Entering Kazuashita with Gang Gang Dance’s Brian DeGraw

Gang Gang Dance | photo by Ari Marcopoulos | courtesy of the artist

Seven years after blowing minds with 2011’s Eye Contact, the alchemists of Gang Gang Dance finally re-surfaced this summer with their most beatific sounding album yet in Kazuashita. Its ethereal ambience juxtaposes with lyrics that emerge from the ether to reference police brutality, the protests at Standing Rock, and several other forms of tumult that inform life at large.

To hear founding member Brian DeGraw tell it, making the record didn’t come without its own share of struggle. Ahead of the band’s show at Boot & Saddle this Thursday, we talked about how the record came to be, how the band’s process of making music had to change, and what to expect when they take the stage this week. Continue reading →


Now Hear This: New songs from Andy Jenkins, Gang Gang Dance, Gorillaz, Arp, LUMP, Wilder Maker, and more

Orquesta Akokán | via

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Aw yeah, summer. The entropy, the lethargy, the visceral extremes.  Now, summer makes all sorts of things weird anyway, but I feel like summertime in music-land has gotten especially wonky in recent years. Basically, my take is that the focus on large-scale music festivals which has ballooned over the past decade or so has taken a palpable bite out of non-festival-centric touring itineraries, and thus summer concert calendars, and even, indirectly, album release schedules. (Aside from the overwhelming hype cavalcade of Drake, Jay-Zeyonce and Kanye and Co. all dropping within a matter of weeks, the last few weeks have felt a bit thin for noteworthy new releases, and the rest of July and August, peering ahead, are looking even sparser.) Maybe I’d be less sore about all this if I felt closer to the target audience for either Firefly or Made in America, but as it stands those festivals’ biggest impact on me, personally, has been (presumably) shutting Philly out of proper local headline dates for the makers of some of my favorite music of the year: Janelle Monáe, for instance, and Amen Dunes.

Still, there’s plenty that’s worth seeing, concert-wise, in the coming weeks – it just feels like (even) more of an unpredictable hodge-podge than usual. Some of it is coming in the form of smaller, locally-targeted festivals: there’s XPN’s own XPoNential Festival, of course, and the decidedly weirder and more DIY All Mutable Summer Jam which is running the same weekend (July 27th-28th); I’m also pretty hyped about the free, Latin Roots-affiliated Nuevofest which is coming up this Sunday (read on for more about that.)

Anyhow, this being summertime, what do you say we all take a trip? Just a little musical vacation around the globe and beyond, to points both familiar and strange; real, imaginary and somewhere in between. I can’t say that it will all be straightforward or entirely uncomplicated – what is nowadays, after all – but I do promise we’ll have some fun along the way. And it’ll feel oh so nice to arrive back home at the end.

Continue reading →


Just Announced: After seven years, Gang Gang Dance return to Philly this September

Gang Gang Dance | photo by Ari Marcopoulos | courtesy of the artist

After a seven-year hiatus, New York experimental outfit Gang Gang Dance is back on the road with new music in tow. Following the release of their new album Kazuashita, their first since 2011, the band has announced a short run of tour dates that will bring them our way this fall for a gig at Boot & Saddle on September 6. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Pick: Gang Gang Dance at Johnny Brenda’s

Gang Gang Dance is all about the complicated and unexpected. The Brooklyn-based group has been marrying world beats to experimental rock since 2001—and, five albums later, the music is still surprisingly novel. The band’s most recent effort, this year’s Eye Contact, garnered an 8.5 on Pitchfork and showcases everything from synthy-dance grooves to reggae to a tribute to fallen band member Nathan Maddox (“Glass Jar”), who died when he was struck by lightning in 2002. Gang Gang Dance’s music has become more accessible in some ways, but it’s not any less delightfully weird. Gang Gang Dance performs with Total Freedom and Nguzunguzu at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $14.



NonCOMM recap: Gang of Youths drive out depression with guitars and a dance party

Gang of Youths | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN |

“We have one more seven minute depression fest for you,” David Le’aupepe, the Aussie-born lead singer of Gang of Youths, began as he introduced one of the last songs of the night. I thought he was kidding. Depressing? This was the most uplifting stuff I’d heard in a long time.

With a perpetually building beat, shredding guitars, and soaring vocals, Gang of Youths’ music doesn’t let you wallow in your sadness, it summons you to tackle it and turn it into a dance party. Which is exactly what the charismatic frontman demonstrated as he jumped into the crowd and brought the party to the dance floor during song “Let Me Down Easy.” Continue reading →


The Skeleton Key: Dancehall reggae from Jamaica, psych noise from Italy, post-punk from England…September has you covered!

Hurry Up! | photo via R5 Productions

It’s unreal just how much is happening in Philly this month. I know, I know: I say that every column. But it’s true! Never forget how lucky we are to be living in this great city that has so much going on every single night. Welcome to the September edition of the Skeleton Key. From space rock at PhilaMOCA to Mexican Independence Day at Penn’s Landing to all kinds of punk: we’ve got you covered. Continue reading →


Kendrick Lamar brings his intimate dance with good and evil to the stadium


A post shared by Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) on

In the fall of 2015, following the release of his critically-acclaimed, platinum-selling album To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar announced that he would bypass the round of huge, multi-city touring that would customarily follow such a successful project. While the decision to forgo a large stadium tour in the wake of Butterfly would have struck many as a misstep, the move was perfect.

Instead, Kendrick hit the road with a mini-tour, “Kunta’s Groove Sessions,” a quick and dirty, eight-city jaunt which found him pulling up on mid-sized theaters throughout the South and on both coasts. The purpose behind this choice was clear: To Pimp A Butterfly’s quirky, complex and jazz inflected hip hop songs required a level of intimacy and even physical proximity to the audience that would be difficult to reproduce in a 20,000 seat arena.

Much like Public Enemy’s Chuck D in the summer of 1988 or Jay-Z on 9/11, 2001, Kendrick Lamar had established himself as the pacesetter of the day. He was / is, the rapper with the loudest, most (culturally) resonant voice. In the months immediately following the reception of Butterfly, it was clear that in the minds of many that he was one of, if not the leading creative voice in mainstream hip-hop. A large part of his emergence as the mouthpiece of his generation has been his ability to relate his own personal fears, hopes and ambitions with those of his audience. Throughout his work, the notion of individual triumph and/or failure at the hands of forces larger than himself has remained a central component to his songs. Continue reading →


El Malito starts a global dance party on a cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

El Malito | via
El Malito | via

It’s not a stretch in the least to hear The Clash covered by a dance band – even an art-minded one such as Philly’s El Malito and the 33rd Century. 1982’s Combat Rock was, after all, the record that saw Joe, Mick and the gang grooving onto the dancefloor and the Billboard charts with “Rock the Casbah.” But El Malito has a way of putting a singular spin on everything they touch, and their rendition of the classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is rooted in sha’abi, a beat-centric sound popular at the dance parties of EgyptContinue reading →