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Marian Hill: The Essence of Truth.

September 23, 2014

MarianHillOnline02Text by Chris Malo. Portraits by Michael Bucher. Show photos by Grace Dickinson and Jason Melcher.

In November, they appeared in the pages of NME magazine, on their Radar list of new bands to check out. In February of this year they played their first show at Boot & Saddle. Jon Caramanica wrote about them in The New York Times in March, around the time their first EP, Play, was released. Following that, they did a short tour through California. The five tracks on their Soundcloud have more than 1.5 million plays. Adding the three remixes, boosts the numbers by another 650,000 plays.

Not bad for a group that has only officially been together for less than two years and that you may not have heard of. Yet.

Marian Hill is a two-piece electro R&B/blues group, comprised of vocalist Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd. Both were raised in the Havertown, Pennsylvania area, becoming friends in school. Back then they both had their own musical talents and interests which would come to intersect in a place like a school play. Gongol had to kiss Lloyd during an 8th grade performance of “The Music Man.”

“The show went off without a hitch,” says Gongol with a laugh.

“I looked great,” adds Lloyd. “I was in a nice suit. I was looking sharp. I was an attractive kid back then.”

RBSSRJD2Today, the two 24-year-olds sit on the concourse lobby of the Kimmel Center, days away from their first festival performance at the XPoNential Music Festival. Lloyd is dressed in a soft blue T-shirt, shorts, brown shoes and messy brown hair, Gongol’s blonde lioness mane falls over her 5-foot-1-inch frame and a floral halter top, completed with a black skirt and heels.

Lloyd went on to Yale, where he graduated with a degree in theater and music, while Gongol received a music business degree from NYU. Lloyd was focused on making music while Gongol had her eyes set westward, wanting to pursue a career in top lining.

But during spring break in 2013, when they got together to share what each had been working on, it produced a different result, a different path.

Lloyd played Gongol the track that would eventually become their first single, “Whiskey.”

“I think a big thing we locked into with that track and that we have been working to embrace going forward is that a lot of that glossier music, the vocalist doesn’t matter that much,” explains Lloyd. “It’s the sound, the atmosphere of the song and the vocal fits into that. Where as with this we have this beat that’s big and taking up lots of space but it’s nowhere the vocal is so the vocal can totally exist on its own. It’s big for me that we never tune her vocals. We never double her vocals.”

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OK Go and Broadzilla @ Union Transfer.

September 23, 2014

OKGo_003Text by Greta Iverson. Images by Chris Fascenelli.

OK Go came to Philly and brought some of the coolest visual effects with them. From holograms to confetti, OK Go did not hold back on making their show as stunning as possible.

They opened with one of their most popular songs, “You’re So Damn Hot.” The band used crazy holograms to give tons of depth to the stage. Someone definitely muttered, “Whoa, what the hell?” when they created the illusion of being trapped in a television.

“I like places like this because you can genuinely see everyone,” said lead singer Damian Kulash.

Kulash didn’t hesitate to hop into the crowd and get close and personal with his audience. There was even a small stage set up in the middle of the audience for a few songs.

For the song, “There is a Fire,” Kulash and OK Go’s drummer, Dan Konopka, built the song on a smart phone by recording the audience making various percussion sounds and looping them.

The bubbly set was a big contrast to the opener, Broadzilla. The two Philly DJs alternated on stage mixing classic and new songs into an unusually laid back, continuous set. Try to visualize Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” sharing a song with the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah.”

Paolo Nutini @ The Trocadero.

September 22, 2014

PaoloNutini06Text and images by Jumah Chaguan.

He ran on stage and slid on his knees. This was his encore. With the appeal of Elvis and the working-class vibe of Springsteen, Paolo Nutini was all of that and more.

“He’s a light point,” said Theresa Paisley, a long time fan. from West Chester. “I’ve lived though the ’60s and ’70s. He’s my favorite. He pulls them all together. They all speak through him.”

Paisley held a walking stick inspired by Nutini. Nutini has said that if music doesn’t work out for him, he would make walking sticks since so many of his fans tend to be older.

This 27-year-old singer from Scotland does have a gift. In his third and latest album Caustic Love, he mixes several genres – funk, country, rock ‘n’ roll, Motown and even a bit of the psychedelic in the song “Cherry Blossom.” The romantic becomes political in his song “Iron Sky.”

Perhaps the best way to think of this artist is to imagine what a love child conceived by all the greatest singers like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan and even Janis Joplin would be like. Nutini is that good.

No, he hasn’t been “discovered” in America, however, this didn’t matter to those in attendance at The Troc. The disciples came to Nutini’s church.

“He was too young and this country is too big,” explained Angela Gomez Hodgson.

Gomez has seen Nutini in more than 40 concerts in the UK and Europe. Here, in Philadelphia, he performed before around 1,000 attendees, which was a blessing to Gomez, who met him backstage. She proudly showed the picture of them together.

Nutini’s devotees are more than in love with him. His fan club came from overseas. Some people waited in line since 3 o’clock. A man held his cigarette lighter in the air and danced with abandon. The show was a spiritual revelation, long in the making for some. Isabelle Requena, 9, was hoisted on stage. Years prior she had given Nutini a tambourine.

