The Skeleton Key: This year Halloween fell on a weekend - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Just because we’re not having any Halloween cover shows doesn’t mean that this isn’t the Halloween edition of The Skeleton Key. There’s still scary movies, candy to rot your teeth, chilly weather, and everything else that is important for the end of October. There’s just no … cover shows. Okay, fine, this is a sub-par Halloween. I’ll admit it. But like with everything else, the only real option is to try and make the best of it.

That’s not to say there’s nothing happening for the next two weeks. Far from it! I have a full calendar of things to tell you all about it, including some Halloween-themed events, and a ton of new music to talk about. So grab some candy corn – I don’t know about you but I’ve never been a hater – turn up the Ink & Dagger or maybe some Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and let’s get started.


I wanted to kick this off with a bunch of horror movies cause if you’re not watching horror movies in October I don’t know what your problem is. They don’t even have to be a gory or gross slasher, either: over at The Mann they’re doing drive-in screenings of Ghostbusters on Wednesday and Friday of this week and on the 28th and 30th it’s Beetlejuice. Also tonight the Ambler Theater is showing a bunch of local horror short films online via their website.

Related: I’m a big fan of everything the folks over at Cinepunx do and they always step it up this time of year. Check out thisCineween article by Nic Spacek about the sometimes great, sometimes bizarre, but always entertaining horror movie trope in music videos.

There are two different shows happening on the 23rd, one in-person and the other online. This is a bit of a disclaimer or whatever but it needs to be said – anything that I’m promoting in this column has to be safe. Masks, social distancing, the works. When I’m putting this together I make sure to check but you should always double check.

Out at Milo’s Meeting House in Chestnut Hill saxophonist Elliott Levin is throwing himself a bit of a birthday bash. You might know Elliott from his frequent gigs around Philly – the fact that it’s been months since I’ve seen him walking with his instruments slung over his back heading to a show is actually criminal – but if you don’t you should make it a point to get familiar with his music cause he’s been at it for a long time. I’d recommend the New Ghost recordings but really you can’t go wrong with any of it.

Also that night Chaka Benson is doing a set of modular synth music. I very much enjoy Chaka’s stuff and always love watching someone play those kinds of instruments cause there’s a lot of plugging and unplugging of cables and the whole looks like magic. You can see that on the Nick’s Virtual Garage Facebook page.

On the 24th ska punk greats Living Colour are doing a show at the Ardmore Music Hall. There are a limited number of seats available inside – bid on those here – but the whole thing will be livestreamed. While watching from home is free, they will be pushing for donations to support the band and the AMH staff so give, give, give.

Sunday and Monday night Jamaaladeen Tacuma is bringing another installment of his Outsiders Music Festival to the internet. This is always one of my favorite annual events and I’m glad they’ve figured out how to keep it going during these times. There is something absolutely wonderful about Jamaaladeen’s bass playing and I’m stoked to tune in to this show, which will include performances from trumpeter Jaimie Branch, Turkish singer Saadet Turkoz, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, along with a bunch more. I wrote about Jamaaladeen a couple years ago and you can check that out here.

On Thursday the 29th Fire Museum Presents is coming out of hibernation with an online show focused on the work of visual artist Erik Ruin and his musical collaborators. Those include familiar faces from Ruin’s Ominous Cloud Ensemble like Tara Middleton and DM Hotep – also from the Sun Ra Arkestra – and guitarist Nick Millevoi. I’m hoping Fire Museum continues to do stuff cause they’re definitely one of my favorites bookers in the city when it comes to this kind of music.

That evening Lady Alma is performing from World Cafe Live. The house singer has been super busy this year, releasing an album of remixes and guesting on a ton of tracks including one by Swift Technique, and I’m certain it’ll be a treat to see her.

On Friday the 30th there are three different shows to choose from. Ars Nova Workshop is presenting guitarist Nels Cline with percussionist Yuka Honda in a duo called CUP. Cline might be best known for his time in Wilco but he’s played in bands across the musical spectrum including Geraldine Fibbers, fIREHOSE, Buffalo Daughter, and the Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York.

This new act with percussionist Honda put out a great album last year on Northern Spy records. It makes sense that it would be brilliant since Honda – also Cline’s wife – was in Cibo Matto. How cool is that?!

Teenage Halloween, a band whose members weren’t even born when Cibo Matto were first around, are also playing a virtual gig that night. This will be the record release for the power pop seven piece. Their new one, a self-titled, was put out by Don Giovanni and is totally awesome. Read more about that in our review.

The final event that Friday is a Halloween show by The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret. While it’s definitely not the same as seeing the group live – they just celebrated their 15th anniversary and are truly on their way to becoming a Philadelphia institution – this should hopefully tide you over until they can be back to performing in person.

Also don’t forget that Robert Drake will be on XPN that night with a spooky episode of Land of the Lost! After writing about Robert’s yearly Peel Sessions show in August I’ve become even more of a fan and I know he’s going to put together something fantastic for Mischief Night.

Halloween was supposed to be that Einsturzende Neubauten show at Union Transfer and I am going to be sad about this until probably next summer when they can finally come back over. While I don’t think I’ll be spending Saturday night sitting around and listening to Neubauten – though you could do a lot worse! – I am planning on tuning into the live feed from Johnny Brenda’s and watching DJ Baby Berlin spin a bunch of new wave, post-punk, synthpop, and more.

That afternoon you should head to Clark Park and watch The Philadelphia Women’s Slavic Ensemble sing some songs. The group has been doing a series of outdoor shows all month long and while they can’t do their normal Halloween ‘scaroling’ they are doing one big performance.

