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King Diamond and Exodus @ The Fillmore.

November 30, 2015

King side resizeText and images by Jimmy Viola.

The most iconic and enduring corpse-painted face of heavy metal royalty, King Diamond, wailed through The Fillmore last Wednesday night. Sporting his signature top hat and black and white makeup – think Kiss but more evil – Diamond and company rocked out on a stage elaborately dressed up with gargoyles, a double stairwell and two massive inverted crosses.

King Diamond played the entirety of his sophomore album from 1987, Abigail, a conceptual horror record recounting the simple story of couple who move into a Victorian mansion, only to be tormented and possessed by the ghost of a stillborn infant who was killed by house’s previous resident. The show marked the first time the band played the album live on tour in its entirety.

The King first set the metal world ablaze as the frontman of Danish rockers Mercyful Fate, who released two landmark albums filled with demons, witches and devils in Melissa (1983) and Don’t Break the Oath (1984), before embarking on a nearly 30-year solo career centered around horror concept albums.

Even at 59, Diamond’s incomparable falsetto rang with a haunting clarity and power as if preserved by some otherworldly force. The live experience encapsulated why King Diamond has remained a force of inspiration through his long career—an intricate stage show, charismatic presence, songs comprised of an unrelenting onslaught progressive thrash riffs, funky breakdowns and rock and roll hooks.

He opened the set with “Welcome Home,” accompanied by a haggard grandma wearing an exaggerated rubber mask in a wheelchair. The human prop helped the King deliver the lyrics “Let me help you out of your chair, Grandma,” with a campy sneer. He followed up with “Halloween” and “Eye Of The Witch.”

Then King Diamond cranked out two Mercyful Fate numbers, “Melissa” and “Come To The Sabbath,” each one the respective closing number of Mercyful Fate’s first and second albums.

From there, King Diamond dove into the Abigail album. He tore through classics like “The Family Ghost,” “Omens,” “Abigail” and ended with the album’s closing track ”Black Horsemen.” The King worked the crowd with a mix of glee and grimace, eager to stick out his tongue and point devil horns at the feral metal fans, who headbanged extra hard on account of the camera crew filming the show for an upcoming DVD.

Longtime guitarist Andy LaRocque, who has played with King since his debut album in 1986, held down the riff laden rhythm duties. He shared solos with second guitarist Mike Wead. Drummer Matt Thompson comprised the rhythm section with newly added bassist Pontus Egberg, who had strikingly similar hair, mannerisms and the finger playing style of a youthful Steve Harris.

Bay Area pioneers Exodus opened the night, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut album Bonded By Blood, which might go down as one of the heaviest and most influential thrash metal debut albums of all time. They played the fan favorites from that debut like the title track, “Strike Of The Beast” as well as the mosh pit anthem “The Toxic Waltz.” Frontman Steve Souza made a point to let the Philly crowd know their guitarist Lee Altus was a Flyers fan, an encouraged them to greet him with middle fingers and F bombs.

RFA and The Last Frontier @ Drexel University.

November 30, 2015

drexel_night_of_the_arts_november_2015_chip_frenette_05Text and images by Chip Frenette.

Drexel University’s Entertainment and Arts Society hosted Night of the Arts in the Urban Annex at the University City Campus on Friday, November 20. The event was an opportunity for students from the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design to network with one another in the school and those outside in preparation for cooperative positions.

Cooperative positions are paid and unpaid positions that are directly related to a student’s field of study. Previous cooperative position providers were on hand as well as alumni to help students in their networking endeavors.

Mad Dragon Media and their affiliate Mad Dragon Records were on hand. Mad Dragon Records is a record label run by Drexel students who are learning the entire realm of music production from seeking artists and management to recording and marketing.

“Our label isn’t just for Drexel Students,” said Josh Wolfberg, a 21-year-old junior Music Industry major. “We will work with anyone who we think will benefit us when we can benefit them. It’s all about learning the industry.”

Mad Dragon Records provided music from two bands formed by and consisting of Drexel students in the Black Box Theatre. The Last Frontier performed first, featuring lead vocalist Pierce Rolli, Braxton Carter on lead guitar and backing vocals, Brendan Keenan on rhythm guitar, Brendan Vreeland on bass and Jackson Theur on drums.

“Don’t feel like you have to sit down,” said Rolli at the beginning of the band’s set. “Feel free to c’mon up here and grove with us.”

Closing out the night was indie garage band RFA. RFA is a quartet with rhythm guitar and lead vocals by Dan Cousart, lead guitarist, Christian Turzo, Brendan McHale on bass and Alec Powell.

