Their first Philly show, held in the basement of a house near the El Bar in 2011, left some of the snootier punks in attendance remarking that, with their signature lineup of four guitarists, the boys from DP were oversaturated, overpowered and overindulgent — that is to say, excellent. The show last week was much the same, except that the band is finally playing venues that can handle their outlandish live show.
Long hair and technical virtuosity ruled the night, with Philly’s own Hound opening (their new LP, Out Of Space, drops Thursday). Their riff-heavy 1970s gloom was the perfect way to start the evening. The poppy-yet-shreddy Music Band, on tour from Nashville with DP, bridged the gap between the burned-out Hound and the hyperactive Diarrhea Planet.
DP stuck mostly to material from their recent full-length, 2013’s I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. The band also played two new songs that carried on the warm, dirty sound of their last full-length and the more recent Aliens in the Outfield EP. Unfortunately, though, frontman Jordan Smith did not reveal the titles of those songs in a quick chat before he took the stage, so your guess is as good as mine as to the new songs’ names.
The night climaxed on the stoner ballad “Kids,” with the entire room head banging along to a devastatingly subtle (subtle for DP, anyway) contemplation on growing up. Seriously, it’s shocking how much emotion these dudes can fit into tracks that sound like the physical embodiment of what a 12-year-old hair metal fan thinks a good song should be. They finished with an encore of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck,” featuring Music Band’s Harry Kagan on lead vocals. It was an appropriately over the top ending for an already over the top show.
The next day, the guys cleared their schedule for a trip to the Mutter Museum, the macabre collection of medical oddities in Center City. Although the tour ended the next night in Washington, D.C, the band didn’t say much about what was next. But guitarist Emmett Miller is currently reading “Infinite Jest,” and he’s only about 400 pages in, so consider him occupied until at least Christmas.
Text and images by JD Mousley.
You may know him as the man who’s feverously been working to gain his scuba license for a paper company in Scranton but if that’s the only Creed Bratton you know, you’re missing out on the other half of this entertainer.
Creed Bratton, the musician and actor most well known for performing a fictitious version of himself on The Office, performed at the Voltage Lounge last Wednesday. Bratton combined music and comedy to create a hybrid performance that left people wondering, “What is this crazy old guy up to?”
The show featured a collection of stand-up comedians and musicians. Brian Six was the first to perform, and the host of the night. Six was also joined by comedians Sonia Zambrana, Chris Wood and Ryan Shaner – all comedians from the Philadelphia area. They offered their own take on subjects like getting a tattoo at age 17 with your mom, getting kicked out of strip clubs and boners that in stretchy pants that look like Free Willy 2.
Tim Raymus gave the crowd a taste of what was to come. Bringing a guitar on stage, Raymus infused his stand up humor with a musical twist. He directed his angst against Comcast into a song relatable to many in the city, titled “Common Ground,” singing “Comcast sucks, and needs to die.”
Shaner was next to take the stage, taking no prisoners. Shaner entered with two cold Miller High Life’s in hand, starting his 20 minute set by chugging the first brew right away. He also indulged demands for him to take off his shirt by unbuckling his pants, and giving the audience a full moon before welcoming Creed Bratton to stage.
Bratton’s show featured a combination of music and jokes. He started the show as Creed Bratton, the musician. While setting up the auxiliary cords for his guitar, Bratton informed one of the stage hands that a cord needed to “go in a little deeper.” Bratton looked up to those in attendance, smiled, and uttered a well timed, “That’s what she said!”
Those coming for Creed Bratton, Dunder Mifflin’s quality assurance manager, weren’t let down. Bratton left the stage briefly, coming back as Creed from the show, replicating the senile and bizarre character that many have grown to love. He added backstory to jokes from the show, like how he wears size 5 shoes after having his feet bound by his Chinese foster parents.
“They thought it would make me more beautiful,” Bratton remarked. “But I really just ended up losing a toe.”
Bratton’s music is melodic and sweet. He played many songs from back in the 60’s, performing hits such “Boxer” and “Live for Today.” Many in the crowd found themselves swaying along to a beat that subtly captured them without their knowledge.
Not all of his music came from before most of the crowd was born. Bratton told the story about how he and fellow actor Ed Helms would often jam together during down-times while filming. One of his less serious songs, “Mose Was A Runner,” spawned from the desire to write a song to subtly get back at Angela Kinsey, another actress on the show.
Bratton’s song “All the Faces,” which played during The Office’s finale. Bratton had written the song long before starring on the show. The song sat unplayed for 30 years, until a conversation with director Greg Daniels about how to end the show. Bratton performed the song once for Daniels. Bratton said he didn’t think Daniels had liked the song. He assumed Daniels had gone with a different ending until the cast sat down for the final script read. Sitting at the end of the script: “Creed plays ‘All of the Faces’ while the characters talk about their time at Dunder Mifflin.” Bratton was surprised to see Daniels holding his guitar at the reading.
“One of my best performances” Bratton says.
Despite his character’s personality on The Office, Creed Bratton is a compassionate performer, often telling the crowd that “Creed Cares” throughout the performance. Bratton continued to embrace fans, allowing those who purchased a meet-and-greet pass to take selfies and sign autographs. Many fans brought their own Office memorabilia, including a $3 bill from the show and custom made signs for the event.
Bratton will continue to perform along the East Coast. He is currently working on producing a television show about a caregiver who helps people pass to the other side, compassionately, with comedic overtones.
Le Yikes Surf Club was born after the hiatus of Dirty Tactics, Gary Viteri and guitarist Chris Haberstick’s old band. Originally Viteri’s pet project, LYSC expanded with Haberstick and drummer Ted Quann. Bassist Vinny Orender joined after sitting in on some practices.
“It was a boy’s club,” says Viteri of the hangout sessions. The result was a blend of funky Spanish guitars, organs and maracas with an ’80s punk vibe. “You’d drink a beer and play a set.”
“It’s always been that way,” says Haberstick. “The first songs had that kind of flamenco style. Flamenco punk. That was cool.”
LYSC focused on crafting their music and it paid off. Just after announcing their second live show, the band was picked up by Grizzly Records.
The label’s founder/operator, EJ Binns, was drawn in by the band’s capability to leave him humming tunes after a single listen. While the overall style wasn’t new, Binns found that LYSC brought something distinctive by combining simple riffs, hooks and rhythm for an easily digestible but uniquely fulfilling experience.
“All the dudes are fucking crack ups, super passionate about their crafts, and [they] play some really fucking catchy songs,” says Binns. “I was sold.”
Soon after, the band was performing gigs with the likes of The Dickies and Agent Orange.
LYSC’s self-titled debut was released in 2012, showcasing jaunty surf reverb with an energetic edge. Tracks like “Ghost Ride the Whip” call to mind a sunset-lit beach, smoking a spliff with pals and watching the waves after a wild punk show. The band’s upcoming full-length, Apocalypsos – recorded by Philly’s Joe Reinhart – promises to expand on that feeling.
On the deck that leads from Viteri’s second-floor kitchen, the guys kick back in lawn chairs, enjoying beers and smokes. Discussion ranges from the expansion of Comcast – whose mega-tower dominates a clear view of Center City – to alternative PR tactics.
“How about a Le Yikes crossword puzzle?” suggests Viteri.
“And if you solve it, you win a copy of the new EP,” Haberstick says with a smirk.
Despite few compatriots in the surf/world/punk-art project scene, the group is making a name for itself.
“It’s kind of cool,” says Orender, slumped in a chair against the wall. “We don’t really fit the bill. We’re always playing with bands from outside of town.”
Apocalypsos is set for release through Grizzly on December 21. Demos for a new EP are also in the works, featuring “a more ethnic sound, borrowing from my Ecuadorian background,” Viteri says. “A more chilled out, bluesy feel instead of surf-rock.”
