The Skeleton Key: The ABCs of November with Adrian and Ali, Bowerbird and bugs, CraftNOW, Daydream Nation, and more
These days it’s so tempting to revel in the awfulness of the world, to throw your hands up and just give in to this feeling that nothing will ever change. Bad news has been coming from all sides and whatever respite we can get is incredibly fleeting. I’m reminded of the song “Another Happy Day” from 90’s Westchester punks 2.5 Children Inc. that has the line, “You said cheer up and I’m trying / But it’s hard when the whole world’s dying.” And that was written almost 25 years ago!
Still, what are you going to do, give up? We all have our own ways of dealing. Me, I like to go to shows. I know, I know: you’re shocked. Going to start off my month tonight at the Impressionist record release show at Johnny Brenda’s with Great Weights and one of my favorites, Lung, the cello and drums two piece from Cincinnati. Word on the street is that Great Weights is going on a bit of a hiatus after this one, so catch them while you still can.
Impressionist is just one of at least a million bands putting out new stuff this month. The following night there’s dueling release shows: on the west side of town is Total Freakin’ Destruction and up in Fishtown it’s Laser Background. The TFD show, with Die Choking, The End AD, and more, is for their new one called #USA4TFD. This is the grindcore band’s fourth full length release and their first since 2011’s Hater. While I’m not sure if anything will ever top their 2004 anthem “Kill the Jocks and Eat their Brains” – a minute and a half super fast grind song might not technically be able to be described as anthemic but whatever, I still sing along – I’m excited to check out the new album and see them play live for the first time in a while.
If none of that does anything for you, don’t fret. The Laser Background show with Cigarette and Sixteen Jackies is happening at that same time over at Jerry’s on Front. It’s a release show for People Person, a new Laser Background tape on Endless Daze, also home to Signals Midwest, Lithuania, and more.
Stick around Jerry’s for a day – you should probably go home, but you didn’t hear that from me – and go see David Nance Group, Mountain Movers, and Storks on Saturday. The new David Nance on Trouble In Mind Records is blowing up and it’s totally worth your while to see him play. That is if you’re not at Underground Arts to see Austin rock n’ roll hero Roky Erickson with Far Out Fangtooth, reunited for the night.
No matter what you do, you should start the night off at Trinity Framing in Old City for the very special Bobby Startup/Hot Club retrospective. Startup was a DJ and show promoter in Philly’s punk scene of the late 70s and early 80s and this event is a collection of old flyers from that era. If you’re a nerd like me, there’s no reason to miss this.
After voting on Tuesday – and assuming you’ve planned ahead, since it’s sold out – go to Ruba Club for a very special and quite intimate show with Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley, James Sedwards, Dave Burrell, Byron Coley, and the just-announced icing on the cake, Wobbly from Negativland. It’s 100 percent worth it to check that Facebook page religiously because undoubtably somebody won’t be able to go and will need to unload their ticket.
That Thursday at Tattooed Mom’s is a benefit for the Philadelphia Insectarium, the victims of a recent big time bug burglary. From the event description: “This edifying and entertaining evening of education will feature drinks, an in-depth presentation by Dr. John Cambridge, a live critter viewing, and live insect display with a raffle to benefit a great space and a great cause!”
If bugs are your thing, you should also check out the electronic show Bowerbird is doing in the 7,000 square foot Butterfly Pavilion at the Insectarium at the end of the month with Visible Cloaks from Portland and The Chrysalis Ensemble. The latter is made up of musicians Laura Baird, Ben Warfield, and Jesse Sparhawk performing with author Allen Crawford who will be reading selections from a novel-in-progress.
On Friday the 9th legendary NYC post-punk band Bush Tetras are returning to Philly for the first time in a couple years. Their new EP, Take The Fall, was released on Wharf Cat in April and is excellent. They’re at Kung Fu Necktie with Weeknight. Over at Jerry’s that night is even more post-punk: Blowdryer and Control Top from Philly and Midwestern freaks The Funs.
Two days later at the Philly Record Exchange – have I ever mentioned how much I love in-store performances? – is Hothead with Sam from Radiator Hospital performing solo. While the latter is pretty well known at this point to local concert goers, Hothead is, according to the online invite, Laurie Spector on the guitar “playing a stripped down version of the Flying Nun school of pop melancholy.” Sounds perfect.
Most bands barely make it for a few months, much less a few years. At The Rotunda on the 15th come hang out with West Philly dark folksters On The Water as they celebrate a decade of existence. They’ll be playing along with The Invasive Species and Hermit High Priestess at what is sure to be a fun show.
The next night as part of CraftNOW’s Craft Month – according to their website, it’s a “… celebration of the city’s rich legacy of craft, its internationally-recognized contemporary craft scene, and its important role as an incubator for arts based in wood, clay, fiber, metal and glass.” – I Think Like Midnight is playing their record release for the new Kompromat EP. What a four piece instrumental rock band featuring half of the Dead Milkmen has to do with crafting I’m not totally sure, though I’m excited to figure that out! That show is in the Crane Arts Building in Northern Liberties.
The new Lance Bangs documentary Sonic Youth: 30 Years of Daydream Nation is having its Philly premier on the 18th at PhilaMOCA with the director and Steve Shelley from the band in attendance. We previewed the event over here. This will be Bangs’ second visit to PhilaMOCA following screenings of his celebrated Slint doc Breadcrumb Trail back in 2014.
Punk fans please be aware that if you miss either Forward – 19th at Boot & Saddle with The Brood, Headsplitters, and The Stutter – or Night Birds – 23rd at Everybody Hits with Dark Thoughts and EDS – you might have to turn in your leather jacket. Every time I’ve seen Japan’s Forward it’s been amazing and really I can say the exact same thing about Night Birds, even if they are just coming from over the bridge in New Jersey.
One more album coming out this month is A Town Called Elsewhere by Key favorites Killiam Shakespeare. They’ll be playing a release show at Johnny Brenda’s on the 24th with Kiefer and DJ Aktive. A few days later on the 28th at JB’s on that same hip hop jazz trip is Ali Shaheed Muhammad from a Tride Called Quest and Adrian Younge with their band The Midnight Hour. Muhammad and Younge have been working together for a few years on projects including the soundtrack to Luke Cage and the Souls of Mischief album There Is Only Now so you know this new band is going to be great.
The final event on my calendar is Carlos Gonzalez – you might know him as Russian Tsarlag – showing his fun short VHS films and playing some tunes on the 30th at Space 1026. This is sadly one of the final events scheduled at the venerated art space, which will be relocating next year after more than two decades on Arch Street in Chinatown.
Space 1026 has helped, hosted, and nurtured an amazing number of artists and musicians over its history. Just looking at the music side of things we’re talking everyone from Daniel Johnston to MF Doom to Kimya Dawson to Lightning Bolt to countless, countless local bands. We have a tendency to bring up more well-known people when discussing the significance of something but really it’s the fact that 1026 has been the home to so many lesser-known artists that I think is the most important. This is a working studio. It’s for everyone who needs it and that’s why it needs to continue existing.
There’s an ongoing fundraiser to help the collective purchase a new, permanent space. I’d urge you to check out what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and donate if you can. This planet can feel like a blazing dumpster fire a lot of the time but that’s exactly why we need to support independent art. So the next time you’re feeling helpless, like you want to give up, go to a show, see some art, make some noise, and remember that another world is possible. I’ll see you there.