Tonight’s Concert Picks: Local Natives at Electric Factory, Anjuli Josephine at MilkBoy, Alo Brazil at Underground Arts

localnatives970600WXPN welcomes L.A. indie rock outfit Local Natives to the Electric Factory tonight. If you missed them on their summer tour, the band just released a video shot between performances completely on their phones put to the stimulating single “Ceilings” off of their latest release Hummingbird. Catch them on their Fall tour by finding tickets and information for tonight’s show here. Watch the new “Ceilings” video below.

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Toy Soldiers will perform at Out Of Town Films’ second “pop-up concert” this Wednesday

Photo by Seth Klinger
Photo by Seth Klinger

If you missed Toy Soldiers‘ epic, sold-out album-release party for The Maybe Boys this past Friday night, here’s a chance to make up for it. Our friends at Out of Town Films just sent out word that they’re hosting their second “pop-up concert” this Wednesday, September 18th, and Ron Gallo and crew are the stars.

The series is basically what it sounds like – a band performs a free concert at an undisclosed location, and the Out of Town videographers film it for a series of live shorts. Their first one happened this summer with The Districts at Girard Hall in Fishtown; to RSVP for this show, shoot an email to outoftownfilms(at)gmail(dot)com. You’ll be notified of the location the morning of the show. Below, check out The Districts performing “Long Distance” at the first pop-up concert, and download “Tomorrow to Today” from Toy Soldiers’ Key Studio Session.


The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Balance and Composure, Free Energy, Ben Smith


Toy Soldiers celebrated the release of their full-length The Maybe Boys with a Key Studio Session. For their encore session (they first visited the WXPN studios in 2010) the rootsy blues rock band recorded a few songs from the new record, as well as an unreleased track called “Street Sweeper.” Stream and download “Heart in a Mousetrap” below and get the full set here.

West Chester’s Ben Smith has released a new EP called Ravine Road. The singer-songwriter recorded it himself in his home studio, using vintage equipment he picked up at the estate sale of his seventh-grade teacher. Listen to the title track below and get a name-your-own-price download here.

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Energy, confidence and devil sticks: Toy Soldiers celebrate The Maybe Boys at Johnny Brenda’s

Toy Soldiers | Photo by Mike Bucher |
Toy Soldiers | Photo by Mike Bucher |

All photos by Mike Bucher |

Toy Soldiers released their newest record, The Maybe Boys, this past Tuesday and celebrated last night with a sold-out release party at Johnny Brenda’s last night. Overheard within the crowd before the five-piece took stage: “I’ve never seen so many people I don’t know but from seeing them at Toy Soldier’s shows.” Said crowder noticed the Levee Drivers, TJ Kong, and members of the Get Real Gang in the attendance.

The boys opened up with an enormous rendition of “Heart in a Mousetrap,” and weaved in and out of old and new songs, shouting out the record’s producer, Bill Moriarty, before performing its first song, “Tell the Teller.”

Thing is, I’d never been to a Toy Soldiers show before last night. I’d also never been to a show with a live devil sticks performance until last night. It’s been sometime since I’ve had that problem where my shoes stick to the floor that’s sticky with so many spilled beers, but no one in the room last night was holding back.

On stage and off — it was the same energy, same confidence through and through. Absolutely everyone is dancing, from front man Ron Gallo on stage and members of the audience, who whip each other around frenzied-like. It’s no wonder about the beer thing, no one’s worried about a little spilled beer.

It’s a community effort and it’s obvious that most of the crowd has never missed a show. In fact, a ton of the crowd is a part of this particular music community, playing side-by-side with the outfit more often than not. Maybe this show is a way of forgetting the day, whatever happened during it, and to kind of just bask in Toy Soldiers’ energy and the group’s loud, fiery onstage presence.

One lucky member of the audience even got to get on the devil sticks for the entirety of “Throw Me Down,” a few minutes before the show ended and there was a mad dash to pick up the ceremonious vinyl from the merch table.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: XPN Welcomes Toy Soldiers at Johnny Brenda’s, Steve Gunn at Little Berlin, XPN Welcomes Shovels & Rope at Union Transfer and more


Toy Soldiers celebrate the release of The Maybe Boys at Johnny Brenda’s.  The local roots / rock outfit recorded the LP with Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man) this year,  capturing most of the songs in a live set-up.  Live is the best way to experience the band – they’ve clocked in hundreds of shows on the road and know how to get the crowd invested.  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show can be found here.  Check out Toy Soldiers’ Key Studio Session from earlier this week here and watch them perform “Tell the Teller” and “Forget How it Used to Be” below.

