The Skeleton Key: Love is in the air this month with Japanese disco at The Dolphin, the big David First retrospective, plus goth, jazz, and surf gigs
So maybe the Eagles aren’t in the big game but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start off your Super Bowl party – or Puppy Bowl, cause let’s face it, that’s always a more exciting game – with a ceremonial viewing of “Buddy’s Watchin’ You,” the rap song made by the 1988 Philadelphia squad. I’d call the song a hot mess but that wouldn’t be giving it enough credit. Our own John Vettese took a dive into this story a couple years ago and you can check out that piece over here.
Hello! Welcome to the Skeleton Key, your guide to the next two weeks of music and more. As always there’s a TON of things happening, new releases to talk about, and probably a couple good rumors to break. So grab some snacks, crack open a cold beverage, and let’s get started.
The first thing on my calendar is actually tonight. So if you’re not feeling the game and you’re looking for something to do check out the concert at the Random Tea Room with Koof Ibi Umoren and Jay Purdy. The first in a new series called Tea Time with Koof, this features the occasional Key contributor and more importantly fantastic horn player (Interminable, West Philly Orchestra) alongside The Extraordinaires’ Purdy on uke for what is sure to be a really fun and interesting night of music.
If you happen to have Tuesday afternoon open and have an interest in music composition and really just the art and science of music making you would do yourself a huge favor by attending the free lecture and workshop on Penn’s campus by Lea Bertucci. The noted sound artist and performer – she’s released a number of albums on NNA Tapes as well as other labels – will be talking about The Tonebook, the publication she co-authored a couple years ago that’s “a collection of contemporary experimental graphic scores exploring the relationship of sound and image.” Some of the composers whose work is featured in the volume include Bhob Rainey, Zeena Parkins, and Nate Wooley.
On Wednesday at The Rotunda in West Philly it’s Haitian-American singer songwriter Leyla McCalla – a concert that’s being co-presented by WXPN and Crossroads Music – while John Doe (X, The Blasters), Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses), and Grant-Lee Phillips (Grant Lee Buffalo) aka “The Exile Follies” are at City Winery for their first tour together since 2002.
Not only is Making Worlds Bookstore finally open for business this month but the new radical community space and shop at 45th and Locust is hosting what is sure to be an amazing event Thursday night: author Josh MacPhee is presenting his new book “An Encyclopedia of Political Record Labels” and also spinning some related vinyl. According to the event page, “this groundbreaking book traces the parallel rise of social movements in the second half of the twentieth century and the vinyl record as the dominant form of music distribution.” These are literally all my interests in one place and I seriously can’t wait.
The following night there are, count them, six absolutely amazing shows going on. It’s a little bit ridiculous but I’m honestly not complaining. It’s always better to have choices! To make this a bit easier I’ll break it down geographically. Let’s start with the suburbs: if you’re out near Wayne go see West Philly Orchestra at 118 North. It doesn’t matter if you’re not familiar with the band or their sound. Just go. Trust me on this one. It’ll be awesome. Everyone else has a bit more of a decision to make.
If you’re into surf and rock n’ roll, check out F. Woods & The Fellow Humans, Gringo Motel, and White Cactus at The Fire. It might be the middle of winter and we might be a generally landlocked city – long live Dry Feet, Philly’s greatest contribution to the genre! – but that doesn’t mean you can’t go enjoy some some surf punk on a cold Friday night. Straight down 4th St. at the Random Tea Room it’s mandolin and violin player Majid Araim with bassist Luke Stewart and percussionist Leo Suarez at what is sure to be a really fun show. There are good shows at both the Pharmacy and Century in South Philly that night. At the former it’s George Korein and the Spleen, Invasive Species, and Sasha V and at the latter Shadow Monster, NoBoZos, Cranes Are Flying, and Nothing Wrong.
