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The Paul Giess Group @ Ortlieb’s.

March 3, 2015

leister_paulgiessText and images by Matthew Leister.

Here in Philly, jazz musicians work and play as a tight group. Working the bar and restaurant scene is the best way to gain exposure. Jam sessions can be found at regular hotspots throughout the city. Usually, the freewheeling nature of these sessions serves to allow for a looseness and carefree performance of original tunes and standards mixed together at the whim of the band members.

Last week, the Paul Giess Group debuted material from their new album entitled U Suite U at Ortlieb’s. At the Northern Liberties mainstay that famously serves its beer wet, the stage can now be found in the back of the bar with the old side stage turned into a seating area. The narrow path to the stage opens up in front of the acts and allows room for the music to breathe.

Giess, a Philly trumpet player, wrote this suite and recorded it many months ago with friends from the local jazz scene. Tom Moon, the NPR regular and former Philadelphia Inquirer music critic, plays the saxophone. Ryan McNeely, active in several different groups in the region, plays guitar. Local pianist Patrick Fink, plays the Fender Rhodes and singer Alexa Barchini lends her pipes to the original tunes. Filling out the rhythm section is Joseph Plowman on bass and Claudio De Pujades on the drums. Luke Bauerlein makes a guest appearance doing a spoken word piece mid way through the performance.

The suite was executed smoothly and impressively as all of the musicians are masters of their craft and play together on a regular basis on a plethora of other projects. Tom Moon’s Ensemble Novo opened up the evening with all of the musicians above while subbing out Paul Giess for percussionist Jim Hamilton. You have never seen anything like Mr. Hamilton playing the tambourine. It is a thing of beauty. Novo’s Bossanova style served as an appropriate mood setter for the jazz tunes brought forth by Giess’ group.

The music never stopped and the packed bar celebrated the album that has been in the works for over a year.

We were able to spend a day with them in the recording studio and witnessed some of the creation happen.


Echosmith and The Colourist @ The TLA.

March 2, 2015

Echosmith-13Text and images by Brianna Spause.

Two young pop groups took a light jog through Philadelphia this weekend, bringing the heat to the TLA with them. The air was as dense as the crowd that crammed in to get a view of The Colourist and Echosmith’s sold out show on Saturday.

Feet were shuffling as soon as Maya Tuttle laid out the first beats on the drums, finding a dancing crowd to feed The Colourist’s energetic on-stage collaboration to. The California-based pop band puts out an electronic sound that survives the leap out of the studio and onto the stage. The smooth vocals of singer/guitarist Adam Castilla carry their catchy tunes such as popular single, “Little Games.”

There hasn’t been any new music since last March with the release of their self-titled album, but that is subject to change. On their blog, The Colourist is teasing new music in the next few days.

A charmed young audience was receptive to the cue of the music – to dance. Between sets, stage lights cast long shadows that slid around the legs of the crowd and illustrated restless movement. Chants of “Ech-O-Smith” echoed the baseline as the lights came up on a family affair. Echosmith brings an infectious chemistry to the table, fueled by the deep-rooted musical connection between siblings. Grahm (16), Sydney (17), Noah (19) and Jamie Sierota (21) burst onto the scene with their platinum hit “Cool Kids,” which soared to #13 on the Billboard top 100. Also off of the 2013 Talking Dreams album, the single “Bright” has made it back on the books with a music video released early in February.

With eight more sold out shows on their North American tour, the Sierotas are making moves that have landed Echosmith on VH1 and MTV’s “Artists to Watch” lists. Having developed together as musicians is evident in the way the band performs live, following through in each measure with a precise execution. Very clean melodies are executed as vocalist, Sydney commands the stage with confidence lit up like fire in her eyes. The young artist moves without inhibition, bringing to life the magnetic music infused with a little West Coast sunshine.

OCD: Moosh & Twist with Ground Up and Major Van Winkle @ The TLA.

March 2, 2015

Kevin Cook PhotoText and images by Kevin Cook.

“This is the best fucking city in the entire world,” said Oliver “Twist” Feighan, half the Philadelphia born and raised hip hop duo, OCD: Moosh & Twist.

“215 till the day I die/Said it once and ill say it again,” rapped DeQuincy “Moosh” Coleman McRae during the duo’s performance of “Hometown” on Friday at the TLA.

“One day we gon’ make it rappin’,” followed Twist. “Philly blood in my soul dog but show the whole world we gon’ make it happen.”

Friends since they met in first grade, Moosh & Twist performed tracks such as “How We Do,” “Take Me Back” and “Unstoppable.”

As the duo spit their interesting lyrics, they frequently left the stage to perform inches away from the crowd. The hundreds of people in the packed venue mirrored their enthusiasm.

Ground Up, a hip-hop trio that resides in Philadelphia, opened for M&T. Mixing eccentric wordplay with interesting sounds (like the horn on “Let’s Ride”), MC’s Azar and Malakai kept the crowd jumping.

Major Van Winkle opened.

The show gave fans a great mixture of Philadelphia’s unique hip-hop scene.

GrassROOTS Community Foundation’s “Let’s Move It: Philly!” Party @ Trilogy with Black Thought, Jazzy Jeff and More.

February 27, 2015

leister_blackthought+djjazzyjeff+fanText by Tim Mulhern. Images by Matthew Leister.

On the third floor of Trilogy Nightclub, overlooking a snow-covered city and a skyline shrouded in fog, fans of Philly hip-hop “partied with a purpose” at a benefit for the GrassROOTS Community Foundation last Saturday evening. Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Rich Medina and special guests entertained the crowd at The 5th annual “Let’s Move It: Philly!” party.

