The Key Year-End Mania: Sarah Hughes’ top 5 artists that make me miss Philly

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The author in L.A. | illustration by Sarah Hughes
The author in L.A. | illustration by Sarah Hughes

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2015 incredible. Today, Key columnist Sarah Hughes recaps five bands that make her miss Philly.

As I traipse around the magical world of La La Land (that’s Los Angeles, people) it goes without saying that my heart still lies in the good ol’ City of Brotherly Love. I made the move to LA around six months ago and it’s been long enough now that I’m realizing all of the things that I genuinely miss about our kickass music scene. When I sit nearly 3,000 miles across the country aching for the familiarity of Philly, there are artists that stand in as my emotional crutch and help me feel at home in this strange, new place. This is a list of five artists that make me miss my wonderful city (in no particular order).

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

1. The Districts

Hometown heroes The Districts have been a reliable source of Philly tunage and are one of the artists I’ve seen get the recognition they deserve over the past couple of years. Their live shows are KILLER, with Rob Grote passionately lurching across the stage and crooning to the crowd. Their music is emotional and heavy in a youthful way and can instantly transport me to one of the many times I caught these guys live, the last being at the Free at Noon back in April. There was not one performance that The Districts didn’t give their all. And who could forget their underground show at the Church playing as Eight Legged Prawn? Classic Philly.


drgn king at barbary

2. DRGN KING

Okay, time to get (more) sentimental. So if I jump back to my first introduction with the Philly local music scene during my sophomore year of college, I can say DRGN KING was one of my very first discoveries (through The Key, funny enough). I basically had a moment of clarity as I listened to their song “Black Gold”: music is being made in this city, at this very moment, and I am missing out on all of it. DRGN KING will forever be the first connection I felt with our amazing musical community. On top of the crazy catchy music they put out, they’re all super friendly folks that spread positivity and good vibes all around, which seems to be a shared trait throughout the Philly music community.

Cruisr | Photo by John Vettese
Cruisr | Photo by John Vettese

3. CRUISR

As one of my all-time favorite local bands, CRUISR has been a go-to Philly artist to stay optimistic in an unfamiliar place. While I sat in my room and tried to conjure up a LA social life for myself, I relied on tracks like “Go For It” and “Kidnap Me” to boost me up when things seemed utterly impossible (How does one even make adult friends in a new city???). I had the pleasure of catching them live at Johnny Brenda’s right before I made the big move and I couldn’t help but step out of that show feeling ready to tackle anything. There’s something about their impossibly upbeat indie pop that never fails to put a smile on my face and a bounce in my step, whether I’m pounding the cement in Philly or on the opposite side of the country.

Alex G | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com
Alex G | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com

4. Alex G

Along with the much-needed pep came the times when I needed to feel the feels, so to speak. Alex G was there for that. His quiet bedroom, lo-fi rock played in the background as I acquainted myself with the changes that Los Angeles brought. On those especially long bus rides into downtown LA (they still haven’t quite figured out public transportation here), I could bump some Alex G and feel a little more at ease.

Hop Along | photo by Megan Kelly | keganmellyphotography.tumblr.com
Hop Along | photo by Megan Kelly | keganmellyphotography.tumblr.com

5. Hop Along

What would this list be without the local band that’s made waves in the alternative music scene on a national scale? Hop Along is an instant weak spot for Philly flashbacks. Any time I hear the sweet, raspy vocals that could only belong to Frances Quinlan, I’m immediately filled with that hometown pride. Their release party at Union Transfer is a memory I hold near and dear: a smile from ear to ear while belting out lyrics with the Philly music fam- artists, fans and family alike. It was a uniquely Philly experience; I felt that brotherly/sisterly love that night and only continue to with every listen.

So there you have it, folks. With as many fond memories of the local music scene that I have the good fortune to have, I can say that these five artists instantly make me miss the city (amongst a plethora of others, to be sure! Just to name a few: LA-to-Philly transplants Girlpool, local legend Kurt Vile, indie rock favorites Dr. Dog). And as I continue to get over the lack of Wawas, hoagies and other jawns on the west coast, I know that I have these artists to remind me that Philly is always there. Good ol’ Philly.

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