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Okkervil River delivers, and preaches, to sold out audience at Union Transfer

Okkervil River | Photo by Melody Chiang
Okkervil River | Photo by Melody Chiang

If you stepped foot into Union Transfer on Friday, you’d look down at your ticket a few times to double check if you were in the right venue to see Okkervil River.

The lights on the small stage illuminated a backdrop depicting two sketched out trees with fall leaves. It was reminiscent of the background in the children’s corner of nearly any Barnes and Noble. The music that played as the anxious crowd awaited sounded like the beginnings of waiting music for a theme park ride. You know, the part where park employees keep you in one room where a 30-second theme plays until they haul you to the main attraction.

But the music was just the start of the anticipation. Doors to Union Transfer opened for the sold out show at 7 p.m., but it wasn’t until slightly after 10 p.m. when Okkervil River took the stage.

First up was Hundred Visions, an Austin-based band that oozed 90s Nirvana influences. Complete with a classic 90s jean jacket, lead singer Ben Maddox heavily interacted with audience members. At one point, he wasn’t afraid to stop after one of his songs to call out one who’d just been standing in the front row, nearly motionless. “Are you having a bad time?” he asked.

No response. Too shy, maybe?

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper | Photo by Melody Chiang
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper | Photo by Melody Chiang

Aly Spaltro, who goes by the moniker Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, was next up on the bill. At an estimated 5’2”, Spaltro’s tiny stature filled the small venue to its entirety with its foot-stomping sound, shouting vocals and decadently indulgent harmonies. At one point, she exchanged her guitar for a banjo nearly as large as her to sing the powerful, hymn-like, not yet released “You’re Turning Violet, Violet Clementine.”

(I’d know because trust me, I’ve been looking.)

But the opener that really captivated audiences were Typhoon, the 12-piece supergroup that initially drew in a larger audience than Okkervil. The overwhelmingly large band utilized each and every one of its members with the horn section to the right, strings to the left and percussion and lead singer Kyle Morton split down the middle, balancing the crowd.

The stage lighting played along with Typhoon’s large sound, getting lighter, bigger and brighter with every heavy drumbeat and seemingly sporadic guitar note that was but carefully planned.

Typhoon | Photo by Melody Chiang
Typhoon | Photo by Melody Chiang

They harmonized together, and audiences gave in. Among the crowd, the lit up faces from both the sound and stage lighting showed fans singing along with the lyrics, flailing arms and fist pumps as a symbol of support of the band.

They exited the stage, and the audience knew what was in store. They prepared with bathroom breaks and purchases of beverages. Brave, they were, for leaving their coveted spots in the standing-room-only venue as Okkervil was about to take the stage.

It started with the singularly illuminated body of lead singer Will Sheff entering the stage as the audience hooted and hollered as the rest of the band slowly came upon the stage and fiddled with their instruments. Sheff welcomed us.

The lights shifted moods to match the band’s folky, soulful sound. Lights turned into rounded bubbles that danced upon the backdrop as Sheff’s vocals sounded nearly like a song bird’s calls, pairing well with the backdrop. His knees buckled often as he lifted the mic and his head toward the ceiling, fumbling with the cord loosely in his hand, like a modern-day, indie rock Jim Morrison.

Okkervil River | Photo by Melody Chiang
Okkervil River | Photo by Melody Chiang

Audiences underwent a similar musical experience as they belted the lyrics to and jumped along with Okkervil stapes like “Stay Young” and “Down Down the Deep River” which came toward the end of their set, not during the encore, surprising many.

The band ended the main set with “Lost Coastlines” off of their album, The Stand Ins. The tune faded and the band exited as the audience screamed for more. First, Sheff returned to the stage and played an acoustic version of “A Stone.” The rest of the band followed, and after a lively rendition of “A Girl in Port,” Sheff began to preach.

The band began to build up the intro to “Unless it’s Kicks” and Sheff explained to the audience that this is the moment he had he been waiting for the entire night.