GrassROOTS Community Foundation specifically focuses its work on young girls in Philadelphia.

“We have these four areas of wellness that we value and do our work around,” said Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, president of the GrassROOTS Community Foundation. “Physical health, mental health, sexual health and the economics of health. We do work with girls, their families and within communities, and we want to change policies and practices.”

As co-founder of the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, Trotter has played an integral role from the beginning.

“This was the brainchild of a good friend of mine and I felt that the work that she was doing was important,” Trotter said. “We both have daughters that [are] close in age. The cause spoke to me, so I rose to the calling.”

Read more…

Stick to Your Guns with In Hearts Wake, 68, Being As An Ocean and The Amity Affliction @ The TLA.

February 26, 2015

Stick To Your Guns6Text by Vince Bellino. Images by Erin Marhefka.

Stick to Your Guns (above) came to the TLA in grand fashion on Tuesday as part of their Disobedient Tour, bringing along In Hearts Wake, 68, Being As An Ocean and The Amity Affliction.

In Hearts Wake, on the road from Byron Bay, Australia, kicked the night off with a hard-hitting metalcore set that had the crowd off its feet.

68 followed with a high energy hardcore set reminiscent of vocalist and guitarist Josh Scogin’s previous projects, Norma Jean and The Chariot, which he acknowledged with a sticker on the back of his guitar that read “Proud to be an The Chariot.”

Screaming into a microphone way too short for him, Scogin faced the lone other band member, drummer Michael McClellan, and responded to crowd requests for Slayer and “Free Bird” by telling them that he wasn’t a real guitarist and couldn’t play those songs.

Being As An Ocean took the stage next, ratcheting the emotion in the room up a notch, promoting their recent album, How We Both Wondrously Perish. The crowd could be heard yelling along to songs from both of the band’s releases and vocalist Joel Quartuccio threw the microphone into the crowd, apologizing after for doing so because he forgot it wasn’t his in the moment.

Fans went wild when Quartuccio left the barrier to move around in the crowd during Being an an Ocean’s last song, “This Loneliness Won’t Be the Death of Me.” Amidst the chaos, guitarist Tyler Ross managed to split the body of his guitar in half before handing it into the crowd.

The Amity Affliction was welcomed onstage with a chant of “Am-i-ty” before launching into a crowd pleasing set packed with songs from their 2014 release, Let the Ocean Take Me. The entire crowd seemed to be into the band, who brought their photographer onstage to celebrate his thirtieth birthday to crude jokes and off-key singing.

Stick to Your Guns came out to huge cheers, immediately ordering the crowd to start moving. Promoting their new album, Disobedient, vocalist Jesse Barnett encouraged fans to crowdsurf to the front and sing with him, apologizing for the barrier, saying it wasn’t the “most ideal situation.”

In the midst of crowdsurfing and circle pits, Barnett slowed things down with an acoustic version of “We Still Believe.” He encouraged everyone to stand by and work for what they believe. After their final song, “Against Them All,” he thanked the crowd for coming out and told everyone to take care of each other.

Stick to Your Guns received encore chants but did not come back out.

Rene Lopez and Tomás Pagán Mottá @ Milkboy.

February 25, 2015

ReneLopez07Text and images by Tyler Horst.

A stalwart few braved the cold and snow on Saturday to spend the evening at Milkboy, and were duly rewarded with an eclectic show featuring Rene Lopez (above).

Taking the stage early in the night was Tomás Pagán Mottá, a singer-songwriter from Washington DC. Using just his voice and an acoustic guitar, with the occasional addition of harmonica, Mottá filled the small upstairs room with some gentle, folksy tunes. His songwriting inspired by the likes of Elliot Smith and Bob Dylan, Mottá shifted easily between full voice and a high falsetto, swinging sweeping melodies over cascading chord progressions.

“I feel like I’m playing the mellow beginning to a funky after-party,” Mottá readily admitted.

That after-party was provided by Rene Lopez and his eight-piece band. Coming from New York City, Lopez and the band quickly warmed everyone up with an energetic mix of funk and Latin soul. Clearly a seasoned group of players, the band was tight even though Lopez announced it was their drummer’s first gig with the rest of the band.

Saxophone, guitar and bass laid down some funky lines over an intricate array of percussion. During a few songs Lopez abandoned the microphone to pick up an extra set of drumsticks, laying into a set of snares and cowbell to transform a soulful number into a flurry of interweaving Latin rhythms.

The band charmed the small crowd and Lopez encouraged everyone to move forward. By the end of the night, the snow was forgotten and the crowd used the extra room to move and dance.

Ruby The Hatchet: “All the Songs We Wrote Over the Course of a Year Were With Purpose.”

February 24, 2015

RUBY_123114_RK_005Text and images by Rick Kauffman.

Ruby the Hatchet have very subtly been putting on kick-ass shows in Philadelphia that just recently have culminated in a bloody New Years Eve banger and a Friday the 13th album release show that saw the band perform their sophomore release, Valley of the Snake, in its entirety.

For those who didn’t grab the vinyl early, the album final drops today.

Through six tracks, the quintet, whose members, save for one, all live together on the wrong side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, offer another example of how Philadelphia, far and wide, has talent across all genre.

Women in particular have had a growing platform in this city that offers new and emerging positions in leading roles with new and progressive sounds. Jillian Taylor, leading lady and vocalist for Ruby the Hatchet, found a unique opportunity to help craft an original sound.

“Women have this witchy quality that men can’t really convey,” Taylor said. “With heavy music, too. It cuts more if you have a higher voice … at least in our genre, I think. That’s why you see a lot of women, because it works really well.”

Read more…


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