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How music and friendship saved Philly noir-rock army Northern Arms

Northern Arms (photo by Max Gaines, http://www.thechurchofmax.com)
Northern Arms (photo by Max Gaines, http://www.thechurchofmax.com)

In some ways, the story of Northern Arms is a story of redemption. It’s also a story about friendship, and being true to one’s self emotionally.

“I always felt that a lot of bands held back if they did anything emotional—like they had to do it ironically, or with a smirk,” says Eric Bandel, from the back balcony of Standard Tap. “The stuff we were working on—we just wanted it to be true. We didn’t want to hold back.”

His band mate Keith Pierce nods in agreement. Emotional honesty has always been at the core of Northern Arms’ process, leading to beautiful, complex compositions that juxtapose highs and lows, for a result that feels startlingly cathartic.

Over the past 13 years, the band’s gone through several incarnations, including the 10-person rock monolith it is today. This Friday, they’ll celebrate the release of their debut, self-titled record with a party at Johnny Brenda’s. Afterwards, they have plans to tour the East Coast. These days everything seems to be falling into place.

But that wasn’t always the case.

“[When we first started playing together] we made some really beautiful stuff, but we were fuck-ups,” says Pierce. “We couldn’t keep it together. We would play out just enough that we could sustain our drinking. We let our worldview weigh on us, and it had bad effects.”

But perhaps we should start from the beginning. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Acid Mothers Temple at Boot and Saddle, Spaceship Aloha at Johnny Brenda’s

via facebook.com/acidmotherstempleofficial
via facebook.com/acidmotherstempleofficial

Japan-based psychedelic rock ensemble Acid Mothers Temple is coming up on twenty years of cranking amps and tripping out minds the world around. Their discography is so sprawling that it merits its own Wikipedia entry, and I won’t even speculate how many records they’ve put out before this year’s Astrogasm From The Inner Space. Suffice it to say, band leader Makoto Kawabata and his rotating cast of players have a strong Philly following (thanks to the enthusiasm of local promoters R5 Productions, as well as like-minded locals Bardo Pond) and tonight’s show will be a loud, expansive and expressive journey in the best imaginable way. Listen to Astrogasm‘s title track below, and get more information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Apache Relay at North Star Bar, Wolf Gang at Johnny Brenda’s, Deleted Scenes at Boot & Saddle and more

The Apache Relay | photo via facebook.com/theapacherelay
The Apache Relay | photo via facebook.com/theapacherelay

The Apache Relay arrive in Philadelphia tonight for a 9 p.m. show at The North Star Bar with The Weeks.  The band, currently on tour for their self-titled new album, took its name from Heavyweights, a 1995 movie starring Ben Stiller, and haven’t looked back since.  Their first album, American Nomad, debuted in 2011 and introduced the world to Apache’s acoustic folk sound.  Their new album takes their great folksy music to an entirely new level.  Listen to a new song entitled “Katie Queen of Tennessee” below, and get tickets for the 21+ show here.

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Birdie Busch’s 4th annual Philly Opry at Johnny Brenda’s features Slowey and the Boats, The Sermon! and Victory beer

Photo by Lisa Schaffer | skylerbug.com
Photo by Lisa Schaffer | skylerbug.com

Birdie Busch has curated a mini music and arts festival called the Philly Opry for the past 3 years, and the 4th installment will be held on June 7th at Johnny Brenda’s. Today, the lineup was announced, and it has the host performing with her band Birdie Busch & the Greatest Night; joining her will be local act Slowey and the Boats, featuring steel guitar playing from Isaac Stanford (formerly of Townhall), and The Sermon!, a jazz / soul / funk revue from West Chester. The festival will cap off Philly Beer Week featuring special brews from Victory Brewing. Tickets for the event can be found here.

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Today’s Concert Picks: MØ at Johnny Brenda’s, Eternal Summers at Underground Arts, Stone Jack Jones at World Cafe Live

MØ | photo courtesy of the artist
MØ | photo courtesy of the artist

Danish musician  will perform at Johnny Brenda’s tonight with Erik Hassle.  Currently touring the U.S. for the first time in support of her debut LP No Mythologies to Follow, Karen Marie Ørsted has been making quick work of moving to the forefront of the electronic-pop dance scene.  She released her first singles in 2012 and has since worked with Avicii while topping the line-ups at festivals across the globe.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.  Check out “I Don’t Wanna Dance” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mirah at Johnny Brenda’s, John Legend at Verizon Hall, Helms Alee at Boot and Saddle

Mirah | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Mirah | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Fresh off her On the Hill Series session, Philly-born Portland-based acoustic singer/songwriter, Mirah, will play Johnny Brenda’s tonight. Her latest album, Changing Light, was released on May 13 via Absolute Magnitude.  You can find more info and tickets for the show here; below, revisit “Cold Cold Water” from her second LP Advisory Committee.

