Spraynard are back in action. The boys from West Chester, PA decided to call it quits in late 2012, though the members were still active in other bands including NONA, Adult Braces, and Martin. This February, Spraynard announced that they would be playing a reunion show at the First Unitarian Church on May 24th. The tickets sold out within a day, even without mentioning any support acts. The band later announced that Timeshares (New York), hometown friends Everyone Everywhere, Virginia indie rockers Sundials and in particular, Armalite would be supporting the show. Armalite has been a “super group” band for almost ten years – a collaboration of Dan Yemin from Paint it Black, Adam Goren from Atom and his Package, longtime punk scenester Mike McKee and Jeff Ziga of Little Baby’s Ice Cream – but this only their sixth show ever. It was an awesome and rare opportunity to watch them perform!
Due to the overwhelming demand, Spraynard announced a second show to take place the night before the big reunion. This show was at Grand Slam USA of Malvern, PA—a family entertainment center where Mark Dickinson (bass), Dos Ware (drums), and Pat Graham (guitar) have all worked at during some time in their life. The lineup included hometown friends John Crodian and Lavis Blake, DC pop punks The Max Levine Ensemble, and Bethlehem’s own Slingshot Dakota. Grand Slam is equipped with laser tag, bating cages, and more. A stage and sound setup was on a basketball court, and it was one of the most unique shows I’ve ever attended.
Later in March, after the announcement of the shows, the dudes confirmed that Spraynard is back. The compilation LP, The Mark, Tom, and Patrick Show was released, and they just announced a summer tour in July with Dowsing, Timeshares, and Colossal Wrecks. Check out the photos from Grand Slam with John Crodian, The Max Levine Ensemble, and Slingshot Dakota along with the photos from First Unitarian with Everyone Everywhere, Armalite, and Sundials below.
“Thanks for always having our back, Philly,” Districts frontman Rob Grote mumbles into the mic. Their set has is about halfway finished, and even though the reception hall of the First Unitarian Church isn’t quite sold out, there’s very little free space in the basement – and it shows. Sweat and cheap beer pool on the floor, causing more than a few slips as the Districts rip into the back half of a set powered by churning guitars and heavy-handed riffs. Even though the bluesy four-piece hails from the pastoral Lancaster County, moving to Philadelphia has solidified their status as adopted hometown boys, and the sweltering crowd welcomed them home with open – and sweaty – arms.
Just back from a short headlining tour of the UK – and before that a longer tour in support of White Denim – the Districts have been having a busy 2014. With Shaky Knees and NonComm recently marked down in the history books, the band is beginning the summer festival circuit. With appearances scheduled for Sasquatch, Lollapalooza, Boston Calling, and of course our own XPoNential Music Festival, the band’s ferocious touring ethic appears to be paying its dividends.
Back in the Church, the boys tear through a tightly knit set marked by explosive energy. The mic and Grote are a pair of magnets; even though the force of his strumming and stomping may take him far, the kinetic power always reels him back in smoothly. The set is short on crowd interaction and banter but long on riffs, and that’s just the way that everyone likes it. Ripping through standout tracks “Lyla” and “Long Distance” from full-length album Telephone, the Districts had no trouble grabbing the assembly of fans by the collar. Interestingly skewed towards the younger demographic, the packed-in crowd made it evident that being a younger-aged band isn’t doing anything but helping to build a fan base which will last.
As the softer tones of “Funeral Beds” slowly built to the epic climax of the show, the crowd went word-for-word with Grote, revealing that there were very few casual, johnny-come-lately fans among them. Loyalty is a key theme of both the Districts songwriting and their relationship with fans – of both hometowns. Taking that trust literally, Grote followed the lead of the more rowdy fans, and briefly crowdsurfed out into midst of the chaos. Philly will always have The Districts’ backs, and always have them back again, whether the next time is a sweaty, crowded basement, or the larger clubs that they’re obviously headed towards.
The spectacle of watching the members of seminal punk forefathers Black Flag facing off in court over merchandise sales and brand identity would seem to undercut any claims these aging icons have to latter-day cred. Original vocalist Keith Morris went on to also found a second landmark band, the Circle Jerks, and since last year has fronted the band that the reviled Greg Ginn would prefer you think of as the other Black Flag reunion, simply known as FLAG.
But if big-dollar settlements don’t exactly scream “punk rock,” Morris’ other gig certainly does. OFF! was formed in late 2009 with Burning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald, and Rocket From The Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba, and over the course of three albums have proved that reinventing the wheel is unnecessary as long as that wheel can still roll over anything in its path. The band’s latest, Wasted Years, takes care of business with 16 songs lasting a brief but exhilarating 23 minutes, only one track stumbling over the two-minute mark. The dreadlocked Morris spits his vitriolic lyrics so convincingly that it’s hard to believe that trademarks are the only thing he’s infringing. Check out the video for “Red White and Black” off of Wasted Years below – OFF! play the First Unitarian Church this Friday, May 16th. Tickets and information can be found here.
Melbourne, Australia alt-pop duo Big Scary bring their electronic infused, moody yet catchy sounds to Boot and Saddle tonight. With vocals reminiscent of Bon Iver, and an blend of keys, electric guitar and synthesized beats, Big Scary create melodic sounds in a swaying atmosphere that touches on both happy and sad emotions in an intricate way. Get tickets for the Boot and Saddle show here. Watch “Luck Now” below.
Tonight, M.I.A. graces the Tower Theater stage and fans (old and new) should, as always, expect a little bit of everything from the singer-songwriter’s genre-bending music. On her latest album Matangi, it’s clear that her sound is still a hybrid of electronic, pop, hip-hop and world music. Best known for her 2007 platinum hit “Paper Planes”, M.I.A. isn’t a traditional singer or rapper; she’s crafted a style that’s somewhere in between and it’s infectious. Watch “Y.A.L.A.” below and get tickets here
Tonight, How to Dress Well (aka Tom Krell) brings its catchy, minimalist R&B to the First Unitarian Church stage. Krell released his second album Total Loss back in 2012 which featured the single “And It Was U”. His bare bones approach to the genre is low on frills but high in quality as he transforms melodies with layered harmonies and simple beats. Get tickets here and check out “And It Was U” below.
Celebrating their fourth album Reflektor, indie rock heavyweights Arcade Fire will light up the Wells Fargo Center stage tonight. With three years separating each of their LP releases, the band hasn’t rushed to maintain momentum due to success and critical acclaim. They take their time when it comes to new material. After releasing Reflektor and scoring Spike Jonze’s Her, the band is bigger now than ever before. Watch them perform “Afterlife” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon below and get tickets here.