Foxtrot & the Get Down hopped into an RV, drove 15-plus hours south while listening to Kanye West, Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, G. Love, Elliott Smith, Sublime, John Mayer, Stevie Ray Vaughn… and forged their own luck. A plucky bunch.
“You have to leave here,” says South Philadelphia vocalist Erica Ruiz, 30. “This is kind of a safety blanket.”
Colin Budny, 24, the band’s lead vocalist and primary songwriter attests that Foxtrot’s desire to hone their artistry by any means necessary led to them leaving, if only briefly, their beloved hometown.
Foxtrot is the inverse of the country boys (and gals) who leave home to make it in the big city.
As the bandmates tell it, they had to leave their big “blue collar” city for the not-so-country-super-hip-southern-industry-town that is Nashville, Tennessee.
When asked how they went from singing in coffee shops around West Chester and Philly to being signed to a Nashville label, they unanimously quip, “Drive!”
Since the beginning of the year, the Foxtrot crew have road tripped to Nashville seven or eight times. They’ve lost track.
“I’m totally OK with flying more,“ says bassist Ken Bianco, 25, of Havertown.
“I’m okay with the drive,” Ruiz adds.
But it was Budny, Foxtrot’s passionate visionary, who reached out to multiple labels and ultimately got their mixtape in the right hands. Tres Sasser, of American Echo Records outside of Nashville, took the bait.
Sasser and his business partner Robyn Davis listened to Sold to Soul, Foxtrot’s first EP, and were drawn to its rawness. As a producer in Nashville, Sasser says he is surrounded by over-produced alternative bands that he laments are auto-tuned to high heaven. He and Wright found Foxtrot refreshing.
Sasser ended up producing Foxtrot’s latest EP, Black Coffee, and the band’s upcoming full-length, Roots Too Deep.
Sasser implemented his expertise and polish but ultimately retained what he admires most about the band – a from-the-streets, honest sound.
“They’re Philly kids who love the blues and whose love gets filtered through Springsteen,” Sasser says with a chuckle.
“I like to say a Black Keys bluesy-ness with a Springsteen kind of an energy,” Budny agrees, defining their sound as a mix of a lot of American music. “We’re red, white and blue. We love America. America is so lucky to have so many different cool forms of music. And to take that and mash it all together is just the way it’s worked. We didn’t choose to do this. We did what we love.”
“It sort of found itself,” adds guitarist Eric Berk, 24, from Northeast Philly.
Soulful Americana would best describe Black Coffee and its continuation, Roots Too Deep.
Both records chronicle the time period when the band had to journey to progress as artists. The EP and LP are about leaving Philly because you know you have to leave, realizing how much you miss it and coming home.
Frontman Budny resides in Manayunk but is from Northeast Philly, which certainly helped foster his “everyday man” charm.
“Obviously, he’s in love with Philadelphia,” says Sasser of Budny. “He is a Philly boy top to bottom. He kind of exudes that. He’s infectious when you talk to him.”
Sasser believes Foxtrot boasts a rare quality in the industry and that is what ultimately makes the band a special find. Foxtrot doesn’t try to be anything other than what they are.
That’s a sentiment the bandmates share.
“We’ll stay true to our Philly collective ideals,” Berk says. “But going to Nashville taught us there’s time to use the knife.”
“We’re all just so laid back,” Ruiz chimes in. “We’re not cool.”
“Well, I’ve always considered myself a male Patti La Belle,” Budny says with a smirk. “I wake up every day and I think that.”
Jokes aside, Budny doesn’t want Foxtrot to be the band flipping hair out of their face and wearing Wayfarers indoors, but rather the regular dudes buying concertgoers shots at the bar, just trying to hang out.
“And then we SLAY,” he says with a laugh.
A slayage that reverberates from Philly to Nashville and beyond.
“We get hounded constantly to move to Nashville but we’d rather drive the 15 hours when we need to…” says Budny.
“And be able to come back to Philly,” Berk adds.
After beloved pop punk band Chumped disbanded earlier this year, singer Anika Pyle moved to Philly, where she had a lot of friends, including Augusta Koch of Cayetana. Our Sydney Schaefer listened as the two met up at Chapterhouse Cafe and talked about songwriting and life in Philly.
Augusta: So, you’ve had a lot of changes in your life recently, Anika, from parting ways with Chumped to starting Katie Ellen, making the move from New York to Philly. What about Philly attracts you as an artist?
Anika: I moved to Philly for many reasons but one of them was the robust community of creatives who live here, like you and so many friends that I’ve met playing music, a bunch of people I haven’t met but that I admire. I think it’s just one of the best towns to be in if you make any kind of indie, emo, punk, DIY music.
I wanted to devote more time to making art and getting better at doing that,.So, I thought it would be a really good move to surround myself with people who are doing the same. I think when you belong to a community, you can do all that cool stuff – support each other, be inspired by each other, learn from each other. Hopefully, that will help me want to keep going and do better.
Augusta: Totally. It’s affordable too.
Anika: Yeah, that’s the other thing. New York’s a tough place to be if you’re a creative who doesn’t work in a money-making creative industry. It’s really hard. It’s cool because it’s nice to have access to a bunch of people who you work with, or publications. It’s a nice place to get exposure. But it’s so expensive. It’s also that I was so stressed all the time, constantly stressed trying to make my rent, constantly stressed trying to devote myself to a bunch of different projects that didn’t allow me to experience joy but just helped me avoid the pain of reality. So, it’s like, I don’t wanna be working seven days a week and commuting two hours a day and hoping to find time to write when I get home or write poetry on my shift break.
So that’s nice. That’s a big stress reliever. Philly’s just a more manageable city. It’s nice. I can think more. And hopefully apply that thought to making music.
Augusta: You recently released a split with the legendary Mikey Erg, who plays in the Philly band Warriors and, like, 18 other bands. You released it under your own name for the first time and you recorded all the songs using your iPhone. How did it feel to share such an intimate, raw product?
Anika: It felt a lot less scary than sharing other things, I don’t know why. I just made a bunch of music that was, like, in a studio, more produced, than anything I made before. It was really nice to just be like, “OK, well, I just wrote this song. I just recorded it. And I sent it to only one person on the planet.” Then, to capture that moment of vulnerability or complete nakedness, and then just send it straight to vinyl, it felt a little scary because there’s always the concern that people might not get the point, which is to share something. Like, get back to the very root of songwriting, which is about the song.
I did have a little bit of fear, being like, “OK. This is the first thing I release under my own name. What if everyone thinks that I just put voice memos out, and that I can’t sing as well as I can into a fancy microphone, and maybe that I didn’t put a lot of thought into it?”
But, A). I’m trying not to care what people think because it’s not really about them and B). I think it’s important to send a message that if you want to write a song, or you want to to make something, you can do it. And it doesn’t take thousands of dollars and a bunch of equipment. If you want to write a song, you can write a song without even having an instrument.
Augusta: It’s easy now too with computers and phones. I did that the other day and I posted it on my Facebook and XPN reposted it. But it was just a cover because I was bored. And then I was like, “Damn. This is on the Internet now.”
Anika: Yeah, it’s crazy!
Augusta: I think that’s empowering for people because recording is expensive.
Anika: Yeah, and I think we’ve seen that shift. It’s hard for people to think back to the “golden age” of rock ’n’ roll. Think of, like, Fleetwood Mac making a studio record. It cost like $200,000. Or a band like Nirvana, an idolized grunge-punk band, that makes a record in a really expensive studio and puts it out on a really prestigious label and there wasn’t a lot of distribution. Before the Internet, before GarageBand, before your smartphone, how did you record music? Like an 8-track?
And now I think that’s opened up this crazy world of possibilities for so many different kinds of music. That’s why there’s so much more obviously electronic music then there has been before. But it’s pretty amazing. There’s less of a barrier to entry, which also means that there’s a lot more content that you have to sift through to find something that you connect to.
Augusta: What I’ve interpreted from a lot of your newer work is a feeling of craving truly intimate relationships with others and yourself. How do you feel like your music has changed since leaving Chumped?
Anika: I think these songs, the songs that I’ve written since Chumped disbanded, are a lot more candid. They’re more thoughtful. Not because I didn’t think about the songs I was writing in Chumped, but that was the first time I had written music since…
I’ve been writing songs since I was 5 but I’d never written them with the intention to record them or release them or put them out. So, I’ve gotten a lot better at songwriting. More honest. I think I have a fresh start and a little bit of a fresh perspective in the new project, so it’s nice to let my guard down and allow myself to say some things that I didn’t feel as comfortable saying or talking about in my first project. I think they’re a lot more politically motivated and a lot more feminine. They’re softer, even though they’re still rockin.’
Augusta: A lot of your songs incorporate a lot of strong, feminist ideals, both directly and indirectly. What does feminism mean to you and how does it affect you as an artist?
