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Review: Shoegaze icons My Bloody Valentine’s return to Philly is mixed, but impressive

My Bloody Valentine plays Philadelphia for the first time in 21 years | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
My Bloody Valentine plays Philadelphia for the first time in 21 years | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

Last night legendary Dublin shoegaze outfit My Bloody Valentine played in Philadelphia for the first time since a two night stint at the Trocadero Theater in 1992. Thousands of fans packed the Electric Factory and waited in reverent anticipation as a seemingly endless amount of instruments and pieces of equipment were checked and the stage was set.

After over an hour of preparation the letters “mbv” appeared projected above the stage and bright lights blinded the audience. As the lights shined, the members of the band appeared as silhouettes and took their place. Psychedelic patterns began projecting over the entire stage and singer/guitarist Kevin Shields began strumming the chords to “Sometimes” on a thunderously distorted and amplified acoustic guitar. The sound was ear-splittingly loud, meticulously crafted and seemed to paralyze most of the audience, who stood in awe of their heroes as they played a set of career-spanning songs including many new pieces from their most recent record mbv as well as fan favorites from the classic and untouchable Loveless and “You Made Me Me Realise”.

Unfortunately the show did not go off without a hitch. The set was plagued by technical difficulties and many songs needed to be restarted after Shields was unsatisfied by one thing or another. It was hard to tell from the audience exactly what was going wrong but Shields became increasingly frustrated as the night went on and more problems arose. His apologies were the only words he spoke to the audience for the duration of the show, except for the thank you and goodbye at the close of the set. Despite these issues, the performance was incredible and in my opinion the band certainly justified the high anticipation and hype surrounding their return. Check out photos in the gallery below, and videos of the set after the jump.

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Review: A chaotic set from Pissed Jeans and more at Morgan’s Pier (photos, review)

Pissed Jeans | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Pissed Jeans | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

Last week, boisterous Allentown / Philly punk band Pissed Jeans performed a free 21+ show at Morgan’s Pier along with Big Mouth and Ultramantis Black.  The show began with five guys all dressed in black and playing black instruments on stage creating a wall of noise and feedback.  This was Ultramantis Black, a hardcore band fronted by the professional wrestler of the same name.  As the feedback and buildup continued I examined the men on stage and tried to determine which one of them was the pro wrestler.  I figured it probably wasn’t the skinny guy with the beard or the average-sized man sitting at the drums.  “Maybe it’s the tall dude playing guitar, he’s pretty big” I thought to myself.  It never occurred to me that Ultramantis himself wasn’t even on stage yet until he came charging out in full wrestling garb, complete with cape, mask and skull staff.  This was when I started to get a little worried.  I didn’t find the spooky clown getup endearing and the all-black uniform donned by the other members made me feel like these guys are a little too concerned with trying to look badass.

Ultramantis Black | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Ultramantis Black | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

After the first song Ultramantis began pacing back and forth across the stage, shouting the usual “HELLO PHILADELPHIA” type stuff, but it wasn’t long before he went off on a long diatribe about the choices people make when they sit down to dinner.  I was confused until he went on to give us a rather poorly thought-out lecture on the morality of consuming meat.  He went on to rant about America’s dependency on pharmaceuticals and how they are destroying our bodies.  It took about five minutes of this before they even started the second song, which was immediately followed by another long-winded lecture, this time on the evils of fracking.  Obviously the guy was talking about some important issues, but they only had a 20 minute set and at this point it was half over and they’d only played two songs.  It isn’t wrong to be opinionated and passionate about these issues but there’s a time and place for activism and I personally wasn’t interested in being lectured on my night out.  They finished up their set and before the last song was even done Ultramantis had disappeared from the stage.  The band finished out the set and with the help of some of the staff started disassembling their gear.  At this time Ultramantis reappeared from backstage drinking a beer with his wrestling mask still on.  This ridiculous guy didn’t even help his band-mates load out their gear.  It doesn’t matter if your instrument is just your voice and a microphone, helping your buddies load out is just the decent thing to do.  To be fair, though the music wasn’t ground-breaking by any means, they did play spot-on and had a lot of energy on stage, but my experience was soured by one of the most obnoxious front men I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing perform.

