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The Key Studio Sessions: Crills Wilson

Photo by John Vettese

“Even with the differences of opinion everybody brings to the band, I think we all went to Punk Rock High School,” muses Philly’s Crills Wilson of his bandmates. Earlier this year, the bourbon-folk rabble rouser lined up a roster of players to help him record his self-titled debut; most stuck around to become his live band. Some moments in their recent Key Studio Session leaned classic rock, and others more bootstomp country—but a rough-and-ready, riled up core carried across it all. You hear it in the Pouges-y tale of concertgoing woe, “Cell Song”, with its unforgettable chorus: “I went to a show at the Trocadero / didn’t get to go, no no no no.” You hear it in the brand-new “Worrying Like I Am,” a tune Wilson wrote about Occupy Philly; the song somehow divorces itself from the negativity of both the movement’s dismissive detractors as well as its defensive supporters, coming across as an empowering anthem. (I love the line “Speak out even if your voice is trembling.”) And you hear it in the overall energy of the performance; this ensemble is on its game as a live act. Catch Crills Wilson and the band in concert on Oct. 28 when they play an all-ages show at Danger Danger Gallery with The National Rifle. For the over-21 crowd, they also play Milkboy Philly on Nov. 4 with The New Connection.

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Philly Local Philes: Psychic Teens’ “YUNG”

With the symbolic end of summer behind us, it’s come time to plow headlong into a season of brisk temperatures and the brooding moods that come with it. Enter Psychic Teens, Philly’s dark and foreboding answer to Bauhaus. The punk-rooted three-piece drops its debut full-length, Teen, on Halloween; keep your eyes peeled for an appearance on the Key Studio Sessions around then. Meanwhile, the band is warming up for the plummeting thermometer with a handful of appearances – Sept. 17 at Doylestown’s Siren Records, and tonight at Danger Danger Gallery. Download their lead single “Yung” below. Psychic Teens performs tonight at 8 p.m. with Creepoid, Vaz, Pygmy Shrews and Pygmy Lush. Admission to the all-ages show is $8.

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Penrose and WXPN’s NO EXCUSES summer concert series kicks off June 4th at Danger Danger Gallery

Straight fom the Penrose website:

“The NO EXCUSES Summer Series is your summer party destination. On the first Saturday of every month June through September, Penrose and WXPN will be bringing you a raucous engagement featuring Philly’s best in live music…

To reiterate: on the first Saturday of every month, during the summer of 2011, Penrose+WXPN+DangerDangerGallery will be bringing the fun.”

Penrose performs with Toy Soldiers and Conversations with Enemies! at 9 p.m. at Danger Danger Gallery; tickets for the all-ages show are free before 9 p.m. and $5 after 9 p.m. Later shows in the series will feature local acts including Cheers Elephant, T.J. Kong And The Atomic Bomb, El Fuego, as well as New York’s A Million Years and The Shake.

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Cough Cool at Danger Danger Gallery

Dan Svizeny chooses to make his home in New Hope, on the PA side of the river, but he reps South Jersey. A graduate of TCNJ, he lists Springsteen as his greatest influence, his blog posts frequently dissect the intricacies of the Garden State, and he seems to almost single-handedly hold down the Trenton music scene.  Perhaps his most well-known work is with the band Blackhawks, a psychedelic indie-rock group inspired by the logo of the Chicago hockey team. (It should be noted that, despite this double-crossing band name, Svizeny is a passionate fan of Philly sports). Blackhawks recently collaborated with Radiator Girls, dropping the buzz-generating cassette Black Girls (which we mentioned last week). The second in his trifecta of offbeat genre bands is Nude Beach, a group he classifies as stoner metal. Cough Cool, the moniker he takes tonight, is his bedroom project. He calls it doomwave; it resembles Times New Viking in that it’s lo-fi but with harder edges. He hasn’t released anything official as Cough Cool since 2009 but new tunes appear frequently on his blog; his older material is also available via BandCamp. Cough Cool performs with Gray Young and Lantern at 8 p.m. at Danger Danger Gallery; tickets to the all-ages show are $5-$10.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Zola Jesus at Johnny Brenda’s + Low, Norwegian Arms, Grass Widow

