The Skeleton Key: Fall is here with a jazz exhibit at the ICA, new tunes from EAT and Soul Glo, and a psych rock time warp to 1967
It’s easy to feel depressed these days. I mean, the world is ending, constantly, all around us, in absolutely the most blasé ways. This isn’t the apocalypse I was promised back in the 80s! Where’s the giant asteroid? I mean, come on! I want an unavoidable end-of-the-world scenario, not one where we can save hundreds of thousands of lives just by wearing masks but the problem is that nobody wants to do that. What a ripoff.
I’m not going to serve up any platitudes about how everything will be okay but I will give you a little bit of advice: if you have the chance to go see a jazz concert outside, properly socially-distanced of course, you should probably say yes. Even if you don’t like jazz (who doesn’t like jazz?!) it’ll be a good, fun, and rejuvenating time, I promise.
I speak from experience because last weekend I did exactly that, attending the Charlie Parker centennial celebration at the Woodlands in West Philly with bird watching – get it? – and Bobby Zankel and his band playing a truly satisfying set of songs. The event, which started at dawn because apparently that’s the best time of day to look at birds, was put together by Ars Nova Workshop. Safety precautions were very much in place and the whole thing felt very comfortable and almost normal, which is honestly kinda wild.
At the show Ars Nova head honcho Mark Christman announced that the organization will be doing more things at the cemetery, exciting both cause it’s a very good spot for socially-distant concerts and it’s in my neighborhood. I’ll be talking to Christman later this month about their pandemic programming as well as the Milford Graves exhibit they’re presenting over at the Institute for Contemporary Art on Penn’s campus. That opens on the 25th and runs through January of next year so you have plenty of time to check out what is undoubtedly going to be a fantastic retrospective of the drummer’s music and art from over the past half century.
Read more about that on their website and also check out this cool picture Ars Nova shared of Graves selling hand-painted records alongside pianist Don Pullen back in 1967:
But you know what’s coming up a lot sooner than the 25th? Tonight! There are two different things to check out this evening, starting at 7pm with Great Circles Radio and This Green Earth, a bi-weekly show from DJ Carl Ritger focusing on the “exploration of music – and non-music – surveying experimental murmurings from around the world.” That means a bunch of field recordings, some musique concrète, and generally just some real pleasant and interesting stuff. You can check out past shows over on the Great Circles Soundcloud.
At 8:45 pm, open a new tab – or if you’re in West Philly and the weather is cooperating, wander on by the Suzuki Piano Academy at 47th and Cedar and have a socially-distanced seat outside – and tune in to the monthly Warp Factor 9 show! As you might know from reading previous columns, I’m a big fan of this series and the real mix of classical, jazz, and more that curator Erica Corbo brings in each and every time. Tonight it’s a stripped down lineup of the always fun band Upholstery and a set from jazz pianist Micah Graves.
On Sunday the Philly Folksong Society is presenting a concert from living legend Tom Paxton. Coming up on 60 years in the biz, Paxton is the folk singer’s folk singer, a musician, educator, and storyteller up there with Pete Seeger and Odetta. I really like this quote from fellow folkie Holly Near that the PFS used in their preview: “Every folk singer I know has either sung a Tom Paxton song, is singing a Tom Paxton song, or will soon sing a Tom Paxton song. Now either all the folk singers are wrong, or Tom Paxton is one hell of a songwriter.” How can you beat that? Also, Paxton wrote one of my favorite songs about the postal service, 1982’s “The Mail Will Go Through.”
Even though right now is a very difficult time to try and make a living as an artist, it’s not impossible. It just, you know, requires a bit more work that before. On Monday the 21st, The Rotunda is hosting an online workshop called “Funding Your Art in Pandemic Times” that aims to help out. There are more details and a signup link over on their website.
Before I get to the rest of the dates on my calendar, I want to talk a little bit about some of the new music that’s come out so far this month. First up is Songs to Yeet at the Sun, the 12” from Soul Glo that was announced a week ago. Sure it might not be released yet – though the pre-sale is almost sold out! – but they did premier a single off of it and that alone pushes it to the top of the list. Stream “(Quietly) Do The Right Thing” below, read our review over here, and also be sure to check out the new episode of Under The First Floor podcast that’s all about the band.
