Get schooled on “mugham” with local Azerbaijani expert Jeffrey Werbock (playing The Rotunda on 9/6)


Presented by Fire Museum, Philadelphia-born musician Jeffrey Werbock will perform traditional Azerbaijani mugham compositions at The Rotunda in West Philly on September 6th.  The enigmatic and transcendent music of the Caucasus Mountains circles around three main instruments – the oud, the tar and the kamancha – and is one of the first styles of music to include open improvisations, forming a base for modern day free jazz and blues.  Having studied and presented the music for over 35 years, Jeffrey Werbock is one of the U.S.’s foremost experts in the ancient Eastern art of mugham; tickets and information for his lecture and performance at The Rotunda can be found here.  Watch a short informational video with Werbock below.


Archer Spade to premiere new “TCHMENTREACH” piece at The Rotunda tonight


archer spade

Local experimental duo Archer Spade (Dan Blacksberg and Nick Millevoi) will perform the world premeire of “TCHMENTREACH,” a piece they commissioned from prolific avant-garde metal guitarist Mick Barr, in West Philadelphia tonight. In addition to the premiere, Barr and composer / clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman will perform solo sets of their dark, twisting improvisations.  More information on the show at The Rotunda can be found here.  Watch videos of the performers below and learn more about Mick Barr in the 5049 Podcast with Jeremiah Cymerman here.

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Watch an album teaser from VaVatican (playing The Rotunda on 1/16)

Avant-garde jazz quartet VaVatican is prepping for the release of their next record Falling In Love With U with a teaser video and an appearance at The Rotunda this Wednesday, January 16th.  Finding a middle ground between free-form improvisation and angular structures, the Prom Night Records musicians operate in the vein of abstract painters, creating detailed and impressionistic soundscapes that tell a hundred different stories for each interpretation.  Information for Wednesday’s free show with Superlith and MPSP can be found here.  Watch VaVatican’s teaser trailer below.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: St. James & The Apostles at RUBA, Folkadelphia presents ((TACO)), Prairie Empire and The Sun Flights at Green Line Cafe, We’re About 9 at PSALM Salon, XPN Welcomes Garland Jeffreys at World Cafe Live at The Queen, Many Arms at The Rotunda

St. James & the ApostlesHardworking Philly outfit St. James & The Apostles play RUBA Club Studios tonight alongside Themuffinmanisaband.  St. James is Jamie Mahon and The Apostles are Mahon’s cousin Mike Kiker and second-cousin Jeff Castner.  Together, the trio fuses anthematic rock with moments of twang and the refreshing power of Kiker’s organ playing on their latest record Baphomet.  More information about the 21+ show can be found here.  Below, watch St. James & The Apostles’ BITBY video filmed this past October.

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Many Arms want to thrash with you at The Rotunda on 1/04

When life gives you six arms, make a lot of noise.  That could be the mantra of Philly avant-jazz trio Many Arms, considering their affinity for experimental jaunts into noisy worlds most of us haven’t yet discovered.  On their third and latest LP released by Tzadik, Many Arms (guitarist Nick Millevoi, bassist John Deblase and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino) reach a level of clarity that seems counter-intuitive when the sheer wildness of their free jazz compositions is taken into account, but it works (Spin thinks so too).  Many Arms will be joined by saxophonist Colin Fisher at The Rotunda this Friday, January 4th.  Tickets and information can be found here.  Below, watch the trio perform “Beyond Territories.”  You can also grab a name-your-own-price download of their Live at First Unitarian Church over on Many Arms’ Bandcamp.


Weekend Picks: Tycho at The Rotunda, White Birds at Kung Fu Necktie, Augustana at TLA, Snowmine at Johnny Brenda’s


Scott Hansen is an artist with a vision. Before he debuted on the music scene as electronic composer Tycho, Hansen was known by his graphic design pseudonym, ISO50. As ISO50, Hansen produces intricate, often illusionary water color pieces—images that make an appealing first impression and grow more complex when scrutinized. His songs sound about the same. Hansen’s 2002 EP, Science Of Patterns, and the 2004 album Sunrise Projector hinted at his musical ideas, but it wasn’t until his 2011 album, Dive, that Tycho seemed to communicate in music what ISO50 did in visual art. Not surprisingly, Tycho’s current tour features a video component, which Hansen appropriately debuted on the ISO50 blog. Hansen will be playing both his music and visual art tonight in a show that’s certain to be sunny and synesthetic. Tycho performs with Beacon at 8:30 p.m.; tickets to the all-ages show are $5–$15. —Naomi Shavin

Since forming from the remains of Drink Up Buttercup, the members of White Birds have been quick to separate themselves from their former endeavor. Where Drink Up was fast and frantic, White Birds is slow and mellow. The band’s self-titled EP demonstrated just how much the members have evolved, with a dreamy tone and echoing harmonies. White Birds’ new album, When Women Played Drums, expands the fuzzy pop sound; the album comes out February 14th, but you can pre-order it now on Bandcamp. White Birds be joined at Kung Fu Necktie by Univox, whose Key Studio Session we posted earlier this weekWhite Birds performs with Univox and Tutlie at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $10. —Nicole Soll

Snowmine front man Grayson Sanders has received praise for his mellow and melodious voice, with many noting similarities to both Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. The Brooklyn-based indie pop band’s debut album “Laminate Pet Animal” is obviously a tribute to all things natural and lullaby-esque, what with the use of odd instruments (including arbitrary household items, such as dish brushes and brooms) that help create a cultured sound. The band was featured as Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through artist for the month of November, and brings its Fleet Foxes-caliber potential to Johnny Brenda’s for the Philadelphia Bandcamp Hunter showcase. Snowmine performs with Gracie and Tours at Johnny Brenda’s at 9:15 p.m; tickets to the 21+ show are $5. —Lisa Henderson

Augustana had a rough 2011. The San Diego-based quartet was dropped from its label, Epic, following disappointing sales of its third album, had to cancel a summer tour with Jack’s Mannequin, and lost several of the original band members. But just as rumors of the band breaking up surfaced, lead singer Dan Layus announced he and the remaining members would continue making music under the name Augustana. Dan Lamoureux, who had previously played keyboard with the band, returned on drums, and Augustana released dates for a short winter tour. Despite the changes in the band, Augustana’s rock sound remains the same, and their set will feature both new music and hits off previous albums, such as “Boston” and “Sweet and Low.” Augustana performs with Graffiti6 at 8 pm at Theatre Of Living Arts; tickets to the show are $17. —Nicole Soll

Also Playing: Arctic Splash + DJ Deejay at PYT (10 p.m., free)

Brown Recluse + Acres Of Diamonds, Instamatic at Milkboy Philly (9:30 p.m., 21+, $8–$10); Jedi Mind Tricks + Diabolic, B. Lynch at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $18–$20); Jack’s Mannequin + Jukebox The Ghost, Allen Stone at Theatre Of Living Arts (7 p.m., $30.50); SOJA + The Movement, Fear Nuttin Band at Electric Factory (8 p.m., $25.95)

Rock To The Future Benefit featuring Polar Ice Cap + The Danger O’s, Fast Car, Jampa! at World Cafe Live (7 p.m., all ages, $7)


PREMIERE: Nothing’s “The Rites of Love and Death” Video

A blend of found super 8 footage and iPhone-recorded cityscapes shot atop North Philadelphia’s Divine Lorraine Hotel, the brand new music video from Philly shoegaze / coldwave ensemble Nothing is a stunning piece of work. First, in that it’s simply really intriguing on a visual level, and next because it’s the first acoustic ballad we’ve heard from this group known for noise-rock jams and spectral noir atmospheres. This unreleased track is an inticing harbinger of what’s to come in the EP Nothing plans to release early next year. Watch the clip above, download the title track from its Suns and Lovers EP below, and catch the band in concert this Friday at The Rotunda with YOU and Mueran Hermanos.