Steve Gunn returns to his home city for a show with Cian Nugent and Chris Forsyth at Little Berlin tonight.  The guitarist / singer has reached a new audience with his latest Time Off release, which he put out earlier this year through Paradise of Bachelors.  As he proved at the record’s release show in June, Gunn has a knack for blending playing styles from all over the world in an enthralling and transcendent way.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show can be found here.  Below, watch Gunn’s Tiny Desk Concert, presented by NPR Music.

Cold Roses headline MilkBoy Philly tonight.  The gravely-voiced local band released its debut EP The Georgia Fugue earlier this year and recently followed it up with August’s “The One You Love” single, taken from an upcoming LP.  Cold Roses echo the hard-lived grit of deep country rock but temper the edge with upbeat, danceable melodies.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show can be found here.  Listen to “Lose That Man” below.

XPN welcomes Shovels and Rope to Union Transfer.  The husband and wife duo have toured with Dawes, Jack White and Justin Townes Earle since releasing their debut LP O’ Be Joyful but are striking out on a headlining tour across the States this fall.  Based in South Carolina, Shovels & Rope perform foot-stomping , twangy and heartfelt country that is easy to sing along to.  Tickets and information for the show can be found here.  Watch the band perform “Gasoline” below.

Also happening: Hard Skin at Boot & Saddle; Randall Bramblett at the Sellersville Theater; Cheers Elephant at Ortlieb’s.  Tickets and information for all shows can be found on the XPN Concert Calendar.


The Key Studio Sessions: Toy Soldiers

TSPhilly’s Toy Soldiers were featured on The Key Studio Sessions once before, but back then it was a completely different band. Ron Gallo was still at the helm, and the music was still a romping rootsy Americana-blues pastiche, but the scope was through the roof by comparison. Fluctuating between seven and eleven members (I believe nine were in the lineup the day we recorded, but records from that era are spotty), there were horns, backup singers, folkified instrumentation (banjo, uke), and gang vocals; all various things that made their 2009 debut LP Whisper Down the Lane sound really really big.

The newly-released sophomore album The Maybe Boys also sounds big, but the band has grown more focused. Through various personnel changes, Gallo is playing with an entirely different crew: Dominic Billett on drums, Bill McCloskey on bass, Matt Kelly on guitar and
Luke Leidy on keys. They’ve been together long enough (two-plus years) and play out with enough frequency that Toy Soldiers is a massively well-oiled machine that blew through its return Key Studio Session in no time flat. The band even had time to squeeze in an unreleased ragtime jammer called “Street Sweeper,” and tack on a punk-ish homage to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” at the end of “Tell The Teller” (pretty funny).

Beyond the band’s tightness and lighthearted air, this new record find Toy Soldiers being musically adventurous in a different way – not through pileups of instruments and voices, but by stretching its musical vernacular. My favorite moment in our session was a sleek performance of “Tomorrow To Today,” a number rooted in poppy Afro-Cuban jazz. It’s a sound and rhythm that I couldn’t imagine the Toy Soldiers orchestra of yore pulling off, and here’s to hearing more of that as the band continues to grow. Toy Soldiers celebrates the release of The Maybe Boys this Friday, September 13th at Johnny Brenda’s; get tickets and information here, and download the session below.


Listen to Toy Soldiers new single “Red Dress” via A.V. Club (playing Johnny Brenda’s on 9/13)


Local blues rock outfit Toy Soldiers are just days away from releasing their debut LP The Maybe Boys.  The five-piece rockabillies are gearing up for the release by sharing the album single “Red Dress,” now streaming over on A.V. Club.  As fans of Toy Soldiers likely know, they are an incredibly strong live band that loves crowd participation, and “Red Dress” is one of the crowd favorites (particularly when front man Ron Gallo sings “no you’re the one” in falsetto, which was thankfully preserved in the studio recording).  Take a listen to track on the A.V. Club website here and watch the band perform the song during their holiday Free At Noon from 2012 below.  Tickets and information for Toy Soldiers show at Johnny Brenda’s on September 13th can be found here.


