C Trip A | photo courtesy of Perfect World Productions
The Skeleton Key: New punk and noise rap, a lost hardcore hit from 1985, upcoming live streams and more
When it comes to music I certainly have a few regrets. Why did I not go see Murder City Devils at the First Unitarian Church back in 2000? Who let me have all those bad punk haircuts back in the day? Where would my life be if I had better hobbies than hanging out in basements and watching bands play? But also, and this might seem minor but I can assure you it’s certainly not, why did I never start a show diary?
You know, a show diary, when you write down every show you went to, where it was, when it was, and so on. When I was 18 and first started going to see live music – fun fact I’ve certainly mentioned here before: my first concert was Helmet, The Melvins, Today Is The Day, and Hovercraft at The Troc in September of 1997, maybe a couple weeks after I moved to the city – I considered starting to keep track of things. Fast forward a couple years and I thought, “Well, it’s probably too late so whatever. Should have done it at the time.” Fast forward a couple decades and … well, here we are.
I was thinking about this because the other day on Facebook an old friend was asking for everyone to share their most meaningful shows. It was a cool mix of obviously mind-blowing gigs – Pinhead Gunpowder playing a reunion show at Gilman Street in Oakland, which must have been amazing – and stuff that was impactful possibly less because of the quality of the bands and more because of their personal significance.
Someone on that post brought up the time Against Me! played Valentine’s Day 2001 in a West Philly basement with Kiss Kiss Kill, The Third Wheel, and the pre-Mischief Brew band Kettle Rebellion. Remember when Against Me! weren’t playing absolutely gigantic venues? No offense to their popularity, cause if there was ever a band that should be playing in front of thousands it’s definitely them, but it was nice to revisit this rather more intimate show.
More importantly while trying to figure out what other shows happened at that same house on 42nd I found the website for The Third Wheel, which was a very short-lived but very good West Philly indie rock band that reminded me of both Versus and Rainer Maria. I got a copy of their demo at that show but because they didn’t put a sticker or even write on the tape I ended up losing it pretty quickly. But lo’ and behold, Angelfire still exists and the demo tracks the band uploaded there almost 20 years ago are still online. Here’s my favorite:
Hello and welcome to The Skeleton Key, my bi-monthly column dedicated to all things Philadelphia. I normally would put this intro, you know, a bit further up but we’ve been doing this for long enough that you should know what to expect by now. In this exciting installment I have a little of everything for you with something brand new, something quite old – actually older than that Third Wheel song – and at least a handful of upcoming streaming concerts to hold your attention while the world continues to burn.
First up is a preview of the debut album from new hip hop noise project C Trip A, made up of Anthony Adams on vocals and Christian McKenna on electronics. Their album Ozzy Nights will be out next month on Translation Loss and they were nice enough to send us the track “Draco” to share with all of you. I’ve always been a big fan of rap where the rhymes are being done over loud, abrasive beats – more Dälek and Zonal than the Judgment Night soundtrack, though that of course holds a special place in my heart – so this stuff grabbed my attention from the get-go.
In fact, there’s a Dälek connection: former member Alap Momin guests on a track, which is cool. Other folks who appear on the record include Colin Marston from of Gorguts/Dysrhythmia fame and Liz Ndichu, lead singer of local funk band Ndichu. Asked about the song, Adams told The Key that, “Draco is a gun that defines my life. My lyrics are the ammunition shooting out to hit the world.”
You remember the Judgment Night soundtrack, right? That’s the one from ‘93 where they got a bunch of hip hop groups and punk and metal bands to record songs together. Some of it makes sense – Slayer and Ice-T, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill, Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul – and some, like the Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot track “Freak Momma,” is just plain ridiculous. Wait, no, it’s all ridiculous.
