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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mason Porter at Ardmore Music Hall, Endor Endor at Johnny Brenda’s, Andrea Tomasi at Random Tea Room and more

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

XPN and The Key welcome Mason Porter to the Ardmore Music Hall tonight.  The West Chester folk band has been the subject of this week’s Unlocked feature for their new record Home for the Harvest, and they will be celebrating the LP’s release at tonight’s show.  The record is close-knit and intimate, with the trio and their contributing percussionists creating an escape from hectic, technology-focused city life and you can be sure the live performance will be the same.  Tickets and information for the show with Sean Hoots can be found here.

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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.

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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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What will a new My Bloody Valentine album sound like, anyway? (plus: listen to MBV-influenced Philly musicians)

A big bomb dropped this morning for fans of loud amplifiers, effects pedals and that hypnotic musical genre known as shoegaze. Kevin Shields, singer and guitarist for My Bloody Valentine, told long-standing UK music news source NME that his band will release a new album by year’s end. The as-yet-untitled work would be available through Shields’ website, and would be followed up by an EP of even newer material.

This news is nothing short of staggering, considering that MBV’s last recorded work was the landmark record Loveless, released some 21 years ago back in November of 1991. Its blend of dissonance and agression with beauty and tranquility had no major parallels at the time, but went on to influence countless artists in the subsequent decades. You could hear the echo of Loveless in 90s acts like The Verve and Mazzy Star as well as 21st century rock demagogues Radiohead, all the way down to smaller-profile artists like Japancakes (who covered the album in its entirety in 2007), Black Angels and currently buzzing Baltimore outfit Secret Mountains.

So the question is – what is the band’s first album in 21 years going to sound like, anyway? Shields told NME that the engineers and musicians who have heard the record, which has been in the works since sometime the 90s, find it to be more far-out than Loveless. He doesn’t agree, however.

So does that mean it will merely be Loveless II? One would think that a band wouldn’t release its first album in 21 years unless it had something new to say / do, right? Even a bad My Bloody Valentine record would rule pretty hard…but what if the unthinkable happens and it is bad? Could it tarnish the legacy of Loveless? Are you excited or afraid to listen?

Ponder these questions, and let us know what you think in the comments below. And while you do that, check out an assortment of artists from our own local music community here in Philly that, one way or another, have drawn influence from My Bloody Valentine. Continue reading →

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Listen to two progressive/electronic jams from Philly’s Endor Endor and Crozet (playing tonight at Kung Fu Necktie)

Versatile South Jersey indie rocker Tom Ryan busies himself as a player in so many other projects (three, at last count—Young Statues, It’s a King Thing, The Atomic Square), that it’s always a treat when he gets to indulge his own creative whims. Endor Endor is the post-rock outfit Ryan unveiled last December, and it dabbles in tones and riffs reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai. Tonight, the band makes a rare appearance out, a late-night free show at Kung Fu Necktie with synthpop duo Crozet. The night is presented by the Strangled by the Stereo Wire DJs – Mike Maier and John Masino of it’s a King Thing, two dudes with an evident fondness for Archers of Loaf and ’90s-centric Spotify playlists.

Below, you can download free mp3s by both bands on the bill.

From Endor Endor, it’s the new number “Sleepless”, an unexpectedly hushed synthesizer meditation reminiscent of Bon Iver recent work, as well as Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto - don’t let it space you out too much, though, since it blasts off into hyperspace for its third act.

And from Crozet, its a chillwave’d take on the 80s pop hit “Missing You” by John Waite from their covers EP Alterations – where you’ll also hear renditions of songs by Yo La Tengo, Geneva Jacuzzi and Memoryhouse.

Endor Endor and Crozet play tonight at 11 p.m. with the Strangled by the Stereo Wire DJs at Kungfu Necktie, 1250 North Front St. Admission to the 21+ show is free.

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Watch the Christmas light-centric new video for Endor Endor’s “Bedford Falls”

Endor Endor is the new instrumental post-rock project of South Jersey’s Tom Ryan: lead guitarist in The Atomic Square, guitarist and keyboardist in It’s a King Thing, bassist in Young Statues. (Yeah, he’s a busy dude.) He’s also the fellow you see wandering around Philadelphia in the video above, taking a walking tour of both city lights and Christmas lights to the tune of his new song “Bedford Falls.” The video was shot by Tommy Oceanak, and the song closes out this year’s Arbor Christmas compilation, Volume 12 in the series. Grab a download of the song below, and find out more about Arbor Christmas (and peruse volumes 1 through 11) over here.