Text and images by Chip Frenette.
Jane’s Addiction played to a capacity crowd at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory last Saturday night.
Brooklyn/Philadelphia-based Sannhet opened, featuring a hard industrial sound with no vocals. There was no intro and nothing vocal came from this dark trio dressed in all black. The only thing that had any color on stage during their set was an opaque orange drum set. The only purpose the microphones on the stage served was to project the hard driving instrumental sound.
Jane’s Addiction, however, did not lack in the vocal department. From the moment they were on stage, Perry Farrell had plenty of commentary about smoke machines and his multiple decades as a performer during their performance. Farrell, who created the Lalapalooza Festival in 1991, also lit up the hall with his piercing vocals.
The finale featured two scantily clad women, Giselle and Asha, supervised by Steve Truitt, suspended by their various body piercings swinging about the stage – a custom at Jane’s Addiction concerts. Credit for the idea of this portion of the evening’s entertainment can only be given to Dave Navarro, the tattoo and piercing enthusiast who has been featured on the A&E reality show L.A. Ink for his love of the body arts. Navarro also recently had a small role on the FX television series Son’s of Anarchy that wrapped up its final season in the fall of 2014.
Text and images by Alyssa Montgomery.
Ortlieb’s provided the perfect intimate setting for Leon Bridges and his band to take the crowd back to the days when American Bandstand ruled the airwaves and drive-in theaters were still thriving. This show last Friday was a late addition to the initial tour schedule but the opportunity to see this up-and-comer was not lost on the Philly crowd. Tickets sold out almost instantly when the show was announced.
Winner of the 2015 Grulke Prize for Developing US Act at SXSW, Bridges’ smooth, soulful crooning is enough to send shivers down your spine, especially when it’s paired with the backing of veteran musicians and backup singers, who add the perfect feminine touch to Bridges’ honeyed notes.
Bridges could not have asked for a better night to perform in Philly. Outside, the night was crisp as the line to get in wrapped around the block. Inside quickly heated up as the band got going. Bridges wore his initial nervousness as well as he wore his perfectly fitted navy suit, but any nerves quickly melted with the heat of the excited audience. He opened with his single “Coming Home” to kick the night off.
And kick the night off he did.
Following the opener were a few of his yet-to-be-released tracks, including “Brown Skin Girl,” a medium-tempo beat featuring a prominent saxophone sound with a familiar Van Morrison feel. Often pausing for a moment to introduce each song with a personal note, he slowed the pace of the night with his track “Lisa Sawyer,” dedicated to his mother. He was quick to follow it with another up-beat song about his grandmother.
Bridges and his band managed to perfectly blend the styles of Van Morrison, Sam Cooke and old school rock ‘n’ roll, creating a sound that could only come from Texas, and to be honest, it just makes you want to move.
The crowd had no trouble getting swept up in Bridges’ ‘50s nostalgia and joined him in his rhythmic movements throughout the entire set. The opening saxophone notes of “Better Man” poured over the audience and, judging by the reaction, it was the song they had come to hear.
Closing out the show with his most recent release, “River,” Bridges left everyone pleasantly surprised that such a simple, smooth-as-silk showcase could come from such a young performer.
After the show, with an hour left until closing time, the crowd thinned and the performers joined the remaining stragglers for a few drinks. Despite their recent foray into the limelight, the bandmates still carried that laid-back Southern charm. The group came together less than year ago in Fort Worth, Texas, meeting through mutual friends at a bar. They cut this first record in an old warehouse a few months after meeting. Bridges recently signed with Columbia Records and has been playing a smattering of shows in anticipation of the full album release.
From here, Bridges and his band are heading across the pond to perform sold out shows in London, Paris and Germany. Missed Bridges this time around? Don’t worry — his album, Coming Home, drops June 23 and another US tour is planned for this fall.
Derek Dorsey, the talent buyer, promoter and occasional bartender at The Fire in Northern Liberties, has fostered the talents of such local artists as John Legend, Dr. Dog, Ron Gallo and Santigold. He met Reef The Lost Cauze, among the most celebrated underground rappers in the world, more than ten years ago. The two have been tight ever since.
