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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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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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Hall And Oates a lowly #99 on VH1′s “Greatest Artists Of All Time” list

Hall And Oates
No. 99? Say it isn't so!

In preparation for a four-part televised special that will begin airing on September 6, VH1 recently released its list of the “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time.” The good news for Philadelphia is that, hey, we made the list! The bad news is that Philly’s own blue-eyed soul legends Hall & Oates are the city’s sole, sad representative on the list. Not that we expected, say, Schoolly D to rank up there with musical heavyweights such as The Beatles, Iggy & The Stooges, and, uh…George Michael. But, well, yeah.

As with any such list, there’s more than enough outrage to go around regarding rankings and various omissions. (Latina.com, for example, wants to know how no Latin musicians made the cut.) So it’s probably not worth getting riled up about. But still, after going over this latest offering, we can’t help but ask, “Who is VH1?,” “Do they even show music videos anymore?,” and “Where would they rank on our ‘Top 100 Relics Of A Forgotten Music Industry Whose Lists We Don’t Care About’ list?”

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The Key Studio Sessions: Low Dose

Like a lot of Philadelphians who encountered them last summer, I was completely taken by surprise the first time I saw Low Dose. It was one of their first-ever shows, it took place at the Everybody Hits batting cages, was headlined by the always-galvanizing Soul Glo, and found the bandmates setting up gear in the wake of an instrument-slamming set by post-hardcore ragers Great Weights — in other words, they were bookended by two fellow Philadelphia punk scene players who don’t skimp on the captivating energy.

Not that it was an obstacle. Frontwoman Itarya Rosenberg stood quietly holding the mic, a brutal guitar riff began looping out of the speakers, and it was like a switch flipped on — bandmates Mike McGinnis on guitar, Jon DeHart on bass, and Dan Smith on drums launched into a crushing jam, Rosenberg crouched to the floor, and howled. I stood to the side, next to Great Weights’ Meri Haines, and we both watched drop-jawed and awestruck. Twenty minutes of poppy hooks, dissonant freakouts, and general punk catharsis later, we looked at one another all like “What the hell was that?”

Low Dose, to put it lightly, knows how to make a formidable first impression. 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 Skeleton Key: The ABCs of November with Adrian and Ali, Bowerbird and bugs, CraftNOW, Daydream Nation, and more

On The Water | photo by L.J. Brubaker | goodolljb.biz | courtesy of the artist

These days it’s so tempting to revel in the awfulness of the world, to throw your hands up and just give in to this feeling that nothing will ever change. Bad news has been coming from all sides and whatever respite we can get is incredibly fleeting. I’m reminded of the song “Another Happy Day” from 90’s Westchester punks 2.5 Children Inc. that has the line, “You said cheer up and I’m trying / But it’s hard when the whole world’s dying.” And that was written almost 25 years ago! Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Full Bush, Josh Ritter, Christine and the Queens, Kaia Kater and more

Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens | photo by Jamie Morgan | courtesy of the artist

While there’s not much doing on Halloween itself, that’s fine — it’ll just give you more time and space to roam your neighborhood as a free agent looking for parties, collecting candy, or collecting candy with your kids if you’re at that point in your life. The rest of the week, though: JAM. PACKED. Here are 18 concerts to see in the next seven days in and around Philadelphia, from tonight’s punk rock mischief night gigs at Johnny Brenda’s and Ortlieb’s, to indie rock, soul and trance all round the region on Sunday. Continue reading →