As far as breakout years go, Zola Jesus (Nika Roza Danilova) had a pretty good 2010. The six-song Stridulum EP (released on Brooklyn’s Sacred Bones Records in March) was extended into a nine-song full length, Stridulum II, and released on the German label Souterrain Transmissions in August; a second EP, Valusia (also on Sacred Bones), was then released in October. (And, between all of that, Danilova found the time to record a split EP with LA Vampires, released by Not Not Fun.) All three of the lo-fi goth chanteuse’s 2010 records managed to garner a respectable amount of accolades, delivering on the promise of her previous work—which began with a couple of singles in 2008 and a full length, The Spoils, in 2009. It might not be the opera career Danilova originally envisioned for herself when she first became enamored with singing at the age of 7 (while growing up on a bleak, isolated, 100-acre stretch of wilderness in Madison, WI). But it’s certainly an impressive emergence for the experimental goth-pop artist, and one that has us looking forward to tonight’s show (as well as her next release). Zola Jesus performs with Naked On The Vague at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $10-$12.

And, if you missed John Vettese’s Philly Local Phile from last Friday—which featured the new three-song Norwegian Arms EP, Trimming Of Hides, in its entirety—you can give it a listen here prior to tonight’s opening performance at Kung Fu Necktie. Norwegian Arms performs with Oh No Oh My, Arrah And The Ferns, and Cow Pals at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.

Also playing: Low (touring in support of its recently released full-length album, C’Mon—which we mentioned here) + Stick And A Stone at First Unitarian Church (8 p.m., all ages, $15); Philadelphia’s Reading Rainbow headlines a lineup that also features Grass Widow (Kill Rock Stars) + Broken Water, Acid Kicks at Danger Danger Gallery (8:30 p.m., all ages, $5-$10)

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: The Skull Defekts (with Daniel Higgs) and Zomes at Danger Danger Gallery

Skull DefektsFans of the Baltimore post-hardcore quartet Lungfish have always held the band’s enigmatic frontman, Daniel Higgs, in high reverence. And for good reason: It’s hard to read the lyrics to any given Lungfish song and not come away with the impression that Higgs has seen sights, heard sounds, and contemplated thoughts the rest of us foolish mortals couldn’t even begin to comprehend—much less put to music in a way that somehow resonates with an audience. (To be fair, however, I’m certainly not going to judge anyone who raises an eyebrow at lines such as “My daughter keeps a shaft of light / My daughter moves in degrees of might”—from the song “Hallucinatorium” off the band’s 1999 release, The Unanimous Hour—and asks, “What mystic mumbo-jumbo is this crazy-looking beardo babbling about?!”) Since Lungfish’s last album, 2005’s Feral Hymns, Higgs has released a handful of solo albums (among other artistic endeavors); most recently, he joined the experimental rock band The Skull Defekts—described as “Sweden’s answer to the States’ Sonic Youth and the Netherlands’ The Ex”—to record the band’s latest album, Peer Amid. The results of the collaboration are probably what you’d expect (in a good way): it doesn’t sound so much like Lungfish as it does the frontman from Lungfish singing over Skull Defekts tracks. (Hey, who would have guessed?) You can give “Fragrant Nimbus,” off Peer Amid, below (courtesy of Thrill Jockey). The Skull Defekts perform with Zomes and Northern Liberties at 8 p.m. at Danger Danger Gallery; tickets to the all-ages show are $5-$10.

Also playing: Toy Soldiers + Paper Masques, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, Up The Chain at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, $10); Gobble Gobble + Golden Ages at The Barbary (6:30 p.m., all ages, $10)

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Philly Local Philes: Dangerous Ponies’ “Bumbershoot”

