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Ten essential deep cuts from the Dr. Dog vaults

Dr. Dog
Dr. Dog in 2012 | Photo via Anti- Records

Songs are one thing that Dr. Dog isn’t short on. Before it broke out in 2005 with the Easy Beat LP, the band had a robust back-catalog of home-recordings that were available in varying forms – most notably 2003′s Toothbrush, still a cult favorite. But even today, their records come in accompanying deluxe editions, containing usually an EP’s worth of extra material that handily holds up to the the stuff on the album proper. And it’s not like this is stuff that you’ll never hear anywhere but the iTunes library of the Dr. Dog completist – the band is known for digging deep into the vaults in setlists. For today’s installment of the Dr. Dog Days of Summer, here are ten essential deep cuts from the Dr. Dog vaults – any or all of these would make totally sweet inclusions at the band’s Lawn of Mann show this Saturday. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: 2nd Street Fest in Northern Liberties, The Last Poets at The Blockley, Reggae in the Park at The Mann

Today from noon to 10 P.M. in Northern Liberties, the 2nd Street Festival brings a variety of food vendors, crafters and local musicians to the neighborhood. Four stages are in place for performances and other events, which have all been programmed by the Philadelphia Folksong Society. The line-up is extensive and is sure to not disappoint, including acts such as Laser Background, the West Philadelphia Orchestra and headlineres The Low Anthem. Take a look at the video for The Low Anthem’s single “Boeing 737″ and find tickets and info here.

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The shrillest highs and lowest lows: After a decade, The Postal Service returns to Philly (photos, review, setlist)

The Postal Service | Photo by Eric Ashleigh | showtographe.com
The Postal Service | Photo by Eric Ashleigh | showtographe.com

“We’re not really a band,” Ben Gibbard said last night as The Postal Service stepped out onstage for its encore. “We’ve all got our own projects, we’re just kind of moonlighting here.”

Which explains why the synthpop outfit has only played Philly twice ever, despite the way its 2003 LP Give Up (celebrating its 10th anniversary this year) escalated from a cult favorite sideproject to a mainstream success. Roll call: singer and multiinstrumentalist Gibbard was busy touring and making albums with Death Cab for Cutie, or as a solo artist. Jenny Lewis was busy being Jenny Lewis (or playing in Rilo Kiley, until that band fizzled out). Beatmaker / producer Jimmy Tamborello had DNTEL going on. Schedules are tough things to coordinate. So at the non-band’s first time back to Philadelphia after debuting at the North Star Bar on April 17 of 2003, its audience was about 40 times bigger, filling out a bustling Mann Center on a breezy evening.

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds joined the group on auxiliary instrumentation, and Tamborello had a lording-over-the-proceedings presence, stationed on a riser with his MacBook and mixer. But Gibbard and Lewis were the stars of the show, and seemed to relish those roles. Gibbard in particular – he’s known for being somewhat wooden and awkward as a Death Cab frontman, but here he was animated. He danced, gestured, smiled, moved around the massive stage, and actually looked like he was having a good time. His voice rang out with the crisp range it had on the recording ten years ago, and he made frequent side trips behind a drumkit to mix in live percussion to the programmed beats.

Doing this on “We Will Become Like Silhouettes”, Lewis strutted downstage and led the crowd in pogoing and clapping, hype-woman style. While her voice hasn’t aged as well as Gibbard’s (her lead vocal on “Nothing Better” sounded a bit weary), seeing the band live underscored how much she contributed to the album beyond that song – and her vocals on the opening “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Recycled Air” came across much more strongly. Tamborello, though, ground the latter to a halt with a spate of Daft Punk-esque vocoder vocals – his only unfortunate singing of the night.

Which, of course, is being massively nit-picky. I could be further nit-picky and dissect the new / previously-unreleased songs in the set from the expanded Give Up reissue. (Quick stabs: “Turn Around” was the best, with a grinding beat and thunderous energy; “A Tattered Line of String” was annoying; “Be Still My Heart” was forgettable.) The overarching vibe of the night was a positive one, from the band delivering a lively and commanding performance, to the crowd responding in kind with an extended singalong to the raging closer “Brand New Colony.”

Gibbard even worked in local quips when they fit. “Like Philadelphia’s The Roots said, ‘Sometimes relationships get ill,’” he said to introduce “Nothing Better.” “This song is about that.” Or, “The best band in the world is The Dead Milkmen; the second best band in the world is Beat Happening” before launching into a cover of the latter’s “Our Secret.”

On the one hand, it was a nostalgia trip for people who fell in love with the album a decade ago and never got to experience it in a live setting. On the other hand, it was a set of great music, independent of time or place. Check out a gallery of images from the show and read the setlist below.

