Text and images by Donte Kirby.
Up-and-comer Bok Nero preformed to a sparse crowd lining the walls of the Reef’s dance floor. Nero ditched the stage minutes into his performance in favor of taking advantage of the open space left by the crowd. Nero bounced from end to end of the floor rapping and singing the occasional hook.
The audience that came early gave Nero the benefit of the doubt and fans closest to the stage two-stepped or at the very least, shoulder-bobbed along. Those who danced got Nero’s full attention and were serenaded with lyrics like, “don’t take your love away,” from a track Nero didn’t give new fans the luxury of identifying.
Back on stage, the host, dressed in a floral shirt, sung a tune that beckoned the ever growing crowd to come closer to the stage. He hyped the crowd with a chant until a fever pitch was reached and the band finally graced the stage to much applause.
From the start, No-Maddz rock infused reggae had the crowd moving their feet. Reggae medleys that mixed funky guitar solos with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” a bit of Sean Paul and “Sexual Healing” to round it off. There were no breaks between songs, just smooth transitions to songs like “Romance” off their album Sly & Robbie presents No-Maddz.
No-Maddz had something for fans and newcomers alike. Portions worked in Heavy D’s “Now That We Found Love” with their own original lyrics and up tempo reggae. It was hard to tell where original songs began and covers ended. The only certainty was that it was backed by a funky reggae tune that welcomed any kind of movement.
After a set that had No-Maddz members playing instruments and dancing in the crowd, with more than a little bit of pelvic thrusting and good vibes all around, the set ended like it began; with raucous applause.
Text and images by Chip Frenette.
It was a throwback night at Underground Arts last weekend as classic ’90s bands Soul Asylum (above) and Meat Puppets jammed like it was 1993 all over again.
When the Meat Puppets took to the stage, the energy was quickly turned up by the crowd. Brothers Cris (bass and vocals) and Curt (guitar and lead vocals) Kirkwood got down to business right away without much talk but with their unique blend of what can only be described as psychedelic cowpunk. Heavy hanging bass rifts with churning guitars along with Shandon Sahm’s maniac drumming filled the next hour and a half along with Cris Kirkwood’s odd but entertaining facial expressions that serve as a wealth of stage antics on their own.
Soul Asylum then followed, starting their set off with “Somebody to Shove.” They played all of their ’90s guitar pop hits. The band peaked with their smash 3-times platinum album Grave Dancers Union in 1992. The album featured “Runaway Train,” which lead singer Dave Pirner and Soul Asylum to take home the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
They also played tracks from their follow up album, Let Your Dim Light Shine, which also went platinum. They did not hesitate to capitalize on the tracks from that era, such as “Black Gold” and “Misery,” to keep the crowd’s attention between a smattering of tracks from their other albums that have been produced over the years, up to their most recent 2012 offering titled Delayed Reaction.
Despite the many changes, Dave Pirner, the only remaining original member, still keeps the band sounding the same as it did over twenty five years ago when they were at their peak. With Pirner is drummer Michael Bland, who has played with Prince and Paul Westerberg. Closing the rhythm section on bass is long time studio musician Winston Roye, who has worked with Ace of Bass and Shakira. Alongside of Pirner on guitar since 2012 is Justin Sharbono, filling in the spot once held by Soul Asylum co-founder Dan Murphy. Sharbono is also from Minnesota – along with Bland and Pirner – thus keeping Soul Asylum grounded in its Minneapolis roots.
The World Takes opened the night. Singer/guitarist Stephen Maglio offers unbridled enthusiasm while on stage, clearly having a lot of fun playing music in front of a crowd. Along with Jim Stager on bass guitar and DJ Bonebrake on drums, the short but energy-filled set served more than its purpose to open up the night as fans of the Meat Puppets and Soul Asylum filled up Undergrounds Arts.
After the set Maglio was seen mingling with the crowd and stepping outside frequently to enjoy conversation with the doormen and just about anyone who would talk to him, all the while graciously thanking everyone who was at the show.
Text and images by Mina Lee.
