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There is nothing more summery than a jam band. Even if you aren’t a religious follower (aka Phish fan) you can still go to a show and appreciate the freeing sensation a jam band’s music gives you. With the Phish shows just wrapping and Cheers Elephant, Umphrey’s McGee and Disco Biscuits performances in the future, we are excited to introduce you to a new jam band, Somewhere South.
Hailing from Philly, Somewhere South creates dynamic music that combines elements like horns, bass guitar, dual male and females vocals, as well as lyrics in both English and Spanish. Their self-titled EP, includes folk, funk, and even a little bit of country twang. Each track is different from the next, but maintains a melodic consistency that makes the young band’s work sound extremely mature. The first track “Alright” is one of their slower tracks, but sets the precedent for the rest of the EP. It’s instantly calming in nature, and meshes well with breezy, summer weather and attitudes. The song is all about simplicity and trying to live in the moment, as they sing “Keep it simple, keep it true, keep it simple, keep it you.”
The band has been playing all around Philly, and will play next at Ardmore Music Hall on August 2nd, which will no doubt be an incredible fun experience. Listen to their Somewhere South below.
Indie four-piece Owls are hitting Union Transfer tonight in support of their long-awaited second album, Two. The band, who gained popularity in the early aughts with the release of their eponymous debut album, overcame two different break-ups, but the group’s reunion in 2012 brought forth a full-scale rework of the band’s best qualities. With no disregard to the musicianship that won fans over from the band’s first album, Two brings out an easier listening component but asks for a more dedicated listener lyrically. The band’s growth is sure to bring delight to old fans and new listeners alike, and with a dynamite opener like Philly’s Hop Along this’ll be a show you’ll hear friends raving about the rest of the week. Find ticket information here and check out “I’m Surprised…” from Two.
When we were going over the setlist for their Key Studio Session, PhillyBloco leader Michael Stevens pointed out that none of the songs from the set were their own; “We’re strictly a cover band,” he told me, but just looking around the room, I knew that this was a dramatic understatement.
For the past six years, the 20-piece ensemble modeled after the bloco Brazilian-dance tradition has been rallying audiences at venues from the TLA to World Cafe Live, getting a tremendous rep particularly for their annual New Year’s Eve throwdown at the latter venue. The band takes songs originally performed by some familiar names (Galactic, James Brown) along with lesser known artists from around the world (Jorge Ben Jor, Clara Nunes) and spins them in their own arrangements that blend samba, funk and rock sounds. When I say “lesser known,” though, I (unfortunately) mean lesser known to North American ears. But that’s part of the band’s mission, as our Sameer Rao pointed out in his New Year’s profile interview with Stevens and the band:
For the probable majority of their audiences, PhillyBloco might be their first exposure to this rich musical tradition. They needn’t be concerned, since samba’s percussive base sits comfortably alongside the reggae, New Orleans second line, and funk that PhillyBloco also incorporates into their music. They’ll recognize songs from folks like James Brown, and hopefully this unique spin will get them interested in digging further into something unfamiliar.
Call them musical ambassadors. Or just call them an incredibly tight band. As you can see from the photos in the gallery above, their numbers are huge, but they were remarkably efficient. Along with their regular sound engineer Craig Kaufmann, who did a remarkable job mixing this session, the band settled in our studio and plowed through a feisty set with ease and energy. The songs you hear below, in their original format, were done by (in order) Daniela Mercury, Galactic, Nunes, Jor and Skank, and PhillyBloco has more jams just like them in their repertoire. Listen to the set. Turn up your headphones. Dance around your desk if it suits ya. And consider taking in the full-on PhillyBloco experience at one of their upcoming gigs: Ardmore Music Hall this Friday the 13th of June, or over at World Cafe Live on the 9th of August.
For almost 17 years, Darren Schlappich and Mike Lavdanski have performed in the Reading-rooted Americana outfit Frog Holler, a band that has developed a loyal following regionally and beyond through engaging live shows and expressive albums that crystalized the the five-piece’s energy as performers into a handy plastic disc.
For these musicians, the new Ataloft came about kind of in reverse. A casual recording project with Bruce Siekmann of Amoeba Audio in Reading clicked in ways the players didn’t expect, and what everybody thought was a one-off collaboration spawned a full album, and a new band.
Though Schlappich regards the two groups as “first cousins,” by working outside of the Frog Holler label, he was able to explore sounds and sonic territories he might never have before. The resulting self-titled album is at once reminiscent of Brian Wilson and John Brion in its lush arrangements, ethereal orchestrations and big sounds – but tips the cap to the roots of these musicians with little florishes, like the banjo we hear on the moving album opener “The End Is Nearer Than We Know.”
We’re exploring the album all week long on Unlocked, The Key’s regular spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia-area artists. Tomorrow we’ll bring you a record review, we’ll spotlight a video on Wednesday, sit down with Schlappich on Thursday, and more. To start things off, download “The End Is Nearer Than We Know” below, and just imagine how haunting it will sound when the band performs it at their Philly album release party May 3rd at Ardmore Music Hall.
Up The Chain (aka Reed Kendall) channeled his inner balladeer in a sweet and simple rendition of The Lawsuits’ “You Won’t Love Me If You Don’t” recorded for Root Down in the Shadow‘s Cover Club series. This is just one of many forms the song has taken. Originally a solo tune written and recorded by frontman Brian Dale Strouse, it became a full band affair and was featured on the Lawsuits’ album Cool Cool Cool with Vanessa Winters on vocals. Kendall’s version resonates in a quietly somber way that’s just enough to draw you in and keep you listening. Check it out below and get tickets to Up The Chain’s April 26th show at Ardmore Music Hall here.
Yesterday, we premiered their new single “Sweater” and tonight Philly’s OhBree brings their brand of oddball pop to the Kung Fu Necktie stage. There’s much to celebrate as the band’s new LP Death by Broomstick comes out in just a few weeks on April 15th via Lillian Records. Tickets are available at the door before showtime at 8:00pm.
Reed Kendall is one of those songwriters who can do just about anything. It’s easy to latch on to the breezy Americana vibes and DMB-ness of his Up the Chain – originally a solo recording project, now a full fledged band – and he does that style remarkably well. But looking at Kendall’s music through just that lens would miss the whole picture. Last year’s Seeds and Thorns had a standout late-night soul cut called “For to Give Away” that blew my mind; Up the Chain’s Key Studio session hits on raucous rockabilly ( the new “Sidecar”) as readily as sharp Randy Newman-esque pop (“Seasick Sailors”) and slinky vaudevillian jazz (“Here I Haven Meet”). The current crop of players are a knockout – recording with us in this session was Anam Owili-Eger on keys and vocals, Kevin Killen on drums, Matt Wong on bass, and Avery Coffey on guitar. They performed a total of three new songs – the others being “Hand & Gasoline” and “The Hardest Stone,” both drawing a very promising picture of the next UTC release. Listen and download below, and check out a video of “The Horse’s Course” by Bob Sweeney. Want more? You can catch Up The Chain live at Ardmore Music Hall on Saturday, April 26th, when they open for the similarly eclectic-minded David Wax Museum. Tickets and info on the show can be found here.
Reunited Philly new wave-era rockers The A’s cross over county lines tonight to play a show tonight at Ardmore Music Hall. The five-piece force behind pop hits “A Woman’s Got The Power” and “After Last Night” staged a successful comeback last January at Underground Arts, where they reportedly played almost every single song in their catalog in a show they billed “Last Dance.” After a extremely positive fan response, The A’s decided to make the Last Dance a regular thing. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Watch a video from the Underground Arts show below.
Philly’s The Fleeting Ends wasted no time on elaborate animation in their new video for “Elaine (Until Now)”. Featured on their 2013 album Our Eyes Are Peeled and most recently on Showtime’s new primetime series Shameless, the simple stick-figure action amongst magazine cut-outs is simple and sweet in doing justice to the catchy pop tune. Check it out below and get tickets to their show at Ardmore Music Hall on March 7th here.