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What the end of jazz nights at Ortlieb’s means for Philly’s jazz community

Local university and college students play with Fresh Cut Trio at The Painted Bride in February | Courtesy of Emily Rolen
Local university and college students play with Fresh Cut Trio at the Painted Bride in February | Courtesy of Emily Rolen

Pete Souders owned Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus for 20 years, but learned in January that the establishment he built a reputation for would no longer be needing his services. His Tuesday Night Jazz Jam Session was canceled.

But, he can’t say he didn’t expect it.

After growing exhausted of the hectic lifestyle of running a night spot and music venue, Souders sold Ortlieb’s in 2007, and after a bouncing around of owners, it was purchased by Four Corners Productions.

“I decided to sell it because I thought I was really getting tired,” Souders said.

Under its newest ownership, Ortlieb’s has shifted gears from its once-smooth atmosphere to a place of socialization, drinks and indie rock. It’s also dropped the “Jazzhaus” portion of its name.

The newest owners asked Souders to come in to host his Jazz Night upon opening, but Souders said he saw major flaws from the get-go.

When he owned Ortlieb’s, Souders said a large, acoustic piano sat center-stage which amplified the room, but once the newest owners came in, they hired a engineer who wired various mics for the jazz performances taking over the piano, which Souders said he thought was “unnecessary.”

Real jazz, Souders said, is able to fill an entire room without the need of any additional equipment.

But then again, Ortlieb’s is now hosting more than jazz performances, necessitating a more involved setup.

But Souders said he saw more concerns than just the equipment. Right before Christmas, the owners told him they  “weren’t making any money during the first hour-and-a-half.” They also asked his to cut the session back from its 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. slot so it wrapped up by 11:30 p.m. The owners told him they “weren’t making any money during the first hour-and-a-half,” Souders said.

He said that the new owners at Ortlieb’s told him they wanted to attract a better bar crowd at midnight, and Souders’ smooth tunes weren’t cutting it. It boiled down to a business issue.

“I had mixed emotions,” Souders said. “…[the situation] was anticlimactic.”

The current owners declined multiple requests for interviews.

So is the the current state of Ortlieb’s and what happened to its long-standing tradition a reflection for what might happen across the city’s jazz community? Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band at The Abbey Bar, Liz & The Lost Boys at Ortlieb’s Lounge, and Eli Paperboy Reed at Prince Music Theater

Photo via facebook.com/bigdamnband
Photo via facebook.com/bigdamnband

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band will bring their country blues to The Abbey Bar’s stage tonight. With seven albums and one EP under their belt, they’ve got lots of material to draw from and they do so quite often, playing more than 250 shows a year. Get tickets here and watch “Devils Look Like Angels” below from 2012′s Between the Ditches.

Chamber pop group Liz & The Lost Boys will play at Ortlieb’s Lounge tonight. With jazzy vocal stylings and semi-theatrical structures their music is filled with elegant instrumentation, a vibe that’s prominent on their latest 2-track EP of “February” and “The Forest and The Farmer”. Listen below and come see the FREE show tonight at 9:00p.m.

Retro soul crooner Eli Paperboy Reed will play at Prince Music Theater tonight. As charming as The Temptations and gritty as James Brown, Reed takes old school soul music to new heights. Get tickets here and listen to his new single “Shock To The System” from his upcoming album Nights Like This (due April 29th) below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Auctioneer at Johnny Brenda’s, Eternal Summers at Boot and Saddle, Air is Human at Ortlieb’s

Auctioneer | Photo by John Vettese
Auctioneer | Photo by John Vettese

Philly art-pop outfit Auctioneer headlines Johnny Brenda’s tonight. Singer and songwriter Craig Hendrix is in the midst of working on a new album – in between his stint playing keyboards in bands like Birdie Busch and The Greatest Night – and gave us a taste of it via the new single “Hard to Believe It,” which you can grab a free download of below. The song has shimmering hooks that our Elisabeth Joyce compared to Kings of Leon, while the beat is a slick krautrock rhythm, nicely balancing the avant and the pop. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Philly experimental duo Air is Human usurp Ortlieb’s every Wednesday in March

air is human
Air is Human | Photo via band’s facebook page

Experimental Philly duo Air is Human will take up residency at Ortlieb’s this month and, as music to our ears, the shows will all be free. Every Wednesday night, Air is Human will have a hand-picked opener and jam out for our listening pleasure.

The composed-yet-dissociative two piece – made up of Jeff Lucci (guitar, bass, Rhodes, synth) and Josh Aptner (drums, vibraphone, percussion) – stylistically stretches somewhere between jam band, hard rock and psychedelic, without being reduced to one particular form (“Euclid’s Daydream” off of The Infinity Limit is a perfect example of the whole). Known for ripping it live, Air is Human manage to stray from the wispy free-form of a jam session while also refusing to compromise their music with sampling and electronically backing tracks. To be honest, it’s remarkable there’s only two of them.

The opener’s for the first two weeks have already been announced, with Doylestown’s Heat Thunder opening on 3/5 and Left of Logic taking stage 3/12. The final two shows are under wraps but promise to be worth the wait. Stay tuned for that announcement closer to the date. Get updates on the free shows here and stream “Euclid’s Daydream” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hurry at Boot and Saddle, Anjuli Josephine at Tin Angel, A Fistful of Sugar at World Cafe Live and more

Hurry by Maddie
Photo by Madeleine Lesperance

Boot and Saddle welcomes local bands Hurry, Dreambook, and Mock Suns to its stage tonight. Hurry just released a new single “Oh Whitney”, which you can stream below, from their upcoming LP Everything/Nothing. The band is the solo product of Matt Scottoline of emo four-piece Everyone Everywhere. Dreambook released Only Shadows last year which features their signature distorted guitar sounds and layered drum beats. Psych-pop headliners Mock Suns released their debut album Here Nor There back in 2012. All three acts are lo-fi dream pop-oriented with a splash of something unique. Get tickets here and check out tracks from the bands below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Frank Turner at Electric Factory, Slayer at Susquehanna Bank Center, Penrose at Boot & Saddle, and more

Frank Turner | via Facebook

English folk punk favorite Frank Turner headlines The Electric Factory tonight, with backing band The Sleeping Souls. His newest release, Tape Deck Heart, is evidence to just how cheery and creative he can be. With sweet guitar riffs, simple beats, and upbeat singalong lyrics, Turner’s music will take you out of the cold and back to the warm days of summer for a few hours tonight. This diverse show will also feature sets from Australia’s punks The Smith Street Band and Minnesota’s electro pop band Koo Koo Kanga Roo. Find tickets here.

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Where will you spend Halloween? (Our concert poster guide can help you figure that out.)

Maxwell's On Main - 31stJust because most of us are too old for tick or treating doesn’t mean we have to sit inside waiting to give children candy at their demand. I’m sure we are all still young enough at heart to dress up and embrace the night, or weekend, or week if you know the right places to go. Not sure? Here’s a poster guide to some of the best Halloween Bashes around town featuring numerous top notch artists. Continue reading →

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