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Load-In to Load-Out: The Districts pack it in for a celebratory Electric Factory gig

Photo by John Vettese
The Districts’ guitar cases line the Electric Factory stage | Photo by John Vettese

It’s a special occasion the first time a Philly artist headlines the cavernous Callowhill venue The Electric Factory. We’ve seen it with Dr. Dog, we’ve seen it with The Wonder Years.

When you step out on that stage, and you know in your head that it’s the same room you crowded into so you could watch your favorite bands as a teenage kid – maybe you took the subway downtown from your neighborhood, perhaps you drove in from the surrounding burbs and grabbed sketchy street parking, nervously hoping that your car would be there when you return, or you waited on Spring Garden Street for your parents to pick you up at the end of the night. It’s that place, only now you’ve got this view you never had before, not of the stage but from it, looking out at an enormous room. And it’s packed. And it occurs to you that these people are there to see you…

I’ve heard it described as humbling. I’ve heard it described as exhilarating. You can call it some serious circle of life stuff. And it’s something that Philadelphia by-way-of Lititz rockers The Districts experienced back in November as they wrapped a year of heavy international touring in support of their acclaimed debut LP A Flourish and a Spoil with their biggest headlining hometown show, and one of their biggest shows ever.    Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year End-Mania: Ten videos not to miss on VuHaus

Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese
Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2015 incredible. Today, XPN Program director Bruce Warren recaps ten favorite WXPN videos from VuHaus.

We’ve put together a playlist of some of the best performances on VuHaus, a new music video website featuring videos from public radio stations around the country. Alongside XPN, contributors include WFUV in New York, KCRW in Los Angeles, KUTX in Austin, Oregon Public Radio, Mountain Stage, World Cafe and others.

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Merry Christmas from Philly! Listen to holiday songs by Amos Lee, The Districts, Good Old War, Hemming and more

The Districts | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com
The Districts | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

Over the years many of our favorite Philly local musicians have covered holiday classics or have written their own seasonal songs. We’ve compiled some of our favorites from the last few years that we’ve posted on The Key, including some highlights from WXPN’s Home For the Holidays, the annual broadcast hosted by WXPN’s Helen Leicht, featuring songs by Amos Lee, The Districts, Good Old War, Ginger Coyle, Hemming, and more. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2015

The albums that moved us in 2015
This is the music that moved us in 2015

It was a year of powerful records. Of loud guitars and brazen beats, of electronic tapestries and vocal abandon. It was a year of personal introspection and rallying cries for social change. It was a year when music felt inextricably tied to the world around us. When it felt more important than it had in a long time. Like we’ve said before, to narrow 12 months of incredible music down to a “top 15 albums of 2015” list is to exclude dozens of other worthy releases. This year, we had 26 writers and photographers cite a collective 82 albums as their favorites – you can view everybody’s top fives here, and I know fully well that had I asked The Key crew to give me top tens, I’d be easily looking at quadruple the titles. But we’ll go deep when our annual Year-End Mania roundup launches tomorrow. Today we take the long view and explore what rose to the surface of consensus in 2015, from the expressive moments of Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom and Jamie xx, to the pop permutations of Carly Rae Jepsen and Grimes , rock and/or roll from Courtney Barnett and Alabama Shakes, Philly representation from The Districts, Waxahatchee and of course, Hop Along‘s incredible breakout LP Painted Shut, which alongside the great Kendrick Lamar rose right to the top of our voting. Let’s recap the year. 
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Brother Sport: Sun Club & The not-Districts hit the end of the line

Sun Club | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Sun Club | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

It can’t be just a coincidence that  the first time I wrote about Sun Club over a year ago, I said that “I can’t help but project them as a Maryland version of our own hometown boys, The Districts.”

Since then, we’ve seen their paths cross again, seemingly at random in a North Philly basement. And of course, if you saw The Districts at any show on their most recent headlining tour (except the Electric Factory), then you know something stuck: Sun Club were the primary support for just over 30 of the biggest shows yet for both bands. On Saturday night, the roles were reversed, as Sun Club celebrated an album release show for their new LP The Dongo Durango at Kung Fu Necktie, and had the not-Districts join them as support. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Districts at Electric Factory, Beirut at the Tower, Cold Fronts at Johnny Brenda’s and more

The Districts | Photo by Ryan Farber | via http://www.villagevoice.com/music/fucked-up-and-dirty-the-districts-look-back-on-their-big-league-year-7861965
The Districts | Photo by Ryan Farber | via http://www.villagevoice.com/music/fucked-up-and-dirty-the-districts-look-back-on-their-big-league-year-7861965

We have been big fans of Philly indie rockers The Districts for some time now. Since their formation in 2009 the band has quickly ascended the ranks of Philly indie rock, rapidly becoming the unequivocal “band to watch”. Recently we here The Key got a chance to talk to the band about this journey, which continues with what is arguably their biggest Philly show to date tonight at the Electric Factory with Lady Lamb and fellow Philadelphians Purples. You can click here to get more information on tonight’s show. Continue reading →

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A Brief History of The Districts

The Districts | Photo via facebook.com/thedistrictsband
The Districts | Photo via facebook.com/thedistrictsband

Inexplicably wearing a surgeon’s mask and light blue nurse’s scrubs, The Districts frontman Rob Grote is relentless as he sits behind a drum set in the smokey basement of a North Philadelphia row home. As he brutally beats the crap out of the instruments as if he was the unhinged percussive offspring of Marky Ramone and Keith Moon, Grote finds himself in an unfamiliar spot; he’s typically anchored at center stage behind a microphone with a guitar dangling from his left shoulder. But this time fellow District Braden Lawrence is the one playing guitar and singing into a microphone, which in this case is hooked up to a cheap PA system being entirely drowned out by the thundering monsoon that is Grote’s abominable drumming.

A crowd full of college-aged kids are delusionally moshing and dancing to the music being performed, creating a ruckus (and surely a fire hazard) to the fast-paced, punk rock sounds coming out of the instruments of Lawrence, Grote and their roommate Breshon Martzall, the third member of the trio, who plays bass and sings. It’s very loud, and nearly impossible to tell one song from another. It’s the sound of Grote and Lawrence’s side project. It’s called Straw Hats.  Continue reading →