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Into It. Over It. @ The TLA with TWIABP&IANLATD and More.

April 29, 2016

Into It. Over ItText by Emily Scott. Images by Erin Marhefka.

Yellow shadows and blue light cast onto Evan Weiss’ face as he played for the crowd at the Theater of Living Arts last weekend. The lead singer and guitarist for Into It. Over It. has spent the last five weeks on his national tour with The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, The Sidekicks and Pinegrove.

The evening was kicked off at 7 p.m. sharp with North Jersey-natives Pinegrove. The four-piece indie rock group quickly went from playing basement shows to national tours since signing to Run for Cover Records this past October. Hall told the Sunday night crowd that this was the largest stage and crowd the band had played for to date. Since then, Pinegrove has released two albums titled Everything So Far (quite literally) and their most recent LP, Cardinal.

Lead singer Evan Hall explores mixed emotions and feelings throughout his songwriting. On “Cadmium,” a track off of Cardinal, the singer exposes the complexities of sharing sentiments. In an article from the Fader, Hall explained the song was an inspiration from the book “I Sent You This Cadmium Red” by John Berger and John Christie. Sporting his own band’s merchandise and an AOL pin, Hall sings with full force “I send you this cadmium red, one for every layer I shed.”

Hall’s twang-like voice is met with complex string picking from lead guitarist Josh Marre and classic rock riffs, which gives the band an “alternative country” sound. Pinegrove has mostly always been Evan Hall and drummer Zack Levine. With his latest lineup including Marre and bassist David Mitchell, the group has seemed to find their sound, sonically and introspectively.

Ohio-based group The Sidekicks proceeded with a powerful punch from racing bass lines on “Hell Is Warm,” from their latest album “Runners In The Nerved World.” Singer-guitarist Steve Ciolek isn’t afraid to mix his falsetto harmonies with psychedelic guitar parts.

For their closing track, the four-piece rock group brought on Evan Weiss who joked that he wanted to play with “The Greatest Rock ‘N Roll Band in America.” The band covered nineties punk track “People Who Died” by The Jim Carroll Band.

TWIABP&IANLATD is a collective of friends and ever-changing members. For this tour, they weighed in as an eight-person band.

Originally from Connecticut, TWIABP released their third full-length “Harmlessness” back in September, which explores several themes from revenge to inner honesty. “January 10, 2014” focuses on the inner battles stemming from Diana, the Hunter of Bus Drivers: a female vigilante who murdered two bus drivers in 2013 as a response to two decades of rape and homicides of women in Juarez, Mexico.

“But, don’t you quiver. I am an instrument. I am revenge. I am several women.” Synthesizer player and vocalist Katie Shanholtzer-Dvorak sang to vocalist David Bello. Throughout the track, the band mixes ambient guitar riffs with thrashing fills– something that usually may be complex for a seven-piece band, but this group cohesively works together.

Evan Weiss’ voice pierced the air as he closed the evening’s show. The Chicago-based band played several tracks from their month-old release, “Standards.” The set opened with the single from the new album, “No EQ,” which is cymbal and fill heavy, with drone-like guitar parts–it’s one large complex sound, but it is something that comes naturally with self-aware Weiss.

The Cherry Hill-native played several old tracks, fitting enough for his temporary return home to the Philadelphia-area. Weiss discussed his reasoning behind moving to Chicago in 2008 with his then-girlfriend to pursue their art. With that, he proceeded to play “Pinky Swear” from his compilation album titled 52 Weeks.

Good Charlotte @ The TLA with Waterparks.

April 25, 2016

DSC09604Text and images by McCall Cox.

Good Charlotte performed at the Theater of Living Arts last week with support from Waterparks.

Waterparks opened the night with a fresh pop-punk sound. The Houston trio consists of Awsten Knight on vocals and guitar, Geoff Wigington on guitar and Otto Wood on drums with Michael Swank joined on bass.

Knight engaged the audience throughout the band’s set, joking with the crowd members about songs and their album, Cluster.

“Go buy one, make my dad proud,” Knight said of the album.

Towards the last song of the band’s set, Knight encouraged further crowd participation in the form of crowd surfing.

“Raise your hand if you think you can make it up here by the end of this song,” said Knight, beckoning fans to surf the crowd to the front of the venue.

Waterparks played songs such as “Crave,” “Mad All The Time” and “Pink.”

Good Charlotte was soon greeted by the cheers of the audience as the band walked onto the stage. The punk rock group formed 20 years ago, in 1996, and are just returning from a hiatus that was announced in 2011. The quintet is comprised of Joel Madden on vocals, Benjamin “Benji” Madden on guitar and vocals, Paul Thomas on bass, Billy Martin on guitar and Dean Butterworth on drums.

Good Charlotte opened with their old hit “The Anthem,” followed by “The Story of My Old Man,” taking the crowd back nearly 15 years to their album The Young and The Hopeless.

“They said punk rock is dead. It wasn’t. It was just taking a nap,” said Joel as the band warmed up their set. “This is our first official show back and we knew we had to start at the TLA.”

He later added that Philly has always been a special place for the band.

“We came from nothing,” he said.“We started playing shows up here and you made us feel special.”

The Madden twins bantered back and forth during songs, as well as with the crowd. When they asked what the audience would like to hear, many fans shouted tracks from the band’s first and second albums.

“’Little Things?’ I don’t even remember … do you know the words to that one?” Joel joked to a roaring audience before beginning the song.

“Thank you for singing,” Joel added at the end of a song.“You sing better than we do!”

The band also encouraged the audience to look out for one another and supported the girls attending the show, saying that it’s nice to see women enjoying a genre that used to be historically dominated by males.

“If somebody falls down, you pick them up,” Joel instructed the crowd.“Somebody looks sad, give them a hug.”

“If you were to put a bet on people, nobody would have put a bet on us,” he continued. “And the only reason we ever mattered was because you guys came to our shows and listened to our music, and that’s a fact. Every single band in the world should be fucking saying that at their shows because it’s true. Everybody starts a band but the only reason we matter is because you guys go to the shows, listen to the music and you make it matter.”

“And because I’m amazing,” Benji Madden added jokingly.

Good Charlotte only played two tracks off their new album, Youth Authority, which is slated to be released July 15. Though the band only performed the singles released from the album, “Makeshift Love” and “40 oz Dream,” they seem excited for fans to hear the record.

“I can’t wait for you to hear the rest of it,” said Joel. “[This album] made me want to do music again.”

Benji also took a moment to impart some wisdom on the crowd, telling a story of an audience member who had told him before the show how much Good Charlotte has meant to them.

“Never underestimate the influence you can have on someone,” Benji concluded.

Good Charlotte also passed along support to Waterparks, saying the newcomers are a favorite new band. Benji Madden helped to produce the opening act’s latest EP, Cluster.

“I’m having a really good night because of you guys,” said Joel. “Tonight has been so special, so thank you so much for coming out and making this possible.”

Good Charlotte played other hits including “The River,” “Girls & Boys,” “Dance Floor Anthem,” and “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.”

Following the show, Good Charlotte drummer Dean Butterworth said he is looking forward to playing with the band again.

“It just feels fresh because it’s been a long time,” he said. “Back then, we never stopped. To walk away from it has been good. Now, we’re all just really inspired and happy to be around each other. It feels new, even playing the old songs.”

Bassist Paul Thomas agreed, saying, “I think when you step away from something for a while and revisit it, it has a whole new light to it. It looks totally different.”

Thomas also spoke about the differences he’s noticed.

“I feel like the energy that was at the show tonight,” he said. “It’s bigger than it ever was. These kids have been listening to us for ten years and these songs are so embedded in them.”

Thomas also noted the difference in touring now.

“Before, we never established our own lives,” he said. “We were just constantly touring. And now we have things to leave. We have families and houses. It’s hard. I don’t think we’re stopping for a while now.”

Dr. Dog @ The Fillmore with Speedy Ortiz.

April 18, 2016

drdog20_10MBText by Jared Levy. Images by Kelly Smith.

Dr. Dog returned to the The Fillmore for the second time in about four weeks, this time sharing the stage with Speedy Ortiz, which is sort of a Philadelphia band now.

Speedy Ortiz opened with songs from their full length albums, Major Arcana and Foil Deer. Both feature clever lyrics from songwriter Sadie Dupuis, a recent transplant to Philly.

“You guys have good bagels,” Dupuis told the crowd and then corrected herself, adding, “We have good bagels.”

After Speedy Ortiz’s set, Dr. Dog walked out to electronic music, stylized from the 80s. The backdrop was black with grey squares. It was a dated, sci-fi aesthetic.

They started with a fan favorite “The Beach” from their fifth album, Fate. Bassist and vocalist Toby Leaman snarled into his microphone. As usual, he wore a beanie while guitarist and vocalist Scott McMicken and guitarist Frank McElroy wore dark sunglasses. Leaman grabbed his microphone off the stand, swung his bass around his back, and leaned into the crowd. The band followed with another familiar tune, “That Old Black Hole” from Be the Void.

A man in the crowd lifted the sides of his Dr. Dog beanie to look like a sailor’s cap and danced with abandon, as many others did.

The third song was “Distant Light.” Later they played a new one, “Bring My Baby Back,” from their latest album, The Psychedelic Swamp, a recovered side-project. These songs seamlessly blended into older ones like, “Phenomenon” and “Shadow People,” where McMicken played guitar with windmill strums like Pete Townshend. He and McElroy traded licks. They played “The Way the Lazy Do,” highlighting that a pleasure of seeing Dr. Dog live is hearing their expert harmonies.

For the encore, Leaman asked for requests from the audience. He got “Say Something” while McMicken got “Nelly.” There was barely a pause from the request to the song. It was impressive to see a band prepared to play anything from their catalogue. They did it easily. It’s a wonder whether they do this for every crowd.

They gave a lot to this performance. As they sang about Philadelphia, in songs like “Alaska,” it felt that much closer to the audience’s experience. There was an audible enthusiasm for these native sons. They played brilliantly at The Fillmore as they usually do when they come home.

Alex G and Porches @ Union Transfer.

April 18, 2016

IMG_8785Text and images by Patrick Clark.

Alex G and Porches headlined a sold out concert at Union Transfer last Thursday. The show came on the tail end of a nationwide tour with Kansas’ Your Friend. All three acts toured in support of albums released in the past year.

Porches brought out introspective dance tunes from their February release, Pool,  which treads upon new territory for Aaron Maine’s genre-bending project.

Following Porches, Alex Giannascoli made his return to Philadelphia for the first time since playing Everybody hits during the Kat Kat Phest in December. He had an energetic set that concluded with an encore in which friends of the band danced on stage and Giannascoli played “Change,” a fan favorite.

Napalm Death and The Melvins @ Underground Arts with Melt-Banana.

April 18, 2016

napalmdeath-5Text and images by Tyler Horst.

The intimate space of Underground Arts became a maelstrom of chaos Wednesday night when a sold-out crowd threw down to two legends of the underground—Napalm Death and The Melvins—on their Savage Imperial March Tour along with Japanese noise-rockers Melt-Banana.

It was an eclectic mix that made perfect sense.

Before the first set, curious onlookers came to the front of the stage to gaze at the dense array of effect pedals laid out on the floor for Melt-Banana guitarist Ichirou Agata and snap some photos for further study. When the band took the stage, the purpose of the complex arrangement of gadgetry became clear to those unfamiliar with the band as Agata started into a layered crescendo of squawks, beeps, crunches and other tones not typically heard from a guitar.

The band then launched into a furious set of songs that combined elements of chiptune, grindcore, noise and even some pop, that threw the crowd into an immediate gleeful frenzy. Vocalist Yasuko Onuki led the charge with a brightly lit remote that controlled the electronica elements and programmed drums, yipping and howling along to the impossibly fast songs.

It’s not every day that you’d consider the sludgy, grunge-metal sounds of The Melvins to be a moment to breathe, but on this night they were.

The majestically coiffed King Buzzo walked on stage in a dress covered with sewn-on eyes. Bandmates Dale Crover and Steven McDonald wore simple black shirts emblazoned with sequins that spelled out Drums and Bass, respectively. The odd costuming is just part of the band’s goofy sense of humor.

“It’s great to be back in the City of Brotherly Shove,” said Crover to roars from the audience.

The Melvins played selections from their decades-long catalog, including tracks from their soon-to-be-released album Basses Loaded. The heavy, rolling riffs, thick bass and full-body drumming pummeled an excited, moshing crowd.

Rounding out the night were English grindcore pioneers Napalm Death.

Comedian Jim Carrey once joked about the guttural growls of vocalist Barney Greenway during an interview on the “Arsenio Hall Show,” saying, “You know, one day this guy is going to want to slow down and do some duets.”

But Greenway, now in his late 40s, showed no signs of “slowing down” in his 20-plus years in the band, flailing around the stage and barking into the mic like a wild man. He hasn’t abandoned his punk-rock attitude either.

“We have saying in England which is, ‘Know your place,’” Greenway told the pumped-up crowd. “I say bollocks to that. Your place is wherever you feel it fucking should be.”

It turned out that night that the crowd decided to be all over the place. It was impossible to stay in once place as mosh pits spread out, beers sprayed crazily through the air and many people repeatedly leapt on stage to dive back into the crowd.