This past Saturday, Morrissey filled the Academy of Music Ballroom with devoted fans from diverse backgrounds.
The former Smiths frontman entered to a cacophony of enthusiasm as fans rushed towards the stage and a concert once intended to be seated, informally became a general standing room show. Opening the set with his classic hit “Suedehead,” Morrissey showcased flawless vocals. Seemingly unfazed by previous health problems which forced the artist to cancel previous tours, his energy exuded during this performance.
In such an ornate and grandiose venue, the British vocalist was nothing short of majestic in singled-out, blinding spotlights.
The previous night, Morrissey’s performance at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware was poorly received. The matter was properly addressed – after two songs, he asked the crowd in front of him to help them forget “the memory of Delaware.”
Creating a cathartic experience through deeply emotional and vivid lyrics, as the musician is known for, Morrissey tugged at each attendee’s heart strings with songs like “Now My Heart is Full,” “Everyday is Like Sunday” and “I’m Throwing my Arms Around Paris.”
“Do you feel better?” he asked.
Cheers and a unanimous “yes” filled the venue, but he interrupted.
“No, I’m not finished,” he continued. “Do you feel better when you get it off your chest?”
Never one to shy from heavy material, a graphic montage of animal slaughterhouse video footage played on large projection to his performance of “Meat is Murder” as the lights dimmed. By the end of the song, Morrissey was on his knees, seemingly overcome by grief with his back to the audience, as a probing question flashed on the screen in bolded white lettering: “What’s Your Excuse Now?”
As the artist wound down his set, fans tossed themselves on to the stage to get a taste of the myth in front of them.
He closed out with The Smiths hit “What She Said.”
One young man ran up and tackled the singer, seemingly in an aggressive embrace. Morrissey seemed unaffected – never missing a beat – as two security personnel pried the crazed fan’s limbs from the forced embrace. Several more fans attempted to get a hug, only to be shut down and shoved off by now alert security.
For his encore performance, Morrissey performed “First of the Gang to Die.” Voices already hoarse from singing along reached a fever pitch.
Making his final exit, Morrissey ripped off his white shirt in a feral manner and tossed it into the crowd.
The performance at the Academy of Music left Philadelphia begging for more, as a sea of fans camped out by the tour bus for a mere glimpse through relentless downpour of the man who had enchanted them yet again, with tales of unrequited love and heartbreak.
Text and images by Chad Sims.
Last Friday night Kung Fu Necktie was crammed with music and people. The place was rocking with a few incredible local acts and one band consisting of neighbors from the north.
Bubonic Bear (above) kicked things off with their particular brand of brutal noise. If you live in Philly and are into heavy music, you have probably caught these guys before. If you haven’t seen B.B., then it is too late because their last show was the following night at PhilMOCA. RIP Bubonic Bear.
Next was a band whose first record I have thoroughly enjoyed for the last few years and had yet to catch, Psychic Teens. I have only ever heard great things about their live show. Unfortunately, I will have to catch their next show because this one was seriously marred by poor sound.
Winnipeg’s KEN mode (above and below) took the stage around 11 o’clock and absolutely killed it. The band is touring in support of their latest album Success. KEN mode’s music bares a striking resemblance to fellow Canadians Nomeansno but with their own take on noisy hardcore.
These guys are not for everyone. At the same time, even if you aren’t typically into hardcore there might be something here for you. The music is angular and usually has something of a groove but lead singer Jesse Matthewson’s harsh vocal repetitions never let you forget the heavy grounding.
Hopefully, the next time KEN mode comes through town they will be headlining a bigger venue.
We’re giving away tickets to a pretty amazing show at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday.
If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.
Rory Loveless is just 21 but he and his brother Eoin, 23, have recently released their second album as the hard rocking, angst-ridden garage band Drenge. The British duo are on the East Coast for a few shows before returning to the UK and the Continent for festival season. They’ll perform at Johnny Brenda’s on Sunday.
Our G.W. Miller III spoke with Rory by phone from his home in Sheffield, a former industrial hub that has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years.