The reason I bring this up is not because I’ve suddenly found myself listening to a ton of 90s rap rock – I haven’t reached that level of quarantine just yet – but because I recently discovered the Mudhoney tour diaries and really wanted to share the hilarious entry for a show they played at UPenn in ‘94 “sandwiched between Run-DMC and Cypress hill” according to the website:
“Not surprisingly, Mudhoney received the collective middle finger from the crowd. Never one to squander an opportunity to make a bad situation worse, [Guitarist Steve] Turner perched himself on the lip of the stage and taunted the audience with a cock-rock burlesque of mock-fretboard pyrotechnics. They would have killed him if they could have gotten their hands on him, he reckons.”
[Singer and guitarist] Mark [Arm]: “There were boos from the crowd as soon as [tour manager] Danny started setting up the drums amps. I have to admit that I don’t understand why they put us on after Run-D.M.C. … I took one hit off of a joint [Cypress Hill was] passing around, mainly to be polite. I didn’t smoke weed very much, much less right before we play. It was crippling.”
Basically all the tour entries are like that. Highly recommended read even if you aren’t a huge fan.
Let’s switch gears and talk a bit about some very on-topic tunes that came out in the past couple weeks. Goblin USA finally dropped their demo and it’s nothing short of brilliant. This is some high-energy thrashing wild ass punk from the people who brought you Zorn, Alien Birth, Drill, and more. Plus one of the songs – and this is the on-topic part – is called the “N95 Shuffle” and you can’t get more current than that!
On the more chill side of things is I Advance Wearing a Mask, the new one from Strawberry Hands, the longtime lo-fi folk band headed up by Jacob Brunner who was in Weyes Blood and Bad Braids. Recorded over the course of a few years, the album is as cerebral as it is pretty, featuring a multitude of instruments including flute, harp, cello, and pedal steel guitar. While the name of the album was probably chosen before, you know, pandemic times, it still feels like the perfect fit for something that is really just a panacea to everything going on right now.
There are a few live streams happening over the next couple weeks that I wanted to highlight. The first is the always lovely Warp Factor 9 this Thursday. While the lineup is never the same, the series has focused on avant, classical, and jazz musicians in and around West Philly and is definitely one of my favorite consistent events. May’s featured performers are tap dancer Pamela Hetherington and electronic musician Phil Yeah, whose setup you can see below:
On Friday Lovelorn will be performing, which is exciting. Since the lineup of the two piece band is the real life duo of husband and wife Anna and Patrick Troxell that makes quarantine shows pretty easy. Finally on Saturday the 30th, Buck Gooter is playing. While the Harrisonburg, VA “industrial blues” band is obviously not local, they’ve long been such a mainstay here that a Philly label, Ramp Local, is now putting out their records.
In the latest installment of Yoni Talks About Archives – seriously, it’s been a standard probably since I started doing this column a couple years ago – I’m really stoked on the recently unearthed Peasants With Pitchforks demo from 1985 that Mace Canister Recordings posted last week. This is some perfect hardcore punk reminiscent of Die Kreuzen, early United Mutation, Mecht Mensch, and other catchy and interesting bands of the era. As an added bonus for this time and place, all proceeds from digital sales of the album are going to Philabundance.
I asked Mace Canister head honcho Chuck Meehan about what’s next and while he steadfastly refused to give me any real hints, at least not on the record, he did tell me that he’s on the hunt for a demo tape from a Delco band from 1980. Who could it be?? I guess you’ll have to wait to find out!
What I appreciate most about Chuck is that while he’s been part of punk for four decades at this point and clearly has a strong interest in preserving the past he is also very much forward-facing in his outlook on things. While others from his generation – and let’s face it, basically anyone over 30 – tend to get seriously bogged down in nostalgia, Chuck is always searching for the next cool band no matter if they’re from 1985 or today.
While 2020 is currently on hold, at least when it comes to shows, quarantine has certainly pushed tons of people to practice playing music a lot more or even pick up a new instrument. If you’re a guitar player you should get your hands on the new issue of Cool Hiss zine cause it’s got tabs for a ton of songs from some of the best new punk bands out there including Philadelphia’s own Dark Thoughts, The Guests, and Quarantine. How cool is that?
Alright, that is it for now. I will see you all next time when we’ll do a roundup of new local stuff on Bandcamp in time for that site’s next sale date on the 5th of June. As always you can find me on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy!