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October 10th, 2012

10 Things We Saw, Heard, And Learned At Jason Collett’s World Cafe Show Last Night



JC

Last night we took in the World Cafe set of Canadian indie rock stalwart Jason Collett. It was not crowded.

1. A quick head count upon docking at the bar revelaed a 21-person attendance. Man that’s brutal. Tift Merritt was downstairs. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was at the Church. But, uh, where was everyone? Was it a new Glee episode or something?

2. Despite playing to such a slim turnout, his spirits were high and mighty. His tone was jovial, warm and pleasant. He told stories, explained songs, announced titles and gave earnest “Thank you”s when sparse applause greeted the end of each song. Class act, this one.

3. 2005’s Idols of Exile is a friggen’ great record. If you haven’t heard it, please give it a listen. It’s a gold standard of excellent singer-songwriter indie rock. He got the lovely and talented Emily Haines and Amy Milan to guest on a couple tracks – also stellar talents. It’s full of warm, sunny and thoughtful tracks. A favorite, “We All Lose One Another” was an early standout of his set.

4. Ever the Dapper Dan, he looked classy in desert boots, slim denim, a vest and button down shirt. Still lookin’ like a touring troubadour, though, he’s got messy long hair. He played a bunch of his new tracks from the distinctly more political LP Reckon. A departure from his normal content which tends to focus more on humanity, love, hurt and heart.

5. Before he performed “High Summer,” a charming track from 2010’s Rat a Tat Tat, he explained an anecdote from it about safe sex. See there’s a Canadian author, Pierre Burton, who once talked about sex in a canoe. Safe sex in a canoe is sex that simply does not tip over the canoe. Must be challenging; think about it.

6. “Reckon is full of little ditties,” he said. “This one’s about infidelity – I guess that makes it an infideliditty. Sometimes I’m so damn clever.” Yup.

7. The full band helped everything. He had a killer organist, an electric bassist and guitarist, and a thumpin’ simple-kitted drummer. He switched between acoustic and electric, himself, and towards the end the keysman took to the kit and the drummer picked up an electric guitar. Don’t you love that?

8. There’s a track on 2008’s Here’s to Being Here that’s called “Charlyn, Angel of Kensington.” See, Kensington’s also a neighborhood in Toronto that a lady named Charlyn nearly single-handedly saved from an overhaul that’d wipe out the character and nature of the mixed and culturally-diverse section of the city. It is now a vibrant, eclectic and healthy ‘hood and wouldn’t that be nice if we could say the same for our Kenzo?

9. His clever take on current times translates into a focus on songs of hard times in this bullshit economy. On the new disc, there’s a track called “I Wanna Rob A Bank.” It’s about being poor and how much a big bag o’ money would be nice (in theory). “I want a TKO on the CEO,” he sang. On “Black Diamond Girl,” he comments on the way that tough times dictate what’s in vogue (fashion-wise). So black diamonds can be worn again because no one can afford clear ones – which is ironic to him because he’s worked in construction and they’re used heartily in said trade for function, not because they’re pretty.

10. He also did some classics like “Hangover Days,” “I’ll Bring The Sun,” “Blue Sky,” and “You’re Not The One And Only Lonely One.” Incidentally, I got to introduce myself to the man and he was as classy in person as his catalogue and stage presence suggest. He’s political, knowledgeable and had interesting things to say about the music industry. His “bread and butter,” as he put it, is licensing. And he may have kicked himself in the ass by putting out a record that’s political and, well, liberal. But, hey, at least it comes to him naturally. Unlike lots of musicians who’ve made careers out of bending their art to commercial gain.

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 Posted in Reviews | No Comments »

September 19th, 2012

Concert Review: Florence + The Machine at the Susquehanna Bank Center



FLORENCE-WELSH

It appears Mother Nature is a big Florence + The Machine fan. While opening acts The Weeknd and The Maccabrees played through torrential downpours and tropical storm-like winds, the skies quickly cleared as Flo prepared to take the stage last night.

The moment she appeared on stage and the first note left her extraordinary lungs, chills shot down my spine. If a tornado ripped through the amphitheater right then and there, I wouldn’t have even flinched.

Donning her usual ethereal attire, Flo spent the next hour prancing around stage like a magical fairy who just sniffed a whole lotta pixie dust. Unlike her last local concert at the Festival Pier in June 2011, this time, she came equipped with back-up singers and a harpist. She also engaged quite a bit more with the audience, or at least she attempted to. Given the intensity of her vocals, you really cannot believe how soft spoken the beautiful Brit actually is.

Fortunately, I was able to make out a few of the various commands she quietly barked at the audience between songs. First, she asked us to put the person we came with on our shoulders, then later we had to hug the person next to us. At one point, she may or may not have ordered us to get wasted after the show.

Not surprising, Flo and her Machine opened the show with “Ceremonials” and closed with “Dog Days Are Over.” More surprising, however, were the mix of other songs. Most noticeably absent from her set: “All This And Heaven Too,” “Bedroom Hymns,” “You’ve Got The Love” and “Kiss With A Fist.” The most memorable songs from her set: “Heartlines” and “Say My Name.”

As for the highlight of the evening, well, that would have to be when Ms. Welch suddenly leaped off the stage mid-song and proceeded to go for a mad dash around the amphitheater. Her bodyguard, who immediately went chasing after her, looked like he was about to crap his pants.

And although ultimately, it had no bearing on the quality of last night’s concert, I feel it needs to be said that at the Susquehanna Bank Center, unless you have pit tickets, you can’t see a damn thing taking place on stage. And the two large, inexplicably non high-def TV screens do little to help. I can only pray that the next time Flo comes to town, she opts for a more intimate venue.

Anyway, should you be wondering what Florence sounds like live, I leave you with this video I took last night of her belting “Lover To Lover.”

Warning: It might make your head explode. (Nicole Finkbiner)

YouTube Preview Image Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 Posted in Reviews, Shows | No Comments »

August 16th, 2012

Swearin’ Is A Sick Band That’s Soon To Be A Full-Time Philadelphia Band And Their New Record Rips



Swearin

So a perusal of Pitchfork’s record reviews today landed us on the review of Swearin’ and their new one on Salinas records. The Fork gave it a whopping 7.8 and let us listen to one track, “Here to Hear,” which has a ton of energy. They’re one of those bands that has a name that makes it hard to Google (like The Internet), and their Tumblr doesn’t give you much info about them. Their Facebook page is a bit more helpful and you should probably go ahead and ‘Like’ them. However, try the If You Make It site and you can listen to a few songs for free. And some crafty YouTubing might land some gems, like the below-embedded “Kenosha.” This is their self-titled debut after an EP called What a Dump. And from the digging we’ve done, the place you should probably go to buy it is at the Salinas Records site.

One of the key players here is Allison Crutchfield, who so kindly responded to a few emails. She confirmed there is a Philly connection: “There is a Philly connection! Our drummer lives in Philly currently, but the rest of us are moving there September 1st! So we will soon be a full-time Philly band.” THAT IS SOME GREAT NEWS.

To describe their style? Punk that’s listenable and friendly to crowds. We’re not talking about punk rock that’s going to guarantee a bloody nose if you attend a show. Well, it COULD do that. But more like punk rock that aligns with the Japandroids or Sleater-Kinney. And because Crutchfield is a woman, feminists are down with her brand of thrash and shout. They come to Philadelphia as a foursome with another key player, as Pitchfork seems to know, being Crutchfield’s bf, Kyle Gilbride. They met after Allison had already wowed people with her band P.S. Eliot. They also rip but broke up almost a year ago. In fact, in that band, she was the drummer. So she can wail on a kit and then pick up a guitar and melt faces? IMPRESSIVE.

They just did a show at the opening of Little Baby’s Ice Cream. You know we wrote a cover story about those boys who were once in bands and now peddle brilliant dairy desserts, right? They’re friends with Jeff. Which can’t hurt our welcoming them into our fair city’s bosom. As for the near future, they’re on a bit of a tour hiatus but they’ve got some September dates booked. After some digging, we found out that they’re going to support Tenement on September 11th at the Golden Tea House. And then with The Two Funerals on September 17th (venue TBA).

YouTube Preview Image Thursday, August 16th, 2012 Posted in News, Reviews | No Comments »

August 13th, 2012

10 Things We Saw, Heard, And Learned At The Very Best Show At Johnny Brenda’s Last Night



TVB

After talking to the DJ-half of The Very Best last week for a feature (click on it and scroll down for a pretty great comment), we had to go check out their set to see if they were going to bring the energy that their sophomore, MTMTMK, oozes. As it turns out, they did.

1. After their opening, opening act, Granchildren, came Seye. A tall, skinny Brit who closed his electrified guitar-based singer-songwritery set with a cover of “You Can Call Me Al,” from Paul Simon’s Graceland. A knowing nod to the Africanism-infusion that got kick-started with Simon’s iconic 1986 record? And the way that The Very Best falls somewhere into that tradition? Most definitely.

2. Seye’s in the band, now, too. And he even co-wrote a song that they did later in the set, “Kondaine,” which ripped live.