You’re originally from Castleton?
Yeah, it’s about 15 miles from Sheffield. It’s in the country. Loads of hills and stuff. It’s kind of remote.
It looks very bucolic and pretty.
Yeah, yeah. It definitely is.
So where does the angst come from?
I guess it really started because we didn’t really have anywhere to go. We couldn’t really get out of there. It’s very isolated. There’s nothing to do. It’s a bit of a wasteland.
And just general teenage angst. Yeah. Life.
Why did you move to Sheffield rather than London?
We could make it work from here. It seems weird to me that all bands in the UK move to London when they want to get serious. I don’t know. Quite obviously, there’s loads of stuff happening there but I imagine it could be quite stifling as well. Sheffield is just the perfect size. It’s full of lots of cool people. Loads of cool stuff going on, obviously not as much as London though.
It’s nice to be near our parents. This is where we’ve been going to gigs since we were 14 or so.
Do your parents like your music?
They’ve kind of warmed up to it. When we first started, they were like, “OK. That’s entertaining.” I think they like the second album more than the first. When Eoin dropped out of university to do music, they were like, “You might be making a bit of a mistake.” But now, they’re really proud of us. My Dad is more of a jazz fan though. My Mom is more into Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, that sort of thing.
Your music almost has an old school American rock sound, like bluesy rock from the 60s. Where does that come from?
We got interested in a lot of American bands when we started this band. We got really interested in the punk bands like Black Flag, the Minutemen, Husker Du and the Minor Threat. Loads of that stuff. There’s a documentary made by Vice called “New Garage Explosion.” It’s got loads of garage bands like The Oh Sees, Jay Retard … it talks a little about The White Stripes, bands like that.
You guys are a lot more hard rock than punk-ish though.
I don’t know. We just kind of do what we do. There’s tons of great bands out there. I don’t really know what to say. I don’t really think about that sort of stuff.
Who do you listen to? Who do you admire?
That’s a tough question to answer. The people I admire don’t really have anything to do with the sound of the band or anything. One album we really like is Disintegration by The Cure. It’s just a really well made record. Loads of amazing songs on there. Really great production. It made an impact on our record.
In what way? The production? The sound?
The production. We wanted something more cinematic. We wanted it to be a record that you have to play at a really high volume. We wanted this album to be really different from the first album, which was a bit raw. Not a whole lot of production on there. Some of it was recorded live.
Did you guys start out making your own videos? Is that part of the creative process for you?
Yeah, it was loads of fun. It definitely used to be part of our process but we don’t have as much time to do it now. And we’ve started working with other people to do our videos now. That’s just one of those things that we’ve given up doing to carry on touring. It’d be cool to get back to it. Eoin went to university to study film and TV production.
How was your first tour through the States?
We first toured through the States in January 2014. I wasn’t 21 so it kinda sucked. I was being chaperoned. I felt like a criminal. The dressing room was like a prison cell because I was too young to drink. We went to SXSW as well which was even worse because it’s in Texas which is really hot. We kept getting into queues for shows and I had these big Xs on my hands. I felt like an idiot.
Are you looking forward to coming back?
I’ve been back since I turned 21, which is so obviously better. All the bars just seem to be way cooler in America than they are around here. Maybe because there are so many of them and they are so different.
America has almost infiltrated British culture so it’s interesting to walk around the actual thing and see where all your favorite movies were made and all your favorite songs were written.
Do you know much about Philadelphia?
I went to the Art Museum because I wanted to go see something there, an exhibit or something. I can’t remember. I totally forgot that it was also the Rocky Steps. But I didn’t have much time so I jumped out of the car and just ran up the steps. There were a lot of people doing it and looking at me, cheering and taking photographs. I was like, “My god. I must look like such an idiot. I’m going to have this really serious expression on my face.”
They’re going to think I’ve wanted to do this for years but really, I just wanted to get into the gallery and see loads of art and stuff.
What are you looking forward to on this tour?
