The Skeleton Key: Bottle rockets, Satanic Panic, Record Store Day and gigs from Screaming Females to Robyn Hitchcock - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Screaming Females | photo by Farrah Skeiky | courtesy of artist

April Fool’s updates:

Swearin’ is back. HIRS is putting out an album with Shirley Manson from Garbage. Erik B. and Rakim are at the TLA. Oh, and Lou Barlow is playing a small show in a park on the Schuylkill in Southwest Philly. Did I mention that Sheer Mag is recording an album with Hall and Oates? Because that is totally happening.

Okay, so maybe one of those is a lie. I’ll let you figure it out on your own. But as usual in this great city of ours, there’s so much awesome stuff happening that even the absurd seems plausible. I mean, the Eagles won the Super Bowl! Anything can happen.

Instead of trying to pull your leg, I’m going to share one of my favorite stories about a prank-gone-wrong before we get into the calendar for the month: Two bands from Philly were on tour together in Florida in the late 90s. They were in separate vans and would regularly mess with each other because, you know, that’s what you do to your friends, especially when you’re on what amounts to an extended road trip with them punctuated by nights spent playing music and partying.

This included all manner of shenanigans but this story is only about one small part of the back-and-forth between the two vans: bottle rockets. Like, literally back and forth (don’t try this at home) bottle rocket wars between two bands in two vans driving down the highway. This is where we join the action.

My friend was driving one of the bands and this is really his story, since I certainly wasn’t present for any of it. According to him, the disheveled, stinky weirdos in the back of his van got tired of occasionally shooting off a harmless and barely noticeable firework out the window and decided they were really going to get the disheveled, stinky weirdos in the other van. So they set up a line of bottle rockets along the inside of the door and told my friend to pull up alongside the other vehicle so they could basically bombard them with fireworks. Still mostly harmless but it might look pretty cool.

The plan was for one person to light the bottle rockets while another was going to open the door at the very last minute and let loose the barrage. Obviously foolproof and totally not a bad idea at all. According to my friend, the whole thing was supposed to be like something from an episode of the A-Team, but instead of Mr. T with a machine gun it was some dork in a 2.5 Children Inc. shirt and a dozen bottle rockets.

You can guess what happened next. But in case you can’t, this is what went down: the fireworks were ready to go. They drove up alongside the other van. Did I mention they were driving down the highway at about 70mph when this was all happening? Because they were. So they pulled up parallel, the one person very quickly lit all the fuses, and the other pulled the door open. Well, he tried to but it was locked. And as he was reaching to unlock it — and yelling, because there was suddenly a lot of yelling going on — the large amount of bottle rockets started going off. Inside the van. Everywhere.

The way my friend tells the story, the van immediately filled with smoke from all the whizzing fireworks flying around. Remember, this was a moving vehicle going at a pretty good speed down the highway. He said that he was bent over the steering wheel trying to keep his eyes on the road while also looking over his shoulder and trying to dodge bottle rockets that were careening around. It was very funny but also just the absolute worst. Everybody emerged unscathed with the worst damage being done to the egos of the band that couldn’t pull off a simple prank. What do we learn from this incident? Being on tour is great, fireworks are a bad idea, and always know how to open the van door.

Any questions? Screaming Females have been on tour for a while now and while our interview last month with Philly’s finest shredders didn’t touch on the sort of pranks they play on each other on the road, come to Union Transfer on the 5th and ask them yourself! They’ll be stopping at home for the night before continuing their tour with HIRS and New Orleans’ sludge metal stalwarts Thou.

Speaking of HIRS, the queer grindcore collective’s highly anticipated new album, Friends. Lovers. Favorites., is dropping on the 20th of the month. It includes guest spots from a number of well-known musicians including the aforementioned Shirley Manson — not a lie! — Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females, Martin Crudo from Limp Wrist, Pierce from Soul Glo, and a ton more. They’ll be on the road for close to two months with Screaming Females so be sure to tell your friends in other cities to go check them out. Dates can be found here.

