The Skeleton Key: From the first show back at The Khyber to one of the last shows at 1026, we've got you coming and going for the rest of this packed July - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Soul Glo | photo by Yoni Kroll

Hello Philadelphia! By the time you read this I will most likely be back home but right now I’m in the back of a van hurtling between DIY venues across the Midwest. My band embarked on our first ever tour in the last week of June and I’ve never eaten more fast-food in my life.

Tour is funny because while you might play to literally only the other bands one night — including one group of guys who when they were also only performing in front of other musicians still made it a point to tell everyone there to “stick around for the other bands” — the next night you can play to a crowded room of moshing Midwestern teenagers. Oh, and I was interviewed by someone, which as a journalist is a completely bizarre experience. All in all, no complaints.

But you’re not here for the tour tips. You don’t care where to get a bite to eat before playing the Trumbullplex in Detroit, though if you did I’d recommend Pie Sci right down the street for those massive Detroit square pies that are almost as good as what you’d get at Pizza Gutt up in Fishtown. No, what you want is the Philadelphia calendar listings and some good DIY news and gossip. I got you. Let’s go!

I hope you had a fun 4th of July and still have all your fingers. I went to go see Uranium Club and pals play out in West Philly but if I could have been in two places at once I would have also been at the annual show down at FDR skatepark which this year included performances from two punk legends, McRad and YDi.

Speaking of McRad, the band’s first vocalist and one of the sweetest people in Philadelphia punk history, Ethan Jarvis, is battling illness. Even if you never got to see him play back in the day – closest I got was an incredible set of Minor Threat covers he did with the band Munchausen backing him up a few years ago – you might recognize him from the couple decades he spent working as a chef and food demonstrator at the South Street Whole Foods. There’s a GoFundMe set up to help him out while he can’t work and if you have a buck or two to spare you should throw it his way.

Maybe you went to a lot of shows at the Khyber Pass. And maybe you remember at least some of them! Maybe you’ve only been there for dinner but your friend pointed out they once saw Cop Shoot Cop or Pavement or Boredoms grace the stage at the venerated venue, which has long been just a restaurant. One way or the other, here’s something that’s a bit mind-blowing: tonight Radiator Hospital, Swanning, and Tim Buchanen will be playing there, albeit at the upstairs bar, which did host shows until around 2011.

While it’s unclear if we’re going back to the jam-packed Khyber calendar of yesteryear, there is at least one other show booked so far, August 2nd with Wild Flowers of America, Roger Harvey & The High Lifers, and The Cheddar Boys. History of the space aside, I’m just excited there’s another spot in the city hosting live music.

That Tuesday is the Spirits Having Fun record release show at Johnny Brenda’s with Jobs, Likes, and Spin Off. While not based in the city, Chicago’s Spirits Having Fun are on West Philly label Ramp Local, who we profiled in the spring. Their new one, Auto-Portrait, is nine blasts of summertime bliss. This is some seriously fun stuff, reminiscent of Tortoise and Stereolab in some ways but with enough fun, dancey, chaotic percussion to fit in perfectly with Guerilla Toss or Need New Body on your next mixtape.

The next night you should head over to PhilaMOCA to see Messthetics – that’s Brendan Canty and Joe Lally from Fugazi with jazz guitarist Anthony Pirog – and Ominous Cloud Ensemble. I got to experience Messthetics at their Philly debut last year and it was pretty fantastic. I can only imagine that it’ll be even better this time around. Pitch a tent in the back corner of MOCA and hide out for a day because you’re going to want to be there Thursday evening too for the Purling Hiss, Writhing Squares, and Long Hots show. If Callowhill is too far of a trip, you’d do just as well going to see avant jazzers Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano at Pageant Soloveev at 6th and Bainbridge. And if you’re in the western burbs (or don’t mind the short commute to Lansdowne) check out Tact, Sasha Vee, and Big Heet playing the second Open Sound show of the season.

Friday night the 12th it’s the Empath record release out in West Philly with HIRS and Ghösh or out at Ortlieb’s Soul Glo is playing with Jocko, Bandit, Drowse, and a couple other hardcore bands of the short and fast variety. I got to see Soul Glo play in the basement of a Chinese restaurant last month with Flag of Democracy and without a doubt they are one of the most exciting and most fun punk bands in the city and you should probably go see them as often as possible. Bonus: if you ask nicely, Drowse might do their Ink & Dagger cover. Really.

Soul Glo | photo by Yoni Kroll

On Saturday there are three great shows and if you time things right you should be able to hit up two of them. In West Philly the 40th St. Summer Series rolls into its second show of the season, this one with Voices of Africa. A band for close to four decades, Voices of Africa’s music “spans the African Diaspora, through traditional African and African American songs, message music, gospel, inspirational and healing percussion rhythms.”

At Franny Lou’s Porch, the Kensington coffee shop over on Corral, Upholstery and Littlun are playing the July edition of the Monthly Fund series, this one a benefit for Community Legal Services. And at St. Mary’s Church on Penn’s campus the absolutely legendary counter culture musician, filmmaker, and artist Charlemagne Palestine is performing as part of the ongoing Tony Conrad retrospective at the Institute of Contempoary Art.

If it’s legendary bands you want, on Sunday Austin noise rock giants Cherubs are playing one of four great rock n’ roll gigs happening that week. Opening up that show, which is at Kung Fu Necktie, are Low Dose and Yarrow. Incidentally that’s one of the final Yarrow shows before guitarist Meri Haines moves to Chicago and you should go see them just cause it might be a while before they play again.

Gotobeds are next. The Subpop Records favorites are at Boot & Saddle on Tuesday supporting their new one Debt Begins at 30 which came out last month. Rounding out the week are Australian pub rock sensations Amyl and the Sniffers with Chronic Anxiety on Wednesday also at Boot & Saddle and classic British post-punk band Mekons at Johnny Brenda’s the next night, though that one is pretty sold out.

If you don’t have tickets to that Mekons show don’t fret! There are more than a few other good one happening that night: renowned reggae artist Yellowman is playing an intimate show at 118 North in Wayne with Kuf Knotz and Christine Elise, and at Boot & Saddle the always fun Iron Chic are on a perfect pop punk bill with Toys That Kill and Ramona.

On Friday the 19th you have an important choice to make: drive out to Bethlehem for an evening of wrestling, punk rock, and vegan snacks – that’s Let’s Hang Out, of course, this time with support from Soul Glo and Pain Strikes – or wander over to KFN for one of the better death metal shows to happen this year in Philly with Tomb Mold, Superstition, and Botis.

If it’s not wrestling, hardcore punk, or death metal that interests you, how about a John Zorn piece described as “the most extreme organ trio”? Ars Nova is presenting Simulacrum that night at Ruba and the lineup of John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood), Matt Hollenberg (Cleric), and Kenny Grohowski (Abraxas) would be incredible to see do a rendition of the Channel 6 Action News theme, much less something written by one of the premier avant garde composers of the modern era.

The next night the only thing you should do is go see no wave punkers Taiwan Housing Project at their Philadelphia record release show. More than a year in the making, Sub-Language Trustees was just released on Ever/Never Records – also responsible for albums by Spray Paint and The Rebel, Sparrow Steple, Dan Melchior, and Obnox – and I can’t wait to hear all those songs played live. It’s going to be great.

On Sunday afternoon Michael Morley from legendary New Zealand noise act the Dead C is performing at the ICA as part of that ongoing Tony Conrad retrospective I mentioned earlier. “Music for The Never Quartet” is a composition made in homage to Conrad’s 1964 piece “Four Violins” but substituting four acoustic guitars that will be bowed rather than strummed.

If you prefer your guitars played normally, whatever that means, you’d do yourself a favor heading over to PhilaMOCA that night to see Mal Blum, Curtis Cooper, and Lucky Cat. This will be the release show for the new Mal Blum album Pity Boy, the first recordings with the full Mal and The Blums backing band. This is some fun, interesting, and necessary rock music. Did I mention it’s fun? Cause even when Blum’s songs are about some serious issues, and they often are, the music, like the humorous and clever lyrics, shines brightly.

Curtis Cooper also put out a new one recently and it’s also great – read the full writeup by my colleague John Vettese in this very publication! – and Lucky Cat is Audrey Whitesides who plays in Mal Blum and has also been a member of Worriers, Speedy Ortiz, and a ton of other awesome bands so basically what I’m saying is that this show is perfect and you should probably go.

Keep the good times going two days later at PhilaMOCA when Sacred Paws comes to town. The two piece, based partially in Glasgow and partially in London, does an incredible job at creating catchy songs that straddle the line between indie pop and post-punk. Their new album Run Around the Sun just came out on Merge stateside and Rock Action Records in Scotland, which was started by the band Mogwai. Opening up that show will be one of my current Philadelphia favorites, the post-punk outfit Cult Objects, who really should put some new recordings up on the internet (hint, hint!).

Big surprise, just like every other day this month the final week of July does not let up. On Wednesday the 24th there’s a choice between two great shows. Down at Century you’ve got Hash Redactor – a Goner Records group that sounds like, well, Goner but also has elements of The Fall and Swell Maps going on – with Pure Joy, Destructos, and new band Drill which is members of Ursula and Juice carrying on where those left off. And over at KFN the epic nine (!) piece black metal band Dead to a Dying World are making their return to Philly after a six year absence. Maybe this time there will be more people in the crowd than on stage!

Thursday night is the second Lansdowne Open Sound show of the month, this one with Bad Heaven Ltd, The Diaphone, and Old Arrows, Friday is Ian Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up) and his newest band Escape-ism at Boot & Saddle, and on Sunday you should try your best to get on the Bowerbird-presented Double Decker Music Series Bus to see trumpeter Jaimie Breezy Branch and tape manipulator extraordinaire and event host Sebastian Petsu.

The final show on my calendar is also one of the final shows ever at Space 1026, the hugely influential Chinatown art collective that is closing up shop soon and moving to a new space on North Broad. In true Space 1026 fashion this is a mixed media event, quite literally. There will be art – two decades of flyers, pieces from previous members, zines, and more – there will be music by the band Holy People, and there will be a movie screened, the experimental FLEEGIX.

Shot on 16mm by Matthew Thurber, FLEEGIX is a “science-fiction film set on Earth, although some of the population have become convinced that they are in fact living on the planet Mars” and includes live action, stop-motion, and animated sequences. I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to everything that was and greet the future with open arms. See you there!

As always: send your hot tips, band demos, and more to @talkofthetizzy on Twitter.

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