Ohio songstress Lydia Loveless rocked MilkBoy with TJ Kong, Josh Olmstead

Lydia Loveless | Photo by Chris Sikich |
Lydia Loveless | Photo by Chris Sikich |

Equal parts rock and country, Lydia Loveless is a shot of rhythmic fire. And for 90-plus minutes last Thursday the Ohio-based songstress and her band held a crowded MilkBoy under her spell.

Only 24, Loveless spins tales of desire and soul with a knowhow of someone twice her age. Her voice curls with country swirl on songs like the utterly brilliant “To Love Somebody,” while her lyrics often instantly become memorable, like on “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud.” Both aforementioned songs are from her solid 2014 album Somewhere Else, which was heavily featured in the setlist. Continue reading →


This year’s TJ Kong Murdershow is going to be a rager; check out the lineup

Northern Arms will perform at this year's TJ Kong Halloween Murdershow
Northern Arms will perform at this year’s TJ Kong Halloween Murdershow | photo by Max Gaines |

TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb this week announced via Facebook the performers for their 5th annual Halloween Murdershow and its quite the lineup. Featuring a full list of Philly locals and such a large array of genres, from TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb’s folk tunes to Lantern‘s distortion-infused rock to Tutlie‘s imaginative, surreal indie music, the eclectic sounds of this show are sure to attract a crowd. Continue reading →


Watch TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb’s irreverent new video for “Don’t Come Home Pretty Woman”

TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb | Photo by Caitlin McCann |
Photo by Caitlin McCann |

A wedding ceremony goes irreverently awry in the latest video from Philly’s TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb. The tragicomic short was filmed at Gloria Dei / Old Swede’s Church in Fishtown by Caitlin McCann – whose work has previously been featured on The Key in a music video by Pine Barons and photos of Katie Frank and the Pheromones – and stars a few names from the Philly theater scene. Continue reading →


New “Saturday In the Park” concert features PhillyBloco, Swift Technique and more

Photo via
Photo via

The former staff of The Blockley have organized a great outdoor concert called “Saturday in the Park.” The concert will take place in Liberty Lands Park at the Northern Liberties on July 19th.  It includes performances by Splintered SunlightPhilly BlocoTJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, and Swift Technique. Proceeds go to support InLiquid, an art nonprofit, and the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association.

Splintered Sunlight, a cornerstone of The Blockely’s bookings, is a Grateful Dead Tribute band. The group consists of Jerry Horan and Tony Gioiaon drums, Butchy Sochorow and Dan Leyden on Guitar and Vocals. Splintered Sunlight has been around for more than 20 years and is known for its great live show. Earlier this year, the band played as a part of of the final run of shows at the Blockley. Below, check out their rendition of “Truckin’” at the Blockley below.

PhillyBloco is a giant 23 piece Brazilian band who play an unique mix of jazz, funk and samba. Named after the street bands common in the Carvinal of Pernambuco in Brazil, the group recently did a Key Studio Session. In an interview with The Key’s Sameer Rao, the band explained that “every section of the band is so pumped…it has this great family atmosphere.” Check out their recording of “Hey Na Na” below.

Another funk collective, Swift Technique, will also be playing. The group did a great Key Studio Session two years ago and released their newest EPs The Kitchen Sessions and You Boys Be Aight earlier this year. There is a full length release up soon. Listen to the great track “Brooklydelphia” below.

The great Americana-rock band TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb will also be performing. Recently, the group did a Porta Session with their label American Diamond Recordings. They also did a great Key Studio Session following the release of their latest EP Kong.  Listen to “Blood in the Bathtub” below.

Other highlights include a Starr Hill brewery beer truck, local food trucks, and 30 craft vendors. Get more information here. Check out performances by the bands below.

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The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Woods, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, Jason Karaban and more

TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb | Photo by Megan Kelly |
TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb | Photo by Megan Kelly |

TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb popped into the studio to record a new Key Studio Session, three and a half years after their first one.  This session includes a special track called “Blood in the Bathtub” that was recorded at the band’s EP release show at Johnny Brenda’s.  Stream and download the full set here.

This week, we also shared the Key Studio Sessions Vol. 10 compilation, recorded over the last few in the WXPN studios.  On it, you’ll find tracks from a wide-ranging spectrum of artists including The Hundred Acre Woods, Ginger Coyle, Trophy Wife and Elegant Animals.  Check it out below.

Eric Schuman invited Brooklyn psych-folk outfit Woods in for a live session to air on last night’s Indie Rock Hit Parade.  As a preview, The Key shared a recording of “Leaves Like Glass,” which was included on the band’s recent With Light and With Love LP.  Get a copy below.

Earlier this week, Helen Leicht talked with Philadelphia native Jason Karaban about his new song “Low Road.”  Karaban told Helen that this version was recorded with a number of his musician friends, including Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Garrison Starr.  You can get a free download of the song below, and be on the look out for its appearance on EP from Karaban soon.

This week’s Folkadelphia session featured a performance by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion.  The married pair have a lot of history in their blood – Sarah Lee is the daughter of Arlo Guthrie / granddaughter of Woody, and Irion is a grandnephew of John Steinbeck.  On their latest record Wassaic Way, they were joined by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who helped create bold power pop / Americana twang.  Stream and download the live session below.



