June Divided burst onto the scene a few years ago, joining the Warped Tour soon after forming and getting exposure on MTVu and other major outlets. But then they slowed down and for more than a year, the bandmates worked on a new project.
Last night at Union Transfer, June Divided celebrated the release of their new EP, Body Wars, in front a room full of family, friends and longtime fans.
Teenagers from the music school where frontwoman Melissa Menago teaches lined the front row. Colleagues of drummer Keith Gill, who works as a plumber when he’s not making music, snuck up to the stage to snap pics as the show began. And shouts to bass player Lenny Sasso and guitarist Chris Kissel were sprinkled in between songs.
Text and images by Erin Marhefka.
It has been almost two years since Balance has toured, giving them the break they needed in order to grow and expand as artists, as well as the time to craft their newly evolved sound.
Mercury Girls opened up, bringing out a psych-rock vibe. Back in the comfort of Philly streets, they put on a wonderful performance that showed off frontwoman Sarah Schimeneck’s beautiful voice that has an impressive range. Their hauntingly captivating sound is what separates them from most up and coming bands, and leaves an impression on the crowd.
Foxing followed Mercury Girls and immediately claimed Philadelphia as ‘one of their favorite’ cities to visit.
Trumpeter and frontman Conor Murphy vocalized his appreciation of the fans multiple times during their set, as the last few months deemed a difficult time for the band. At the beginning of tour, they lost their iconic red van that they used over the past three years (12 tours). Then, at the beginning of November, the band suffered an accident where a truck hit them as they were parked on the side of the road, ruining the van but not injuring the band. Through these financial and emotional hardships, they found solace in playing music to their fans.
Foxing is a band unlike any other, quickly taking the alt-world by storm with their haunting melodies and versatile, ambient sounds that can make you go from jamming to crying in a matter of two chords. The live violinist – along with Murphy’s trumpeting skills – is a unique part of the bands live set up, which is pleasant and refreshing from the ordinary band set up. They successfully capture the feelings of melancholy mixing with anger and love. They create a passionate atmosphere that ascends from the stage, captivating their audience with the naked emotion of their music.
Finally, Balance and Composure took the stage.
Hailing from Doylestown, this is a close-to-home show for them. The many faces in the crowd are the same ones from their YMCA Teen Center days, way back when Separation wasn’t even in existence to the public. Their vibe has changed astronomically since then, the feeling of teen angst leaving their sound and being replaced with an adult wonder.
Three square LED lights hovered behind the guys and frontman Jon Simmons took center stage, forgoing his guitar which, for many, was a shock as they’ve never seen him not with a guitar in his hand. They eased into “Midnight Zone,” one of the new tracks from LWM, and Simmons swayed to the beat as the dim lights circled around them. Andy Slaymaker added keys to his guitar set up, another new thing they have adopted on stage.
The crowd swayed with them to the chilled beat but as soon as “Void” came on, the mood shifted from relaxed to hype.
They played other classics like “More To Me,” “Quake” and “Reflection.” They ended on “I Tore You Apart In My Head” in a double encore. This is a song that they do not usually do live, so this took many by surprise and the crowd seemingly lost their minds the second that first chord hit. The room shifted forward and backward, side to side, as Balance ripped through their final song.
It’s a sweltering Wednesday afternoon in Fishtown and nearly everyone roaming the streets looks haggard, beaten down under the heat of the sun. In spite of the air conditioning inside of Gryphon Café, the mood from outside spills over to patrons seated at tables nursing cold drinks.
But not Buddy Leezle.
As he pushes open the door to the café, Leezle’s presence starkly contrasts the general late summer afternoon mood – a huge grin bursts through his beard and, after a handshake, he apologizes for running late.
“I just got back from Seattle,” he says, wiping away beads of sweat forming along his brow before excusing himself to quickly change into a fresh set of clothes.
Jet-setting comes natural to the 36-year-old rapper who grew up as a “military kid” in North Carolina. Leezle has spent time in Atlanta (where he attended American Intercontinental University and formed his first group, Broady Champs), Austin (where he released Instropectrum under the name Buddy Leroy, via Culture Sound Records) and San Francisco (where he hosted parties for Juxtapose Magazine while simultaneously working with overseas producers, including Rustie and Hudson Mohawke) before moving to Philadelphia in 2009.
