The Key’s Year-End Mania: Matthew Shaver’s best food and tune pairings in Philadelphia

The Tasty | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |
The Tasty | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key photographer Matthew Shaver ponders unlikely combinations of eats and sounds.

Eating out is meant to be a social event, a gathering of friends and family where someone else does the hard work, leaving you to drink and be merry. Time and circumstances align every so often that I eat out alone, my only company are my headphones and an iPod full of hopes and dreams. Like fine friends or fine wine, fine music can be associated with a great restaurant, or a great plate. I’ve listed some of my favorite pairings below (Note: I am a vegetarian, and the choices all reflect that.)

Converge – “I Can Tell You About Pain” w/ Grindcore House – Kropotkin and Rootbeer

I can guarantee you that the song will be better than whatever is playing when you walk in the joint. That’s not a knock on GH, it is just that good. Which makes the experience of crushing that delicious field roast smothered in peppers all the more satisfying, especially when chased with a big gulp of sweet, sweet Root Beer. Remember – wait 15 minutes after eating before you bang your head.

Talib Kweli & Styles P (feat. Sheek Louch, Jadakiss, and Niko Is) – “Nine Point Five” w/ Wiz Kid – The Reuben Steak

The spicy sting of the Thousand Island won’t hurt as bad as the sting of social justice that gets spit on Nine Point Five. The strongest track on the joint EP by Talib Kweli and Styles P, it’ll make the finely seasons seitan strips and sauerkraut dance in your mouth as you bob your head to this gem. For bonus points scroll through Kweli’s Twitter feed after you’re done, and watch him destroy nazis in near real time.

MUNA – “After” w/ Boot and Saddle – Fried Pickle Spears

Wrap it up and take it to go folks. MUNA is gonna make you think back on all the great nights you’ll never get back. Munch on the deep fried pickly goodness as you fight back the tears of nostalgic regret. Make your way outside The Dolphin, watching the people just about to go and make some epic nights and mistakes of their own, and wash it all down with a Pabst tall-boy wrapped in a paper bag, because this is life now.

War On Drugs – “Pain” w/ Pizza from whomever is selling it at Spruce Street Harbor Park

Have a seat, wonder if you’re moving back in time or just standing still. Desperately try to get the pizza grease off your face with a napkin that’s so thin it’s see through. Let Adam Granduciel’s voice shatter your soul, and then go rent a pedal boat.

Bitch Falcon – “Syncope” w/ Johnny Brenda’s BBQ Seitan Sandwich

Chew along in sync with Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s grunts, and get your BBQ on to the pounding rhythms of good old-fashioned alt rock straight from Dublin. When you’re done, pound a beer and go see whoever is playing upstairs.

Bing & Ruth – “Starwood Choker” w/ Nomad Roman Margherita (add red pepper and honey)

Let the gentle ambience of Bing & Ruth sing to your soul while riding in a sweet wave of honey. Seriously, adding that little extra to the already classic Margherita, is like finally getting that puppy you always wanted, and Starwood Choker is it’s little puppy yips.

Khalid – “Saved” w/ Govindas Chicken Cheesesteak

A Philly vegetarian classic, this sandwich is good to go, but since you’re already listening to Khalid croon on about love lost and that modern drunk dial pitfall of having an ex’s number in your phone book, you may as well park your butt on the corner of South and Broad and people watch.

Jay-Z – “4:44” w/ V-Street Korean Fried Tempeh Tacos

You’ll be begging for seconds while Jay-Z begs for forgiveness. The deliciously plump Tempeh covered in kimchi and Siracha Thousand Island will give you tears of joy. You’re totally not crying because you’re listening to a man working to repair a shattered relationship.

SZA – “Prom” w/ HipCityVeg – Ziggy Burger

If you’re wondering if I paired this just so I could say SZiggy Burger, keep wondering. Go to the University City location and wish you were young and talented enough to be even a spark from SZAs fire, or just wish you were young enough to have time to divine what is in the scrumptous secret sauce.

The Preatures – “Cherry Ripe” w/ Kung Fu Hoagies Ham Fried Rice

You’ll have to travel far and wide to find this banging dish, but not as far and wide as The Preatures have traveled to give unto you dreamy indie rock. The little cart that travels around Philly delivering happiness for your gut meets the little Aussie band that delivers happiness for your head. Grab a bag of jerky before you leave.

Vince Staples – “Crabs In A Bucket” – Su Xing House General Tso’s Seitan

Vince Staples seems sent from above to save hip-hop, but here he’s going to save you from the fact that this place never has any ambient noise. I mean, I can hear the guy four booths over chewing, and I can’t live like that. The meals are just so damn good, and I want it hot, not lukewarm by the time I get home.

London Grammar – “Hell To The Liars” w/ Mil Lah Vegetarian – Indonesian Rolls

The band I always wanted The XX to be while eating the deep fried Indonesian treat I’ve always wanted spring rolls to be. There are two in an order, so you’ll need two orders to get a good fill of that delicious basil avacado sauce. Take your time, put the song on repeat (the repeat with the little ‘1’ over it, c’mon).

Vita and the Woolf – “Feline” w/ Kyber Pass Pub – Vegan Fried Chicken Po’ Boy

Philly treats! Take a big gulp of Allagash White everytime that synth hits and Jennifer says “Feeeeeeliiiiine” Then chomp down on the best bar food sandwich this side of 2 St. For bonus points, grab some hush puppies and crush them to the lost song “Diamond Halls” while walking over to the waterfront.

Oddisee – “Like Really” w/ East Falls Taproom – Buttermilk Fried Seitan Sandwich

Just kidding, this place closed down and I didn’t find out til it was too late to get one last bite in. Go to the gas station across the street, and get a Red Bull and some red hot Cheetos. Like Really.

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