“High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.
In the Summer of 2015, Spotify published a survey of 1000 cities internationally, analyzing some 20 billion tracks, and concluding that hip hop was the highest consumed genre of music worldwide. That’s maybe no surprise to its fans, especially in New York City and in Philly, the two cities where the genre was conceived and first took root in the late 1970s.
Philly’s own Sharif Lacey is better known as Reef The Lost Cauze. Together with friend and producer Todd McConnell, known onstage as DJ Caliph-NOW, Reef has earned his status as a prominent steward of that legacy.
Informed by influences as diverse as Killer Mike, to Jadakiss, to Phantogram, to local compatriots The Roots and the late Philly rapper Viro the Virus, Reef’s prolific catalog offers eclectic tastes of a full spectrum of hip hop’s evolution, including an upcoming release with producer DJ Bear-1 on the Soulspazm label that the rapper considers to be his “most accessible, most gutter record” to date. He notes, “I’ve never really done something that I think dudes that hustle in the streets of Philly would really fuck with, and [Furious Styles] is that record.”Continue reading →
Have you ever wondered to yourself: “What kind of Philadelphian am I?” Well, The Pew Research Center has found a way to categorize Philadelphians based on their opinions & feelings about the city, rather than where they fall in any demographic category. Check it out & take the survey & see where you fit in. Continue reading →
Whenever I walk into a venue, I look around and try to guess the median age of the crowd. Sometimes it’s for kicks, but sometimes it’s very telling about what the nature of the concert will be. I’ve walked into enough shows with the crowd brimming with high-school age teenagers to know that, should the crowd be of this age, the show will involve the bulk of the audience bobbing their heads and pretending to know the words. Alvvays at Union Transfer was very much an exception. Continue reading →
Philadelphia is a city of many wonders: a buzzing food scene, an established craft beer culture, and a parade of historical landmarks. But one aspect of our city that we are particularly passionate about is our magnificent local music community and all that is has to offer. Here at The Key, we often focus on the particulars of our scene – where artists will be playing each night, brand new local releases, etc. – so much so that we can forget how overwhelming it can be for newcomers to get their bearings.
So for those of you having trouble finding where to start, we are introducing this new Philly Music 101 series as your guide through the wonderful world of the Philadelphia music scene: all of its passionate, loving members, from artists to venues to studios and more. It’s meant to help new fans navigate the scene as much as emerging musicians looking to break in and behind-the-scenes folks trying to get their start. We hope it will illuminate just what makes it so damn exciting for music lovers to live here. To kick it off, here is a by-no-means-complete overview of the different pieces of the Philadelphia music scene that have come together to make up its sturdy foundation. Continue reading →
For those of you who don’t know about NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, you may want to head over to their site and root through their enormous and equally impressive archive. Their 15-minute videos feature live performances from artists of all genres held in the quaint offices of NPR at All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s desk.
Ranging from big names like Adele and Alt-J to up-and-coming artists such as Angel Olsen and Rubblebucket, viewers are able to watch the artists perform in the intimate setting, giving the performances a stripped-down, no B.S. vibe. While these videos are ultra fun to watch (perhaps continuously, one after another…), NPR kept things interesting this winter by kicking off a contest to feature a new artist in their series.
Based entirely off of video submissions from all over the United States, an artist will be chosen to perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. as well as snag a slot in the big Lagunitas Couchtrippin’ showcase in Austin, Texas. Philadelphia, brimming with the amazing musical talent that it is, seems to have jumped at this opportunity. Continue reading →
Philadelphia music advocate and hip hop artist Chill Moody announced today that he will be heading a new music initiative in Philadelphia called Phirst Tuesdays. Phirst Tuesdays will be an open mic/jam session that will take place every first Tuesday of the month at Bourbon & Branch. The night of sign-up performances will feature Chill Moody’s own band including Man-Man, Wheatbread and JRoc to play as the performers’ live backing band throughout the night. Phirst Tuesdays will also include various hosts, with December’s to be hosted by R&B artist Beano who has recently returned from a tour in Africa singing back-up vocals for Jahiem. Continue reading →
Pujol is a Nashville based artist who recently released his new album, Kludge on Saddle Creek Records. The album features a fun and ridiculously catchy song called “Youniverse,” the video for which was filmed in various parts of the greatest city on Earth, Philadelphia. Most notably, much of the video is shot in Circle Thrift. Directed by Eddie Austin and Perry Shall, the video features cameos from Ted Leo and members of the Screaming Females.
WARNING: Upon watching this video, the song will be inescapably stuck in your head all day. But it’s totally worth it.
The third Annual Center City Jazzfest was held on Saturday afternoon, pleasing a sellout crowd with sixteen genre-spanning jazz performances spread out over four locations in Center City Philadelphia. The four venues were Fergie’s Pub, MilkBoy,Chris’ Jazz Cafe and Time – all within a few blocks of each other and three of them on Samson Street.
The festival offered remarkable value at $15 per ticket if you bought them ahead of time, so you were paying less than a dollar per artist. Your ticket purchase earned you a wristband that allowed you access to any of the four venues whenever you wanted. Events were running at each venue simultaneously, so like any festival, you had to pick and choose what you wanted to see and hear. I kept on the move and was able to catch partial sets and photograph ten artists on the bill, and at times I definitely wished I could clone myself and see more than one set at once. It was an afternoon full of memorable performances that reminded both the attendees and musicians of the togetherness and pure joy that music can create.