A couple weeks back I got to see them on Buckingham Place – a small strip of a street in West Philly that has a very long and storied musical history – and it was wonderful.

I have a ton of new music to talk about so let’s get on that!

I know I mentioned this last month but now it’s finally coming out so I figured you needed a reminder. No wave freak punk from some of my favorite weirdos in Philly. The tape will be released by World Gone Mad on Devil’s Night, which is quite appropriate. It’ll also be a benefit for West Philly community center LAVA Space so it’s really a win/win situation going on. Also while you’re at it check out Itchy Kisses, a project from EAT guitarist Rachel, who also just put out an album.

A year ago Richie Records put together a residency at Ortlieb’s and I made sure to go to every single one of those shows. One of the coolest acts that played was Astute Palate, a real knockdown rock n roll band with David Nance, Emily Robb, Richie, and Daniel Provenzano. They finally got around to recording and I am so excited for this one.

Temple of Bon Matin is one of the best … wait, I don’t even know why I’m trying cause I’ll never be able to compete with this official description from their longtime label, Bulb Records: “If a gang of smelly welding students broke into your house, force-fed you PCP, tore the place apart, all the while some maniac banging on your doors with two ball peen hammers, that would have to be Temple of Bon Matin.” It was punk, sure, but it was also psych, drone, jazz, and so much more.

This is a band that I really miss seeing. Drummer and bandleader Ed Wilcox has been a fixture in the noise and avant scenes in Philly for years and is a perfect weirdo – someone once told me that he spent some time as a set designer on Double Dare, which probably makes sense – and these live recordings really capture everything the band is about. My favorite from this collection is of course the show that I’m pretty sure I attended: 2/21/2003 at the Catbox in West Philly, on the aforementioned Buckingham Place. With a full band including trumpet and synths this was a cacophony of a performance. Also make sure to check out the write-ups attached to each set cause they’re all appropriately hilarious.

If you listened to just the first track of the new Grave Blankets album you’d think, “Oh I get it, it’s post-rock. It’s got all the elements of post-rock. It’s obviously post-rock.” But you’d be wrong, starting about three minutes into the second song when everything starts getting more dissonant and just overall pretty bleak. By the end of this half hour long album the only structure left is the heavy, rhythmic percussion with everything else having been overtaken by static, tape loops, and other manipulated samples. I’m so into it.

I know this is a concept album but I’m not totally clear on what the concept is, though I am very tempted to order a physical copy if just because it comes with a book containing art and a story that relates to the music. Also, I really just like approach to things. More bands should put out books alongside their records. Make it happen, people!

If you’re anything like me you are constantly trying to find more things to watch or listen to. I mean, that’s why I do this column, especially these days. So to that end I have a quick list of podcasts you should check out:

Estrus PodShack: This monthly podcast is put together by the fine folks at Estrus Records, a label out of Bellingham, Washington that’s been going strong for more than three decades. Lots of cool rock n’ roll, lots of conversations about rock n’ roll. It’s all quite charming. What’s this have to do with Philadelphia? Well, episode seven – that’s the one that just came out – includes a brand new song from local garage rockers RunHideFight. Pretty cool!

Under The First Floor: On this podcast, which we’ve talked about before in the pages of The Key, host David Settle records bands in his West Philly basement and then interviews them. It rules. Start with the most recent episode – Laser Background – and work your way backwards. I’ve only listened to the Soul Glo, Patti, and Vacation sets but I’m excited to delve into the rest of it.

Plow United / 2 Plus 2: Sean’s Secret Drum Mixtape: As you can probably tell from the title, this is more of a mix than anything else. But at the same time, it’s not just any mix. This was put together by Sean Rule, longtime drummer of Plow United, one of the best bands to come out of West Chester. While they might be back in hibernation, this Spotify mixtape is a really fun trip into Plow’s history as well as a great way to understand what made this band so awesome. Related: Plow’s Joel Tannenbaum recently released a Halloween-centric single with his current project Code of The Jaguar. Now if we could only get some new Rentiers recordings

Maximum Rocknroll Radio: The folks behind venerated punk zine Maximum Rocknroll have been doing some sort of radio show for years. These days it’s shifted to the internet and on the most recent episode they included three Philly bands – YDi, Solarized (which includes frequent Key contributor Alex Smith), and Franklin – alongside heavy hitters Born Against, Swiz, Behead The Prophet NLSL, Huggybear, and more.

Before I end this I wanted to bring up some sad news: Angela Hayes, better known as Angie Mima, passed away earlier this week. Angie spent years in Philly, first in the mid-80s and later in the early 2000s. While she played in bands – Barely Human, Spat, The Jail Hagz – she was a lot more than just another musician. She was a punk, through and through, and very much an active member of her community. As someone who had been in the scene for a long time she served as a bit of a mentor to a lot of people, especially women, and was well-loved around the country and really around the world. There’s a GoFundMe set up to help with funeral expenses and if you can throw a few bucks towards the family I’m sure it would be appreciated.

One final little bit of Halloween content before we bring this column to a close: since last year I ran through some of the best cover sets I’ve seen I figured that this year I’d show some pictures I took at those shows. If there’s anything that’s going to get us through the current moment, it’s remembering that another world is possible and that next year’s Halloween is going to be INCREDIBLE.

photo by Yoni Kroll
photo by Yoni Kroll
photo by Yoni Kroll
photo by Yoni Kroll

Remember, you can always get at me via Twitter at @talkofthetizzy with any hot gossip. I’ll see y’all next month!

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