Part of why I sought out a position as a writer and photographer at XPN is so I could constantly be exposed to new artists and new musical directions. I’ve found so far that my favorite method of discovery since hopping onboard XPN’s contributor list is by discovering bands at concerts. I’ve learned of myriad artists in this manner, including Strand of Oaks, Parquet Courts, and The 1975. On a warm summer night at Union Transfer, I had the pleasure of discovering and subsequently falling in love with three mind-blowingly fantastic acts: From Indian Lakes, The Dear Hunter, and Rx Bandits.
You say goodbye, I say hello. Cheers Elephant, who have traded in the urban landscapes for greener west coast pastures, had a bit of a homecoming Friday night at Union Transfer. Welcoming all manner of friends and family (I think that most of the audience was on the guest list), the indie psych-rockers brought back a bunch of energy and sunshine with them. While L.A. may be kind to them, there is nothing quite like going in to that bar where everybody knows your name. While they may have been absent for a while, the real star of the double bill was another local group: Toy Soldiers.
Saying goodbye (for now, anyhow. Ask The Dismemberment Plan how long any group with strong ties to their hometown can really stay away) Ron Gallo, Dominic Billett, Bill McCloskey, Matt Kelly and Luke Leidy, brought on a slew of special guests to help them celebrate. Local heroes for the better part of a decade, with numerous awards and accolades to back up the claims, the blues/country/alt rockers kicked off the night covering the perennial Semisonic hit “Closing Time” before settling in to their extensive catalogue. Sprinkling in a healthy dose of dry wit, Ron and friends made it clear that they were not leaving Philly behind, but rather focusing on projects that will, hopefully, help expand the local music scene, including launching a record label.
Not one to shy away from his emotions, Sage Francis prefers to push them in to the mosh pit, and let the crowd shake them up for a while. Stopping by Union Transfer earlier this month in support of his new album, Copper Gone, the prolific artist put it all out there, literally. Between songs, and stomping on stage, the ever gruff Sage took time to remove his toupee, pull down his pants, and issue a non-apology for playing mostly new stuff. It was a short set, but the man has charisma, and the crowd ate it up.
Hazy UK faves Slowdive are back together and will begin a North American tour this fall; the dates include a Union Transfer show on October 23rd. The band, whose early 90s album pioneered the dream-pop genre, recently performed at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona and will play Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago this weekend. Tickets for their Philly show go on sale on July 18th, more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Watch Slowdive play “Golden Hair” below at Primavera Sound.
XPN favorites Kopecky Family Band have announced a tour date at Union Transfer this fall. The Nashville six-piece, who delivered not one but TWO energetic sets at XPoNential Festival last summer, have been all-but-nonstop touring since the release of their 2012 LP, Kids Raising Kids. You can catch them return to Philadelphia on Friday, October 17th; tickets will become available here Friday at noon. You can revisit the band’s performance on the Marina Stage last summer here, and watch the video for “Change” below.
Indie four-piece Owls are hitting Union Transfer tonight in support of their long-awaited second album, Two. The band, who gained popularity in the early aughts with the release of their eponymous debut album, overcame two different break-ups, but the group’s reunion in 2012 brought forth a full-scale rework of the band’s best qualities. With no disregard to the musicianship that won fans over from the band’s first album, Two brings out an easier listening component but asks for a more dedicated listener lyrically. The band’s growth is sure to bring delight to old fans and new listeners alike, and with a dynamite opener like Philly’s Hop Along this’ll be a show you’ll hear friends raving about the rest of the week. Find ticket information here and check out “I’m Surprised…” from Two.
Jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood will be joined by long-time collaborator and guitarist John Scofield for a special show at Union Transfer on December 5th. The four-piece will be releasing its third studio effort Juice this September. From the band:
With four multi-faceted musicians participating as equals, anything and everything is possible…. To give shape to what eventually became Juice, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood sought common ground and inspiration in the intersection of improvisation and rhythms from the Afro-Latin Diaspora. More specifically, the blueprint was found in a compilation of these sounds put together by drummer Billy Martin and shared among the ensemble.
Tickets and information can be found here. Listen to “Sham Time” off of the new record below.
L.A. trio Warpaint have announced an extended U.S. tour for the fall that includes a date at Union Transfer on October 9th. The band continues to support its 2014 self-titled sophomore LP, making its second appearance in Philadelphia this year (the March UT show sold-out). Tickets and information will be available here. Watch a video for “Love Is to Die” below and check out the review of Warpaint’s last show in Philly, complete with a Kurt Vile collaboration, here.
After 7 years, 20+ musicians, 3.4 million highway miles, 9 thousand rest-stops and a lifetimes worth of experience, knowledge and a half-witted tango with the drunkest most unpredictable woman ever known as the music industry…Toy Soldiers, the band, will be entering into a deep, dark hibernation from now until ___.
We are endlessly grateful for the amazing people we’ve met, the times we had and the situations we sometimes found ourselves in both ugly and beautiful. At the end of the day they have contributed to our individual skins.
That said, there’s a noticeable lack of finality in this bow out. Four question marks in the headline, tentative phrasing like “hibernation” and “final hurrah for now.” Nobody is calling it a break-up because, let’s face it, rock and roll breakups are passé, and this crew clearly harbors no ill will towards one another (check the post for a breakdown of what the various members are up to – including front-dude Ron Gallo, who last week released his proper solo debut Ronny).
You might also say that Toy Soldiers have broken up twice before, anyway; the Black Keys-y duo of Gallo and drummer Michael Baurer (2007-2009); the sprawling 11-piece (or so) Band-esque band co-fronted by Kate Faust (2009-2011). The current lineup of drummer Dom Billett, guitarist Matt Kelly, bassist Bill McCloskey and keyboardist Luke Leidy has by far taken the band the furthest and garnered it the most exposure and opportunities, from writeups in Paste to gigs backing Wanda Jackson. But the one constant has been Gallo, and it seems natural for him to step into a new role as a solo artist as his bandmates chase other opportunities.
Get tickets and info on Toy Soldiers’ farewell show, July 18th at Union Transfer, at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch the trailer for The Maybe Trails, the 2013 independent documentary on Toy Soldiers detailing the grind of being a touring band.