It’s tough to imagine Kwesi Kankam barreling at you full-speed, preparing to knock you to the ground and leave you face-down in the dirt. The 26-year-old songwriter is soft-spoken and unassuming. When he talks, he pauses thoughtfully between each sentence, looking down through the corner of his square-framed glasses. When he sings, his smooth vocals have an instantly soothing effect.
But that doesn’t change the fact that for a good portion of his life, Kankam had the primary objective of running over everyone who stood between him and the end zone.
Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Kankam excelled athletically and was offered a chance to play Division I football at Lehigh University. He took the offer and landed with a splash, earning starting time and even scoring touchdowns as a freshman. There was just one problem: He couldn’t have cared less.
“I remember being in the locker room before games, thinking something was wrong,” recalls Kankam, who now records as Kwesi K. “Everyone else was hyped up, rowdy as shit, and I’m just really chill in the corner.”
“We’re right at the point now where I think we’re going to have to make the decision to leave all this behind and hit the road full time,” says Sean Miller, the lead singer and guitar player. “We gotta give our notices and make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Text and images by Darragh Dandurand.
Most of the hummus was gone from the hors d’oeuvre platter in Johnny Brenda’s green-room as Vita and the Woolf, Bird Watcher and Canon Logic all went in and out during sound check. The 13 musicians shared a few short conversations with one another before breaking off for each band’s pre-show ritual.
Front-lady Jennifer Pague and sit-in drummer Al Smith of Cold Fronts opened as Vita and the Woolf, a West Chester-born band making its way onto the Philly scene. Pague’s rhythmic music, influenced by piano-heavy melodies and Thom Yorke-like vocal stylings, had a crowd growing throughout the set. Curious bystanders hanging at the bar made their way toward the stage and swayed in unison as Pague’s fingers ran around her keyboard. She belted out song after song, eyes wrinkled shut as she hit every note she went for in her vintage, bell bottom pantsuit.
Bird Watcher (above) hopped up on stage next, ramming up the energy in the club. The six musicians occasionally had Ashley Cubbler behind the microphone, crooning along with lead guitarist Julian Booker. Sending Americana Rock spitting out of the amps, Bird Watcher had the boozy crowd shaking their hips.
Text by Rick Kauffman.
When it comes to the forces of attraction, covalent bonds or gravitation pull, it’s the mass and distance between objects that matters the most. Like the space that separates atoms or the gaps between celestial bodies – one universe within the other over and over again – we rotate, we dance, we join and we collide.
Take two musical powerhouses, both of whom have garnered their own gravitational pull through spectacular outbursts of sight and sound. Sound may not carry in deep space but here on Earth, those waves come crashing.
In the instance of Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, who each earned their stripes over decades of writing and touring, their bond was formed of friendship and musical kinship. Thus, as spectacularly as an atom is born, The Both was formed and a new musical odyssey has begun.
Throughout the decades, Philadelphia has been grinding out its own place on America’s musical map. From classic soul to jazz to the current burgeoning hip-hip and underground punk scenes, our great city has contributed a lot to the sonic landscape of popular music. No matter where you are on a Saturday night in Philadelphia, you’re always bound to be a few blocks away from great live music, and this weekend is a weekend to celebrate Philly’s musical diversity. With punk, hip-hop, jazz, indie and rock acts playing throughout the city, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t hit the town and hear something great. No matter your musical tastes, Philly always has something to offer. – Derrick Krom
A punk rock outfit from Philadelphia, The Holy Mess plans to annihilate Kung Fu Necktie in typical fashion this Friday night. With a new record coming this summer, The Holy Mess has new material in the works and is bound to put on an awesome show. NYC punkers Chumped and Philly pop rockers Likers round out the bill.
On tour in support of their latest record Underneath the Rainbow, The Black Lips will be bringing their hectic, unpredictable, theatrical and high-energy show to Union Transfer. Years of recording and touring definitely haven’t slowed down the Atlantic punk rock foursome. Nashville rock and roll band Natural Child will open the night.
As part of Jazz Appreciation Month, the 3rd Annual Center City Jazz Festival will be taking place this Saturday. Attendees can expect a jam-packed schedule of 16 talented jazz bands and artists performing at four different venues, all within walking distance of each other. One ticket provides access to all the performances during the six-hour event.
Brought to you by Flygirrl and gL Productions, Johnny Brenda’s will be hosting Philly Loves Def Jam, “a night of classics from one of the greatest music catalogues in history.” Hosted by West Philly hip-hop artist Chill Moody, the night will feature DJ Scratch of EPMD and opening DJ sets by Mike Nyce and Mr. Sonny James.
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, “underwater-psych-rock” four-piece New Madrid is currently on tour in support of their second full-length album Sunswimmer. The expansive and experimental psych and noise band will be joined at Boot & Saddle by local Philadelphia psychedelic/dance/rock/indie band and collaborative project DRGN KING.
With the recent release of their newest album Get Pure, Ohio blues-rock trio Mount Carmel will be bringing their vintage sound to MilkBoy Philly this Sunday night. The band will also be supported by three local Philadelphia acts: psychedelic garage rock power trio St. James and The Apostles, fuzzed-out shoegazers Harsh Vibes and blues-driven psych rockers Village. It’ll be a great way to put an end to your weekend.
Text and images by Grace Dickinson.
London Grammar’s Hannah Reid was struggling to keep her voice strong this past weekend as she sang to the packed crowd swarming Underground Arts on Saturday night. Minus the slight brevity of the set, however, it’s doubtful you would’ve ever guessed, had this not been addressed aloud.
“After this, we head to DC,” said Reid following a forewarning that her voice was starting to go. “And then I’m going to sleep for three days straight.”
“The desk was a wreck. Dagget sagged to his knees. He stayed there, kneeling as though in fervent supplication. Then very slowly he shook his head, sadly refusing the supplicant. As he got to his feet, it seemed he was falling instead of rising. There was a certain dullness in his eyes, a certain look that said, It’s the escalator going down and where it stops don’t matter.”
-”Fire in the Flesh,” David Goodis
Times were rough. And they didn’t look as if they were going to be getting easier anytime soon. Deserted, betrayed, alone. The walls weren’t caving in. They had collapsed. Anything he had worked to build was destroyed. The streets of South Philadelphia were strewn with the type of garbage you pretend not to see but can’t ignore. And the one he loved, whom he had truly loved and devoted his life to, had slipped through his fingers. Yet again.
The love affair had began back when he was younger. They had bumped into each other in the South Philadelphia neighborhood where he was raised, but their attraction was a forbidden one.
“I’m coming from a super white, Italian or Irish neighborhood where racism was the shit,” says the Philadelphia MC Zilla Rocca, 31, reflecting on years long past, when he lived near 3rd and Tasker streets. “Booming business back then. I couldn’t overtly wave my hip-hop flag. It was acceptable to like rap in small doses back then.”
Attending school in Center City at Roman Catholic High School gave Zilla a reprieve from the people, places and customs that surrounded him in his own neighborhood. Not that it was bad, but he now had exposure to other kids from other cultures, from other parts of Philadelphia. And to kids who could wave that flag. Peers who didn’t come from the same area, but liked Black Moon and Fat Joe. It was the start of not being ashamed of his feelings of affection.
Sitting in an SUV on Pearl Street, the alleyway that runs behind his alma matter, Zilla eyes the stone exterior of the school that plays a major character in his story. The alley in the heart of the city may look benign on a warm winter afternoon, but the reality of what pulsed through the vein was much colder. It was here he would trade off tapes like Heltah Skeltah or OutKast with kids of different races or from different parts of the city. There was a network of guys who were up on some shit.
“I couldn’t do that in South Philly,” Zilla reminisces.