The Key’s Week of Folk: Richard Thompson, Ursula Rucker, The Lawsuits are Friday’s highlights

Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese
Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese

The Friday lineup at the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival was eclectic and exciting, beginning with a cluster of Philadelphia music scene staples and wrapping up with electrifying and impressive performance from folk scene mainstay Richard Thompson.

The Lawsuits kicked off the day on the main stage with an assortment of songs from their forthcoming LP Cool Cool Cool; they were poppy, they were country, they were classic rock, with songwriter Brian Dale Allen Strouse stepping behind the Steinway for a snappy take on “Onion” and singer Vanessa Winters owning “Long Drive Home” with a twangy vocal.

Lancaster trio The Stray Birds performed an assortment of songs from the as-yet-untitled album they just finished recording last week, Marc Silver rocked out some songs from his new story-centered album A Miner’s Tale, andToy Soldiers tore across a lively set of bluesy rockabilly from their forthcoming sophomore LP The Maybe Boys, due out September 10th.

Poet Ursula Rucker’s collaborative set with Philly guitar wizard Tim Motzer was easily the day’s highlight. While she read (and occasionally sang) pieces addressing social justice, racial prejudice,. gender and identity (among other topics), Motzer played a hypnotic guitar backing. Her performance of “Philadelphia Child” was particularly moving, as was the concluding call-and-response of “Super Sista.”

After an enjoyable performance from Philly-area celtic crew Runa, Richard Thompson took the stage to a thinning (but devoted) crowd. Thompson has played the fest several times as a solo artist; this time he was with his electric trio, which began on a jarringly funky note, but quickly settled into a groove that let Thompson’s guitar skills shine through. His nimble guitar shredding was impressive, “Shoot Out The Lights” backed by the band packed a punch that the song lacks when Thompson plays it solo. And his solo stab at “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” while not unexpected, didn’t disappoint either. Check out photos from the day in the gallery below.


The Quarterly Project releasing Summer 2013 charity compilation (listening party/benefit concert at PhilaMOCA 8/29)

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 8.54.27 AMBrian Walker, the singer and songwriter behind Philly’s A Day Without Love, is more than just a musician. He’s on a mission, and a quite noble one at that, “to bring communities together, and to help them grow” though music. His ideals are taking shape with The Quarterly Project, a digital charity label that aims to “unify the diversity of the Philadelphia music scene while being able to help the youth of the community.” In other words, like several other Philly music musicians of late, Walker wants to support music education for Philly youth, despite state budget cuts.

Walker rounded up 25 local musicians, among them Toy Soldiers, Amanda X, City Rain, and Former Belle, each of whom contributed a song to a compilation called Summer 13. The heavily collaborative effort was released last Thursday, August 2nd via Bandcamp, and all of the proceeds will be donated to the local nonprofit, Rock to the Future – a North Philly-based organization dedicated to providing free music education for undeserved Philadelphia youth.

When discussing the project Walker says that “It is important that musicians from the Philadelphia community do their best to not only network with each other, but also help their own community to keep the music growing.” The Summer 13 compilation became available to purchase via Bandcamp last week, and at the end of this month, on August 29th, there will be a an all-ages listening party/benefit concert held at PhilaMOCA, the lineup of which includes Philly artists such as City Rain, Minka, Song Dogs, and Josh Miller. Stream The Quarterly’s Summer 13 comp below; for more on music education in Philly, read our article about Rock to the Future here, read about the H.O.M.E. project at Andrew Jackson school here, and find out about a rally for music education at Liberty Lands Park starring The Dead Milkmen here.



Watch a video of Toy Soldiers playing live for Paste Magazine

Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 9.52.33 AMLast month, Philly blues-Americana dudes Toy Soldiers traveled a couple hours south to tape a performance for Paste Magazine’s Live at Aloft series. The session is out as of last night, and its a deadpan performance of “Heart in a Mousetrap” from Toy Soldiers’ 2012 EP Tell The Teller, rumbling amps and all. Watch the video here. Toy Soldiers perform at the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival next month, and their forthcoming LP The Maybe Boys comes out in September, with an album release show at Johnny Brenda’s on 9/13. Get tickets and information on Fest here, and on the Johnny Brenda’s show here.