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The Best of Philly Music 2013

Photo by Abi Reimold
Photo by Abi Reimold

In September 2010, we started The Key because we wanted to offer the local music scene another platform to reach more audiences. We also started it because starting in the early aughts we noticed something happening here creatively amongst the local music scene that was hadn’t felt in a while – it was growing creatively and the buzz about how good the local scene was becoming more significant.

More new bands were starting than ever before, more music was becoming available for fans and more musicians were looking for ways to connect to fans. To me, the last five years of “the scene” reminds me a lot of the Philly music scene in the mid-Eighties to early Nineties when bands like Electric Love Muffin, Three Times Dope, The Wishniaks, Nixon’s Head, the Goats, the Dead Milkmen, Schoolly D, The Low Road, The Hooters, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Tommy Conwell all represented for Philly on both local and international stages. We thought Philly 2012 was a banner year for the local music scene. Guess what? 2013 was even better. Here are some of the best things about the Philly music scene in 2013.

Dr. Dog made their best album yet, B-Room.

Man Man made their best record yet, On Oni Pond.

The Districts signed with Fat Possum. Look for an EP with a couple of old songs and new tunes on January 26th.
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The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock and others playing Rail Park Benefit at Union Transfer on 12/4

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The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Light Heat, Jeff Ziegler and Mary Lattimore, Birdie Busch, and the Dufalo Brothers are playing Union Transfer on Wednesday, December 4th. The show is a benefit for Phase One of the Rail Park with all the proceeds going to the Friends of the Rail Park, a non-profit that has been advocating the planning, designing and envisioning of a continuous 3-mile linear park along the former Philadelphia & Reading Rail line corridor. Friends of the Rail Park outlined their vision and plans last Spring, outlined in this article about it in Hidden City Philadelphia. Nathaniel Popkin writes:

The proposed park meets the elevated Reading Viaduct just east of and directly below Broad Street at the section of the railway known as the SEPTA Spur. The 1/5 mile long, elevated Spur–which will undergo an $8 million transformation into a park beginning in 2014–together with the City Branch, which is also owned predominantly by SEPTA, would constitute a two mile long linear rails-to-trails park, connecting the Callowhill neighborhood to Fairmount Park. The rest of the railroad viaduct heading north from the SEPTA Spur is owned by the Reading Corporation. The firm, based in California, has demonstrated little interest in selling the Viaduct to the City of Philadelphia.

The new below-grade park would extend from two points at the east end: the connection to the SEPTA Spur, where the rail viaduct dips under Broad Street (which is a bridge over the railway) and at Broad and Buttonwood in front of the School District Administration building. A key to the plan is the planned reconstruction of the Broad Street bridge, owned by PennDOT. Planners hope to convince the agency to install see-through railings and to puncture the bridge with light towers that are to be installed in the center of North Broad (lighting the space above and below). The parking lot now in front of the School District building would be replaced with a multi-level public space leading to the park.

Take a tour of the proposed Rail Park in this video below.

Get tickets to the Friends of the Rail Park benefit with The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Light Heat, Jeff Ziegler, Mary Lattimore, Birdie Busch and the Dufalo Brothers here.

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Watch Light Heat perform “Dance the Cosmos Light” at Race Street Pier (playing Ortlieb’s on 11/15)

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Bands In the Backyard was on hand to capture Light Heat in action at their Race Street Pier appearance last month.  The local psychedelic band performed songs off of their debut self-titled record, including lead-off track “Dance the Cosmos Light,” which you can watch a BITBY video of below.  Light Heat have a couple of shows scheduled in the area: Haverford College students will be able to catch them with Coke Weed and The Walkmen’s Peter Bauer on September 21st, while the rest of us can go to Ortlieb’s on November 15th for a show with Yellow Birds and Myrrias.  Tickets and information can be found here.

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The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 8, Pine Barons, JustXSudan

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This week marked the release of The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 8, a compilation of in-studio tracks recorded between May and August.  With offerings from Light Heat, Alo Brasil, Literature and more the selection is a snapshot of the season’s best local music.  Check out “The Mirror” by Light Heat below and get the full set here.

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My Morning Download: “The Mirror” by Light Heat (Key Studio Session)

Photo by Abi Reimold | www.abireimoldphoto.com
Photo by Abi Reimold | www.abireimoldphoto.com
In four months, when we look back on the year in music, Philly’s Light Heat will likely get high scores for their self-titled debut as one of the best albums of 2013. Light Heat is the latest project from Quentin Stoltzfus, a longtime player in the local scene (and beyond). His band Mazarin released a string of stellar albums in the early 00s, and before that he was in Azusa Plane. On Light Heat’s debut, the band embraces dreamy psychedelic-pop and rock music with dazzling results. Light Heat recorded several songs from its new album in the WXPN studios for a Key Studio Session in July along with Mickey Walker and Drew Mills (formerly of Blood Feathers), Peter Bauer (of The Walkmen) and Skyler Skjelset (of Fleet Foxes) to record the session. Below, download “The Mirror.” You can download the full session here.

