Five Years of Philly DIY: A musician’s perspective

Party Photographers at The Ox in 2010 | Photo by John Vettese
Party Photographers at The Ox in 2010 | Photo by John Vettese

In the wake of West Philly’s celebrated Golden Tea House closing its doors this winter, I’m torn between nostalgia and the hope that it’s not some trend of unconventional, all-ages venues throwing in the towel. In my heart of hearts I know that every time a DIY venue shuts down a demon gets it’s bat-wings or something, and there will be five more to take its place in a year or so. I hope so, anyway.

An intense show at the dearly departed Terrordome | photo via

This article will reminisce about the show houses that, in my opinion as a lowly musician, have dominated the Philly DIY “scene” the past four or five years. May this also be a rallying call to any person out there thinking about doing something similar: do it!

Get a PA, book a few bands to play in your kitchen or basement, make a rad flyer, invite everyone you know. You’ll be so happy you did, and if you just keep at it, this city will support you and you can eventually become as awesome (or more so) than the places in this article. GO! Continue reading →


Interview: Laser Background’s Andy Molholt and Norwegian Arms’ Brendan Mulvihill on making music in unconventional spaces (house show tour begins tomorrow)

Laser Background
Laser Background

Yesterday evening, Andy Molholt of Philadelphia psych-pop group Laser Background and his longtime friend Brendan Mulvihill of the junkyard folk act Norwegian Arms moved into Dreamcastle, a house-show space in South Philadelphia. They’re living there temporarily, leading up to the kickoff show of their house show “tour” tomorrow night. The plan is an imaginative one: the band is performing four DIY spaces in Philly over the next four weeks. They have to live in each house for two days prior to the show, possibly constructing a pillow fort. They must adhere to “a strict food / drug regimen.” And they’ve got to write music, and perform the results. I grabbed drinks with Molholt and Mulvihill last week to talk about the unconventional residency series, its ambitions, and their affinity for Philly’s vibrant DIY scene.

THE KEY: Let’s sum up this mini-tour (that you’re not leaving the city for). You’re playing four house shows, and the rules are you have to stay in the house two days before playing the show, and collaborative preparational activities will take place while you’re staying there…

ANDY MOLHOLT: Collaborative preparational activities, I like that.

BRENDAN MULVIHILL: That’s really good.

AM: Make sure you put that in there.

TK: …and a song may result that you’ll perform at the show?

AM: More like a song must result.

BM: It’s a must?

AM: It’s a must! We’re good enough songwriters.

BM: We’re in this house for three days, we might as well do something.

AM: We didn’t really ever talk about if the song was going to be collaborative or not, we still have to figure that out. I thought we’d each write a song for our respective projects and perform them as our respective projects. But since I play in Norwegian Arms, and Brendan’s going to play in Laser Background for one of these shows where some of the guys can’t make it, maybe we can do that too.

BM: We’re not entirely sure what’s going to happen. It’s kind of just a big experiment. We might get into a fight. Or we might make out, that might be cool.

TK: It reminds me of the Netherfriends project where he lived in each state, had to write a song in each state. I guess that project is still ongoing. Was at all an influence on this project?

AM: If any of that factored in, it was definitely unintentional. I used to play with Netherfriends for a little bit, but I didn’t think about that. Residencies are kind of a silly idea to begin with – why would you want to go see a band in the same venue every night for four weeks straight?

BM: Not every night! “Come see us play 31 times…”

AM: [laughs] You know what I mean, though. I get that it’s good for the venue if the band’s popular enough. And you get different crowds each night because there’s different openers playing. But I just think it’s kind of silly. I thought it would funny to self-anoint our own residency at house shows. Then the actual living there idea developed, and Brendan had the idea that we had to write songs too.

BM: I mean, why not, right? Only seems natural.

AM: Brendan and I have known each other since we were 13, so these kinds of ideas come naturally.

