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Palma Violets @ Johnny Brenda’s.

May 13, 2015

PalmaViolet04Palma Violets singer/bass player Chilli Jesson and drummer Will Doyle both took to the stage at Johnny Brenda’s last night sporting Nick Cave T-shirts and that kind of set the tone for the evening.

The band came out swinging, blasting through a raucous version of “Secrets of America,” sounding more hard rocking, post punk-ish (a la Nick Cave) than the album version, which sounds more like a Brit pub sing-along.

The four lads from Lambeth in London belted out tracks from their debut album, 180, which made them musical phenoms in the UK, as well as from their brand new album, Danger in the Club, which dropped earlier this month. The new album is just as much fun as their first, with even harder riffs and more subtle sarcasm laced throughout. They sound a little more anthemic but they retain that garage punk sound.

For a band that has essentially been touring for the last two years, they were amazingly energetic last night. Jesson and singer/guitarist Sam Fryer bounced around the stage as Doyle viciously pounded on the drums (keyboardist Peter Mayhew was much more sedated, sitting the entire time, though his lively playing was much more powerful than on the recorded version).

The theatric Jesson repeatedly conversed with the crowd, inviting everyone to dance a few times. He crowd-surfed briefly, shook hands with fans and collapsed into the beaded wall at one point.

Palma Violets continues touring across North America for a few months and then travels around the UK for festival season. Presumably, they’ll wind up here again soon and that’s awesome. Because they put on a fantastic live show.

Creepoid’s Coming Back to Philly.

May 12, 2015

CreepoidCS05We just got word that Creepoid will be back in Philly at the end of the month, doing a record release show at Johnny Brenda’s on June 26. They’ll be joined by Ecstatic Vision, who will also be celebrating a new record release, and Sick Feeling. Tickets go on sale Friday.

JB’s also announced today that Mikal Cronin will perform on 9/27 with The Cairo Gang. See here for tickets.

Hop Along @ Union Transfer with Thin Lips and Clique.

May 11, 2015

Hop Along_10Text by Tim Mulhern. Images by Tim O’Donnell.

There is no question that Philadelphia loves Hop Along.

Saturday night’s triumphant headlining show at Union Transfer was just another confirmation of this city’s admiration and respect for the four-piece group.

Clique and Thin Lips joined Hop Along to celebrate the band’s most recent effort, Painted Shut, their Saddle Creek Records debut that released on May 4.

Clique has barely graduated from Philadelphia’s basement scene but appeared comfortable on the much bigger Union Transfer stage. The band only played their first show in September at the now-closed Golden Tea House but is quickly gaining momentum in Philadelphia.

The group’s tight, well-crafted set featured tracks from their self-titled release, which is receiving a physical release from Broken World Media later this summer. The band brought out Philly favorite Shannen Moser to sing on their closing two songs.

Clique is scheduled to perform at Glocca Morra’s last show at the First Unitarian Church on May 30 and is hitting the road with Old Gray in late June.

Thin Lips hit the stage next and made quick work of energizing the growing crowd. The group is touring with Hop Along and frequently shares bills with the band. On New Year’s Eve, the two groups helped ring in 2015 with a show at Johnny Brenda’s.

The band’s set drew heavily from their EP Divorce Year, which was released through Seagreen Records on May 1.

Frontwoman Chirssy Tashjian’s powerful vocals combined with the band’s brand of spunky up-tempo punk appropriately prepped the audience for Hop Along’s set.

On stage, Hop Along vocalist and guitarist Frances Quinlan spoke candidly to the audience about the stress she felt leading up to the band’s set. The last time the band headlined a hometown show was the New Year’s Eve party at Johnny Brenda’s. Since signing with Saddle Creek Records, they have received increased recognition and attention.

Her performance alongside her bandmates—guitarist Joe Reinhart, bassist Tyler Long and drummer and brother Mark Quinlan—did not show any signs of restraint, and the audience’s overwhelming support was, perhaps, the reassurance she needed that she and her band were doing a good job.

As the audience sang along to nearly every word – even to the newest tracks – the group tore through the entirety of Painted Shut with older cuts mixed in evenly throughout.

The first thing listeners hear on Painted Shut’s opening track “The Knock” is Quinlan singing, which is appropriate because Quinlan’s voice – at times hoarse with passion and at other times soft and reserved – stole the show Saturday night.

The stories told throughout Painted Shut receive an added layer of urgency when sung by Quinlan. Her acute ability to control the power of her voice made her performance even more commendable.

Quinlan’s bandmates provided a solid instrumental foundation throughout the set. Long anchored the low end while Mark Quinlan helped keep the band together behind the drum kit. Influences from Reinhart’s work in Algernon Cadwallader were heard subtly sprinkled throughout his lead parts in tracks like “Horseshoe Crabs.”

Hop Along ended the celebratory show in the same way Painted Shut ends: the re-recorded and re-released “Sister Cities.”

As the show came to a close, you could almost sense the relief felt by Quinlan and her bandmates.

Hop Along had made their city proud.

Of Mice & Men @ The Electric Factory with Crown the Empire and Volumes.

May 11, 2015

OfMiceandMen-9Text and images by Erin Marhefka.

The Full Circle Tour made it’s way to the Electric Factory last Thursday for an insanity filled night. California natives Of Mice & Men and Volumes, along with Texans Crown the Empire, took the stage in front of an eclectic mix of older and young fans. The house was nearly packed before Volumes took the stage.

Volumes are a nu-metal whirlwind with two lead vocalists) and eerie backtracks that set them apart from post nu-metal bands. Within the first song, a huge mosh pit broke out in the middle of the crowd as they started up the night. The fans were constantly moving, jumping, crowd surfing and moshing during the entire set, thanks to Volume’s classic hyper metal sound and crazy fun energy. Though their music is on the heavier side, the feeling is kept light and airy. Vocalists Michael Barr and Gus Farias were constantly egging on the crowd to throw their hands up, crowd surf, and break out their lighters and even their phone flashlights during “Edge Of The Earth,” the second-to-last song and crowd favorite.

Next up were Crown The Empire, also sporting two lead vocalists but with a different twist. Andrew Valesquez and David Emarillo both did their fair share of screaming and clean vocals, while harmonizing to a T. Guitarist Benn Suede was also spinning and jumping constantly which also kept the energy on stage alive. Fan favorites like “The Fallout,” “Voices” and “Makeshift Chemistry” were played on their nine song setlist. Emarillo claimed that “tonight will be the best night of your lives,” and they easily lived up to that expectation.

Of Mice & Men closed the show, starting their set off with “Public Service Announcement,” the first track off of their new album Restoring Force. The second the lights dimmed and the backtrack began to play, the crowd went insane. The noise was unruly as vocalist Austin Carlile was the first to enter the stage.

Carlile engaged with the fans, reaching out and smiling to the ones up front. Of Mice & Men played many of their hits, such as “Let Live,” “Another You” and “Second & Sebring.” They dedicated “This Ones For You” to the fans that night.

Many fans even sported tattoos of the classic ampersand on their wrists and hands (the ones that were noticeable). This is a band that is known for ‘saving lives,’ as many people have put it. Because of that, this was a special night for the fans who fall under that category and saw them for the first time. Some of the younger fans had happy tears, the excitement building on them during the first song. Even the people in the back were moving, dancing and jumping around. There was a constant flow of energy that made this venue bounce.


San Fermin @ Union Transfer.

May 11, 2015

SanFermin (23 of 25)Text and images by Grace Dickinson.

San Fermin kicked off what will be a lengthy U.S. tour for their newest and 2nd album, Jackrabbit, at Union Transfer on Thursday night. The eight-piece band was one of few words but they brought more than enough instruments to make up for the lack of onstage banter.

Given Philadelphia was their first stop, they also showed up with a notable amount of energy. Excluding the drummer, it wasn’t rare to see all band members jumping harmoniously to the height of the light bulbs that lined the stage, trumpet, sax and violin players included.

At one point, the trumpet player jumped off the stage and strode through the crowd, keeping his instrument tipped toward the ceiling. He powerfully moved into a solo while the crowd watched, wide-eyed. Needless to say, it’s a moment the audience is likely to remember.

Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the keyboardist who situated himself almost inconspicuously to stage-left, is the mastermind behind all of San Fermin’s music. Starting as a composer of one, he quickly built a troop that is now growing a modest, yet steady success. After the Brooklyn band’s first album, they toured with well-known bands such as The National, St. Vincent, Arctic Monkeys, and The Head and the Heart.

The band’s poppy, orchestral-toned, indie rock is catching attention all on its own. At SXSW in March, San Fermin was noted as a band to watch out for after a unanimously well-received performance.

Their fan base will continue to grow as they make their way west, ending the tour in Austin in October.

Les Rivera: The Ultimate Bilingual Entertainer.

May 8, 2015

05ElMalitoonlineAs part of our partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine, we’re documenting Philly’s relationships between music and beer. For a recent issue of Philly Beer Scene, G.W. Miller III caught up with Les Rivera, a sort-of rapper, freelance videographer, sometime bartender, former professional dancer and all-around entertainer.

Few people could ever look more at home on a stage than Les Rivera. When he’s performing as El Malito, supported by his futuristic band – the 33rd Century, he swivels his hips, stomps around, converses with the audience and sometimes takes his clothes off.

His rapping follows the old school, storytelling style, with poignant messages about social issues and popular culture delivered in party-fashion in Spanish and English.

“I don’t even call it rapping,” says the modest Rivera. “I respect the art form too much.”

