Nazir Ebo on drums, Richard Hill on bass, Yesseh Furaha-Ali on sax at Porchfest 2019 | photo by Yoni Kroll
The Skeleton Key: From Harrisburg synth punk history to West Philly porch pics to jazz gigs and more, we’ve got you covered this June.
Say what you will about the thrill of the hunt but the fact that I can listen to just about any music out there whenever I want is a great feeling. Case in point: the other day I was reading about an old Harrisburg punk who had recently passed away, Mike Rage from the band Late Teens, and went down the rabbit hole of early 80s central Pennsylvania punk and hardcore. What a treasure trove of bands! It’s truly remarkable stuff.
Of the bunch the one that really, really stood out was Billy Synth & The Turn Ups, a synth punk act that existed in various iterations from the late 70s to the mid-80s. I’m going to swing back around to talk about them but first you should put on the Billy Synth album Disorderly Conduct – originally released in 1983 on the band’s own Tragik Records and with some tracks appearing on a compilation called “We Have Got To Make It On Our Own” that Mind Cure put out a few years ago – that some nerd was kind enough to upload to YouTube.
Welcome to June, Philadelphia! I know, I know, I’m a little late. It’s such a busy month of shows that I’m starting a few days in because the alternative is a 5,000 word treatise and nobody wants that. To make it up to you I’ve included a few pictures from Porch Fest taken just a couple hours ago. And they say journalism is dead!
Today you should spend some time on South Street for Odunde, the annual festival of African and African-American culture here in Philly that’s been going strong since 1975. This year there are two stages for music and dance with performers including the Kulu Mele drum ensemble, Farafina Kan, I AM B.U.M.I., and more. Tonight head over to PhilaMOCA for the local premier of Turkish punk film “Arada,” which I previewed in-depth over here.
If you missed Writhing Squares, Rubber, and Carnivorous Bells at Ortlieb’s last week – week one in the Richie Records Monday night series, which you can read about here – I’m here to tell you that you screwed up. Not only were all the bands awesome but the Squares covered a 13th Floor Elevators song with Harmonica Dan helping out! It was amazing. But don’t fret! Week two is an equally fantastic lineup: Home Blitz (solo), Crazy Doberman, Forever Chasing Honeybees, Heavenly Bodies. How can you go wrong?
Also happening Monday, though early enough you can hit something else up after, is the next in the Song-Poems series at the Free Library with the debut of a new collaborative band called Magnetic Bells. One part guitar rock – Jordan Burgis from Honey Radar – to two parts keyboards – Alison Stout and Darian Scatton of Hallowed Bells and Bell Tone Synth Works – this is surely going to be an excellent experience.
But wait, there’s more! At Boot & Saddle is brilliant no-wavers NOTS from Memphis who have been on tour with Philly’s Olivia Neutron-John for the past week. Also playing are one of my new favorites, West Philly’s Deep Tissue, who will finally be recording a full length starting next month. Keep your eyes peeled for a proper preview of that show!
On the topic of new local music, some quick announcements:
* New Soul Glo is up in full — listen here
* New Taiwan Housing Project has been announced –- read more here
* The flurry of releases Vague Audio Tapes has put out recently are all quite fantastic and worth your full attention –- dig into them here
* I can already tell that the new tape from post-punky West Philly four piece The Invasive Species is definitely going to be one of my favorite releases of the summer –- check it out here
While two important venues, the Trocadero and Space 1026, breathed their last breath last month (read all about it in this A.D. Amorosi piece in the Inky), a familiar face returned to the DIY fold: Pageant Soloveev over on 6th and Bainbridge is back in the show-throwing business and hosting a banger of a noise gig on Tuesday with Rubber O Cement, Hatchers, and more.
On Thursday there’s only one place to be and that’s Union Transfer for Marshall Allen’s 95th birthday with performances by his Sun Ra Arkestra, Sounds Of Liberation, and Eli Keszler. The Sun Ra bandleader is one of the greatest living Philadelphia musicians and this had better be an absolutely wild party. Quick, someone alert Jelloman! … on second thought, maybe that’s a bit too much. What you do need to do is watch this mini documentary about Allen that came out last month:
The event I’m looking forward to the most that weekend is the third annual Balkan at Bartram’s concert on Sunday afternoon down in Southwest. It’s not just that I love West Philly Orchestra and the Philadelphia Women’s Slavic Ensemble – and I do love them both – it’s more that hanging out on the river while a brass band plays and a choir sings sounds like a perfect way to spend a hot June day.
On Monday it’s time to go back to Ortlieb’s for another free Richie Records-curated show, this time with Mordecai and a duo made up of Neil Burke & Bill Nace. Burke played in a number of legendary bands, or at least bands I consider legendary, including Life’s Blood, Born Against, Men’s Recovery Project, and his solo project Sinking Body. He doesn’t perform very often and so you should definitely come out to this one.
The following night you have the classic WHY ARE THERE TWO PERFECT SHOWS HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME quandary. Pinkwash, Cigarette, and Laser Background are at PhilaMOCA while at Boot & Saddle it’s locals Honey Radar and Control Top opening up for the post-punk brilliance of Lithics who are on tour from Portland. What’s it going to be?
Speaking of can’t miss, I’ve been looking forward to Moor Mother’s Circuit City since it was announced a few months ago. A multimedia exhibition and concert hosted at FringeArts from the 20th to the 22nd, this is going to be a remarkable and memorable event. I mean, you can’t even read the blurb without getting hype: “Poet and noise musician Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother) presents her first theatrical work, a futuristic exploration — part musical, part choreopoem, part play — of public/private ownership, housing, and technology set in a living room in a corporate-owned apartment complex. Framed by Ayewa’s bold poetry and bolstered by new Moor Mother music performed live by Irreversible Entanglements and the Circuit City Band, Circuit City is an Afrofuturist song cycle for our current climate.”
Between this, everything she’s been doing solo, with 700 Bliss, with Irreversible Entanglements, with Zonal, and with whatever else she’s been cooking up, it’s no wonder Camae landed on the cover of The Wire. This is a huge honor and everyone in Philadelphia – and now everyone the world over – knows she’s earned it.
The 20th is also the return of Justice Yeldham, the Australian performance artist who plays sheets of glass with his mouth. No, that’s not a typo. He plays glass. With his mouth. It’s really neat stuff that sounds like a cross between a kazoo and an alto sax and definitely has to be seen live. Check him out on a stacked noise show out in West Philly that night. You won’t be disappointed.\
Almost as cool as playing the glass is playing the daxophone, a modern wooden electric instrument that’s bowed. The squeals and squawks it makes are reminiscent of the cello or another stringed instrument but it’s all-in-all entirely unique and quite fascinating to hear. At the Rotunda that Friday night there will be a daxophone ensemble performing called New Perplexity. The show is presented by Bowerbird and is free.
The weekend comes to a close with two great shows on Sunday. At Kung Fu Necktie you’ve got the Bardo Pond-related Curanderos with “Cosmik-Free-Punk-Trio” Plastic Crimewave Syndicate from Chicago and locals Moral Crayfish. Over in the basement of New Harmony in Chinatown Soul Glo and Flag of Democracy are playing a birthday party for SRA Records head BJ Howze, who is turning 40. I interviewed Howze, who for the sake of journalistic integrity you should know is a friend, a bandmate, and a huge fan of some of the most obnoxious prog rock on the planet, for an article about FOD that came out last year. For his birthday you should probably check it out.
The final week in June starts off with a bang at Ortlieb’s with the closing show in the Richie Records series. This one is Long Hots, fresh off a short tour, and the new David Nance band Astute Palate.
On Wednesday you can see experimental musician Unsocial Art – a guitarist who has played with everyone from KK Null to Mats Gustafsson to Pauline Oliveros, Jim O’Rourke, C. Spencer Yeh, and more – in the intimate backyard of the Random Tea Room. They will play in a trio with Ashley Tini and Scott Verrastro, with Wall Wymyn opening the show.
Thursday at the Free Library the Great Cackler are performing as part of the Song-Poems series and have promised not just any Roky Erickson cover – Mandy Katz and Justin Duerr are both huge fans and the first time I ever heard Roky’s music was at Duerr’s house more than 15 years ago! – but a performance of one of his poems that was never set to music. How magical is that?
That show should be over early enough that you can hightail it down Baltimore Ave. for the opening night of this year’s Lansdowne Open Sound with The Afterglows and F. Woods. While all the details haven’t been announced yet, if it’s even half as fun as last year it’s going to be amazing.
The last entry on my calendar is also one of the most crucial events of the month: Clark Park Fest  on Saturday the 29th. The annual celebration of all things West Philadelphia is in its 49th year and still going strong. This edition includes performances by Selina Carrera AKA CVGEBIRD, Levee Drivers, Northern Liberties, Beach Bod, goodnight/goodluck, Dr Ketchup, Revolution, I Love You, Instant Bingo, The Mary Veils, and Mizloonar and the Truth. While I know the flyer was drawn up well before the giant sinkhole developed next to the northeast corner of the park, fingers crossed for a couple songs about it or at the very least a commemorative t-shirt. Get on it, West Philly!
Before I end this column I just wanted to acknowledge another passing in the Philadelphia punk community, this time one of the elders, Hot Club founder David Carroll. Back in 1977 he opened one of the first spots for punk and new wave in a bar at 21st and South. In this Inquirer obituary, the Hot Club’s Bobby Startup said that Carroll, “was the one who gave alternative music a life in Philly.” It was also, to bring things full circle, one of the places Billy Synth played in the city.
If you want to know more I’d recommend checking out this fantastic remembrance by Mick Cancer of rock n’ roll legends The Sickids and also the archive of the Hot Club-themed episode Secret Cinema’s Jay Schwartz did on Jordan Burgis’ WPPM radio show.
Until next month! As always, feel free to send all tips, rumors, and record recommendations to me over on Twitter @talkofthetizzy. See you in the basement!