On this day 21 years ago, Sonic Youth played the first concert at the Electric Factory

Sonic Youth at the Electric Factory | still from video
Sonic Youth at the Electric Factory | still from video

Twenty-eight years ago today, downtown NYC noisemakers Sonic Youth released Daydream Nation, the album many consider to be their magnum opus, their defining statement, the record in their canon that spawned a generation of followers. It was one of the first albums of the pre-alternative era to be chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry. It’s the album that 16-year-old me rushed to buy at the Lollapalooza 1995 merch table after having my mind blown by their night-closing performance. I still have that CD on my shelves somewhere.

Twenty-one years ago today, Sonic Youth was not particularly interested in thinking about Daydream Nation, as they had a very worthy new release to celebrate at a very new music venue. On October 18th, 1995, the band headlined the first-ever concert at the brand-new Electric Factory in Callowhill. Their ninth long-player, Washing Machine, had just appeared on shelves, and it was an expansive and psychedelic collection of songs that thrillingly blended punk dissonance, ambient melody and occasional pop hooks. Opening the show was Dirty Three — the instrumental project of The Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis, who was quite intoxicated and explained that songs were about bike seats not fitting correctly — and local psych luminaries Bardo Pond, which left a powerful impression on me as well. Continue reading →


Incoherent Love Songs: P.S. Eliot reunite LIVE on the Indie Rock Hit Parade!

p.s. eliot | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN
p.s. eliot | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

Tonight’s Indie Rock Hit Parade is even more special than usual, and it’s all thanks to our latest Live Studio Session. Listen in at 11pm ET on WXPN (shortly after the September edition of Making Time RADio with Dave P) for, among other things, a live session with p.s. eliot. The band, formed by twin sisters Katie “Waxahatchee” and Allison “Swearin’/The Fizz” Crutchfield, are currently on a short reunion tour commemorating a new reissue of their entire recorded output, 2007-2011. They stopped by our studios to warm up and play a few of the beloved band’s songs live. There’s a lot of excitement around this session, and you can see why thanks to our friends at NPR Music and Vuhaus, who are hosting a video clip of one of the session’s songs. Check that out HERE.

Also in the mix tonight, a spotlight on the new album from noisy NY/Philly rockers Cymbals Eat Guitars, swirling psych from Montreal’s Elephant Stone and the first-ever solo song from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon released under her own name. Preview those (and more) below…

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Weather Radio: Pylon LIVE plus Peel Sessions & new Sad13 and Teenage Fanclub on the Indie Rock Hit Parade!

Pylon at the Mad Hatter, 1983 | Courtesy of Bob Hay

The Indie Rock Hit Parade comes to you tonight at 11pm ET on WXPN! That’s right after a special all-Peel Sessions edition of Land Of The Lost with Robert Drake, and the Hit Parade is going to act as the perfect chaser. More specifically, we’ll be featuring a few more Peel Session recordings from Sonic Youth and Belle & Sebastian. There’s also this week’s Album Spotlight, where we’ll dig into a newly released archival recording of Athens, GA indie pioneers Pylon. Recorded in December 1983 at the Mad Hatter club in Athens, Pylon Live captures what would be the band’s final performance. Also in the mix are brand new tracks from Scottish jangle vets Teenage Fanclub, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis’ new solo bumper as Sad13, and the Sub Pop debut of NY guitar-kickers LVL UP! Check out some of those below:

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Review: Avant-guitar virtuoso Lee Ranaldo wows Boot and Saddle with The Dust

Lee Ranaldo and The Dust | Photo by Chris Sikich |
Lee Ranaldo and The Dust | Photo by Chris Sikich |

This past Wednesday Boot & Saddle played host to one of rock’s premiere guitar virtuosos in Lee Ranaldo. Ranaldo and his band The Dust, which features the superb drumming skills of fellow former Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley as well as Alan Licht on guitar and Tim Luntzel on bass, wowed a nearly sold-out crowd for 90-plus minutes. Bathed in mostly red light, Ranaldo shifted between multiple guitars with ease and added the visual and aural flair of playing with a bow as well as a set of cymbals.

Heavily relying on material from their 2013 record Last Night on Earth, Ranaldo and Co. fashioned a soundscape both familiar and exotic to go with the inspiration he culled from time in Italy. With Shelley’s joyously fierce drumming of a Sonic Youth-emblazoned drum set and a bassline pulsing through the floor and up one’s legs (I could feel it hours afterwards), Ranaldo and the Dust are a powerful band. And as they ended the night within the limits of curfew with the lengthy (but certainly worth it) jam track “Blackt Out,” one’s rock palate had been sated for the night. Yet the taste for more Ranaldo, Shelley, and beyond remains. Lansdowne native and currently Brooklyn-based Steve Gunn opened.