But after a song or two filled with his infectious energy, the band’s pounding rhythms and the choreographed dance moves, it’s guaranteed that the audience will be dancing right along with him. And many people wind up singing along with the refrain while waving their hands in the air.

This is just the latest incarnation of Rivera the performer. Before creating El Malito and the 33rd Century four years ago, Rivera had been a part of three different indie rock bands. Before that, he did the singer-songwriter thing, often singing Beatles and Johnny Cash songs in Spanish.

“I wasn’t doing what I should be doing,” he recalls.

So he started rapping.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in West Chester, Rivera had dreamed of becoming a doctor when he was a child. He was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania but the high tuition caused him to instead enroll at La Salle University.

Music and performance, however, was always a part of his life. During his freshman year, he began dancing professionally and quickly dropped out of college to tour the world with the Rennie Harris Puremovement dance company. He performed with the innovative hip-hop troupe for about 15 years.

Along the way, Rivera picked up film director Robert Rodriguez’s book, “Rebel Without a Crew” and he started making films. When he’s not performing, Rivera now does freelance video production. He recently spent seven weeks in Atlanta with the Brian Sanders dance/theater company, JUNK, as they competed on the truTV performance show “Fake Off.”

El Malito shows are multimedia experiences, with Rivera’s surreal, almost cartoonish videos flashed on screens while the band belts out their power anthems.

Now 40 and expecting his first child, Rivera is working on new music, incorporating the emerging sound – called “mahragan” – that he experienced while living in Egypt for a few months last year. Mahragan combines DJ production, steady beats, distorted voices and hints at traditional Middle Eastern sounds.

“It’s music that arose because of the revolution,” he says. “It’s like the way hip-hop was here in the beginning. They talk about their troubles, using music to express themselves.”

A former Ruba Club bartender, Rivera currently resides in Fishtown, close to Bottle Bar East, where he picks up his Belgian beers. He returns to Puerto Rico as much as possible, where he finds himself chilling on the beach with a Medalla Premium Light in his hand.

“It’s not good beer,” Rivera says. “It’s terrible. But there’s something about it that when you’re on the beach, it’s so perfect.”

Greg Altman: Balancing Bands and Booking.

May 7, 2015

GregAltman01onlineAs part of our partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine, we’re documenting Philly’s relationships between music and beer. For a recent issue of Philly Beer Scene, G.W. Miller III caught up with Greg Altman, who books shows at Bourbon & Branch as well as performs with Vacationer, Ratkicker and a few other projects.

When Greg Altman was in the sixth grade, he discovered punk music, specifically the West Coast sounds from bands like Pennywise, Strung Out and Sublime. So he picked up a guitar and began learning to play.

By the time he was 13, the Newtown, Bucks County native became a fixture at the local DIY shows at Sacred Grounds, an all-ages venue inside the Friends Meetinghouse in Fallsington. By the time he was 15, he was on stage performing.

“We would make weird fliers and post them all around school,” Altman recalls. “The teachers would tear them down. That was our introduction to live music.”

He graduated from Council Rock High School North in 2004 and came to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University. But the success of his high school band – Like Lions – enticed him to drop out and hit the road.

“Why wait four years to see if you can do something?” Altman remembers thinking. “College will always be there.”

Like Lions opened for My Chemical Romance and toured with Copeland and The Starting Line. Altman became friendly with The Starting Line’s front man, Kenny Vasoli, and the two stayed in touch.

Altman returned to college but got detoured again when he began working with friends who had a studio in Prospect Park called PlayWork Productions. He helped produce for Four Year Strong, A Loss For Words and many other acts.

“For two years, I was in a windowless room for 12 hours per day,” Altman recalls. “As one band was pulling out after recording for six straight days, another band was loading in.”

That burned him out from music. So, he took some time away and went to work at The Continental Mid-town restaurant.

In 2011, Vasoli reached out to him to join his new project, Vacationer, a chillwave band whose music makes you pine for summers down the shore. The band has toured nearly non-stop since their debut LP dropped in 2012. Their second album was released last June.

Since January, Altman, now 28, has spent all his time in Philly setting up the venue space and throwing shows upstairs at Bourbon & Branch. He’s the venue manager at the Northern Liberties restaurant that features 80 varieties of whiskey, 16 beers on tap and a lot of specialty cocktails.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done in a very short time,” says Altman, who works with a team to book shows and draw crowds to the 100-person club. “The space has a classy DIY, boutique vibe.”

The club has become a go-to place to find local talent. Mo Lowda & The Humble, Night Panther, Ron Gallo and others have done month-long residencies at the club.

Altman winds up answering emails and solving problems at the club even while he’s on tour (or playing in his side project, the metal band Ratkicker). He’s OK with that.

“Playing shows is more fun,” he says. “But it’s really hard to just be in a band and not have another job. This job is pretty great.”


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