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Bully @ The Church with Aye Nako.

November 17, 2017

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Text by Mike DiGuilmi. Images by Ben Wong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phoebe Ryan @ The Foundry.

November 13, 2017
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Text and images by Alicia Kay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dears @ Boot & Saddle.

November 7, 2017
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Text and images by Ben Wong.

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

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

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

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

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

November 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a music video for clarification:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just quietly live my life.

What comes next?

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

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

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

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.

 

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