Skip to content

PhilaMOCA: Eric Bresler and The Unlimited Art Space.

July 16, 2015

PhilaMOCAEric04Text by Justin Dowdall. Images by Michael Bucher.

For those who have not been to PhilaMOCA, you may have at least stumbled down Spring Garden Street one night and noticed the fantastic mural and homage to David Lynch’s Eraserhead painted on an exterior wall.

This flexible art/performance space at 531 N. 12th St. is carved out of a former mausoleum showroom and unique to the Philly arts and culture scene.

In an age of house and converted factory shows, PhilaMOCA is sort of a hybrid of the two. That is, PhilaMOCA is a place where art, music and film coalesce under what PhilaMOCA curator Eric Bresler calls “organizational madness.”

Bresler, a former South Philly punk rocker and lover of the arts, also uses terms like “living room” and “welcoming” in conjunction with “professional” to express the ethos of the space, where the Mad Decent Block Party originated and Diplo and his crew threw countless parties over the years (fun fact: he still owns the building).

It is obvious that Bresler wants patrons to feel welcome and even a part of PhilaMOCA. The door is often open at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday for people to come hang out as a parade of volunteers and community members come and go. These artists and friends seem to be the life-blood of the space. Funded completely by the revenue generated by shows and kept going with the passion of its interns and volunteers, the space plays into a Felliniesque atmosphere.

Bresler’s DIY and art-focused roots are a welcome part of the greater Philly music scene. Still, one may soon realize that he has moved past a singular idea of what makes a great show or piece of art. He is quick to note that they schedule events five nights per week and that each event will often bring a completely different audience.

This is all made more tactile by the relatively small, intimate space. Filled with posters of past shows and creative works, including a limited edition baby Eraserhead doll, the space is professionally developed, yet remains open and chaotic. Lineage is easily acknowledged for this post No Wave, DADA revival art inspired experiment.

Artists such as No Age, Lydia Lunch, Parquet Courts, The Pizza Underground (Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band), Hop Along, Modern Baseball and Steven Severin from Siouxsie and the Banshees have all played the space.

“My favorite ever was post-punk legends The Monochrome Set,” says Bresler of his most cherished performance in the space. “It was their first U.S. tour in over 30 years,”

PhilaMOCAEric05PhilaMOCA is also a place for outsider art but you are just as likely to see a great hip-hop show one night and an LGBT film festival the next. Limits are not a part of Bresler’s vocabulary. This is not one place. It is an almost blank canvas that he allows the performers and artists to paint.

This is indeed a collaborative environment. For example, many of the shows that come to the space are booked by R5 productions.

“The space is great,” says Andy Nelson, an R5 promoter who is also the bassist for Paint It Black. “We continue to remain a part of what’s going on there. It’s great that there is a place for all-age shows. I think that the space fills a need.”

PhilaMOCA has even adopted a local youth as an integral part of their space. “Lil” Sean Coleman is PhilaMOCA’s 12-year-old neighbor, who can sometimes be seen riding into the space on his skateboard and just hanging out. He has even recently screened his own film.

The greater music and arts scene has been equally responsive.

“We get a lot of names that just come to see events but we don’t usually mention them, like Kurt Vile, Talib Kweli,” Bresler says.

Nevertheless, this is just an extension of the sense of community surrounding the space. This idea of a diversity of acts, small space, true fans and everything in-between highlights why the space works.

WIN FREE TICKETS: X @ Underground Arts on Saturday!

July 16, 2015

We’re working with the folks at one of our favorite joints, Underground Arts, and we’ll be giving away a ton of tickets to their shows in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, the club will host the legendary LA punk band X.

Like us on facebook and email us at to enter to win a pair of tickets (give us your name and put “X” in the subject line).

If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.

WIN FREE TICKETS: The Polyphonic Spree @ Underground Arts on 11/2!

July 15, 2015

We’re working with the folks at one of our favorite joints, Underground Arts, and we’ll be giving away a ton of tickets to their shows in the coming weeks.

They just announced that The Polyphonic Spree will perform at the club on November 2. That will be a lot of people on stage and a huge wall of symphonic sounds!

Like us on facebook and email us at to enter to win a pair of tickets (give us your name and put “SPREE” in the subject line).

If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.

ill Fated Natives: Doing It For The Tribe.

July 15, 2015

IllFatedNatives01Text by Dave Miniaci. Images by Grace Dickinson.

Some bands are very systematic in how they play shows and write music. ill Fated Natives is not one of those bands. Case in point: The band played an entire show without having a setlist.

“I just said to the crowd, ‘We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just gonna see what happens,’” says bassist Bets Charmelus with a laugh.

