Dark Thoughts, Smarthearts, Rosali, Lester, Dark Web, Rabbits to Riches, Empath, and Fleabite. Oh, and a just-announced split between Jenna & The Pups – the solo pop punk band from HIRS frontwoman Jenna Pup – and, well, herself. The PUP/HIRS album will be out in August. Continue reading →

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First Time’s the Charm festival returns to build a more inclusive scene in summer of 2018

First Time’s The Charm 2016 vets Aster More play the First Unitarian Church | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Everyone’s always been told that “the third time’s the charm,” but thanks to an effort in the local DIY scene, there’s a reason to redefine that old adage. First Time’s the Charm aims to showcase diverse voices by placing a spotlight on new and underrepresented musicians. The event started in 2013 and will return this July for its third installment. Continue reading →

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Support a more inclusive scene with No Gatekeepers, the 2016 First Time’s the Charm compilation

Whipworm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Whipworm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

As superb and awesome as Philly’s music scene is, one aspect that remains not-so-hot is the lack of diversity. With so many prominently acts made up of white, straight men, it can be difficult for women, artists of color, and members of the LBGTQ community to feel included and respected. So how to combat this aura of exclusivity, might you inquire? Inclusiveness and active representation for days, that’s how. Enter: First Times the Charm. This event of greatness, founded in 2013 and reprised in 2016, is a two-night festival at PhilaMOCA that celebrates and jams out to new bands with underrepresented members — all of whom are playing their first show.

We’re big fans of First Time’s The Charm — having discovered locals like Marge and Littler from the first edition of the festival — so last year, The Key teamed up with both the organization as well as our compatriots at Folkadelphia to record 15 out of the 20 bands who performed at FTTC 2016. The resulting compilation was just released on Bandcamp as No Gatekeepers: First Time’s The Charm 2016 and includes Aster More, Taxes, Dumb Hair, Heretrix, Whipwrom and Joyful Exit, the songs range from gritty and loud, to soft and melodic, to quirky and refreshingly unexpected. Continue reading →

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First Time’s The Charm returns to PhilaMOCA this summer; registration opens February 25th

Littler
Littler | Photo by Emily Burtner | courtesy of the artist

If you’ve ever dreamed of being in a band, here’s your chance: registration for First Time’s the Charm, a concert that features musicians who have never been in a band before or who are playing a new instrument, opens on February 25th.

The festival was held for the first time in 2013 at PhilaMOCA, and it was a resounding success — a number of bands were formed that are still active in the Philly scene, including Littler, who just released a catchy new single “Slippery.” Continue reading →

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Ron Gallo scares me (in a good way) at the First Unitarian Church

Ron Gallo | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Did you know that every single time Gene Simmons says that rock is dead, a new great rock and roll album is born? Seriously. It’s an actual fact. Or at least I think. Anway, one of the latest people to disprove Simmons — whose idea of rock and roll is to dress up in gothic clown costumes, blast pyrotechnics and sell action figures to distract from the mediocre-ness of his band’s music — is Philly’s own Ron Gallo.

Gallo, who sadly left us for Nashville about two years ago, came back to the city that loves him most (no offense, Nashville, but it’s true) last night to showcase the latest iteration of his ever-evolving style. No longer was he “Americana Ron” or “Roots Rock Ron.” This time around he was “Rock and Roll Ron,” with some other stuff mixed in as well. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s best new bands of 2018

Yarrow | photo via yarrowphl.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Yoni Kroll recaps his favorite bands that started in 2018.

What we want from bands is at times a very amusing catch 22: they need to be perfect but not polished, experienced but with a youthful electric energy permeating everything. It’s why you hear people talk crap on new bands. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, they’re doing something new or different or maybe not different at all. It’s why my roommate when I was 20 couldn’t stop talking about how every band I was getting into wasn’t as good as NOFX. True story.

But you know what? I’d rather see a bunch of new bands trying to figure it out than a bunch of old people going through the motions. It’s generally more fun and more interesting. Sure, you might not be able to sing along, but is that really your only criteria for enjoying a band? This year I got to see a bunch of bands that were either just starting or recently coalesced from ‘project’ to actual performance. That includes groups formed for the First Time’s the Charm 2018, a biennial concert held last July “made up of entirely new bands that must include women, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and those with disabilities” all playing their first sets ever.

The goal for the event, which I helped organize, was to create a space for those who have been marginalized in our music communities. It was a resounding success, we donated $1500 to music education non-profit Beyond the Bars, and most importantly eight brand new bands were unleashed on Philadelphia. While continuing past that initial performance is not necessarily a goal of the event, a number of bands from this year and past First Time’s the Charm concerts are still playing out regularly. That includes Teenage Bigfoot and Marge from the 2013 edition, Aster More, Taxes, and Full Bush from 2016, and Babe Grenade, Pritty Gritty, and GRIT from this past year. And yes, those are two bands with ‘Gritty’ in their names well before it was cool to do so. That’s how awesome First Time’s the Charm really is.

Without further ado, here’s some of the best new bands that I saw in the past year. Most of them don’t have any recordings yet, so keep an ear to the ground for that. Think of this also as a list of bands to look for in the coming year because I’m sure they’ll all be doing cool stuff. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Sidney Gish, Patti LaBelle, Rosali, Espers, and more

Rosali
Rosali | photo by Constance Mensh | courtesy of the artist

The week starts with blues rock ripper Selwyn Birchwood out in the burbs and wraps up in South Philly with the contemplative singer-songwriting of The Afterglows. In between: classic soul, immersive psych, punk rock and more. Here are 17 concerts to see in and around Philadelphia this week.
Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Emmylou Harris, Kimya Dawson, Strange Parts, York Street Hustle and more

strange parts
Strange Parts | photo by Adam Haney | courtesy of the band

What’s that you say? It’s a holiday week, it’s a heat wave, everybody’s going down the shore or hiding out in A.C.? Guess what, friends: the music doesn’t stop for any of that, and this week we bring you 14 shows to see in the next seven days — from the all-local Chill Moody stage at Wawa Welcome America to a heavy dose of punk to close your weekend at West Philly’s Lava Space.  Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Abi Reimold, Center City Jazz Fest, Joy Ike, Deer Tick and more

Abi Reimold | photo by Bob Sweeney | courtesy of the artist

Tonight, Philly staple Bitter Bitter Weeks plays its first gig in what seems like an eternity; this weekend, Center City Jazz Fest touches down on the Sansom Street Corridor; and next Monday, it’s a road-trip worthy gig from Deer Tick in State College. Here are 15 concerts to see in and around Philly this week. Continue reading →