At the end of the day, LYSC still holds onto its humble sonic ethos.
“It’s not complicated,” Viteri states. “The planets are aligning. We’re all here to hang and that’s how we sound when we play.”
If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.
If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.
The guys in Beach Slang are open to uncomfortable conversation. They’ll talk about how they can display their most emotional and vulnerable sides through lyrics. They can talk about how they had to write material and form a band dynamic while they were already on the media’s radar. They can talk about how they still get nervous getting on stage. They won’t, however, talk about their age, religion or politics. Those topics are off the table.
Guitarist/vocalist/chief songwriter James Alex Snyder, formerly of Bethlehem-based band Weston, shares his time between Philadelphia and Easton and decided that this project would be an honest one.
“This was the first time I was like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m just going to wear my heart completely on my sleeve, just strip all of it down,’” he says, standing as the rest of the band sits on couches along the back wall of PhilaMOCA before a show.
Snyder’s voice is quiet and fast. It doesn’t quite have the rasp that comes out when he sings. There’s earnestness and modesty behind what he says. Snyder sheds his reserved ways when there’s a guitar in hand. Anyone who has seen Beach Slang live might not think it was the same guy who leaves every bit of his energy on the stage, powerfully leading the charge of the song and laughing with his friends.
The band’s lyrics have a certain aesthetic that can be hard to pinpoint. They balance between self-doubt and vulnerability, with moments of triumph and comfort at the same time. The music itself recalls melodic ’90s alt-rock and emo.
“[The lyrics are about] me and my friends and our weirdo, screwed up little lives together,” Snyder says. “I’m a horrible photographer. I can’t get anybody interested in reading a book. So I was like, ‘Well, if they’re songs, maybe that’s the best way I can remember my life and my friends.”
As the band puts it, Snyder writes the songs and then the rest of the members make it loud and it becomes Beach Slang. Originally made up of Snyder, bassist Ed McNulty (formerly in the band NONA) and drummer JP Flexner (formerly in the band Ex Friends), the group added Ruben Gallego (formerly in Glocca Morra) on second guitar after their first two EPs. From there, the songwriting process has gone smoothly, with two EPs released last year and their debut full length, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, due out this fall on Polyvinyl.
“There’s an ease with which we arrive at something that we’re happy with,” Flexner says. “When we get in a room after James has worked on something, we seem to know pretty quickly whether we’re on to something.”
They feel the hardest thing for all of them to overcome was handling a boost to popularity while they were still relative strangers. It has been an accelerated pace with the band already garnering major attention from both fellow artists and in the media, with outlets like Noisey and The AV Club singing their praises often.
“We grew up on television, you know?” Snyder says, comparing the band to child stars who grew up in the spotlight and never really got a chance to learn along the way. “We never had a chance to fall and embarrass ourselves. It was right away. We were becoming friends in this. I met Ed and Ruben in this band already doing this. The band found its legs pretty quickly and everything was just kind of a crazy pressure cooker where we worked at an accelerated pace.”
“They’re at the top of the relatively newer Philly punk rock bands,” says Marco Florey, drummer of Philadelphia-based Spill, who shared a stage with Beach Slang this year in Baltimore. “They have a constantly upward trajectory, as well they should. Seeing them and playing with them has validated that hype and made me a supporter of what they do.”
What they do is try to create a unique emotional experience—and whether that feeling is uncertainty in life or reveling in a packed basement with your best friends, it’s real to them and the fans.
“For better or for worse,” Snyder says. “Whether it connects or completely misses, I just want to do something really honest.”
“Philly is and always has been a talent town but it isn’t an industry town,” says William Toms, one of the co-founders of RECphilly, while leaning forward in his seat. “There’s lots of great music organizations in Philly that have pull but they don’t communicate with each other.”
Inside the sun-lit rooms of Venturef0rth, a collaborative workspace near the Electric Factory, RECphilly runs their operation. Headed up by 23-year-olds Toms and Dave Silver, RECphilly is a music incubator that they were inspired to create after seeing the slump Philadelphia’s music industry fell into.
“Philadelphia and Detroit used to compete to be one and two in the music industry.” Silver says frustratedly, his watch catching the sunlight, noting how the Sigma Sound Studios and Philly International Records buildings were closed, with plans to become apartment complexes. “We were seeing historic Philly shut down and it inspired us to be the change we wanted to see in the Philly area.”
Silver and Toms both speak with confidence because they understand the issues at hand. One of the major problems with Philadelphia’s music industry is that talent develops here, then leaves. Musicians and producers flee the city for places such as New York or Los Angeles, where there is an industry that can support them. RECphilly is working to keep these artists in the city.
“RECphilly has done remarkable things to help me, amongst others, establish ground here in Philadelphia,” says West Philly rapper Armani White.
Since the official launch in January 2015, the organization has become a matchmaker and an information clearinghouse of services in Philadelphia that musicians might not know exists or have trouble finding on their own.
“For musicians, connecting the dots is the hardest part and that’s why RECphilly exists,” Silver explains.
“The problem we saw was structure,” agrees Toms. “It wasn’t easy for musicians to access resources they needed, from recording studios to entertainment lawyers to everything in between. We needed a system that was more sustainable.”
RECphilly creates deals with local businesses that are beneficial to everyone.
“We represent a boat-load of Philadelphia small businesses,” Silver says. “We’re able to offer artists different budgets and different niches of services customized to them. ”
“They saw the problem too,” Toms says. “We just wanted to push extra clientele to their businesses. Then, we can take the weight off the shoulders of the musician, other than creating the music.”
The infrastructure RECphilly has built connects artists and businesses in Philadelphia, connections each may not have previously been aware of.
“Now they can come to Philly and be tied to an organization that can help get them to mainstream outlets and assist with funding and distribution,” explains Toms.
“RECphilly has kept me involved all the way from the smallest events to the biggest shows and always made sure I had a comfortable position in a tight spot,” White says.
Milton, a 22-year-old R&B singer and rapper who has teamed up with RECphilly, says working with the organization has been an unforgettable experience.
“They’ve been a mediator for me as an artist from the music into the business world,” says Milton. “They helped me find an outlet to plug my energy into by showing me the proper channels for my music to flow and create a future.”
RECphilly not only provides the networking support for musicians, but can provide technical support as well.
“We have a space called the Rec Room,” Toms notes. “It’s all of the tools necessary to create audio and visual content at a low cost. It’s a multi-discipline art studio with an audio booth, photo and video backdrops.”
“The incubation process happens from the Rec Room into our network,” Silver continues. “We open that up to local musicians, offer those things and then the process happens. The gears turn for everybody involved.”
In the near future, RECphilly wants to expand their available resources for artists, but they also want to make a difference in another way.
“There is a huge opportunity in our business model to target the underprivileged youth, to tap into their talents and help them utilize it positively,” Silver says.
“The opportunity to make a difference – there is one of the burning passions behind RECphilly,” Toms adds. “First we have to find the money but then we want to have a whole branch to target youth in the city.”
RECphilly recently traveled to Atlanta for the All Three Coasts event, known as A3C, the largest hip-hop conference and festival in the nation. But it was their success at the 2015 South by Southwest festival that was a testament to their effectiveness and impact.
“It was such an exhilarating feeling but a roller coaster ride to put together,” Silver says with a laugh. Months of emailing, calling and pitching their proposal culminated in putting 40 people on a plane from Philly to Austin for a Philadelphia showcase at the festival. “It was the first time Philly was ever represented completely at SXSW. Chicago and all these different cities had their own stages, but there was no Philly one until this year. We got a call saying that we can do it all again next year.”
“It’s so refreshing to see it grow so fast because with the strong team it has behind it, that’s still continuously growing,” says White. “It’s easy to see that this could be a big thing for the city, akin to a Philly International even.”