Morgan’s Pier has started to roll out its summer lineup of live music, including the first free shows presented by R5 Productions on Wednesday nights throughout the summer. Live shows under the stars at the Pier have become a summer highlight in Philly, and from DJ sets to punk bands, there’s something for everyone.
As far as the free shows go (with an RSVP), R5 has already booked post punk band Merchandise (6/26) and psychedelic rockers Temples (8/6), with more bands expected to be added to the lineup later in the spring.
The Morgan’s Pier live music season commences Thursday, May 1 with a free show featuring Greg D. of Risky Disko, followed by Broadzilla on Friday, May 2 and DJs Dave P. and Sammy Slice on May 3. See the full lineup of DJs and bands, as well as tickets and info for all of the shows here. Watch videos of bands playing free shows below.
Last week, boisterous Allentown / Philly punk band Pissed Jeans performed a free 21+ show at Morgan’s Pier along with Big Mouth and Ultramantis Black. The show began with five guys all dressed in black and playing black instruments on stage creating a wall of noise and feedback. This was Ultramantis Black, a hardcore band fronted by the professional wrestler of the same name. As the feedback and buildup continued I examined the men on stage and tried to determine which one of them was the pro wrestler. I figured it probably wasn’t the skinny guy with the beard or the average-sized man sitting at the drums. “Maybe it’s the tall dude playing guitar, he’s pretty big” I thought to myself. It never occurred to me that Ultramantis himself wasn’t even on stage yet until he came charging out in full wrestling garb, complete with cape, mask and skull staff. This was when I started to get a little worried. I didn’t find the spooky clown getup endearing and the all-black uniform donned by the other members made me feel like these guys are a little too concerned with trying to look badass.
After the first song Ultramantis began pacing back and forth across the stage, shouting the usual “HELLO PHILADELPHIA” type stuff, but it wasn’t long before he went off on a long diatribe about the choices people make when they sit down to dinner. I was confused until he went on to give us a rather poorly thought-out lecture on the morality of consuming meat. He went on to rant about America’s dependency on pharmaceuticals and how they are destroying our bodies. It took about five minutes of this before they even started the second song, which was immediately followed by another long-winded lecture, this time on the evils of fracking. Obviously the guy was talking about some important issues, but they only had a 20 minute set and at this point it was half over and they’d only played two songs. It isn’t wrong to be opinionated and passionate about these issues but there’s a time and place for activism and I personally wasn’t interested in being lectured on my night out. They finished up their set and before the last song was even done Ultramantis had disappeared from the stage. The band finished out the set and with the help of some of the staff started disassembling their gear. At this time Ultramantis reappeared from backstage drinking a beer with his wrestling mask still on. This ridiculous guy didn’t even help his band-mates load out their gear. It doesn’t matter if your instrument is just your voice and a microphone, helping your buddies load out is just the decent thing to do. To be fair, though the music wasn’t ground-breaking by any means, they did play spot-on and had a lot of energy on stage, but my experience was soured by one of the most obnoxious front men I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing perform.
The next band was Big Mouth, hailing from the DC/Baltimore area. They performed an angsty brand of punk characterized by creative atonal interplay between the bass and guitar, backed by fairly straightforward, but effective drumming. Their front-woman taunted the crowd and sang in a voice that reminded me of a homeless lady I saw last week at 69th st. terminal last week who screamed at me and called me a cocksucker. She even teased the bouncer by the stage and stroked his beard. I was extremely impressed by the guitarist’s ability to stomp around on stage and headband in heels and a floor-length dress. The singer weaved her way through the audience throughout the set and certainly captivated people through fear that they would be the next victim of her manic outbursts. This was definitely the most unique performance of the night and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
When Pissed Jeans took to the stage and began playing the energy at the pier came to a head and things became chaotic. This was a true rock and roll performance. Their front-man, Matt Korvette, has amazing stage presence and is a master at working the crowd. He’s also a genuinely hilarious dude. Matt ran back and forth across the stage as a sea of people moshing and stage diving churned before him. He shouted, threw ice at his bandmates, chugged Miller Lite, did some pull-ups from the scaffolding and posed for the photographers next to the stage. Pissed Jeans puts on one of the most high-energy shows in Philly and I’d recommend attending their next show to anyone looking to witness true madness and hear some great punk music.
The City Hall Courtyard summer music series comes to a close tonight with a free solo performance by Kurt Vile. Today has been dubbed Kurt Vile Day by the City of Philadelphia, which will present the Philly native with the Liberty Bell Award in recognition of his “outstanding professional achievements and civic generosity.” Vile released his highly-regarded Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze LP earlier this year and will be back for a full-band show at Union Transfer on October 25th. More information for tonight’s free concert can be found here. Watch Vile’s video for “KV Crimes” below.
Indie soul-funk outfit JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound are playing a free show at Morgan’s Pier tonight. The band is touring in support of their new record, Howl, which was released this May on Bloodshot Records. JC Brooks has a strong, classic soul voice that his band backs with a part funk, part indie rock, part post-punk sound. Check out their recent single, “Rouse Yourself;” the silly music video features Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson. Find more information on the 21 plus show here.
Philly hip hop artist Dice Raw will be performing for free at City Hall tonight as part of the City Hall Presents concert series. His newest album, Jimmy’s Back, is available. The album’s is based on The New Jim Crow, a bestselling book by Michele Alexander. Along with the LP, Dice Raw is releasing a short documentary that explores mass incarceration and the prison system, especially in Philadelphia. The concert will run from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall courtyard. Listen to Dice Raw’s new track, “Animal,” below.
Allentown-born, Philly-based sludge-punks Pissed Jeans, along with other Philly acts like Waxahatchee, recently paid a visit to Chicago as part of Pitchfork‘s 2013 music festival. Late last week, Pitchfork.tv released two videos of the band’s set. Watch them play “Romanticize Me” and “Bathroom Laughter”, both off their latest LP, Honeys, below, and be sure to catch the band at the end of the month, when they’ll be playing a free show at Morgan’s Pier on Wednesday, August 28th. More info on the 21+ show can be found here.
Tonight we’ve got an incredible double header at Morgan’s Pier. Indie punk stalwarts Ted Leo and the Pharmacists will play with newcomer Waxahatchee for the low price of free (though you must be over 21 for the event). Ted Leo and the Pharmacists released their incredible sixth studio album The Brutalist Bricks back in 2010 and it’s just as catchy as ever, featuring a musical combination of punk, rock pop and dub. Waxahatchee, the solo project of Kate Crutchfield joins the band to bring an acoustic punk element to the event. Her second album, Cerulean Salt, was released in March to critical acclaim and continued in her off-kilter folk-rock stylings from the past. It’s a combo you really don’t want to miss. Click here for more information and check out some songs from the bands below.