The Skeleton Key: Close out August with Peel Sessions, a ska festival, the Sun Ra Arkestra, a Superweaks video game, and a Philly radio roundup
Like I’m sure all of you, my calendar is looking a bit sad these days. Sure there are lots of livestreams and the like – shout out to the Philadelphia Folk Festival for somehow making that work great for a whole THREE DAYS last weekend – but it’s not the same. While putting this column together I was reading through my notes and trying to figure out why months ago I wrote down that Rammstein was supposed to play at the end of this month down at Lincoln Financial.
I’m not a Rammstein fan. They’re fine, I guess, but it’s just never done anything for me. More importantly I don’t have $200 to drop on a ticket nor do I know anyone who could sneak me into the show. Then I realized I put it in my calendar because I wanted to remember to share the world’s greatest concert review with all of you: the late, great Steven Wells, Philadelphia’s adopted bastard son, taking just four paragraphs to blow every other show writeup out of the water.
In fact Rammstein are The Village People restyled by Hieronymous Bosch. No – they’re the Pet Shop Boys with a very bad headache. No – they’re Erasure gone utterly and irrevocably insane. No – they’re Frankie Goes To Hollywood – but WITH BOMBS!
Please take a minute to go check out the whole thing because it’s better than anything else you’ll read today, including this column. The prolific and bombastic Wells, who wrote for just about every publication in England that matters (and a few that never did) and then joined the staff of the Philly Weekly when he moved here in the early aughts, passed away in 2009 at just 49. The articles he wrote about his cancer treatment – here’s one of them – are still some of the best stuff ever published in this city.
Speaking of Swells – check this pivot out, it’s a good one – before his journalism career really started up he was a punk poet that went by Seething Wells and way back in 1982 he recorded a Peel Session at the BBC. Why is this important? Well, on the 28th of this month tune in to Land of the Lost on WXPN for DJ Robert Drake’s annual John Peel memorial show! I interviewed Robert for an article about the show so watch this space for that.
Hello and welcome to the second Skeleton Key of August! As always I have a ton of things to get to including new music, a bunch of livestreaming, and some fundraisers. The calendar might be far from packed but we are persevering and that counts for a lot.
I want to start off with something from that last category because this Philly music ‘map’ done by Kate Otte for the Bring Music Home project is amazing and I don’t want to bury it any deeper in this article. Raising money for NIVA – that’s the National Independent Venue Association, the organization that’s been doing a ton of work to try and make funding happen for so many shuttered spaces – this poster is such a perfect snapshot of the city that I’m almost offended by how good it is. I mean, just take a look for yourself and be sure to zoom in and check out all the details! You can find out more and order a print over here.
One of the bands portrayed on this poster is the Sun Ra Arkestra (top left!) and on the 29th Strut Records out of England is releasing a 5 LP box set chronicling their 1971 trip to Egypt. From the label: “This release comprises recordings made by Arkestra member Thomas ‘Bugs’ Hunter during that trip in the streets around the Mena House Hotel, Giza, at a concert held at Geerken’s house in Heliopolis, a live Cairo TV channel broadcast and a concert at the Ballon Theatre in Cairo.” How cool is that?
But you know what’s even cooler? The Arkestra are still very much an active band – new album soon! – and this Saturday afternoon they’re performing as part of the We Out Here festival. They recorded their set in Germantown, Arkestra home base for decades, and you can see some rad behind the scenes pictures of that on the Instagram of Sean Hamilton, the sound engineer who helped make that happen:
At noon on Saturday The Rotunda is presenting a virtual concert of Jordanian singer Farah Siraj performing songs from her crossover albums Dunya and Nomad. Siraj plays what is described as “Arabian Flamenco Jazz” and if that in any way piqued your interest I urge you to tune in to her Facebook page because this is some really fun and interesting music.
That night Johnny Brenda’s is hosting Corey Duncan and Emily Carris aka Weird Love for a Twitch DJ night. That’s the first of two DJ nights via JB’s internet, the second being the following Saturday with Everything Is Beautiful, The Key’s John Vettese and Maureen Walsh coming out of a short pandemic-induced hibernation to spin soul, rock, pop, and more.
On the 25th the ghoulishly clever guides at Laurel Hill Cemetery will be conducting a Zoom tour of the graveyard focused on all the musicians buried there. They’re calling it “Heavenly Intonations” and it sounds like it’s going to be enthralling. Remember, cemeteries are made for social distancing – I recently wrote a whole article about visiting the graves of a number of the luminaries from the music world buried in the Philly area – and so take the tour, take some notes, and then head off to Laurel Hill and do some exploring.
There are three different concerts happening on the 28th and 29th featuring Philly bands. Tubey Frank, ThebandIvory, and Eleanor Two are playing a show that was recorded at the Magic Gardens and is benefiting West Philly’s Morris Home, the “only residential recovery program in the country to offer comprehensive services specifically for the transgender community.” At basically the same time – though you don’t have to choose since you can have each open in a separate tab! – Catbite, Vic Ruggiero from The Slackers, and about two dozen other ska and rocksteady bands from literally around the world are raising money for the ACLU and a number of bail funds and community activist organizations. Hep hep!
Heavy Temple and Eye Flys are on an extremely stacked lineup for Mutants of the Monster, a festival that normally happens in Arkansas but this year is of course online. Also appearing are one of Philly’s favorites, two man noise rock juggernauts The Body out of Portland. I realize that it’s probably been a year since I’ve seen them play and that’s a real bummer so I’m very much looking forward to this performance.
