Last March, Ian Winter played bass in an impromptu rap cypher at the Lancaster Avenue Autonomous Space, better known as LAVA Space. It initially was a show booked by Camae Defstar, organizer of ROCKERS! and frontwoman of Moor Mother Goddess. But it ended up turning into an open floor jam with many MCs rocking the mic.
“We just jammed on one riff for a while and probably about eight or nine people freestyled on it,” says Winter, a member of the collective that runs LAVA Space and bassist for West Philly MC Ronnie Vega. He goes on to say a DJ eventually took over with his sample pad to keep the groove going.
The way that night turned into such a loose and welcoming jam was influential on Winter and he decided he wanted to book his own cypher with a live band. He wanted it to be an opportunity for either a show or a practice session for both MCs and musicians who are interested in both punk and hip hop. Continue reading →
Amongst punk-leaning and DIY-defined artists in this city, Sunny Ali and the Kid are virtually peerless. Singer/guitarist Hassan Malik and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Abdullah Saeed took their music through an evolution from cheeky rockabilly and minimalist garage rock to a newer sound that incorporates electronics and ethereal soundscapes – all the while vaguely repurposing South Asian musical themes and punk urgency in punchy songs that defy easy categorization.
The band took a significant break through a roughly year-and-a-half-long period that saw Saeed’s journalism work flourish (he works with several publications and writes a popular VICE column on marijuana) and both his and Malik’s ongoing work with The Kominas, a punk band known for songs that similarly play with South Asian and Islamic musical tropes while incorporating lyrics that involve jabs at Western misconceptions of Muslim belief.
As men of Pakistani descent with a comprehensive and intuitive understanding of why their music and livelihoods defy racial stereotyping, Sunny Ali and the Kid personify the mission that the folks behind Rockers! (whose events highlight artists who otherwise don’t fit into the white-male-heterosexual-dominated rock world) take into every show. This is probably why Malik and Saeed are playing their first show in two years by headlining the last Rockers! show of 2014 at West Philly Ethiopian spot Dahlak Paradise.
We caught up with Malik and asked him about their return, race and class in scene politics, handling geographical divides and making music with a mission. Continue reading →
Many events strive to be diverse. Few are as deeply committed to the cause as the people behind Rockers!.
A long-running monthly series in Philadelphia that promotes cultural diversity, the Rockers! shows are mix of genres, ethnicities, and even mediums. Spoken word events and workshops occur often—it’s not strictly music. The event series grew out of a desire to see more bands of color playing punk shows. Continue reading →
Few events can sustain themselves for periods of over 10 years. Few shows offer such diversity in terms of people, genres, and art. That’s what makes Rockers! so unique; it has both.
A long-running music and art showcase that promotes diversity, Rockers! began because of a desire to see more bands of color playing punk shows.
Camae Defstar is one of the founding organizers of Rockers! and books almost all of the shows. Defstar started Rockers! around 2005 with her friend and band member, Rebecca Roe.
Growing up, Defstar didn’t see people of color in punk music. They didn’t receive recognition. She felt like she was the only one into the punk scene. She says Rockers! showcases bands who have something to say and don’t fit the traditional mold of their respective genres.
“We wanted our band, the Mighty Paradocs to play. We didn’t know too much about booking, so we said ‘Hey let’s book an event with bands we like and want to play with.”
Rockers began at the now-defunct venue Aqua Lounge that was located near Front and Girard Streets. The series then moved to Tritone on South Street, where it grew and created a community.
“There [at Tritone] we started to have a community of artists that were trying to play but didn’t have the access or connections to do so. That’s how Rockers started getting steam,” said Defstar.
Tritone was the host location of Rockers until the venue closed in 2012. During that year, Kung Fu Necktie became the frequent site of Rockers.
Joe Jordan, former Mighty Paradocs drummer, has been a part of Rockers since its inception. Now, he creates music under the name the Joe Jordan Experiment. He still is a “regular” at the shows as a performer and spectator. He said Rockers gave him a sense of community.
“It’s like a home for a lot of us bands,” Jordan said. “I’d liken it to CBGB’s during its punk heyday. No fighting, just high-energy excitement. Usually people of color. [but] it’s all-inclusive. People of colors… any color…white, black, red. It’s about unity,” he said. Continue reading →
Camae Defstar is a long-active Philly musician who is one of the lively hiphop punk rebels in The Mighty Paradocs. As a solo artist, her work strikes very different moods: ominous, sometimes unsettling and utterly captivating. She began releasing music under the name Moor Mother Goddess on Soundcloud about a year ago – the Alpha Serpentis EP is a good starting point – and the tracks are tagged things like “space soul” “dark rap” and “ghost funk,” to give you a sense of vibe.
The new music video for “Of Blood” ups the ante; directed by Delio DeMille, it places Defstar in spooky abandoned surroundings – one shot looks like a shuttered school hallway, another looks like an old chapel, another still looks like a decrepit prison cellblock, and it’s quite possible the entire thing is set at Eastern State Penitentary. But even if it isn’t that location, it has that vibe, with Deftar’s mouth moving along to her wild pitch-adjusted / layered-and-staggered vocals and smearing red paint (at least I hope that’s paint, ’cause I’m talking buckets here) along the concrete walls with her bare hands. Heavy stuff, lyrically and visually, but it also draws you in. Watch it below, and catch Moor Mother Goddess at one of her upcoming appearances: September 27th at the Laser Life zine reading at West Philly’s anarchist community center A-Space, or October 26th at the Rockers! showcase at Kung Fu Necktie.
After a half-dozen years raising eclectic hell on a monthly basis, the Rockers gang is having its last hurrah at Tritone tonight before the famed bar / venue stops hosting live music. On the bill are Key Studio Sessions alums The National Rifle, along with minimal cowboy punks Sunny Ali and the Kid, the rock-n-soul swagger of The Baptist Preachers, gritty grunge heads Sherman the Band and series hosts Mighty Paradocs. The 21+ show begins promptly at 9 p.m., and we expect it to go late as the crew burns the house down (not literally, of course) with it’s trademark boundary-blurring bravado that mixes up folks of different ages, cultures and scenes. When the dust settles (again, not literally), Rockers plans to relocate to The Legendary Dobbs at 15th and South – but this is one farewell party you won’t want to miss. Check out tracks from some of the bands and watch a series preview below.