Having freshly changed into a red Benetton shirt and hat, denim cutoffs and a sleeveless camo vest rounded out with blue-and-red Polo shoes, Leezle is ready to begin talking about Dwellers on the Threshold, his most recent project. Their debut album, Dwellers on the Threshold – Live from the Black Lodge, was recently released through Philadelphia label Actual Records. Dwellers is the first collaboration between Leezle and fellow Actual Records artist Architekt (born: Mike Pipitone) and serves as Leezle’s first release of all original material through the label.
“[Dwellers] is very inspired by Twin Peaks,” Leezle says, acknowledging the creative nod to the Black Lodge featured in David Lynch’s seminal television series.
“What I did was pretty much put myself into [the show] as a character,” he explains while nursing an Italian soda. “Some of the stories that are on the album are me talking from a character that’s not on the show, but from that place.”
He stops and laughs for a moment.
“There’s, like, one song about weed but everything else is Twin Peaks,” he adds.
Dwellers was realized when Leezle, along with several members of the Actual Records roster, moved into a house in North Philly last year. Inside the dwelling, which doubles as their de facto headquarters, someone discovered a box set of the television series. Leezle, familiar with the show from his childhood and “out of shit to watch,” decided to revisit the series alongside Architekt. Vibing out to the show one day led Architekt to make a beat, one that Leezle liked so much he put words to it. That beat turned into another and another until the two had enough tracks to put together an album.
“I’d basically just show Buddy a track and he’d give me a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’” says Architekt during a phone interview while the producer vacations in Nashville.
“Ultimately, he never said ‘no’ – and that’s a rarity [for Buddy],” he continues, acknowledging Leezle’s selectiveness on what material he works with and his passion for the music that inspires him. “We went down the rabbit hole together working on this record.”
Architekt, known for his dubstep-defined production, notes that Dwellers provided a contrast to his other material. Describing it as “less beat driven with more groove – like avant-jazz meets broken beat,” Architekt explains that after Leezle would send the studio vocals, he would twist and edit the files on his computer. This would allow them to live in the environment of the song and have Leezle’s vocals become more like an instrument.
The album is accompanied with a series of video releases, storyboarded by the duo and directed by Architekt. The first two, “The Great Northern” and “Eraserhood,” premiered in February and September respectively, while the third and fourth music videos, “Twin Peaks” and “Shroomaholics,” are in the works.
Although Leezle is stoked on the reception that Dwellers has received, he’s already gearing up for his next album – The Colorful World of Buddy Benetton. The album will be released under his own name and produced by Mook, a beatmaker from Waterford, Ireland, who worked with Leezle’s first group. While recording Dwellers, Leezle received a series of beats from Mook but was focused on finishing up his project with Architekt.
“I had nothing to write to after the Dwellers project was done, so I had my iTunes on shuffle one day and was like, ‘The fuck is this shit?’” Leezle says upon re-discovering Mook’s beats in his music library. “I was like, ‘Oh shit, it’s that dude,’ and I go back and listen to probably like 50 beats, picked six of them and wrote those shits immediately.”
Within three days, Leezle had finished writing for the half dozen tracks and began sending ideas back and forth with the producer. Recording and mixing wrapped in June of this year before Leezle was set to go on vacation. The Colorful World of Buddy Benetton will be released later this year, and where Dwellers was an experimental departure from Leezle’s catalogue, the former is a return to straight-up hip-hop. Also set for release through Actual Records, the album features the spoken word track “Edgar Allan Poetry” from label founder and Leezle’s housemate Aaron Ruxbin.
“We are lucky that he has stayed in Philly this long,” says Ruxbin during a phone interview, referencing the fact that out of all the places Leezle has called his home base, Philadelphia is his longest standing. “I implore Philly, while they have this man, to see his work. Buddy creates a hunger to dig through his catalogue and keep going back for all his work.”
It’s a catalogue the record label owner hopes to expand on.
