The Skeleton Key: Celebrate the end of 2020 with two Xmas radio marathons, a Sun Ra lecture from 1971, a bunch of Clash bootlegs and more
Like everything else with this messed up year, there’s no real way to feel comfortable in its ending. Nothing is going change when the clock strikes midnight; we’re still going to be knee-deep in a horrible pandemic. I’m not trying to argue that there isn’t any hope. The vaccine is here – your humble narrator got an experimental version back in April, believe it or not! – and with any luck we will return to some sort of normalcy by springtime.
Until then it’s business as usual here at The Skeleton Key, your bi-monthly column full of new releases, interesting stories, hot gossip, and, for now, a whole calendar of online performances. I am very glad that there was never a time in the past nine months or so that I was at a loss about what to write about here and I think that’s testament to the resilience of the music scene in our fair city.
If you haven’t already, please check out the Best Of 2020 albums and songs we published last week. The rest of our year-end coverage will be up on The Key very soon, including a couple articles I wrote, one of which features a recipe for a delicious pie.
There are two events happening tonight I want to mention quickly before we continue with the rest of the roundup. At 9pm Ars Nova is co-presenting Mars Williams – Psychedelic Furs, The Waitresses, Hal Russell, Peter Brötzmann – and his band doing a Christmas-themed tribute to saxophonist Albert Ayler. Over on the New Jersey Pop Punk Archives YouTube page starting at 8:30pm Brian McGree from Plow United is playing a live set as part of the Quarantunes series. While other performers haven’t been announced, past shows have included members of Bouncing Souls, Weston, Piebald, Farside, and a ton more. It’ll be a fun one, I’m sure.
On the topic of Plow United, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the death earlier this month of Chris Neumann from West Chester punk heroes 2.5 Children Inc. Those two bands were good friends back in the day and Chris even joined Plow to record the excellent Texas Criffer 7” that FOE put out in 1998.
Since leaving the Philly area Chris had been living in Hudson, NY where he was a stone mason and artist. For more about 2.5 check out West Chester Rock City as well as the live recordings posted by Freedom Has No Bounds. Also give a listen to “American Songs Of Hope & Distress,” the album Chris recorded with a backing band including the late Erik Petersen.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the shift from going out to see two, three, sometimes four shows a week for the past two decades to, well, none, and how absolutely weird that is. The music community is home for many of us and while things like online shows and social media in general have allowed us to stay connected, it’s just not the same. I’d urge you to check out the essay by Annie Zaleski that appeared in Uproxx called “The Year Without Concerts And How It Changed Music Discovery” cause it touches on a lot of these topics.
Speaking of things you need to check out, did you know that you can listen to a lecture by Sun Ra from “The Black Man in the Cosmos” course he taught at Berkeley back in ‘71? It’s incredible. I mean, I know, big surprise. But seriously, if you have any interest in Sun Ra and the Arkestra you owe it to yourself to dig into this talk and the attached reading list.
Related: if the new Sun Ra Arkestra album Swirling doesn’t make everyone’s top 10 list I’m going to be pissed! I don’t normally make a habit of checking out those types of year-end pieces, if just cause I have a hard time ranking music, but this year I’m definitely making an exception.
There are a couple podcasts that dropped in the past couple weeks that I’d recommend listening to. “Under the First Floor” has been going strong during quarantine and just released episodes with new death metal band Spesimin, “improv doomy noise” act Ooloi, and The Fragiles, which can be considered the house band since it’s the project of podcast creator David Settle. There’s also a new podcast called “In The Dark” done by Rachel from the band Eat and on their most recent episode they interviewed indie rockers The Ricos.
I know this is like the third Skeleton Key in a row I’ve talked about Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females but she keeps on putting out new stuff and it’s not like I’m going to ignore that! This time around it’s an absolutely lovely video for a song she did with Joe Steinhardt from Don Giovanni Records in a duo called Modern Hut. Their new album I Don’t Want To Get Adjusted To This World will be coming out in a couple weeks and I am so excited for it.
As far as stuff that’s out now, there’s a ton to talk about so let’s get started!
Astute Palate – S/T
The debut album from this super group – Emily Robb (Louie Louie), Daniel Provenzano (Writhing Squares), David Nance (David Nance), and Richie Charles (Watery Love) – is everything that it needs to be and then some. This is some noisy, fun, and exceptionally catchy rock n’ roll and I am here for it. (Read an interview with the band and The Key’s Brian Wilensky here.)