Before I get to all the new music that’s come out recently I wanted to do a quick preview for the soon-to-be-released anthology of the mid 80s punk zine Hard Times. Originally created by Ron Gregorio, who grew up near Lodi, NJ, ancestral home of The Misfits, the masthead soon expanded to include Bucks County’s own Amy Yates Wuelfing. Because of the nature of where shows were happening back then that allowed them to cover everything happening from Philly to NYC and more. Some of the bands featured in its issues include The Replacements, Ruin (check out that cool Ruin armband on Wuelfing in the picture of her on the website!), Circle Jerks, Husker Du, Flipper, Dead Milkmen, Ramones, Black Flag, and The Bangles.
The anthology, which is being put out by the always punk DiWulf Publishing House – last time we talked about them in these pages was when they released Freddy Alva’s book Urban Styles on the intersection of the graffiti and hardcore scenes – not only includes all the interviews, all the amazing pictures, and all the record reviews, but they left in the advertisements and correspondence, which is incredible. I’m very excited for this to come out.
Alright, let’s get to some of that new music cause there’s a lot of it. I’ve seen some social media posts from bands about them getting together to safely practice and even record, which is great. I’m thinking specifically about Writhing Squares and The Ire, both of whom have made some promises of new songs soon. I know we won’t have real shows for a while but I’m stoked for whatever I can get my hands on.
Heavenly Bodies — Live As Fuck:Heavenly Bodies plays some real heavy and fuzzy music and while I think of them mostly as a live band – something about this kind of noisy psych makes it sound best when it’s as loud and spacey as possible – we are in luck because this is a live album! Well, it’s a collection of live tracks taken from different shows, including one long half hour jam at Jerry’s that is sure to send you to another dimension. This is one of those new-to-me releases, as it came out in May. Still, there’s no time like the present to turn it up loud and forget about the world for a while.
Moor Mother — Forever Industries: Camae is a powerhouse – her music stretches from lo-fi ambient hip hop to jazz to noise rap and more – and I am always delighted to soak up literally everything she puts out no matter the genre. This new 7” was released as part of the fabled Sub Pop Singles Club, which is awesome. In The Key’s review, which you can read here, John Vettese referred to it as ‘stirring’ and I am co-signing on that. I am feeling these two tracks really hard and I love that Sub Pop, home of Nirvana, Shabazz Palaces, The Fastbacks, and countless other perfect bands, is putting them out.
Superweaks / Team Lazerbeam — Teenage Blob: This isn’t a new album from riff-happy indie rockers Superweaks but … well, that’s not true. It is a new album, or at least an EP, but it’s also a video game. From the website: “You’re an amorphous teen and you’re about to see your favourite band, tonight is going to be the greatest night of your life! There’s just one problem: before the gig you want to buy some new boots, and before you can do that you’re gonna need to work your butt off!” I’m sold.
Cindy Doe — Waiting:Is it goth? Synth pop? Shoegaze? Post-punk? Black metal? Who cares! This one person project out of York is as lovely as it is haunting. And it’s quite haunting. Though it might seem a bit weird to listen to this kinda stuff in the middle of August – the most recent recordings were released a couple weeks back, so don’t blame me – it will be winter soon. While you’re at it, check out Janedriver, GODHEADGIRLS, and Bloated Subhumans, Cindy’s other bands.
Yankee Bluff — Everybody Hits: New Yankee Bluff! This is very exciting. Everybody Hits is the first thing they’ve put out in three years and OF COURSE it’s named after the recently-shuttered batting cages where the band played tons of shows. This is hitting all the right notes in every way and I am here for all of it. What I’ve always loved about Yankee Bluff is that while they might be playing some lo-fi indie stuff this is so much catchier and more punk – not so much musically, though it does get a bit noisy at times, but definitely in attitude – than most every other band in the genre.
They made a bunch of videos for tracks from the new album and they’re all pretty great and perfectly weird. This is my favorite:
I’m writing this on what I just found out was National Radio Day – you’d think I’d know that considering I’ve been on the air for almost 15 years at this point, but whatever – so it seems fitting to promote three different shows I’ll be listening to over the next week.
Tonight it’s the return of John Morrison’s Culture Cypher Radio to the XPN airwaves. Tune in for that at 7 p.m. and keep an eye out for an article later this month where John, a regular Key contributor, will run through everything he’s been into lately.
On Sunday I’ll finally be making my comeback to the FM dial over on WKDU 91.7FM. Because KDU is a student-run station – which thankfully allows alumni to continue on after they graduate – we are at the mercy of Drexel and their policies. While I think it’s very good the university is not going to be in-person for the time being that does mean that the station has had to figure some stuff out. Some of the DJs have been broadcasting remotely for a while now and I am going to join that cadre Sunday night. It will be weird listening to my own show but hopefully not that weird. Head over to the Facebook page for my radio show for more details.
Next Wednesday is the final (for now) episode of Folkadelphia on XPN. The long–running program, which first started when DJ Fred Knittel was on KDU as an undergrad, is going on hiatus for a while. I’m going to miss it. Yesterday we ran a piece about “Ten Folkadelphia sessions to revisit before the show’s final (for now) episode” which you should definitely read.
That is just about it for this edition of the Skeleton Key! As always please make it a point to check out what Freedom Has No Bounds, my favorite Philadelphia punk blog, has been getting into. If I had more space I’d just do a run through of all the recently-uploaded content, especially the post about Kutztown’s Mortimer Smedley – never heard of them before but they kinda remind me of a friendlier Scratch Acid – and of course the one on West Chester’s finest punk band 2.5 Children Inc.
See y’all in September. Find me on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy and let me know how I’m doing!