Text and images by Jordyn Cordner.
North Carolina natives Museum Mouth opened the show with their candid brand of indie pop-rock, reminding the crowd that their new record, Popcorn Fish Guinea Pig, was released on April 29th, via, as they told the audience, “some guy named Max Bemis’ record label.”
Maryland’s noisy fan favorites Teen Suicide played next, showcasing their gloomy brand of ambient noise rock. The overall fuzz and punch of their set was interrupted by their cover of hip-hop-rock-fusion band Flobots’s hit single, “Handlebars.” From the opening bars of the cover, cell phones were whipped out of pockets and fans recorded the spectacle as the crowd cheers and raps along.
“We’ve been a band for a long time,” vocalist Aaron Weiss told the crowd after the band performed a handful of post-rock hits. “Thanks for still coming out to see us.”
Weiss spent the set cradling the microphone between both hands, whipping around to the very back of the stage and hightailing back to the front. Adoring fans leaned into the barrier, entranced with Weiss’s emotive antics. Voices loudly joined his as the band played one of their fan favorite songs, “Allah, Allah, Allah.” The room bellowed, “If your old man did you wrong / Well maybe his old man did him wrong.” The band walked off stage to chanted pleas of “One more song, one more song!”
As the lights dimmed, the crowd began the first stages of what would be an eruption. Pop punk rock superhero Max Bemis walked across the stage to a whirlwind of cheers and jittery hands reaching toward him. Wails of “Max! Max!” came from voices all over the room.
Bemis smirked, and Say Anything jumped into “Give A Damn,” off of their new album, I Don’t Think It Is.
Bemis was theatrical in his vocals and in his movements, sashaying all over the stage, arms waving, body twisting. He planted one foot on the barrier, leaning into shocked and enthralled fans before jumping back into place. The high intensity set continued, with their guitarist jumping from the stage into the crowd, guitar still strapped on, and kids from the crowd surfing to the front.
One lucky fan got to share Bemis’s microphone before security guard ripped him from the top of the barrier. Bemis’s wife, Sherri DuPree-Bemis, walked across the stage to massive cheers and performed a duet “So Good”with him.
Bemis wound down completely by the end of the set, playing three hit singles solo on an electric guitar. The crowd swooned and sang with him on what are arguably the band’s three biggest hits to date, “Wow, I Can Get Sexual, Too,” “Alive With The Glory Of Love,” and, to end the show, “I Want To Know Your Plans.”
Bemis smiled, moved away from the microphone and told the echoing crowd, “This is beautiful.”
They finished the song and the show was over but Bemis jumped in front of the barrier to shake hands with fans.
Text and images by Tyler Horst.
A posse of Canadians made yet another appearance at Johnny Brenda’s last Wednesday. And no, this time it was not Justin Bieber and his crew. Plants and Animals, a Montreal-based indie rock band headlined a show at the Fishtown bar with supporting acts Wintersleep and Upperfields.
The Philadelphia-based Upperfields opened the evening with their sweeping, anthemic folk-rock. The brightness of vocalist Shaun Gold’s voice set a positive mood for the night.
Wintersleep, the Nova Scotia-based band on tour with Plants and Animals, kicked things up a few levels. Their name runs contrary to the driving rock they tend to favor, performing several songs with a three-guitar arrangement that filled the room with sound. The Canadian act also seems to borrow influence from their neighbors in the south, with Americana-tinged numbers like the arena-ready “Amerika,” which was an easy crowd favorite.
The final act of the night, Plants and Animals, brought a wonderful mix of both instrumentation and styles. With a full five-piece band, Plants and Animals brought a playground of different sounds, from dark and moody to bright and dance-able, sometimes within the same song.
“It’s been a long time. A lot has changed, in everyone’s life, probably,” joked vocalist Warren Spicer to the assembled crowd.
The band played mostly from their latest release, Waltzed in From the Rumbling, like the infectious, marching bounce of “No Worries Gonna Find Us,” to the airy and soulful “Flowers.”