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Grandchildren at Johnny Brenda’s, Black Landlord at MilkBoy, Light Heat at Race Street Pier

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Philly orchestral pop outfit Grandchildren are returning to Johnny Brenda’s tonight. The band released their folksy, acoustic-yet-electrified album, Golden Age, in May – a unique sound both classic and very modernized. Grandchildren will also be playing with The Eastern Sea and Ton-Taun. Check out Golden Age below, and find tickets here.

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The Week So Far: 11 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Elvis Costello, Psychic Teens, The Quarterly Project)

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Listen to new local music from Family Vacation, Purling HissThe Lawsuits and more [link]

Light Heat, Bardo Pond and Chris Forsyth will play August’s installment of the Race Street Pier free music series [link]

New show announcements include Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson with Jeff Beck and Willy Mason

Legendary New Jersey venue Maxwell’s closes after 35 years [link]

The Head and the Heart share a new song called “Shake” off of their upcoming LP [link]

Brian Wilensky Unlocks Psychic Teens‘ new record COME with a new song, review and more [link]

Get caught up on the weekend’s shows with John Diliberto’s review of Yes at Susquehanna Bank Center and photos from the 2nd Street Festival [link and link]

Dana Falconberry stopped by for this week’s Folkadelphia Session [link]

My Morning Downloads featured tracks from Saint Motel and Deer Tick [link]

Celebrate undiscovered local music with the Broad Street Music Group‘s launch party on 8/17 [link]

The Quarterly Project will released a charity compilation and will host a listening party / benefit concert at PhilaMOCA on 8/29 [link]

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Trip out to Light Heat and more at Race Street Pier’s next Third Thursday concert

The just-announced August installment of Race Street Pier’s Third Thursday Live and Local free concert series is sure to be a delight for the senses. Slated for August 15th, it brings together several psychedelic Philly notables for a night of sonic bliss along the Delaware. Light Heat (whose debut LP is getting all kinds of praise) will be joined by legendary noise-mongers Bardo Pond (who are coming up on two decades of feedback-wrangling) and guitar shaman Chris Fosyth (the new LP he’s dropping on Paradise of Bachelors this fall is going to be great). The free event runs from 7 to 10 p.m., and more information can be found at the show’s Facebook event page. Below, listen to / download music from each of the artists on the bill – and check out Light Heat’s Key Studio Session here.

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My Morning Download: “The Mirror” by Light Heat (from the WXPN/Key Studio Session)

Photo by Abi Reimold | www.abireimoldphoto.com
Photo by Abi Reimold | www.abireimoldphoto.com

Several weeks ago we featured the “new” local band, Light Heat in a fantastic Key Studio Session. Light Heat is the new project from Quentin Stoltzfus, a longtime player in the local scene (and beyond). His band Mazarin released a string of stellar albums in the early 00s, and before that he was in the dreamy 90s group Azusa Plane. Light Heat’s self-titled release is out now and is one of the best releases by a Philly band so far this year. Over ten songs, the band embrace dreamy psychedelic-pop and rock music with dazzling results. Light Heat recorded several songs from its new album in the WXPN studios. Quentin brought along Mickey Walker and Drew Mills (formerly of Blood Feathers), Peter Bauer (of The Walkmen) and Skyler Skjelset (of Fleet Foxes) to record the session. Below, download “The Mirror.”

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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Making new rock and roll legends with Tame Impala at the Electric Factory (photos, review, setlist)

Tame Impala | Photo by Rachel Barrish | raddrhapsodies.com
Tame Impala | Photo by Rachel Barrish | raddrhapsodies.com

All photos by Rachel Barrish | raddrhapsodies.com

A lot of people say that rock is dead. There’s no large-and-in-charge band that takes the stage to a packed room. No more crowds of rabid fans waiting to hear Led Zeppelin play their epic songs or Page’s soaring guitar solos. There are no more girls screaming at the sight of The Beatles as they step off their plane. There are no more Pink Floyd laser light shows. Rock bands are still out there, but the rock fan has dwindled and rock has become more of an add-on to other genres. Indie rock, electronic rock, folk-rock, etc. So we’ll never have another truly great rock band.

Or so I thought until I went to see Tame Impala at The Electric Factory last night. The place was packed to the rafters with longhaired spectators waiting to hear the Australian group. The room was electric with energy; the ambience was perfect. Next to me, fans were arguing about which song would be first.

But they’d have to wait to hear Tame Impala, because Light Heat was up first as the openers. A relatively new Philly band, Light Heat came on and rocked the stage with a very full and very loud sound. At times, it was hard to hear their instruments, as the speakers blended everything into one large mass of a chord. But Light Heat brought a powerful energy with them and warmed up the crowd with songs from their self-titled debut that comes out on Tuesday, giving it their all on stage.

After a short break, I got a taste of my first real modern rock band. As Tame Impala took the stage, the audience began screaming. After a quick hello, the band burst into, not a song, but a long psychedelic jam, taking the crowd aback with surprise until the jam somehow morphed into “Solitude is Bliss.” The audience went wild. Continue reading →