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Strand of Oaks, Cayetana and More @ World Cafe Live for the Philly Music Fest.

September 27, 2017

Video by Cady Elliott. Images by G.W. Miller III.

The inaugural Philly Music Fest happened last weekend at World Cafe Live, with hundreds of people experiencing the likes of Strand of Oaks (below), Cayetana, Ceramic Animal, Ivy Sole, New Sound Brass, Pine Barons, Skull Eclipses and more … all under one roof.

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For those in attendance, it was pretty amazing. Free donuts, local beers on tap, local artists selling their goods and some of our favorite Philly bands on stage. And the array of talent was impressive – from R&B to pop punk, from rock to funk, brass to electronic.

The crowd could have been larger but it can be hard to get people to buy tickets to see acts that play Philly so frequently (looking at you, West Philly Orchestra). And the ticket prices may have scared off some of the scene kids, who would probably rather see their faves at a house show anyway (looking at you, Slaughter Beach, Dog).

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Greg Seltzer, the fest creator, already has plans to do the event again in 2018, bringing another 20+ Philly acts to the stage on 9/28 and 9/29. We’re excited to see how things progress, and what changes he will make.

It’s an amazing time to be involved in music in this city. The fest really showed off what makes this scene so special.

 

The War on Drugs @ The Dell Music Center with Land Of Talk.

September 22, 2017

 

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Images by Natalie Piserchio.

The War on Drugs, which released their newest album last month, performed al fresco last night at The Dell Music Center as part of former Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin‘s Make The World Better foundation. Proceeds from the event will go toward assisting children, families and parks in the city.

Land of Talk opened the show on a beautiful night to be outdoors.

 

 

 

Esperanza Spalding @ SoFar Sounds/Amnesty International with Shamir and Maitland.

September 22, 2017

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Text by Maya Winneg. Images by Abi Raymaker

Esperanza Spalding, Shamir and Maitland shared their talents in a Rittenhouse Square home Wednesday night as a part of the global “Give a Home” concert series to raise money supporting refugees and the efforts of Amnesty International.

SoFar Sounds, an organization that hosts secret house shows in locations around the world, collaborated with Amnesty International to organize 300 shows across 60 countries. In one day, 1000 widely-known, local and refugee artists performed in front of attentive audiences in intimate spaces in solidarity with the 22 million refugees worldwide.

On the third floor of a mansion/dentist office in Rittenhouse Square, around 70 people sat on the carpet awaiting the stylings of Grammy Award-winning artist Esperanza Spalding. Standing at the level of the audience, she performed her set of both jazz covers and original music, including a song from her 77-hour composing endeavor done this past weekend. In a piece she wrote to further the mission of UNESCO, Spalding sang of building an intangible and invincible heritage site of love and that the world must “pass it on with our hands and songs.”

As she entranced the listeners with her rich vocals, her hands knowingly danced along the neck of her bass to fill the room with her neo-soul energy.

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Next up, Shamir banged out a dreamy set that deviated from the artist’s other work in disco and hip-house genres. Shamir performed the new song, titled “90s Kids,” an ode to struggling millennials, and “Straight Boy,” a song that explores heterosexual masculinity and its impact on queer people. Shamir’s electric guitar and disarming, buttery voice cultivated a warm stage presence that furthered the room’s serene atmosphere.

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To close the show, two members of the local, Philadelphia-based band Maitland mesmerized the room with their crisp harmonies and indie-folk sound. Lead guitarist Josh Hines reflected on how he manifests his frustrations about the world into their music, but as his brother Alex Hines, Maitland’s lead bassist, added, this frustration is often “met with optimism,” which paralleled the nature of the “Give a Home” concert series.

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The air of love and warmth shared between the performers and audience in this Rittenhouse home was only one of the hundreds of living rooms that reverberated support for human rights around the globe on Wednesday.

 

Philly Music Fest: “This is a Call to the Philadelphia Music Scene to Rally Around This.”

September 18, 2017

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This weekend, Greg Seltzer, an attorney at Ballard Spahr, is launching Philly Music Fest, a two-day celebration of Philly music, beer, food and art at World Cafe Live.

Among the acts will be Strand of Oaks, Cayetana, Steve Gunn, Work Drugs, Eric Slick, Deadfellow, Pine Barons, Cheerleader, Shannen Moser, New Sound Brass Band and many others.

Our G.W. Miller III spoke with Seltzer about the festival, which he hopes will become an annual event, a smaller version of SXSW but with only Philly acts.

What’s the origin of the fest?

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve just been entrenched in the Philly music scene. Since it was not exploding nationally. Over the last five years, I started thinking about the fact that our scene is worthy of national attention but may be not getting as much as it ought to.

The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Dr. Dog – bands like that have broken out but our scene is so much deeper. Hundreds of bands deeper. If we could shine a little light on them, give them a platform, we could let them show themselves to our city. I don’t know if our city has embraced our scene as much as I’d like it to. For our scene to grow nationally, we all need to get together as a community. Once we do that, and we do that year after year, these artists will sell more records, get more tour dates, etc.

That’s the genesis of it. I want to call attention to these 24 bands over two nights, on two stages. Bring the Philly breweries together. Bring Philly food leaders together.

Two stages? Upstairs and downstairs?

Yes.

I went to Hal Real (founder and CEO of World Cafe Live), who I know through business stuff. I pitched him the idea. He said, “You’re not leaving this office until we’ve worked out a deal.” He was immediately on board. World Café Live could not have been more supportive of the concept. They said they’d give me both stages. I can program them simultaneously, which, normally, they program between them. This will be like a festival, where you have overlapping sets. You’ll have to decide where you’re going to, whether you want to see some indie punk or alt country or rap.

When you say you’ve been entrenched in the music scene for the last 15 years, what have you been doing?

Listening. Doing everything everyone else has been doing.

Have you been promoting shows or anything?

No. I’m a rookie promoter.

A rookie promoter could not put this festival on without World Café Live. They have the production expertise. They have the marketing expertise. I have the vision and I have the ear to curate the lineup. And I have the ability to work within a budget and make it work. But they had the ability to put the festival together.

How do you finance this?

It’s not as massive as you might think. But it’s a collaboration between me and World Café.

I’m well aware from my dealings with the Newport Folk Festival and some other things that bands, particularly some of the bigger bands, they need to have faith in the concert promoter. They might know I work at Ballard but they don’t know me as a concert promoter. Having World Café there means all these people are comfortable.

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When did you start planning all this?

Conceptually, almost two years ago.

And in reality?

Probably 12 months ago. It’s been in the works for a long time. I modeled it with spreadsheets and business plans.

Who was the first band you booked?

The first yes we got was absolutely the Pine Barons.

We went out to a list of 20 bands, with Strand of Oaks at the top of the list. Waxahatchee was on tour. Hop Along was on tour. Sheer Mag was on the West Coast. Alex G is playing Made in America. Marian Hill, same thing.

We got an immediate yes from everyone we talked to. But then they had to check with their availability.

I have some friends who say now that I’ve done this, who will play next year? They have no idea how deep this music scene is. We have a lit of 200 bands who aren’t on this lineup who we will go back to.

This is a spotlight on our local scene. This is a call to the Philadelphia music scene to rally around this.

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Hardwork Movement: Doing It For The People

September 15, 2017

The hardworking guys and gals of Hardwork Movement continue to shine and grind.

It’s been a busy summer for this hip-hop super-band. They rocked the stages at festivals like Firefly and the XPoNential Music Fest, opened for a few guys in a rap group called “Wu-Tang” and was a part of the Spruce Street Harbor Waterfront Series.

 

 

They even managed to film a studio version of “Cribs.”

 

 

But the summer isn’t quite finished yet.

Not only do they have a show tonight with Ill Fated Natives and Aleana at Underground Arts, they just dropped their first EP with the full live band.

 

Recorded in Germantown’s Retro City Studios, the EP has updated versions of older tracks fans may recognize, as well as some newer tracks. Those who have been following this talented group of artists and musicians will appreciate the classics, and it serves as a great point of entry for the uninitiated. Well worth the listen.

While some acts sound good in the studio, this nine-piece really shines and comes alive on stage.

Catch Hardwork Movement tonight at Underground Arts, if any tickets are left.

Del the Funky Homosapien: “People Gotta Believe in You for You to Sell Anything. That’s Pimpology 101.”

September 13, 2017

 

Del the Funky Homosapien hits Philly on Thursday, performing at CODA with Richie Cunning.

Del has been on the scene since the early 90s. His cousin, Ice Cube, helped release his debut solo album. He blew up in the early 2000s after collaborating with Gorillaz. And Del has been making thought-provoking music ever since.

We caught up with the California native and talked to him about the changing musical landscape that he has observed for more than 25 years.

You’ve been around a minute and the industry has clearly evolved. How has that changed your approach to making music?

I just evolve with it, same as I always have. New techniques or styles that I think are cool influence me, and then it makes its way into my music and overall philosophy behind it.

One thing I do try to focus on is being tasteful, at least tasteful within my sliding scale of what that is anyway.

Honestly, the industry is pretty lame overall, and tardy. I pay more attention to the Internet and hip-hop. For instance, battle rap is probably the most influential as far as what I’m doing because it’s really the only place I can get just straight up hip-hop without too much meddling. Even music-wise because they do have new music in between battles. May not be on the radar yet, but nothing I was ever into was until years later. And now they are all standards.

But it takes years because the industry in general is tardy and concentrates on sales over anything innovative. Now, if can be both, they’ll accept it. That’s why they’re tardy. Because by that time we all are aware of it, they’ll be the last to know.

I think of everything when it comes to my music. It’s part of my brand, so I have to. And for those out there who don’t know what a brand is, it’s just you. It’s like a reputation, people begin to associate a certain level or quality with your name, or brand, for instance Sony. I’m sure you could gather a picture in your mind about Sony right now. They’re fairly cutting edge and decent.

I’ll leave it at that.

Aside from the business end, how did music change? What changed it?

I believe it’s the type of business ran rather than just business period that changes things, not just music. It’s because the focus is more on getting more money over getting innovative or novel product, which is what brings the money in the first place. Well, it fills a void. It’s either useful or it’s interesting enough. It’s cool, I’ll say that.

I think a lot of companies just look at the bottom line. And someone has to do that for sure, or they would lose more money than they made.

But really, as far as hip-hop, I think we as artists dropped the ball, either by going too commercial with the thuggery or the flossing, or underground artists like me becoming incomprehensible to the general public.

And lack of wordplay or humor.

But that was helped by industry, because they only are interested in what sells. Doesn’t matter the after effects from it. The Internet helped change dynamics between the artist and the industry though. No longer can the industry monopolize how music is received. But I think a lot of fans just gave up on at least “urban” music because they just seen years of the same game being played. Decades. So I don’t think it’s respected. But that’s beginning to change too, change is inevitable.

So, just be ahead of the curve and do you, I feel, is the best bet. That’s what a lot of these kids do.

 

Do you feel the real writers, the lyricists, are less appreciated today than when you began?

Depends on who you ask or where you look. In battle rap, we have the best rappers in the world. I think the fans of that do appreciate the level displayed there. I know I do.

As far as commercial music, what lyricists? A lot of artists are admittedly not interested in that, and I get it. The music is first, lyrics hopefully second. If the lyrics are too much, where it takes away from the music, it can be annoying. But that don’t mean just go the complete opposite and just blab anything that you throw out. And this is all relative too. That’s just my perspective.

But I feel if you want to be appreciated you have to think about who is listening to you, too. To me, it’s like comedy. You gotta know your audience. You don’t pander to them but you don’t go too far outside of their experience or interests either. It’s not easy to do. A lot of my time is spent figuring ways to walk that fine line.

But like comedy, you don’t tell me what is funny. I’ll tell you after I hear it. So, some artists got it the other way- you’re obligated to listen to them in their mind. Ok.

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You have your full catalogue available online. Most albums are wicked cheap or free. Are you sending some sort of message by doing this?

I’m not in control of that! Hahahaha! Sorry, that’s out of my hands.

I’m not actively chasing down people who offer my music for download either, not when I don’t see a problem with it in the first place. At least they think my music is worth downloading. But since I’m kinda part of that, I feel I can say that if someone comes with something really good, people will buy it.

I bought Earl Sweatshirt’s first album twice, digitally and a physical copy. Was waiting ‘tll the day his second dropped and bought that. If you have money you can spend it, that’s what it’s for. So, you like an artist or a product? You buy it. Money well spent.

I’ve gotten letters from kids admitting to me they used to download all my stuff and they wanted to somehow make up for it. I told them I’m not tripping off that, but just support how you can at the time. Even a good word is good enough for me.

That’s me though

As a label owner, isn’t it counter-intuitive to essentially give away music?

Like I said, money is to be spent. People who got it are going to spend it. If you ain’t got it, there are ways now you can get music. Believe me, I know.

What can you do? Music is not a thing you can just grab up with your hands and own it. That’s why it’s tricky when it comes to laws.

What you’re really paying for is that artist’s expertise, because you can’t do it and no one else can either. That’s why artists get more popular when they die. You ain’t getting no more!

Some things that seem counter-intuitive actually may work if you look closer. Just the respect factor that comes from me not chasing every supposed penny I supposedly lost may bring more support and, with that, sales. Because people gotta believe in you for you to sell anything. That’s Pimpology 101

The label has only a few artists right now. Is that a sign of the times, a commentary about the music being produced today and what you want to put forward?

Oh, our label I guess you’re asking about? It’s just a real chore to release music. And it costs, frankly. We are just coasting far as that. We ain’t millionaires. Which is why I don’t mind throwing stuff out there o line sometimes.

As an artist, you wanna share what you got. And business-wise, I like to see how people respond to things. Should I go forward with it or knock it off?

A lot of my time has been taken up quelling drama situations and studying things to help me create better, more entertaining product. Also, trying to reprogram my mind and be more innovative, since the Internet allows you to truly just do what you want with no middleman telling you it won’t work. You can see for yourself if it’ll work.