I think we get to do a bit more driving this time. I’m actually really into driving. We have a big extended family around the UK so every weekend, we’d be driven off to see them. The American scenery – down the East Coast and down the West Coast – I’m really looking forward to seeing that.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Montone, the frontman of Heat Thunder, reached out to us a few weeks ago. His band was dissolving but they had put out a wild new video that really culminated the entire musical project. He was exhausted but he had learned a lot about himself and music in general. He asked us to write a story about his experiences. We invited him to write about them himself. The following essay is Joe’s tale, straight from him.
I was in my candle lit room in South Philly and my shadow was bent into long sections spanning the wall in front of me and long over my head.
I was trying to conjure something in that solitude after hearing a tune days before, “Oh, these days I’ve been Wearin’ Black…”
It’s funny what fixation will do because once that tune is in your head, you just want to possess it. For the next two nights, I came to work on theme. I would stack all these past visions into my world, provoking a lost skateboarder without any direction. I tried to become him again. I wanted to rectify all the past wounds that I thought I had.
It was dizzying and tiresome. And so, amongst the shadows of the South Philly room, I blew out the candle without a song.
The next morning, I woke up and looked at what I had written. All these pathetically crafted lines about what a lonely, fucked up teenager I was were so infinitesimal to the real meaning. But this was my fascination. My obsession was conjuring these old images to make sense of past distortions.
Dizzy again, I yelled in surrender, “What do I really want to say?”
I took a break without a clear ending. The space had to be closed, to no longer walk around as a victim of my youth or the lurking demon that is only darkness. For in that space of becoming, I was able to peel down those hills again and carve recklessly. The turbulence of the refrain, “I’ve been wearin’ black…” hurt me but in celebration of sick, lustful downward victory.
But it needed an ending as similar as how this sheer burst of writing began.
And so I listened and it was, “black as the tarnished memories in darkness, when the cravin’ ceases… could we hear?”
The old fabrics, and world’s unfairness were dissolved in the light of listening, that which comes out of nowhere. No matter how far we go into that peaceful hell of our own distortion, the morning is going to find us again and ask us what we really want… and it’s that we just want to listen to what’s really going on here.
I’ve always known this would be an awesome, cinematic song to make a video for. My friend Evan Cohen and Eli Reeder were up to collaborating after Heat Thunder’s debut visual adaptation on YVYNYL (a visual adaptation of the Melody Love & Soul EP from February 2013). But the treatment wasn’t really coming. Just as the song, I had to listen and it was written in another stream. The video piece could be taken as a physical manifestation of my original intention with the song. The skateboarder became real again but now he can speak for himself.
My name is Joe Montone and I am a recovering from “Wearin’ Black,” a music video, song and personal journey that was brought to life by my band, Heat Thunder.
Each time I watch the video, it’s a reminder to listen. No more plunging down hills of old habits.
The old habits followed me around though. It’s hard to set something free. And after an incredible year with Heat Thunder in 2014, it seemed as though the once joyous enthusiasm was splitting away. I was losing steam as video producer, almost signing a $2000 contract with a PR firm to get the video out by November and follow it up with a song collection in December. All of this felt wrong because I didn’t think the video was done.
It’s hard because I knew to step away. But I didn’t get a chance to just look around. So, I gave myself time.
There was something missing. I wanted animation and elaboration.
What was missing was listening.
Through this release and the commodification of clever ways to make it as an indie artist, I’m left again… allowing you to listen instead.
I had to realize what had fallen into place around me the entire time.
But this, of course, was after my idea of a band disappeared at the same time.
I felt as if I had come to a place where Heat Thunder was a name that I was fueling. It no longer felt like a way for me to express something that I may not have been able to otherwise. And so, after an ambiguous winter (and freezing cold, too) wondering whether or not the video was done, it was time to rediscover, write new songs and, before distorting my reality any further, put Heat Thunder on hiatus.
I had to be reminded that this is more than a video, more than a band, more lasting than all of this. It is collaboration with darkness and lightness, joy and pain… freedom unconfined as a dog free from his leash or a skater down a hill… or me rockin’ out with a band.
Nothing is as free as the lasting message here.