3. The opening song didn’t really pull the 30-40 first floor attendees close to the stage. So they did “I Wanna Go Away” as a ‘warm-up’ before they commanded that the crowd get closer. Some bright and vivid red lights that came on during the song also helped create a little bit more of a club and dancefloor atmosphere. “Julia” was, seemingly, one of the last songs before things got hectic.

4. We’ve said this before, but songs in a foreign language make you take funny notes. When titles of songs are in Chichewa, it’s also hard to identify them even by the singing. So it becomes about the beats. And one thing that can be said about their live set – it really makes you appreciate the beats, the melodies and the rhythms more because you can rarely sing along. Unless you’re one of those super-fans who has learned broken Chichewa so that you can sing along to the whole record. THAT WOULD BE SO IMPRESSIVE/WEIRD. Anyway, the remaining Radioclit founder and production portion of The Very Best, Hugo’s work, was on display. Live, there’s a house and dance aspect of the band that smacks you upside the head.

5. There are two additional folks on stage and they were essential. As mentioned, Seye, the axe-wielder, actually assumed a position of being a ringleader and emcee for the night’s energy. He speaks proper English, which is a great asset, because Esau is from Malawi and Hugo’s from Sweden. And they snagged, for their fourth man, a Senegalese percussionist named Magnate Sow, whose insane bongo work was the perfect little bow on top of their well-packaged high-energy stage presence.

6. Back to the club vibes. There were a few times when the room was hanging on a beat to drop in, or waiting through lulls of lower energy before a big beat swooped in. For those who were looking for a club-like, almost house vibe, they got it. It was almost like a tiny little mini-Making Time. You could go as buck as you wanted to the rhythms and beats, only emphasized by the pulsing lights and colorful projection screen, or you could sit back and bob your head. Noticeable, though, was Hugo’s tendency to do what most live DJs do – make dramatic arm gestures towards the crowd as if he was literally dropping rhythms or throwing them at us. Just a little corny.

7. Then came the part of the night where the most absurd notes were taken: “Uh oh uh oh / Uh oh uh oh.” Hmm, that might be every song. Then there was this: “CALL-AND-RESPONSE Ay ay —> oh oh.” So yeah, you didn’t have to speak African (that’s a joke) to participate in Esau’s attempts to hype and charm the crowd. Where Esau and Hugo lacked, Seye MORE than covered. Mr. Bongos was just the strong, silent, bongo-hammering type all night.

8. They did, indeed, pull out “Warm Heart of Africa,” it was just a ‘different’ version. The charming, Ezra Koenig-guested track from the title track of their debut had been chopped and screwed into a banging dancefloor-blender.

9. There was some supremely awful-but-awesome white-people-dancing in the house. So many brutal sandals and corny arm movements. But that’s not to criticize or complain. GET DOWN! This music begs for it and the fact that JB’s was a place for those Fishtown dweebs to get their dance on is purely a good thing.

10. For as much talk surrounding their non-interest in making “African music” or “world music,” their merch t-shirts say “Africa Is The Future.” Hugo was wearing one. S’a little confusing.

Monday, August 13th, 2012 Posted in Reviews, Shows | No Comments »

July 12th, 2012

What If Van Halen Hadn’t Canceled Their Tour? PW’s Subjunctive Review of a Hypothetical Concert from an Alternate Universe



Van-Halen-wallpaper“We’re gonna do fucked-up stuff to your face holes tonight!” David Lee Roth would have screamed, and with that disgusting promise, legendary rockers Van Halen would have begun their almost two-hour set at a sold-out Wells Fargo Center. Featuring Eddie Van Halen on guitar, his 21-year-old son Wolfgang on bass, Alex Van Halen on drums, and lead vocalist (and “official bikini inspector”) Dr. Rockzo Roth, the group would have opened with the 1984 hit “Panama,” dedicating it to the late Ernest Borgnine. The four band members—all clad in leather cargo pants—would have quickly surprised the many skeptics in the audience with their still-sharp abilities. (David would have boasted that they were “as tight as a Laotian drummer boy.”)

After whipping up the crowd with the reminder that they were actually playing this show and would never dream of doing anything like, say, canceling their entire tour due to “exhaustion” then spending their off time hyping a possible Super Bowl halftime appearance, Van Halen would have ripped through some of their many hits. Fan requests for classics like “Hot For Teacher” and “Beautiful Girls” would have been immediately fulfilled—although some requests, such as “Do that song where David Lee Roth finally announces he’s gay!” would have gone unanswered. Their 19-song setlist also would have contained four tracks off their new record (which we would never have got the name of), along with a surprising medley of tunes from Van Halen III, the 1998 album by the Gary Cherone-led line-up, that would have completely delighted the crowd.

Unfortunately, the most memorable moments of the night would have been the bad ones. Before launching into their cover of “Dancing In The Street,” David would have dedicated the song to axed original bassist Michael Anthony, whom he would have claimed was “out making hot sauces or something.” This quip would have immediately angered Alex, who’d have jumped up from behind his drums and angrily fired back, “Hey, his hot sauces are pretty good!” Eddie would have quickly joined in defense of their former member, claiming that Roth “never gave his hot sauces a chance.” It would have been very clear this was still a touchy subject. The verbal scuffle would have had to be broken up by the most sensible and levelheaded person onstage, a 21-year-old named Wolfgang.

The tension would have gotten progressively worse throughout the night, finally reaching its climax during Roth’s band introductions—“Let’s hear it for Eddie, ladies and gentlemen! He’s not that drunk tonight! Owww!” Furiously, Eddie and Alex would have made a beeline offstage while Wolfgang shook his head, telling the singer that the remark was, in his words, “not cool.” As the bassist followed the other members in protest, Roth would have called for the younger Van Halen to stay, though he would have kept erroneously referring to him as “Skip.”

With no band behind him, David would have looked upon the awkwardly quiet crowd with tears in his eyes and exclaimed that “The show must go on!” And so it would have, for 20 more surreal minutes. Roth would have spent the first part graphically air-humping an imaginary girl. It would have been weird. Next, he would have performed a long spoken-word piece entitled “The Best Pussy I Ever Got,” explaining that it was currently being worked into a screenplay. When it became obvious that he was losing the crowd, he would have attempted to win them back by performing an a capella version of “Runnin’ With The Devil.”

YouTube Preview Image

He then would have sobbed some more until the house lights went up.

Rating: 6 stars out of 10

Thursday, July 12th, 2012 Posted in Features, Reviews | 4 Comments »

May 14th, 2012

Ten Things We Saw, Heard And Learned At Saturday Night’s Regina Spektor Show At The Tower Theater



reginaspektor-alltherowboatsWe went to see Regina Spektor at the Tower Theater on Saturday night. Here are ten things we saw, heard, and learned.

1. The audience had a lot of diversity (read: lots of different types of white women), but overall they were calm, cool, and collected—minus the girl in the fluffy orange prom dress. Why were you wearing that? Why were you the only one? What happened to your date? What’s going on, girl?

2. Only Son opened for Regina, and they were a nice little punchy alt rock brew to start the night off with.  We would definitely party with them.

3. Regina’s stage was simple. A keyboardist, cellist, and drummer sat quietly and dispersed behind her. A large piano and raised keyboard were huddled near the front for her utilization. There were no fancy sets or wild lights. It was Regina Spektor singing Regina Spektor songs like Regina Spektor does.

4. She opened her show with “Ain’t No Cover,” a dark a capella with the only music being her steady finger thumping on the microphone. It was jazzy and sexy and let all Spektor newcomers know that she can sing just as good—and even better—without music or studio filters.

5. After a couple of songs, Regina blushingly informed the people of the Tower Theater that this venue was the first place she performed on her first tour ever, back when she was an opener for the Strokes. It should have been a very sentimental show, but the audience couldn’t live up to it. The most requested songs and the biggest cheers arrived for her biggest pop numbers (which she seemed hesitant to play and largely ignored until her “Us”-”OnTheRadio”-”Samson” encore). Many of her selections avoided the moderate-to-well-known-sing-alongs. But many of her selections also came from her yet-to-be-relased album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats. So, ya know.

6. Speaking of what we saw from the cheap seats, if you have a time machine or other travel plans to see Regina’s show, try to sit in the center or right side of the room. If you are on the left, her back will be to you the entire time. It felt like we were in a fight. Like she was giving us the silent treatment in the middle of her own concert. THAT’S HOW POWERFUL IT WAS. But to be fair, she tried to reconcile by making her way to the standing keyboard for “Dance Anthem of the 80s” … but then she left. Back to sitting at the piano with her back to us. Not that we’re bitter or anything, but we’re bitter and everything. If she wasn’t wearing such a glittery tunic it would have been really depressing.

7. It should be impossible for one person to simultaneously beatbox, tongue tisk, sing, growl, and play piano with such a tangibly delightful attitude. But Regina’s distinctiveness comes from her ability to do this anywhere and everywhere.

8. Regina sang the catchphrase of “Sailor Song”—“Marianne’s a bitch!”—with such intensity that there’s no way that it isn’t about a real person. Someone in the audience called out to ask who Marianne was, and even though Regina ignored the majority of audience calls, she directly responded to this one with a prompt and dangerous whisper, “It’s a secret…” It was scary! We need deets!

9. If you ever want to get out of trouble or something with your boss or parents, ask Regina how to speak. Between each song she said “thank you” in the most adorable and heart-melting way. We wanted to buy her lots of toys and candy and glittery things and apologize for any time we were ever unkind to her.

10. Regina Spektor in concert is exactly what you would expect it to be—charming, simple, and vocal-heavy. It won’t put you in a party mood but it will remind you that broken hearts can be uplifting and that music should impress you.

—Jay Stephens

Monday, May 14th, 2012 Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments »

May 4th, 2012

Ten Things We Saw, Heard And Learned At Last Night’s Miike Snow Show At Electric Factory



Miike Snow Philly2

We went to the Electric Factory last night to see Miike Snow. Here are 10 things we saw, heard, and learned.

[Ed. note: Jay Stephens is back, and this time she knows the opener.]
1. The risky thing about going to an ambiguous-electro-pop-stand-and-dance show is the audience. The crowd may be full of drunks, young teens, or an uncomfortable mixture of both. Last night’s show was an uncomfortable mixture of both. The ground floor of the Electric Factory was an awkward, iPhone equipped army of high school kids just discovering how to dance in public. The people who probably drove them were perched upstairs in the liquor loft watching it all go down.

2. As a result, the ground floor was uncomfortably calm for the first couple of songs by opener Mountain Goats* Penguin Prison. We had hotdogs and drinks in the middle of the pit and were completely undisturbed. Side Note: No, the hotdogs are not worth $4. But the posters are only $1. Go for those instead. Lasting memories, not gas.

3. Penguin Prison did their best to rev up the teens on the ground floor with some intense strobe lights and guitar-playing prowess. They weren’t too successful until they played “Don’t Fuck With My Money,” a really fun song that everyone seemed to be waiting for and sang along to enthusiastically – despite the fact that most of them probably don’t have jobs or a source of income besides allowance. But that made it sorta cute!

4. Based on the special effects they relied on, Miike Fog may be a more apt band name. In the 40-minute long wait between Penguin Prison and Miike Snow, fog machines were set up that periodically polluted the stage, triggering a false-alarm wave of audience “WOOOOOO!”s each time. It happened like eight times. And people still cheered. Every time for eight times. EIGHT. Miike Snow fans are optimists.

5. The members of Miike Snow entered the stage wearing gold masks, which they performed in  for the first song. We don’t know why. They threw them off at some point. We don’t know where. We wanted to find them.

6. Andrew Wyatt was really into performing for the audience. He skinny-jean-strutted and body twerked all over the stage. He stopped numerous times to make really intense eye contact with the ground floor teens. He dropped the mic stand. And the mic. During “Burial” there were no vocals for a good thirty seconds. No one seemed to care.

Miike Snow Philly3

7. Miike Snow live sounds different than Miike Snow in your headphones. There is a vocal sweetness and refinement that is lost in the live performance and replaced with a more aggressive energy.

8. They had a giant motherboard for creating and mixing music that lit up and looked like an alien dropped it off in the middle of the stage. What made it even cooler was the large rustic jackalope carved on the outside of it. It flashed like a strobe light throughout the show. It was mesmerizing. We think it was communicating subliminal messages. We like jackalopes. (See it here on Letterman.)
9. It seemed Miike Snow really wanted the audience to know why it’s called the Electric Factory. Their stage lights alternated from complete darkness to Friday-Night-Lights-Staring-Into-The-Sun-Aren’t-We-In-A-Recession-???-These-Lights-Define-Light lights.

Miike Snow Philly610. Miike Snow did not play “Animal” first. Or second. Or third. Or at all, actually. At least not as part of their regular set. People thought that it was a joke when their last song wasn’t “Animal.” The first song of the encore wasn’t “Animal” either. So lots of the older people left. We left too. We’re old. We don’t know if Miike Snow ever played “Animal.” But we do know that “Animal” wasn’t part of the pre-encore main show. So if you want to see Miike Snow strictly to hear “Animal” – 1. Why would you do that? That’s silly. 2. Don’t go until late.  Maybe.

-Jay Stephens

[All photos Rachell Morillo's iPod]

*Wah wah. We added the Mountain Goats thing. Just a coupla  kids at heart over here at MMMHQ cuttin’ up, havin’ fun on a Friday and whatnot.

Friday, May 4th, 2012 Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments »
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