One of Philadelphia’s indie juggernauts, keeping Dr. Dog and Kurt Vile company over on Pitchfork, plays a hometown show this week that’s sure to be a sickening moment in time for Union Transfer. See, something that people tend to say about the band, other than that they’re “wacky,” is that their records don’t really do their performances justice. They’re vicious live. And with their most recent, 2011’s Life Fantastic, they brought in Saddle Creek’s Mike Mogus, and he does a great job of cramming the tons of emotion that Honus Honus (Ryan Kattner) has clearly got bottled up inside him into calm, slightly disturbing, dark piano rock. Sure, there’s a few of those elements in the mix that Man Man audiences have come to know and love: marimbas, saxophones, xylophones, flutes, moogs, pots and pans. None of it is unwelcome on a Man Man stage.
They’re now a proud member of a strong Anti- label’s roster, but four records and eight years ago, they were friends in a band in Philly. With tour opening duties fulfilled for Modest Mouse and Yeasayer, they’ve grown and spread—even done Coachella and Primavera Sound. Their weirdo circus noise rock sound’s also been getting more sophisticated and serious over time. Life Fantastic’s got some stunning lyrics and turns of phrases, but also captures the charm and worldliness of Fools Gold, the Dodos, Beirut, Calexico and Tom Waits. So yeah, there’s a little bit of the macabre spaghetti western in them, but it’s not a boot-stomping, 10-gallon-hat kind of night. More like a battles-in-Mr. Bungle’s-clothes kind of night.
8pm. $20-$22. With Murder by Death + Northern Arms. Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. 215.232.2100. utphilly.com