The Key Studio Sessions: TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb

A few things we’ve learned about TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb since first recording the Philly band for this series three and a half years ago: there are no periods in their name. Frontman Dan Bruskewicz is a stickler for punctuation, and if you will mess it up, his Twitter shall make it known. It’s also kind of shortselling Kong to describe them, as we did at the time, as “punkabilly.” Certainly there are elements of rowdy Americana in their sound, delivered with punk rock gusto and attitude. And sure, Joshua Machiz rocks an upright bass. But the tapestry this band pieces together – both on 2012′s remarkable Manufaturing Joy and this year’s Kong EP – is eclectic and evocative, stirring together dusty cinematic arrangements with lyrical tales of depravity and hard-luck humanity that sound like something out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. The band seems to currently be going through a Tom Waits fixation: Bruskewicz has always had that gravely voice, they’re throwing a Waits tribute night at Jose Pistola’s on May 14th and, heck, I mean just listen to “Snakeskin” in the session below and tell me it doesn’t sound all Rain Dogs. Also, they’re the only band (that we know of) that’s performed an exorcism in our studio. The bulk of Kong’s Key set was recorded the same day the band played on the Folk Show with Gene Shay, a preview of its EP release show at Johnny Brenda’s, and that set was such a knockout that we’ve included a track from it – the feverish suicide fantasy “Blood in the Bathtub,” enineered by Adam Staniszewski of StanzStudios and featuring a bit of interview with Shay at the end. Listen and download to the entire thing below; if you want more (and can’t catch Kong at the Waits tribute night), Bruskewicz plays a Kong solo set May 30th at Boot and Saddle.


Ron Gallo and friends start new label American Diamond Recordings

Photo by Ron Gallo | Instagram @rongallo
Photo by Ron Gallo | Instagram @rongallo

Ron Gallo, front man of local Americana blues band Toy Soldiers and city-wide collaborator, has announced the launch of a new local label called American Diamond Recordings.  Named for the intersection of American and Diamond Streets where the label is based (in a former studio of Dr. Dog, no less), the label brings Gallo together with a collective of friends and compatriots to put a focus on the wealth of roots and rock music being created right here in Philadelphia.  From the label:

Decades ago the industry folk fled Philly to seek prosperity in the three corners of the music business NYC, LA, and Nashville.  But American Diamond Recordings and For the Record Management are planning on changing that and making Philly a force to be reckoned with in the world of music.  We sure as hell have the goods to do so.

The initial line-up of acts on American Diamond Recordings include Gallo himself, Toy Soldiers, The Lawsuits, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb and Levee Drivers.  The label’s first official release will be Gallo’s debut solo outing Ronny, expected June 24th.  There will be a free release show on June 26th at Spruce Street Harbor with The Lawsuits and Up the Chain to celebrate; more information can be found here.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Both at Union Transfer, Ataloft at the Ardmore Music Hall, Jessy Lanza at North Star Bar and more

The Both | via
Tonight, audiences will get the best of both worlds. After touring together in 2012, singer / songwriter Aimee Mann and punk / indie guitarist Ted Leo have teamed together for a new project, The Both. On April 15, the two released their first and self-titled album via Mann’s Super Ego Records. (Fun Fact: The Both was the first band to play at the newly opened Boot & Saddle.) Check them out tonight at Union Transfer. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $24.

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What the end of jazz nights at Ortlieb’s means for Philly’s jazz community

Local university and college students play with Fresh Cut Trio at The Painted Bride in February | Courtesy of Emily Rolen
Local university and college students play with Fresh Cut Trio at the Painted Bride in February | Courtesy of Emily Rolen

Pete Souders owned Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus for 20 years, but learned in January that the establishment he built a reputation for would no longer be needing his services. His Tuesday Night Jazz Jam Session was canceled.

But, he can’t say he didn’t expect it.

After growing exhausted of the hectic lifestyle of running a night spot and music venue, Souders sold Ortlieb’s in 2007, and after a bouncing around of owners, it was purchased by Four Corners Productions.

“I decided to sell it because I thought I was really getting tired,” Souders said.

Under its newest ownership, Ortlieb’s has shifted gears from its once-smooth atmosphere to a place of socialization, drinks and indie rock. It’s also dropped the “Jazzhaus” portion of its name.

The newest owners asked Souders to come in to host his Jazz Night upon opening, but Souders said he saw major flaws from the get-go.

When he owned Ortlieb’s, Souders said a large, acoustic piano sat center-stage which amplified the room, but once the newest owners came in, they hired a engineer who wired various mics for the jazz performances taking over the piano, which Souders said he thought was “unnecessary.”

Real jazz, Souders said, is able to fill an entire room without the need of any additional equipment.

But then again, Ortlieb’s is now hosting more than jazz performances, necessitating a more involved setup.

But Souders said he saw more concerns than just the equipment. Right before Christmas, the owners told him they  “weren’t making any money during the first hour-and-a-half.” They also asked his to cut the session back from its 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. slot so it wrapped up by 11:30 p.m. The owners told him they “weren’t making any money during the first hour-and-a-half,” Souders said.

He said that the new owners at Ortlieb’s told him they wanted to attract a better bar crowd at midnight, and Souders’ smooth tunes weren’t cutting it. It boiled down to a business issue.

“I had mixed emotions,” Souders said. “…[the situation] was anticlimactic.”

The current owners declined multiple requests for interviews.

So is the the current state of Ortlieb’s and what happened to its long-standing tradition a reflection for what might happen across the city’s jazz community? Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: TJ Kong EP release at Johnny Brenda’s, Goodnight Lights at The Fire, Cloud Cult at Prince Music Theater and more

tj kongTJ Kong and The Atomic Bomb will rock Johnny Brenda’s tonight in celebration of their latest EP KONG. The Philly-bred four-piece are a pleasant mix of garage rock and jump blues that’s far from predictable. Check out “Telephone Blues’ below and get tickets here.

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