That’s what Mike Maier writes, first and foremost, about the annual Arbor Christmas Show on the event’s website, and it’s the first thing he says when asked about it.
It was his idea, so Maier helped his friend Jon Montague put that first show on 15 years ago. They’d worked on other things together in the past, and were both fans of sketch comedy in the vein of “The Kids in the Hall” and “Monty Python.” They wanted Arbor Christmas to be like a variety show or Christmas special you’d see on TV, but feature their friends, most of whom were accomplished musicians who lived in South Jersey. Continue reading →
DIY punk’s openness, accessibility and ability to survive (and thrive) hinges upon the existence of the right mix of venues. For the most part, Philadelphia has just that. The scene here is so nurturing that just about anyone can start a band, write a few songs, practice them and eventually, play a show. That conduciveness can almost seem passé sometimes just because we’re so acclimated to it, but the reality is that it’s just not like that in most cities. It takes a lot of hard work, some clever maneuvering, and the right mix of personalities to save a subculture from stagnation. In Philadelphia, that means a plethora of non-traditional, not-exactly-legal venues. Pennsylvania’s draconian alcohol laws, along with operating costs that are almost universally prohibitive for broke punks, mean that the vast majority of all-ages punk shows here are happening off the grid in musty basements, dirty kitchens and cavernous lofts, which makes for a uniquely wonderful, but perhaps unsustainable experience.
Daniel Anderson wants to create something sustainable. Since 2011, he and his roommate Ruben Polo have run local label Kat Kat Records, while booking shows both in their own West Philadelphia basement and at others across the city. They’ve also booked festivals of their own, beginning with Kat Kat Phest and culminating with the inaugural TWOB Fest this weekend, which will see local favorites like Kite Party, Marietta and By Surprise performing alongside out-of-town acts like Laura Stevenson, Sundials and The Hotelier to raise money for an all-ages, DIY show space in Philadelphia to hopefully open in the fall. Continue reading →
Emo rockers By Surprise take over Kung Fu Necktie tonight for an evening of non-stop classic indie rock jams at the monthly Strangled by the Stereowire party. It’s their first live show since December, as well as a 90’s indie / alt showcase night where DJs Johnny and Mike spin everything from Pavement to Dinosaur Jr. to Blur and Superchunk and more. People attending can tweet their 90’s indie-alterna song requests to @SBTSW or #SBTSW. Get ready to ride the emotional rollercoaster down memory lane. Did we mention the best part? It’s free.
By Surprise is currently working on their follow up to 2011’s Mountain Smashers, so you can expect some new material tonight from the Jersey natives. You may even catch them doing a cover of Archers of Loaf, too (though not the song that the DJ night takes its name from). The show starts at 10:30 and goes ’til 2am. Free admission, 21+ to get in.
Think of last year’s first Kat Kat Phest as an accident that went almost as smoothly as the organizers could have asked for.
“There were seven or eight different bands that hit one of us up saying, ‘Hey, I need a show,’ in a four-day period, “ says the Philly-based indie label founder Daniel Anderson about what happened around this time last year. “By the end of it, all four days had a show, and we were just like, ‘Whatever, let’s just make it a four-day thing with some after shows.’”
Anderson started Kat Kat Records in order to help out friends’ bands and put out their records, so requests for help booking shows in the area were not uncommon. That’s why his friend Ruben Polo (also his band-mate in the local four-piece Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe) started helping out with promoting events, which he also does for a living.
For a last-minute festival with mostly touring bands on the bill, the two organizers couldn’t have imagined it would go so well, even selling out the show on the final day.
“[Our band] left for an eight-week tour after that, and off and on, we were just talking about, ‘Who should we get next year? We should do this for real,’” Anderson says. “Last year’s was kind of an accident. This year is a test to see if we can make it go as well when we’ve actually meant to do it.”