Stagger – Abuse of Power
There is a certain amount of joy that can be found in turning the feedback all the way up and just making a racket. But you can’t just make noise; there has to be something else going on. Stagger is a band that’s figured out that equation to a T. On Abuse of Power, their debut album, the band crashes through nine d-beat punk songs in 18 minutes, including a really rad cover of “You Tear Me Up” by the Buzzcocks.
Dridge – Ruby
If there was ever a band I wished everyone knew about, it would be Dridge. The three piece have been at it for almost a decade but rarely play out. While they used to be more of a doom metal band, these days their sound is firmly in the world of gothy post-punk, even if they’re still writing 10 minute long songs. The tracks on Ruby remind me of bands like No Trend and Christian Death. This tape, released on the ever-busy World Gone Mad Records, is more demo than anything else. Their full length will be coming out next year.
Drivel – Swallow EP
This isn’t totally new – it came out last month – but I’ve been meaning to write about Drivel for a while now. It very much feels like snowstorm music, which is why I was reminded to include it in this edition. The duo of Joe DeCarolis (Psychic Teens, Exmaid, Hurry) and Sam Levine (Mt. Billions) have been creating some very pretty and interesting post-punky electronic stuff together over the past few months and have released a full length and two EPs. I’m hoping this continues after the pandemic because it’s really good.
Moor Mother and Billy Woods – BRASS
This just came out and isn’t even streaming yet so I don’t totally know what this sounds like and I’m not going to pretend. That being said, it’s Moor Mother, it’s Billy Woods, and if it’s anything like “Furies,” the track they put out a few months ago, it’s brilliant. Spoiler alert: it’s definitely brilliant. The physical edition won’t be released until March but you can buy a digital copy now over on the Backwoodz website and listen to a preview on their Instagram.
Before I get back into the calendar I also wanted to share this new video from Palberta because it’s wonderfully fun and really makes me miss watching them play live:
If you’re anything like me, you can use a dance party right now. Thankfully DJ Baby Berlin has put together a night of new wave and synthpop called “Domino Dancing” that she’s hosting tomorrow night on Twitch. Sure it’s not the same as being at the club but if you really need that moment of realism just walk out into the snow for a few minutes and smoke a cigarette or pretend someone you’re with is smoking a cigarette. Magic!
Monday afternoon the American Jewish Museum has put together a concert celebrating the life and career of Flory Jagoda, a legendary Ladino singer and songwriter. If you’re not familiar with Ladino, that’s the language spoken by Sephardic Jews in the post-Inquisition diaspora. Jagoda is turning 97 that day and although she no longer performs, the museum will be broadcasting an older concert and also hosting a live Q&A with her granddaughter Betty.
On Christmas Eve a group of musicians including folks from Snacktime and Trap Rabbit are going to be performing in Clark Park in West Philly during a toy and coat drive so be sure to swing by between 12-4 and bring something to donate.
Be sure to hurry home because at 5 p.m. Jon Solomon is starting his annual 25-Hour Holiday Radio Show. He won’t be in the WPRB studios because they’re still shut down but he will be doing the whole thing live from his home. I’m excited. Also, you know I’m going to be switching back and forth between Jon and WXPN’s Robert Drake who is also doing a Christmas marathon – his starts at midnight – because they’re both great and I don’t like to play favorites.
I don’t have anything on my calendar for New Year’s Eve but I’m sure you can figure something else out. If you need a soundtrack for your virtual get togethers, I’d recommend this excellent goth and punk playlist put together by the Dolphin’s Unknown Pleasures DJ crew or maybe just listening to all four Philadelphia Clash bootlegs that Freedom Has No Bounds just posted. That’s Walnut Street Theater from ‘79, Tower Theater from ‘80, Penn Rink from ‘82, and The Spectrum in ‘84. How cool is that?!
Before I end this, I want to plug experimental industrial two piece Sour Spirit and their new hotline for getting samples of people screaming for a track they’re releasing at the end of the month. If you need a little catharsis – and I’m sure you do – call the number and yell. Check their Instagram for more information.
That is it for this edition of The Skeleton Key. I will see all of you in January. Here’s to new beginnings! As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy with any hot tips.