Philly-born, Cali-based rock n’ rollers Cheers Elephant headlines Union Transfer tonight with Toy Soldiers, who are playing their farewell show. Self-described as a “Chew it up, Spit it out, Rock and Roll” type of band, Cheers Elephant relocated from Philadelphia to Southern California late last year. Read their impressions of their new digs in Maura Filoromo’s interview here, check out the music video for “Doin’ It, Right” below and find more information and tickets on the XPN Concert Calendar.
If you’ve ever gone to a concert, you’ve no doubt heard clapping.
I’m not talking about the kind that comes at the end of a song, but the kind that comes during – an audience fervently clapping along to the beat. Happens pretty regularly, right? How about this: when was the last time you heard an audience keep those claps up beyond the first verse? Usually once the beat kicks in or the refrain come around, the hands fall and the crowd just sways or stands there. It makes sense; your fingers start to sting, or your arms start to ache, or you start to feel self-conscious when you realize how many people around you are no longer doing it. Maybe a handful of times a year, at concerts with a really devoted fan base, do I see the clap-percussion continue into the middle of a song, and even then it peters out.
Taking it a step further: have you ever heard an artist get their audience clapping along to a song, and continue clapping for the entire thing – verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / chorus / coda? I’ve been going to concerts for 20 years and had never seen this phenomenon occur prior to last night, when Jennifer Pague of Vita and the Woolf played a solo set at Ortlieb’s.
To give a bit of context: the eclectic art-pop tones of Vita have captured our collective ear over here at WXPN, and for good reason. The band’s first single “Mary” is a rousing anthem that fills a void Florence and the Machine left in my listening habits. Stopping right there, let’s acknowledge that Pague probably gets this comparison all the time, is probably sick of it and possibly not even directly influenced by FloMac – but as a singer, she is undeniably strong and dynamic, a personality that is not timid in the least. Woman knows how to sing out, and sing out she does, whether backed by intricate and imaginative musical layers on the forthcoming Fang Song EP, or solo with a piano, as we saw her last night.
There’s more to Vita and the Woolf than the hyperdramatics that Florence Welch is known for, of course; the album (and her set) have more subdued moments that recall Beirut and Espers. Those songs are sweet, no doubt, but the ones that capture the energy of a room are the anthems. Which brings us to the clapping.
Pague launched into a solo piano of a song called “Mm Chka Mm” last night, and it was a rager. As the title alludes, this is a beat-oriented piece of music, and without her drummer, the song needed something driving it. So she urged the group of fans and friends clustered at the foot of the Ortlieb’s stage to give her a beat. They did. And the kept going. After the first refrain, I could hear that many clappers dropped off, and braced myself for the familiar pattern of trickle-off crowd participation. It didn’t happen. The claps swelled in volume again, dipped up and down but didn’t waver, even at their quietest.
By the time we passed the second refrain, I started thinking “Is this going to continue all the way to the end?” I don’t know how many people watching were conscious of what was happening – maybe this is an uber-nerdy thing of me to notice, and I thank you, dear reader, if you’ve stuck with me this far. But when we neared the home stretch, the thing that gave it that final push and momentum came from the unlikeliest of places: a surly and somewhat inebriated Ortlieb’s regular who had been heckling the entire show thus far, and made his way to the floor in front of the stage – stomping and clapping momentarily as the song concluded. Woah.
Lest the point get lost, I’ll reiterate: this was just Pague and a piano. When Vita plays a full-band show for its album release in September, I can’t even imagine how high the energy will be.
Joining this solo incarnation of Vita and the Woolf was Aphra, the mystical deep soul solo project of Tutlie’s Rebecca Way. She hasn’t performed under this name in over a year, and in that time has re-imagined its sound an evocative electronic outfit anchored by her rich and melodic voice. As a singer, Way is undeniably influenced by R&B. But there’s a dark undercurrent to her sound, a coldness echoed in drum machine beats and electronic textures, in the urgent floor-tom rhythms she hammered out with Tutlie bandmate Asher Brooks. Lorde or The xx might be easy parallels, in that her music definitely pop, but not necessarily happy pop. “I wrote this song when I was depressed,” Way said during one introduction. “Actually, I write most of my songs when I’m depressed.”
Don’t be fooled. Aphra is anything but a downer. Way uses her music as a means of quiet catharsis, but it’s transformative, whether we’re talking about her smiling quizzically as Brooks struts to a trumpet solo, or members of the crowd (including Pague) slow dancing on the floor to a blissful late-set melody. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.
Philly born and bred Tiani Victoria performs at the Theater of Living Arts tonight, not long after her XPN Studio Session this past week. Her vocal skills have made her an up and coming Philly performer you should look out for; check out some video from the session below, and get ticketing info for the all ages $29 concert here.
