Jason Hamacher: hXc attaché to ancient Syria

Photo courtesy of the artist
Jason Hamacher at the ruins of Ain Dara | Photo courtesy of the artist / Lost Origin Productions

Whether documentarian/drummer/massage therapist Jason Hamacher is rhapsodizing about Minor Threat and the Teen Idles or kicking some deep knowledge about the Gnostic origins of ancient Syriac chants, he does so with the same mix of startling scholarship and infectious exuberance.

Hamacher grew up the Headbanger’s Ball-watching middle son of a Southern Baptist minister in Satellite Beach, Florida before moving to the D.C. area in 1992. He cut his milk teeth in knotty 90s post-hardcore trio Frodus—touring with a pre-Shellback Refused in ’98—before going on to play in Decahedron with Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, and Tampa grind militia Combatwoundedveteran.

Hamacher’s decade-long Sacred Voices of Syria project began when he discovered that the world’s oldest Christian music had gone undocumented. In 2005, the Syrian Orthodox Church, one of the earliest Christian communities, granted Hamacher permission to record their oldest chant traditions. Over six years and several trips, he documented the ancient prayers, hallowed rituals, and sacred spaces of Syria.

Hamacher is bringing a showcase of his project to The Rotunda on Monday, and I spoke to him about the roots of community expression, guerilla-style ethnomusicology, and the lasting cultural impact of his endeavors. Continue reading →


Watch singer-songwriter Gregory Mendez perform in a West Philly staircase, download a new split EP

Singer-songwriter Gregory Mendez – formerly of lo-fi outfit Getting Sick – recently returned home to Philly from New York and is working on a solo EP called Songs From The Stairwell with producers Evan Bernard (from Dangerous Ponies) and Alex Wilson (from Gypsy Death and You).

The title is a reference to a low point in his life where Mendez actually lived in back of a staircase in West Philly, and he recently released a video performance one of the new songs, “Getting Well”, in that very spot. Stuffed in a teal corner, Mendez strums guitar while harmonizing the Nashville-style country ballad with North Carolina singer Jenna Smith at his side. Drawing on his turmoil from that time period,  the EP is much more stripped down than his other works, Mendez tells us. It will feature country instrumentation (lap steel, fingerpicked acoustic guitar). It will also be recorded in the staircase, so expect some nice echo.

Watch the video of “Getting Well” below, check out a recently-released split EP recorded with Smith, and keep an eye out for updates on Songs From A Stairwell here.


Announcing The Key’s Tuesday Tune-Out Lineup (begins 1/8 at PhilaMOCA)

The unofficial cover art to Birdie Busch's unofficial instrumental album Oh You Who Believe, which was released in 2011 (unofficially)

By now, you can probably tell that we’re devout fans of the local music-and-film showcase Tuesday Tune-Out, held every week at PhilaMOCA. Some of the best music minds in Philly have curated this thing so far – Herbie Shellenberger of Pet Milk and Black Circle Cinema; Fred Knittel from Folkadelphia; fellow bloggers and local music enthusiasts The Deli, The Swollen Fox, JUMP Philly and Bands in the Backyard. It’s totally good company, a great event that enriches the city’s music and arts scenes, and we’re super excited to join the ranks by curating the month of January.

We’ll begin January 8 with an exciting solo set by Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick, continue on January 15 with some funky noir-hop from Zilla Rocca, present an improvisatory instrumental set from Birdie Busch and Carl Cheeseman on January 22 and conclude on January 29 with a rare solo performance by Frances Quinlan, frontwoman of Hop Along. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. at PhilaMOCA, 531 N 12th St., are all-ages, with $5 suggested donation for admission. After the jump, get details about each show with links for more information. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Pick: The Key Studio Sessions Live with Black Landlord, Work Drugs, and Hezekiah Jones + Andrew Lipke

Join us this Monday night at World Cafe Live for a free show at 7 p.m. with four of our favorite locals: Black Landlord, Work Drugs, and Hezekiah Jones + Andrew Lipke. The show is our first Key Studio Sessions Live concert. The event is free; registration is required, which you can do here. Doors open at 7 p.m. Work Drugs performs at 7:30 p.m.; Hezekiah Jones and Andrew Lipke go on at 8:20 p.m.; Black Landlord performs at 9:25 p.m.

Speaking of the Key Studio Sessions, we just released The Key Studio Sessions Compilation Volume 2, which you can download for free here. The compilation features music from Arc In Round, Dutch, The National Rifle, Denison Witmer, Hop Along, Matt Duke, Catnaps, Penrose, Arches, Lantern, Nicos Gun, Restorations, Ages, Sisters 3, The War On Drugs, Sonni Shine And The Underwater Sounds, and Work Drugs.

Also playing: Chillwave poster child Chaz Bundick (a.k.a. Toro Y Moi) crafted the sounds of last summer with his 2010 debut, Causers Of This. Bundick set the tone not just for a season, but also for a throng of his contemporaries (including Washed Out, Memory Tapes, and Ariel Pink). The South Carolina native continued his prolific output of side projects this winter with the release of his follow-up album, Underneath The Pine, which marked a departure from his earlier work. But fans were pleasantly surprised by the complex and lush recording, which challenged any assumptions Toro Y Moi might have been saddled with. Toro Y Moi performs with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Coma Cinema at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church at 8 p.m.; tickets to the all-ages show are $14. —Kiley Bense