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Elissa Janelle Velveteen: The Popaganda Machine.

February 17, 2017

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Text by Brianna Spause. Images by Brianna Spause and Ben Wong.

Sheltered. Censored. Segregated.

That’s how Elissa Janelle Velveteen, 30, describes growing up in a loving, yet conservative household, as a preacher’s daughter.

“Music was the bridge for me to get out,” Velveteen says. “I grew up singing in the church choir, where the principle taught was to be humble because you’re not singing for yourself. You’re singing for Jesus.”

At first, the singer-songwriter felt selfish commanding attention on stage. Velveteen says the showy, “Hey! Look at me!” attitude she found in the entertainment business was foreign, yet a lifestyle she welcomed to make her voice heard.

“I like to use music as a vehicle,” Velveteen says. “This is fun, but the reason I dedicated my life to it is because you can change the world with it.”

She calls it “popaganda.” It’s catchy music with meat to it, and it has a few goals.

“To reach and help people,” Velveteen says. “To inspire people. It’s not necessarily about me but you do kind of have to flag people down like, ‘Hey! I have something to say.’”

As with most things, Velveteen believes in starting small.

In the issues she cares about, Velveteen has the whole – we might not be able to stop Walmart right now from paying inhumane wages to factory workers overseas, but we can all stop shopping there, right? – kind of attitude.

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She brings focus with her raspy, sharp vocals in Molly Rhythm, the eclectic eight-piece rock/ska/punk band where she is one of the two dueling female vocalists.

To start off her career in Philly, she played her dark, cathartic originals on stage at The Fire’s weekly Monday night open mics. For 10 years, she was so reliable, they brought her on as a host and a bartender.

On a cold December Wednesday, Velveteen graces the same stage in a retro pair of lilac trousers and an intricate tulle hat. The Fire is having their annual Holiday Party. The smell of chili and the sounds of Velveteen’s vocals fill the small room.

As the night winds on, Velveteen plays the majority of her new album, One Sunken Ship. The set is like a journey as Velveteen dances from the acoustic guitar to piano to ukulele-and-kazoo combo and back again, practicing her popaganda by painting a realistic picture of society as she sees it.

“Y’all want to hear a little ditty about police brutality?” Velveteen says as she leans into the microphone, before going into “The Devil’s Hands.”

In the overall catchy tune, Velveteen begs the question, “Where do you get the nerve to call protect and serve legal abuse?” moving on to social commentary like, “We’re changing the channel, but not our behavior. Ignoring our neighbors and waiting on a savior that will never come.”

Lori Johansson, bassist of Molly Rhythm, says Velveteen’s lyrics are what have always drawn her into her music.

“She makes important points on big issues in a very poetic and thoughtful way,” Johansson says. “Her songs command you to pay attention to certain points with her ever-changing riffs and deliberate pauses.”

Velveteen says live performance is where she truly finds the most comfort. The act of engaging people with her message and the spirit of protesting society’s norms works best when she feels like she can engage one-on-one with people in a crowded room through music.

Johansson sees the charming effects of propaganda in both Velveteen’s solo and band performances, from the inside out.

“Words mean something different to individuals and they create synapses in your brain,” Johansson says. “If you hear new thoughts and ideas, it can increase brain plasticity to help you come up with new thought patterns. And music is a wonderful way to help people remember what you are saying.”

Josh Aptner, founder of Deviant Philly and drummer in the progressive rock duo Air is Human, also recognizes the sense of magic Velveteen finds in live performance.

Velveteen was the first artist Deviant Philly, an art collective new to the city, produced an album for. Aptner says when they were recording One Sunken Ship in the studio, something was missing and they couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

“Then we realized, it was the audience,” Aptner says. “She’s a performer, through and through. Even if you just meet her in person you can tell. She’s very gregarious. She’s more comfortable in that setting.”

To solve the problem of the studio stuffiness, they threw a big party and recorded the album live, and outdoors. Velveteen says she is pleased that you can’t tell the recorded album is live, adoringly calling the sound guys all wizards.

“We really wanted that live magic,” Velveteen says. “That’s when I thrive, when I can look at people and I can see them reacting to the music and get them dancing. If they relate and enjoy it, great! Maybe they’ll never reach that level like, ‘Oh fuck! That song is about sweatshops,’ but you’ve given them something. Maybe it’s a piece of you that makes them forget about their problems for a second.”

For Velveteen, the ability to get up on stage and share her thoughts through music is like putting herself on the autopsy table, and encouraging her audience to take a look around. She says experiences are all relatable if you boil them down enough, and she wants to share her coping mechanisms with others.

“I feel like everyone is so alienated now, they’re so alone in their own pain,” Velveteen says. “We are more or less pack animals in the way the reward centers in our brains work. Most of us – unless you’re a sociopath, we want to care about each other, and I want to make that happen for people.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers @ The Wells Fargo Center.

February 16, 2017

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Text by Vince Bellino. Images by Brianna Spause.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday for a sold out night in support of their 2016 full-length, The Getaway.

By the time openers Jack Irons and Trombone Shorty finished their performances, the venue was packed, with fans giving warm receptions to both artists’ sets.

Chili Peppers bassist Flea, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith came out first, jamming instrumentally and dancing around the stage before singer Anthony Kiedis joined them. Their setlist was varied, including a combination of music from The Getaway and older albums including Stadium Arcadium, By the Way, Californication and Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

The first song of the night was “Around the World,” followed by crowd-pleaser and former radio single “Snow (Hey Oh).” The Chili Peppers also played “The Zephyr Song” before launching into “Dark Necessities,” the first song to be played from their most recent album.

Throughout the night, Flea and Kiedis told stories about the band’s 30-plus year career. Flea reminisced about the first time the California funk rock veterans performed in Philadelphia and the warm reaction they received from the crowd. He said he saw many “flavors of people,” to which Kiedis asked how many. The band also performed an impromptu jam while Flea sang about Philadelphia and, at Kiedis’ urging, Scranton. He asked for lyrics about Harrisburg, but the band was already moving on.

Other highlights of the night included a performance of “Under the Bridge,” during which Klinghoffer sat on the stage to perform. That was followed by setlist ender “By the Way,” which elicited a loud cheer when its opening notes were played.

The band left the stage but returned a few moments later to perform three songs: a cover of Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” (sung by Klinghoffer), “Goodbye Angels” from The Getaway and the Blood Sugar classic “Give It Away.”

Though it wasn’t a hits-heavy night from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, their first night of two at the Wells Fargo Center was a strong one.

The Brotherly Love Benefit Concert for Jeff Bradshaw @ The TLA, featuring Jill Scott, Bilal and More.

January 24, 2017

img_7675Text by Morgan James. Images by James Younge.

In the city of Philadelphia, Friday January 20th signaled a different kind of celebration.

On that day friends, fans, family, and the like congregated at the TLA to honor North Philly native and one of the most sought after jazz trombonists, Jeff Bradshaw.

Bradshaw has worked alongside musical giants such as Jill Scott, Jay Z, Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin, The Roots, Trombone Shorty and Marsha Ambrosius, to list a few.  He’s been sharing his music for more than 25 years, but this past year he announced his battle with acute diverticulitis. After learning of his illness, his friend and peer Jill Scott led the charge to organize Friday’s benefit concert to assist with Bradshaw’s increasing financial medical needs, and to raise awareness about the disease.

But to regard Friday evening as solely a benefit concert doesn’t quite satisfy the mood of the night. The Brotherly Love Benefit Concert for Jeff Bradshaw was less showcase and more an unparalleled outpouring of love and support for the beloved musician.

Patti Jackson of WDAS opened the show. For those familiar with summer nights at ‘The Dell,’ Jackson’s presence harkened to a familiarity most of the crowd associates with a soulful good time. Also, fun fact – Dell attendees are partial to their creature comforts, and the organizers didn’t disappoint – there were rows of seats at The TLA, who knew!

Singer, songwriter and producer Eric Roberson acted as master of ceremonies – a role that comes naturally to the risible showman. At one point between sets, he crowdsourced lyrics for an improvisational song. Select concertgoers eagerly suggested “beautiful,” “Obama,” “fulfill,” “skillful,” and wait for it, “alpha male,” to which Roberson crooned out a 64-bar banger, replete with a verse, chorus and a bridge to boot.

Jean Baylor of 90s duo Zhané kicked off the performances, followed by violinist Chelsey Green of The Green Project, R&B songstress Algebra Blessett, Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Najee, Philly’s very own neosoul rockstar Bilal, as well as Kenny Lattimore, Raheem Devaughn, Maysa and Robert Glasper.

Glasper brought out Treena Ferebee and Bilal during his set, to which Bradshaw, percussionist/producer CJ Branch, Jill Scott, and Kindred the Family Soul could all be seen and heard sidestage praising and shouting “Hallelujah!” It was this type of function, an unabashed family affair.

Throughout the night, as Roberson introduced act after act, an audience member could be overheard referencing each one as a “living legend” in an awe-inspired hushed tone.

The audience could barely contain themselves when DJ Kool made a surprise appearance and rocked the place with his smash hit “Let Me Clear My Throat,” which holds a special place in the heart of Philadelphians. Not skipping a beat, the band begin to play gogo classic “Da Butt,” when Sugar Bear of D.C.’s E.U. emerged unexpectedly to perform his song to an utterly ecstatic and jamming crowd.

Feeling the energy and love in the room, the husband and wife duo from Philadelphia, Kindred The Family Soul, hopped on stage to express their “brotherly love and sisterly affection” for Jeff Bradshaw by singing their hit “Far Away.”

Peppered throughout the night, Bradshaw was celebrated by the extended civic, music, and entertainment community, receiving an official honor from Councilman At-Large Derek Green on behalf of the Philadelphia City Council, in addition to a show of support from WRNB’s Dyana Williams on behalf of the Philadelphia Chapter of The Recording Academy, and from Fox 29’s Alex Holley of “Good Day Philadelphia” and Quincy Harris of “The Q.”

However no one could have moved the crowd, nor Jeff Bradshaw himself, quite like Miss Jill Scott. Scott sauntered on stage with what appeared to be brown liquor in the classiest of wine glasses and proceeded to give the room exactly what it craved – a cathartic moment for Bradshaw, for Philly. If you’ve never seen Scott perform, it’s, well, it’s magic. She’s theatre. Drama in the purest form. She seduces all within reach.

And she spoke so very highly of Bradshaw, who could be seen holding back tears when he walked on stage to embrace her. She also spoke highly of her city.

“Something about that Schuylkill  punch makes our musicians great,” she said.“Like Bilal, Roots, Jasmine, Kindred!”

When Bradshaw addressed the crowd at length, he was visibly overcome with emotion.

“God is good,” he said. He informed those in attendance of his condition and the importance of healthy eating habits, something he formerly took for granted. “We need to eat better, take care of ourselves and eat plant-based foods.”

Bradshaw said he was appreciative and his heart was full. He said that he was blessed to have friends like the ones he has, even gratefully acknowledging Kenny Lattimore as “a praying man.”

He ended his remarks by bringing up a phone conversation he had previously with Jill Scott during the planning stages of the event.

“Jill said on the phone to me, ‘This is something we need to do more of,’” he recalled.

Every artist on stage seemed to agree.

For those who wish to help Bradshaw on his journey to revitalized health, visit his GoFundMe page here.

Run the Jewels @ The Electric Factory.

January 23, 2017

run-the-jewels_tresmack-4Text by Will Macaluso. Images by Teresa McCullough.

Run the Jewels kicked off the RUN THE WORLD TOUR at Electric Factory, playing to a sold out show. The hip hop super group comprised of El-P and Killer Mike brought to bear the talents their fans most adore them for – making them feel included.

It’s not surprising that the group was able to draw enough Kickstarter backers to fund a remix album composed of cat songs. After the opening song (“Talk to Me” off the RTJ3 album, a seemingly thematic choice) El-P broke from the theatrics to tell the disastrous story of his first time at Electric Factory, opening for the Beastie Boys as part of Company Flow. It was a tale that seemed custom tailored for a Philadelphia audience, folding in local pride and local embarrassment in equal measure and worth checking out on YouTube.

The group, which has not shied away from overt politicism and controversial imagery with the videos for “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F**k)” and “Nobody Speak,” embraces their fans in a more intimate way at their shows. With RTJ3 being their most political release thus far, it’s unsurprising that they would seek to use the voice of an inclusive family member to deliver the harsh pill of the reality of this upcoming year. When your favorite rappers takes time to wish your boyfriend a happy birthday from the stage, you’ll be more inclined to stay tuned in when they’re being interviewed on CNN.

Killer Mike continued the dialog by leading the crowd in chanting his son’s words from the opening of “Stay Gold,” further invoking that familial bond. Also did you know that Killer Mike’s son calls El-P “Uncle El”? How cute is that shit?

RTJ were supported by an eclectic lineup featuring The Gaslamp Killer, Nick Hook, Gangsta Boo (who joined them on stage for Love Again) and CUZ.

Roger Harvey: Staying Golden.

January 13, 2017

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Text by Maggie McHale. Images by Teresa McCullough.

It is an uncharacteristically busy Wednesday night at 2nd Street Brew House in South Philadelphia, something Roger Harvey instantly notes. Sipping a tequila on the rocks, Harvey, 29, settles into a metal chair outside the bustling pub.

For someone who has toured the world incessantly, typifying the rock star lifestyle, Harvey is particularly soft-spoken. In appearance, he is almost a cliche – long, dark curls frame his angular cheekbones and his clothes are black-on-black. In character, Harvey is sagaciously mindful. Each tale is presented thoughtfully, each piece of the puzzle as significant as the last. He is constantly seeking out meaning, attaching it to everything he can.

“I think it’s part of the human condition,” he says, “to desire and want validation of meaning in the things that you do so you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time and you’re doing something that’s worthwhile.”

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Born and raised about 45 minutes outside of Erie, Pennsylvania in what Harvey describes as “basically a farm town, but now it’s a meth town,” he always felt like he was different. At the age of 10, he befriended someone eight years his senior who introduced Harvey to the local punk community he didn’t know existed. Homeschooled from 14 to 16, Harvey later graduated and left for California, staying two years before heading to Europe and then New York City to pursue solo endeavors.

While in New York, Harvey began to seriously write his own music. Though he didn’t initially have the confidence to share it, he tried out an open mic night at a dive bar in the East Village and ultimately landed a monthly showcase spot there.

Traveling is an influential constant in his life and that is reflected in his lyricism. In this modern era of music-making – an industry fueled by social media and driven to entertain, Harvey acknowledges that everything is a learning experience.

“Personally, that’s one of the things I find joy in with making music,” he says. “Constantly learning and constantly discovering what’s good and what’s valuable and being able to contribute to an old tradition.”

Harvey released his debut record, Twelve Houses, in 2015. J. Vega, who recorded the album at his studio in Pittsburgh, says it was all about experimentation and discovery, and was created with the intention of requiring repeated listening.

“Big recurring themes were transformation and dreams,” Vega explains. “So the production had to be very visual, cinematic, endlessly moving, transforming.”

At 2nd Street, Harvey switches from tequila to Miller Lite, saying “the cheaper, the better. I don’t really care about craft beers.” He then explains his next record, a project for which he’ll be venturing to Music Row in Nashville to collaborate with Justin Francis and Adam Meisterhans (of Rozwell Kid), will be nothing like Twelve Houses. He hopes to create an inherently sparse record, simplified in production but saturated in meaning.

“It’s more so about what it’s like to exist in this time and live inside of a phone, and how that’s basically deconstructed our ability to feel anything,” he says, adding that he may want to call the record Gold, somewhat ironically. “But also in a way to exemplify the lack of value in anything, the deconstruction of value in anything because of our desire to find gold in all the wrong places.”

After years of not really having any roots anywhere, Harvey came to live in Philly when an opportunity came up to move into a room in the Dickinson Narrows neighborhood in South Philly. He praises the support he’s experienced since settling in. The local music community has been both unusual and special, especially compared to New York, where there’s essentially no communal support, he says.

Tom May of The Menzingers is someone Roger cites as being especially welcoming and supportive, and May reciprocates that love.

“He is a well-traveled man with stories as good as they come, and I think his accepting and curious approach is a fresh one,” May says. “He’ll be influencing songwriters and musicians with his music, and I think he may have an equally large influence through his personality. He tends to really bring out the thinking-person inside of those around him. In that regard, the more musicians and people in the scene he meets, the more he’ll be shaping their lives for the better.”

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Harvey notes that after spending his summer essentially stationary in Philadelphia while writing new material, he is particularly excited to travel again. He has a few things lined up, including an upcoming European tour with Bouncing Souls and The Menzingers, but ultimately doesn’t quite know what the future holds. Aside from continuing to put thoughtful meaning into his music.