“The evening is a success,” said Drexel sophomore and assistant event coordinator Elizabeth Hoffman. “We have a larger turn out than we had expected.”

together PANGEA and White Reaper @ PhilaMOCA.

November 30, 2015

5R7A1347Text by Sami Rahman. Images by Conor O’Mara.

“I’m drunk as shit!” yelled an audience member as together PANGEA took the stage at PhilaMOCA on Wednesday, November 18.

It was a fitting way to start the night for a band who came to fame with a song called, “Too Drunk to Cum.”

The opener, White Reaper, of Louisville, beckoned the crowd forward, the singer clad in a giant black winter hat. They served up a fiery punk sound, perfect for anyone who missed the heyday of Stiff Little Fingers or the Undertones.

“It was one of my favorite sets,” said Ryan Hater, keyboardist of White Reaper. “Every time we play here, we get really excited.”

The echoing, tuneful keyboards mixed with the attitude and snarl nicely, and more than a few people could be heard humming the keyboard hooks to themselves before the headliner played.

“I love it. Why not?” said together PANGEA bassist Danny Bengston about moshing at shows. “It’s awesome that they are that enthusiastic about the music.”

The crowd at the DIY venue certainly showed their enthusiasm, with the mosh pit forming by the second song and not letting up for the whole set.

Singing along wholeheartedly to lyrics like, “My dick is soft,” the audience were all over the place. But the dynamic songs meant there was a lot of gazing up at band, ready to jump into action at the next chorus.

“I hope everybody’s okay, they keep falling onto shit,” said singer William Keegan after a particularly bad tumble knocked over his microphone.

Growing more aggressive throughout the show, together PANGEA culminated the set with an assertive cover of “Gates of Heaven” by the Dad Horse Experience. Keegan dragged the microphone stand into the middle of the crowd and howled into it, his guitar screeching along as the sweaty mass surrounded him.

All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens and Neck Deep @ The Liacouras Center.

November 25, 2015

ATL2Text by McCall Cox. Images by Erin Marhefka.

All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens and Neck Deep performed at the Liacouras Center at Temple University on Saturday, putting on a mega pop-punk show.

Neck Deep kicked off the evening. The Welsh four-piece band consists of Ben Barlow on vocals, Matt West on guitar, Fil Thorpe-Evans on bass and Dani Washington on drums. The band was high energy as Barlow rasped out the vocals while engaging fans. Barlow threw himself into the crowd during a song, holding on to fans for support. Neck Deep performed songs such as “Gold Steps,” “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” and “A Part of Me.”

Sleeping With Sirens commanded the stage next, opening their set with the song “Kick Me” from their most recent album Madness. Vocalist Kellin Quinn belted the lyrics, combining singing with screaming for the first song and many afterwards. They took fans back to the beginning next with their old hit “Do It Now, Remember It Later.”

The pop rock quintet, which formed in 2009, features Kellin Quinn on vocals, Justin Hills on bass and Gabe Barham on drums while Jack Fowler performs as lead guitarist and Nick Martin operates the rhythm guitar.

“This next song goes out to anyone here who is with their best friend tonight,” Quinn told the audience as the band began playing “Gold.” “This song’s about growing up.”

Later, Quinn sang the chorus to U2’s song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” mentioning that song’s influence on the Sleeping With Sirens song “The Strays.”

The band slowed then slowed their set down with two acoustic songs, first playing “With Ears To See and Eyes To Hear.” The band took that opportunity to mention the release of a new live acoustic album in the beginning of the new year, the footage for which was recorded during their previous “We Like It Quiet” tour.

Then, when Quinn turned to ask bandmates Fowler and Martin what song they would be performing next, they informed him that they tuned to a song that wasn’t included on the setlist.

“That means it must be ‘Iris,’” Quinn responded, before covering the Goo Goo Dolls track.

The audience lit up the Liacouras Center with phone flashlights, which Quinn referred to as “the coolest thing I’ve seen all tour.”

Quinn took every moment he could to interact with the audience, walking through the crowd between two songs and commending a fan for dressing up as Spiderman.

“We’ve got one more song for you Philly,” said Quinn just before performing “If You Can’t Hang.” “You’ve been amazing. We hope you leave here feeling a little bit better about yourself and grow up to do something fucking amazing with your life.”

Sleeping With Sirens performed a mix of new and old, including songs such as “We Like It Loud,” “Tally It Up Settle The Score,” “Better Off Dead,” and “Congratulations.” They left the audience with well wishes for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

Approximately 30 minutes before All Time Low took the stage, a member of their personnel came to the microphone to explain the delay in their schedule. He explained that something happened earlier in the evening to affect the band, but assured that it was unrelated to any recent tragedies or threats.

“We just ask that first, you be patient with the band. And second, when they do come out, we ask that you give them all the love and support you can,” the spokesman explained.

All Time Low did take the stage then, beginning their set list with “Satellite.” The band jumped around as per usual to the screams of the audience. The pop punk/rock band, which formed in 2003, hails from Baltimore and is manned by Alex Gaskarth on vocals and guitar, Jack Barakat on lead guitar, Zack Merrick on bass and Rian Dawson on drums. After performing their hits “A Love Like War” and “Lost In Stereo,” Gaskarth took a moment to address the audience.

“We fucking missed you Philly, sorry for keeping you waiting. Thank you for being so understanding,” said the vocalist. He referred to the bands’ Maryland roots, saying, “We’re from Baltimore, which is about an hour away, so we feel like we’re home when we’re here.”

Gaskarth continued to engage the audience, teaching the crowd melodies via call and response and encouraging participation.

All Time Low broke up the energetic set with three acoustic songs, starting with “Cinderblock Garden.” Gaskarth then gave the audience a choice between two All Time Low songs, “Therapy” or “Remembering Sunday.” When the latter received a raucous response, Gaskarth obliged.

About halfway through the song, the lead singer stopped the track when he noticed a fan being pulled over the barrier from the audience.

“Is everyone good? If you see someone fall down, make sure you pick them back up and get them out of the crowd as soon as possible,” he instructed audience members before resuming the song.

Afterward, Gaskarth tossed a few water bottles into the audience to keep fans hydrated, telling them to pass the drinks around to share.

“This song goes out to anyone struggling with something right now, anyone going through something, anyone in pain, anyone hurting,” said Gaskarth before the start of “Missing You.” “Just know that it will get better. You can come out of whatever you’re going through, much stronger and much better for it. We’re all here for you. We’re all just a big family here tonight.”

Gaskarth and Barakat carried on their typical banter between songs as Barakat discussed his post-show plans to listen to new music from Adele and Justin Bieber. Gaskarth added that his bandmate would cover himself in KY gel and dance erratically while listening to both albums simultaneously.

The band later mentioned their 12 years together as All Time Low, thanking fans profusely for allowing such a thing to be possible for them.

“I gotta say man, you guys are making us feel good tonight. We love you guys so much, thank you. Every time we come to this beautiful city, you guys always take good care of us,” Gaskarth said throughout the night.

Following their performance of “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t),” Gaskarth and Barakat opened the floor to more conversation.

“We cannot think of a better way to end our year, so thank you, thank you guys so much,” the vocalist said.

“We decided to end the tour in some of our favorite cities,” Barakat added to cheers from the audience.

“I just want to say one more time, thank you for being understanding of us coming on a little late. We received some very heavy news today, and I’m not going to go into details, but it was a tough night for us to come out on stage and do this. So thank you so fucking much for being amazing,” Gaskarth concluded. The band then launched into the last song of their set, “Old Scars/Future Hearts.”

All Time Low returned for a three song encore of “Kids In The Dark,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and “Dear Maria,” accompanied by large inflated beach balls and heart shaped confetti.

“We’ll see you soon. Take care of each other out there. Spread love. We’ll see you. Let’s get crazy,” said Gaskarth before “Dear Maria.”

Following the show, when asked about how the tour has been going, Nick Martin of Sleeping With Sirens said it has been fun, despite recent events.

“It’s been a really dark past couple of weeks with things in Paris, with The Ghost Inside and then All Time Low going through some really personal shit tonight,” Martin said. “So, it’s nice to know that we have an awesome community of people that rally together to always take care of each other. That’s the most beautiful thing ever.”

Giraffage and Slow Magic @ Union Transfer with Daktyl.

November 25, 2015

stephensgiraffage2015-61Text and images by Holli Stephens.

The reverberation from the music of the “So Cute!” tour’s performers could be heard within a block radius of Union Transfer last Thursday night. Giraffage teamed up with the masked Slow Magic for a night of wild live drum beats and more intimate, slowed down remixes.

Daktyl started off the night, setting an upbeat tone, trying to get the crowd moving around with a series of remixes.

Slow Magic appeared on stage sporting his box-like LED animal mask and a set of drum sticks. The crowd did not seemed prepared for the event that followed. Slow Magic picked up one of the two drums he was playing and placed it directly into the crowd. He hopped down from the stage and segued into his next song amongst his screaming fans.

San Jose native Charlie Yin, otherwise known as Giraffage, played hits off his first EP, No Reason, and a remix of “Ignition.” He even remixed Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dog’s Out?” and Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.”

