The Skeleton Key: Kick off December with klezmer, cicadas, new music from C Trip A and Nick Millevoi, and a ton of Philly pride
Believe it or not, I have a lot of pride in Philadelphia. I know, I know. Shocking. The guy that writes the column about stuff happening in the city loves the city! But seriously: I love Philadelphia. I don’t think we’re perfect or in any way infallible but honestly that’s part of the charm of living here. Who wants to be perfect? Sounds exhausting.
All that is to just point out how giddy I get when our overlooked music scene gets a little nationwide attention. And by ‘giddy’ I mean I want to shout to the heavens about how excited I am. Thankfully the nice folks at The Key gave me this space especially for that.
Last week it was GG from Soul Glo playing bass in a socially-distanced all star band that included basically all of the headliners from Warped Tour 2005: Adam Turla from Murder By Death, Brody Dalle from The Distillers, Frank Iero from My Chemical Romance, and Tucker Rule from Thursday. They did an amazing cover of “Walking On Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox for the Two Minutes To Late Night podcast.
This week it’s John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats singing the praises of Moor Mother as part of the “What’s In Your Bag” series by Amoeba Records and Mike Watt from the Minutemen having Temple of Bon Matin’s Ed Wilcox on his podcast. How cool is that?!
Hello and welcome to yet another edition of The Skeleton Key, your twice-a-month update on everything going on in our fair city. A quick bit of housekeeping before I get started with the calendar: everything I talk about is online or virtual, even if that’s not specified. There is a lot to get to and I want to kick everything off with two events happening tonight.
Over on the Cowgirl Records Instagram, Nina Ryser and Ani Ivry-Block, both from Palberta, will be playing songs from their recent solo albums. Ryser put out Paths of Color in October and Ivry-Block released New Excuses just a couple weeks ago and they are both awesome. Also this evening, the Institute of Contemporary Art in West Philly and Penn Records are hosting a concert via Zoom in conjunction with the ongoing Milford Graves exhibit. If you’re not familiar, you can read about the drummer, professor, and inventor over here. While museums are temporarily closed, the ICA and Ars Nova Workshop have stepped up their online programming and I’m very excited for what they’ve put together this month. Tonight’s show even has a coloring book – YES, A MILFORD GRAVES COLORING BOOK – you can print out from the ICA website.
Oddly enough, this isn’t the only coloring book we’re talking about this column. Photographer Farrah Skeiky has published “Paint My Life: A Live Music Coloring Book” based on her absolutely incredible pictures taken at punk and hardcore shows over the years. Even though Skeiky is based in Washington D.C. she has a love for Philly bands and this book includes shots of S-21, Screaming Females, Paint It Black, and Soul Glo.
Speaking of Screamales, check out this fantastic video of guitarist Marissa Paternoster on Shellshonic Shag-O-Vision, the YouTube series done by the always-awesome duo Shellshag. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (okay, maybe you won’t cry), and you will definitely enjoy the cover of Melanie Safka’s “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” the three of them do together. Also, when’s the last time you saw Marissa play an acoustic guitar?! (Wait a minute…she did in September for Lava Space’s Broken Roof Session. Read about that in my October column.) Anyway, it’s all the more reason to check this out.
Sunday night indie rockers Static Shapes are having a record release show on their website. Their debut album Give Me The Bad News comes out tomorrow. You can read more about the band in this writeup we did about them last month.
There’s actually a bunch of new music to get to so let’s pause the calendar for a minute and run through all that. I have two exclusive previews this edition of The Skeleton Key and I’m very excited about that so let’s start there:
C Trip A – “Thought Streams” (Jesu Mix)
We talked about C Trip A back in May but in case you weren’t paying attention or for some reason have forgotten let me refresh your memory. The two piece noise hip hop group is Christian McKenna on electronics and Anthony Adams on vocals – the C and A, respectively – and their album Ozzy Nights came out on Translation Loss in June. It’s really good. Like, really, really good. At the time I referenced Dälek and Zonal and I stand by that, especially because this new track they just released is a remix done by none other than Justin Broadrick AKA Jesu AKA one half of Zonal. Nailed it!
C Trip A in the studio | Photo courtesy of the artist
Nick Millevoi – Streets of Philadelphia
Last year I took a trip around Philadelphia with guitarist and composer Nick Millevoi to a number of the streets he wrote these songs about. You really should check that article out cause it was a lot of fun. I also got to see the ensemble he put together play the songs live. The whole thing is awesome not just for the music – though with a lineup including Dan Blacksberg on trombone, Veronica MJ on viola, Anthony DiBartolo on marimba and percussion, and Tom Kraines on cello there’s no way the tunes are going to be anything short of great – but also because it’s a total love letter to Philadelphia.
Nate Dionne – Love Is Always Worth It
Dogs on Acid. Glocca Morra. Yankee Bluff. Freakin’ Snowing. Nate Dionne has been in some cool bands over the years. If you like any of those bands, and how can you not like at least one of them, you’ll very much enjoy this collection of songs. Also, Dan Angel – Ugh God, Sun Organ, and at least a million other groups – plays drums. This is some real sweet stuff and you should give it a spin.
