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Low struck reflective chords at Johnny Brenda’s last night

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Low | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com

Critics may contend that Low frontman Alan Sparhawk was a mid-90’s iconoclast, in a way, having eschewed the predominant contemporary genres of Duluth, Minnesota in favor of the music that Low became known for: a subdued and often dark brand of moody rock and roll. On the other hand, the 90’s outside of Duluth were full of that too, from Tanya Donelly’s somber psychedelic strokes on Belly’s excellent debut record Star to the era’s lo-fi poster kids My Bloody Valentine.

But, forget the 90’s for a minute, because the era isn’t necessarily always relevant in the context of this band. The most distinctive element of Low’s music and stagecraft lie in the signature, often haunting harmonies between Sparhawk and wife Mimi Parker, as she lightly dusts her snares with her trademark percussion brushes. Together with bassist and keyboard player Steve Garrington, Low created a compelling mood at Johnny Brenda’s last night, approved of in tacit head-nods by a legion of devoted fans at the sold out show, the same fans that forgave them for rescheduling a Philly appearance last Fall interrupted by a papal visit, and who turned out in numbers on a rainy Winter night regardless.

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Agent Intellect: Protomartyr, Low & PWR BTTM on the Indie Rock Hit Parade

Protomartyr | Photo by Zak Bratto
Protomartyr | Photo by Zak Bratto

Tonight’s Indie Rock Hit Parade might not be a milestone like last week’s 100th Episode, but it’s certainly no slouch when it comes to great new tracks. Stay tuned after What’s The Frequency??? with John Vettese for a full two-hour IRHP, featuring a spotlight on the new album from Detroit post-punks Protomartyr. We’ll also introduce you to some new bands with names like PWR BTTM, Expert Alterations and Death By Unga Bunga. Intrigued? You should be…

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Listen to Slowdive’s first Philadelphia show in 21 years

Slowdive | Photo by John Vettese
Slowdive | Photo by John Vettese

When Slowdive played Philadelphia for the first time some 21 years ago, there weren’t many artists that sounded like them. Well, wait – let me clarify – it was the thick of the shoegaze / dream-pop movement in the UK psychedelic rock scene, after all, so of course you had My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Ride, Curve, Lush, and others with band names out of the health and beauty aisle and similar sonic aesthetics. Nevertheless, it was a relatively small and contained scene that quickly fizzled with the onset of modern rock.

I was not one of the 800 or so who saw Slowdive when they headlined the TLA on August 15, 1993; at that point, I pretty much had Nine Inch Nails’ Broken on repeat in my Walkman alongside (ugh) the Spin Doctors and the Singles soundtrack. (I was not the most cultured high school freshman.)  A glance around Union Transfer two Fridays showed me that the majority of the crowd was probably in the same boat as myself, albeit with possibly less questionable youthful music leanings. We weren’t old enough – or born enough – to see Slowdive the first time around, so we’ve been content for our lives with our copies of Souvlaki on iTunes shuffle, not to mention the legions of post-shoegaze and revival-shoegaze and (in the case of Philly’s Nothing) hardcore-shoegaze outfits that have proliferated over the years, some with more success than others.

When Slowdive took the Union Transfer stage on Friday, October 24th – some 21 years, two months and 9 days after their only other Philadelphia show – it felt simultaneously thrilling and anticlimactic. Aside from the fact that the people performing were, in fact, Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead, Nick Chaplin, Christian Savill and Simon Scott, there wasn’t immediately anything differentiating them from those legions of followers. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Norwegian Arms at City Hall, Low at World Cafe Live, Song Dogs at North Star Bar, Tigers Jaw at First Unitiarian

Norwegian Arms | Photo by John Vettese
Norwegian Arms | Photo by John Vettese

Local indie folk outfit Norwegian Arms are pairing up with the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia for a special City Hall Series performance. It’s all a part of Make Music Philly, which will be bringing you free music all day, all across the city. Norwegian Arms released a great, quirky, emotive album earlier in 2013, Wolf Like a Stray Dog, that both displays a variety of styles but maintains a unique, cohesive sound.The Jazz Orchestra was founded by renowned trumpet player Terell Stafford, who also happens to be Temple University’s Director of Jazz Studies.These two great acts will be holding down City Hall from 5 – 7:30 p.m. Check out “My New Toy Piano” from Norwegian Arms below.

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Low release new video for “Plastic Cup” (playing World Cafe Live 6/21)

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Slowcore pioneers Low have just released a new video for the track “Plastic Cup”, off their most recent, Jeff Tweedy produced album, The Invisible Way, which is currently out via Sub Pop. The black and white, Ryley Fogg-directed video features the band decked out in black-tie formal wear, playing instruments that appear to be covered entirely in tin-foil. Did I mention the floating glitter everywhere? If that somehow wasn’t enough, in addition to the band, the video also stars a group of guys in strange hoods passing around what looks like a crystal ball…and doing some other strange things, too. Despite its avante-garde aesthetic, the video does hone in on a conceivable plot towards the end (kind of). Low will be making a stop in Philly, on June 21st, at World Cafe Live for a show with Mike Doughty. Tickets and information can be found here, and watch the “Plastic Cup” video below.

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My Morning Download: “Just Make It Stop” by Low (playing World Cafe Live w/ Mike Doughty on June 21)

low-mimi
Last month, the Minnesota trio Low released The Invisible Way, produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Low peform at World Cafe Live on Friday, June 21st with Mike Doughty. Go here for tickets and more information about the show. Below, in exchange for your e-mail address, download “Just Make It Stop.”

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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See a photo gallery of Low’s World Cafe session, watch their “Just Make It Stop” video (playing World Cafe Live on 6/21)

All Photos by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

When downtempo Duluth trio Low played an instore set at Main Street Music this spring, they alluded to a return appearance in June. Today we got the details; they’ll perform at World Cafe Live downstairs on Friday the 21st of June; tickets go on sale this Friday, the 19th, at 10 a.m. via the venue’s website.

In addition, the band recently released a new in-the-studio music video for “Just Make it Stop,” a moving song from their new LP The Invisible Way (watch it below), and it stopped by XPN studios to record a session for World Cafe with David Dye. Check out photos of their World Cafe session in the gallery above, and and listen for it to air on the Cafe on May 2nd.

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Recap: Low played an instore set at Main Street Music

Downtempo Duluth, MN indie-Americana trio Low played a short, intimate set Monday night in the cozy confines of Manayunk record store Main Street Music. The band performed a selection of spare, haunting songs from their brand new, Jeff Tweedy-produced LP The Invisible Way (released yesterday on Sub Pop Records) and dug deep into the back-catalog for the audience-requested “Dinosaur Act,” the a-side to a 7″ the band released in 2000. The portability of the band’s signature sound was very evident. With only a minimal PA and a couple microphones, they were able to recreate the gripping vibe of the album’s most intense moments – especially “On My Own,” with its desperate climax of repeated “happy birthday” cries. This was the band’s only Philadelphia appearance on this leg of its tour, though singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk hinted at a return in June. Check out scenes from the show in the photo gallery above and watch a video of “Waiting” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Low at Main Street Music, Rusted Root at Sellersville Theater

low090113wMinimal music pioneers Low release their latest collection of heartrending Americana, The Invisible Way, on Sub Pop Records tomorrow. The album was produced by Wilco’s Jeff tweedy and is a phenomenal study of space and tension – you can stream the entire thing via NPR Music’s first listen series here. Though the band isn’t playing a full-on show in Philadelphia in support of this album, it is making a local appearance tonight at Manayunk’s Main Street Music for an in-store performance. The free, all-ages show begins tonight at 7 p.m., and more information can be found here. Below, listen to “So Blue” from The Invisible Way.

Worldly pop music jammers Rusted Root return to the area tonight for an appearance at The Sellersville Theater. The band released its seventh studio album, The Movement, last fall and is touring in support of it. For information on the all-ages show, check the WXPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch a music video for “Monkey Pants” from The Movement.

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Stream Low’s Jeff Tweedy-produced new LP The Invisible Way via NPR Music (playing Main Street Music on 3/18)

12737On their latest LP, The Invisible Way, minimal Midwestern indie trio Low (would you still know what I meant if I called them “slow-core”?) got a hand from one of their musical peers with a similar grasp of sound and space. The album was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and is streaming in its entirety this week via NPR Music’s First Listen series. NPR’s Stephen Thompson writes:

Low songs don’t often change tempo noticeably, instead achieving tension through variations in volume. But that seemingly limited framework still provides ample room for experimentation: Low can be a sweetly chiming pop band, or it can seethe and unsettle with an almost industrial buzz. It can express emotion by drawing out the barest fragment of a phrase, or it can expound thoughtfully on life, death, secrecy, war and the way humanity collides with itself.

Listen to the album in its entirety here. Low’s only Philadelphia appearance in the near future is the just-announced in-store set at Manayunk record shop Main Street Music; the free show happens next Monday, March 18th, at 7 p.m.