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The Skeleton Key: From the first show back at The Khyber to one of the last shows at 1026, we’ve got you coming and going for the rest of this packed July

Soul Glo | photo by Yoni Kroll

Hello Philadelphia! By the time you read this I will most likely be back home but right now I’m in the back of a van hurtling between DIY venues across the Midwest. My band embarked on our first ever tour in the last week of June and I’ve never eaten more fast-food in my life.

Tour is funny because while you might play to literally only the other bands one night — including one group of guys who when they were also only performing in front of other musicians still made it a point to tell everyone there to “stick around for the other bands” — the next night you can play to a crowded room of moshing Midwestern teenagers. Oh, and I was interviewed by someone, which as a journalist is a completely bizarre experience. All in all, no complaints.

But you’re not here for the tour tips. You don’t care where to get a bite to eat before playing the Trumbullplex in Detroit, though if you did I’d recommend Pie Sci right down the street for those massive Detroit square pies that are almost as good as what you’d get at Pizza Gutt up in Fishtown. No, what you want is the Philadelphia calendar listings and some good DIY news and gossip. I got you. Let’s go! Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: From Harrisburg synth punk history to West Philly porch pics to jazz gigs and more, we’ve got you covered this June.

Clark Park Fest Flyer | art by Justin Duerr

Say what you will about the thrill of the hunt but the fact that I can listen to just about any music out there whenever I want is a great feeling. Case in point: the other day I was reading about an old Harrisburg punk who had recently passed away, Mike Rage from the band Late Teens, and went down the rabbit hole of early 80s central Pennsylvania punk and hardcore. What a treasure trove of bands! It’s truly remarkable stuff.

Of the bunch the one that really, really stood out was Billy Synth & The Turn Ups, a synth punk act that existed in various iterations from the late 70s to the mid-80s. I’m going to swing back around to talk about them but first you should put on the Billy Synth album Disorderly Conduct – originally released in 1983 on the band’s own Tragik Records and with some tracks appearing on a compilation called “We Have Got To Make It On Our Own” that Mind Cure put out a few years ago – that some nerd was kind enough to upload to YouTube. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: From Amanda X, Break Free Fest, and Eugene Chadbourne to Nina Simone, Sun Ra, The Trocadero, and Yarrow, we’ve got you covered this May

Break Free Fest | flyer by @goodestboylili

A friend of mine who has been playing in bands for more than two decades recently asked me, only half-joking, where I find the energy to go to as many shows as I do. While I wanted to protest or at the very least get humorously defensive — “I don’t go to that many shows! Whatever!” — I realized it was a good question because, well, I do end up at a lot of shows every month. I mean, duh, I was asked to do this column for a reason.

Truth be told, I didn’t have a great answer for her. I found a home in music when I was 18 and moved to Philadelphia after spending five long, boring, and lonely years in South Florida. My first proper show was a couple weeks after getting here in September of 1997 — Helmet, The Melvins, Today Is The Day, and Hovercraft at The Trocadero — and I haven’t looked back since. It’s just what I do, for better or worse.

But while I didn’t have a good or even clever response to her question, I did have the realization that part of the reason I spend so much time watching live music is because there’s so much going on. Jazz, punk, hip hop, klezmer, chamber music. Eastern European choral bands. Indian classical. Harsh noise, catchy indie rock, techno DJs spinning all night long. If you wanted to, you could see a different type of music just about every night in our city and I think that’s amazing. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: April is for Balkan big bands, hanging guitars, cult movies, so much jazz, and Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag | photo by Yoni Kroll

Wake up, Philadelphia! I know last month was a long one but here we are in April and I have a full plate of shows for you. So full, in fact, that it’s rare there’s a day without two or three can’t miss events. How wild is that? Even if you never even wanted to leave the house once this month – I don’t know, maybe you just broke your leg or something terrible like that – there’s enough new music from Philly bands to keep you occupied for a long time. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that too. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: March into spring with gigs galore, from Tuvan throat singers to heavy metal headbangers

Jim Shomo exhibit flyer | courtesy of the artist

Major announcement time, Philadelphia: it’s finally springtime! Go out into that sunshine and enjoy yourself! Don’t give me that look; I know it doesn’t look like it. I know that technically speaking we have two more weeks until the official start of the season. But it doesn’t matter. I am ready for winter to be over and if you are too – not judging! I was grinning ear-to-ear while riding my bike through the snow just a couple days ago – I have a full calendar of things going on.

Get that started tonight with the sweet stylings of Merge Records rock n roll powerhouse Mike Krol (no relation) with TVO and Wildflowers of America at Boot & Saddle. If you haven’t listened to these bands, you owe it to yourself, even if you’re not able to get to the show. I’m bumping the new Mike Krol album while writing this and it’s putting me in the best mood. TVO is great and if you haven’t seen Perry Shall’s Wildflowers of America yet I really don’t know what your problem is.

That band just announced a show in West Philly in April with Big Eyes and Dark Thoughts and at some point in the near future they’ll finally put out their debut album. If it’s even half as fun and catchy as their live set it’s going to blow everyone’s mind. Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: From a J Dilla tribute to rock n’ rollers galore to so much jazz, we’re looking for love in all the right places this month

Writhing Squares | photo via facebook.com/thewrithingsquares

January might be the traditional time to make resolutions and talk about how we can go about bettering ourselves or whatever it is you’re trying to do with your life but let’s be honest: February is when stuff starts to get real. I can’t help you stop smoking or go to the gym more often, but if you’re resolved to go to more shows I’ve definitely got you covered.

This month is incredibly jam-packed with all manner of events, from avant garde jazz to wild metal to a stacked J Dilla tribute. And that’s all just in the next week! Have you ever just contemplated how lucky we are to be living in one of the best cities in the world? I have. That’s why I do this column. So let’s get started! Continue reading →

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The Skeleton Key: Ring in 2019 with Tuareg desert jams, the return of chiptune legends Chromelodeon, Kenyan benga rock n’ roll, and so much more

Hank Wood | photo by Yoni Kroll

I forget, are we supposed to take flying cars to the gig or just view it on our VR goggles? The future is so complicated.

Welcome to 2019! I hope you’re all totally recovered from whatever you did to yourself on Tuesday and Wednesday and ready to tackle the new year. There’s a lot to look forward to over the next twelve months. Hell, there’s a lot to look forward to just between now and February. So let’s get started with the year’s first Skeleton Key, your monthly news and gossip column covering all things Philadelphia DIY. Continue reading →

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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 →