This is the nature of the young band, which formed in 2013. Its members, all in their early to mid 20s, are constantly improvising. They feed off an environment based on feeling and emotion, and the support of their “Love Tribe,” a group of fellow musicians and artists.

The members of the rock/blues band have been playing music most of their lives.

Charmelus and singer O. Thompson attended Central High School together, though they weren’t close. Charmelus admits – apologetically – that he hated Thompson in high school, a fact that still surprises the soft-spoken singer.

“Yeah, why? I was just so quiet,” says Thompson, who hails from Mt. Airy.

Charmelus says he didn’t like Thompson because he was on the football team and Charmelus thought of him as a jock. But one day, Thompson approached Charmelus about getting together to jam.

“I heard this guy turn on his amp and play Jimi (Hendrix)’s version of ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ and was like, ‘Man, I can’t hate this guy,’” Charmelus says.

Drummer Joseph “Joey Stix” Pointer later joined the band, forming a power trio.

The members of the band take pride in playing raw, emotional music and also in playing off each other, both in practice and in concert.

“It’s really easy to sit down in front of a keyboard and pull up a program with thousands of instruments at your disposal,” says Charmelus. “You don’t really have three people with different energy getting together and writing and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. That’s kinda gone the way of the dinosaur. So it’s ill-fated. And at the same time, music comes from live performance. So it’s native.”

The band released its EP, Savages, in March. The album hits hard with dirty blues riffs and flourishes of jazz. It’s easy to see how their music could play well live. And it does, as shown by intense, well-attended performances this year, notably during a residency, dubbed “Electric Church,” at The Fire.

Derek Dorsey, who has been booking and promoting bands at The Fire for a decade, was hooked on the band after seeing them play for the first time.After a few more performances, Dorsey knew he had to get them in regularly.

“I got to see them when they were still a young band and saw them blossom,” he says. “It was like when John Legend was at The Fire, just him on stage with an acoustic guitar. They’ve really grown.”

Dorsey says the band sold out their first show less than a year after playing their first set at The Fire, a feat he can’t recall happening quicker for a local band. They bring a certain kind of energy, he adds. The band members didn’t wear shirts one night and on another, they played without a setlist. The ill Fated Natives fans in the Love Tribe sang along at every show.

“It’s a bunch of people who are artistic and putting themselves out there,” Charmelus says of the Tribe. “We all go to each other’s shows and support one another. It’s like coming out and playing a show and being plugged into a battery. They know all the words and get the rest of the crowd pumped up. That’s family.”

The band also spent time at this year’s SXSW, where they were part of a special Philly-centric showcase.

“It was life changing, an experience,” Thompson says. “It was a perfect five days for us – to have us all together because we had never done a big road trip like this before.”

The band is ready to take off, with more shows and hopes for a full-length album in its near future. And though they are hoping to make an even bigger name for themselves, the band members are still thrilled to play the music they love for the people who love to hear it. That includes themselves.

“I feel like 70 percent of what I’m doing is strictly coming from what they’re doing,” Pointer says of his bandmates. “But the other 30 is the people there. I’m good once I touch my instrument and I can feel the energy from everyone. It’s those connections that make it. If Bets is feeling a little weird that day, I gotta give him the energy to keep going. If we just got this crazy triangle of energy going on, nothing else matters. We feed off each other so much.”

WIN FREE TICKETS: Thee Oh Sees with Purling Hiss @ Underground Arts on 9/12!

July 14, 2015

We’re working with the folks at one of our favorite joints, Underground Arts, and we’ll be giving away a ton of tickets to their shows in the coming weeks.

They just announced that Purling Hiss will open for Thee Oh Sees on September 12.

Like us on facebook and email us at to enter to win a pair of tickets (give us your name and put “HISS” in the subject line).

If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.

Jessica and Josh Craft: Celebrating Five Years of Rock To The Future.

July 9, 2015

JoshCraftJessicaCraftOnlineAs part of our partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine, we’re documenting Philly’s relationships between music and beer. For the most recent issue of Philly Beer Scene, G.W. Miller III caught up with Josh and Jessica Craft, the beer-loving team behind the free music education program called Rock To The Future.

Josh Craft’s band, The Bee Team, was performing at The Khyber about 7 or 8 years ago when he met Jessica McKay.

“We hit it off,” Josh recalls.

But he left the club with the phone number of Jessica’s roommate, Sarah Paul, who had dragged Jessica out that night.

Sarah and Jessica ran a house venue called 719 House and Josh reached out to Sarah to do a performance there. A few weeks later, as Josh arrived at 719 to do the show, he found Jessica banging on the drums.

“This girl is amazing,” he remembers saying to himself.

He soon found himself giving Jessica guitar lessons in exchange for cooking lessons. They began dating, started a band together (Conversations With Enemies, now simply called Conversations) and then launched a nonprofit after school music program for underserved Philadelphia teens called Rock to The Future.

In 2012, they got married.

Rock to The Future recently celebrated its five-year anniversary.

The program was launched thanks to a $15,000 grant Jessica received from Women for Social Innovation. She quit her job in the finance world to be the executive director of the Fishtown-based organization, which aims to inspire creativity, build better social skills and improve students’ academic performance at no cost to the students or their families.

Josh, who had been teaching music for several years, served as the program director.

Neither took a salary for the first year or so. To make ends meet, Josh and Jessica worked in catering. Josh kept doing private music lessons on the side. Jessica did promo work with Monster Energy drink, among other jobs.

“We were juggling three different lives,” Josh says.

They did whatever they could that didn’t interfere with the hours between 3 and 6, when their students took lessons.

In 2010, they served 13 students. Now, they annually have more than 300 students in after school programs, summer camps and mobile workshops at locations throughout Philadelphia. Rock to The Future has a full-time staff of four, plus three part-timers and a lot of volunteers.

Their students have performed at events around the city and even at a Sixers’ game. Every year, the student bands record an album with Mad Dragon Records, part of Drexel University’s Music Industry program.

Josh and Jessica are with the students at every step along the way.

“It’s inspiring working with kids,” Jessica says. “As much as we’re doing it to impact the kids’ lives, it really inspires us.”

In March, Josh and Jessica’s band released its debut album as Conversations (their last full album as Conversations With Enemies was in 2012). It’s nine songs of witty, summer-sounding indie rock with hints of Weezer and The Beach Boys, for whom Conversations opened last year.

When the two aren’t finding a moment to relax at Bottle Bar East, they also perform together as a two-piece act called Which Craft.

“We just kind of do everything together,” Jessica says with a laugh.

In Place: “Maybe Around the Fourth Listen, You Will Start to Kind of Make More of a Connection.”

July 8, 2015

Our Tim Mulhern caught up with Brandon Cassel of the relatively new, two-man instrumental rock band called In Place. They talked about the band’s origins, inspirations and aspirations.

How and when did you and Justin Leggio come together to form In Place?

We formed In Place during the summer of 2013, but we met, believe it or not, early school years. We are actually childhood friends. We played in our first band in seventh grade. So yeah, we’ve played in a bunch of bands [and] we took some time off. And then we started up, played a little bit and since summer of 2014, we’ve been trying to grind pretty hard.

Did your friendship inspire you guys to come back together to play music?

Definitely. I would say that we are definitely comfortable with each other when we play. We kind of know where the other person is going to go with their parts.

As an instrumental duo, In Place stands out in the Philly scene. Do you think you have to prove your music to your audiences or are they generally receptive to what you guys are doing?

I think that they are generally receptive. We typically get positive feedback and encouragement. We’re not the most accessible. We like to kind of think that we’re definitely a “grower band.” That maybe not be the first or second or even third listen but maybe around the fourth listen, you will start to kind of make more of a connection and attachment to the actual song.

What was the writing and recording process like for “Koolwhip City”?

Typically, the way that we start when we write music is with what we call a sketch. It’s just a really good idea. Maybe it’s a riff, a melody or a drum beat. So this sketch, “Koolwhip City,” came about and we liked the way it sounded. We spent a couple weeks and we developed it. I always say that music is really a true time capsule of where the artist or musician was in their life. So when we listen back to “Koolwhip City,” we can remember where we were and how we felt as individuals.

How does “Koolwhip City” compare to “The Pet,” In Place’s other single?

When we put out “The Pet,” we definitely wanted to put out a track that was a little bit more intense. We started saying that “The Pet” is almost kind of like controlled chaos. Because while it’s extremely contained, you go through the movements of the song really quickly and there’s a lot going on. The tension and release is pretty significant. We wanted the first song to be a little bit more aggressive and I think we achieved that with “The Pet.” But when we were talking about “Koolwhip,” of course we have multiple sides to us, and we felt that “Koolwhip” really represented the sound that we are currently moving in the direction of.

Are these tracks building to a full-length release?

Right now we are writing and demoing for a more significant effort. I would say more so for an EP. I don’t think that we’re ready for a full-length yet.

Have you developed connections with other bands in the scene?

Through playing around the scene we definitely have become friends with other instrumental bands. One would be Air is Human. Another one, Allora Mis, as well as the instrumental rock band Mohican. They are all, for the most part, Philly-based.

Where do you want to see In Place go in the future?

A giant priority for us is to just to keep writing as much as we can. Ultimately, the biggest goal is to improve the sound that we are starting to really develop right now.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,505 other followers

%d bloggers like this: