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A Night at The Beaver Dam: The DIY Collision of Art and Music.

April 24, 2015

stephens_2015_beaver dam-34Text and images by Holli Stephens.

A hubub of noise. Palettes of paint. A plethora of flow.

The Beaver Dam.

Houses throw concerts in basements frequently in Philadelphia. But it’s a rare occurrence that a showgoer can watch live painting, groove to the beat of a DJ, hear their favorite band and watch a flow artist all in the same night, under the same roof.

“The Special Green Weekend” event held at The Beaver Dam last Friday consisted of musical artists Tie-Dyed Dave, Flower Garden, Mercury Retrograde and Broadened Horizons, with DJs Patrick Richards and Kyle Ryan.

“We switched to the house show stuff in November and that’s when it started to kick off,” says “Kyle,” who lives in the house (we’ve changed his name changed for safety purposes).

Kyle cautiously waits at the door, scanning the sidewalk for any passersby. Previously, his house shows solely catered to DJs. But after watching the success of different houses over the years – and with a little encouragement from his peers – a community of different artists now inhabit his parties.

Two painters settle in the living room of The Beaver Dam, a batch of finished paintings on each side of the room and paint brushes in their hands. Michelle Smith (aka Sugar Cadavers) preps her station, crouching over to pour paint onto her palette.

“Music is very much about art,” she says. “It’s just very nice to have it actually there. People forget about it a lot.”

Ellis Rosenberg’s face is pressed against the canvas. His painting is a very abstract portrait outlined in a bright pink.

“It’s great,” Rosenberg says, “that there are like-minded people that get together and enjoy these things and start their own movement and future.”

A pile of amps and guitars find a home in the utmost corner of the immense basement.The stage is set. Strobe lights cast shades of blue, green and red on those beginning to filter in. Only the silhouettes of bands can be seen in front of all the commotion.

Patrick Richards does not see the individuals gathered to watch him spin. His head is furiously bobbing to the beat of Claude VonStroke and his view is nothing but his CDJ.

“DJs used to be known as tastemakers,” he says. “People would trust them to show them the new hot records. As someone who digs for new tracks rather then playing a set filled with bangers, I think it’s refreshing to hear someone say that my choice of music is receptive to more the one crowd.”

Tie-Dyed Dave, lead by singer/songwriter and lead guitarist David Durdaller set the tone for the night. His soulful voice resonates above the upbeat roll cast by his drummer. It surprises him to see art being sold upon arrival but in a good sense.

“It’s nice,” Durdaller says. “It makes it classier. All the art around encourages different types of artists to be here.”

Steven Haas’ straw hat encompasses the vibe of his band, Flower Garden, the only crew on the list not based in Philadelphia. The crowd has evened out nicely by this point and can be seen openly grooving to the funky pop riffs of Haas’ guitar.

“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Haas says. “We’re all here and we’re playing together.”

Mercury Retrograde, formerly known as The Wanderers, includes two members who had the original idea to bring the artist community to The Beaver Dam – Smith and Dan Snyder. Snyder is also the frontman of the band’s experimental jam style.

“It’s eclectic,” Snyder says. “It brings out a lot of people’s talents. It’s not just about music. When you add other arts to music, I think that helps direct the focus to towards the art and community of putting on a show. I feel like college students, especially, forget that sometimes. “

Ending the night was a joint collaboration of bands Broadened Horizons and Brain, lead by Andres Gallegos, who won over the crowd by covering Grateful Dead and Bob Marley.

“This is just a fusion of art,” says Gallegos. “This venue expresses it the most out of all of them. They’re really good at gathering people here and expressing the DIY in Philly.”

The Beaver Dam is in the process of staging an all-day music event in early May.

Cartel @ The TLA with Hit The Lights, TEAM* and Driver Friendly.

April 23, 2015

CartelTLA_4.17.15-1Text and images by Evan Kaucher.

Cartel hit the stage at the TLA Friday for a sold out show and took their fans back 10 years with an entire set dedicated to their classic album Chroma.

Not only one of the most influential pop-punk albums, Chroma is also Cartel’s first full-length, which released in 2005. As a celebration to its 10-year anniversary, the group set out on a U.S. tour (with one show in U.K.), playing the entire album from front to back. This would be a first for the band.

With a majority of the fans reminiscing about their teenage love and heartbreaks, Cartel’s lead singer Will Pugh reminded everyone of the last time they played at the TLA in 2007.

“The last time we played here it was St. Patrick’s Day and we were trashed along with audience,” he said. “It was a show to remember.”

The crowd roared with approval, throwing up hands and sloshing beers as if they all remembered the epic event 8 years ago.

Starting from the top of the album, they opened with “Say Anything (Else),” which was a featured song in Madden 07. They then followed with their hit single “Honestly,” which they performed on MTV’s TRL (Total Request Live for the younger generation) in 2006. As of this year, “Honestly” has since been certified gold by Recording Industry Association of America.

For most of the fans, the concert brought them back to their youth, whether it was to when their parents drove them to their first Cartel show or when they first ripped butts after school blasting Chroma from their car stereo.

Accompanying them on tour was Hit The Lights, who recently came back from Japan (Skip School Start Fight Tour) and the U.K. (Pure Noise Tour). Their full length Summer Bones has also recently been released.

TEAM* and Driver Friendly also opened giving a more alternative rock vibe.


LAVA: Radical City Music Hall.

April 22, 2015

LAVASpaceOnline01Text by Jared Whalen. Images by Michael Bucher.

Three floors of poster-cluttered walls, stacked bookshelves and various workshop areas make up LAVA, the Lancaster Avenue Autonomous space in West Philadelphia. The three-story building is a community center and activism hub, and has become home base for several activist groups as well as a shared space for community events.

Located at 4134 Lancaster Ave., LAVA currently houses six organizations and has been home to many more over the years. Launched in the early 2000s, the space was founded by groups such as Food Not Bombs, an international social activism group, and the former radio station Volta Radio. Since then, more than a dozen groups have operated from within its doors.

“The whole thing with LAVA is that they want to cross-pollinate so that activist groups support each other,” says Mahdi El, founder of Young Broadcasters of America, which operates out of LAVA. “It took a whole decade for that to happen. Groups used to not mingle. Everyone was in their corner, just doing their own work. But in the last three years, it’s been very healthy.”

Active LAVA groups include Human Rights Coalition, Food Not Bombs, Defenestrator newspaper, Young Broadcaster of America and the LAVA Library. All these groups are either dedicated to community engagement and empowerment or toward regional activism.

LAVASpaceOnline02Outside of housing organization offices, LAVA space acts as a public art and music venue, often hosting shows featuring local and touring bands. A frequent stage for punk and alternative bands, shows often combine an element of philanthropy and activism, such as nonperishable food donations and social issue awareness. Artists having performed at LAVA include Radiator Hospital, Reign Supreme and Boroughs (above).

The Human Rights Coalition is committed to empowering prisoners and bringing to light injustices in the prison and judicial system. The group is predominantly prisoners’ families, ex-prisoners and supporters. They host meetings and service projects out of LAVA space. HRC also holds letter writing nights where they go through prisoners’ letters, mostly from those in solitary confinement, that report abuse and inhumane treatment.

“We bring in volunteers and catalogue the abuse that people are reporting,” says Andy Switzer, an HRC member. “When we have resources we try to step in.”

Several groups actively engage the local community. These groups include Food Not Bombs, which holds regular free meals for the community protesting the United States’ military budget, and the LAVA Library, which offers a wide array of educational literature on activism and social issues.

Young Broadcasters of America actively works with youth to give them experience and exposure in the field of broadcasting.

“We mainly do broadcasting for children,” says El. “We actually train them and put them on TV. We work with a lot of after school programs, summer camps, that kind of stuff.”

LAVA space is heavily volunteer based, typically having 25 non-group members volunteering for various jobs and events.

“We constantly have parties here, and we constantly have workshops and we need volunteers,” says El. “There’s a lot of members from LAVA from over the years. People will float in ‘cause they’re back in from like, Oakland or Cali or Seattle.”

Fueled by its forward thinking environment, LAVA’s reputation has developed among activist and fringe circles.

“LAVA has a huge constituency across the country. That’s why I think bands come here a lot,” says El. “They heard about the LAVA over the years because there are these radical spaces, or liberated spaces. So people will hear on the West Coast, ‘When you go to Philly, go to LAVA.’”

WIN FREE TICKETS! See Madeon @ The Troc on Thursday.

April 21, 2015

French teenage pop phenom Madeon will perform at The Troc on Thursday and we’re giving away tickets to the show. His debut album reached the top of the Billboard chart for for eletronic/dance music.

If you want a pair of tickets to see the show (it’s 18 and over), like us on facebook and email us at (give us your name and put “Madeon” in the subject line).

If you want to play it safe, you can purchase tickets here.

Rakim @ Underground Arts with Chill Moody, Freeway, Reef The Lost Cauze and More.

April 21, 2015

041615RakimOnline08Rakim hit the stage at Underground Arts last Thursday in full ’90s swagger. In a pair of baggy jeans, new Timberlands, over-sized Carhart jacket and a Yankees cap tilted slightly to the side, the legend stood before the crowd and just let the cheers envelope him.

After nearly a solid minute of posing, the 47-year old, who made such classic albums as Paid in Full and Follow the Leader, then burst into an attitude-filled set.

At some shows, you’ll find the true fans singing along to every word at the front of the crowd. While Rakim was performing, it seemed that everyone in the packed house knew every word to all his tracks. It made for a pretty special evening.

Dyme-A-Duzin opened the night, which was a Red Bull Sound Select show curated by Veteran Freshman. Chill Moody followed and then presented a parade of Philly rap talent, including Freeway, Reef the Lost Cauze, Jakk Frost and more.



Soohan @ Kung Fu Necktie with Cheatcode, Honeycomb and More.

April 21, 2015

soohan_april15_kungfunecktie_chipfrenette_02Text and images by Chip Frenette.

Soohan kicked off his Made in Baltimore Tour last Thursday at Kung Fu Necktie.

Why is Made in Baltimore kicking off in Philly? Well, as it so happens, Soohan is a Philadelphian who has found himself in Baltimore recently. He produced the album – with the same name as the tour – in Baltimore.

Soohan is not your typical DJ playing a bunch of tracks produced by others with big build ups and heavy bass drops. Soohan’s first tour will be small, just a few dates in the Northeast. But it will expose listeners to what he describes as a heady mix of hip-hop and world beats, with the nostalgic sounds of the ’90s sampled to add familiarity to his grooves.

Since the album was released in mid December, it has had nearly 250,000 plays and downloads.

The tour will also feature artists from beyond the world of electronic music. The sets in all locations will also include other artists – Raf Mvta from Connecticut and Philadelphian Elle Paisley live-painted at the Kung Fu Necktie show.

The evening also featured producer Cheatcode, who modestly stated, “The mix may not be tight but the sound is right.”

He was also joined by beatboxer Honeycomb. Together, they performed through the night with Cheatcode’s all original track productions.

State Rep. Jordan Harris: “Music is Oftentimes the Soundtrack of What is Happening in the World.”

April 17, 2015

JordanHarrisOnline01 At 30, State Representative Jordan Harris is the youngest elected official in Philadelphia County. The South Philly native was elected in 2012 to represent District 186, which includes parts of South Philly west of Broad Street and pockets in Southwest Philly, like Kingsessing.

He’s currently planning his annual summer block party/music festival. His last event drew more than 5,000 people to Chew Park on Washington Avenue to hear Jazmine Sullivan, Jaguar Wright, Kindred The Family Soul, Suzann Christine and many more local artists.

Our G.W. Miller III spoke with the representative about why he sees music as a necessity for society, especially in schools.

You’re not a career politician, right? What is your background?

Before running for office, I was a school teacher. I taught middle school social studies. I also worked for the city. I was the executive director of the city’s youth commission for about two years after being in the classroom.

What made you decide to get into politics?

I’ve always had a desire to be involved in government. My undergraduate degree is in government and political affairs. My masters degree is in education. Going off to college, I had a desire to learn how government affects our lives and how to be involved in using government to benefit the community that I grew up in.

I was in high school at Bartram Motivational. The school district at that time wanted to move my high school into the main building. I was president of the student government and I thought that was a bad idea. So we organized parents, students and teachers to advocate to keep the school open.

I ran into Senator Anthony Williams, who helped us through that process. He showed me how, if you use government the right way, if you organize, you can see your will imposed upon a situation.

You don’t seem like a politician.

I take that as a good thing!

I saw you on stage at the festival last summer (above). I thought you were the hype man.

Every year, I do a street festival. Last year I partnered with Kindred  The Family Soul and called it Kindred The Family Reunion. It was a part of my street festival, part of my summer series.

The points of the festival and series are one, there are children and families in my community that I represent, who can’t afford $60 per person to take their kids to Great Adventure or Dorney Park or anywhere like that. If only for a day, if only for a few hours, those kids get the opportunity to jump on a moon bounce or eat cotton candy or experience some sort of amusement park feel in the summer.

In addition to that, it’s an opportunity to use that to bring out a large number of people and get them valuable city and state service information. There were more than 40 different agencies that were out there giving out information and talking to people.

We also want to invite people into the neighborhood. There’s the hope that they’ll want to open up a business there or they’ll think, “Maybe I could live in this neighborhood.”
Is music a draw to bring people together?

Music is oftentimes the soundtrack of what is happening in the world. When Sam Cooke said, “A change is gonna come,” he was talking about the era in which he lived. When Marvin Gaye asked, “What’s going on?” It wasn’t just a song. It was an actual question about what was happening in the world. When James Brown said, “I’m black and I’m proud,” it was an anthem about being proud of who you are.

It also is something that unifies us – black, white, brown, yellow, Christian, Muslim, Jew, gentile, gay, straight, questioning, whatever. Music unites everybody.

That’s why we like to focus this event around good music.

Do you think you’re able to make an impact on the arts as a legislator?

I think government does play a role in fostering music.  On a nice summer day, you can walk down Broad Street and hear performers showcasing their craft. There are some places where government would want to shut that action down. But that’s part of what makes Philadelphia the beautiful city that it is.

Additionally, government has the ability to fund musical programs. Governor Wolf just gave his budget address. It is a bold statement that educating our children should be a state priority. My hope is that school districts will continue and reinvest their money in music programs. I tell people all the time: you don’t understand how music can affect people’s lives. It’s been shown that, from a therapeutic perspective, music is helpful.

Another thing that state government can do is partner with philanthropic organizations. I serve on the advisory committee for the Knight Foundation and over the last couple of years, the Knight Foundation has made millions of dollars worth of investments in the arts  here in the city of Philadelphia.

Does it get frustrating being in government?

Yeah, it does get frustrating. There seems to be this mindset that Philadelphia is a black hole of funding from the state. What a lot of people don’t understand is that Philadelphia and the five county region, we are the economic engine of this state. When you look across the commonwealth at all the counties that have bridges, state police, highways … a lot of them have that because of Philadelphia and the five county region’s economic engine. We need to do a better job making that known.

It’s also frustrating because I don’t think people view the importance of music and art in our culture. Music and art is transformational. It’s frustrating to get funding. But it’s encouraging to go around and see the places where it’s working.


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