BM: And we’re used to sleepovers. Continue reading →


Philly cops shut down Two-Piece Fest at The Ox; venue’s future remains uncertain

Two-Piece Fest 4

Photo by John Vettese

Here’s some bad news. Remember that massive Two-Piece Fest at The Ox we were talking about last week? Well, over the weekend, Y Rock’s own Fred Knittel sent out a retweet that said, “Ten cops came to the Ox, ended two piece fest, and wrote down everyone’s drivers license numbers.” Which, for anyone who is as big a fan of the not-so-secret DIY venue as we are, is quite a bummer.

Now, The Deli reports that the venue has updated its Facebook page. “Dearest OX fans, please stay tuned for updates regarding the relocation of upcoming shows. We’re not prepared to make any official announcements regarding the future of the OX (mostly because we still don’t know ourselves) but we thank you all for your support…And for the record, the organizers, bands, show-goers, EVERYONE who was there at Two Piece Fest was AWESOME. Much love to you all. NO REGRETS WHATSOEVER.”

We’ll let you know if were hear of any new developments regarding the venue’s future.


Weekend Picks: The Low Anthem at First Unitarian Church + AMP! All-Ages Summit at The Rotunda, 2-Piece Fest at The Ox

WXPN Welcomes Providence, RI’s The Low Anthem, which is touring behind its brand-new album, Smart Flesh. Former Low Anthem member Daniel Lefkowitz—who wrote the fan favorite “This God Damn House”—opens. The Low Anthem performs with Bobby and Daniel Lefkowitz at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church; tickets to the all-ages show are $15.

Also playing: Michael Showalter at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT); KFN; Revolver + Jac, When I Was 12 at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, $10); Flogging Molly + Moneybrother, The Drowning Men at Electric Factory (7 p.m., SOLD OUT); Creepoid + Invisible Days, The Vandelles, Lux Perpetua at Tritone (9 p.m., 21+)

Two-Piece Fest 4

Photo by John Vettese

2-Piece Fest 4 begins at 2 p.m. Sat., 2/26, at The Ox

Why put up with multiple rock-star-wannabe egos and haul around a ton of music equipment when you could keep things simple and start a duo? This year’s Two-Piece Fest features close to two dozen local-ish acts who, for whatever reason, decided two musicians was enough. The massive lineup—which features Slutever, The Joint Chiefs Of Math, Hulk Smash, Best Friends, and Peter And Craig—might feel overwhelming; when you’ve got that many bands on one fest’s bill, excessive delays seem like an inevitability. But that’s just another one of the many benefits of being in a two-piece: You’re able to set up, play your set, and break down with a minimum of time and effort. The performances begin at 2 p.m. at The Ox; tickets to the all-ages show are $8.

Anyone who’s been denied entrance to a live-music performance because they were underage doesn’t need to be reminded about the importance of all-ages shows. Whether you’re currently under 21+ and want to vent your frustrations (while discussing alternatives), or are over 21 and want to share your own experiences, tonight’s All-Ages Movement Project‘s East Coast Summit has plenty to offer. Dischord Records co-founder Ian MacKaye will be the keynote speaker at tonight’s event, which will also feature live performances by Philly’s own Slutever and SGNLS. Other confirmed speakers include R5 Productions‘ Andy Nelson, Sugar Town’s Sara Sherr, Fredericksburg All Ages‘ Adam Bray, and Girls Rock Philly!‘s Beth Warshaw-Duncan; Grace Ambrose, who organized last week’s panel discussion with Kathleen Hanna and Sara Marcus, will moderate the discussion. The event begins at 5 p.m. at The Rotunda; tickets to the all-ages event are $10-$15 (which includes a copy of AMP’s book, In Every Town: An All-Ages Music Manifesto).

Also playing: The John Byrne Band + Citizens Band Radio at World Cafe Live (9 p.m., $13-$18); Franz Nicolay + David Dondero at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $8); Do You Need The Service +Univox, The Better Letters at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, $10)

WXPN Welcomes Steve Earle, who performs at Johnny Brenda’s tonight as part of a benefit for Witness To Innocence. (WTI is a national organization “founded by, led by, and composed of exonerated death row survivors” that seeks “to abolish the death penalty, to conduct self-advocacy campaigns to win just compensation for the exonerated, and to build a peer-support community of exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones; you can read more about the organization here.) Steve Earle performs at Johnny Brenda’s at 7 p.m.; tickets to the 21+ show are SOLD OUT.

Also playing: “Three-Piece Fest” at Danger Danger Gallery (7 p.m., $5-$10); Folkadelphia presents Meg Baird + Arborea at Johnny Brenda’s JB’s (1 p.m., 7 p.m.); Blood Features + The Cobbs, Dressed Like Stolen Cars at Kung Fu Necktie (8 p.m., 21+, $5)


The elusive “Two-Piece Fest 4”: It’s real—just like Bigfoot. (And we have photographic evidence)

Two-Piece Fest 4

Try as it might, no word-of-mouth festival at a DIY venue is entirely safe from the all-knowing eyes of the Internet. Of course, any festival that has event pages on Facebook and Myspace (as this year’s “Two-Piece Fest” does) isn’t really all that hush-hush to begin with—even if those pages contain relatively limited information. (“KEEP THE ADDRESS OFF THE INTERNET!,” says the Facebook page, as if half the city doesn’t already know where The Ox is—and the other half can’t find the address online.) Last Friday morning, Y Rock’s John Vettese snapped this photo of a flier for the show, which is the first real-life confirmation of the event we’ve seen so far. (The “official hard copy” of the flier was posted on Facebook less than 24 hours ago.) This year’s not-so-secret lineup features several of the same acts as last year (including The Joint Chiefs Of Math, Hulk Smash, Best Friends, and Peter And Craig), but seriously, how many two-piece bands do you expect the city of Philadelphia to produce?

Actually, as the flier shows, Philly has produced a good number of musical duos. Is that due to indie-nation’s current obsession over all things stripped down and lo-fi? Or maybe it’s just because most musicians are stubborn pains in the asses—and the fewer people in any given band, the better? Either way, the event organizers aren’t into exclusivity: This year’s Two-Piece Fest at The Ox on Feb. 26 is bookended by a “One-Piece Fest” (Feb. 25 at The Mausoleum) and a “Three-Piece Fest” (Feb. 27 at Danger Danger Gallery).


This Weekend’s Picks: Free Energy, Black Thought, Grimace Federation, Busses + Upholstery, Lewis And Clarke

Free Energy

Photo by Rachel Leah Woliansky

Free Energy performs 2/18 at First Unitarian Church

Free Energy + The Postelles, Sweatheart at First Unitarian Church (8 p.m., all ages, $10); Black Thought + Rich Medina at The Blockley (10:30 p.m., 21+, $20-$25); Air Waves + Toddler Kat, Other Colors at The Ox (8 p.m.); Bacon Brothers at Sellersville Theater (6:30 & 9:30 p.m., SOLD OUT); Darwin Deez + Cheers Elephant, The New Connection at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $10-$12)

There’s an impressive local lineup at The Ox tonight: Grimace Federation, Grandchildren, Power Animal, Ryat, and Circadian Rhythms. Meanwhile, over at Johnny Brenda’s Upholstery celebrates the release of its second album, Clydesdales & Tardigrades, with an opening performance for locals Busses and Royal Shoals (9 p.m., 21+, $10).

Lewis And Clarke headlines the second installment of Fred Knittel’s “Folkadelphia” concert series; if you haven’t read our interview with Knittel yet, you can find it here.

Also playing: Jon Langford And Skull Orchard + Eddie Spaghetti (of The Supersuckers), Whitey Morgan And The 78s, Lydia Loveless at North Star Bar (7 p.m., 21+, $10)


Arc In Round’s debut LP due May 10th

Arc In Round

The long-in-the-works debut LP from Philadelphia’s own Arc In Round has a release date: May 10th. The noise-pop quartet—featuring local producer/engineer Jeff Zeigler, co-songwriter Mikele Edwards, bassist Ian Fraser, and drummer Matt Ricchini—released its debut EP, Diagonal Fields, in early December. (The EP didn’t become available via digital download until late January.) As we mentioned back then, the band obviously doesn’t mind taking its sweet time when it comes to releasing an album. The self-titled LP will feature guest appearances by members of Kurt Vile And The Violators and Pattern Is Movement, as well as remixes by local acts including A Sunny Day In Glasgow and Ape School; following the album’s release, the band will head out on tour with WXPN favorite SOARS.

