The Skeleton Key: Bandcamp picks, Making Time, a Lebanon fundraiser, and more great things happening this October
I’m not going to lie to you, I definitely felt a certain sense of pride when Trump told the world that “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” during the debate this week. I don’t need it emblazoned on a shirt – unless it was one of those airbrushed ones, then I might be persuaded – but who am I to not enjoy such a resoundingly obnoxious review?
There are bad things that happen here, sure, but at our core Philadelphia is not just good, we’re great. And the idea that some jabroni politician from NYC is going to rile up his shock troops to try and intimidate us is both abhorrent and asinine. This is the city of the Broad Street Bullies, of “No one likes us / We don’t care,” of Mo’ne Davis, of Ink & Dagger, Meek Mill, and I Hate You. You can’t intimidate us! That’s just not how it works.
Welcome to The Skeleton Key, your bi-monthly column where we talk about everything going on in our fair and wonderful city. As always I have a lot to get to so let’s get started!
I want to kick this off with an absolutely fantastic video of Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females and Noun playing some songs on the roof of LAVA Space in West Philly. I miss shows and bands and people and everything else about live music more than I can even begin to explain. While this doesn’t make any of that go away, it was just so nice and normal to see a familiar face at a familiar space. Mind you, I don’t think things will return to normal anytime soon – whatever that means – but I do have hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Today is another Bandcamp Friday and I have a bunch of recommendations for things you should pick up. Let’s start with a couple of one track demos of quarantine bands and go from there:
Leslie // R. Sims Hardin – Sunn
Leslie was in Louie Louie, Sims was in Dark Web, and together they’re … well, together they’re married and have a totally cute kid. But also they recorded this song and it’s a real doozy. There’s some psych vibes, minimal pop, a bit of Portishead, and an almost evil-sounding Krautrock-y drumbeat reverberating behind the whole thing. I seriously can’t wait for the full album.
Quality Control – Worlds Away
This one is a bit more mysterious. I think I know who’s involved but I don’t want to blow anyone’s cover so let’s just use the names on the Bandcamp: Saint Christopher and Saint Matthew. I’m not Catholic but I’m going to assume those are the patron saints of post-punk and synthpop, cause that’s exactly what’s going on with Quality Control and it’s awesome.
Snow Caps – The Highway Inside
Andrew Keller has been recording under the name Snow Caps for more than a dozen years at this point, putting out record after record of awfully pretty songs that run the gamut from lush basement indie rock to folky lo-fi singer songwriter stuff. Don’t even give me that look: if you’ve been to a show in a West Philly basement, you know what I mean by ‘basement indie rock.’
On this new one, called The Highway Inside, the sound has been stripped down and Keller has turned his voice into one of the more dominant instruments on the record. It’s an altogether pleasant album, full of interesting quirks – is that a toy piano I hear? – that gets even better on repeat listens.
Keller announced that all album sales for the next week will be donated to Bunnyhop, “a Philadelphia-based mutual aid group dedicated to food access.”
Cheap Meat – Let’s Eat!
This is the album I’ve been waiting for! I didn’t know it but it’s true. It’s noisy, no-wavey, weird, funky, and F U N. I’ve always been a huge fan of everything singer Jazz Adam has done – most notably Old Maybe, who were fantastic – and this is no exception. Definitely the sort of thing you’re going to listen to over and over so do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the tape, especially since proceeds from today’s sales are going to the Emergency Release Fund.
New Party Systems (songs by David First) – The Best We Can
David First is known for a lot of different things: there’s his groundbreaking post-punk band Notekillers that started here in Philadelphia in the late 70’s, his decades as an experimental composer, and forays into minimal electronic, drone, and some real cool rock n’ roll. On his new one The Best We Can, First tackles pop.
Though he doesn’t play any of the instruments on the album – he left that up to the band he’s assembled called New Party Systems – he did write all the music, lyrics, and arrangements. This is a truly gorgeous piece of music that is ultimately extremely positive in its tone. Say what you will about finding joy in this dumpster fire of a world, but I think it’s necessary and I’m happy for things like this that just plain radiate.
