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Bethlehem’s VoirVoir reminds us what local music is really about

VoirVoir | photo by Jess Cuttic | via facebook.com/Voirvoir
VoirVoir | photo by Jess Cuttic | via facebook.com/Voirvoir

Bethlehem, PA was once a towering empire, thanks to Bethlehem Steel, America’s second largest steel producer during much of the 20th century. Now, as the buildings and machinery of a bygone era rust away, a new empire is taking the reins in Bethlehem: the music scene.

With the help of annual events like Musikfest, as well as the addition of the SteelStacks and Sands Bethlehem Casino venues, Bethlehem’s music scene is growing at an astounding rate. Behind the scenes, local and underground venues are popping up all over the city. This is good news for bands that are working their way through the music world. One of these bands is indie rock outfit VoirVoir.

I had a chance to talk with one of the band’s masterminds, Matt Molchany. We chatted about the recording of VoirVoir’s debut album, their upcoming shows, and what’s happening in the Bethlehem music scene. Continue reading →

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Modest Mouse forges through at SteelStacks in Bethlehem

Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman
Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

It can’t be easy to be Isaac Brock. Seriously. Between band practice, the taxidermy and getting cut off during headlining one of the world’s largest festivals, the guy probably deals with his fair share of stress. Getting his own way during one of Modest Mouse’s rare smaller gigs, then, should only be fair. “Alright, I’m not playing that shit,” Brock muttered after not one, but two failed attempts to start bendy jam “Interstate 8” early in the evening’s set. Despite early slips, a mediocre-at-best mix, and other quirks, the seminal indie rockers still brought their level best to Wednesday night’s sold-out crowd in Bethlehem.

Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman
Modest Mouse | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

Festival circuit aside, Modest Mouse doesn’t get out very often. Whether that’s due to working on what is arguably the most anticipated indie album ever, or something else entirely, is debatable. But the SteelStacks show comes smack in the middle of their first true tour in several years. Hitting out of the way cities like Bethlehem, PA and Cooperstown, NY later this weekend, they’re picking and choosing their way through smaller venues than usual, making these shows a treat for concert-starved fans. Even though Brock wasn’t very talkative, and didn’t really seem to know or care what secondary city the band was playing in, the assembly of ecstatic fans didn’t seem to mind.

Modest Mouse being no strangers to the weird, it was almost fitting that just about everything about the gig was slightly off. From the aforementioned mix – ranging from quite muddy to utterly drowning Brock’s voice behind a wall of wailing guitars – to a beautiful and unique venue filled with fans who seemingly only wanted to hear “Float On”, the evening was still a great time, but in a strangely off-kilter way. The lack of their most noted song almost created a crisis at the very end of the encore, as the crowd refused to believe that the band simply wouldn’t play it. They didn’t, recently haven’t been, and frankly don’t need to. While catchy and fun, “Float On” is far, far from being one of their better songs.

Speaking of the setlist, it was jam-packed with the more obscure classics. The die-hard fans (don’t mistake my earlier sentiment, there were many loyalists in the crowd) were thrilled to hear the band drag out deep cuts like “The View”, and could be heard remarking how relieved they were that the band kept mostly to their older material. The three new songs premiered at Coachella 2013 – “Be Brave”, “Shit In Your Cut”, and “Sugar Boats” – all made appearances in the 20-song setlist. Wrapping up with the hugely pessimistic “Fly Trapped In A Jar”, Brock thanked the audience and jogged off the stage.

In the first ever ticketed show at Levitt Pavilion, the post-industrial-blight-turned-venue proved to be a success, and was the event was also the first in the new Yuengling Summer Concert series — slated to host indie darling duo Tegan & Sara next month. Settled beneath the towering blast furnaces of the Bethlehem Steel, the stage and its crowd proved to be the perfectly weird combination to welcome Modest Mouse to Bethlehem.

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Dawes touring with Bob Dylan this spring; playing Newark, DE and Bethlehem in April

Dawes_NoahAbramsXPN favorites Dawes just announced a run of spring tour dates opening for the legendary Bob Dylan, all surrounding the April 9th release of their latest full-length Stories Don’t End. They will play the University of Delaware in Newark on April 12th and the Stabler Arena in Bethlehem on April 18th. And even though there are no dates in Philly proper yet, we have it on very good authority that local crowds will be hearing some live music from Dawes on their radio very soon. Below, watch an in-the-studio with Dawes documentary that premiered on Paste Magazine this afternoon, and listen to their set from XPoNential Music Festival in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player).