Arc In Round’s next area performance is Saturday, April 2nd, at The Ox. Until then, you can give the track “Spirit” a listen below.


Tonight’s Concert Pick: Monotonix at The Ox


Monotonix‘s reputation has always preceded the band, blazing through cites like an alcohol-fueled wildfire whenever the Israeli garage-rock trio heads out on tour. (Which, considering how the band has been banned from the majority of the live-music venues in its native Tel Aviv, is pretty often.) Monotonix is not exactly the kind of band you see live because you like the music; it’s more akin to watching a sweaty, bearded, short-shorts-wearing circus act do its shock-rock thing at a venue that probably won’t survive the performance. But, in addition to the usual promises of beer showers, flying trash cans, and crowd surfing (among other onstage antics), tonight’s concert at The Ox holds a more special significance: It is likely the band’s last show in Philly (for the foreseeable future, at least), according to recent reports. Citing old age and a desire to spend more time with their families, singer Ami Shelev has been telling audiences that Monotonix’s current tour—which is in support its most recent album, Not Yet (released last month by Drag City)—will be the band’s last. Monotonix performs with Pujol, Federation X, and Da! Comrade at 8 p.m. at The Ox.


This Weekend’s Concert Picks: Girl Talk, Gang Of Four, Tapes ‘N Tapes, When I Was 12, Folkadelphia

Girl Talk

Photo by Christos Schizas

Girl Talk performs 2/4 at Electric Factory.

Girl Talk + Penguin Prison at Electric Factory (8:30 p.m., SOLD OUT); Sun Airway + Celebration, Golden Ages, CSLSX, Savages at The Ox (7:30 p.m., $10); Langhorne Slim + Bobby Bare Jr., Frontier Ruckus at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT)

Gang Of Four + Hollerado, Moon Women, DJ Robert Drake at Theatre Of The Living Arts (8:30 p.m.); Tapes ‘N Tapes + Oberhofer, Xylos at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT); When I Was 12 + The Great Unknown, Conversations With Enemies, Safe Travels at The Ox (7:30 p.m., $10)

How could you possibly consider leaving the house for a night of live music when you can watch The Black-Eyed Peas perform on TV from the comfort of your own living room? The performance will occur during the Halftime Spectacular Bonanza of this year’s Football MegaMatch, which features two teams who aren’t the Philadelphia Eagles. (Really, that is all you need to know about the game.) However, if you’re not too busy Sunday afternoon waiting in line at the ACME to purchase the very last package of nacho chips (likely Baked Tostitos With A Hint Of Lime) in the greater Philadelphia area, we strongly urge you to consider going to the first Folkadelphia concert at Johnny Brenda’s, which features The Spinning Leaves and Hezekiah Jones. (You can read our interview with Folkadelphia organizer Fred Knittel here.) The Spinning Leaves perform with Hezekiah Jones at 1 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the show are $7.


Philly Local Philes: Power Animal’s “Better Water”

Power AnimalA burgeoning experimental group from the great Northeast, Power Animal takes a kitchen-sink approach to its heady, textured, Paw Tracks-aspiring pop. Old keyboards and samplers mingle with xylophone, violin, banjo, and…hold up, is that a didgeridoo? Impressive. After a busy 2010 and an enthusiastic reception to its debut full-length People Songs, Power Animal is prepping the followup Exorcism EP for release in the spring. Back in November, a track from it—“Better Water”—premiered on Weekly Tape Deck. You can listen below in this week’s Philly Local Philes, check out a stripped-down Power Animal performance this Thursday, Feb. 3, at Danger Danger Gallery, and catch them full-band style at The Ox on Feb. 19, opening for Grimace Federation and Circadian Rhythms.