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Bucks County musical institution Illinois is not always the easiest crew of dudes to keep tabs on. The twangy scruffy indie rock band first made waves in 2007 with its second EP What the Hell Do I Know, which yielded some TV placement and buzz around the song “Nosebleed.” The band appeared on XPN’s Free at Noon stage, released the creatively-conceived (if confusingly-executed) flash drive album The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe in 2009 and played a rousing set at that summer’s XPoNential Music Festival marina stage. Then the momentum sort of halted and the band fell into the ether for a little while, playing Philly rarely and instead tinkering away in their Churchville studio. Outside of their hometown base in lower Bucks, not too many people knew about Illinois’ 2011 album Lemonade Stand, and I’m pretty certain there was an outtakes / rarities comp in there as well at one point.
Earlier this year, the band ramped up activity in it’s social media zone, releasing regular teaser snippets of a new project, and today emerging with a free download of a finished track called “Queen Flea” (hat-tip to our brothers and sisters in Philly music coverage over at The Deli for alerting us to its existence). The song is a pumped-up anthem reminiscent of an era where polished production mixed well with a quirky sensibility – think Space, Cake, White Town, etc. The late 90s alt-radio rock aesthetic is huge on this song: singer Chris Archibald’s nervous, nervy vocals, the booming drums at a lackadasical tempo, the wikki-wikki turntable sound effects on the chorus. Illinois very much sticks true to their roots here, both in terms of sound and substance – Archibald’s lyrics are dark as ever as he contemplates faking his own death.
Get a free download of “Queen Flea” below; the band says it will be on its next album, but release date and title are still TBD.
Hailing from Mexico, Rodrigo Y Gabriela makes for an incredible acoustic duo, playing an acoustic fusion of flamenco, metal, folk, rock and so much more. Gaining popularity in Ireland, the duo has since received wide critical acclaim for their prodigious musical skills. Last winter, they released their fourth studio album, Area 52, which included a Cuban orchestra. Tonight, the group plays The Electric Factory. Click here for ticket info and get a taste of the two musicians’ guitar skills below.
Denver’s DeVotchKa bring their chamber orchestra project to The Trocadero tonight. After recording a live album with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Eastern European-influenced quartet hit the road with a chamber orchestra to bring the full and intricate layers of an orchestral performance to smaller stages. The band is also testing out new material that will be recorded as a follow-up to 2011′s 100 Lovers. Tickets and information for tonight’s all-ages show with Pearl and the Beard can be found here. Below, watch DeVotchKa perform “All the Sand in All the Sea” live at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony.
Now in its third year, Before the Bridge Festival returns to Collingswood, NJ on Saturday, October 13th for a day full of free music, local food and of course fun. The festival promotes the local music scene in and around Collingswood, NJ – a.k.a. the towns you pass through before crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia. This year’s line-up has reached a record number of performers and includes local musicans JJL (Jay Laughlin’s new project), Sweatheart, Goodnight Lights, Prowler, Heyward Howkins, Belgrade, Monko and She Hates Me. Out-of-town acts include Gunfight! and headliners Illinois. The festival will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. between Haddon Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. The event is free; go here for more information. Below, watch Heyward Howkins perform “The Hale & the Harty” outdoors in South Jersey and grab a free download of a song from Illinois’ new album Lemonade Stand after the jump.
From the folks at The Fire:
In an attempt to fill the void left by festivals past, and offer a good alternative to flocking to the shore, many of Philadelphia’s finest local musicians will participate in the Inaugural Sundrop Music and Arts Festival. The festival includes three great nights of music at the Fire, and an all-day, two stage show and craft fair on Saturday May 28th. Stages will be located at Trios Tratorria and outside of the Fire, with vendors offering fine art, crafts, and food lining the path between the Trios Stage and Las Cazuelas.
The Fest kicks off Friday May 27th with a show headlined by local favorite Hezekiah Jones, supported by an amazing bill including Sisters 3, Up The Chain, and more. Between Saturday May 28th’s two outdoor stages, you’ll be able to catch sets from a wide spectrum of Philly talent, ranging from Circadian Rhythms to Attia Taylor, to the Spinning Leaves, and also including Yellow Humphrey and Paper Masques. Saturday night moves inside with a mega-bill, featuring Drink Up Buttercup with support from Toy Soldiers, Orbit To Leslie, Busses, and a second set from Paper Masques. On Sunday May 29th the Fest ends with a bang, as Illinois headlines a packed bill featuring US Funk Team, Arrah and the Ferns, and the first full band Philly show for Doylestown’s own Peasant.
As producer of The Key Studio Sessions, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this holiday: the wealth of musical talent in the Philadelphia region, and the number of those musicians who are stoked on performing for us. The incredible studio here at XPN where I can record, and this website where I can share those recordings with you. It’s been good vibes since The Key launched, for sure—but I promised Matt I wouldn’t go too Hallmark on everyone. So instead, I present you with The Key Studio Sessions Thanksgiving Playlist: a collection of 13 tracks from our archives, dating back to some of our earliest Philly Local sessions in 2008—when Jake Rabid and I used to record in Y-Rock’s broadcast studio (before moving over to the comparatively giant Live At The World Café performance space we use now). Ever wonder what a Marshall stack-wielding punk band sounds like when you squeeze them and all their gear in a tiny broadcast studio? Check out The Loved Ones’ rendition of “Louisiana” from April of ’08. (The answer: not bad, and no less impassioned.)
Most of these songs have a similar mood—warm, thoughtful, and/or sentimentalish, from Chris Archibald’s stirring solo performance of “Missing Piece” from Illinois’ March 2009 session, to Birdie Busch’s perennial favorite “Water” from earlier this year. Some are more melancholic (the haunting “Two Skeletons” by the late, great Brass), some romantic (Kurt Vile’s cover of Dim Stars’ “Monkey”). Seasonal themes are also hit on, such as travel (Writtenhouse’s bumpin’ “Mahogany Blue”) and harvest (or at least Hoots And Hellmouth always make me think of harvest anyway). And some songs have little to do with the holiday per se, but are simply incredible performances that I’m thankful I had the honor of recording (The Chimeras’ “Ridge Summit” still gives me chills). Pop this playlist on when you’re preparing dinner tomorrow, when you’re digesting and relaxing afterwards, or whenever you need a collection of reflective homegrown songs from right here in Philly. Happy Thanksgiving. (“Golden Turntable” photo by Neil Ian of Nimble Photography)