Through all the traveling on tiny busses across the country, to sitting in “shitty green rooms,” Sheff explained that he lives for performing and the energy that radiates from the audience. And all that was about to end in two minutes.

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Typhoon strikes an eclectic note at today’s Free at Noon

Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

Portland, Oregon’s Typhoon played to a starstruc Philly crowd for Free at Noon, with eclectic sounds reminiscent of Fleet Foxes and Beirut. Warming up their fans for tonight’s Union Transfer show, the almost-dozen folk ensemble played tunes like “Dreams of Cannibalism” and “Common Sentiments” off of their latest release White Lighter. Prep for their next performance by checking out and listening to the Free At Noon show below.

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Typhoon returning to Philly, playing Union Transfer 3/28

Photo via https://www.facebook.com/wearetyphoon
Photo via https://www.facebook.com/wearetyphoon

Typhoon are returning to Philly, only five months after their last show at Johnny Brenda’s and their recent appearance on World Cafe. The band plays Union Transfer on Friday, March 28th. This time around, the 11 piece band will certainly have more room to spread out, but that likely won’t prevent them from being able to let their densely layered, joyful art pop flow. Go here for tickets and more information about the show.

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Portland art-pop ensemble Typhoon packed Johnny Brenda’s, and some people watched the show too

Typhoon20The obvious observation about Portland art-pop ensemble Typhoon is how many musicians are in it. Seriously, you can’t help but notice. Two full drumkits. A horn section. Xylophone and strings. Standard guitar-guitar-bass. The full tally was 13 members 11 members when the Portland band headlined Johnny Brenda‘s on Tuesday night of this week, split between eight onstage and five three (the strings and auxiliary percussion) in the venue’s balcony.

For whatever Typhoon’s instrumental excesses cut down on the venue’s capacity – and, as I’ll explain in a minute, it was a bit excessive – a sold-out crowd nevertheless managed to pack Johnny Brenda’s as well, grooving along to the band’s exhuberant and wandering compositions (and taking in the R.E.M.-esque tones of local opener Geology).

As tends to be the case, and as we’ve discussed before with other artists, the drawback to making music that’s densely layered and lushly arranged, is that it’s all the more difficult to play it live. Typhoon gives it a serious go by making its lineup so massive – and moments, like the quirky start-and-stop pop of “Young Fathers” from its recent third LP White Lighter, sounded larger than life.

Other points left me questioning whether there really needed to be that many players in the house. The two full-kit drummers, for instance. It’s not like one kit provided a main beat and the other did a poly-rhythmic counter response; for the most part, they sounded like they were doubling one another (and, frustratingly, seemed to be a half-beat off as the night wore on). The strings, the xylophone glockenspiel, the horns – none were in constant use (probably a good thing), but even so things felt cluttered. And not just spatially. So is consolidating and streamlining these various parts not an option here? Given their home base, you could (if you were feeling mean) label Typhoon a Portlandia sketch come to life; an exercise in deluded self-indulgence from a boho rat pack.

But to say that would be to disregard the utter joyfulness of its music, the uplifiting vibe this baker’s dozen crew of chipper musicians cultivates in a packed room – which may be packed partly because of all their gear, sure, but because of eager fans as well – and the energy it traded with the dancing, sweating, smiling audience was a treat to take in. Typhoon might be crowded, overwhelming, excessive, ridiculous; but if you let go and went with it, it was a tremendously positive ride.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Typhoon at Johnny Brenda’s, By Surprise at PhilaMOCA, ZZ Ward at The TLA and more

typhoon-2Oregon natives Typhoon will play Johnny Brenda’s tonight. The eleven piece outfit released their fourth studio album White Lighter back in August. The band successfully manages to offset their dark lyrics (which reflect lead singer, Kyle Morton’s childhood struggle with Lyme Disease) with pleasant alt-folk, choir-pop soundscapes. Tickets for the event can be found at Johnny Brenda’s website.