Freaky Wilderness – One Planet Man EP
This is one chill album. Freaky Wilderness is Mike Guggino – you might remember him from This Radiant Boy and Barking Spiders, though these days he lives in Brooklyn and plays in a great rock n’ roll band called Space Merchants – messing around with drum machines, samplers, and whatever else he can get his hands on. The end result is a an absolutely fantastic mix of downtempo and lo-fi hip hop, though mostly without any vocals, that reminds me a lot of Buck 65 and similar artists.
Moor Mother put out a new album a week ago and it goes without saying that you need to check it out. Circuit City is the soundtrack to the play of the same name that she performed at the Fringe last year. The Key’s John Morrison sat down with Camae Ayewa for an absolutely fascinating interview that you can read on our website.
A lot of those Mischief Brew albums are unfortunately very out-of-print so I’m excited that they may be available again soon. Lead singer Erik Petersen passed away four years ago and I still find myself thinking of him and his songs almost every day, especially with everything going on in the world.
Between livestreamed shows and events and a handful of socially-distanced ones my calendar is pretty full, which is great. Everything still sucks, don’t get me wrong, but I’m happy to actually have things to look forward to, even if it means having to watch them on a screen.
Tonight is the kickoff for the Making Time 20th anniversary party which is lasting all weekend long. It’s certainly not the same as dancing in a warehouse until dawn but with a lineup that includes Josh Wink, Hot Chip, Mary Lattimore (who knew!), and of course Zillas on Acid, Dave P and company have put together something that’ll tide us over at least a little bit until we can do this in-person again.
Tomorrow afternoon psych / folk duo Elkhorn are playing a record release show for their new one The Acoustic Storm Sessions on Centripetal Force. They will be joined by guitarist and shahi baaja player Turner Williams Jr., who also appears on the album. That will be broadcast on Facebook. At 7 pm that evening point your browser to TuskFestival.com and watch the always-entertaining GHÖSH absolutely tear it up.
Next week you should try and make it to the Institute of Contemporary Art for the new Milford Graves exhibit that just opened. I got to talk to Mark Christman from Ars Nova, who helped put the whole thing together, and you can read about that over here. Along with everything at the physical space, they’ve also curated a ton of virtual programming, including a bunch of films from Graves’ archives.
On Friday the 9th, one of the best hardcore bands in Pennsylvania, Loose Nukes – one part Philly to three parts former Philadelphians who now live in Pittsburgh – is playing a livestreamed show with Peace Talks and Necro Heads. Even if it pains you to watch music that way, you should still make an effort to check this out cause it’s going to be good.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day Philly has been shifted online and is on Saturday and Monday. That’s the now annual event “bringing Native artists and dignitaries to share their unique perspectives and demonstrate how important is to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Histories, Heritages and Identities across the nation instead of celebrating the myth of Christopher Columbus.” There will be a ton of speakers as well as performances from musicians and dancers including the Campatlanezi (Danza Azteca del Anahuac) Aztec dance troupe and Oglala Lakota rapper Tee Iron Cloud.
The monthly Warp Factor 9 show is on Thursday the 15th and as always it will be livestreamed and curator and MC Erica Corbo will have some socially-distanced seats set up outside the Suzuki Piano Academy on 47th and Ceder, which is where the magic happens. This month’s performers are the avant-pop Settled Arrows and Martronimous, which is described as “a West Philadelphia-based trumpet player and producer mixing jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music.”
The following evening Lightbox Film Center is hosting an online screening of the brand new documentary White Riot about the anti-fascist movement in the late 1970’s punk scene in England. I’ve been wanting to see the film since it was announced a year or so ago and am excited to finally get the chance. Watch the trailer below:
The final date on my calendar is the “Baba and Beer – A Benefit for Beirut” concert on the 18th at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, NJ with a bunch of bands including West Philly Orchestra, the Jaffna World Music Ensemble, and Barakka. Because they are seating all parties at their own tables, there are only so many tickets available for this one. It’s music, food, drink, and merriment, all for a good cause. How can you go wrong with that?
Alright, that is it for this column! Next time will be the Halloween edition of The Skeleton Key and I am always stoked for that, even if this year’s holiday is going to be a bit more subdued than usual. Hit me up with any tips, tricks, or treats at @talkfothetizzy on Twitter. Stay bad!