A line curled around the corner of N. Broad Street and Ridge Avenue, with people old and young waiting excitedly for their chance to view the lobby of the Philadelphia landmark, the Divine Lorraine. N. Sheikh‘s Divine Lorraine Hotel Collection pop-up shop was open to the public.
Bella Robertson was especially happy to see the grand hotel re-animated and teaming with life from all parts of the community. That’s how she remembers it. She grew up in a city divided by segregation, but there was no such nonsense inside the walls of the Divine.
“Oh, it was beautiful,” she said.“We had everything – the playground, the school, everything like that. We came to the Divine to eat. Anyone could come, didn’t matter who, anybody off the streets. Any race, any religion. You were welcome as long as you cleaned and said your peace.”
She reflected upon the happiness of that time and laughed, recalling the burlesque club that stood where Jimmy G’s Steaks is now.
In 1948 the Lorraine Hotel became the Divine Lorraine, under it’s new owner, Father M.J. Divine. A lot of mystery surrounded him, but it is agreed that he cut a very powerful figure (he claimed to be a God) despite his height of 5’2.” His organization, the International Peace Mission Movement, promoted racial equality and economic independence for its followers. He also contributed to the Civil Rights movement, remaining an active speaker and spiritual leader until his death in 1965.
The walls of the lobby are crumbling now. The layers of paint tell stories of glamorous days past but are now flaking away into dust. The structure still stands, however, as does the spirit of a community coming together to celebrate the greater good. Perhaps there is something to be said for the immortality of Father Divine’s life mission. Not immortal in body but rather in spirit, his message comes to mind as the visitor’s eye took in the vibrant and splashy installation pieces by local artists like MECRO, Dessie Jackson, Dewey Saunders, Amber Lynn, Drew Leshko, Mike Whitson and GERM.
The MECRO piece stole the show, with fashionably dressed visitors posing for pictures in front that are definitely cover-photo worthy. There was a small, pink cloud of an archway graffiti painting that evokes the apse paintings of late Byzantine/ early Christian art. The “paper” cranes made of hand-blown glass are a subtle and welcome addition, produced by a feat of technical skill and a mind of peace. Collectively, the installations were a visual celebration of the building’s new life.
The capsule collection on display was the second release of a variety of streetwear for SS16. Thanks to Brooks Bell and his collaborators at DECADES, they are wildly popular and on trend. Bella Robertson picked up the pink classic cap with the Divine Lorraine logo.
Of course, no party would be complete without a soundtrack, and in this instance Jason Hunter (Locals Only) and Ed Cristoff (Danceteria) punctuated the soft hum of mingling crowds with their fluid beats.
The daily, communal dinners have been replaced by art and music but the Divine is still a place of community and worship. The pop up shop was a resounding success and the future of the Divine Lorraine Hotel looks bright as it sits on the precipice of development into apartments.
The Obsessives’ approach to performing live is a good analogy for the years the duo has spent together as friends and musicians.
Guitarist and vocalist Nick Bairatchnyi uses a signal splitter to run his guitar through a guitar amplifier and bass amplifier to give his fingerpicked melodies more depth. Drummer Jackson Mansfield anchors the band’s sound, hitting his drums as hard as he can.The Obsessives’ approach to performing live is a good analogy for the years the duo has spent together as friends and musicians.
They don’t perform with anyone else because they don’t need to. They have each other and that is more than enough.
Virtually inseparable since meeting in 8th grade drama class, Bairatchnyi and Mansfield began making music together at the after-school music program, School of Rock, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The two experimented in bands with other musicians in the program but always felt most comfortable writing, recording and performing with one another. It wasn’t until they saw “Under Great White Northern Lights,” the 2007 documentary centered on The White Stripes’ tour of Canada, that performing as a two-piece seemed feasible.
“I think you meet a couple people in your life who you’re on the same page with,” Bairatchnyi says.
After a short stint as a blues-rock band – not unlike the aforementioned The White Stripes – Bairatchnyi and Mansfield quickly discovered influences like Say Anything and The Sidekicks, which inspired them to play the emo-leaning punk found on their most recent recordings.
“We went to go see Say Anything and then we were like, ‘Maybe we should try open tunings,’” Bairatchnyi says.
In their current iteration, The Obsessives cut their teeth playing shows at Northern Virginia DIY spaces The Lab and The CD Cellar, where the idea of touring in support of their music was first presented to them. During the summer after their senior year of high school, Bairatchnyi and Mansfield embarked on a 40-date U.S. tour.
Devoting a majority of the last two years of their time in high school to the band meant they were committed to making music, so it wasn’t a surprise when the two suggested taking time off before college to focus on the band.
Bairatchnyi and Mansfield knew that Philadelphia was a good place for the band to develop, so Bairatchnyi messaged friends in the area in an effort to find roommates. Ryan Collins, who provided them with a place to stay in the city on their second tour, and who currently works with the band as tour manager, offered Bairatchnyi and Mansfield a room in the Michael Jordan house in West Philly. Eager to make the move, the two accepted.
The duo addresses the often-hard-to-swallow realities of adolescence on Heck No, Nancy, their debut LP. Recorded during a two-day stint in a Fort Wayne, Indiana studio, their initial effort was released with the help of Near Mint, a label based in Virginia and Indiana.
Bairatchnyi says the band’s involvement with the label is one of the primary reasons he and Mansfield are still pursuing music.
James Cassar, the band’s manager, and Corey Purvis, who together run Near Mint, discovered the duo through a Bandcamp keyword search of “emo” and “Washington D.C.” Cassar was hoping to find a band local to northern Virginia, where he attended high school and lives today, to help launch Near Mint.
“Pretty much all Corey and I wanted to do was help build a band,” Cassar says.
Purvis was hooked on the band’s sound, but Cassar was not immediately convinced. After listening to Manners, the duo’s 2014 EP, Cassar and Purvis decided to reach out to the band.
Later, after hearing rough demos of Heck No, Nancy tracks that Bairatchnyi sent him, Cassar was convinced The Obsessives would follow in the footsteps of seminal punk and emo bands that came before them.
Bairatchnyi and Mansfield were on separate vacations at the same beach with their families when they received an email from Cassar and Purvis asking to re-release Manners, which would be the label’s first project. Later, the label released Heck No, Nancy.
The passion and dedication the band has for their art is evident. They are aware of their roles as writers, musicians and performers and they take the responsibility seriously.
Miriam Devora does not smoke pot. This, she acknowledges, might come as a surprise to the rock critics who have praised her band.
“I’m not a stoner in any way,” she says over a beer in Center City.
It’s late January, just a few days after two feet of snow were dumped on Philadelphia, and the band has hunkered down in Oscar’s Tavern on Sansom Street.
“I’ve done it a handful of times and I just got paranoid,” Devora says.
In a few days, Queen of Jeans will play a sold-out album release show at Kung Fu Necktie. Their self-titled EP has already gained distribution in the U.K., thanks to London-based Super Fan 99 Records. Back in the States, Indianapolis label Third Uncle Records has taken up the QoJ cause – all this before 26-year-old Devora, along with guitarist Matheson Glass, 27, bassist Nina Scotto, 28 and drummer Patrick Wall, also 28, have played a dozen shows together.
Queen of Jeans formed in early 2015, borrowing their name from the iconic South Philly denim outlet King of Jeans.
Devora was in a psychedelically influenced band at the time and wrote the first batch of songs as a side project. She made Queen of Jeans her top priority after Glass and Scotto signed on. Wall joined six months later after answering a Craigslist ad on a whim.
“We’d basically been casually online-dating drummers,” Glass now says.
In true Millennial fashion, the band found it difficult to seal the deal with people they’d met on the Internet.
“No one wanted to commit to us,” says Scotto, grinning.
But eventually, they found that commitment. Wall, like Scotto and Glass, was drawn to the completeness of Devora’s songwriting craft.
“I could tell that this was a band that had a vision,” Wall says. “I was immediately excited.”
“It’s worth mentioning you didn’t have a drum kit,” Devora adds. This little jab is true, as it turns out – Wall’s first time playing the songs on actual drums was the day he joined the band.
