Palm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
The Skeleton Key: A Blizzard of gigs for March including Creten lutes, London postpunks, and a Bugg
You heard that story about Barbara Streisand getting her dog cloned, twice? I’ve been thinking about getting the same thing done to myself, just so I maybe can go to all the awesome shows happening this month. Unfortunately I went to school for journalism and not biomedical engineering so instead of having a mad scientist lair full of half-baked clones walking into walls while screaming, “I can’t wait for Superchunk and Swearin’ next month!” … I’m writing this column saying the same.
Welcome to the March edition of the Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column. As I sit here working on this, the weather report is calling for nonstop rain and possibly even snow for the next 24 hours. But just because it’s gross out doesn’t mean you should stay inside! It doesn’t keep bands home and so it shouldn’t keep you home. So bundle up and get to the gig.
You can start right now; there are not one but three amazing shows happening this Saturday. In West Philly the Metropolarity science fiction collective – AKA “Your Afrofuturist quantum time traveling cyborgs” according to their website – is doing a reading alongside O O L O I, a brand new band that includes members of King Azaz, Ronnie Vega, Madam Data, and Sour Spirit. [INFO]
On the other side of the river that night, mere blocks from each other if you wanted to double up (hint hint!), is Xylouris White at the Latvian Society and an art show plus music at PhilaMOCA with Cult Objects, Jo Nelson, and more called Baby’s On Fire. Named after the iconic and somewhat demented Brian Eno song, which should give you a slight idea of what to expect, the event features new work from local artists Kelly Keith, Annabelle Buck, and Emily Burtner. [INFO]
Just down Spring Garden is the Xylouris White gig: Gorgios Xylouris, world-renowned Cretan lute player, and Jim White of Australian rockers The Dirty Three. This is beautiful, transfixing music and you’d do yourself a favor to check out this Ars Nova event. [INFO]
Speaking of Crete, stay on the Greek isles Sunday night over at Kung Fu Necktie with the first ever Philadelphia appearance by 1000Mods, a heavy, heavy stoner rock band from Chiliomodi, about an hour west of Athens. While 1000Mods regularly plays in huge venues in Europe, you can see them in the more intimate KFN with fellow freaks Telekinetic Yeti and The Company Corvette. [INFO]
If Greek stoner rock isn’t your thing, head over to Johnny Brenda’s for what is shaping up to be one of the most fun shows all month: Shopping, French Vanilla, and Control Top. The London/Glasgow-based Shopping is an exciting and very entertaining post-punk three piece whose most recent release is sure to be on everyone’s best of lists at the end of the year. French Vanilla is from LA and plays what they describe art-punk, which is basically the best mix of Delta Five and the B-52s you’ll ever hear. And Control Top is only about to drop the best album in Philadelphia, no big deal. [INFO]
That Tuesday make sure to go to Boot & Saddle for what is sadly Callowhill‘s last show before going on indefinite hiatus. The angular indie rockers put out one of my favorites in 2017, The Way Out, and I’ll be sad not to see them for a while. They’ll be playing with Arc Divers – described as “If Leonard Cohen and PJ Harvey had a baby who grew up listening to The Smiths, Nina Simone and old Rolling Stones records,” which sounds amazing – and a new band Iffy, which includes members of Amateur Party, Nakatomi Plaza, and Ultra Dolphins. [INFO]
A mere 24 hours later and there’s more indie rock to be had, this time at Everybody Hits with Washer, Cult Objects, Bethlehem Steel, and Yazan. Washer is this incredibly catchy two-piece who apparently just moved to Philadelphia, which is incredibly exciting. They’re really good and I look forward to seeing more of them. If you haven’t seen the very noisy and quite brilliant Cult Objects yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. [INFO]
Side note: Cult Objects is members of Great Weights and I’d be remiss if I went this whole column without mentioning the fact that there are new Great Weights recordings! They’re one of the most intense bands in the city and I am so stoked for the new album to finally come out.
You know what else is intense? Seeing Godspeed You! Black Emperor live. For a band that I’ve been seeing perform for close to two decades at this point – shout out to the first time they played Philly and sitting on the floor of the 4040 feeling perfectly overwhelmed and amazed by everything going on – they still manage to completely enchant me every time. Go see them at Union Transfer on the 14th and I’m sure you’ll feel the same. [INFO]
That weekend is a back-to-back-to-back of experimental and electronic music: Friday is the Bowerbird-sponsored showing of Wild Combination, the documentary about avant-garde musician and queer icon Arthur Russell at The Rotunda [INFO], Saturday is minimal electronics master Martial Canteral playing in Southwest Philly [INFO], and Sunday is Shabazz Palaces (!) and King Britt (!!) at Boot & Saddle [INFO].
If you like jazz and avant-garde music, pay attention to a couple shows towards the end of the month: March 22nd is legendary musician and composer Thurman Barker playing a free concert at The Rotunda.Barker has performed with everyone from Cecil Taylor to Marvin Gaye to Anthony Braxton and this concert is sure to be fantastic. [INFO] A couple days after that will be an incredibly rare performance by the Quince Vocal Ensemble of Morton Feldman’s very challenging Three Voices over at University Lutheran. That show will be presented by Bowerbird, who I just noticed have an event in June listed on their website that reads “Moondog II with Arcana New Music Ensemble.” I can’t wait! [INFO]
Something else to keep on your radar is next month’s Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival. The three concert series is curated by one of Philly’s finest jazz musicians Jamaaladeen Tacuma and according to the event invite, “continues its mission of showcasing diverse styles of risk-taking, progressive music and groundbreaking artists in April for Philadelphia’s Jazz Appreciation Month.” Some of those playing include Tacuma, G. Calvin Weston, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Nels Cline, Odean Pope, James Blood Ulmer, and many, many more. [INFO]
The final week of March is just as jam-packed as the rest of the month. Bloomington’s fuzzed-out rockers Bugg are playing the Batting Cages with Ramones-core West Philly punkers Dark Thoughts on the 23rd; also on the bill is Clasp, the new project of Kat Bean from Amanda X. [INFO] The 24th is the Mace Canister Recordings fundraiser for Broad Street Ministry’s ID program with I Think Like Midnight, Joe Jack Talcum, Jo Nelson, and Josh Alvarez at The Mothership. [INFO] You should read the piece about the very punk field recording project of Mace Canister Recordings’ head honcho Chuck Meehan we published back in October.
Palm, Spirit of The Beehive, and Old Maybe at the First Unitarian Church on the 26th is really just a can’t miss show. [INFO] Same with Soft Moon and the excellent Boy Harsher at Johnny Brenda’s the next night. [INFO] And on the 31st it’s two of England’s finest modern hardcore bands, The Flex and Arms Race, at The Fire during the day [INFO] and the very sold out Lightning Bolt and Moor Mother at the First Unitarian that night. So if someone can get Barbara Streisand on the line for some advice on cloning myself, I’d really appreciate it.
Finally, if you can allow me a bit of self-promotion: on Monday the 19th my girlfriend Dana and I will be DJing a Johnny Brenda’s as part of a college radio station battle. Dana will be representing WPRB and I’ll be taking up arms – mostly 7″ records – for the scrappy underdogs of WKDU. Come out! Go Birds! [INFO]