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Just Announced: She & Him playing at The Mann Center in July

Folk pop duo She & Him – that’s M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel – are back in action this spring with Volume 3, the project’s third full length (no kidding) that’s due out on Merge Records on May 7. As of last Friday, the album was a wrap, according to M. Ward’s Twitter, and the band is promising “tempo shifts, disco grooves, string arrangements on multiple tracks, and horn flourishes” on the new material. She & Him will support the album with a spring tour that stops at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in July, and it’s equally exciting for the opening act – Scotland indiepop band Camera Obscura, who are due for some new music themselves (their last offering was 2009′s My Maudlin Career). Tickets to the show go on sale Friday, February 15th, at noon. When She & Him was last in Philadelphia back in 2010, they recorded a session for World Cafe with David Dye. Listen back to the interview and performance here (via the WXPN media player).

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Getting weird at The Mann Center with Animal Collective (photos, review, setlist, video)

Appropriately, the stage was wrapped in teeth. Incisors hanging from the rafters, canines and premolars at the foot, forming a light-up, abstract, multicolored jaw. If you sat and thought about it long enough from the crowd, you might get in a distressing internal debate: are we on the outside of this giant mouth looking in, or vice versa? But that’s the thing about experimental rock trailblazers Animal Collective – they want you to be confused. They’ve made a career out of pulling the rug out from under their crowd.

Early shows in loft spaces and arty basements were notoriously uproarious, intense, unrestrained – playing a show at Haverford College circa 2005, keyboard player Geologist swung from piping along the ceiling, shimmying out over the crowd. As their freak-psych sound grew in appeal, the band took a right turn and made the ultra-catchy and accessible Merriweather Post Pavilion, released in 2009. On that tour, the band stood stoic and Kraftwerk-style behind four synthesizers, not showing much of the unbridled energy we saw early on. So, um, are they a pop band now? Nope – their first release on the heels of Merriweather was the minbending, alienating film-and-music collaboration ODDSAC, followed by the current Centipede Hz, an album that – while not overly weird – shows little of the catchiness of its predecessor. Which brings us to The Mann Center on Wednesday. What kind of Animal Collective would the thin-but-devoted crowd of maybe 3,000 be treated to? As it happened, it was the best of both worlds – a band with instruments and the energy of the early days, playing songs with a poppy and broadly-appealing spin. Continue reading →

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From the desk of The Disco Biscuits: City Bisco preview, part 2


The bright lights and electro-rock vibes of the extended Disco Biscuits family will set up camp at The Mann Center this weekend for the Biscuits’ inaugural City Bisco festival, happening on Friday October 5th and Saturday the 6th. This week, we enlisted the Disco Biscuits as guest contributors to The Key, beginning with a Spotify playlist from keyboard player Aron Magner here. Today, the festival overview continues with bassist Marc Brownstein. And don’t forget – we’re giving away a pair of festival passes, so enter now to win tomorrow.

What’s up Philly, it’s Brownie from the Disco Biscuits. I hope you all caught my bandmate Aron’s City Bisco Preview playlist the other day – if not, you can read and listen right here. Turns out he missed a couple of the 15 acts joining us at the Mann for the next two nights, so I’ve got his back – check out our UPDATED playlist here and read on for some deep thoughts…

Brothers Past are literally like the little brothers we never had. We keep inviting them back to our fests year in, year out for a reason… they’re awesome! Tommy even lives in Magner’s house! That’s how close we all are. I’ve been playing with them in bands for over a decade, and there’s no way we’d ever throw a Philly festival without having our closest friends in the scene right by our side.

Speaking of family, Wyllys (aka Wade Wilby) has been a part of the Disco Biscuits’ fabric for over a decade. When we started hanging out with him, we were surprised just how much he knew about our culture, our band, and our scene. In the ten years that we’ve been friends with him, it’s been a pleasure to watch him go from a total unknown to the leader of the nu-disco scene in the States. If you want to dance tomorrow, make your way up to the Skyline Stage at 4:00 as Wyllys kicks off an evening of nu-disco at the Mann. Wyllys isn’t on Spotify, but check out some tracks at his Soundcloud. Continue reading →

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Vibe out to a City Bisco Spotify playlist put together by guest contributors The Disco Biscuits (festival at The Mann Center this weekend)

Photo by Dave Vann
The bright lights and electro-rock vibes of the extended Disco Biscuits family will set up camp at The Mann Center this weekend for the Biscuits’ inaugural City Bisco festival, happening on Friday October 5th and Saturday the 6th. It gathers together an eclectic array of artists – some have performed with these innovative Philly-based electronic jam rockers (the very like-minded Brothers Past), others are movers and shakers whose own beats and textures are perfect compliments to the Biscuit’ vibe (the funky RJD2,  eclectic hitmaker Diplo). Tickets and information on the festival can be found here. This week, we enlisted the Disco Biscuits as guest contributors to The Key; check out their Spotify playlist to your left, and read a festival overview below.

Hey guys – it’s Aron Magner from the Disco Biscuits, bringing you our first guest post on The Key in honor of City Bisco! Our first-ever urban Bisco extravaganza goes down this weekend at the Mann Center, where we’ll be joined each day by an all-star lineup.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into picking artists for a festival that we’re curating. Our wish list is always large and there are a ton of moving parts, but at the end of the day we are consistently proud of the full lineup we present when these events come together, and CITY BISCO is no exception. These are all artists you should know about if you don’t already, so I’ve put together a little playlist with some favorites for you to check out. Hope you enjoy! Continue reading →

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Bon Iver delivered a powerful set at The Mann (photos, review, setlist)

It’s a safe bet that nobody who saw Bon Iver‘s set at The Mann Center for the performing arts last night will again describe the Wisconsin-based new-folk collective as “mellow.” Under the guidance of frontman and songwriter Justin Vernon, the band worked its way through a 16-song, 90-minute set that hit tremendous heights and explored haunting valleys, beginning with the stark solo opener “The Woods.” Originally found on Bon Iver’s 2009 EP Blood Bank, this song’s mystical ebb and flow of auto-tune vocal passages reached broader ears in 2010 when Kanye West interpolated it into the song “Lost in the World” on his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. With Vernon a solitary figure onstage among dim lights, his voice wandered in an architecture of loops and layers reminiscent of Laurie Anderson and Imogen Heap. A beat, a breath, and then the stage erupted into a thundering full-band performance of “Perth” from last year’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver. The set followed a similar pattern: in a vigorous take on “Flume” from 2008′s For Emma, Forever Ago, the nine-piece band created a rich progressive swell of sound from behind rows of beacon lights and under ragged backlit tapestries (the stage set alone was captivating), then later brought the pace down for a stark solo-acoustic rendition of that album’s popular number “Skinny Love.” Guiding the rise-and-fall were curious interludes; Michael Noyce played a jagged, John Cale-style violin solo to transition between “Hinnom, TX” and “Wash,” later saxophonist Colin Stetson answered his bandmate with mix of rhythmic scales and intense staccato bleats. While these elements took the set to its experimental fringes, it reached the other end of the spectrum as well, with a very poppy rendition of “Beth / Rest” closing out the main set, and a jaunty “For Emma” ending the show. But that wasn’t before Vernon entreated the crowd to sing (and scream) along to the epic, post-rock swell of “The Wolves (Act I and II),” while he thrashed away at his guitar, jolted around the stage, fell to the floor, played on his back, bolted upright and generally fought back against any threat of being pigeonholed as a low-key singer-songwriter. Check out a photo recap in the gallery above, and read the setlist below. Continue reading →

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One-man band no more: Justin Vernon, from World Cafe, on the growth of Bon Iver (playing The Mann on Sunday)


Immediately, it sounded as though an abrupt change had occurred. In reality, it was something more gradual, more of an evolution.

When its doubly self-titled sophomore record first hit speakers last spring, Bon Iver began to feel less like it was merely the nom-de-stage of a solo singer-songwriter, a conventional guy-with-a-guitar, one Justin Vernon. The acoustic introspection and haunting isolation of its 2008 debut, For Emma, Foever Ago grew into something lush and expansive on Bon Iver, Bon Iver, with emotive playing and majestic arrangements. On the new album, Bon Iver began to feel like a band.

This was, after all, inevitable. As Vernon told WXPN’s David Dye when he was interviewed for World Café last autumn, the first record was borne out of a highly introspective time. “There was a little bit of tail-between-my-legs going on,” he acknowledges of writing it following the end of a romantic relationship and the breakup of his old band, DeYarmond Edison. This element – working on music alone and sad in a cabin in the Wisconsin winter – was possibly overly mythologized, but nonetheless, For Emma was crafted as a collection of very personal songs, and sounds like one.

As soon as Vernon began performing these songs under the guise of Bon Iver, they began to morph. Solo shows grew into two-piece performances with drummer Sean Carey, then further into quartet configuration with guitarist Michael Noyce and bassist Matthew McCaughey, all the way to the nine-piece ensemble that will play The Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday. Continue reading →