As an encore, Slow Magic and Giraffage collaborated on a couple more songs including “So Cute!

Prior to his set, we caught up with Giraffage backstage to talk about his journey as a musician, Philadelphia and his Thanksgiving plans.

How has touring been with Slow Magic and Daktyl? What are you most excited for on the So Cute! tour?

It has been great. I’ve toured with Slow Magic a bunch in the past so I already know he’s a really good dude. He gives a super good live show. It’s my first time touring with Daktyl and he’s honestly one of my favorite people ever. He’s such a nice dude. I’m really excited to go to San Fransisco because I’m from there. It’s going to be the biggest show I’ve ever done in San Fransisco and I think we’ve already sold most of the tickets. It’s almost sold out and it’s still like a month and a half away. My parents are gonna be there, which will be cool. It’s gonna be fun to go to my hometown and play a show. The venue is the Regency Ballroom.

You started out as a political economics major and then switched over to making music. Had you been making music prior to this?

I was making music all through out high school and college and was originally going to go into marketing when I graduated. But my music started picking up steam midway through college, so I was able to segue straight into music as opposed to a marketing gig. It was really good timing.

What moment for you really made you realize that you wanted to be a musician?

I’m not sure. I’d been doing music for a while and always considered myself to be a musician. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine doing shows and tours and stuff. I guess, after I wrote my first song, I kinda considered myself more a musician.

Being a California native, what is it like coming to Philadelphia for you?

We literally got in at 2 pm or 3 pm. Every time I’m in Philly, it’s for a show and I’m here for less than 24 hours, so I never get the chance to explore too much. I honestly don’t know too much about Philly even though I’ve been here four or five times. I had Philly cheesesteaks the first couple of times I’ve been to Philly. To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed but I think I just went to the wrong spots. I didn’t ask any locals where the best cheesesteaks are.

What about comparing East Coast to West Coast music scenes?

It’s a little different. I feel like Philly is more into indie rock more than electronic stuff. There’s a lot of crossover though these days and a lot of pop music definitely is leaning towards electronic music. I come from a very indie rock background and started playing guitar and drums at a very young age, so I definitely try to draw a lot of influence from that type of scene. My major markets are definitely on the West Coast because there is more of an electronic focus but there are a lot of crossovers, especially in places like Philly.

What was festival season like for you and how does it compare to doing more traditional touring?

I’ve done a bunch of festivals this year. It was crazy. Festival season just ended and I was literally doing two or three festivals every single week, all the way from March to August. It was hectic. After this tour, I’m done for a while. I finally get to just rest and work on new music.

I definitely try to switch it up. People come to see us because they know our music already, versus at a festival, where they might of heard my name in passing and wanted to check me out. So, I have to be a little more assessable than I usually am. And there are bigger crowds too, especially these days. Festivals are more for the experience of going and getting fucked up with friends. I cater to it with that in mind.

Is winter usually a slow time for you?

Usually, yeah. I think it holds true for the entire industry. Winter is a shitty time to tour because Christmas and all of that stuff and Thanksgiving. Most people just take the winter to write and do festivals.

So what are your plans for Thanksgiving?

I’m gonna be on tour. The thing is, we have a few off days during Thanksgiving, so we’re actually going to someone on tour’s house and just having this giant Thanksgiving dinner there with her family. It’s gonna be cool. We’re gonna have a traditional, nice Thanksgiving. Like turkeys and shit.

Diarrhea Planet @ Underground Arts with Hound and Music Band.

November 24, 2015

UA_112315_DIARRHEA_PLANET-003Text by Andy Polhamus. Images by Rick Kauffman.

Nashville power pop favorites Diarrhea Planet tore Philly a new one Friday night with an incendiary performance at Underground Arts.

Their first Philly show, held in the basement of a house near the El Bar in 2011, left some of the snootier punks in attendance remarking that, with their signature lineup of four guitarists, the boys from DP were oversaturated, overpowered and overindulgent — that is to say, excellent. The show last week was much the same, except that the band is finally playing venues that can handle their outlandish live show.

Long hair and technical virtuosity ruled the night, with Philly’s own Hound opening (their new LP, Out Of Space, drops Thursday). Their riff-heavy 1970s gloom was the perfect way to start the evening. The poppy-yet-shreddy Music Band, on tour from Nashville with DP, bridged the gap between the burned-out Hound and the hyperactive Diarrhea Planet.

DP stuck mostly to material from their recent full-length, 2013’s I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. The band also played two new songs that carried on the warm, dirty sound of their last full-length and the more recent Aliens in the Outfield EP. Unfortunately, though, frontman Jordan Smith did not reveal the titles of those songs in a quick chat before he took the stage, so your guess is as good as mine as to the new songs’ names.

The night climaxed on the stoner ballad “Kids,” with the entire room head banging along to a devastatingly subtle (subtle for DP, anyway) contemplation on growing up. Seriously, it’s shocking how much emotion these dudes can fit into tracks that sound like the physical embodiment of what a 12-year-old hair metal fan thinks a good song should be. They finished with an encore of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck,” featuring Music Band’s Harry Kagan on lead vocals. It was an appropriately over the top ending for an already over the top show.

The next day, the guys cleared their schedule for a trip to the Mutter Museum, the macabre collection of medical oddities in Center City. Although the tour ended the next night in Washington, D.C, the band didn’t say much about what was next. But guitarist Emmett Miller is currently reading “Infinite Jest,” and he’s only about 400 pages in, so consider him occupied until at least Christmas.

Creed Bratton @ Voltage Lounge.

November 24, 2015

CreedBratton_JDMousley-22aText and images by JD Mousley.

You may know him as the man who’s feverously been working to gain his scuba license for a paper company in Scranton but if that’s the only Creed Bratton you know, you’re missing out on the other half of this entertainer.

Creed Bratton, the musician and actor most well known for performing a fictitious version of himself on The Office, performed at the Voltage Lounge last Wednesday. Bratton combined music and comedy to create a hybrid performance that left people wondering, “What is this crazy old guy up to?”

The show featured a collection of stand-up comedians and musicians. Brian Six was the first to perform, and the host of the night. Six was also joined by comedians Sonia Zambrana, Chris Wood and Ryan Shaner – all comedians from the Philadelphia area. They offered their own take on subjects like getting a tattoo at age 17 with your mom, getting kicked out of strip clubs and boners that in stretchy pants that look like Free Willy 2.

Tim Raymus gave the crowd a taste of what was to come. Bringing a guitar on stage, Raymus infused his stand up humor with a musical twist. He directed his angst against Comcast into a song relatable to many in the city, titled “Common Ground,” singing “Comcast sucks, and needs to die.”

Shaner was next to take the stage, taking no prisoners. Shaner entered with two cold Miller High Life’s in hand, starting his 20 minute set by chugging the first brew right away. He also indulged demands for him to take off his shirt by unbuckling his pants, and giving the audience a full moon before welcoming Creed Bratton to stage.

Bratton’s show featured a combination of music and jokes. He started the show as Creed Bratton, the musician. While setting up the auxiliary cords for his guitar, Bratton informed one of the stage hands that a cord needed to “go in a little deeper.” Bratton looked up to those in attendance, smiled, and uttered a well timed, “That’s what she said!”

Those coming for Creed Bratton, Dunder Mifflin’s quality assurance manager, weren’t let down. Bratton left the stage briefly, coming back as Creed from the show, replicating the senile and bizarre character that many have grown to love. He added backstory to jokes from the show, like how he wears size 5 shoes after having his feet bound by his Chinese foster parents.

“They thought it would make me more beautiful,” Bratton remarked. “But I really just ended up losing a toe.”

Bratton’s music is melodic and sweet. He played many songs from back in the 60’s, performing hits such “Boxer” and “Live for Today.” Many in the crowd found themselves swaying along to a beat that subtly captured them without their knowledge.

Not all of his music came from before most of the crowd was born. Bratton told the story about how he and fellow actor Ed Helms would often jam together during down-times while filming. One of his less serious songs, “Mose Was A Runner,” spawned from the desire to write a song to subtly get back at Angela Kinsey, another actress on the show.

Bratton’s song “All the Faces,” which played during The Office’s finale. Bratton had written the song long before starring on the show. The song sat unplayed for 30 years, until a conversation with director Greg Daniels about how to end the show. Bratton performed the song once for Daniels. Bratton said he didn’t think Daniels had liked the song. He assumed Daniels had gone with a different ending until the cast sat down for the final script read. Sitting at the end of the script: “Creed plays ‘All of the Faces’ while the characters talk about their time at Dunder Mifflin.” Bratton was surprised to see Daniels holding his guitar at the reading.

“One of my best performances” Bratton says.

Despite his character’s personality on The Office, Creed Bratton is a compassionate performer, often telling the crowd that “Creed Cares” throughout the performance. Bratton continued to embrace fans, allowing those who purchased a meet-and-greet pass to take selfies and sign autographs. Many fans brought their own Office memorabilia, including a $3 bill from the show and custom made signs for the event.

Bratton will continue to perform along the East Coast. He is currently working on producing a television show about a caregiver who helps people pass to the other side, compassionately, with comedic overtones.


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