So yeah, I guess it’s a sign of the times

What can people expect from a Del show?

I get into it. Pretty much. I’m there to give y’all a good performance no matter what.

You paid for it. I respect that. I bring the funk, the hip-hop too. I’m a talk to y’all. I’m touchable. If you see me around, you may be able to strike a conversation with me. Some think that I’m humorous. I try to make it a good time pretty much.

You tell me. I dunno?

Tim Arnold: “It’s an Incredible Feeling to be on the Same Wave Length as so Many Other People.”

August 2, 2017

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It’s been a minute since the original trio of Good Old War played a show together in Philadelphia.

On Thursday at World Cafe Live, Tim Arnold will perform with Keith Goodwin and Dan Schwartz for the first time in Philly since Tim left the band in 2014 to start a family in Georgia and deal with health issues.

Now that he’s back, the band is in massive creation mode. They have three EPs ready to drop, with the first due out on September 1.

We caught up with Tim and learned about the new music the band is making and how he has worked through his personal issues.

You’re back with the band?

Yes sir, it’s official.

You never really left, right? You were still touring with them, even while being in Georgia for a while.

It was pretty bad before I went down to Georgia and then I tried to clean up my shit. I had a child and I was really trying to figure things out. So, it was on and off. It was never like I was seriously back in the band. It was like a trial run. I’d go on tour and then come back home and act a fool again.

Eventually, it was time. I went into drug treatment. They did a couple of tours without me while I learned how to be a human being.

Now, we’re back in it. It’s been a while now. I’ve proven to them that I can be a sober person.

I feel like a new man. I think we’re all feeling that kind of surge of energy.

Is that represented in the new music you guys are creating?

I definitely think so, yeah.

 

How is the new music different from when you guys started nearly a decade ago?

It’s the same structure to begin with. We have acoustic guitar and three vocalists. That’s the same.

But I think there’s definitely a lot more to write about now. Our chops are really up. And I think we’re just really having a lot of fun.

That’s not to say we weren’t having fun before but it’s different. Our sound is still Good Old War but there’s been sort of an awakening almost.

The difficulties you went through, are they a part of the music you guys are creating now?

Definitely. I think it’s been a part of the last couple records. It’s veiled in different ways. Now, it’s a clear scenario. Everything is more transparent. I’m not lying about doing dope anymore.

How long were you going through these difficulties?

Dude. The whole time. It’s been a while. It got really bad towards the end though. That’s why I had to drop it.

How long have you been clean now?

Almost two years.

What does life for Tim Arnold look like now?

I have a three-year old. That’s what it looks like. I’m just a single dad living in the burbs, playing in a band. It’s simple and that’s kind of how I need it to be right now.

In the immediate perspective, it’s not so simple. But if I step back, I see that I’m just taking care of my daughter and making music. That’s it.

What about life with the band? How often are you together?

Every day. We practice every day, at least Monday through Friday at the very least. It’s like a real job.

Do you have any fear about going on the road and running into temptation again?

No. They were actually big proponents of me getting clean. They don’t really mess around on the road. I’m pretty lucky to have that kind of support in a situation like that. I’m being held accountable and they’re not really in my face.

Has the music scene here changed since you guys got started?

A lot of the bands that were coming up just as we were getting started are still around. They’re still playing. But there are a lot of new bands, going through a lot of the stuff we went through. It’s hard for me to say. I’m not too involved. I’m living in the burbs and kind of focusing on myself right now, as selfish as that sounds.

But there are a lot of people making really good music now and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s a pretty diverse city and music is a big part of it.

That Americana, folky sound seems to be in favor now and you guys have been doing it for almost 10 years.

Yeah. We started it.

I’m kidding!

It’s cool. I know Satellite Hearts, Levee Drivers and The Lawsuits. They’re awesome.

That Americana sound is in favor now but it was on the rise when we were coming up, which was good inspiration and motivation.

 

What do you look forward to about being on the road again?

You know, chicks and stuff.

Ha, JK!

I look forward to just playing all the time, that vibe from playing in front of people. It’s totally being in the moment. It’s very present. It’s almost like meditating. You’re just doing what you’re doing at exactly that moment and so is everybody else. It’s an incredible feeling to be on the same wave length as so many other people, especially the people you are creating the sound with.

It’s live. You’re taking risks. You could suck and you could play the most amazing show of your life. Either way, it’s fun and every night is different.

It’s what I’ve loved to do for such a long time. I think now it’s going to be less about getting fucked up and more about just being awesome. It’s going to be really cool.

The World Café show is one of the last on the summer tour. Is it special to come back and play in Philly?

It is. And I love the World Café. That place sounds glorious. Everyone there is super chill. I’m glad we’re playing there. It’s going to be really sweet. I haven’t played a real Philly show in a while.

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