The bartender begins stacking the outdoor tables and Harvey shifts in his seat. He reaches for his beer while watching a motorcycle rev down the street.

“Promoting and supporting positivity is so important,” he says, sipping the last of his drink and placing the empty bottle in front of him. “Because almost everything is negative, and it affects us in such a deep way.”

Mercury Radio Theater: The Next Episode.

January 12, 2017

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Text by Eric Fitzsimmons. Images by G.W. Miller III.

Buddy Mercury is the alter ego of mild-mannered criminologist Kurt Fowler, the guitarist in the band Mercury Radio Theater. He’s a real-life Batman moonlighting as a rock star. Or maybe vice-versa.

He sits at a bar table inside West Philadelphia’s Local 44, across from fellow guitarist and writing partner F. Woods, chatting excitedly about the band’s new album, Oh, This Can’t be Good, their fourth studio album.

Fowler, 38, who recently moved to the neighborhood after many years in Fishtown, wears a black T-shirt with a giant red star and banner advertising a Communist Party of China rally. Retro communist propaganda also served as the basis for the three-part concert series the band performed in 2014 and 2015, entitled “The Fabulous Red Menace.” They debuted several of the songs on the new album during the series.

The story of Mercury Radio Theater, Fowler explains, began 16 years ago and it has all the usual ingredients: three friends, a lot of empty bars, a van, the road, a few albums, personnel additions and subtractions, etc.

The band on Oh, This Can’t be Good is much different from the one that recorded 2011’s Kilroy, let alone the trio that released their debut album in 2003. There are more musicians now, including a brass section, and after years honing a distinctive, instrumental sound that blended surf rock and horror shows, they now feature vocals and crowd sing-alongs.

“I actually believe that good art comes from restraint,” Fowler says. “I believe that. But I felt that there comes a time where restraint becomes stifling.”

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Mercury Radio Theater started playing as a trio in 2000. The band played a unique blend of surf punk (“Monster Freak Twilight Hour”), exotica (“The Hypno-Eye”) and a little pop-punk (“Dejected, adj. Depressed in spirits; disheartened”). They set a daunting task in the beginning, coming out with a brand new “episode” for every big concert. They created new music, flashed new visuals and wrote new spoken-word horror stories that played between their instrumental songs. Their first three albums followed that same mix of narration and music.

Woods, 37, says theatrics were always part of the show. Though he isn’t a founding member of the band, he has been around on-and-off since the beginning. He initially provided the live sound effects for the radio play segments of their first show, an idea they immediately abandoned for being too difficult and unreliable.

“We tried to make it a spectacle on stage,” Woods says. “We were tired of seeing four guys on the stage, playing guitars real low by their knees, not moving around. It wasn’t much to look at, so what can we do to make this interesting?”

A Mercury Radio Theater concert was a show in every proper sense but they didn’t draw much of a crowd in their native Philadelphia. So they spent many of their early years on the road.

“It became a years-long whirlwind of being on the road and not being in Philly,” Fowler says. “We would draw crowds by the thousands in Arkansas but no one at home knew who we were.”

How did the band go from the instrumental horror shows of their early days to lyrics and chanting and farfisa organ now? The excitable Fowler can tell you when the change started but his answer changes every few minutes.

It could have been the arrival of a steady bassist in Jason Todd or the process of putting together their third album, Kilroy. But it seems to always go back to their return from the road after 2006. Fowler went back to school and other members got into different music projects or day jobs. The band still existed but they performed less frequently, and mostly in the Philly region.

Mercury Radio Theater was playing to a growing audience of repeat customers and found it to be a different experience. Woods had been away from the band for a few years and got to see what it was like to be in the audience. He says people liked the music but they were playing a strict format and instrumental music did not give people a lot to get excited about.

Fowler took it more personally.

“I recall being at a show and I overheard somebody saying, ‘I’ve seen this episode already so it’s nothing new to me,’ and it was just like, ‘Agh!’ It was like a dagger,” Fowler says, clutching his side where the metaphorical blade had been slipped through his ribs.

Kilroy retained many of the surface elements of the earlier albums but the story was kept to a few interludes — instead of one story track for

every song —  and new instruments were brought in. Tom Scheponik contributed to that album on the vibraphone and accordion.

The numerous musicians who contributed to Kilroy were invited to play the album release party.

“That was just a lot of fun,” Scheponik says. “You got eight musicians together who can play and feed off each other. You can see different little influences coming in. And we’ve been going since then.”

The new lineup for Mercury Radio Theater started that night.

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The band now features a vibraphone, saxophone, trumpet and that farfisa organ. That allowed for a lot of room to experiment with new sounds and traditions on Oh, This Can’t be Good, which was recorded in a studio The Black Keys have used and was mastered by the guy who did David Bowie’s last album.

Songs like “I Don’t Owe You Know More” strike a note somewhere between Woodie Guthrie and Bob Hoskins’ big musical number at the end of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” But their roots still shine through in a few moments, like in “A Reasonable Suspicion,” which comes from the same framework the band used 13 years ago.

Things have changed thematically, too. Fowler says he started seeing past the boy-girl themes and he started looking at the people around him.

“My dad always said to write what you know – one of the only pieces of advice that my dad ever gave me that made any fucking sense,” says Fowler. “What I know is that I work really hard, my friends who are brilliant and amazing work really hard, and everybody is scraping by all the time. So, let’s write some fucking music about it!”

That economic disaffection found expression in the music and story used in Mercury Radio Theater’s “The Fabulous Red Menace” concerts. The band had moved away from the werewolves and mad scientists of their early albums and looked at communism. Performed as three concerts over the course of about 18 months, “The Fabulous Red Menace” included narrated story segments and was built around the look of old communist propaganda.

This opened the door for Mercury Radio Theater to write songs about larger themes of money and community, which Fowler was wrestling with in his own life, and to do so in a way more playful than preachy.

Todd remembers Fowler, who was then completing his doctorate in criminal justice, composing fun beer songs for everyone to sing together at an annual “Friendsgiving” party.

“In one of the classes he was taking, he was working on a project which was basically about different forms of community,” Todd says. “Being a musician for so long, he was talking about how writing songs with your friends and singing together is a very therapeutic thing and also a way to build community.”

The new music is meant to be more engaging, Fowler says. Some of the songs have Fowler singing — something previously unheard of in Mercury Radio Theater songs, and nearly all have a part where the audience is supposed to join in.

This affection for community can be seen beyond the music too. When they are booked at a venue, Fowler says they book the entire night, bringing openers they love to work with, like Big Lazy and Scheponik’s other band, Gringo Motel. For the bands, it means you work with friends and know the crowd you’re going to get. It’s a perk of being a steady draw.

“I am always a fan of when local bands own their shows,” says Chris Ward, who handles booking and promotion at Johnny Brenda’s.

Ward has been booking Mercury Radio Theater since 2008. The next show at the Fishtown venue is on December 2nd.

“They’re a rarity in Philadelphia – they don’t play enough,” Ward says. “They make every show that they do special, and that is awesome.”

He says they remind him of his days touring in a band and the comfort of being invited to play with local bands in different cities. Ward says he knew the local guys cared about putting on a good show.

“In some ways [the band members] become like the promoter that night,” he adds. “They get to own the room that night and if they own it and respect the room, like they do, then it’s amazing.”

Oh, This Can’t be Good is in many ways a homecoming, and it sounds like one too. The songs feel like the band is back in front of its home crowd and having a great time.

And at Local 44, Fowler and Woods are having a good time too, busting chops with the bartenders. Until, without warning, Fowler suddenly picks up the tab and disappears into the night.

The Reclamation of Kate Faust.

January 11, 2017

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Text by Emily Scott. Portraits by Magdalena Papaioannou. Show images by G.W. Miller III.

Kate Faust says she can remember writing songs in her head before she even knew how to write words.

“I would just scribble down pretend words because I really liked the way people’s hands looked when they were writing words,” Faust says. “I remember being a kid and watching my mom write and just watching her hand glide over the paper.”

She once found a journal from second grade that had song lyrics in it and she remembered how the song went in her head.

“I think basically I’ve always been the same person,” says the Philly-based R&B-electro artist. “I’ve just been very different versions of the same. I have always been this someone who needs to make art to interpret the world around them.”

Faust, who grew up in Lancaster County, lived in a music-friendly household. Her father is a drummer and her mother is a music lover.

When she was 14, she went without Christmas presents and used her life savings to buy a Casio Privia, which she still has today.