Beyond The Bars: Juvenile Attention.

April 15, 2016

Beyond BarsText by Kyle Bagenstose. Photo by Branden Eastwood.

Matthew Kerr is promoting an idea that pushes back against the crushing momentum of modern education policy. That in a time when music and the arts are often the first budget line items on the chopping block for school districts, particularly in Philadelphia, they are in fact one of the most effective tools to keeping youth out of trouble.

“Why music? Because many students in Philadelphia have been exposed to a large amount of trauma in their lives,” explains Kerr, 23. “These students have the same emotions as anyone else… and without arts and music, they’re often denied healthy means to express their experience in a society that continually tells them they’re nothing.”

Through his nascent nonprofit, Beyond the Bars, Kerr is directly encouraging some of the city’s most at-risk youth to express themselves productively. Founded in the fall of 2015, Kerr and the organization’s volunteers head twice a week into the Philadelphia Industrial Corrections Center (PICC) in Northeast Philadelphia to teach music to juvenile inmates between the ages of 14 and 17.

Toting along instruments like guitars, bass, drums and keys, Kerr and other instructors work with anywhere from several to a dozen students at a time. They teach them whatever they want to learn and pack in as much jam time in as possible. Kerr, a 2014 graduate of Temple University’s education program, says he has learned from working with traditional students in schools around Philadelphia that having a chance to play as a group can actually be more important than the learning component.

“A lot of students quit if they don’t get something right away,” Kerr says. “But when they play together, they get instant gratification. And I want my students to feel like musicians.”

Kerr says the program has been a success so far. Many of the students keep showing up and the classes have an influential, inside supporter in Karen Bryant, deputy commissioner of Operations & Emergency Services with the Philadelphia Prisons System.

Bryant’s daughter was one of Kerr’s students when he worked as a music program coordinator at the Charter High School for Architecture and Design, and sung the graces of his teaching style to her mother.

“The youth who participate in Beyond the Bars consider it a lifeline,” Karen Bryant says. “Jail is day after day of the same thing. So, for those who participate, they cannot wait for the two days of the week to get together with someone outside who shows that they care and gives them such a great tool.”

But the program’s success has led to new problems. Some students turn 18 and transfer to adult corrections, and still more finish their time and leave the facility. Kerr says the latter route is a dangerous prospect, adding that 70 percent of kids who leave juvenile facilities are back within a year.

“I had a student that was like, ‘I love this but I’m getting out in two weeks and I don’t have an instrument,’” Kerr says. “And I’m like, ‘Aw shit. I’m just a Band-Aid right now.’ I’m just helping kill time.”

Finding a dearth of music nonprofits that help youth navigate the transition out of juvenile prison, Kerr has established a relationship between Beyond the Bars and The Center for Returning Citizens (TCRC), an organization that provides a variety of services to people leaving correctional facilities. Starting this spring, Kerr says Beyond the Bars will be using space in a TCRC building at Seventh Street and Girard Avenue to continue educating students who left PICC.

But more than just keep teaching music, it’s Kerr’s hope that students will begin utilizing the center’s other services, such as job training, legal aid and counseling, to their advantage.

“Our end game is a very holistic experience,” Kerr says. “We want to hook them (with the music) and then we want to help them get access to careers.”

Jondhi Harrell, founder and executive director of TCRC, says programs like Beyond the Bars are essential in helping to make prison more than just a repressive and punitive place for inmates.

“What Matthew and his staff [are] doing is dynamic, needed and should be part of the model of rehabilitation and restorative justice,” Harrell says. “Prison should be a place of transformation and change. Learning a new skill that can further your ability to move forward in life is critical. Mastering music is a way to give confidence to young people and show them that many things are possible.”

And Kerr himself has completed a personal transformation. The education major and former member of Philadelphia rock outfit Family Vacation has chosen to live the nonprofit life. Last fall, he mostly left the formal world of education behind and took a job with the nonprofit Community Integrated Services. The 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours afford him afternoon daylight to meet with stakeholders for Beyond the Bars and free up his evenings for classes at PICC and TCRC.

He’s brought on a handful of other executives to run the business side of the organization and now enlists the services of about a dozen instructors. At the moment, all are working for free as donations and other financial support goes to purchasing and maintaining equipment.

Kerr is looking for support from all levels of the city’s music scene. He hopes to grow a more diverse roster of teaching volunteers – as most of the current volunteers are white – and also seeks donations of cash and gear. He encourages bands to throw benefit shows of any size.

“Even if it’s just a basement show with $50 … hey cheers, that’s great,” Kerr says.

He hopes to soon get his volunteers some pay and has stepped up his fundraising efforts. The Districts will be headlining a benefit show on April 17 at World Cafe Live and Kerr expects it to be a major boon to Beyond the Bars’ coffers. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, a growing philanthropist of the arts and disadvantaged populations, along with Eagles lineman Jason Kelce, have thrown their weight behind Kerr’s effort.

“I’m excited to get to meet them and try to hug them but my hands probably aren’t going to reach around them,” Kerr says, laughing. “And I’ll also thank Barwin for sacking Tom Brady.”

Big Gigantic @ The Electric Factory with Louis the Child, Melvv and Wax Future.

April 13, 2016

Credit-Magdalena- Big G-8.jpgText by Erik Whipp. Images by Magdalena Papaioannou.

After a day that could not figure out whether it was winter or spring, the Electric Factory opened its doors to fans of all ages for a Saturday to remember.

The stage was set and a wide-breadth of DJs and performers with varying influences were scheduled to hit the stage. The show welcomed those of all ages and backgrounds to dance the night away. As the fans packed into the venue, Wax Future hit the stage to showcase their take on electronic funk music.

Philly’s own Wax Future performed as a two-piece band. The crowd roared as the two men took hold of their respective instruments and began their sound check. Using only a DJ board and live guitar, Wax Future showed Philly their own brand of new age funk music. As their set began, the crowd put away their cell phones and erupted with admiration and danced energetically. Masterfully executed crescendos created a tension and release where the crowd would have moments of relaxation followed by sounds that gave birth to more dancing. The two musicians embodied their music, the guitarists had an infectious energy as he moved with the music while his partner displayed intense focus on the boards.

As Wax Future’s set came to a close, the fans packed in closer and closer to the stage. Next, Wisconsin’s Melvv took the stage.

Melvv, the 19-year-old DJ, introduced his set with an ethereal track that incorporated an EDM beat with filtered synths and minimal drums. As the song came to a close, the DJ pulled his flat brim hat down toward his eyes, gave a smirk and the rest of the set was filled with trap influences and catchy melodies. The crowd was a sea of hands, swaying to the beats, reacting to the few and far between comments from Melvv with intense uproars of admiration.

As Melvv took his final bow, many began to anticipate the arrival of Louis the Child, the production duo from Chicago.

Louis the Child is heavily known for their hit song, “It’s Strange.” The duo has garnered critical acclaim within the pop EDM genre, air time on radio stations like the BBC and KCRW, and they also have been placed on Snapchat’s 2016 “EDM Artists to Watch.” One thing is for sure, they did not leave the crowd disappointed.

The duo played an assortment of music, mostly EDM. Some notable songs were “It’s Strange, Ridin’ Around” by Oshi and “Down for Whatever” by Imad Royal. The upbeat tunes, dirty drops and memorable melodies infected the crowd at every transition. Whenever a new song began, the crowd would erupt with screams and applause. The two DJs were enjoying their moment in the limelight as well, their energy seldom ceased as they would jump up and off of their DJ table throughout the set.

By the time Louis the Child’s set was finished, the Electric Factory was at capacity. The smokey stage was illuminated with blue light as Big Gigantic’s crew prepped the stage for the two artists. As the members emerged from the blue smoke, the crowd erupted and it began.

The artists came out of the gate at full speed, playing a remix of Major Lazer’s 2015 single “Wave (feat. Kalis Uchis).” The two performers burst with energy. The drummer encouraged the audience to clap along while playing upright. Directly to his left, the saxophonist controlled the DJ board while playing beautiful, modern sax chords. The two were completely in their element, smiling throughout the set, always making sure to communicate with the crowd. The duo had the crowd in the palm of their hand, playing nostalgic songs like “Teach Me How to Dougie” and “I Gotta Go.” It was evident in their control of the crowd that this Colorado crew was born to perform.

The only upset in Big Gigantic’s set was the appearance of recorded drums throughout their set. Little to no audio was audible from the drummer’s performance as you moved toward the back of the venue. The drummer would incorporate intricate fills into the arrangement but the only audible drums sounded electronic and pre recorded. The live drums were not completely inaudible, there were moments of snare hits and crashes. However, the majority of what the audience heard did not match up with what was being performed.

Big Gigantic will return to Philadelphia for Camp Bisco in mid July with various other artists.


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