Finally in Old City at Christ Church Neighborhood House Bowerbird is presenting the opening night of their David First retrospective concerts titled “Same Animal, Different Cages.” Had First not done anything after The Notekillers, the avant-punk group that he helped start in Philly back in the 70s, that would have been enough to make a thorough imprint on history. But that was just the beginning of a decades long career in music spanning multiple genres and cities. Watch this space for a longer preview of that event.
On Saturday the 8th I just have two things on my calendar. Well, three including night two of the First retrospective. That’s practically boring in comparison! Thankfully these events are anything but that. At the Discovery Center in Fairmount Park it’s the first Sonic Sunset concert of February, this one featuring The NuGruv Network and Argyle Torah while over at The Pharmacy you can go see Mirrors & Wires with Poison Street and The Brood.
Since there’s seemingly nothing going on between Sunday and Wednesday I’m going to use this space to plug a couple newly released albums, starting with the one band that’s almost certainly never going to play live. Product Placement is Rob Garcia – you might know him from the exceedingly catchy Telepathic (click the link for the Key Session they did back in 2017) as well as the equally awesome Bleeding Rainbow – and his new release Mass Hallucination is one of the best things I’ve heard in ages. Garcia plays all the instruments on the album and has no plans on putting together a band to perform the songs in a live setting so this is what you’re going to get. But damn this is great so really I have no complaints.
Also released this week was the new one from Poppy. While that band first formed back in the 90s out of the ashes of Electric Love Muffin and Scram, they weren’t on my radar until getting back together a couple years ago. Their album, called Snakes of New Jersey, is six tracks of melodic, Neil Young-inspired rock n’ roll. The band has nothing scheduled for this month but you’ll be able to pick up a copy of the album at their next show, which is March 13th at Kung Fu Necktie.
Get your goth on at Boot & Saddle on the 12th with HIDE from Chicago and local support from Fad Nauseam and Skeleton Key favorites The Ire, who are finally putting out an album this year. Also that night at Ortlieb’s is the these days rare Curtis Cooper solo set. Between time in other bands, most notably freak punks Alien Birth who are about to go on a short tour with TVO, Curtis just doesn’t seem to play out as often as they used to so catch ‘em while you can. That show is part of a free series put on by Cherry-Veen Zine all this month.
If you already have plans on Valentine’s Day but are looking for something to do the day before, you could do a lot worse than a trip to the Dolphin for an evening of Japanese disco and funk with the return of Nippon Leagues to the city that spawned it. While Nick might have taken his night with him when he moved to Brooklyn last year I’m glad he brings it back here occasionally.
Though you normally go to the club to hear the songs you know and love – that’s DJing 101 right there – I get a total nerdy thrill when I hear something that I don’t know at all but totally moves me. I’d love more nights playing deep cuts and I know I’m not alone in that so if you’re a DJ or promoter in the city please make it happen. Give me 70s dance hall and soca, Soviet-era rock n’ roll, Northern Soul and twee pop (paging the England Belongs to Twee DJs!), all that stuff.
I’m not saying I’m not a romantic but given the choice between dinner for two at a crowded restaurant and going to the punk show and bouncing around to songs like “Let’s Pogo B4 U Gogo” and “I Fell Into a Bog” I guess you know where to find me on Valentine’s Day: that’s right, Portland’s finest punk dummies Mean Jeans are in town! They’ll be playing with Brower and The Out-Sect at The Khyber.
Also that night is a truly fantastic noise show out in West Philly with Slack, Hatchers, and more. Rosali and Matt Krefting are at Brickbat, Upholstery are playing a show at Boot & Saddle with Presages and Rainbow Crimes, and at Warehouse on Watts there’s an “Anti-Valentine’s Industrial Party” with acts including bpmf and John Bechdal’s (Killing Joke, Fear Factory) new band False Icons.
Alright! That is it for this column. Next edition will be out on the 15th so get those hot tips in before then! You can always reach me via Twitter at @talkofthetizzy or just say hi. I’m the one in the WKDU hoodie and scowl. True story!