Anika: I think feminism fundamentally is about equality. The equality of the sexes. I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersections of feminist and queer theory because my experience is very specific. I’m saying something like, “Feminism is about equality of the sexes,” and then in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, your sex is not always cut and dry.” There’s a lot more of a spectrum to both sexualities and, as we have learned and are learning, it is becoming more of a mainstream conversation.
Feminism is about understanding that women are marginalized and have been marginalized because we live in a patriarchy. That means that most positions of power, in all areas of life, are held by men. We strive to break down that barrier, to get increased visibility and opportunity for women to participate in every aspect of society. That’s what feminism means to me.
I think that directly influences my songwriting because, to increase visibility and opportunity, you have to tell people’s stories. You have to make people aware of the experience of marginalization or the experience of oppression.
I’m a woman experiencing things like sexual objectification and discrimination in the workplace, economic discrimination, a constant fear of being assaulted or abused or violated. Those are realities of living in a patriarchal society. A lot of people, when they say, “Well, sexism is dead. Feminism doesn’t mean anything anymore. You have all the rights that you need. You have all the economic, social and political rights that you need. Yeah, you might make 70 cents on the dollar but that’s just because women aren’t good at being CEOs.” Those are people’s real-life responses. We’re seeing this so violently in our political landscape right now. It’s disgusting.
Augusta: Oh, you mean Trump?
Anika: Yes, Trump. Even the experience of, like, watching Hillary Clinton, whether you like her or not, it is amazing and so inspiring to see her as a presidential candidate. That means so much for so many people. That is the most intense kind of visibility that you can gain as a woman.
And so, when I write a song, my experience is coming from the feminine. I’m a woman and therefore everything I write, in some way, is from the standpoint of feminism. But, as I’m writing more and more, I think specifically speaking about my experience in all these different realms of society. My experience as a woman has driven a lot of my songwriting recently because it’s important to tell your story. That way people understand your struggle. When people understand your struggle, they may or may not get behind it, but at least they’ve heard where you’re coming from.
Augusta: You’re always very open with your fans and me, your friend. You talk about the importance of self-care and growth often. Have you always been that way? Was there anything that gave you the strength to share your vulnerability so freely?
Anika: I’ve always been a vulnerable person. I’ve always been an emotional, candid, open person. I think that being compassionate, empathetic and willing to share are qualities that I’ve always really admired in myself.
It has taken a really long time to say something like that, but I think vulnerability is like the first pillar of being able to trust someone.
I’m in the period of my life when I’m trying to learn to balance my own vulnerability. You can get hurt if you have a lack of boundaries and you can also do a lot of things that you don’t want to do. But, that said, I think you can’t truly connect with someone unless you’re willing to open yourself to them. That’s where I find the most joy in this life, being able to share something that’s intimate, personal. I can trust in someone. I think that’s where you make the most strides in personal growth, allowing yourself to learn from other people, allowing yourself to share with other people, and seeing where that takes you.
I guess I’ve really always been that way but definitely, dealing with hardships and constant change, personally has required a lot of opening up. Although I’m an emotionally open person, I’m also a person who keeps a lot of things I’m afraid to share. I’ve had a bad habit in the past of withholding feelings and withholding emotions that I’m afraid will hurt other people’s feelings. So, I haven’t been able to be as honest because I’m protecting somebody else.
Augusta: Do you think it has to do with moving around so much? Maybe moving to Philly and all the stuff that’s changed, that’s given you the strength to be more honest? I’ve seen that change in you, even playing on your own now or playing in your new band. It’s different than I feel like you used to be.
Anika: I think the loss of significant relationships in your life, to people and places and partnerships, a band or a project, that forces you to reset. Change is almost always difficult but you can either take it positively or negatively. I’m a person who doesn’t always deal well with change but I’ve accepted this place in my life. I used it as an opportunity to make a lot of improvements in myself, and to find strength in vulnerability, even if that is a scary place to be.
Augusta: If you could tour with any band – living or dead, besides Cayetana, who would it be and why?
Anika: I would love to tour with Dolly Parton. It depends what you want out of the experience. I would definitely go on tour with Whitney Houston, just to hear Whitney Houston sing every night. I just want to tour with a strong, talented, woman. I want to learn from people. I just want to feel the energy.
Augusta: Since we’re here at this lovely coffee shop and you love coffee so much, I put down here that you’re a coffee connoisseur. I had to Google how to spell connoisseur. It’s French and I am not. If you were a coffee drink, what would you be and why? This is hard.
Anika: Black coffee. Straight up, hot, black coffee. The working people’s beverage. I just like it, You can do anything with it. It’s a blank slate.
Text by John N. McGuire.
Greg Attonito isn’t too stoked about the way things are right now.
“In my opinion, our society, from top to bottom, is in bad shape,” says Attonito, vocalist of lighthearted Jersey punk veterans The Bouncing Souls. “People are struggling to just survive and we’re supposed to be the most powerful nation in the world. It’s just completely wrong.”
Attonito is in Cleveland, waiting for his bandmates to arrive for the first show of the The Bouncing Souls’ fall tour, which includes a stop at Union Transfer on Saturday.
It’s shortly after the presidential election and it’s clear that the results are still fresh on the frontman’s mind. For Attonito, Donald Trump’s victory proves that the current state of the American political climate is worse than he thought.
“With the whole situation with Trump being elected, it’s gone from a level of being frustrating and difficult into absurdity,” Attonito says.
Attonito affirms that things have “taken a turn for the worst” since February 2016, when The Bouncing Souls recorded their tenth studio album, Simplicity, at Lakehouse Recording Studios in the band’s beloved Asbury Park. A recurring theme on the LP, which dropped over the summer, is The Bouncing Souls’ discontent with the beliefs and ideas championed by people like Trump. On the upbeat and sarcastic “Hey Aliens,” Attonito offers extraterrestrials “livestock organs and artisanal beer” in exchange for Earth’s rescue from the super-rich. Attonito says he suspects the president elect will do nothing to address the disproportionate balance of wealth in the U.S. and that Trump will work to ensure that billionaires remain at the forefront of making American policy decisions.
“They are going be the ones that are in control while everyone else is suffering,” Attonito says.
“Everyone else” includes women, Muslims, Latinos and every other group of people Trump has made frequent derogatory comments about. For Attonito, the fact that (nearly) half of voters consider Trump’s behavior and policy suggestions acceptable is a step backward for American society.
“[Trump] embodies in a person a lot of the things that are wrong with our world, like not being responsible for yourself in your words and your actions,” Attonito says. “It’s not even about politics. It’s about common decency.”
Attonito says he had hoped, even expected, that the American people would rise above Trump’s rhetoric rather than succumb to it, though he admits that he’s not entirely surprised.
“It’s that anger, that frustration that’s been brewing inside of people,” Attonito sighs. “I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they would at least be like, ‘Well we can’t go that direction even though we are very frustrated.’”
On one of Simplicity’s most climactic tracks, the anthemic “Writing on the Wall,” Attonito belts his resistance to social injustice over guitarist Pete Steinkopf’s trusty chords and Bryan Kienlen’s ever-unrelenting bass.
“I thought there was enough writing on the wall / It’s not so hard to see the truth of it all,” Attonito sings. “The last bits of our integrity are getting squeezed out / Replaced with fear and doubt, like we’ve lost control.”
Longtime listeners might notice an energy that pulsates through Simplicity, reminiscent of seminal Bouncing Souls albums How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2001) and Anchors Aweigh (2003). Attonito credits the familiar vibe, at least partially, to producer John Seymour, who worked on all three records. Seymour used his technical chops and hands-off approach to capture the heartfelt blend that The Souls pull off so well—one of optimism and reflection, goofiness and rage.
“The best producers, they don’t force themselves into the situation. The best kind, I think, make the right choices and say the right things to help you do your thing,” Attonito explains. “It’s like, ‘I’m trying to make you guys make your record the best record that you want to make.’ That’s a tricky thing. It’s not easy to be that person and [Seymour is] really good at it.”
While The Souls tapped reserves for the production side of Simplicity, the band also has a new dynamic—drummer George Rebelo, best known for his work with Hot Water Music. Rebelo joined The Bouncing Souls in 2013 after the departure of Michael McDermott, who was in the band for about half of their nearly 30 year career.
“[Rebelo] was the undeniable new energy that was just involved in every moment of the process,” Attonito says. “He’s got a different approach. He’s got a different playing style. So that’s reacting and it’s bouncing off the three of us in a different way.”
As The Bouncing Souls prepare for Trump’s America, Attonito holds onto a perspective that’s as grim as it is hopeful: maybe society needs to hit rock bottom to pave the way for a better future.
“I’m trying to see it in a positive sense,” Attonito says. “[Trump] may be this bad catalyst, but hopefully it leads to some sort of change where people have to wake up.”
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.