Text and images by Tyler Horst.
A stalwart few braved the cold and snow on Saturday to spend the evening at Milkboy, and were duly rewarded with an eclectic show featuring Rene Lopez (above).
Taking the stage early in the night was Tomás Pagán Mottá, a singer-songwriter from Washington DC. Using just his voice and an acoustic guitar, with the occasional addition of harmonica, Mottá filled the small upstairs room with some gentle, folksy tunes. His songwriting inspired by the likes of Elliot Smith and Bob Dylan, Mottá shifted easily between full voice and a high falsetto, swinging sweeping melodies over cascading chord progressions.
“I feel like I’m playing the mellow beginning to a funky after-party,” Mottá readily admitted.
That after-party was provided by Rene Lopez and his eight-piece band. Coming from New York City, Lopez and the band quickly warmed everyone up with an energetic mix of funk and Latin soul. Clearly a seasoned group of players, the band was tight even though Lopez announced it was their drummer’s first gig with the rest of the band.
Saxophone, guitar and bass laid down some funky lines over an intricate array of percussion. During a few songs Lopez abandoned the microphone to pick up an extra set of drumsticks, laying into a set of snares and cowbell to transform a soulful number into a flurry of interweaving Latin rhythms.
The band charmed the small crowd and Lopez encouraged everyone to move forward. By the end of the night, the snow was forgotten and the crowd used the extra room to move and dance.
Text and images by Rick Kauffman.
Ruby the Hatchet have very subtly been putting on kick-ass shows in Philadelphia that just recently have culminated in a bloody New Years Eve banger and a Friday the 13th album release show that saw the band perform their sophomore release, Valley of the Snake, in its entirety.
For those who didn’t grab the vinyl early, the album final drops today.
Through six tracks, the quintet, whose members, save for one, all live together on the wrong side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, offer another example of how Philadelphia, far and wide, has talent across all genre.
Women in particular have had a growing platform in this city that offers new and emerging positions in leading roles with new and progressive sounds. Jillian Taylor, leading lady and vocalist for Ruby the Hatchet, found a unique opportunity to help craft an original sound.
“Women have this witchy quality that men can’t really convey,” Taylor said. “With heavy music, too. It cuts more if you have a higher voice … at least in our genre, I think. That’s why you see a lot of women, because it works really well.”
Text and images by Tyler Horst.
Sunday night is just as good as any night to party. The decked-out upstairs space at Johnny Brenda’s filled with a steadily growing crowd over the course of the evening for some very feel-good music from Paper Route (above), Royal Tongues and Upperfields.
First up was local band Upperfields, a folk band with pop sensibilities and an ear for harmonies. The songs were mellow but with a distinctly upbeat feel. Guitarists Shaun Gold and Justin Nawn’s sweeping combined with the soulful, resonant bass of Lee Clarke created a rich sound. For the final number, Gold and Nawn encouraged the crowd to join in the harmonies of the song.
Taking things to a more energetic place was Royal Tongues. Only on their eighth show as a band, Royal Tongues wowed the audience with their well-crafted and fun brand of dance-rock. With a driving rhythm section, poppy synths and some sharp, disco-esque guitar lines, Royal Tongues pushed many to tap their feet and dance. With such confidence and skill, Royal Tongues seemed a much older band.
“You’re such a beautiful crowd, can we take a picture of you?” asked singer Aaron Bonus toward the end of the set. The drummer climbed atop his seat and snagged a photo of the delighted crowd.
Closing out the evening was Paper Route. The room had filled out considerably since the beginning of the night, and the band was grateful.
“Thank you for braving the snow and the Oscars to come see us tonight,” said J.T. Daly.
Paper Route launched into a set of anthemic rock songs with heavy additions of electronica. The sparkling synths and expansive guitar riffs provided space for Daly’s soaring vocals. Many of the songs featured lifting melodies with vulnerable lyrics, suggesting a sort of guarded optimism, like watching the sun come out after a rain shower. Others were more straight-up dance tracks, owing more to synth-pop and ’80s new wave.
Even though things didn’t wrap up until around midnight, the audience still demanded an encore … and got one.
Text and images by Chip Frenette.
On Saturday, they played a three-set show. The laser show that accompanied the music was a sight that added to the incredible blend of jazz, electronic and funk that truly is what a jam band can be.
The Disco Biscuits will take a break now, returning to the stage in April for a show in Florida before moving on to Colorado, where they will begin a four night run with legendary jam band artists Phil Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead.
Text and images by Diana Shalenkova.
The glass doors kept out the howling winds and the tangerine walls radiated a sunny disposition Thursday night at the Saige Café, where Kyle Blessing, a Temple University freshman, radiated an air of nervous confidence as he set up for his first gig.
Armed with only an acoustic-electric guitar and a mic stand and tuning between songs, Blessing played a variety of covers such as Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine” and the Grateful Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Women,” along with some of Blessing’s originals.
“This one’s about being homesick,” Blessing said about “Places I’ve Been,” a song he wrote in his first semester. “I’m kind of surprised I wrote this because generally I don’t get like that. But it happened.”
Blessing doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. As he sang “Places I’ve Been,” with his eyes closed, hair in his face, his voice milky as he belted the lyrics, almost pleading, it was apparent that Blessing’s heart lives in his music.
Blessing performs at Saige Café every Thursday at 6 p.m. Ask him to play “How to Break Your Own Heart.”
An abandoned high pressure pump station isn’t the typical first choice for a restaurant but according to Peter Woolsey, executive chef and proprietor of La Peg, the building was “the first property that made sense” for his new restaurant. Located at 140 N. Columbus Blvd., La Peg officially opened its doors for business on Aug. 25. It sits nicely next to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and directly across the street from Race Street Pier. Through the sizable floor-to-ceiling windows that are set into the original glazed brick walls of the pump station, diners are treated to fantastic views of the Delaware River waterfront as they savor Woolsey’s take on traditional brasserie fare.
French for brewery, a brasserie traditionally serves casual, yet refined food in a setting that is more relaxed than its cousin, the bistro. La Peg’s menu reflects this tradition. Woolsey insists that La Peg’s cuisine is “inspired but not strict” in its take on brasserie offerings.
“For example, we have Pho,” Woolsey says, “but it’s Pho through a Frenchman’s eyes.”
Originally from Lower Merion Township, Woolsey now lives in the Pennsport neighborhood of Philadelphia and is no newcomer to the art of cooking or being a restaurateur. Cooking since the age of 18, Woolsey has worked in restaurants across the country, under famous chefs and restaurateurs including Georges Perrier of Le Bec-Fin, Stephen Starr of the Starr Restaurant Organization and Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill.
What provided the springboard for Woolsey’s career in French cuisine was a chance move to France in 2000.
In France, Woolsey studied pastry making and worked at Lucas Carton, the famous Paris restaurant now owned and operated by chef Alain Senderens. Senderens is credited as one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine, an approach to French cuisine characterized by lighter and more delicate dishes with emphasis on presentation.
“France just happened,” Woolsey says. “I’m not a Francophone by any means but France is where I ended up. Now I speak French fluently, I’m married to a French woman and I run French restaurants.”
Woolsey owes not only his time in France to shaping La Peg’s cuisine, but also its name. When asked about it, Woolsey smiles and undoes the buttons of his flannel shirt and reveals the words “La Peg” which have been tattooed on his upper left arm for the past 10 years.
“I had this done when I got married,” Woolsey explains. “My wife’s name is Peggy but her father had nicknames for each one of his children. Her nickname was ‘La Peg.’”
The menu at La Peg serves as a testament to Woolsey’s time in France. On the brunch menu, diners can savor a variety of options including crepes, eggs florentine and benedict, pork terrine and the house mesclun salad. Patrons arriving for dinner can expect options including foie gras, pan roasted striped bass, beef and tuna tartare, pork cheek carbonade and choucroute garnie.
After moving back to Philadelphia in 2002, Woolsey continued to refine his craft and in 2008 opened his first restaurant, Bistrot La Minette, located at 623 S. Sixth St., where he still serves as owner and proprietor. While both restaurants follow a French tradition, Woolsey seeks to make a distinction between the two.
“Where Bistrot is inviting,” he explains, “I want La Peg to be exciting.”
The restaurant’s location on N. Columbus Boulevard is the perfect space to do so. In addition to housing La Peg, the building is also home to the offices and theater of Philadelphia’s Fringe Arts, curators of the annual Fringe Festival.
When searching for locations for the Fringe Arts space, president and co-founder Nick Stuccio had a specific idea for what he wanted to establish.
“I wanted to create a place where artists hatch ideas to change the world,” says Stuccio.
In the 18 years that Fringe Arts has been operating in Philadelphia they have followed this vision. As one of the area’s leaders for contemporary and experimental artists, Fringe Arts has provided Philadelphia with an outlet for some of the most cutting edge artists from around the world.
While Fringe Arts is most known for Fringe Fest, they also host events and performances year-round. But what was missing from Stuccio’s vision was a bar and restaurant that would make Fringe Arts a true hub for artists. With La Peg now a few months into operation it seems that his vision is complete.
But no performing arts hub would be complete without live music. La Peg is also the home for Philadelphia’s Red 40 & The Last Groovement, who are enjoying their residency as house band performing every first Friday night. In addition to Red 40’s residency, La Peg also hosts live music every Friday night.
Woolsey explains that the restaurant and Fringe Arts have had a very symbiotic relationship. The restaurant opened just prior to this year’s Fringe Fest and theatergoers would try La Peg’s offerings before or after the events of the festival.
Woolsey is already brainstorming ideas for next year’s Fringe Fest, expressing an interesting in blurring the lines between a dining and theater experience.
“John Waters made a film where you had a scratch-and-sniff card that you’d smell at different parts of the movie,” Woolsey says, referring to Water’s 1981 film “Polyester.” “Maybe we could do something like that but you’d eat certain things at different parts of the play instead of smelling them.”
In the meantime, Fringe Arts and La Peg’s intersection of food and theater can be experienced as early as this coming March when Yumi Kendall, acting associate principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, will be “playing brunch.” Kendall will be working with Stuccio and Fringe Arts staff to pick a selection of music that Woolsey will then plan an accompanying menu inspired by Kendall’s pieces.
While managing a restaurant with more than 45 staff members “… is sometimes like herding cats,” Woolsey is happy to take on the challenge.
“Who gets to have this much fun at work?” he asks.