“[We’ll release] pretty much anything he wants to release,” says Ruxbin, “because we’re waiting for the world to catch up to him.”
The dilapidated Metropolitan Opera house has been dark for decades, used only by a church group that fortunately stabilized the 108-year old building but lacked the funds to fully renovate the place.
On Saturday, however, it was filled with music for the first time since the 1980s.
Built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein, grandfather of the legendary lyricist and playwright, the facility offered opera five days per week for two years, back when North Philly was the land of the Nuveau Riche, home to the industrialists who profited from the factories around the city.
Hammerstein ran into financial problems and sold the building to the Metropolitan Opera Company, thus the name. It operated as The Met for many years, offering Vaudeville performances as well as plays and operas. The building was sold again and again later, becoming, among other things, a basketball arena, a home for wrestling and then a church.
Over the years, the building continued to crumble.
Eric Blumenfeld took over the property a few years ago and the interior is now in a major rehabilitation phase. Reports say that Blumenfeld, who is also converting the Divine Lorraine into residential housing, wants to make The Met a music venue again.
Jazz Lives Philadelphia, a nonprofit that aims to celebrate jazz locally, hosted the show Saturday with performances by Candice Hoyes, Josh Lee & The Family, The Daud El-Bakara Quintet and the Jazz Lives Philadelphia Big Band, featuring Ted Nash, who is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Hundreds of people stood in the massive, unheated space as the music bounced around the cavernous room.
When it was built, the facility seated 4,200 people. Once completed, The Met could hold more fans than most of the other large venues in the city, like the the Tower Theater (around 3,100 people), the Electric Factory (roughly 3,000) and The Fillmore (approximately 2,500). The Met has the ornate, turn-of-the-century look of The Trocadero but would be about four times the size.
It was an exciting experience, creating a lot of optimism for the future of the building.
Who are you and where did you come from?
I’m from the PA suburbs and now live in South Philly. I’m a K t0 8th-grade music teacher, and use all my free time developing my electronic project. I try my best to help my students love music and feel creative and like young artists. I never yell, as I just don’t understand how some teachers can get up in the morning every day just to be constantly yelling at children!
I really like your Girls Rock Philly program BTW.
I’ve been performing in Philly as QQQ for about two years. When I first started, I would play literally any gig that would have me. It was tiring but I definitely was able to fine tune my live performances as a result. I also met a ton of great people that I am still friends with today.
Describe your sound to us. Who are your influences?
Electronic and extremely fun! I recently saw one of my favorite artists, Laurel Halo, perform at Berks and was very inspired. I got into electronic music through listening obsessively to the BBC Radio One feature on Rephlex Records in 2003. DMX Krew, Aleski Perala, Aphex Twin, the like. I love synths but try not to let that obsession dominate my music because that could lead to a boring mix.
If it was 1983, who would you be hanging out with?
Maybe Bill Bruford of King Crimson, because I think about a particular interview where he talks about tension and release in rhythm like everyday!
We hear you are huge in Australia. How did that happen?
I had my music video, “The Ebullient,” played on RAGE a handful of times. It’s like an “MTV2” type program Australia, at 3 AM. I wouldn’t say huge.
What’s the experience of a QQQ show?
If I’m succeeding in my set, they will feel engaged with me as a performer. I really enjoy making depressing and dark music, but I’ve been told there is sort of a energetic light to it. Everyone should feel comfortable in the performance space as well.
I’m not the best at selling my music! Come find out!
Text and images by Rick Kauffman.
All good things must come to an end.
While not the last and final show of their storied careers, The Dillinger Escape Plan said goodbye to Philadelphia Tuesday at Union Transfer.
After years of swelling the walls of the First Unitarian Church, or scaling the speaker stacks at the Electric Factory, earlier this year stomping all over Kung Fu Necktie, the fire-breathing, shit-slinging, panic-inducing antics are coming to a close.
TDEP set tone in their live set that has gone uncompromised — if you weren’t for one moment frightened for the safety of you or others, they weren’t trying hard enough.
It was a spectacle through and through. You went to see what antics they’d pull next. And they never disappointed.