Devora says her influences skip the majority of recent college rock. Instead, she draws a more direct line back to the 1960s, citing girl groups like The Ronettes. In fact, the only contemporary act she acknowledges as an influence is Warpaint.
“I’ve seen someone use the word ‘stoner’ to describe us three times in 500 words,” says Wall. “One person said we would be too high to notice if we ever got popular.”
But if you want to think of them as a bunch of lovable California burnouts, they’ll take it – even if they respectfully disagree.
“If you put us in the same class as Best Coast, I’d say, ‘I can do that.’ We’re at the mercy of other people, like, ‘What playlist would you put us on?’” says Scotto. “But I haven’t been offended by anything anyone’s said.”
Because everyone in the band is an experienced musician, they’ve been able to avoid rookie embarrassments. There have been no ill-fated dive bar tours and with all four members working day jobs, shows are carefully chosen to make each performance worth the effort.
“We keep busy to the point that sometimes we all complain about it,” says Devora. “But that’s a good complaint to have.”
They’ve been busy in London as well, despite having never been to the city. The EP, recorded in a sweltering, now-defunct Fishtown industrial space last summer, got indie label attention almost by accident.
“The recording process was completely DIY,” says Glass. “Our friend was recording us. He admitted he was learning as he went along but so were we. And it turned out that we liked it.”
Months later, Super Fan 99 founder Luke Barham heard the single “Dance” while listening to Soundcloud at work. “Dance” starts off with a catchy, if unassuming, ‘60s guitar riff before giving way to a brilliant, twinkling chorus. Charmed, Barham asked if he could hear more.
“I like records that transport me to a different time and place; ‘60s and ‘70s-influenced bands with a penchant for the West Coast often tick a lot of my boxes,” he writes in an email. “Everything I put out is rooted in strong melody.”
Queen of Jeans, then, is a perfect fit. Barham has been able to get the band airplay on London’s local indie station and even earned them a few plays on BBC1 radio.
“There is a real craft to their songwriting and journey within many of their songs,” Barham says. “When they sent through the EP, I was pleasantly surprised at how varied and dark it was. They strike me as a band who have a clear vision and unity in how they deliver their songs.”
The early spring will consist of one-off gigs in Philly and New York. The band’s next goal, though, is to impress their moms.
“There’s definitely a Queen of Jeans parents club,” says Scotto.
“And they all want to be mom-agers,” says Devora. “My mom will say, ‘You sound so beautiful. But you need a new wardrobe.’”
She pauses, then adds, “Don’t write that down.”
The guys from Hardwork Movement just dropped a new video for “The Flow Yo” off their Good Problems album.
These guys stay busy, from XPN’s The Key Studio Sessions to opening for Bernie Sanders.
Thankfully they also found time to sit down for an interview that appears in our issue 20. We haven’t posted the story online yet, so grab a copy here.
Clad in a crown made of flowers, Elizabeth Mencel, better known as Rozes, walked on to the stage at Boot & Saddle last Thursday and burst into song.
It was a small crowd at first – mostly family and friends, it seemed, but the room quickly filled as she bellowed and howled in the most mellifluous and emotional way.
“Hi, I’m Rozes,” she announced after the first song. “And I’m home.”
The pop singer with intricate and personal lyrics grew up in Montgomeryville and spent a year at Temple University. She took off after her music career started blossoming. Last summer, she released a song with The Chainsmokers, “Roses,” and it became the number one track on the dance/electronic charts in January.
Rozes released her debut album in February and celebrated with a jam-packed show at Boot & Saddle.
Last week, she performed most of the tracks from that album and a few new songs, with the support of a guy on drums and the keys.
“The whole things about Rozes is to be real,” she told the crowd before performing a new song called “Under the Grave.” It’s about her not connecting with friends while dealing with the pressures of the music industry. And she felt bad about it.
Throughout the night, people screamed out her name between songs. And when she performed “Roses,” it seemed as though everyone sang along.
After her last song, Rozes said, “Please come up and say hello. I love to make new friends.”
Then she walked off the stage to MIA’s “Paper Planes” and she greeted fans and took pictures until the next act hit the stage.