Something else that was announced recently that I am incredibly excited about is the new one from no wavers EAT, who along with Soul Glo are one of my favorite young bands in Philly. There are now two tracks from That Dirty Roach! up on Bandcamp and you should definitely listen to both of them on repeat because they’re just plain great. That tape is coming out on World Gone Mad – home to Destructos, Blank Spell, Haldol, S-21, and many more – and is up for pre-order now with delivery planned for Mischief Night.
This Friday the long-awaited Spots of Time LP from the brilliantly catchy minimal synth band Plastic Ivy is finally coming out. I’ve been a huge fan of Plastic Ivy since Lira first started the project a few years ago and I can’t wait to hear all her new songs.
Also that day – and this is a total 180 from minimal synth – the third in the Folkadelphia-curated Co-Mission compilation series is being released. While Folkadelphia’s Fred Knittel has not given any hints as to who is on this one, a quick glance at the two previous comps shows a real top notch mix of artists from folk, bluegrass, country, and more and so I am very sure that volume three is going to be excellent. Plus Fred got noted designer Darryl Norsen to do the cover for this one and it is just sublime.
In that same vein is the new album from Joe Jack Talcum, Dead Milkmen guitarist and really one of the finest songwriters in Philadelphia. This collection, called Joe Jack Talcum Sings Railroad Bill and Other Songs, showcases Joe’s love of the classic American songbook with a mix of traditionals and originals that really ought to be traditionals.
He’s been playing many of these songs live for the past few years – a couple months ago he even did a full set of Woody Guthrie tunes that’s now been archived on YouTube – and I’m very exited that they’re finally down on record. I’m especially fond of his version of the title song, which has been done by everyone from Joan Baez to Bob Dylan to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and you really can never go wrong with a cover of “True Love Will Find You In The End” by the late, great Daniel Johnston.
Speaking of tradition, Rosh Hashanah is coming up this weekend. Along with your honey cake, shofar blowing, and anti-fascist protesting I’d really recommend blasting this new klezmer track from clarinetist Michael Winograd and pals, including West Philly’s own Dan Blacksberg on trombone. Bring in 5781 with a bang!
Also be sure to check out that No Thank You record that was just announced, videos from Cranes Are Flying and Manikineter, and the newest track released from the upcoming Teenage Halloween full length on Don Giovanni.
I know I say this just about every column but you really need to head over to the Freedom Has No Bounds blog and listen to everything they’re posting. There is no better Philly punk history website out there and they are constantly uploading more content. This week I’ve been really into Word Made Flesh, a band described on the site as “the Squirrelbait of the Lehigh Valley,” as well as the aggressive mid-80s goth punk of Fade to Black/Savage Silence (same band, different names). It’s all really rad stuff and you owe it to yourself to take a deep dive.
No surprise, the number of open tabs on my browser is slowly creeping towards infinity and most of them are either music, food, or politics. Mostly music. I’ve been meaning to watch this clip from 1967 of local psych rock band Mandrake Memorial playing at The Trauma – 2121 Arch St. – and when I finally got around to it I was blown away by how cool it all is.
My knowledge of this stuff is not as good as it should be and I’m always trying to find out more. If you’re in the same boat I’d recommend reading through John Morrison’s history of Philly psych that we published a few years ago.
One last little bit of history before I get to the final dates on my calendar and wrap this up: the fine folks at DiWulf Publishing have put together a very thorough website of every single show that happened at the famed City Gardens venue up in Trenton. I love looking at old show calendars – you’re shocked, I’m sure – and this site is a treasure trove of information. While you’re getting into that be sure to also check out everything DiWulf has published over the years, especially their history of City Gardens and that upcoming collection of Hard Times zines from the mid-80s.
While this year’s Philly Music Fest had to shift to livestreaming – and broadcasting live on XPN and NPR! – it will still be nice to see some familiar faces during those shows on the 24th and 25th of this month. Performers include Japanese Breakfast, Langhorne Slim, Arnetta Johnson, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and more. Proceeds from the shows will be going towards youth music education programs as well as musician relief efforts. Read more about it on our website.
If you don’t tire yourself out by dancing in your room, on the 26th XPN is hosting a virtual 5K that’s raising money for WXPN Musicians On Call, an organization that “brings live and recorded music to hospital patients” according to their website. Break out your sneakers and sign up to run or walk over here.
On that positive note, I will see all of you in a couple weeks. As always, feel free to hit me up with any tips, suggestions, or anything else on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy.