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Turn Up The Trans*mission: Tattooed Mom provides an open stage for trans and non-binary artists

deadboy | photo by Samantha Sayten | courtesy of the artist

It’s February. I’m sitting on a lawn chair in the graffitied back room of Tattooed Mom. The room is crowded, people intermingling on sagging couches and in the backseats of bumper cars. The drag queen known as Little Piece steals French fries from the basket in my lap, flipping the curls of their pink wig. There is no stage, no barrier between the performance and the audience. High-heeled queens strut a narrow walkway, lip-syncing and collecting dollar bills. In one burlesque number, a performer throws peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into the sea of outstretched hands. This is what performance art is, at its core—  unpredictable, unrestricted, and sometimes hilarious.

Turn Up the Trans*mission is unlike any performance art show in Philadelphia. Staged monthly at the long-established South Street punk hangout, it aims to combine trans* advocacy with live performance. The acts include burlesque, drag, singing, spoken word, and any other imaginable performance style. The show serves as a platform primarily for transgender and non-binary artists, and is inclusive of both new and veteran performers. I sat down with host and producer deadb0y IX, as well as a couple of the local performers, in the basement of a coffee shop in the Gayborhood to talk about the mission and future of the show.

deadboy started performing three years ago, and noticed pretty quickly that there were limited opportunities for trans or queer-specific artists. New performers find themselves jumping through hoops, barred from shows that require pre-requisites such as having several years of experience or the right network of connections. deadboy was given the opportunity to develop his own show through Philly LGBT Art Initiative, teaming up with co-host Vyvyan Sassafrass. “We wanted to put on a show that was advocacy and performance art, and to get rid of the gatekeeping rituals,” says deadboy. “I don’t really understand the whole, pay your dues and work for free until you get recognition thing.”

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Girlpool charts personal growth with a pensive set at Underground Arts

Girlpool | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com

Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool have forever been an inseparable duo, inhabiting the world as two halves of a shared self. Their dynamic onstage is magnetic, the two gravitating constantly towards each other. On previous albums, everything was collaboration, but What Chaos Is Imaginary is divided into separately composed Tividad songs and Tucker songs, the two trading off on lead vocals. The work revolves around the pains of gradual personal growth, what it feels like to sever your past selves, and they brought those emotions to Underground Arts last week. Continue reading →

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Lucy Dacus is haunting, yet optimistic at Union Transfer

Lucy Dacus | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

When Lucy Dacus appeared onstage, there was an audible shift in the room, background murmur dying down to a rapt hush. “I’m from Richmond,” she said, introducing the song “Yours & Mine.” “I wrote this in frustration of where I live and to write myself out of the shame of being an American. I think you have to do things that make you active and feel like you’re participating in the good parts of the world.” The lyrics describe the disillusionment of returning home, that feeling of not belonging anymore. Much of her acclaimed album Historian grapples with similarly tough themes, asserting a stony optimism in the face of disaster. This resilient demeanor carried across the breadth of her Thursday night concert in Philadelphia.  Continue reading →

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Supporting Something Greater Than Ourselves: Lame-O’s rock residency moves into its fourth year at Boot & Saddle

Wildflowers of America opens up the first show of Lame-O Records’ 2019 Rock Residency | via instagram.com/lameorecords

This year marks local DIY label Lame-O Records’ fourth annual Rock Residency at Boot and Saddle. More than just a showcase of artists on their roster, the series of concerts also gives back to the community: each year, all profits collected from the weekly shows go to Philadelphia charities, benefiting a range of causes, from LGBTQ advocacy to education funding.

“We ask the artists to pick locally because one of the biggest things about Lame-O Records is the community aspect,” says label founder Eric Osman. “So we like to give to organizations who are doing work for the community. We all are a part of this community and want to give back. It all goes to benefit these organizations in the city, no one is really getting paid.” Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Mariah Hall’s Top 7 TV Soundtracks of 2018

The cast of GLOW season 2 | via YouTube

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Mariah Hall recaps seven of her favorite television soundtracks from 2018.

I don’t watch movies anymore. I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater, and there’s something about a two hour running time that makes me want to scroll past— maybe it’s an underlying fear of commitment, or the fact that my iPhone has destroyed my attention span. TV shows are so much easier to invest in, and Netflix has made them abundantly accessible. Click on a promising pilot and six hours later you’ve finished an entire season and all of the munchies in your kitchen cabinet. The only way to escape that nagging hole in your chest is to start the next show, and one session of binge watching has turned into a full-blown addiction. Welcome to the Golden Age of Television. Here is my roundup of best binge-worthy shows with killer soundtracks of 2018. Continue reading →

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Listen to Buddie’s social anxiety anthem “Sink”

Buddie | courtesy of the artist

It’s been some time since we’ve heard from Philly punk rock 4-piece Buddie. After their debut in 2016, the band was put on hold as frontperson Daniel Forrest left to work as a conservation biologist in Bioko, Central Africa. Now, reunited with a new lineup, the band is gearing up to release a new EP via Super Wimpy Punch. Continue reading →

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Healing and Connecting Through Music: Inside the Weathervane Music winter concert

J Pope (left) and Songs in The Key of Free will play Weathervane’s winter studio concert | via Facebook

The folks behind Weathervane Music don’t necessarily consider themselves activists. The Philly nonprofit is more of a champion for independent music through its ten-years-running documentary series Shaking Through.

At the same time, the do look to elevate artists working for social causes, artists who see working for a better world as much a part of what they do as making music. Gabe Greenberg, Creative Director of Weathervane, emphasized a growing need to showcase artists who support social justice issues or provided an unheard perspective. That’s something they’re doing with their winter studio concert at Miner Street Recordings this Friday, December 7th.

The show will open with a performance by Songs in the Key of Free, a group that works to challenge mass incarceration and reform the prison system. Headlining is J Pope and the HearNow, the project of Baltimore singer and rapper Jasmine Pope, who makes activis,-driven songs with her jazz/funk ensemble.

Greenberg says this shift was in part prompted by the 2016 election; in its aftermath, he says, there has been a palpable threat to freedom of expression. “When you think back to the 60’s, activist music used to be incredibly prevalent, and mainstream artists were going out there and making bold political statements,” Greenberg says. “With the DIY scene, it became cool to be apathetic and not care. Now we’re seeing more bands saying ‘no, this is important, and affects my day-to-day life.’ The need to be intentional and mindful is growing, we want to feel a sense of connection.” Continue reading →

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Listen to two unreleased Algernon Cadwallader cuts from their vinyl reissue series

Algernon Cadwallader | circa 2014 | via facebook.com

You thought emo was over, didn’t you? Think again. In honor of the ten-year anniversary of their debut album, Algernon Cadwallader recently announced the reissue of almost their entire discography. The band broke up in 2012, the members going on to contribute to other projects like Hop Along and Yankee Bluff. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: James Blake will play The Fillmore Philadelphia

James Blake | photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN
James Blake | photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

2018 has been an intensely busy year for producer/singer/songwriter James Blake. He toured with Kendrick Lamar, collaborated on the Black Panther soundtrack and was featured on a single from Travis Scott’s Astroworld. Although there isn’t word on a new album just yet, he released two of his own singles, “If the Car Beside You Moves” and “Don’t Miss It.” Continue reading →