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The Week So Far: 11 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Rosanne Cash, The Staves, Dr. Dog)

 

Rosanne Cash | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Rosanne Cash | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Rosanne Cash stunned a sold-out Sellersville Theater crowd Sunday night – check out photos and a review of the concert [link]

Experimental cellist Dan Kassel is featured in this week’s Key Studio Session [link]

Brand new Philly rapper JustXSudan released a debut track called “Away” – get to know him in this week’s profile [link]

Give a listen to XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week, “Young Fathers” by Typhoon [link]

Pattern is Movement will headline Union Transfer in October with support from Norwegian Arms, The Spinto Band and Worshyper [link]

Check out Kurt Vile‘s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Down In It,” recorded for A.V. Undercover [link]

XPN premiered a new track from TV On the Radio called “Million Miles” [link]

Before releasing B-Room in October, Dr. Dog have shared a second track “Broken Heart” [link]

The Staves joined Folkadelphia at the Historic St. George’s United Methodist Church for a spectacular Suitcase Session [link]

Fishtown River City Festival announced headliners for its 6th annual event, including Vacationer and Cheers Elephant [link]

The Chairman Dances will perform at Friday’s opening of the Pterodactyl Gallery’s new exhibit, the Unnatural Behaviour [link]

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Young Fathers” by Typhoon

typhoon-2This week’s “Gotta Hear Song of the Week” is “Young Fathers,” a new single from Portland indie rock collective Typhoon. The band numbers somewhere between 11 and 13 members, depending on what photograph you’re looking at, and its debut record, White Lighter, was released on August 20th via Roll Call Records. XPN’s Bruce Warren calls it a “more tender version of Arcade Fire and every bit as dynamic, creative and engaging.”

“Creative” is definitely a good word for it, since “Young Fathers” is like nothing else you’ll hear on the airwaves right now. Its jangling guitar and singalong vocals crisscross paths in a jagged introduction, starting and stopping like puzzle pieces trying to fit together. A breezy drum fill pops up, some keyboards nudge their way in and all of a sudden the puzzle locks with a solid beat that holds this four-minute pop song together. It’s at once unconventional, anthemic and utterly addictive.

The band headlines Johnny Brenda’s on October 1st (tickets are available here), and while we’re curious to see how they all manage to fit on the Fishtown venue’s tiny stage, we’re more excited to hear the exuberant energy in their songs translate in a live setting. Listen to “Young Fathers” below.

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Watch Typhoon’s new video for “Dream Of Cannibalism” (playing Johnny Brenda’s 10/1)

typhoon Tomorrow, Typhoon will release their highly anticipated album, White Lighter.  The at least eleven member Portland band play complex yet beautifully arranged orchestral pop and rock, a sound somewhere in between Frightened Rabbit and Arcade Fire. In anticipation of the album and the groups visit to Johnny Brenda’s on October 1st. Below, watch the video for “Dreams of Cannibalism.” It features a jailed man attempting to escape his captors with a bit of a twist at the end – definitely worth sitting through! Stream another song, “Young Fathers” below the video.

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Preview tonight’s Indie Rock Hit Parade! (and listen back to last week’s show)

TV On The Radio
TV On The Radio
We’ve got a whole lotta new stuff to get to on the Indie Rock Hit Parade tonight! Here are a few things you might just hear in the mix starting at 10pm on XPN:

And just in case you missed last week’s show (or just can’t wait to hear the songs again), check out this Spotify playlist!

The all-new Indie Rock Hit Parade comes your way tonight at 10 on XPN!

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Download of the moment: Typhoon, playing Johnny Brenda’s in October, cover Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You”

typhoon Portland’s indie-orchestral rockers Typhoon have covered Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You,” that you can download for free below. The 11 piece band are releasing a new album, White Lighter, on August 20 on Roll Call Records and are playing Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday, October 1. The song starts out with a soft orchestrated-pop twist on the original then turns into a heartfelt gospel choir singalong with some auto-tuned weirdness noise in the background. Somehow, Typhoon have magically turned the already incredible original on its head and completely own it by the end.

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