Go H.A.M. or Go Light? Philly favorites take different approaches at SXSW (incl. Grandchildren, Lantern, Free Energy and more)

Free Energy | Photo by John Vettese
Free Energy | Photo by John Vettese

The SXSW PHL showcase wasn’t the only place to see musicians from the Delaware Valley last week. A wide variety of musicians from the region made the trek, with a wide variety of approaches. For instance, Wilmington’s New Sweden did the barn-burning powerhouse thing, not only playing a packed tour on the way down, but jamming in an impressive (and as yet unquantified) number of SXSW showcases into its itinerary between Monday and Saturday. Other artists took it light, by comparison.

Vacationer | Photo by John Vettese
Vacationer | Photo by John Vettese

We caught Kenny Vasoli’s Vacationer in their last show of South By Southwest on Saturday night at the infamous Hype Hotel venue, sponsored by The Hype Machine. It was the breezy electronic pop band’s second of two shows, and the relaxed pace left Vasoli in the most exuberant of exuberant moods during their set.

“This has been the best experience I’ve ever had at South by Southwest,” he reminded the crowd at uber-frequent intervals. Like, seriously, in between every song of their 30-minute set. “It’s been such a great few days, and I’ve got all of you to thank for that.” Back in his old pop-punk band The Starting Line, Vasoli probably got swept awat in the hammering gauntlet that the industry festival can be – hence the easygoing approach this time. He’s not alone. Continue reading →


Introducing: The Hot Philly 15

Photo of Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee by Rachel Del Sordo
Photo of Kate Crutchfield of Waxahatchee by Rachel Del Sordo

The Hot Philly 15 is a completely subjective list of Philly-made and Philly Local music happenings we love this week. It’s somewhat informed by what we’re playing on the radio, what we’re blogging about and what you’re talking about.

1 – Waxahatchee: With an excellent new album, Cerulean Salt, a fantastic Key Studio Session, a high profile upcoming gig at SXSW with NPR Music, and Best New Music on Pitchfork, we’re in love. You should be too.

2 – The Delfonics – Who would have thought 45 years after the release of “La La Means I Love You,” William Hart would still be kickin’ it? Listen to Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics here. Download the new song, “Enemies” here.

3 – Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel: Philly Bands heading to SXSW include: DRGN KNG, Blayer Pointdujour and The Rockers Galore, Creepoid, Lantern, Bleeding Rainbow, Norwegian Arms, A Life Once Lost, Dangerous Ponies, The Fleeting Ends, Lushlife, The Kalob Griffin Band, Katie Frank & The Pheromones, Nothing, Cold Fronts, Free Energy, Thee Idea Men. If we forgot you, sorry. We never got your press release.

4 – Chill Moody: We want him to be the mtvU Freshmen Video of the Week. Vote for him here.

The Lawsuits | Photos by Matthew Smith | Montage by Bryan Schreck

5 – The Lawsuits Key Studio Session – listen to it here.

6 – Heavy Rotation: The Fleeting Ends release their poptastical new album, Our Eyes Are Peeled, on March 22nd. It’s getting lots of advance play in the office here.

7 – The Hotbox Studio (video) Sessions recently kicked back into action with Cheers Elephant and Grandchildren

8 – Tayyib Ali dropped his new mixtape, Keystone State Of Mind 2. Download it here.

9 – Tara Murtha’s Philly Weekly cover story on the closing of Fluid. Read it here.

10 – Stereogum premiered a new jam from our friends Free Energy. Download it here.

11 – Questlove and D’Angelo get down at the Brooklyn Bowl here. Okay, so the Brooklyn Bowl isn’t Philly. Neither is D’Angelo. But Quest is.

12 – Mike Slo-Mo Brenner gets all world music on our asses with a new collection of Indian slide guitar music he recorded in Calcutta.

WD13 – Duet of the moment: Juston Stens and Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Strange Love.” Download it here.

14 – Entertainment Weekly debuted the new Purling Hiss video for the song “Mercury Retrograde” here. It’s psychedelic, baby.

15 – Work Drugs: The Philly smooth-fi music machine drops yet another new single, “Sunset On High Street.” Download it here and don’t miss them tomorrow night with Night Panther at Kung Fu Necktie.


Download a new Free Energy song, read a book review by singer Paul Sprangers

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese
Life-affirming Philly popsters Free Energy contributed a new song to the soundtrack of Crap Kingdom, a new young adult novel by comedian DC Pierson. The book tells the story of a teenager who, per the Crap Kingdom website, “learns he’s the Chosen One in a magical kingdom, and then learns that the magical kingdom he’s the Chosen One in… SUCKS.” Free Energy singer Paul Sprangers wrote a review of the book for Stereogum, and he says that not only is it a lively read, it’s a covert slam on consumerism in 21st century America.

This story is wonderfully entertaining and written at a level appropriate for young readers, however there is a darkness in the content that will the sting the hearts of older, more cynical readers who might realize that they’ve inadvertently sacrificed their personal dreams and fantasies for the crude, fleeting satisfactions of the material world.

Read Sprangers’ entire book review, and download the song “Get Ready” at Stereogum.


Fun Cover of the Moment: Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles doing Free Energy’s “Hey Tonight.”

PatrickWhen this popped up on Facebook earlier this afternoon, I wasn’t quite sure how seriously to take it. After all, when Titus Andronicus played the First Unitarian Church back in October, they kind of made fun of Philly party rockers Free Energy – did a shticky joke song called “I’ve Got A Date Tonight” that totally lampooned our dudes and their joyful Cheap Trick-isms. So was this – Titus frontman Patrick Stickles doing his take on “Hey Tonight” – going to be some smarmy, sneering Brooklynite cover of Free Energy? I don’t need that noise.

Turns out, whatever jokes they made in the fall, it was all in friendly jest, since Stickles and the boys are buds, and he briefly filled in on guitar for them in spring of 2011, after founding guitarist Geoff Bucknum left the band and before current guitarist Sheridan Fox joined. (For visual evidence, Key contributor Joe Del Tufo got this photo of Stickles and Free Energy singer Paul Sprangers when the band played Arden Gild Hall in May of 2011.)

So, the cover – it’s fun. It sounds like Stickles recorded it in his backyard with garage band drum presets and the old guitar you see in that photo, but he keeps the celebratory vibe. Listen to the re-done “Hey Tonight” below, and take our recent free at noon with Free Energy for a spin here (via the WXPN media player). Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hilly Eye and Attia Taylor at the First Unitarian Church Side Chapel, Vacationer at Underground Arts, Shorty Boy Boy at MilkBoy, Free Energy and Bleeding Rainbow at Arden Gild Hall, Ape School and The Interest Group at Johnny Brenda’s

Titus Andronicus off-shoot Hilly Eye play the First Unitarian Church Side Chapel tonight with Attia Taylor.  Hilly Eye, the new Brooklyn-based duo project of drummer / vocalist Catherine Tung and guitarist / vocalist Amy Klein, have made fast moves in their short time as a band.  They released their first EP in 2010, followed by a 7″ on Don Giovanni last year and this year’s subsequent full-length Reasons to Live.  Pulling from the avant-noise tapestry of Lightning Bolt, Sonic Youth and the 90s “riot grrl” movement, Hilly Eye focus on transcendence both in their message and their sound with breathy vocals set against a backdrop of angular, heavy arrangements.  Tonight they play with Philly-to-Brooklyn transplant Attia Taylor, who just shared a few cuts from her upcoming album Luxurious Corners.  Tickets and information for the all-ages show can be found here.  Below, watch Hilly Eye perform “Amnesia” at 285 Kent in Brooklyn.

Continue reading →


Free Energy provided the rock n’ roll on a rainy day (photos, audio, setlist)

Philly pop-rock heroes Free Energy dashed away today’s grey skies and rainy afternoon with a loud and lively performance that drew from their self-released new LP Love Sign as well as their 2009 debut Stuck on Nothing. The band plays the Arden Gild Hall tomorrow with Bleeding Rainbow opening; tickets and information on the show are available here. Check out photos of today’s performance in the gallery above; read the setlist below; and listen to Free Energy’s performance in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player). Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Eternal Summers at Kung Fu Necktie, Saint at PhilaMOCA, Memory Tapes at Johnny Brenda’s, XPN Welcomes Free Energy & Cold Fronts to The Depot

Photo by Kent Moore
Virginia’s Eternal Summers play Kung Fu Necktie tonight with Carousel and Wrong World.  The dream / power pop trio are touring behind their 2012 sophomore album Correct Behavior.  With frontwoman Nicole Yun’s sweetly confident vocals spurred on by the aggressive guitar riffs and rhythms of drummer Daniel Cundiff and bassist Jonathan Woods, Eternal Summers blend twee and punk in an infectious and often surprising way.  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show can be found here.  Below, watch their video for “Millions” from Correct Behavior.

Continue reading →


The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Nightlands, Catnaps and Thao)

Nightlands | Photo by Matthew Davis

Prairie Empire stops by to record a Folkadelphia session [link]

Philly’s Nightlands celebrates the release of Oak Island at Kung Fu Necktie [link]

My Morning Jacket’s Jim James streams his new album, announces a Union Transfer show [link]

Philly rockers Free Energy get interviewed by a couple sixth graders [link]

Remembering versatile guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away at age 54 this week [link]

Indiepop five-piece Catnaps releases a new EP for free downloading [link]

Shoegazers Nothing will make the First Friday crowd wish they packed earplugs [link]

Lancaster folk trio The Stray Birds records a Key Studio Session, comes to World Cafe Live [link]

Philly rapper Chill Moody releases a mini-documentary of his December TLA show [link]

Thao Nguyen plays “We The Common” on a banjo, through a microphone, at a rally [link]

All week the Unlocked series features Almost Endless, the new LP from The National Rifle [link]


Watch Free Energy get interviewed by two sixth graders

Hat tip to our buddies at The Deli Philly for spotting this one; Philly pop-rockers Free Energy sit down with sixth graders Connie and Olivia from the Kids Interview Bands blog to discuss their childhood stuffed animals, recurring dreams about not turning in homework on time and their favorite Spice Girls. Watch the video below; Free Energy’s latest LP, Love Sign, is out now and the band is heading out on a spring tour in support of it.