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PREMIERE: Lux Perpetua’s dreamy pop “Blood Sea” from the new album Hehbehdehbehbehdeh

LuxPerpetua_PhotoByMichaelBucher
Lux Perpetua | photo by Michael Bucher | courtesy of the artist

Lux Perpetua, the long-running Philly psych outfit led by multi-faceted multi-instrumentalist and producer Justin Wolf, is gearing up for a busy summer. The band is releasing its long-awaited album, Hehbehdehbehbehdeh (pronounced pretty much like it looks) on Color Theory Records on May 29th. If you were a fan of last year’s bass-heady psych-rock EP Make Your Purposes Mine, here’s a friendly forewarning: this new material is different. And for an ever-evolving band, that’s a good thing.

Most notable is “Blood Sea,” an unusually upbeat tune (for Lux) that we’re premiering for you today. One immediate difference is the addition of a female voice to the mix, Wolf’s good friend Amelia Meath (of Sylvan Esso and Mountain Man), who also contributes to a majority of the album’s tracks. The vocal interchange between Wolf and Meath combined with airy, catchy guitar melodies gives the tune a primarily summer feel. The dreamy quality of the track makes sense – as it came to Wolf in a dream:

“I wrote the song a few years ago after throwing my back out pretty badly,” he told us. “After wobbling home I fell asleep and dreamed of a kitchen at the edge of a giant red sea, which was the back pain scrambling my mind. It became a sort of weird love song about cooking biscuits and missing someone and ‘riding the waves’ so to speak.”

I don’t know about the biscuits part, but the dreamy love song amidst a giant red sea certainly translates.

Lux Perpetua will play their album release show on May 29 at Johnny Brenda’s with The Extraordinaires and Andrew Cedermark. Get tickets for the show here. Stream “Blood Sea” via the band’s Soundcloud page below.

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Mirah performs two haunting new tracks for On the Hill Session

mirah1
Mirah | photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Prolific acoustic singer/songwriter and indie rock mastermind Mirah performed two new tracks for Kettle Pot Track’s On the Hill Series session last week. The songs come from her most recent album Changing Light, released May 13 via Absolute Magnitude. The Philadelphia-area native kept the studio session simple yet powerful, playing “Gold Rush” and “Fleetfoot Ghost”, with Mirah’s acoustic guitar stylings accompanied by violin and drums for added oomph. Her tempered yet heart-penetrating vocals carry the tracks all the way through. Mirah performs at Johnny Brenda’s tomorrow, May 20 at 8pm. Get tickets for the show here. The vinyl of Changing Light will be released June 24, you can pre-order it here. Watch the On the Hill Session below.

Mirah — Gold Rush from Michael Batchelor on Vimeo.

Mirah — Fleetfoot Ghost from Michael Batchelor on Vimeo.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Johnny Brenda’s, Bondage and Discipline at Underground Arts

via facebook.com/ThePainsOfBeingPureAtHeart
via facebook.com/ThePainsOfBeingPureAtHeart

Oh man how I wish I could tell you a cartoon band a la Jem and the Holograms was playing at Johnny Brenda’s tonight, but you know what? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a pretty freaking great alternative, even if they’re only cartoons in their amazing new video for “Until The Sun Explodes.” (Watch it below.) Last month the band released its latest and best album, Days of Abandon, and it’s a delightful set of anthemic ethereal dream pop. You probably know all the 80s / 90s comparison points by now (if not: Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths) – regardless of who they might sound like, The Pains are the genuine article. Tickets and information on tonight’s show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: A.M. Mills at Ortliebs, Dawn Hiatt at Tin Angel, The Warhawks at Kung Fu Necktie and more

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Philly singer-songwriter A.M. Mills celebrated Record Store Day at AKA Music and tonight he plays at Ortlieb’s. Last month, he released a stellar track titled “Wreckin’ My World” which has a ’70s California-rock ballad feel to it (think Tom Petty). It’s simple, melodic and feels good all around. Check it out below and get tickets here.

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