The Skeleton Key: September comes screaming in with a bunch of Bandcamp Friday suggestions, plus socially-distanced jazz, livestreams by Moor Mother and The Ire, and a Dead Milkmen RPG
I’m generally a pretty upbeat, positive person but the past few months have truly made me question that. It’s not just the doom and gloom of the daily headlines but … well, no, it’s exactly that and more. It’s the hopelessness of pandemic existence, the miasma of encroaching totalitarianism, and that overall sense of just, you know, feeling trapped ALL THE TIME.
While I recognize those first two are the most important, it’s that last one that’s really getting stuck in my head recently because there’s literally nowhere to go. Just leaving the house and taking a walk, the easiest thing to do when you’re feeling stuck, is something that’s incredibly fraught with anxiety. I still try my best to be optimistic, but let’s be honest it’s really, really hard most of the time.
Despite the fact that putting this column together very much makes me anxious – in the pre-pandemic days it was “how do I fit everything in?” and now it’s more “but what if there’s nothing going on?” – it’s also been one of the few things these days to give me any kind of grounding. Even though there’s basically no live music to promote, seeing everything that our community has done to try and fill that space has been nothing short of inspiring.
So with that in mind, let’s get into it Philadelphia: welcome to the Skeleton Key, your bi-monthly list of events, livestreams, new music, old music, and who knows what else! There’s a lot to talk about, as usual, and I want to start with a bunch of new releases since today is one of those days when Bandcamp waives their fees.
Teenage Halloween – S/T: After literally years of teasing a proper full length, Philadelphia’s favorite Jersey Shore punks Teenage Halloween are FINALLY putting something out and I am extremely excited for it. Based on the first couple tracks this Don Giovanni release is definitely going to rule. While there are a lot of very good, very competent pop bands out there, very few are as fun – and, with instruments including sax and keys, as musically interesting – as Teenage Halloween, and I’m stoked for both this album and everything else they’re going to do.
Sparrow Steeple – Sympathetic Resonance EP: While I am not always a fan of psych folk or psych rock as a genre, I am always very much in favor of whatever psych rockers Sparrow Steeple want to do. In the case of the most recent release by the post-Strapping Fieldhands project, it’s starting off with a bunch of synths, bird chirps, and bells before segueing into a track with percussion that sounds like it was borrowed from a grandfather clock. It’s really quite lovely stuff. Some tracks on the almost 20 minute long release are a bit more folky and a couple are downright rock n’ roll and I am here for all of it.
ZRNA – FDT: This is one of only two songs so far from this new-ish group made up of members of West Philly Orchestra and it’s a doozy. The band bio references the love they have for Turkish and Macedonian electronic music but it’s clear this is no copycat affair. “FDT” is a total melange of sounds all relying heavily on that iconic Casio keyboard. The track is a total banger and there had better be more soon or else I’m going to be very disappointed.
HIRS – Covid Covers Vol. 1: The HIRS Collective loves covers. This is a known fact. If you take a look at previous releases including the First and Second 100 Songs compilations you’ll see the punk and grind band covering everything from Tribe 8 to God Is My Co-Pilot to His Hero Is Gone. Their most recent album, 2018’s Friends. Lovers. Favorites. included guest vocals from a slew of musicians including Laura Jane Grace from Against Me!, Pierce Jordan of Soul Glo, Alice Bag from The Bags, Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females, and more. This new release is a combination of those two things: four songs, all covers (Garbage, Bjork, and Enkephalin), all featuring guest musicians. Read our review of the EP over here and play it loud.
Dronez – Starving For War EP: I’m not going to say that these Dronez songs were worth the wait but that’s only because they should have come when they were supposed to back in 2018. Fast forward two years – and one band breakup, oops – and the EP, released by Ryvvolte Records, is actually a perfect piece of dbeat punk. So I guess it was worth the wait. Anyway, check this out along with everything the punk and crust label just finally put on Bandcamp.
There are a couple of fundraising comps with local bands that I want to highlight. Shut it Down: Benefit for the Movement for Black Liveshas tracks from Solarized (which includes The Key’s Alex Smith), Kaonashi, and Jesus Piece along with a ton of other very heavy hitters. Philly Math Rock – Covid Relief Compilationis an all-local comp with contributions from 21 bands including iNFiNiEN, Trap Rabbit, and Palmlines. You can read more about that over here.
Here’s something cool that’s not yet on Bandcamp: a brand new project by Black Landlord (and The Goats) frontperson Maxx Stoyanoff-Williams! SPK also includes Rich from Mt Vengeance and Chris from Soft Pretzel. The track is great, the video is fun and silly, and I can’t wait for more.
I have a bunch of events to get to but before that I want to let you know that the video from the Sun Ra Arkestra livestreamed show that was shot in a park in Germantown that I talked about last time is now up online. So put that on while you’re reading the rest of this column, it’s pretty awesome.
Tomorrow afternoon the Marian Anderson Museum is hosting a concert to help raise money to repair some water damage the South Philly landmark incurred recently. I wrote about Anderson and her legacy as one of the first well-known Black classical singers in the article I did on Philly musician graves and while I have yet to visit the museum – way to ruin everything, Coronavirus! – I look forward to doing so when things are back to normal. This concert of what the organizers are calling “sacred art songs” will feature the National Marian Anderson Scholar Artists directed by Gareth Haynes and will be livestreamed from the Marian Anderson Museum Facebook page.
Speaking of Marian Anderson, have you checked out the Black Music History Library? From the website: “Black artists have often been minimized or omitted entirely when it comes to the discussion, practice, and research of many forms of music. This library seeks to correct that. It is time to reframe Black music history as foundational to American music history, Latinx music history, and popular music history at large.” The classical section alone – where you’ll find some links out to articles about Marian Anderson – is really cool and you should really just spend some time looking through the whole site.
On Thursday the 10th at noon there’s an online concert for the premier of the brand new Mütter Museum compilation and zine put together by Joe Carlough of This & That Tapes and Displaced Snail Publications. With songs about science and health from Joe Jack Talcum of The Dead Milkmen, Spencer Moody from Murder City Devils, Lauren Napier, New Mysterian, and even G. Love, this album has a little bit of everything going on. The online event will include a number of the musicians as well as Carlough and Coco the Cat. Very exciting.
Moor Mother is performing that night as part of the Virtual Low End series put together by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. She’s in good company; others who have played the ongoing concert series include Matmos, Dereck Higgins, and ADULT. Camae just released a new 7” on Sub Pop in August and I’m looking forward to watching her perform for the first time in quite literally months.
Quick aside from the calendar: on the topic of Joe Jack Talcum and the rest of the Milkmen, a fan of the band, Andrew Ervin, has written a Dead Milkmen-themed role playing game called “Lost Tomb of the Bitchin’ Chimera.” Really, none of that is a joke. The project will go up on Kickstarter Tuesday and you can find out more about the whole thing over on Ervin’s website. Also, check out this super fun video he put together about it:
That Friday evening in the backyard of the CEC on Lancaster Ave. there’s a truly great jazz show with the Bobby Watson and Curtis Lundy Quintet. Saxophonist Watson might be best known as a frequent Art Blakey collaborator and double bass player Lundy was a longtime member of Betty Carter’s band. The Tim Vaughan Inside/ Outside Ensemble will be opening. While I’m hesitant to promote live events these days if I don’t know the people putting them on and how strict they’re being about things, I watched a video of the previous show at the CEC and both the bands and audience were masked up. You can find out a bit more about the show here.
Early the next morning Ars Nova Workshop is hosting the second Bird Calls event in West Philly’s Woodlands Cemetery, postponed due to rain from last month. This is for Charlie Parker centennial celebration with Bobby Zankel’s Wonderful Sound 4 band and, yes, an hour of socially-distant birdwatching. While the party is technically sold out, Ars Nova did say that they’d be asking folks who RSVP’d for the original date to double check that they can still make it so a few spots might open up. The ever-busy jazz org has also curated an exhibit of noted drummer Milford Graves’ sculptures, paintings, and more over at the Institute of Contemporary Art. That opens at the end of the month so we’ll talk about it more next column.
That night one of the best current post-punk bands in the city, The Ire, is playing the Goths Against Racism concert, an international livestreamed show that’s benefiting the East Oakland Collective. Also performing is Lifeless Past from the Netherlands, Sindicato Vertical from Spain, and V.E.X. and Death’s Head out of Oakland.
Also on Saturday Chris Wilson from Hound and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists will be DJing on Twitch from the booth at Johnny Brenda’s. Options, people! You have options! I know it’s not the same but at least it’s better than nothing at all.
Alright! That is it for this column. I want to leave you with this wonderful video from the Divine Hand Ensemble. Thereminist Mano Divina and his group are celebrating ten years of existence this month and that rules. Mazel tov!
As always, all hot tips can be directed to @talkofthetizzy on Twitter. See y’all soon!