“Some really special music has been composed on it,” she says. “I will never sell it. I may pack it up in my mom’s attic for years but I’ll never sell it. It’s too special.”

Faust says she didn’t want to attend college because she wanted to pursue music, but since her parents felt it was important, she decided to study voice at The University of the Arts. She graduated in 2011.

The first time she ever heard Jill Scott’s music, she says, it opened up a “richness and beauty in the world” that she never knew was possible.

“It sort of shifted everything because up until then I hadn’t been exposed to anything like that,” she says. “I finally felt like I had something that my spirit and soul recognized in the world around me.”

Although Faust has always made music solo, she has also been in bands like Perkasie, Toy Soldiers and Lady. She also is now in a duo project called King Kate with Kingsley Ibeneche.

“She writes really depth-filled songs, which can be pretty intense, but Kate is very atmospheric,” Ibeneche says. “She fills the space instead of focusing on dancing and she finds ways to incorporate both. Definitely with your body, you can really get down to that.”

In 2012, she began creating electronic music again and released the solo EP, Crucial Companion.

“One of the reasons I stopped being in bands was also because I met up with some of those people who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years and none of them were playing music anymore,” she says. “I’m not about that life ever, so it’s just easier sometimes for me to get shit done the way that I do it now.”

In 2015, Faust released two EPs: Eros and Undercover. She currently has a five-song EP “ready to go” and eventually hopes to release a full-length debut album. She released a music video for the song “Your Body” in late August.

She’s also working on a short film that was shot at the Rigby Mansion, a Germantown home where she has spent a lot of time making music and playing shows. The film is based around a volume of poetry that she will be releasing.

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One of her strongest  inspirations is intimacy, she says.

Eros was heavily influenced by the concept of self-discovery through intimacy,” says Faust, who added that Eros is named after a speech by feminist and writer Audrey Lorde. “I feel like my music has a lot of those erotic undertones … I mean erotic in the sense of this chaotic, sort of very emotional, intuitive underbelly, the glue of every interaction that we have. I feel like I had always operated in that space but until I heard her perspective on it, it had never been so clear to me. It kind of just helped me put a frame around the work I had been doing in my mind.”

Faust says she’s in a “weird, transitional place” and is unsure of how much longer she will be in Philadelphia. She’s thinking of moving to the West Coast in the next few months.

“I love Philly,” she says. “I just don’t think there is really a scene for the kind of music I do here. If there is, I think we reached the top of it because I don’t think there is anywhere else to go from here.”

Faust also feels that overall, the music industry is disrespectful toward women.

“It is a microscopic view of society at-large,” she says. “There are always people who are predatory to us, whether it is management people, whether it’s producers, whether it’s other musicians.”

Faust was offered the opportunity to work with a person she refers to as a “very famous producer” whom she looked up to. She was set to visit his studio one night but she called to say she wasn’t going alone.

“I’m a woman,” she says. “I’ve never met you before. I am not going to your house by myself. I am bringing my bandmate because we are here to work on music.”

The producer cancelled on her at the last minute.

Faust, who is a victim of sexual assault, says it infuriates her that she has to think and worry when working with a man in the music industry.

“Actually, only a few weeks ago, I got the courage to tell my other bandmates what had happened as part of my own healing process,” she says. “Seven fucking years down the line. And I am not unique.”

Faust feels that sexual assault in the music industry is too commonplace, looking back at Kesha’s case to break her record contract due to the fact she said a producer sexually assaulted her.

“She’s not lying,” Faust says. “This is the shit that happens all the time and no one talks about it. And when they do talk about it, someone like Kesha, what happens? Nothing. He’ll go on and be fine. But that trauma to her body, to her life, to her spirit, will live with her. And it forever changes your DNA, how you walk through the world.”

Faust says a lot of the poetry in the short film focuses around the idea of sexual assault and sexism in society as a whole.

The poem in the film is called “Pray,” Faust says, and at the end it repeats, “You did not die.”

She adds that the best thing she did was address her trauma through movement and music.

“That was a turning point,” she says. “Since that floodgate opened, I haven’t been able to stop loving people, or being giving and generous with my time, heart and spirit. Once I was able to reclaim my body, it just changed everything for me. Music is a great way to do that because that’s where my voice is. It’s here.”

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