Big Mouth | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com
Big Mouth | Photo by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

The next band was Big Mouth, hailing from the DC/Baltimore area.  They performed an angsty brand of punk characterized by creative atonal interplay between the bass and guitar, backed by fairly straightforward, but effective drumming.  Their front-woman taunted the crowd and sang in a voice that reminded me of a homeless lady I saw last week at 69th st. terminal last week who screamed at me and called me a cocksucker.  She even teased the bouncer by the stage and stroked his beard.  I was extremely impressed by the guitarist’s ability to stomp around on stage and headband in heels and a floor-length dress.  The singer weaved her way through the audience throughout the set and certainly captivated people through fear that they would be the next victim of her manic outbursts.  This was definitely the most unique performance of the night and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

When Pissed Jeans took to the stage and began playing the energy at the pier came to a head and things became chaotic.  This was a true rock and roll performance.  Their front-man, Matt Korvette, has amazing stage presence and is a master at working the crowd.  He’s also a genuinely hilarious dude.  Matt ran back and forth across the stage as a sea of people moshing and stage diving churned before him.  He shouted, threw ice at his bandmates, chugged Miller Lite, did some pull-ups from the scaffolding and posed for the photographers next to the stage.   Pissed Jeans puts on one of the most high-energy shows in Philly and I’d recommend attending their next show to anyone looking to witness true madness and hear some great punk music.

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Watch Kurt Vile receive the Liberty Bell award, perform “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” and “Freeway”

130828KurtVileAll photos by Abi Reimold | abireimoldphoto.com

Kurt Vile performed a stripped-down solo set yesterday afternoon on the inaugural Kurt Vile Day as part of The City Hall Courtyard Summer Music Series. The Philadelphia native played to a crowd of several hundred, including both fans and random passers-by intrigued by the music that echoed around City Hall. In addition to the performance, Kurt was also presented with a Liberty Bell Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a resident by the city of Philadelphia. The muggy weather didn’t hamper the pleasant time and the rain luckily let up for just enough time for everyone to stay dry. Vile even commented on the weather, saying it was “perfect”. Check out photos from his performance in the gallery below; after the jump, watch video of Vile receiving the Liberty Bell Medal and performing “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” and “Freeway” care of videographer Bob Sweeney.

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Review: Cousin Brian, The Snails, and more at The Old Folks Home

Brandon Ayes of Rasputin's Secret Police

The Snails, Cave Life, Rasputin’s Secret Police (above), and Cousin Brian played a house show in Fishtown on Friday night at a spot christened “The Old Folk’s Home.” Photos by Abi Reimold

The show kicked off around 8:30 with an energetic set from roots/reggae band The Snails. This seemed to come as a happy surprise to most of the crowd, many of whom took to dancing along to the laid-back tunes which featured technically impressive but always tasteful guitar and organ solos alongside singer Todd Fausnacht’s bluesy vocals. The Snails were soon followed by Cave Life, a new trio from Delaware, playing their very first show. Their set started off with an unfortunately uninspired attempt at post-rock which featured some cool guitar effects but failed to hit home in intensity. The rest of their set continued in a more agreeable fashion and consisted of about five or so tunes that were reminiscent of the more upbeat side of Broken Social Scene.

About half an hour went by as the third band, Rasputin’s Secret Police set up their equipment. A large portion of the show’s attendees were here to see this Drexel Hill two-piece and as the anticipation grew and drinks were imbibed the crowd became noticeably eager. RSP didn’t fail to deliver what everyone wanted – loud, dirty guitar, intense drumming and eerie vocals. Their set was mostly brand new songs and everyone from the superfans in the front row to those hanging in the back of the room seemed more than pleased. The show was rounded out by rowdy punk band Cousin Brian, who also seemed to bring a sizable portion of the crowd. Cousin Brian’s performances rely more on inspiring energy in the audience than exact execution of their respective parts, but all attendees were pleased by their presence.