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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)

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August 15th, 2012

Win Tickets To See Comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s Friday Show At The Troc!



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There aren’t too many speaking humans who can make a funny joke about a dead baby. There are even fewer who can do so with a wry delivery and evil grin. Enter Anthony Jeselnik: An unbelievably perverse comic with model good looks who writes concise, incredibly lean and impressively mean one liners that will make you wince through your laughs. Jeselnik’s persona—cocksure uber-asshole frat guy—works because his jokes are so perfectly crafted. He’s smart as hell, which makes the audience believe he’s earned every bit of his smarm. Few men mining for yuks can elicit the types of reactions he’s able to with such practiced cool and seemingly no effort. Jesnelik’s words are bombs. He doesn’t need to use many to kill. You want to die? Shoot an email to slester@philadelphiaweekly.com with “DIRTY JOKES!” in the subject line and we’ll shoot you some tickets, you depraved motherfucker. Picking winners tomorrow, so get on in there.

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 Posted in Shows | No Comments »

August 14th, 2012

Win Free Tickets To Tomorrow Night’s Jane’s Addiction/Die Antwoord Show At The Mann!



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Singer Perry Farrell was caught stealin’. Once. When he was five. Guitarist Dave Navarro shot heroin inside the Playboy Mansion. He married Carmen Electra. All of these things can rightly be considered “Things Assholes Do,” but the two records—Nothing’s Shocking, Ritual de lo Habitual—these two produced together in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s can put anyone in a forgiving mood after a few listens; such sexy, shimmering jewels of acid-soaked Los Angeles boho psyche punk they were. The rumbling opening bass line of “Mountain Song,” the now-classic acoustic chords and steel drums of “Jane Says”—this is a rare band that can both kick your ass and show its vulnerability at the same time. So you’ll also have to forgive them for reuniting. Again. Now that Farrell is closing in on 55. What was that line in “Mountain Song” again? Ah, yes: “Cash in now, honey.” The always fabulous Die Antwoord open. You want tickets to their show tomorrow night at the Mann? Shoot an email to slester@philadelphiaweekly.com with “GONNA KICK TOMORROW!” in the subject head, and they’re yours. We’ll be notifying the winners tomorrow morning, and these tickets ain’t cheap. GO!

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 Posted in Shows | 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 »

April 17th, 2012

10 Things We Saw, Heard And Learned At The Shabazz Palaces Show Last Night At The Blockley



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Many things happened in the world last night. For example, ten thousand freelance writers blew their brains out after submitting their taxes. We didn’t do that. We were at the Shabazz Palaces concert at The Blockley. A band opened for the Seattle rap project, but we don’t know who that band was. And there was a headlining band, but their name is too complicated for us to write this early in the morning. Here are 10 things we saw, heard and learned.

1. Philadelphian King Britt, who used to DJ for Shabazz boss Ishmael Butler a.k.a. Butterfly’s old group Digable Planets, was DJing when we walked in at about 9:30pm. He was kicking a Stereolab tune.

2. Make Major Moves ain’t a gossip rag, but there were some local music celebs in the building. We spotted South Philly rapper Lushlife, and Butler’s Digable Planets comrade Cee Knowledge a.k.a. Doodlebug. (We were hoping for an on-stage reunion, but that didn’t happen.) We also spotted some members of a very prestigious Philly rock band, but we don’t want to blow their covers. Let’s just say we saw members of the band “Woman Woman” enjoying the show. There were others, but we’re not saying who. You should’ve been there.

3. Butler a.k.a. Palaceer Lazaro was rapping and pushing buttons on a sampler and a Mac. He was joined onstage by Shabazz partner Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire, who is the son of Zimbabwean mbira master Dumisani Maraire. Baba was kicking a mbira, a drum kit, some small percussion instruments and adding back-up vocals.

4. The duo doesn’t perform songs quite like the recorded versions you may be familiar with from the albums Shabazz Palaces, Of Light and Black Up. There’s an improvisational element, and the tunes are radically expanded, provided even more space to sprawl, lounge, linger, drift, meditate, elevate. Songs begin, vanish, merge into other songs, and then other songs, and then the song that began begins again. The experience is somewhat similar to Black Up’s “Are you… Can you… Were you..?” in which three  movements develop across a single track. But this was different, as tracks unexpectedly evolved into other tracks. Tracks on tracks on tracks. It was dreamlike. Like a Terry Malick flick. Like too much Nyquil for breakfast.

5. Rap concerts are normally terrible if you go for the music and not for the party. This is what happens at about 85% of the ones we go to: a DJ plays the recorded version of a song and a rapper raps over it. But the DJ doesn’t just play the instrumental, s/he plays the recorded version with the vocals included. So the rapper is rapping over her/himself. It’s disgusting. It shows us that the rapper cannot rap live the way s/he does on wax. Lazaro doesn’t do this. He raps live. There’s no track playing in the back. The instrumentation–some samples, some acoustic, some electronic–is all happening live. And since, as mentioned above, there’s a spontaneous element introduced to the performance such that the songs structurally shift in unpredictable ways, that weak shit most rappers display is not even possible for Shabazz.

6. Many rap fans don’t dig Shabazz Palaces. Namely because the music is so goddamn strange. It doesn’t quite fit into the mold of Lex Luger maximalism or “Rack City” minimalism. It doesn’t sound like anything on rap radio. It’s out. And, as a consequence, Lazaro isn’t given the props he deserves on the mic. While meditating deeply on Lazaro’s lyrics during the performance, we were reminded of a comment Philly rapper Zilla Rocca made on music blog Passion Of The Weiss about him. “Ish is fucking gangster,” wrote Zilla. “You don’t have to like the music behind Shabazz Palaces, but if you write down Ish’s lyrics and put them over Rick Ross beats, you’d understand the slickness.” It’s true. Put Lazaro over a Luger trap-beat, and he’d sound harder than Gunplay. But we prefer him spitting over his own bizarre beats and textures, which sound much more interesting than all that radio rap shat.

7. Something we didn’t expect to happen happened a few times. Lazaro and Baba had worked out some synchronized dance moves, and every once in a while they’d clap and sway in unison.

8. See that photo up there? ^^ I took that. Holler at me if you wanna hire me to shoot your wedding.

9. One of the highlights of the roughly 35 minute set was “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum.” Baba kicked an extended mbira jam, gradually building up a series of melodies above a heavy, but minimal, bass line. (Oh yeah, that reminds us, the bass was fucked at The Blockley. It sounded like a speaker blew pretty early in the night.)

10. Another banger was “Chuch” from Of Light. This is one of Shabazz’s hardest tunes. Lazaro rapped ferociously over Baba’s rhythms: “Ever since the ships came, we kicked slick game make name mistake the claim, and never ever ever tame, and stay way fresher than the ‘presser.” And what do they call that? “Survival with style,” goes the chorus. Think about it.

–Elliott Sharp wants you to follow him on Twitter @Elliott Sharp.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 Posted in Reviews, Shows | No Comments »

April 10th, 2012

Attn. Heshers: There’s A Whipass Show Tomorrow Night At North Star You Shouldn’t Miss



harshvibes

So Saturday we headed out to Liberty Fest to catch a couple acts and, as luck would have it, drink free Sailor Jerry rum because that was a fun and unexpected thing that happened that night. We also met a girl who talked about taking Klonopin more than we suspect people ordinarily talk about Klonopin in regular, gettin’-to-know-ya conversation. But we’re getting off track.

Anyway, the bands at Liberty Fest. They were good. We saw Hot Hands, the Energy and Black Congress, but the one we liked best was Philly’s own Titans of Mathematical Sludgy Doom, Harsh Vibes. They slayed. And we know what you’re thinking: “You’re just saying that because you are crushing hard on their beefcake drummer, John Paul Titlow.” Well, yeah. Have you seen the fucking guy? (Photo 4 is your best look there.)  He’s a Goddamn dreamboat. But that ain’t why we’re vibin’ on Harsh Vibes. It’s because they really, truly rocked our balls off. They kept hitting that note—you know the one. That sweet spot note that’s like a distorted, crunchy drop D,  but not quite, and it feels warm working its way in your ears. That note. The one that makes you feel like you just ate a bunch of Klonopin with a girl who won’t shut up about it. They kept cranking that note, and cranking it hard. And they were loud, and it was good. Totally blew our wigs back.

Well, Harsh Vibes are playing tomorrow night at North Star Bar and the other bands on the bill are no slouches. They hit that note too. It’s going to be magical, and we can’t wait. A Klonopin overdose of aural delights.

Headlining the whole shebang are Sleepy Sun, a quintet of Northern California road dawgs on All Tomorrow’s Parties. They’re from San Fran, and their album, Spine Hits, is out today. It sounds like hippy Aleister Crowley’s ghost doing all the drugs he can find in the Haight-Ashbury before aimlessly roaming the streets of the Tenderloin and asking the homeless if they can spare some change. You know, like this:

Also playing are Brooklyn’s White Hills, a group on Thrill Jockey whose new album, Frying On This Rock, is a deep space rock opus. It sounds like what would happen if  HAL 9000 dipped his foreskin in bong water and shook it into your ears. Here’s a song from the album:

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If none of that does it for you, we can’t offer much help. But we’ll try. You can listen to Harsh Vibes on their bandcamp, or on their Philadelphia Weekly band page which, yes, is a thing that exists. It’s worth your precious time. See you at the show, dropouts.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 Posted in Shows | No Comments »

April 10th, 2012

Teen Punks Iceage Coming Back To Philly July 23



Everyone’s fave-o group of nihilist Danish punk adolescents are on their way back to Philly. They’re called Iceage, and we love their cute little pimpled faces. Saw them the first time they came through town, at the Barbary, and it was so great we wrote a story about it, “Great Danes.” (HAHAHA! Good job on that title, us!*) Watch the kids do what they do in the video above, and mark your calendars. Johnny Brenda’s, the 23rd of July. If we see you there we’ll give you a kiss and a hug and buy you a beer and an Iceage t-shirt.

*The photo caption in that same article: “Ice, ice babies.” WHAT? It’s like we were freebasing creativity that week or something. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 Posted in Shows | No Comments »
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