We listened in as they sat in Reef’s South Philly home and discussed parenting, growing up in Overbrook Park, Philly pride and the state of race relations in the America today.
Derek: We’re in the South Philly home of Sharif Lacey, also known as Reef the Lost Cauze. We’re here with some new additions to the Lacey family.
Reef: Yes sir. We’ve got my 4-month-old little guy Manny in here, just hanging out.
Derek: So how’s that been?
Reef: It’s been active. I already have a 4-year-old son. Four-year-olds are already a handful but he has autism. Those two things combined make him a fireball, just energy and life and running and ripping. But he’s awesome, and now we have this new guy here. It’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication.
Kids, they change you, man, they change you. I was actually supposed to go out last night and do some things. I was coming off the road, I had a show in New Hampshire. But I was like, “I’m just going to go home to my kids.” That mentality was never something I could see myself doing. On Saturday night in the city, I was all over the place. But now, I want to get home to my boys and make sure that they’re good.
Derek: What are some of the challenges of being a parent to a child with autism?
Reef: I think obviously the biggest challenge is just trying to connect. He’s in his own world pretty much 24/7, so bringing him out of that world is pretty challenging. I think, right now, it’s a very controlled time in his life because he’s so young. The fear for me is once he gets older and has to deal with society more – and people’s mental bullshit. That’s the stuff that scares me more than anything else. The challenge is me and his mother’s to make sure that he knows that he’s loved, knows that he’s safe and knows that he can express himself in any way he finds is most comfortable for him.
Just the basic things that a lot of human beings take for granted, the ability to just talk and to be able to say, “This is what’s bothering me right now. This is how I feel about this.” He’s not able to do that. So, it frustrates him.
I’m in it for the long haul. If I have to give him baths when he’s in his 20s, I’ll do that. That’s my son, you know what I mean? I’ll die for him before I let anyone or anything make him feel like he doesn’t deserve the love and respect that we all do.
Derek: We’ve known each other for a long time but one thing I didn’t know is that we’re originally from the same hood, Overbrook Park. You were Overbook Park until when?
Reef: 1999 is when I left my mother’s house on Haverford Avenue.
Derek: Haverford and what?
Reef: We originally started on 63rd and Lansdowne and ended up moving up to 66th and Haverford. The last apartment was 74th and Haverford, which was right around the corner from my high school, Robert E. Lamberton, where I went to from ’95 to ’99. I graduated and moved down here to South Philly to attend the University of the Arts. But my mom is still up there. My aunts are still up there. A lot of my childhood friends, sadly, are still up there. It’s still home. I’ve been in South Philly for about 15 years now but I still consider West Philly home. That’s where I go to see family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, all that.
Derek: Overbrook Park, we used to consider that the middle class for the blacks.
Reef: What’s so funny is that my mom and her sisters, they came from the heart of West Philly. We’re talking 60th and Arch, 60th and Ludlow. They were West Philly for real. So when they were able to get a little money, get city jobs and move their family up a little bit more, they felt like they were accomplished.
My generation, we were trying to prove that we weren’t punks. See how that works? That’s so fucking stupid. Looking back on it now, it’s like, “Damn, dude, we had a nice neighborhood. There was grass and trees but we spent all of our time trying to ruin it because we didn’t want the boys from down the hill to think we were punks.”
I had friends in North Philly and South Philly in the ’80s and ’90s. I’m talking about when there were 500 murders a year in Philly and they would be like, “Yo man, you all live so nice. Why are you trying to make it like where we’re at? I would love to switch places.” I was an ungrateful little shit.
Derek: I’ve considered moving multiple times from Philly and especially after these last couple of winters, the West Coast seems to be calling. But Philly has this completely special place in my heart. I’m Philly to the core. What makes Philly so special?
Reef: I think for me, it’s the last real city. I know that might sound like a hometown pride thing coming out but if you think about it, most of New York isn’t New Yorkers. Most of the West Coast isn’t West Coasters. This is the last place where there are people who have literally grown up here forever. This neighborhood, there are generations of people on my block. These houses have been passed down from one generation to the next.