Dangerous Ponies

When Derek Dorsey at The Fire asked Jake Rabid and myself to nominate a band for the Northern Liberties Winter Music Festival, the choice was obvious. Dangerous Ponies kicked of 2010 with a fantastic set on Jake’s Sunday night Y-Rock Philly Local Show, and their self-titled debut record on Punk Rock Payroll one of last year’s best. Further, we discovered the Ponies because of a set at 2009’s NoLibs Winter Fest, one of their earliest Philly shows; returning this year would bring things full circle for the band as well as us. Dangerous Ponies the record is a rollicking blast of nonstop indiepop goodness, ranging in tone from breezy to heartbreaking, contemplative to jubilant. Today on the Philly Local Philes, we opt for jubilant. “Bumbershoot” isn’t even two minutes long and it’s jam-packed with a catchy melody, a parsing of a vernacular term for “umbrella,” a shoutout to former Ponies hype girl Gretchen Sims, a reference to the best Golden Girls episode ever, and a massive everybody-in-the-city-sing-along chorus. Take it all in below, and catch them at The Fire on Thursday the 10th, or Danger Danger Gallery on Saturday the 12th.

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This Weekend’s Concert Picks: Bear Hands + The Asteroid No. 4 at Johnny Brenda’s, Normal Love at Danger Danger Gallery

Bear Hands

Photo by Victoria Jacob

Bear Hands

FRIDAY, JANUARY 28
When Modest Mouse released its sophomore LP, The Lonesome Crowded West, back in 1997, it seemed like exactly the kind of breakthrough album that could propel the band into indie-rock stardom. (Which it did.) Since then, the band has influenced countless newer acts in a variety of ways—the most distinctive and obvious of which is singer Isaac Brock’s voice. Truth be told, it is near impossible to listen to a track such as Bear Hands‘ “What A Drag” (off last year’s Burning Bush Supper Club) and not hear Brock’s voice when the singer yelps, “You’ve got them long nails / I’m dreaming of your god damn long nails” in a pinched, nasal tone. The band has probably come to terms with hearing that by now; after all, you can’t really spout out vocals like that and not expect such a comparison. Thankfully, the band has a few other vocal tricks up its sleeve, including the distorted falsetto on Supper Club‘s equally excellent opener, “Crime Pays.” Bear Hands performs with The Asteroid #4 and Snakes Say Hisss at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ are $10.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 29
Do you love the early-’80s, Philly-based no wave band The Stick Men, but often wish they were a little less conventional in terms of songwriting? If so, we should probably discuss your idea of “conventional songwriting.” But, in the meantime, you’re going to love Normal Love. Normal Love performs with White Suns, Mincemeat Or Tenspeed, and Bad News Bats at Danger Danger Gallery; tickets to the all-ages show are $5-$10.

Also playing: Umphrey’s McGee + Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad at Electric Factory (8:30 p.m., $25); Andrew Lipke And The Prospects + The New Connection, Oldermost, Lily And The Parlor Tricks at North Star Bar (9 p.m., 21+, $8); Citizen Cope at Tin Angel (8 & 10:30 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT)

SUNDAY, JANUARY 30
Less Than Jake + The Supervillains, Off With Their Heads, Transit at The Trocadero (6:30 p.m, all ages, $17); Citizen Cope at Tin Angel (7:30 & 10 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT)

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Chris Johnston at Danger Danger Gallery

Chris JohnstonBloomington, Indiana: The little Midwestern indie-rock city that could. The seventh-most populated city in Indiana has been home to more punk and indie bands than you can count—and even more of which you’ve probably never even heard of. (R.I.P. The Panoply Academy Glee Club.) It’s also currently the home of several labels of note, including Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar, and (for the time being) Plan-It-X Records. Though we’ve given plenty of attention to those first two—which, just last year, put out records by Philly acts such as Sun Airway, The War On Drugs, and Nightlands—today we’d like to highlight Plan-It-X. Co-founder Chris Johnston, who announced last year that the label will call it quits this summer after its sold-out “End Of The World” Plan-It-X Fest (which will coincide with PIX’s 100th release, a written history of the label titled Free Pizza For Life) drops by Danger Danger Gallery tonight for a solo set. (Following the performance, Johnston will host the “Out Of The Basement Film Fest.”) As a performer, Johnston has his own impressive catalog, including time spent with Operation: Cliff Claven, The Devil Is Electric, and the currently active, acoustic folk-punk duo Ghost Mice; expect to hear plenty of similarly acoustic numbers during tonight’s show. Chris Johnston performs with Fletcher from On The Water and Bridge Underwater at Danger Danger Gallery; tickets to the all-ages show are $5-$10.