Interview: Gemini Wolf’s Michael McDermott on his opera, Pangea (at The Rotunda Nov. 11th)

Never one to shy away from ambitous musical projects, Michael McDermott – stage name: Mikronesia, one half of Gemini Wolf, founder of earSnake records – can now add “opera composer” to his curriculum vitae. This Friday, Nov. 11, his imaginative work Pangaea: When The Continents Were One premiers at The Rotunda for one night only. The multimedia fable blends an eclectic score, anthropological visuals and a 15-piece ensemble to look not just at the idyllic beginnings of mankind, but the point at which conflict between cultures began. The Key recently caught up with McDermott to talk about the work and its genesis.

The Key: I thought it’d be fun to being our interview with some free association if you’re game.

Michael McDermott: Sure!

TK: OK, then. Complete these sentences. “The most difficult thing about putting an opera together front-to-back is…”

MMcD: I guess coordinating lots of people’s different schedules. I mean, you could write an opera and record it all by yourself in the studio. But I just collaborated with so many different people. Just getting everyone to come to the studio at a certain time and record, that was the most difficult thing for me. I could have used an assistant manager or something. [laughs]

TK: “The easiest part about putting together an opera is…”

MMcD: Getting people to work on it with me. Everyone I asked said yes, which I was surprised about. I thought some people would be like “What, an opera? No that’s stupid, that’s prog-rock.”

TK: “The thing about Pangaea that will totally come as a surprise to the people hearing it is…”

MMcD: That they will still sit through and listen to an 80 minute piece of music front to back in the era of shuffle on your iPod or watching to a quick YouTube video.

TK: “My one regret about the project is…”

MMcD: Underestimating. I’ve already have people say “I want to come to it but I can’t make it that night, when’s the next one?” And I have to be like “I don’t know.” I wish I would have booked the premier to have several shows, or a long run. It seems like the work I’m putting into the premier is more work than I’ve ever done for one show. It would have been cool to perform it for an entire week. But I think down the road we’re going to do something like that.

TK: Awesome. Now to jump into broader questions, how did you come to decide “For my next project, I would like to write an 80-minute opera about Pangaea?”

MMcD: [laughs] Well, the idea of Pangaea is really kind of old. Even in High School I had this idea of writing an opera. Back then I probably thought of it more like a musical, and it became kind of opera of Pangaea…and slowly it morphed into this idea of making it about the ecology, war. And as the sound of the music I was interested in changed, it became more neo-tribal, integrating different kind of world musics together into this mulch of sound that really had no boundaries as far as what cultures they referenced. Which is also I think a comment on modern culture a little bit.

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Sic Alps + Magik Markers, Purling Hiss at The Rotunda

Sic AlpsIf you include all of the singles, EPs, limited-edition cassettes, compilation appearances, and proper full-length albums Sic Alps has recorded since 2004, the San Francisco-based trio has exactly 20 releases under its belt. (At least, that’s the number you’ll find over at Drag City, which released the band’s new 22-song double LP, Napa Asylum.) Which means that, by the time every guitar-slinging indie-rock dude rediscovered fuzzed-out psych-pop (and the seemingly instant critical success that comes with it) a few years ago, Sic Alps had already perfected the formula. Lo-fi revivalist rock is now a ubiquitous part of the indie scene, but thankfully that hasn’t stopped Sic Alps from cranking out the same music it has been for over half a decade. The best part is, tonight’s show at The Rotunda is FREE—which means you can use that money you didn’t spend on admission to purchase records from Sic Alps’ extensive back catalog instead. Sic Alps performs with Magik Markers and Purling Hiss at 8 p.m. at The Rotunda; tickets to the all-ages show are free.

Also playing: Dropkick Murphys + Against Me! at Electric Factory (8 p.m., SOLD OUT)