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Bleachers @ The Fillmore with Bishop Briggs and Amy Shark.

November 28, 2017

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Text and images by Alicia Kay.

The Bleachers‘ concert at The Fillmore began with an appearance from the adorable Australian singer/songwriter Amy Shark.

She joked that she’s far from home but when the Bleachers call you up to open for them, you immediately hop on a plane to the States. Shark performed singles such as “Golden Fleece,” “Boy Who Spits on Girls,” “Drive you Mad” and “Blood Brothers.”

She impressed the crowd with her angelic voice and poetic lyrics that every person in the audience seemingly could relate to on some level. Shark expressed her love for rapper Eminem by covering his song “Superman.”

Shark shared a story of calling up a boy back when people still used landlines, and his mom picked up, yelling in her heavy Aussie accent, “Joey! There’s an Amy on the phone for you!”

She joked with the audience, saying, “Bitch it’s not an Amy, it’s the Amy.”

After the crowd roared their approval, she said, “And that’s the inspiration for this next song.”

She performed one of her newer songs, “Weekends.” Shark ended her performance with her breakout single, “Adore.”

Next up was British musician Bishop Briggs. Clad in an Adidas track suit and her signature space buns, Briggs opened her set with “Dark Side, setting the tone for the show. She continued the show with singles such as “Wild Horses,” “Fire,” “Dead Man’s Arms” and “Hi-Lo.” She ended her set with and wowed the audience with her best known single, “River.” 

Whether it was jumping in place, boxing the air or running back and forth between stage left and stage right, Briggs was a ball of raw energy. It was apparent to the audience that she loves what she does and can’t wait to share it with the world. It was her aura mixed with her strong sound that made her such a great performer.

After such amazing openers, the crowd was pumped and ready for Bleachers.

As the band took their places and the lights went up, the crowd went wild. The spotlight hit lead singer Jack Antonoff on the back of the stage, far from the audience, where he was clad in his iconic bejeweled white suit as seen in the music video for their newest single “Don’t Take the Money.” 

They played their new song, “Goodmorning,” and then continued with classic songs from their 2014 album Strange Desire. At one point, Antonoff instructed everybody to get on their friend’s shoulders and enjoy the concert like they would at a music festival. Bleachers also played songs from their newest album, Gone Now, including “Hate That You Know Me,” “Everybody Lost Somebody,” “Let’s Get Married” and “Foreign Girls.”

About halfway through the performance Antonoff stopped singing and announced to the audience that their drummer had just had a birthday and asked the audience to join him in singing “Happy Birthday,” while the rest of the band members brought out a cake.

Surprisingly enough, that day just happened to be the birthday of a girl in the front row. In a beautiful moment that could only happen at a Bleachers concert, Antonoff heard the girl exclaim it was her birthday and pulled her up onto the stage, gave her a hug and had her blow out the candles. He then handed her the cake and instructed her to bring it back with her and pass it around the audience.

The concert continued while the audience sang along to the next few songs and passed around the cake, taking handfuls, stuffing their faces, and laughing as each person consequently became a mess with frosting on their face and fingers.

Going to a Bleachers concert is an experience all in its own, part of which stems from Antonoff’s love of music. From his instruction to the crowd during “Rollercoaster,” to having riff offs with his fellow band members during the songs, his fun loving attitude made the concert experience so much more beautiful. He was frank with the audience, telling stories about his thought process while writing the songs.

At one point during the concert, Antonoff shushed the audience and had them listen to a low hum, a sound he identified as sad but also comforting. The sound, which comes from a Roland Juno 106 keyboard, was the inspiration for many Bleachers songs. Antonoff explained that he would lock himself in his room, with only that sound playing, and write from the heart.

The songs would sound sad but once the creative genius that is Jack Antonoff added a keyboard, bass, two drums and even a saxophone, the songs became the beautiful and upbeat ones that the audience knew and loved.

Antonoff understands the innate beauty of music and strives with each concert to translate that into a beautiful experience for the audience.

And translate it does.

 

Funksgiving: Nik Greeley and the Operators @ MilkBoy with West End Blend.

November 28, 2017

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Text and images by Chip Frenette.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? For Nik Greeley and the Operators, it’s funk. And they served it up at MilkBoy  non Friday.

After a day of fighting for $99 flat screens, followed by devouring leftover-turkey sandwiches, the funk faithful found their way to the Chestnut Street club. Many in attendance were greeted with hugs from Greeley as he roamed the room covered under a pashmina scarf while West End Blend got the night started.

The New England-based funk act began the final month of their fall tour at MilkBoy, promoting their new album, Attitude.

Then Nik Greeley and the Operators took the stage.

Greeley paused between tracks to give thanks for a lot of things. Many of those things included funk music, family, friends and his band.

“My band, they are my brothers,” said Greeley between his soulful R&B vocals.

Greeley shouted out keyboardist Sammy Gutman, who designed the new shirts for the band. The shirts feature a bear donning a flat brim hat and using an antique telephone.

Greeley welcomed several guests to the stage during their two sets of funk. Among the guests were guitarist Chester Dragon, Chris Bullock of Snarky Puppy, Adam Dotson of Rubblebucket and Danny Meyer Music from the Eric Krasno Band.

 

Deadfellow: “I’m Just Looking for a Little More Balance.”

November 17, 2017

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Deadfellow will headline Johnny Brenda’s on Black Friday. We caught up with the man behind the music, Hayden Sammak, and talked about the world, the difficulties of being an artist in the modern era and the inspiration behind his music.

It’s been a few months since we last spoke with you. How’s life been treating you?

Things have been good. I’ve been working on a new record down in Nashville with a lot of talented people. Looking for a new apartment around Philadelphia. Playing some fun shows.

Last time, you mentioned “some sort of bizarre symbolic interactionism with political hot-button issues dictates the fate of mankind.” Did that happen? And everyone just missed it?

Going right into it? All right.

I think it’s happening—the gun thing is a good example.

You have these people who are interacting with guns as if they’re the sole symbol of personal liberty, meanwhile people are literally being gunned down en mass inside of schools and concert venues and churches. When people interact with guns as untouchable symbols of freedom, they perpetuate gun culture and (by proxy) gun violence.

Is the whole world going to collapse because of mass shootings? No, but this kind of thing (people being pro-gun rights without compromise despite mass shootings and obvious need for change in gun related legislature) demonstrates a dangerous, cavalier mindset that contributes to a deeply disturbing societal trend.

People do the same thing with Donald Trump. They interact with him as a symbol of the great American business man—and there’s a legitimate chance that he’s dumb enough to start a nuclear war.

I guess that’s symbolic interactionism I meant.

I don’t think everyone missed it.

Have you been crafting new music? 

Yeah, I’m working on my third record this year, Millennials In Love (And Other Pre-Apocalyptic Standards). I wrote the record in the beginning of the summer while I was learning piano. I’m finishing tracking this weekend down in Nashville.

We’ll see what happens. I think it’s great.

 

What is the root of your pain, the inspiration for your music?

I’m just frustrated. It used to be that there was a difference between the kind of love that was in the movies and the kind of love that actually exists among real people, and we rightfully accepted that.

Now, it seems like love has become something that’s only in the movies, and we’re starting to accept that too. That’s really unsettling to me.

I’m also frustrated with the “millennials want to do too much/millennials don’t want to do anything” Catch-22 that the older generations have us in right now.

You’ve gotten some positive press in recent months. That has to make you feel pretty good about life, no?

When you’re getting recognition, you get a pretty proportionate number of detractors. With good press comes bad press and the bad press has a way of sticking with you longer—I think that’s human nature.

I think the most important thing is not to think about it too much either way.

That said, I’m really grateful for anyone who has been a vocal supporter of my music, of course. It helps make what I’m doing sustainable.

What would success look like to you?

Success to me would be sustainability. I want to be able to write music and record music, and focus mostly on that. I recognize that even then, there would still be a lot of promotional responsibilities, etc. that would fall on my shoulders, I’m just looking for a little more balance.

I’m just trying to get to a spot where I don’t have to pimp myself so much.

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Dude. You’re headlining Johnny Brenda’s. That’s huge.

It’s something that I’ve had on my hit list for a while. I’m really excited. It’s sort of a tough date, but the promotion has been thorough and I’m expecting a good turn out and show to match.

What’s in the pipeline for Deadfellow?

My third record, Millennials In Love (And Other Pre-Apocalyptic Standards) will be out later this year (or perhaps early 2018). Then who knows? Maybe next year I’ll do three more.

Bully @ The Church with Aye Nako.

November 17, 2017

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Text by Mike DiGuilmi. Images by Ben Wong.

Escaping the frigid cold, attendees arrived at the First Unitarian Church Tuesday evening to see rock band of Nashville origins, Bully, and opening act, Aye Nako. Descending the concrete steps before providing their name in the corridor, ticket holders were welcomed into church’s intimate byob, grungy VIP-esq charm, which cannot be replicated sans basement.

Aye Nako (pronounced eye nuh-co) is a Brooklyn-based four-piece citing “homopop, queercore, punk, non-college rock, bullsh**,” as its genre on the band’s Facebook page.

Sheena McGrath on drums and Joe McCann on bass bring the tempo and underlying trajectory of Aye Nako’s set, allowing Jade Payne and Mars Ganito, who both play guitar and split vocals, to carry listeners through their punk catalogue.

“This next song is sad and angry,” said Mars, setting up the song “Nothing Nice” off of the band’s album, Silver Haze, which was released this past April.

Aye Nako carves its own space by traversing resonant, ever-dire issues and delving into queer and racial politics, all while layering their set with dissonant melodies and harmony.

Bully, comprised of Alicia Bognanno, Clayton Parker, and Reece Lazarus, kicked off their set with “Either Way” from their new album Losing, which was released on October 20th.

Following a quick, smooth, chord progression, Bognanno commanded the audience from the opening line, “I stayed up last night, I was tearin’ up in bed,” welcoming listeners into the world of Bully. A world of scabs, blood and unpaid dues was then expressed in their song “Brainfreeze,” off of their debut album Feels Like.

Navigating attendees through both albums, Bognanno roared through vignettes of her life, from breaking her sister’s arm in “Six,” and how breaking her own arm didn’t make them even, then tenderly delivering bouts of reflection in “Blame.”

“This is definitely our favorite venue in Philadelphia. This venue rules,” Bognanno expressed during a tuning break before recounting the other venues they’ve played while in town. Then, immediately, the band went into their song “Focused,” off of Losing.

Bognanno’s  voice swept through the basement of the church during the duration of the set, through heart-rendering soft moments and rasp-induced roars that invited attendees to participate in angry, cathartic release. This was most notably illustrated through their song “Trash,” off of their debut album, which culminated in the audience harmonizing Bagnanno’s chorus, “Feels like trash!” on loop like a collective mantra, while each person in the room rocked and swayed.

Bully closed their set proper with the final track off Losing, “Hate and Control,” and then without leaving the stage, tuned up for their encore.

“I can’t wait to go lay down on one of the pews and gather my thoughts,” said Bognanno before regaining the nights momentum with “Running,” off of Losing, which, attune to the set’s trend, had the entire basement harmonizing through chorus.

Bully closed the set and the night with “I Remember” off of Feels Like, which left the listeners in motion, a kinetic mass, until Bognanno’s hair-draped face closed the night, hanging the audience on familiarity, “I know everything that freaks you out, that makes you mad, that makes you melt.”  A knowing friend wrapped, which acted as a parting gift for the attendees for the cold world which awaited them up at ground level.

Phoebe Ryan @ The Foundry.

November 13, 2017
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Text and images by Alicia Kay.

New Jersey native Phoebe Ryan kicked off her 2017 fall tour at The Foundry last month.

Having written for big names such as Britney Spears and Melanie Martinez, Ryan is a veteran songwriter. She wowed the crowd with her signature electro-pop sound.

Beginning with “Mine,” a fan favorite from her debut album of the same name, Ryan set the tone of the show with her heartfelt lyrics combined with a light tone, all tied together with a smile.

Because the show fell on Halloween night, Ryan first emerged wearing a handmade green robot costume her mother made, letting the crowd know that this was going to be a fun show.

She continued the show with crowd pleasers such as “Chronic,” “Dark Side” and “All We Know,” a song she collaborated on with The Chainsmokers. She also performed some brand new songs that were just released a few weeks ago on the James EP, such as “Should I,” “Aspirin,” “James Has Changed” and “Be Real.”

Ryan said the James EP tells a story from beginning to end.

“It’s not a love story,” she said. “But it is about love.”

After her set, Ryan reemerged for an encore, dawning an acoustic guitar and hopping off the stage into the audience. She performed a new, unrecorded track titled “Unicorn.

She ended the show with a mashup of R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Miguel’s “Do You.” It was the first song she released as a solo artist, bringing the show full circle and leaving the audience with an awe-inspiring sense of how far she has come as an artist.

The Dears @ Boot & Saddle.

November 7, 2017
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Text and images by Ben Wong.

The Dears performed  in Philly on Saturday, the last East Coast show for a while for the veteran indie rockers from Montreal.

They brought their Times Infinity Volume Two Tour with indie-pop singer Lou Canon as the opener to Boot & Saddle and opened with “Taking it to the Grave,” the first track from their latest album.

The Dears showed Philadelphia that in their 17 plus years of touring, they have not lost a step. They focused on their newer material but they also peppered in classics, like the “Whites Only Party” and “Hate then Love.”

They closed with “Lost in the Plot,” the song that drew comparisons between The Dears and The Smiths, as well as between frontman Murray Lightburn and Morrissey.

Ninth Floor Mannequin: “Creating Music is the Activity that Gets me out of Bed in the Morning.”

November 6, 2017

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Jarrod Pedone was hit by a speeding car in Fishtown in 2012, leaving him in a coma for 12 days. The longtime musician and Berklee College of Music graduate lost months of his life recovering, going through speech and occupational therapy to regain his sense of self.

Making music became his own therapy. He started a personal project, Ninth Floor Mannequin, and launched an album, Green & Blue for Blackness, four years later.

Pedone recently released his sophomore album, 5 Characters (In Search of An Exit), so we caught up with him to learn more about him and his work.

What’s going on in this new album? Why are you looking for an exit?

The majority of my songs are based on my favorite episodes of the original The Twilight Zone series. There is a famous episode, titled “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” The EP title pays homage to that episode.

These five songs were written about different subjects (explained in the lyrics sections of Bandcamp & Soundcloud) and I felt that they all belonged on the same release despite being varied in subject matter, much like the episode.

 

It materialized much quicker than Green & Blue for Blackness. And under much different circumstances, right?

Yes, it materialized much more quickly. Green & Blue for Blackness was more of a retrospective project.

On the new EP, with the exception of “Understudy,” these songs were written, recorded, mixed and mastered from scratch within a few months in a small room by myself. Though that seems like a slow turnaround, it’s much faster than is normal for me.

I wanted to record an EP quickly with Ninth Floor Mannequin in mind and make it more cohesive than my debut album.

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The lyrics are very interesting, as though you are sending a message to people. “In a brand new way, we relearn to trust?” What’s on your mind, Jarrod?

That song is based on an episode of The Twilight Zone, titled “Two.” The episode is about a man and woman who meet in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, wearing opposing military uniforms. They cannot communicate but relearn to trust each other through actions, despite their fear of each other.

As with all of my Twilight Zone-themed songs, the sentiment of the episode can be contorted to fit your personal experiences. This can be applied to the events in relationships and altercations in your own life…or it could merely be a commentary an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Here’s a music video for clarification:

 

How is your recovery going? Are you still impacted by the accident?

It’s going well. I still struggle with the standard after-effects of my injuries – memory loss, anxiety, mental exhaustion, balance, lack of smell/taste, weakened sense of touch, sleeping issues, etc.

I live a normal life, though. Creating music is the activity that gets me out of bed in the morning. I can’t complain.

Who are you away from Ninth Floor Mannequin? What do you do with yourself?

Away from music, I’m kind of a boring guy.

I run a lot. I just broke 2,500 miles on my running app. I just finished The Stand by Stephen King and I’m now in the middle of 1984 by George Orwell. I teach about 50 young drummers. I play drums for The End of America. I attend shows occasionally.

I just quietly live my life.

What comes next?

More performances and new music come next. As I said, I don’t exactly churn out new music at a feverish pace. So, it might be a bit but I’m already getting the itch to record new stuff.

As soon as I release music, I tend to think that it’s not too great and that I could do better. So, I try to cover my mistakes by releasing better music than I did the last time. If the music draws some interest and people enjoy it, I’d be happy to hit the ground running with performances.

I just hope that people enjoy the music to the point where live performances would be necessary. If not, I’m sure that I’ll play more shows regardless.

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