Secret American is a project of two coasts. A couple years back, frontman Derek Krzywicki found himself living in Southern California, where he moved with his old band Cheers Elephant. After parting ways with those guys, he began melding a retro-rock songwriting style with his unstoppable charisma onstage and at the microphone. But Krzywicki is a Philadelphia-area native, and some of his favorite folks to record with were located back in Philly. So he grabbed cheap airfares when they popped up and bounced back and forth across the U.S. to record his debut album, due out early next year. The result is pretty nicely aligned with the band’s jovial tagline: “California country landscapes from the seat of an overhead SEPTA train.”
Secret American found itself convened back in Philadelphia on a sunny day in early September of 2017. And so Krzywicki and his bandmates — Kevin Killen on drums; Todd Mecaughey on bass; Rory Geoghegan and Alex Baranowski on guitars, Katie Frank on keys and Tony Unander on percussion — met up at Fergie’s Pub in Center City. It’s an incredibly musician-friendly establishment, between weekly open mics, residencies from Philadelphia vets like John Train, a regular traditional Irish music session, the musicians slinging drinks from behind the bar, and more. So the seven bandmates gathered together on the tiny second floor stage of the pub for an afternoon jam out.
Philadelphia punk rockers The Deadeyes have released a live version of their new song, “Delaware”, which was recorded at The Fire back in November.
The track was recorded by fellow Philadelphian Josh Pannepacker of Cheerleader (aka Shorty Boy Boy(. The band, consisting of Patrick McHugh (guitar, vocals), David McMullin (drums), and John Coursey (violin), channels Jonathan Richman’s carefree attitude throughout the song before breaking into some classic Pixies-style noise brought to you by the band’s unique instrument, the violin. The Deadeyes’ Demonstrationals and Remixes was released last year. Continue reading →
Reading native Caroline Reese has released a new EP with her band Caroline Reese & the Drifting Fifth. The Electric Year is a 7-track album full of country-infused folk, but this isn’t your average, everyday folk music. Reese is a vocal powerhouse and infuses the songs with a distinctive style. There’s a country influence to some songs, but on others like “What I Did” and “On the Highway,” you’ll hear some modern rock as well. Reese’s voice gives you chills with the amount of raw emotion she puts into her lyrics and delivery. The Electric Year is available for download on the band’s Bandcamp here. See Caroline Reese & the Drifting Fifth when its pre-summer mini-tour passes through the area, including a June 18 gig at Fergie’s Pub, June 19th at Burlap and Bean in Newtown Square and the release party June 20th at The GAPS in Reading. For the full tour schedule, check out the band’s official website here. Listen to the EP and watch a live version of “What I Did” below.
The third Annual Center City Jazzfest was held on Saturday afternoon, pleasing a sellout crowd with sixteen genre-spanning jazz performances spread out over four locations in Center City Philadelphia. The four venues were Fergie’s Pub, MilkBoy,Chris’ Jazz Cafe and Time – all within a few blocks of each other and three of them on Samson Street.
The festival offered remarkable value at $15 per ticket if you bought them ahead of time, so you were paying less than a dollar per artist. Your ticket purchase earned you a wristband that allowed you access to any of the four venues whenever you wanted. Events were running at each venue simultaneously, so like any festival, you had to pick and choose what you wanted to see and hear. I kept on the move and was able to catch partial sets and photograph ten artists on the bill, and at times I definitely wished I could clone myself and see more than one set at once. It was an afternoon full of memorable performances that reminded both the attendees and musicians of the togetherness and pure joy that music can create.
The opening act of the fest, vocalist Rhenda Fearrington set the tone for the day. She and her four piece backing band gave a spirited and powerful performance that rocked the tiny upstairs at Fergie’s Pub. Another highlight of the sets at Fergie’s were the Jazz guitar stylings of Mike Kennedy, who was backed by a tight three piece keys, upright bass and drum trio. Of all the locations used for Jazzfest, Fergie’s best recreated the intimate, packed clubs that many Jazz greats cut their teeth in. The small upstairs room got more and more full as the day went along, and many fans seemed to set up shop there for the afternoon.
The events held upstairs at Milkboy also got more and more crowded as the afternoon went on. This venue hosted impressive sets by Giovana Robinson and Justin Faulkner. Panama’s Robinson and her group pleased the mid-afternoon crowd with a set featuring her passionate vocals and distinctive style of music – a mix of pop, world music and Jazz elements.
Late in the day Philadelphia native Faulkner’s thunderous drumming led a trio through an hour of groovy, prog-like space jazz to a packed and rapturous audience that included many of the other musicians from other bands on the bill.
Chris’ Jazz Cafe’s dinner theater-like set up and large stage area were a perfect fit for the musicians who played there on Saturday. Early in the day the Cafe hosted a fourteen piece Jazz orchestra of youths from The Kimmel Center Creative Music Program for Jazz. Despite being young they proved to be old souls with a swinging, powerful ensemble performance that showed that Jazz has a bright future in Philly. Later in the day the stage was owned by Joanna Pascale and her band. Pascale delivered an well received set of torch songs and included a meditative and memorable Jazzy take on Carole King’s classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”
The Time restaurant hosted some of the best shows of the day in it’s large mirror and clock filled bar area. The bar area featured a lot of open standing room space, natural light and two large sliding windows behind the stage area that were usually open. The open windows allowed passersby and fans who couldn’t fit into the frequently packed venue to hear some of the music outside. Early on, trumpeter Charles Washington led a five piece backing band through an excellent set that evoked the spirit of the early Miles Davis combos.
