The Skeleton Key: A Blizzard of gigs for March including Creten lutes, London postpunks, and a Bugg

Palm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Palm performs at the First Unitarian Church on March 26th | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

You heard that story about Barbara Streisand getting her dog cloned, twice? I’ve been thinking about getting the same thing done to myself, just so I maybe can go to all the awesome shows happening this month. Unfortunately I went to school for journalism and not biomedical engineering so instead of having a mad scientist lair full of half-baked clones walking into walls while screaming, “I can’t wait for Superchunk and Swearin’ next month!” … I’m writing this column saying the same.

Welcome to the March edition of the Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column. As I sit here working on this, the weather report is calling for nonstop rain and possibly even snow for the next 24 hours. But just because it’s gross out doesn’t mean you should stay inside! It doesn’t keep bands home and so it shouldn’t keep you home. So bundle up and get to the gig. Continue reading →


The Week Ahead: The Posies, Strand of Oaks, King Britt, Inara George and more

XPoNential Music Festival | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

Let’s send out January in a big way, friends. The weather is unseasonably warm and we’ve got 24 concerts over the next week for you to choose between, centered in Philadelphia with a couple day trips to locales like Bethlehem and Ardmore. Dig in below, and happy concertgoing. Continue reading →


PREMIERE: Callowhill paints with sound on The Way Out

Callowhill | photo by Maura Kirk | courtesy of the artist
Callowhill | photo by Maura Kirk | courtesy of the artist

Callowhill is many things: a street that jogs an east-west path from the Delaware River to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a post-industrial neighborhood just north of Center City that (legend has it) inspired David Lynch’s Eraserhead. It’s the surname of William Penn’s second wife, Hannah, who ran the state of Pennsylvania after her husband had several strokes. And it’s a four-piece rock outfit that captures introspections and emotions in a wash of interlocking guitars, overdriven tones, and drifting vocal leads.

The band is comprised of Julia Gaylord on guitar and vocals, Katy Otto on drums, John Pettit on bass and vocals and Nikki Karam on lead guitar, and they’ve been active on the Philadelphia scene since 2014. Following up on their self titled 7″, which came out in 2015, the band releases its Jeff Zeigler-recorded debut LP The Way Out on Otto’s Exotic Fever Records next week, and celebrates with a headlining gig at Boot and Saddle on Wednesday, August 30th. We’re thrilled to give you a first listen to the album today. Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: Don’t hold the wall

Erotic Novels | via

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.

There’s a great line in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one that plays in to the film’s recontextual use of corny 70s / 80s pop nuggets in a deep space universe, and also resonates with audiences on a universal level. To paraphrase: there are two types of people / robots / sentient beings out there, those who dance and those who don’t.

I am, most decidedly, one who does not. Continue reading →


The Skeleton Key: A jam-packed May, from Get Better Fest to Break Free Fest, Tuareg guitar to NYC no-wave, and so much sunshine

design by Erik Ruin | courtesy of the artist

No matter if you spent it out in the streets at the May Day protest or circling a Maypole or just soaking up all that sunshine, I hope you had a wonderful beginning of the month. It’s finally spring, so slap on some shorts, ride that bike you’ve been neglecting all winter, and get your butt to the gig.

You can start tonight. There are not one but two truly excellent shows happening and if you time it correctly you can go to both! Continue reading →


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 →


Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile provide comfort and compassion with their new single, “Continental Breakfast”


Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile | photo by Danny Cohen | courtesy of the artist

Indie singer-songwriter heavyweights Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile have returned with another teaser of their upcoming collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice, coming out October 13th. The new “Continental Breakfast” is a worthy follow-up to Barnett and Vile’s lead single “Over Everything”; their vocal chemistry is great and they exhibit an ability to mix back and forth lyrical dialogue with seamless harmony-based choruses. Both artists have established themselves as two of the more influential songwriters in the indie rock scene, so this album is shaping up to be a tour de force. Continue reading →


Hot Fun: ATL’s Shaky Knees Festival in pictures

shaky knees-17-2
Shaky Knees Festival | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

The second you enter the Shaky Knees Festival grounds, you realize that is not going to be like most festivals. The whole event was very relaxed, there was plenty of space to get around, lines weren’t excessively long (with the exception of the pedestrian bridge – we’ll get to that), no one was too out of control. Everyone seemed to be there because they loved music and wanted to explore new artists. Continue reading →


The High Key Portrait Series: Cayetana

Cayetana | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller |

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.

Philly’s been known over the years for jazz, having been home to heavyweights like Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Billie and of course, Philly Joe Jones. We’ve been known for hip hop, most widely recognized for the Roots and Fresh Prince, Freeway or Beanie, but with roots deep into the heady days of the conception of the genre reaching all the way back to Lady B’s “To The Beat Y’all” and Schoolly D’s seminal gangsta rap cut, “PSK, What Does It Mean?” We’re known in the national musical consciousness for that golden era of the 70’s, Hall & Oates, The O’Jays, Billy Paul, and Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia Soul.

When it comes to indie rock and punk, though, Philly has been somewhat outshined in decades past by the likes of Sub Pop’s Seattle or, say, “college rock” benchmarks out of Athens and Austin.

But an indie rock scene has been simmering here for years, from Shai Halperin’s unheralded aughts bands The Capitol Years through better-recognized successors, Kurt Vile and his War On Drugs. These days, original, talented, fresh-sounding, local rock bands are dutifully packing our favorite bars and show spaces in billed shifts on any given weeknight, making noise in every neighborhood.

Enter Cayetana, perhaps the most polite and respectful rock band you’ll ever meet. Maybe they look familiar, where a recent Stereogum article cast them as the poster children of Philly’s DIY scene.

But if singer and guitarist Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen could ever appear to you to be some sort of archetypal group, you’ll find it challenging to compare their sound to any other. Their brand is unique, self-conscious punk with substantive, introspective lyrics packaged behind killer hooks.

And good news for us: they’re honing their stagecraft locally these days, on a break from touring to work on their second LP, with a new EP just out to whet your appetites. Catch them at PhilaMOCA this Saturday for a 7″ release show and, again at Union Transfer in February when they open for The Loves Ones’ sold-out reunion show. And, well, RIP Golden Tea House.

Continue reading →


The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2015

The albums that moved us in 2015
This is the music that moved us in 2015

It was a year of powerful records. Of loud guitars and brazen beats, of electronic tapestries and vocal abandon. It was a year of personal introspection and rallying cries for social change. It was a year when music felt inextricably tied to the world around us. When it felt more important than it had in a long time. Like we’ve said before, to narrow 12 months of incredible music down to a “top 15 albums of 2015” list is to exclude dozens of other worthy releases. This year, we had 26 writers and photographers cite a collective 82 albums as their favorites – you can view everybody’s top fives here, and I know fully well that had I asked The Key crew to give me top tens, I’d be easily looking at quadruple the titles. But we’ll go deep when our annual Year-End Mania roundup launches tomorrow. Today we take the long view and explore what rose to the surface of consensus in 2015, from the expressive moments of Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom and Jamie xx, to the pop permutations of Carly Rae Jepsen and Grimes , rock and/or roll from Courtney Barnett and Alabama Shakes, Philly representation from The Districts, Waxahatchee and of course, Hop Along‘s incredible breakout LP Painted Shut, which alongside the great Kendrick Lamar rose right to the top of our voting. Let’s recap the year. 
Continue reading →