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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sylvan Esso at Union Transfer, Placeholder at The Fire, Skinny Lister at North Star Bar

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Photo via http://blog.sylvanesso.com/

Durham, NC electro-folk duo Sylvan Esso join tUnE-yArDs tonight at Union Transfer for a fun, funky and alternative show.  Lead singer Amelia Meath has a smooth, haunting tone to her voice that manages to give more depth to the repetitive synths and beats.  She bends her vocals so they compliment the abstract rhythms and somehow it just works.  The single “Coffee” has a cool melody with lyrics that repeat “get up get down, get up get down.”  Very good music to listen to while walking down the street on a sunny day.  Doors open at 8 p.m., and make sure you arrive early to this sold out show!

Lancaster garage punks Placeholder will be at The Fire tonight to put on a high-energy show.  The band released a digital 12″ back in February called I Don’t Need Forgiveness which you can stream here. Unlike some punk groups who can sometimes be all over the place with their sound, the foursome maintains a steady control throughout the 12-track long LP.  Their live show will definitely guarantee gritty guitar solos along with commanding vocals.

Skinny Lister hail from the UK and if you listen closely, you can detect a slight bluegrass twang in their music.  Dual lead vocalists Dan Heptinstall and Lorna Thomas don’t outshine each other, but use each others voices to enhance the quality of the music.  I could picture these guys playing on a street corner in Dublin or London, captivating passersby.  You can find tickets and info for their 21+ show tonight at North Star Bar here.

Also playing…

Tweens at Underground Arts ($10, 21+, 8 p.m.)

Uncle/Father Oscar at Kung Fu Necktie ($5, 21+, 3 p.m.)

Indigenous at Sellersville Theater ($22, all ages, 7:30 p.m.)

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Disclosure transform Union Transfer into a packed, sweaty disco

Disclosure | Photo by Kate Bracaglia | underwaterexplosions.blogspot.com
Disclosure | Photo by Kate Bracaglia | underwaterexplosions.blogspot.com

It’s been a crazy 12 months for Disclosure – the musical project of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, and one of the biggest names in electronica right now. It’s been nearly a year exactly since the drop of their debut record, Settle—and in that time, it’s become such a large part of our pop culture soundscape—its sound clips embedded in everything from TV commercials to party soundtracks—that you’d swear, hearing the songs again, you must have heard them all your life. Friday night, the band brought its dance-pop concoctions to life at Union Transfer, where the beats and vibes transformed the venue into a packed, sweaty disco, the crowd drunk on beer, summer nights, and the promise of something great.

There’s always the fear with electronic music—at least for me—that something will be lost in the live show; that it won’t be as exhilarating as watching a rock show, if only because turning knobs pale in comparison to slaying on guitar. With Disclosure, this fear was particularly present, because so much of what makes the record great is all the special guests—British soul singer Sam Smith, Jessie Ware, Eliza Doolittle—all of whom were absent Friday night.

Yet Disclosure aren’t every other electronic band, and they quickly proved the strength of their songs was more than enough to propel them. Stationed behind matching “remix stations,” and armed with a small army of instruments—guitar, drums, samplers, mixers—the bros rocketed through a set of tunes drawn from Settle, and earlier, their vivacious melodies matched by an equally awesome light show.

And while nearly every tune drew shrieks and cool moves, I found my own inspired dance moves coming out during set openers “F for You” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn” (played back to back, like a perfect vibe-making aperitif), plus the quirky, bloop-y “White Noise,” which retained its charm even without AlunaGeorge contributing live vocals.

But the highlight of the show came right at end, as the band closed its set with two of its biggest singles—the floaty, London Grammar-assisted “Help Me Lose My Mind” and radio/dance floor staple “Latch”—a giant, video mouth mouthing the words to each as the crowd raged along. And even though it was all over in an hour, it felt oddly transformative—as if dancing to these tunes in this moment was all one really needs. Disclosure boast the power to move people, and Friday night, they were gods, if for one, glorious, sweaty hour only.

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Load-In to Load-Out: The Menzingers’ Rented World tour takes on Union Transfer

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The Menzingers at Union Transfer | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

Most people think of a concert as those four or so hours you spend standing in crowd, singing along with your favorite band. But have you ever thought about what goes into making that happen? We followed The MenzingersRented World tour for a day as four bands converged on Philly’s Union Transfer to put on a show. The headliners were brought up in the Scranton DIY scene before relocating to Philadelphia – releasing several amazing albums along the way – and this stop on the tour was their biggest headlining show to date in their adopted hometown. Their fourth full-length, Rented World, was released this spring on Epitaph Records, and it’s gotten the band some of its highest-profile attention outside of the punk world – including an enthusiastic review in the New York Times. Even so, the band stayed true to its roots for the tour, bringing along Philly friends Cayetana, up-and-coming Toronto punk four-piece PUP and Buffalo indiepop trio Lemuria. Take a look at how the gang spent their Saturday in pictures. [continue]

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Caribou announces new album, Our Love, Union Transfer show and new single “Can’t Do Without You”

Photo via | https://www.facebook.com/caribouband

Canadian experimental rock outfit Caribou announced today that it will release its sixth studio album, Only Love, on October 6th. The brainchild of lead singer Dan Snaith, Only Love is built around “hip-hop inspired beats, muted house basslines, and a love of shuffling garage.” The album will feature collaborations with Jessy Lanza and Owen Pallett, both eloquent artists in their own right. Caribou will start their North American Tour in July and play Union Transfer on November 13th.  Before downloading the full album in the fall, stream “Can’t Do Without You” below.

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How music and friendship saved Philly noir-rock army Northern Arms

Northern Arms (photo by Max Gaines, http://www.thechurchofmax.com)
Northern Arms (photo by Max Gaines, http://www.thechurchofmax.com)

In some ways, the story of Northern Arms is a story of redemption. It’s also a story about friendship, and being true to one’s self emotionally.

“I always felt that a lot of bands held back if they did anything emotional—like they had to do it ironically, or with a smirk,” says Eric Bandel, from the back balcony of Standard Tap. “The stuff we were working on—we just wanted it to be true. We didn’t want to hold back.”

His band mate Keith Pierce nods in agreement. Emotional honesty has always been at the core of Northern Arms’ process, leading to beautiful, complex compositions that juxtapose highs and lows, for a result that feels startlingly cathartic.

Over the past 13 years, the band’s gone through several incarnations, including the 10-person rock monolith it is today. This Friday, they’ll celebrate the release of their debut, self-titled record with a party at Johnny Brenda’s. Afterwards, they have plans to tour the East Coast. These days everything seems to be falling into place.

But that wasn’t always the case.

“[When we first started playing together] we made some really beautiful stuff, but we were fuck-ups,” says Pierce. “We couldn’t keep it together. We would play out just enough that we could sustain our drinking. We let our worldview weigh on us, and it had bad effects.”

But perhaps we should start from the beginning. Continue reading →

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Dawes backs Conor Oberst at a sold-out Union Transfer show

Conor Oberst | photo by Michelle Montgomery
Conor Oberst | photo by Michelle Montgomery

Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst took the stage at Union Transfer playing a sold-out show on Wednesday night. Touring in support of his latest solo LP, Upside Down Mountain, Oberst played a guitar-heavy mix of new tracks and old favorites. Since Upside Down Mountain was released just days before the show, many of the country/folk-inspired songs were not previously heard by the audience. Oberst was backed by roots rock band Dawes, who also opened the show. Playing in Philly for the first time since the 2012 XPoNential Music Festival, Dawes played an energetic set in support of their 2013 release Stories Don’t End. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

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Listen to Sharon Van Etten’s new Are We There via iTunes

arewethere.lpoutSinger-songwriter and XPN favorite Sharon Van Etten is releasing her new album Are We There next week via Jagjaguwar Records, but you can check out the entire album streaming on iTunes now. Listen to it here and get tickets and information on Sharon Van Etten’s June show at Union Transfer at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Chet Faker at Union Transfer, Built to Spill at World Cafe Live at The Queen, Chad VanGaalen at Milkboy and more

Chet Faker | photo courtesy of the artist
Chet Faker | photo courtesy of the artist

Australia’s Chet Faker will perform at Union Transfer tonight following his Free at Noon performance at XPN’s Non-COMMvention.  The recent World Cafe artist released his debut LP Built On Glass in April, following up a pair of EPs and his remix of “No Diggity” by Blackstreet that originally put him on the radar.  Take a listen to his soulful, electronic World Cafe session here and download a live version of “1998″ below.  Tickets and information for the all-ages show can be found here.

Continue reading →

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Listen to Sharon Van Etten’s dramatic new ballad “Your Love Is Killing Me”

via www.facebook.com/SharonVanEttenMusic
via www.facebook.com/SharonVanEttenMusic

Vocal powerhouse Sharon Van Etten released a new song from her forthcoming LP Are We There, and it’s nothing short of breathtaking.  “Your Love Is Killing Me” starts out slow and ominous then slowly builds into a story about resisting the urge to reconnect with a past love. The language Van Etten uses evokes pure desperation and a need to separate herself from this person, underscoring how painful the relationship has been. “Break my legs so I won’t walk to you,” she sings. “Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you / burn my skin so I can’t feel you / stab my eyes so I can’t see.” As the song progresses and the pace quickens, you can feel her sense of urgency. Around the 4:40 mark you feel a release as she sings “You like it when I let you walk all over me .” Are We There is out May 27th via Jagjaguwar Records, and she will be in Philly on June 18 at Union Transfer. She’s also taping a World Cafe Session during this week’s NonCOMM that you can hear later this year. Listen to “Your Love Is Killing Me” below.

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of Montreal brings their lively and colorful show to Union Transfer

of Montreal | photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com
of Montreal | photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

A costumed figure appeared in a steampunk-esque luchador outfit, introducing his “brother,” Kevin Barnes to the Union Transfer stage. Barnes’ long-running Athens act of Montreal opened their show with bright psychedelic lights, and ended with, well, psychedelic lights. But not the typical dubstep tripped-out beams of color, these were filled with spinning eyeballs and kaleidoscope patterns. Of Montreal played favorites off of their 2007 LP Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, sprinkling in some new singles from their 2013 release, Lousy with Sylvianbriar. Barnes pranced and jumped around the stage, clanking his tambourine, as his projected silhouette followed each dance move. Fans were yanked out of the crowd for getting a little too high; others crowd-surfed to the foot of the stage.

Oakland synth-queen Liz Wolf opened the show under her moniker Dream Tiger, and the crowd was entranced with her darkwave songs of narcissism and heartbreak. Her voice was eerie voice and a haunting red glow enveloped stage. Check out photos from both sets in the gallery below.

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