The opening act of the fest, vocalist Rhenda Fearrington set the tone for the day. She and her four piece backing band gave a spirited and powerful performance that rocked the tiny upstairs at Fergie’s Pub. Another highlight of the sets at Fergie’s were the Jazz guitar stylings of Mike Kennedy, who was backed by a tight three piece keys, upright bass and drum trio. Of all the locations used for Jazzfest, Fergie’s best recreated the intimate, packed clubs that many Jazz greats cut their teeth in. The small upstairs room got more and more full as the day went along, and many fans seemed to set up shop there for the afternoon.
The events held upstairs at Milkboy also got more and more crowded as the afternoon went on. This venue hosted impressive sets by Giovana Robinson and Justin Faulkner. Panama’s Robinson and her group pleased the mid-afternoon crowd with a set featuring her passionate vocals and distinctive style of music – a mix of pop, world music and Jazz elements.
Late in the day Philadelphia native Faulkner’s thunderous drumming led a trio through an hour of groovy, prog-like space jazz to a packed and rapturous audience that included many of the other musicians from other bands on the bill.
Chris’ Jazz Cafe’s dinner theater-like set up and large stage area were a perfect fit for the musicians who played there on Saturday. Early in the day the Cafe hosted a fourteen piece Jazz orchestra of youths from The Kimmel Center Creative Music Program for Jazz. Despite being young they proved to be old souls with a swinging, powerful ensemble performance that showed that Jazz has a bright future in Philly. Later in the day the stage was owned by Joanna Pascale and her band. Pascale delivered an well received set of torch songs and included a meditative and memorable Jazzy take on Carole King’s classic “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”
The Time restaurant hosted some of the best shows of the day in it’s large mirror and clock filled bar area. The bar area featured a lot of open standing room space, natural light and two large sliding windows behind the stage area that were usually open. The open windows allowed passersby and fans who couldn’t fit into the frequently packed venue to hear some of the music outside. Early on, trumpeter Charles Washington led a five piece backing band through an excellent set that evoked the spirit of the early Miles Davis combos.
After them brassy Brooklyner Miss Ida Blue drew one of the largest, most enthusiastic crowds of the day. Her look was eye-catching: she aptly described herself as a “vamping dame” in one of her songs. Miss Blue and her clarinet/trombone/banjo and tuba backing band delivered a raucous set of her innuendo-laced Jazz that had the crowd roaring with laughter and appreciation for her singing and the group’s talent.
Next up was Stacy Dillard who had the crowd smiling, bobbing their heads and exchanging “did you hear that” glances as he blasted out complicated runs of notes on his sax while leading his trio through an impressive and powerful hour of music. Last up at Time was Trio Up, composed of virtuoso performers Rick Tate on Sax, Ronnie Burrage on drums and Nimrod Speaks on bass. They showed their mastery of their instruments and their ability to create beautiful music together during a highlight-filled hour of muscular and complex Jazz that thrilled the packed restaurant.
San Diego’s Rocket From The Crypt proved they were back from the dead last week, rocking a sweaty, aggressive packed house at Underground Arts. The group disbanded in 2005 after fifteen years and seven guitar-and-horn-fueled punk albums together, including the classic Scream, Dracula, Scream! in 1995. The band was also known for saying that anyone that got a Rocket From The Crypt tattoo would be admitted to any show by the band for free. They reunited under the most bizarre circumstances, due to a children’s TV show. Singer John “Speedo” Reis is a recurring character on Yo Gabba Gabba called “The Swami” and the band reunited to play on an episode in 2011. One thing led to another and the band has since played some dates and a handful of festivals, sticking to their old material while being warmly received by fans that never expected to see them together again.
Timothy Olyphant look-alike Dan Sartain opened, delivering a memorable forty minute rapid fire set of his rumbling rockabilly punk rock. Joined by just a drummer, Sartain sweated and bashed out chords on his battle-worn Silvertone hollowbody guitar. The Ramones influence is obvious in his music and fittingly he kickstarted most songs with a hearty 1-2-3-4 countdown. The crowd seemed very familiar with his material, and sang along frequently. Sartain seemed to really appreciate the crowd’s reaction, and proved he was one of them by showing off an old Rocket From The Crypt tattoo on his upper right arm. Sartain has a new album called Dudesblood due out soon.
After Sartain’s set ended there was a forty five minute wait for Rocket From The Crypt to take the stage, which led to some grumbling in the sell-out crowd. All was forgiven when the band hit the stage and ignited the crowd with a trio of songs from their ‘95 EP The State of Art is on Fire – “Light Me,” “A+ In Arson Class” and “Rid Or Ride.” What followed was an intense twenty-plus song set spanning their career with neither the band nor crowd taking their foot off the gas pedal till the end. The six piece band barely fit on the small stage and the crowd was even packed around the open sides of the stage, giving the show a claustrophobic but exciting vibe. The crowd cheered and smiled throughout, regularly surging forward to get closer to the band. The highlight of the night was a swaggering blitz through the first three songs from Scream, Dracula, Scream! – “Middle,” “Born in ‘69” and “Rope”.that sent the crowd into a sweaty, moshing, roaring frenzy. The band’s performance spoke louder than words, and it said that this is a band that is still powerful and that can have a future to add to their past success. Here’s hoping that they stay together and make more music.