Photo Recap: Kim Gordon’s Body / Head at Space 1026

All photos by Photo by Chris Sikich |

Body / Head, the new duo project of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, played a set at Chinatown art gallery Space 1026 last night. Fun facts discovered per Bleeding Rainbow’s Instagram: Gordon and BR’s Rob Garcia play the same guitar, and Body / Head’s Bill Nace borrowed a Fender Twin amp from BR’s Al Creedon for the show. Check out photos from the set in the gallery above.


Kim Gordon’s Body / Head coming to Space 1026 in March, and her new band is playing there too

This week in Sonic Youth offshoot news is the debut Philadelphia of Body / Head, Kim Gordon’s new dueling-guitar project with Bill Nace of Vampire Belt. The band is coming to Philly on March 8 for an appearance at Space 1026 – the Chinatown art gallery / performance space where Thurston Moore played last fall before having his guitar stolen.

With this new band, Gordon and Nace dabble in long-form, expressionistic guitar playing that ebbs and flows in ambient textures, turns unexpectedly violent with aggressive feedback, then recedes back into drone, with Gordon adding her trademark spoken-sung vocals. Think of her song “Contre Le Sexisme” from Sonic Youth’s vastly underrated 1998 album A Thousand Leaves, or the early hit (is “hit” the right word?) “Making the Nature Scene.” Live, Body / Head compliments their show with projected visuals (which you can see in the video below), meaning the crowd at Space 1026 next month is in for a multi-sensory experience. More information on the show can be found at the WXPN Concert Calendar.

Also: Moore’s new band Chelsea Light Moving plays Union Transfer on April 6, while Lee Ranaldo was just here performing the music of John Cage at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Steve Shelly, we’re waiting on you, dude.

Body / Head from Taping Policies on Vimeo.


Interview: Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo on John Cage (playing the Philadelphia Museum of Art on 1/4 – 1/6)

Lee Ranaldo is best known as the guitarist and co-founder of Sonic Youth, inarguably one of the most essential American rock bands. But his work outside of that band is just as adventurous, ranging from the singer-songwriter oriented album he released last year on Matador, Between the Times and the Tides, and his more feverish experimental work with critical voices like Mats Gustafsson, Zeena Parkins and William Hooker, and in groups like Text of Light (with Christian Marclay, Alan Licht and Ulrich Krieger ). In addition to his numerous music projects and releases, Ranaldo is also a visual artist and writer.

Ranaldo is performing several times in Philadelphia over the weekend as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Dancing around the Bride,” the massive ongoing exhibit celebrating the work of John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. For these performances, Ranaldo will be interpreting several Cage scores, as well as performing some of his own work.

I caught up with Ranaldo a few days ago on the phone from his home in New York City to talk about his personal relationship with Cage’s work and legacy.

The Key: Did you ever meet John Cage?

Lee Ranaldo: I saw him at a few events around New York in the 1980s, but we weren’t really that friendly.

TK: Do you recall your first encounter with his work?

LR: I think it was “Rainforest IV,” with David Tudor. It was definitely mid-70s, when I was just arriving at college and starting to hear a lot of different avant-garde and 20th century composers, from Edgar Varèse to Karlheinz Stockhausen to John Cage.

TK: What was your first impression?

LR: I would liken it to the one I first had when I encountered mid-century avant-garde American film: at first you don’t know what to make of it, and then you realize it’s an entirely new language that you’re trying to understand. In a sense, you have to work your way into a language, or into a new art form; it’s like coming to an understanding of abstract painting. Continue reading →


Photo Recap: Thurston Moore and John Maloney with Speedy Ortiz at Space 1026

Last night, experimental guitarist and Sonic Youth founding member Thurston Moore played a collaborative, improvisatory set at Space 1026 in Chinatown with drummer John Maloney. Northampton, Massachusetts four-piece Speedy Ortiz opened the show; you can check out a gallery images from both sets above, and see a 14-second YouTube clip to give you a sense of the overall vibe after the jump. Continue reading →


The Week So Far: Eight must-read stories on The Key

Bing & Ruth’s David Moore on the ambient performance he brings to The Barnes Friday [link]

The new LP from The Fleeting Ends, Our Eyes are Peeled, gets the Unlocked treatment [link]

Dave Hartley, bassist for The War on Drugs, launches his sports column From The Key [link]

South Jersey pop-punks Aspiga treat us to a song from each release in their Key session [link]

Roots collaborator Truck North releases Our American Cousin free EP [link]

Does cover art make the album? We ponder this and look at some great local album covers [link]

Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and drummer John Maloney tonight at Space 1026 [link]

Brooklyn duo She Keeps Bees is features on this week’s Folkadelphia session [link]