After them brassy Brooklyner Miss Ida Blue drew one of the largest, most enthusiastic crowds of the day. Her look was eye-catching: she aptly described herself as a “vamping dame” in one of her songs. Miss Blue and her clarinet/trombone/banjo and tuba backing band delivered a raucous set of her innuendo-laced Jazz that had the crowd roaring with laughter and appreciation for her singing and the group’s talent.
Next up was Stacy Dillard who had the crowd smiling, bobbing their heads and exchanging “did you hear that” glances as he blasted out complicated runs of notes on his sax while leading his trio through an impressive and powerful hour of music. Last up at Time was Trio Up, composed of virtuoso performers Rick Tate on Sax, Ronnie Burrage on drums and Nimrod Speaks on bass. They showed their mastery of their instruments and their ability to create beautiful music together during a highlight-filled hour of muscular and complex Jazz that thrilled the packed restaurant.
You wouldn’t expect a pop band to open an album with a lush piano and strings instrumental track. But expectations didn’t stop Philly’s Sidewalk Atlas from doing so with “At Least We’re Here Together”, and the result is actually quite lovely. The band serves up a catchy yearning-for-yesterday style tune with “Remember When” before diving into the sing-along story of “Margot”. Throughout the album, they offer classic pop melodies and even a little blues (on album standout “Gone for Now”).
The piano and strings take full command yet again on breakup ballad “City’s Not Enough” preceding the sparse, acoustic bliss of another mostly-instrumental track “Requiem Aestatem”. The rest of the record stays pretty mellow with low-key tracks “(For Your Consideration) a Car Breaks Down in Bryn Mawr” and “Terra Calls Me Back”. Overall, Stealing Time is a likeably laid-back record that will definitely appeal to fans of The Format and Ben Folds Five. Get a free download of “Gone for Now” and watch an album sampler below. Sidewalk Atlas plays Impact Hub Philly on February 13th and Fergie’s Pub on February 16th .
“I think that if you are not a DIY band, you’re behind.”
Philly guitarist Lewin Barringer is talking about going totally independent, and how it is the “new usual” for musicians worldwide. In doing so, musicians have taken it upon themselves to handle the business side of being a band along with, well, actually being a band.
Instead of simply writing, recording, and showing up for their fans (which is not the easiest job in the first place), they must also edit and produce their own work, book gigs, and most of all promote themselves. With YouTube’s rise in popularity as a home video platform with an average of over six billion hours of its videos being watched per month, it’s no wonder that Sunshine Superman – Barringer’s Philly-based folk-pop band – has taken to promoting itself with a YouTube channel of home-recorded performances.
Taking a look at the trio’s channel, SunshineSupermanPA, you’ll see a stream of 28 self-produced videos performed set in a variety of locations and pulling from a variety of genres. The band shows off their plucky originals, like the recent “Baby Give Me Your Hand” video, alongside of covers ranging from Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” Their channel has just over 1,000 subscribers and more than 135,000 total views. Barringer admits that the numbers might not be huge, but he keeps his cup half full by saying, “it’s like playing for 300 people a day.”
Danish chamber dream-pop outfit Efterklang headline Johnny Brenda’s tonight. Following up their 2010 debut Magic Chairs is 2012’s Piramida, a multi-media artistic endeavor that included a trek to the long-forgotten town of Piramida near the North Pole. Amassing over one-thousand field recordings for use on their latest LP, Efterklang turned their journey into a full-length companion documentary called The Ghost of Piramida. Tickets and information for their 21+ show with Jherek Bishoff can be found here. Watch the video for “The Living Layer” below.
Temple University student and musician Abi Reimold will perform at Fergie’s Pub tonight with John Francis’ Magic Hour Showcase, this week working in conjunction with Temple’s Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association. With a captivating vocal style echoing Angel Olsen and Jessica Pratt, Reimold’s recordings are honest and intimate but still reach an atmospheric depth with the occasional haunting looping sequence. Also participating in the Temple Songwriters Show tonight are Kevin Stairiker (Traffic Nightmare), Brianna Judge, Chet Williams and Brittany Ann Tranbaugh. The 21+ showcase is free and begins at 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here. Below, stream and download Abi Reimold’s Wish it Stopped, her half of a recently released split with Maryland’s Infinity Crush.
Lancaster rock quartet The Districts and Philly dreamscape band Edison are playing the weekly Ron Gallo Revue at Fergie’s tonight (as well as Gallo himself). The Districts released their first full-length album earlier this year, but you can also check out their three-track album, While You Were in Honesdale, released in September, here. Edison’s ethereal rock sound can be heard on their forthcoming debut album, Living Room, which you can stream here. Living Room is scheduled for release January 1st, 2013. Admission to the 21+ show is free, but be sure to get there before 9 to catch all three acts!
Feelin’ a little country? Catch Philly singer and songwriter Ali Wadsworth as she graces City Hall tonight with her blues-infused ensemble as they perform new music to be released on her upcoming solo album. Wadsworth, who previously sang in Goldiebox and Unlikely Cowboy, is currently competing on this season of NBC’s The Voice . Tonight’s show is free and starts at 5:30. Listen to the new singles “Where Is Your Love?” and “All Due Respect” below.