So this weekend, DIY musicians and local music supporters will once again gather for Phest 2, which will span five days, feature eight all-ages shows and boast about 50 bands. The all-festival passes, a bargain at $22, were sold out by December 20. Saturday night’s show with local heroes Smoother and Marietta, as well as New York-based Lemuria headlining, was moved to the North Star Bar after selling out at The Fire. But tickets are still available for all eight shows, a la carte style, at the show’s Facebook event page, and they range from $3 to $10…so it’s still a lot of bang for your buck.
Several bands associated with Kat Kat Records will also play this year’s Phest, including By Surprise,Hightide Hotel and Tyler Daniel Bean. But Anderson and Polo don’t make it a priority to put their own bands on the bill.
“If bands deserve to play cool shows and work really hard and are good people, then they play what they should play,” Anderson says. Continue reading →
Oregon natives Typhoon will play Johnny Brenda’s tonight. The eleven piece outfit released their fourth studio album White Lighter back in August. The band successfully manages to offset their dark lyrics (which reflect lead singer, Kyle Morton’s childhood struggle with Lyme Disease) with pleasant alt-folk, choir-pop soundscapes. Tickets for the event can be found at Johnny Brenda’s website.
For fans of PhilaMOCA‘s music-and-film Tuesday Tune-Out series, any month with five Tuesdays is extra awesome, allowing the curators to stretch out for an additional week and dig that much deeper into their field of expertise. This October, the venue brought on the folks from WKDU, Drexel University’s non-commercial free-form student station, to curate the lineup, and it’s a fantastic cross-section of the city’s DIY music scene. I caught up with program director Maeve Walker over email to get a preview of what’s in store this month. All shows are all ages, begin at 7:30 p.m. and are $5 at the door. For this month, all films are TBA.
WKDU is the biggest free-format, student-run radio station in Philadelphia. We play literally any kind of music that you don’t hear on regular radio, and we wanted to highlight that through our curation of PhilaMOCA’s Tuesday Tune Out. By choosing up-and-coming bands, currently popular, or old pros, it really shows the variety that we have here on the station. We are excited to show off bands that we regularly play, and let them experiment and shine in this excellent opportunity! Continue reading →
World Cafe Live welcomes Blackalicious tonight. Originally from the West Coast, the hip hop duo brings their quirky, eccentric, contemporary rap craft to the stages of the East Coast. Check for more information or tickets for tonight’s 8 p.m. show here.
South Jersey punks By Surprise make it their goal to play for fun over progress. The group rarely performs live shows, and have been gradually releasing music over the last seven years (recently on Topshelf Records). Yesterday, Switchboard Sessions released some acoustic songs they recorded with the band over a telephone. The acoustic versions of the songs from the group’s EP Criteria really show By Surprise in a new light. Instead of drums, bass guitar and vocals, this set is a fuzzy mix of just two acoustic guitars and vocals. But what the songs lose in electrified energy, the band regains with raw sound of just words and simple acoustic riffs. The four songs seems to take on a Daniel Johnston honesty in this session. Check out a few of the songs below and download the full session from Switchboard, and catch a rare appearance from the band at The Fire ]on June 28th.
South Jersey emo foursome By Surprise premiered a new video for their single “Criteria” on If You Make It this morning. The playful and surreal clip follows singer-guitarist Pat Gartlind as he wanders from home to the office, with his bandmates Rob Wilcox, Devin Carr and Dan Saraceni (pictured above) standing in as his furniture and household appliances. Says Wilcox:
The video was a lot of fun for us. Granted, we try to not take ourselves too seriously, and I think we managed to uphold that standard while still doing the song justice. Pat and his fiancé actually own the house together, so it made recreating his morning routine all the more fun, and for the most part, pretty accurate.
Keep your eyes peeled for an Everyone Everywhere Cup O’ Joe in the video, which you can watch below, and catch By Surprise in concert next Friday, March 8th, when they play Girard Hall with Nicknames, Sparrows, Secret Plot to Destroy the Universe and Pocket.
South Jersey emo four-piece By Surprise released their new EP Criteria today on Topshelf Records. The three-song set is just about ten minutes long, it’s got booming guitar tones, a lot of energy, and a few solid sing-along hooks. Listen to it in the player below.