Reef The Lost Cauze & Haj of Dumhi – The Airing Of Grievances
A lot has already been said about Reef’s new one and I’m not going to pretend I have anything particularly deep to add to the chorus of solid reviews – check out ours! – for what is truly an excellent album. No, I’m here to do two things: the first is to point out just how good this is and how you definitely need to pick up a copy and the second is to mention how stoked I was at the line in the title track referencing hardcore band Wisdom In Chains. I remember when Reef shared a bill with heavy metal freaks Zorn at the Kahlil Ali tape release show a couple years ago so this isn’t surprising. Though I’ll be honest: when I heard that line I definitely screamed a little.
Various Artists – Nativity In Frank: A Tribute To Stickboy
This is a unique comp for a number of reasons. It’s a tribute to the music of Frank Ross, a … let me just quote the Bandcamp here: “Stickboy is Frank Ross, a hyper-obscure outsider who I befriended when he was living in Dover, Delaware. He is originally from Atlantic City and has since moved back. Frank’s music is unlike anything else. From his electronic ‘Twist’ album that he created in Pocketband on his phone, to his rapid-fire lo-fi punk creations, to his free improv on the toy xylophone or ukulele.”
If that wasn’t cool enough already, the comp contains the final song that Casey Grabowski recorded before he passed away last year. Grabowski was the founder of Philly Zine Fest, a DJ, a musician, and a truly beloved figure in myriad scenes both here and in Delaware. His track on this comp was recorded when he was in the hospital at the end of his two year battle with pancreatic cancer. The song he does is called “Inferno” – yes it’s a Dante reference, yes that seems quite fitting for someone who was nearing death, and yes I’m sure Casey found that pretty amusing – and was released under the moniker Hidden Garden.
Though it’s not an album, I also want to promote the most recent LAVA Space Broken Roof Session. The community space on Lancaster Ave has been holding an ongoing fundraiser to help fix up the roof and over the past few months that’s included having musicians up there to record short sets. This month’s artist is by TCG BeatZ, a rapper who runs a recording studio in the building and has been hanging out there since she was a kid. You can read more about LAVA and the sessions they’ve been doing on our website.
While you’re at it also check out West Philly Orchestra performing a socially-distanced version of their song “Pole Grease” on the WHYY House Concert Series. I miss WPO so much and it was really nice to see them in this rather fun video.
Getting back to the calendar there are two very different events happening on Tuesday the 8th but I’m going to include them in the same couple paragraphs because there’s no way I’m the only person who wants to attend both. At 5 p.m. the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania is hosting an event on the histories of listening to cicadas in Japan, Greece, and Papua New Guinea. Cicadas are cool and I am super interested in hearing all about their cultural and historical importance.
Later that evening the Intercultural Journeys music series is presenting a concert by klezmer trumpeter Susan Hoffman Watts. I recently wrote about Susan’s late mom Elaine Hoffman Watts and grandfather Jacob Hoffman and their contributions to Philadelphia music and in the process I listened to a bunch of recordings that Susan and Elaine did together. It’s all absolutely beautiful stuff.
On Thursday Ars Nova and the Free Library of Philadelphia are hosting a discussion with Jake Meginsky, the director of the 2018 documentary Milford Graves Full Mantis. You can watch the film about the visionary drummer and polymath for free via Kanopy on the Free Library’s website. While you’re at it be sure to check out the Mondays With Milford programming over on the ICA website cause they’re showing clips of when Graves was in Japan studying under the brilliant dancer Min Tanaka.
On Saturday the 12th Loudon Wainwright III is playing a Philadelphia Folksong Society concert, which is exciting. The patriarch of the Wainwright musical family has been at it for 50 years and just put out a new album called I’d Rather Lead a Band. But this isn’t just an ordinary (virtual) concert! No, this is Holiday Cheer from Loudon Wainwright III, which according to the PFS means that, “Loudon will present holiday songs, stories, and poems performed virtually in front of his very own fireplace in Suffolk Co., NY.”
The following afternoon Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, the West Philly-based Arab arts and language organization, is hosting an event bringing together Arab-American writers and musicians. I’m most excited about poet Naomi Shihab Nye – currently the U.S. Young People’s Poet Laureate and an absolutely incredible voice – and cellist Kinan Abou-afach but the whole lineup is great.
Alright! We are just about done. Before I end this I want to offer up a heartfelt congratulations to Polkadelphia bandleader and tuba player extraordinaire Dan Nosheny for getting the gig playing on the brand new Animaniacs series. Not joking, you can hear Dan on a number of songs on the rebooted cartoon, including this one:
How cool is that?! You can read more about Polkadelphia and hear some of their songs in the piece we did about the band last year.
Let me know how you feel about any of this over on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy. See y’all in a couple weeks for THE FINAL SKELETON KEY OF 2020!