Yet, here was moment during The Dillinger Escape Plan’s final set in Philadelphia when they performed ‘Mouth of Ghosts,’ the final track on the band’s 2007 release Ire Works, that served as a capstone to their vast and eclectic library of songs over 20 years as a band.
Rather than the frantic, incomprehensive shredding from guitarist Ben Weinman, he instead ditched the axe for a set of keys and played the melodic and wistful piano-driven tune that slow-builds to a salsa-esque crescendo. For all the years that the math-metal giants churned out vicious, heavy-as-fuck technical riffs, it seemed fitting they would wind down possibly their final show in Philadelphia with some of the more diverse music they’ve written as a band.
‘Low Feels Blvd’ off their sixth, most recent, and maybe final full-length, Dissociation, breaks into bluesy, jazz riffs with some prog-rock vibes — a perfect fit for their genre-spanning set.
And of course they played the classics. Even ‘Sugar Coated Sour’ got a whirl.
Billed as their farewell tour, singer Greg Puciato said TDEP wanted to end on a high note — butDissociation proves not that the band had any plan to slow down.
They’re the type of group that their recorded albums speak for themselves, filled with songs that influenced an entire subgenre of music. Some songs peaked into the mainstream, while always staying true to the underground.
Supported by Cult Leader, Car Bomb and O’Brother, the final show may have been tame to Dillinger’s standards set by years of absolute chaos, but the nostalgia of seeing ‘43% Burnt’ played one last time while Weinman chugged across the heads of fans will leave a lasting impression.
That fear one feels at a Dillinger show is what legends are made of, and those memories, some of the best one walks away from — truly wowed — won’t ever fade.
The talented East Falls native had graduated from Girard College, Temple University and Girls Rock Philly and she was performing at events large and small, including SXSW.
She contacted us the other day to say she has a new project, Strange Parts, and we’re premiering this video today. Their brand new EP is called Rainier Bedstuy Home Recordings. A full-length album is forthcoming. The band will perform on Thursday at Everybody Hits.
We talked to Attia about her latest project and the other fun stuff she’s been doing.
Where have you been the past few years?
I’ve been in Brooklyn doing research in women’s health and playing very small solo shows between Bushwick and Philly. I took a much needed break from the intense writing and playing I was doing prior to leaving. I was also working on music via email with Corey Duncan of Oh! Pears immediately following the move so that filled the void.
Tell us about this new project you have going on. Strange Parts? How did it come about?
Corey and I played a show together at Johnny Brenda’s when we both lived in Philly under our solo projects and decided to write a song together to promote the show. We ended up releasing and performing ‘Born in Clouds‘ and then immediately both felt this strong energy and musical compatibility.
After we both moved, we decided to write back and forth between NYC and Seattle for almost three years to make what is now our forthcoming album. I would fly out to Seattle to do writing and he would fly to Philly.
The actual name Strange Parts is from a line in a Hermann Hesse novel called “Steppenwolf,” about human duality … “I found neither home nor company, nothing but a seat from which to view a stage where strange people played strange parts.”
What’s happening in the video? Trinidad?
Rainier Bedstuy Home Recordings is a compilation of songs that we recorded across the country that didn’t make the album. We were very much in love with them but they just didn’t fit. This is our way of making sure they get out into the world.
The video is footage from my recent trip to Trinidad to interview a woman for research and also just to get away with a childhood friend of mine who is pictured in the video. Trinidad was incredibly beautiful and while I didn’t have a professional film crew with me I thought the vibe of this footage really fit the EP, so I married the two.
Are you excited to return to Philadelphia?
I AM! I have a very complicated relationship with Philly but my love is very strong.
We have been overwhelmingly supported by so many folks who were once fans of our solo work and the music community as a whole has welcomed us both back with open arms. We have an entire band of really talented musicians in Philly and getting back there for practice is nothing but love and Wawa.
What should we expect to experience at the show?
We have been perfecting our set quite a bit between practices and shows at Johnny Brendas so you can expect us to bring 110 percent vibe. We’re playing with two really great Philly bands, Suburban Living and Louie Louie, so the talent will be top notch.
Expect to dance and expect to hit a few baseballs in between.