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Dr. Dog with Mac DeMarco and The Front Bottoms (and Hop Along) @ The Mann Center.

September 19, 2014

Images by Darragh Dandurand.

Here are a few pics from the Dr. Dog show with The Front Bottoms and Mac DeMarco last week at The Mann Center. Hop Along opened but we arrived late for their set. Sorry. Read more…

Can Music Save The City?

September 19, 2014

NikGreeley02onlineText and images by G.W. Miller III.

It’s a mid-summer Wednesday afternoon in South Philly and the brass is pumping. The crew from the funk ensemble Swift Technique blast out song after song that gets people moving. And when they cover Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” well, the crowd in the backyard at the Headlong Performance Institute erupts.

People who had been drinking whiskey and studying their intricate glassware suddenly jump to their feet and start twisting, stomping and waving their hands in the air. The two girls sitting on the vendor table where tapestries are offered start moving side-to-side in unison. Even the guy manning the grill at the opposite end of the courtyard starts spinning around, a spatula in one hand and a PBR in the other.

As the song ends and the trumpet sound fades, you can hear the bandmates mumbling for a moment as they improvise their set list.

Singer Chelsea ViaCava speaks into the microphone and explains, “We’ve got to figure out what we all know.”

It’s a spontaneous and communal affair – the people performing are all part of Rising Pulse Productions team. Bass players, drummers, trombonists and a bongo player rotate in and out between songs.

“Nik?” ViaCava says into the microphone. “Do you know this one?”

And Nik Greeley, the frontman for the rock band formerly known as Black Stars, who had been standing by the food table, drinking beer and talking to everyone, runs toward the band and takes the mic.

ViaCava and Greeley (pictured above) whisper for a moment and then break into a super groovy, horn-backed version of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” Greeley – the ultimate showman – growls, pumps his fist and slides to his knees, where he arches his back and pleadingly wails before the girls sitting on the tapestry table.

He frantically emotes for one more song, seemingly burning through all of his energy and passion, and then retreats to the back of the courtyard and his beer.

“Getting out of Jersey and being here all the time has done wonders,” admits Greeley, 24, who recently started working in Center City and has been performing around town much more since leaving his family home in Marlton. “It’s really refreshing.”

In a few weeks, he’s moving into an apartment in the city. He’s refocused his life – music is what he wants to do. And he knows that he has to be here to make it all happen.

“If you’re an artist from South Jersey, there’s a lot to write about because we’re all disgruntled,” Greeley says with a laugh. “But we have to come to Philly to be recognized.” Read more…

Helen Haynes: Feeding The Roots of Art.

September 19, 2014

HelenHaynes01onlineCleveland native Helen Haynes arrived in Philadelphia more than 25 years ago to be the executive director of the Coalition for African American and Latino Cultural Organizations, which brought together 18 institutions that acted as a de facto inner city arts council. She then served as the director of cultural affairs at Montgomery County Community College. In June, she was named Philadelphia’s chief cultural officer in the city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. She spoke with our G.W. Miller III about how the city’s art scene has evolved over the last 25 years.

What did you see when you first arrived in Philly?

I saw a very vibrant cultural community that had built and supported these wonderful institutions. That said, I knew about Philadanco long before I came to Philadelphia. Philadanco was considered one of the finest African American dance companies in the country. I used to read about them in the New York Times.  It’s funny. I think we under-appreciate our institutions here.

How’s it been going in your new role?

I’ve been very encouraged by the support and the goodwill that has come from the cultural community as a whole. I’m renewing old friendships. I worked in the Philadelphia area for a while, for more than 25 years. But for the last 13, I was out in Montgomery County. I was always a Philadelphia resident. I live in Mt. Airy.

I’m just so impressed by the amount of activity, commitment, creativity and innovation that has taken place in the city, even since I have been in Montgomery County. The things that have transpired have been tremendous. Read more…

Joyce Manor, The Exquisites, Dogs On Acid and Spirit of The Beehive @ Union Transfer.

September 18, 2014

joycemanor-5Text by Vince Bellino. Images by Jessica Flynn.

Joyce Manor headlined a high-energy show to a rowdy crowd at the Union Transfer Wednesday night.

Spirit of The Beehive kicked off the evening with an interesting brand of poppy garage rock that at times bordered on psychedelic. Justin Fox, newly added member of the band on guitar and keyboards and formerly of Kite Party, contributed some of the night’s most interesting sounds.

Dogs on Acid, the recent project featuring former members of Algernon Cadwallader, performed their blend of feel-good rock with uppity-emo. The band was friendly and got the crowd going, asking “What did you do today?” to a mixed response of silly answers throughout the room.

Seattle’s The Exquisites took the stage next, immediately thanking the previous bands for playing, noting Philadelphia’s awesome musical talents. The band added that one of its own members was from Philadelphia before launching into an energetic set that is well-described as “soulful punk music,” featuring fast-paced guitars and drumming to match vocalist Jason Clackley’s impressive voice.

Read more…


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