This Friday is the first of three shows in this year’s Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival, curated by Philly jazz maven Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Headlining opening night is Free Form Funky Freqs, a band made up of Tacuma, Vernon Reid from Living Colour (yes, that Living Colour), and one of Philadelphia’s finest drummers, G. Calvin Weston. Sirius Juju – “street bop free punk liberation music” that includes members of the Sun Ra Orkestra – will be kicking off that show at MilkBoy in Center City. More information about the Outsiders Festival here.

On Monday the 9th is that Lou Barlow show on the banks of the Schuylkill River at Bartram’s Gardens in Southwest Philly. According to Bartram’s website, “Requests will be taken, stories will be told and Lou will be in the best setting to share the emotionally direct, melodic songs he’s known for.” Also, the concert will be held in a 243 year old barn. That sounds positively wholesome! And unlike every time you went to see Dinosaur Jr. and came home pleasantly deafened, you probably don’t even need earplugs for this one; information can be found here.

Just as wholesome, though probably in a slightly different way than Lou Barlow in a barn, will be the Satanic Temple’s live ritual on the 12th at PhilaMOCA, heralding the start of this year’s Cinedelphia Film Festival. This is not just an excuse to get real spooky: the theme of the 2018 festival is spirituality, the occult, and outsider thought.

The ritual will be accompanied by a lecture on Satanic Panic, which is described in the festival program as, “a period in American history spanning the 1970s to 1990s when religious hysteria born of fears of Satanism led to innocent men and women being falsely accused of violent crimes.” They’ll also be showing the classic Mexican surrealist horror movie Alucarda from 1978. While advanced tickets are sold out, there will be some standing room spots available at the door for what promises to be a very special night, one of many throughout this festival. We’ll have a longer preview of the lineup next week.

If you slept on tickets to see the recently discovered 35mm uncut print of Suspiria the very next night at PhilaMOCA… I’m sorry. You screwed up. Don’t worry, I did too. Go to one of the two very excellent shows that night and console yourself: on the west side is the Great Weights record release show with Ronnie Vega, Tact (new-ish very Breeders band by members of Amanda X and Pears), and the debut of brand new melodic hardcore band Cage Flight. At Everybody Hits is Oakland’s super fun postpunk weirdos Preening with locals Taiwan Housing Project and Control Top; info here.

Do yourself a favor and swing back around to the batting cages two days later for Guerilla Toss, one of the best and most entertaining bands bands out there. The freakout acid punk five piece will be joined by Data and Ada Babar at what is definitely a great use of your Sunday night; more on that show here.

That next week is absurdly busy: Waxahatchee and Hurray For The Riff Raff on Monday at UT, scene vets Guided By Voices also at UT on Tuesday, Corey Flood with Strawberry Runners, Nanny, and a rare appearance by the always lovely Goodbye Party at LAVA on Wednesday.

On Thursday the place to be is one of the two script readings of cult classic film The Room with actor Greg Sestero (Mark) in attendance at PhilaMOCA. I can’t imagine a more ridiculous and fun way to spend the night! And if you’re one of the lucky ones who snagged tickets before it sold out, come back the very next night for 90s industrial dance bandMy Life With The Thrill Kill Kult at PhilaMOCAplaying the entirety of their albums Confessions of a Knife and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits, also part of the Cinedelphia Festival. Don’t be late because 7th Victim, Rodney Anonymous’ awesome industrial project, is opening that show.

Saturday the 21st is Record Store Day. While I’m not going to line up early to get my hands on that Big Audio Dynamite II limited edition single coming out this year – that’s all yours, record nerds – I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not excited for the reissue of 101 Damnations by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, cause I definitely am. That night is 75 Dollar Bill and a yet-to-be-announced “SPECIAL AS YET UNNAMED DEBUT COLLABORATION TBA” band at Jerry’s On Front, which has been holding a ton of great shows recently; more on that show here.

The end of the month is just as jam-packed: not only are Jeff Rosenstock and Martha playing the same night as the Mountain Goats (Sunday), which is fine cause the latter is playing a second show the next day (Monday), but later on that week is new wave hero Wreckless Eric at Johnny Brenda’s (Wednesday), OG weirdos The Residents at The Fillmore (Thursday), and Robyn Hitchcock at Underground Arts (Friday). I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

No joke: Philadelphia is awesome. Now if someone could just introduce Sheer Mag to Hall & Oates…

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