Summing up an entire region’s music scene in an hour-ish long compilation is pretty much impossible. But dangit, we try our best. I’m very psyched for the roster of artists we’ve lined up on The Key Studio Sessions Volume 10, out today as a free download you can grab below. Pop-punk wave makers Modern Baseball did a version of “The Weekend” from their 2012 debut LP Sports, and the mini XPN shoutout they deliver at the end of the first chorus might be my favorite moment of the set. The song as a whole is insanely fun and on point, and MoBo’s basement-scene brethren W.C. Lindsay (more synthpop leaning) and The Hundred Acre Woods (more folk-leaning) also make solid appearances. There are several acts on the comp who you’ll see this summer at the XPoNential Music Festival: Ginger Coyle, Commonwealth Choir, Marah and Marian Hill. I love using our studio to allow more experimental-leaning artists to blaze new paths, whether its Trophy Wife‘s expansive rager “Neil Young” (very reminiscent of the Dead Man score for sure), Tutlie‘s elegant dreamscape “Kaito” or Bleeding Rainbow‘s noise-punk jam “Time or Place.” Suave downbeat crooners Elegant Animals knock a track from their back catalogue out of the park, and though the comp is admittedly short on hip-hop, eclectic electronica soundscaper Ganou spits a fierce verse on “Detainment.” (We’ll have a lot more Philly hip-hop on volume 11 in August, don’t worry.) A summation of an entire scene? Of course not. I think of this more of an incomplete but nonetheless awesome snapshot of Philadelphia-area music circa spring 2014, one we’ll continue building on. Major thanks go to production assistants Dan Hatton and Dan Malloy; photographers Rachel Del Sordo, Megan Kelly, Allison Newbold, Dominique Montgomery and Ian Lewis; videographers Bob Sweeney, James Powers, Ryan Chowansky and Bands in the Backyard; and guest engineers Mattias Nilsson and Adam Staniszewski. Listen to the comp and download it for free below.
Tutlie brought their imaginative new record to life for this week’s Key Studio Session. Among the tracks taken from Young Cries, released a few weeks ago, is an even newer song called “Kaito” planned for a forthcoming record. Stream and download the track below and get the full set here.
Pattern is Movement was the subject of this week’s Unlocked series. The local duo finally released their self-titled effort, years in the making and as complex as it is accessible. Stream and download “Suckling” from Pattern is Movement below and check out the rest of the feature here.
Yesterday’s Free at Noon performers Hurray for the Riff Raff released their label debut Small Town Heroes in February on ATO. Monday’s My Morning Download, “I Know It’s Wrong (But That’s Alright)” was taken from that effort and can be downloaded for free below.
Thievery Corporation have released “Depth of My Soul” as a free download through Soundcloud. The song is taken from the DC duo’s new LP Saudade, and WXPN will welcome them to the Tower Theater on May 19th with Policia.
Local six-piece Tutlie might just be one of Philly’s most imaginative bands. There’s their excellent debut full length Young Cries, two years in the making and released digitally a few weeks back (premiered right here on The Key), ripe with dream-like synthesizer tones, arty structures and hooks galore. There’s the sound, which takes a cue from the studious musicality of Dirty Projectors while also echoing the charismatic harmony-driven vibe of Lucius and the whimsical arrangements of Buried Beds. There’s the subject matter: during their Key Session, the band played “Kaito,” a song newer than the new album, and lead singer and songwriter Jessie Radlow tells us it’s from the band’s next planned album: Gashadokuro, a concept record based on Japanese folklore. The band – which also features co-singer and multi-insturmentalist Rebecca Way, bassist Greg Diehl, guitarist Greg O’neill, drummer Mark Cruttenden and multi-instrumentalist Asher Brooks – gave us a tight performance, and if you dig the tracks you hear below, check them out in a month’s time when they open the show at City Rain’s album release party, May 1st at Underground Arts.
Desert-bred rockers Tinariwen will bring their eclectic mix of guitar rock and African rhythms to the Prince Music Theater stage tonight. Due to civil unrest in Mali, the band recorded their latest album Emmaar far away from home in California, an experience that heavily influenced the recording process and final product. Watch “ISLEGH TAGHRAM TIFHAMAM” from the new album below and get tickets here.
Following in the step of like-minded chamber-pop locals Buried Beds, Philly’s Tutlie is about to unleash an expressive and expansive collection of music in its debut LP Young Cries. The band is celebrating tomorrow night with a release party at new Northern Liberties venue Bourbon and Branch. Recorded and mixed by Drew Taurisano at East Room Recording and tracked with a bevy of guest horn players and percussionists, the album adds lush layers of instrumentation and dynamic vocal harmonies to the band’s piano-driven pop sound, creating a dreamy sonic landscape that’s easy to get lost in. The album is streaming here for the next 24 hours leading up to the band’s show at B&B; listen below, and get tickets and more information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar.