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The Skeleton Key: The end of the year, called and counted, filled with reggae, klezmer, punk, film screenings, and more

Pinkwash | photo by Yoni Kroll | courtesy of the artist

Everybody is out here with their 2018 top ten list and I’m still completely obsessed with one of last year’s favorites, the self-titled debut from jazz quintet Irreversible Entanglements. It’s not just the music or the lyrics or the delivery, all of which are, for the record, incredible. Really it’s the fact that I still haven’t had the chance to see them play despite them being from here. Somebody please book this band a show in Philadelphia! 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 Skeleton Key: October is haunted with thrift store discos, horror flicks in cemeteries, and gigs from Swearin’ to Sun Ra Arkestra

Sun Ra Arkestra | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

“This year Halloween fell on a weekend and me and the Geto Boys were …” Wait a minute! Halloween isn’t on a weekend this year! But even when it falls on a Wednesday I’m still more excited for Halloween than just about any other day out of the year. It’s not just the special, yearly concerts – Dead Milkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, all the cover shows happening around town – though that’s a huge part of it. Halloween is this huge celebration of the weird and the wonderful, an excuse to dress up and have fun and get real obsessed with ghosts. And there’s really no better city for Halloween than Philadelphia, which embraces the holiday the second the clock turns midnight on October 1st.

Welcome to the Skeleton Key, your monthly DIY calendar and column here in The Key. Let’s get spooky! Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Dancehall reggae from Jamaica, psych noise from Italy, post-punk from England…September has you covered!

Hurry Up! | photo via R5 Productions

It’s unreal just how much is happening in Philly this month. I know, I know: I say that every column. But it’s true! Never forget how lucky we are to be living in this great city that has so much going on every single night. Welcome to the September edition of the Skeleton Key. From space rock at PhilaMOCA to Mexican Independence Day at Penn’s Landing to all kinds of punk: we’ve got you covered. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Pilam is dead, long live Pilam

A flyer for Pi Lam’s notorious Human BBQ, circa 1987

Starting off August’s edition of the Skeleton Key with some breaking news, which for the record is a strange thing when it comes to a column that comes out once a month. Pilam, the venerated “freak frat” at the University of Pennsylvania, is closed, at least temporarily. After more than four decades of being a space for DIY music in Philadelphia, the organization has lost its home. Details are still emerging as to what’s going on but for the time being I’d much rather just focus on the positive. Which, to repeat what I just said, is more than four decades of serving as a home for music in our city. That’s just incredible.

If you were to compile a list of every band that ever played Pilam we’d be here for a very long time. Hell, just looking at the listings of who performed at Human BBQ, the annual all-day concert at the house, is wildly impressive in both quality and quantity. This past year was the 40th BBQ with bands including Old Maybe, Norwegian Arms, Slingshot Dakota, and EDO. Screaming Females and Sadie from Speedy Ortiz played last year, along with a ton of other great bands. Two years ago it was Moor Mother, HIRS, and Japanese Breakfast. We could seriously go on like this forever.

The first time I specifically remember being at the festival was way back in 2001 to see An Albatross, Stinking Lizaveta, and … EDO. Some things never change. Also, I somehow missed Wesley Willis. Maybe I was getting pizza? Continue reading →

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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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The Skeleton Key: June is jumping with Kids of the Black Hole film series, Harmony Woods on the river, theremins in Laurel Hill cemetery, and Philly Still F’n Shreds fest

Out of the Blue screens at International House’s Kids of the Black Hole series this month

I am an unapologetic cheerleader for summer. There’s water ice, hang outs down the shore, you can ride your bike everywhere, and most importantly there are outside shows! I mean, say what you will about the beauty of West Philly in winter – and it really is quite nice, don’t get me wrong – but given the choice between sledding down the rock-strewn hills of Clark Park on a ripped pizza box I just found in a trash or sitting around and watching a bunch of bands play while eating ice cream during the annual music festival there, I know where I’ll be. Continue reading →

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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 →

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The Skeleton Key: Bottle rockets, Satanic Panic, Record Store Day and gigs from Screaming Females to Robyn Hitchcock

Screaming Females | photo by Farrah Skeiky | courtesy of artist
Screaming Females | photo by Farrah Skeiky | courtesy of artist

April Fool’s updates:

Swearin’ is back. HIRS is putting out an album with Shirley Manson from Garbage. Erik B. and Rakim are at the TLA. Oh, and Lou Barlow is playing a small show in a park on the Schuylkill in Southwest Philly. Did I mention that Sheer Mag is recording an album with Hall and Oates? Because that is totally happening.

Okay, so maybe one of those is a lie. I’ll let you figure it out on your own. But as usual in this great city of ours, there’s so much awesome stuff happening that even the absurd seems plausible. I mean, the Eagles won the Super Bowl! Anything can happen. Continue reading →

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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 →