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The Key Studio Sessions: Yarrow

With all due respect to the bassists of the world, I respect the hell out of artists that don’t buy into rock and roll convention, that firmly jettison the four-stringed low end from their instrumental setup. When they do that and sound as thrilling as Philly’s Yarrow, all the better.

Fronted by some familiar punk scene faces — Christo Johnson of King Azaz, Meri Haines of Great Weights — the band takes the Sleater-Kinney guitar-guitar-drums power trio approach, but with the density and catharsis of Drive Like Jehu’s “Luau.” Or, as our Yoni Kroll put it when he named Yarrow one of his favorite new Philly bands last year, Yarrow feels like it’s “channeling Slint and Unwound but in a perfectly pissed off kind of way.” In short: it’s heavy stuff.

Ahead of their appearance this Saturday, May 25th at Break Free Fest — the third annual edition of the festival centering black and brown artists in punk and hardcore — Yarrow (rounded out by drummer Dani Elephant) came by WXPN studios to play an explosive set of songs from A Mild Circus, their February release on Get Better Records. 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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Yarrow showcases its live energy and heavy pop chops in the new “Tambourine” video

Yarrow | photo by Meghann Altomare | courtesy of the artist

If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch Philly three-piece Yarrow live, you can get an idea of what the band is all about thanks to their new video. Yarrow first came onto the scene last year and just released their debut EP, A Mild Circus, on local label Get Better Records. Shot in West Philly in the eerie setting of an empty light-filled warehouse, the new video for “Tambourine” gives us a glimpse at how the band combines their different influences and styles into their unique sound, which lends itself to a dynamic performance. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Tame Impala at The Electric Factory, Catnaps at PhilaMOCA, Peter Yarrow at Haddon Lake Park, Northern Arms at Ortlieb’s Longue

Tame-ImpalaThis Wednesday is chalked full of amazing music.  First up, the Austrian psych-rock group Tame Impala.  Out of the brilliant mind of group leader Kevin Parker, Tame Impala have released two amazing albums, Innerspeaker and Lonerism, both dealing with isolation in a trippy combination of 60s rock and modern electronic music.  Tonight, the band plays Electric Factory with Philly’s own Light Heat as the openers.  Check out the video for Tame Impala’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” below and click here for more concert information.

Continue reading →

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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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Seven bands from the Philly DIY underground you need to hear right now (2019 edition!)

Pit Hair | photo by Gabe Coffey | courtesy of the artist

Covered in debris from dust-strewn practice spaces, tucked into dank basements where the drum kit competes for space with old rusting washing machines the landlord refuses to repair or throw out, huddled together under bridges or in struggling speak-easys with one speaker sound systems — it’s Philadelphia punk rock, a movement informed not only by the DIY community at large — a sprawling network of zines (they still exist), record labels, show spaces, and resources that wild youth and curmudgeonly old crusties have tapped into for decades — but also by wack shit like the city’s raging stop-and-frisk laws, the constant assault of rapid gentrification that feels inevitable, and a tumultuous, strange push-pull that has existed within the context of the punk, hardcore and activist/art scenes in a city that still feels reverberations from the MOVE bombing. To say that Philly’s punk rock community has a tenuous relationship with the city is an overstatement.

But more and more, people who exist outside of the margins, not just because they wear all-black or have pink mohawks, but because of who they are, are finding the resources to get involved, and the cultural texture of the city is richer for it. We’re a city that has been home to Break Free Fest — a musical event highlighting bands who feature Black and Brown musicians screaming their brains out, an event that happens this Saturday and Sunday at The Rotunda. We’re a city that, before Break Free, was home to Rockers, a recurring event that for more than a decade sought to do the same. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Radiator Hospital, Anderson .Paak, Jonatha Brooke, Native Harrow and more

Radiator Hospital | courtesy of the artist

Start the week out with hooky power-pop from Worriers. Wrap it up with dreamy folk by Native Harrow, or the propulsive Break Free Fest, centering marginalized artists in punk. In the middle, catch psych, funk, one timeless singer-songwriter, and so much more. Here are fourteen concerts to see in the next seven days all around Philly. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Molly Nilsson, Graham Nash, Teenage Fanclub, Stella Donnelly, and more

Stella Donnelly
Stella Donnelly | photo by Pooneh Ghana | courtesy of the artist

It’s the final full week of winter, meaning it’s your final week to have a real excuse for staying inside. Not that you’d want an excuse after seeing the list to shows coming up in Philly this week. From singer-songwriter icons to edgy experimental rock, there’s a lot to take in this week. Here are 18 concerts to see in the next 7 days all around Philadelphia.  Continue reading →