Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mudhoney at Union Transfer, Bacio at Boot and Saddle, Spaceship Aloha at Spruce Street Harbor Park

Mudhoney | Photo by Joan Vandenbossche | via Mudhoney's Facebook page
Mudhoney | Photo by Joan Vandenbossche | via Mudhoney’s Facebook page

Grunge-era icons Mudhoney head up a ridiculously good bill at Union Transfer tonight. Mark Arm and his bandmates have been doing their thing on and off for almost 30 years and are perhaps most notable (a) for their junk anthem “Touch Me I’m Sick” and (b) for being an influence on some band called Nirvana. Joining them are an incredible pairing of Philly acts; the sardonic shredders Pissed Jeans, and the anthemic punk power trio Amanda X. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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PREMIERE: Watch Bacio play “What Should I Wait For” live at Gradwell House, download “Simplest Things”

Bacio | photo by Jessi Melcer

New Jersey post-rockers Bacio will celebrate the release of their self-titled record at Boot & Saddle this Thursday night, joined by friends in It’s a King Thing and Joy Riding. As a preview leading up to the show Bacio have shared a video for “What Should I Wait For” and a free download of “Simplest Things” taken from the LP.

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Listen to the Arbor Christmas All-Stars Interview and Key Session

The Classic Brown | Photo by John Vettese
The Classic Brown | Photo by John Vettese

Our first ever Christmas Key Studio Session was released this week, featuring the Arbor Christmas All-Stars – members of numerous South Jersey bands who each year record a compilation of original holiday songs and throw a benefit Christmas pageant. The session aired on WXPN on Christmas Eve, featuring an interview with Dave Downham of Gradwell House Recording (where the performances were taped) and longtime Arbor contributors Brian Mietz, John Masino and Tom Ryan. You can listen to the entire session as it aired in the player below; download the songs plus outtakes, see a short video and check out a photo gallery at the Key Sessions post here.


The Key Studio Sessions: Arbor Christmas All-Stars

It's A King Thing | Photo by John Vettese
It’s A King Thing | Photo by John Vettese

On the one hand, the annual Arbor Christmas Compilation and Pageant is a local curiosity, something that could only happen in this area (South Jersey, along the PATCO line to be specific) with this particular group of local musicians, creative folks and friends acting as the driving force. Every year, bands like Ages, By Surprise, It’s A King Thing and The Only Ghost in Town converge at Gradwell House Recording in Haddon Heights to record emo / indie / punk inspired holiday songs for a series of free compilations (Volume 14 is out now!) and put on a loose and lighthearted holiday pageant, typically heavily informed by geek culture, at various South Jersey venues.

On the other hand, it’s something more, and speaks to the strength of community. The Arbor Christmas shows began in 2000 when a group of local musicians, spearheaded by Jon Montague, got together to put on a show for their friends. When Montague passed away after battling GIST shortly after the second show, his friends carried on in his memory. As founding member Mike Maier remembers on the Arbor Christmas website:

Jon and I wrote the script for the first two shows together. There almost wasn’t a show the second year because Jon had been in the hospital, but he insisted on doing it when he got out. It was that following January that he had passed away. After that, I had made promises to everyone that we would continue doing shows in memory of Jon. Jon’s brothers, Adam and Jamie, were in full support of this idea and became heavily involved. Brian Mietz had also been a big part of the show since the second show.

Since then, the four of us have assembled the show every year. I write the script with plenty of help from Adam, plus ideas pitched by Brian and Jamie. Brian also designs the artwork for the CDs that are given out at the show (another idea of Jon’s. The first year was a cassette!) Most everyone involved in the show helps in some way with putting it all together. Between the food, the decorations and Dave and Steve (Gradwell House Recording) providing time at the studio to record. I think the fact that it’s such a group effort is why it’s more like a party than a show. It’s all very personal to us.

Over the past fourteen years, the Arbor Christmas Pageant has not only become an annual celebration of Montague’s memory, but also a time for friends to converge and families to mingle. It’s even begun to span generations – while some participating bands are in their mid-20s, folks who were there at the beginning have kids now, and in some cases, kids old enough to participate. Singer Jeffrey Blatcher of the band Ages has participated in so many Arbor Christmas installments that it has its own Christmas album collecting all their songs, and Blatcher’s two daughters Iris and Starla, who perform as The Infiniteens. And the pageant has grown in size and scope, with its beginnings in Montague’s apartment for a small group of friends and growing today to an event at larger community halls that draw hundreds of attendees.

Not only is the show cross-generational, it’s civic-minded. The compilation may be a name-your-own price download (which, sure, sometimes means “free”) but when money is donated,  it is split along with proceeds from the pageant between a scholarship fund at Haddon Township High School in Montague’s name; a GIST research charity; and music programming in Camden public schools.

This Christmas, we got together a crew of the Arbor Christmas All-Stars – Ages, The Classic Brown, The Infiniteens, It’s A King Thing, Bacio, Norick Eve and Endor Endor – to record some of their favorites Christmas originals from over the years on location at Gradwell House Recording. Check out photos of the session in the gallery, stream and download the set below and watch a video montage of the recording session after the jump. And have a very happy holiday from all of us here at The Key!

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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head

Tonight: Gradwell House Showcase (featuring It’s A King Thing, Ages, and Bacio) at Kung Fu Necktie

It's A King Thing

South Jersey’s Gradwell House Recording has become a hub for some of our favorite musicians in the region: The Atomic Square, By Surprise, In Grenada. There’s even a name for this loose-knit collective: the Diner State Scene. One gets the vibe that this is the type of recording space run by musicians for musicians—and indeed, the space is helmed by Steve Poponi of It’s A King Thing and Dave Downham of Ages. Both of these bands are on a Kung Fu Necktie bill tonight, celebrating recent releases; King Thing is unveiling the vinyl pressing of last year’s Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo (an album title only a linguist could love). Meanwhile, Ages is performing a set of songs from its phenomenal new record Made In The Trade. (You might remember the band from its extensive catalog of Christmas songs, but don’t pigeonhole—this album is awash in all manner of Idlewild-by-way-of-Nada-Surf goodness.) Also on the bill is West Deptford post-rock combo Bacio, featuring sometimes Gradwell House engineer Matt Weber on drums. Call it a scene showcase, or a studio showcase, or a solid bill rooted in South Jersey. Download a track from each act below, and check out the show tonight at Kung Fu Necktie. It’s A King Thing performs with Ages and Bacio at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.