It’s the last real place. It’s genuine. If people don’t like you, you know they don’t like you. If people love you, they’re going to express it from the hilltops.
We’re not New York. We’re not LA. We’re one of the big cities but we don’t have that same reputation of being able to make things happen. I think that that’s changing rapidly. I think people are now looking to Philly as what we’ve always known it to be, which is a cultural hub and a place where a lot of dope ideas come out. We started a lot of trends. We started a lot of cool stuff and we never get the credit for it because it didn’t blow up here. That’s something a lot of people are working to change.
Derek: That’s a great point you made, that we are the last real city. How do you make that come out in your music?
Reef: I think it just does. It doesn’t need any coaxing or fake flexing. It just naturally comes out because of the fact that where I’m from, where I was raised. The MCs I grew up around, the artists that I’m around now? They push you to make sure that authenticity is there. You come around Philly, you still hear that spit, that grit. So, being around that, it forced me to want to step mine up, keep my stuff fresh and keep my stuff consistent.
Derek: How do you always have the sickest MCs in your camp and always collaborate with the dopest cats?
Reef: I’d say birds of a feather. I show love to everyone, whether they’re dope, whack or whatever. But as far as people I want around me, there is a certain aesthetic that I’m listening for. There’s a certain feeling.
A lot of guys who have been around as long as I have, they don’t want to hear anything that these young guys are doing. They want to cast them off. I feel like that’s the wrong mentality. Whenever you see me dealing with the Mic Stews or the Chill Moodys or Ground Up or Brascos, I deal with them because there is a mutual respect there. I believe in what they’re doing. It’s important to keep that because all it does is keep Philly hip-hop culture alive and well. If we don’t let the next generation come up and get their piece off and be shown, it’s going to die.
Derek: We’ve seen some very polarizing incidents that have taken place in this country over the last year. Where do you think that we are as a society now in terms of race? Obviously, we’ve come a long way but in some ways it’s like we’ve taken steps back at the same time.
Reef: I think the world has gotten smaller. It’s not that race relations have gotten worse or better. Before, I didn’t know the opinion of some fucking redneck in Kentucky but now I go on Facebook and I see the redneck. I see the righteous brother from Harlem. And I see them arguing. I see the other comments made by this right-wing newspaper. Then you get MSNBC. It’s all in front of us now. Cops have been killing motherfuckers forever. Cops have been beating motherfuckers down forever. Now you have video of it. Now it’s uploaded and the world is much smaller.
Now we know that we haven’t really moved forward too much. I think that the whole Civil Rights movement, I think it did what it was supposed to do. But in the wake of that came frustration and anger on both sides of the coin. On one side, you have white Americans who are feeling like they are basically not in charge of this country anymore. They feel like they’ve lost their footing. They feel like they’re not respected. They feel like, “Oh, my grandfather wasn’t a slave owner. My grandfather marched with you people.” Then, on the other side, you have a lot of black folk who feel like white people didn’t really mean any of that stuff, and they were just going along with the grain of times changing.
I think right now, it’s a powder keg and I think it’s on the verge of exploding. I think that you have a lot of countries where you see things like this happening. Revolution is the next step but we’re so caught up in our TV shows and our iPads and our phones, it’s hard for people to really take that next step.
It’s going to take a fucking wilding in the streets. I just don’t see us having the will. We’re fat, lazy, spoiled people. The reason why those other countries are on the news – those kids with masks on their faces, throwing rocks, they ain’t got shit to lose.
America, we ain’t going to last on top unless people get their shit together and stop all the hate and the bullshit and realize that we are society, not the government. Until we all say enough is enough, it’s not going to change.
Lovers League: “Your Voices Sound Really Cool Together. You Guys Should Start Some Kind of Project.”
Lovers League has been hard at work serenading Philadelphia with their sweet blend of harmonic folk-pop over the past year. Coming off of their first self-titled album that was released in June 2014, the four-piece band recently dropped their sophomore effort, 2.
Bandmates Dani Mari, Reverend TJ McGlinchey, Christopher Davis-Shannon and Dean Gorfti celebrated the release earlier this month with a show at Boot & Saddle with Levee Drivers and Vilebred.
Dani, who sung high praises of last weekend’s show. “Everyone sang along to our new song “Darling.” It’s a new song so it was really cool to see how everyone reacted to it and to see everyone singing.”
What is the story behind 2?
Reverend TJ McGlinchey and I basically sing each other’s songs as duets. For our last album, we had six songs. I contributed three and then he contributed three. For this record, it was the same process and we added a cover to this EP. We worked with Bill Moriarty, who has worked with Dr. Dog and Lotus and Toy Soldiers. That was a really cool experience to work with him and have somebody else with input on our songs and arrangements.
Things are moving along pretty quickly. 2 was released less than a year after Lovers League, your first EP.
We had a couple of different fundraisers to make this album happen. The first record we did, we recorded at Mill Street Records, which is Reverend TJ McGlinchy’s brother’s studio. After our first Record Release at Johnny Brenda’s, JUMP actually had a write up about the show. This guy had seen the article and he works with Bill. He checked out our music and wrote us an email saying, ‘Hey. Would you guys want to record your next record with Bill Moriarty?’ I have always followed all of the music he has been involved with. We were completely honored to have been approached by them.
Once we figured out that we just put out a record and we’re going to be working on another record, we thought, ‘Oh, crap. We have to come up with some money for this.’ We put out another fundraiser and had a lot of support. We really couldn’t have done it without the support from everybody. If we couldn’t raise the money then we couldn’t have made this album happen.
How did Lovers League come together in the first place?
The band was basically created because we were asked multiple times to create a band. TJ had a solo project, I had my solo project. We hosted a lot of different open mics and different showcases and we would just harmonize with each other here and there at different shows. We had lots of people come up to us and say, ‘Your voices sound really cool together. You guys should start some kind of project.’ That’s kind of how it came about, and people have continued to support us and give us good vibes about what we have created together.
What makes Lovers League work?
TJ and I have been playing together for a long time and have an emotional connection in harmonizing with each other. We have a connection with the audience, too. Seeing people sing along in the audience to it is a really cool feeling.
It started out as a trio basically. It was Christopher Davis-Shannon, TJ and I in the very beginning. Dean came on board with us and was a part of the first album as well. Topher is an awesome standup bass player. He brings a lot of energy to it. It’s really fun when we’re all playing together. You just look back and Dean is smiling and Christopher Davis-Shannon always shows us up. He’s always dressed to impress for every show.
What’s the plan for moving forward past this busy year?
We’re going to work this summer on playing festivals and playing some shows locally. We’re hoping by the fall we’ll go on some mini-tours and stuff like that. Eventually we would like to have a US tour at some point. Or would tour…
For our next record, we’re planning on taking our time and really trying to co-write all of the songs together. The first two albums, I would contribute half the album and TJ would contribute the other half and we’d sing them as duets. This time around, we want to try to see what happens if we actually start from scratch and co-write every song together.
So you’re aiming for a more cohesive dynamic?
Exactly. Christopher Davis-Shannon is also a songwriter and Dean gets involved in songwriting as well. So, we want to have all four of us involved in that process. With Christopher singing with us, having three part harmonies and stuff like that.
Is the goal to change your sound?
I think the core of the sound will be somewhat similar but we haven’t officially tried it out yet with all four of us collaborating from scratch, so it’s hard to say. It just depends on how we do it.
WIN FREE TICKETS! See Good Old War, Mo Lowda & The Humble, Young Statues and More @ The Pinelands Music Festival on 8/15.
We generally do not suggest anyone go to New Jersey – for any reason.
But the Pinelands Music Festival on August 15 features a bunch of great Philly acts: Good Old War, Mo Lowda & The Humble, Young Statues and more. So we’re giving away tickets to the 3-stage event 45 minutes away in Millville, NJ.
They are best-sellers in Japan and have decades of stardom under their belts with other projects. Outside of Vamps, Hyde has fronted L’arc~en~Ciel since 1991. That band is currently on a streak with more than 35 consecutive singles charting in the top 10. In 2012, they became the first Japanese artists to headline Madison Square Garden.
K.A.Z. was a member of Hideto Matsumoto’s backing band, Spread Beaver, at the time of Matsumoto’s untimely death. The one album he contributed to sold more than a million copies in Japan alone.
Vamps is trying to earn the American market by playing side stages at festivals and opening for Apocalyptica and Sixx:A.M. Our Lee Miller spoke with Hyde and K.A.Z. about their influences, goals and previous overseas trips.
How did you come together?
Hyde: As you may know, K.A.Z. was producing one of my solo projects back in the day. I really liked his music a lot. After the project, I thought, “Why don’t we get together and become a band and do everything together?”
Was Vamps always intended to be a long-term, full-time band?
Hyde: I didn’t really plan on how long Vamps was going to last, long-term or just a one-time thing. I didn’t really think how long we’d be together. But here we are still.
What does Vamps allow you to do that you can’t do with your other bands?
Hyde: L’arc~en~Ciel isn’t really easy going. So many things are going on around the band. Compared to them, Vamps is more active. We just did two festivals in Florida, Welcome to Rockville and Fort Rock, last weekend.
I mean L’arc~en~Ciel could be on the stage at a U.S. rock festival but it might not be the perfect market for the band. Vamps? Our music matches to the market. Vamps is more rock and roll type of music, heavier you know.
Why has there been a decline of Japanese bands touring in the United States after a small boom in the late 2000s?
K.A.Z.: Back in the day, when MUCC and other Japanese rock bands were touring the United States, the biggest difference between now and then is the CD sales. People don’t buy CDs anymore, right?
Right now there are a lot hurdles you have to clear before you come to the States. You have to be big in the first place. You have to be big in Japan first. I think its not easy to break into the English market for Japanese artists.
What were your early influences?
K.A.Z: I have a lot of influence from 80s rock music. Recently, I’ve been listening to Nine Inch Nails.
Hyde: Some American artists, some Japanese artists were both a big influence on me to start music. D’erlanger. They were my senpai [elder/mentor]. They came before us and I listened to them all the time. We’re touring with Sixx:A.M. right now. I like Nikki Sixx and Motley Crue from back in the day.
K.A.Z. : I grew up with American rock music and British rock music. I don’t really know the Japanese artists [from then].
Hyde: Buck Tick.
K.A.Z.: Oh, they are cool.
Hyde: I like Dead End and Gastunk.
What’s the difference between American and Japanese fans?
Hyde: The biggest difference between Japanese and American audiences is that American fans, they are more free. That’s how they feel from the stage. In Japan, if I say, “Jump!” everyone jumps.
People kinda care about other people. They aren’t independent enough. They care about what other people are doing. They don’t want to be the only one that is doing something different. If someone jumps, everyone jumps.
In the States, people don’t give a shit. They just go with what they feel. That’s the biggest difference.
As an opening band in America, do you change your approach to the concert?
Hyde: Vamps just got started in the States, basically. Performing in front of any kind of people, like, if we perform at a festival, most of people at the festival are new people. So performing in front of those people is kind of refreshing, kind of a new thing. Definitely tapping into a new market and expanding our fan base here.
The situation we are in right now as the opener or support band, that’s the best thing we could be doing right now to break through to the U.S. market – just to get the exposure. We have a fan base in the States, you know J-rock fans, but that’s just that. What we’re trying to do is bigger.
K.A.Z.: A festival is kinda like a tournament – like a rock music tournament. You start from the beginning but you gain more fans and battle with other bands. Then you go up to the next stage and one day you become the headliner.
Are Vamp’s overseas goals different from L’arc~en~ciel’s (who rarely play overseas but when they do, go big time such as playing Madison Square Garden in 2012)?
Hyde: Doing something big once, it’s not that hard. Maybe some other Japanese bands can do it. But that doesn’t really engage any [new] fans or fan base in the States. I have to come back and keep doing it. Every time we come back, we need to get new fans so that we can break into the U.S. market seriously.
(This interview was conducted through a translator and some responses have been edited for clarity.)