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.
Locally acclaimed rap duo The Yah Mos Def (YMD) will return to the stage this December 14th at Boot & Saddle. After playing copious amounts of shows in the 2000s, building a cult following and releasing Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def in 2008, YMD went on a five-year hiatus, but they’re ready to bring their energetic and fun show back into the minds of local hiphop and indie rock fans.
YMD could be referred to as Philadelphia’s Beastie Boys. Using samples from rock tracks by bands such as Bikini Kill, Minor Threat, and Cap’n Jazz, the beats made by this group are crazy and out there. On top of that, the duo yells lyrics like punks, making them even more raucous (think the very young Beasties you heard on Some Old Bullshit). Their delivery style is one of insanity. Raw, radical, and quick; the two switch off and match the intensity of the music backing them up, rapping lines like “The Yah Mos!, Runnin’ both coasts, it don’t matter, reminiscent of Crew Jones, but way radder. I’m going international like I’m Bob Dylan, and my face is prettier than Paris Hilton.”
YMD keeps their music in the space between kitschy and ridiculous. If you see them live, expect them to be jumping around and going crazy. Listen to their album Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def here and find tickets to their show with Prowler and Tygerstrypehere. Below, check out a video of YMD playing a First Friday set at AKA Music WTHN circa 2007.
Scranton DIY punk five-piece Tiger’s Jaw announced earlier this spring that their summer tour would be its last. That tour rolled through Philadelphia for a sweaty and packed show in the basement of the First Unitarian Church last Friday. Our contributing photographer Abi Reimold captured some of the mayhem with the lens; check out the gallery below for her images of the headliners, as well as openers Pianos Become The Teeth and Dad Punchers. (NONA also rocked an early opening set too, and if you don’t know them, you should.) For another perspective on the show, check out this review on WKDU’s new Communiqué blog, where writer Nick Sukiennik reflects that the music resonated just as much as ever knowing he was hearing it live for probably the last time:
With songs like “Chemicals,” and “I Saw Water,” there is a certain existential theme behind their lyrics that makes their other topics of relationships and heartbreak seem almost insignificant in comparison. This may be the reason the impact of their songs has not dwindled over the years.
Tiger’s Jaw’s tour wraps up in August in the UK opening for The Menzingers, their final show will be August 11th in Dublin. Remaining dates can be found here.
The Snails, Cave Life, Rasputin’s Secret Police (above), and Cousin Brian played a house show in Fishtown on Friday night at a spot christened “The Old Folk’s Home.” Photos by Abi Reimold
The show kicked off around 8:30 with an energetic set from roots/reggae band The Snails. This seemed to come as a happy surprise to most of the crowd, many of whom took to dancing along to the laid-back tunes which featured technically impressive but always tasteful guitar and organ solos alongside singer Todd Fausnacht’s bluesy vocals. The Snails were soon followed by Cave Life, a new trio from Delaware, playing their very first show. Their set started off with an unfortunately uninspired attempt at post-rock which featured some cool guitar effects but failed to hit home in intensity. The rest of their set continued in a more agreeable fashion and consisted of about five or so tunes that were reminiscent of the more upbeat side of Broken Social Scene.
About half an hour went by as the third band, Rasputin’s Secret Police set up their equipment. A large portion of the show’s attendees were here to see this Drexel Hill two-piece and as the anticipation grew and drinks were imbibed the crowd became noticeably eager. RSP didn’t fail to deliver what everyone wanted – loud, dirty guitar, intense drumming and eerie vocals. Their set was mostly brand new songs and everyone from the superfans in the front row to those hanging in the back of the room seemed more than pleased. The show was rounded out by rowdy punk band Cousin Brian, who also seemed to bring a sizable portion of the crowd. Cousin Brian’s performances rely more on inspiring energy in the audience than exact execution of their respective parts, but all attendees were pleased by their presence.
April 1st saw the release of a compilation of Philly bands so vast in musical talent, genre, and absolute immense length, it’s dizzying. The BIG Comp was released on Lame-O records. It includes Seventy five bands/seventy five songs, and musically has something for everyone. The compilation showcases some big names, while giving local Philly bands a chance to strut their stuff. In essence, The BIG Comp fulfills the promise of its name: BIG in spirit, BIG in length, but most importantly, BIG in the sense that every band on the compilation showcases a wide mix of musical styles. The BIG Comp is available through Bandcamp for five dollars or more. Below, sample some of the songs.
This album was released this week and I just started listening, but it is something beyond awesome. Sister City hits, and hits hard, with its new full length release Small Talk. There are an extreme amount of catchy riffs, emotional harmonies, the lyricism is clever and being just a two piece, they bring the noise, sounding more together than a full band. And their sound is all over the place, but staying within the same catchy indie, sometimes emo, and rock sound.
The songs show an evident influence from pop-punk / indie bands most people growing up with the style of music will be able to recognize. On their Facebook page, some of the musical influences they cite that show profoundly in their songs are Weatherbox, Cursive, Bomb the Music Industry!, and Brand New. There are times in their songs when the vocalist sounds shockingly close to the latter’s Jesse Lacey. Which is great, because the vocalist is something to note. He has a great voice that is versatile. In order to be a band that spans genres, you need to have a voice that can cover the mood in the melodies. Adam Linder, vocalist and guitarist (as well as bassist on the records and songwriter for the band) is able to capture an array of emotionalism and power in his voice. When his voice needs to be sad, it traverses soundscapes of melancholy; at times when the jams are upbeat, his voice changes accordingly.
This kind of versatility is worth nothing, because a good or bad vocalist can make the band, or break the band, in this case it absolutely makes Sister CIty. The lyrics coincide, as well, with what is great about this band. With clever lines like, “I actually don’t have anything to say today / I actually don’t have anything” or “But when I taught myself to walk again / I respectfully declined the chance / And planted myself stubbornly instead / And I stared at the ground / And I found myself imagining / That it meant something profound / So I made meaning out of everything I found,” it’s easy to tell the words are thought out, rather than some of the diluted lyrics in the indie/emo/pop-punk, what have you, scene which all blend together.
What is even better, they put the album up for free on their bandcamp. You can also buy their music, and they have a bunch of cool little incentives to do so: if you spend 50 dollars, singer-guitarist Adam Liner will personally write you a song on any subject the buyer chooses; if you spend 25 dollars, Adam will cover a song that you choose, although he says “Be reasonable.” It’s an interesting method to promote an album, and if I had 25 dollars and am permitted to be vein for a moment, I would totally give these dudes the money so I could get them to cover “Daughter” by Pearl Jam because most people don’t even know how catchy the riff in that song is. Hell, if I had an extra 25 dollars, I would get them to cover it again, only slower, for my dubstep project I don’t, and will never have. Excluding my self-indulgent tangent, this album was great, and it’s free online, and if you have the money you can get handwritten lyrics from the album written by Adam, and a letter which he says “tries to make small talk.” That’s not only a play on the full length name, but it’s adorable. So give these guys a listen.
Below, check out “Today Was My Day to Die and You Ruined it” off Sister City’s LP Small Talk.