The Skeleton Key: March comes in like a lion with 24 hours of techno, the Night of 1,000 Kates, a Gene Shay birthday party, and a bunch of Bandcamp Friday recs including new Soul Glo
I’m not going to say that I’m feeling optimistic about things, cause I’m not, but now, one year into this horrible mess, I at least have a little bit of hope for the future. We might not be that that much closer to reaching an end point but I am encouraged by all the people getting vaccinated, including my mom and hopefully your mom, too. I still can’t imagine anything “returning to normal,” whatever that means, but the light at the end of the tunnel is certainly brighter than it was before.
Related: I’ve been quite amused to hear friends talk about getting their shots at the Theatre of Living Arts on South Street. While given a choice, I’d prefer the cool DIY punk vaccine from Union Transfer – Dear City of Philadelphia: please hit up R5, I’m sure they’d be down to help out – that’s still pretty cool.
Hello and welcome to the first Skeleton Key of March! I’m not going to look back on what I wrote this time last year but suffice to say that a lot has changed. Everything was canceled. Venues have closed. People have died. The horribleness of this situation is really beyond description and it’s not going away anytime soon. But yet in many ways we’ve managed to adapt and persevere and it feels necessary to focus on that. That’s definitely what I’ve been doing in this column for the past dozen months so let’s keep it going!
There are a ton of events going on over the next couple weeks and it’s also Bandcamp Friday this week so there’s a lot to get to. I’ll start things off with the two things on my calendar for tonight: at 7pm Jazz Bridge is broadcasting an archived concert with Monnette Sudler (Sounds of Liberation) and her band from 2017 and at 8:30pm Fire Museum Presents is showing the latest in the series of videos they’ve put together for their 20th anniversary, this one featuring performances from Susan Alcorn and Rosie Langabeer with Neil Feather.
On Thursday it’s the annual Night of 1,000 Kates, the Kate Bush tribute event that’s been happening here in Philly since 2014. While they won’t be able to gather in person, of course, the wonderful freaks who absolutely packed Underground Arts last year have put together an online program that I can’t imagine will be anything less than brilliant. The theme is the song “Deeper Understanding” off of her 1989 album The Sensual World (and rerecorded in 2011 for Director’s Cut), a track that is about the relationship between people and technology. Sounds perfect!
Also that night on WKDU 91.7FM at 6pm there will be a tribute to Duprex Snape, a reggae DJ and a real voice in the Caribbean community who passed away from COVID-19 last week. Duprex was not only excellent at his job but he was a total sweetheart of a human being who served as a mentor to a lot of the undergraduate students during his more than two decades at the station. This is a huge, palpable loss for not just KDU but for Philadelphia. Joining Duprex’s regular co-host Mikey for the memorial show will be his son Terrance Snape who has also been a DJ at KDU for many years.
Friday afternoon The Hold Steady are playing a live Free At Noon that you can hear on XPN and watch via NPR Music Live Sessions. The band just released a new album on Positive Jams called Open Door Policy and I’m excited to tune in and listen to some songs off of it. While I’m no Hold Steady superfan I do love all things Craig Finn – don’t get me started on Lifter Puller cause you’ll never hear the end of it – and Franz Nicolay. The latter has a strong Philly connection: he appeared on the Mischief Brew LP Smash The Windows in 2005 and four years later his band Guignol collaborated with the late, great Erik Petersen on the terrificFight Dirty album.
On Saturday the LEFT RITE crew have put together ComfyCast, an entire 24 hours of house, techno, drum and bass, and who knows what else. There are a ton of DJs performing and they really are coming from all different parts of the electronic music world, which I appreciate. It’s one thing to be at a warehouse party and really vibe with what the DJ is spinning and not want it to end and it’s another thing to be at home tuning in via Twitch. Having basically constant turnover will keep the music interesting and the party going through the night. Plus this is a fundraiser for Prevention Point and that rules.
Also that day Tom Rush, Susan Werner, Ben Arnold, and more are playing a concert in honor of the late Gene Shay, the longtime XPN DJ and Philadelphia Folk Festival mainstay who passed away from COVID-19 in April of last year. March 4th would have been Gene’s 86th birthday and this show, being broadcast via Facebook, is a celebration of his life and all his amazing accomplishments over the years. You can read more about it here.
Figuring out arts funding can feel like an incredibly Herculean task sometimes, especially if you haven’t had much previous experience filling out the paperwork for grants. The lovely and patient people at Vision Driven Artists are hosting an “Introduction to Arts Grants” workshop Monday evening that will almost certainly help. Register for that here.
Monday the 8th will also be the debut of the latest in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Our City, Your Orchestra” series. These concerts are “performed by small ensembles, recorded without audiences at Black-owned businesses and iconic cultural locations throughout the region” according to their website. This performance was shot at Taller Puertorriqueño, the community center and art school in Fairhill.
Let’s break here for a second so we can run through the local albums that dropped in the past week or so. Remember that Bandcamp Friday, the day that the music-streaming website waives their processing fees so all proceeds go directly to the bands, is this week. That site has raised millions of dollars for artists and is an easy way to get your hands on some new tunes.
Chaperone – Emotion Hospice
While David Coccagna no longer lives in Philly he will forever be linked to our fair city, for better or worse. That much is made clear on his latest experimental electronic album under the Chaperone moniker, Emotion Hospice, that’s a deep dive into both Coccagna’s own struggles with substance abuse and, as the blurb puts it, “Philadelphia’s history of socio-economic decay and misanthropy.” The resulting tracks, all made up of sounds recorded and manipulated by the Philly native between 2016 and 2019, are a beautiful and multi-layered cacophony. There’s a lot going on here, from tape loops and shortwave recordings to jazz and bossa nova, and I am very excited to get into it all.
Walt Funk – bigirl2020
This new EP from the same bunch of weirdos who brought you EAT and Devil is just as rocking and freaky and fun as you want it to be. The first track kicks off with a downright perfect new wave-y keyboard and it only gets more demented from there. When the world stops being so awful and we can all hang out again I want to go to a Walt Funk dance party!
Synergy Corp – The Fabulous Sounds of Synergy Corp
I want to refer to Synergy Corp as a “new band” but the truth of the matter is that they’ve been around since 2019 and played … well, I think they’ve only played one show, an auspicious debut in September of that year at the Open Sound series in Lansdowne. Total bummer! The band is made up of members of Hound, Wildflowers of America, Yankee Bluff, and Marge and they are without a doubt total new wavers. It’s B-52s, it’s Oingo Boingo, it’s all those fun, exciting, nerdy things done exceedingly well.
Soul Glo – DisNi**a Volume 1
The standard line from Soul Glo over the past few years has been “You’re not going to believe what we do next” and at this point I’ll never doubt them again. They’ve managed to take their influences – punk, screamo, hip hop, trap, metal, emo, and more – and create something that is both obviously the sum of those parts but also absolutely unique and amazing. The first time I listened to the three tracks on this EP I was floored. The second time it hit me even harder. This release quickly jumped to the top of my best of 2021 list and it just came out! The only way it’ll be eclipsed is by a full length. I know, I know: “You’re not going to believe what we do next.” Can’t wait! Also, I love the font choice on this one. Real clever stuff.
Haldol – Negation
If you’re a fan of The Cure or Modern English in their post-punk phases, Chameleons, Rudimentary Peni, or really any aggressively sounding goth band, you will love Haldol. It’s that simple. They are virtually unmatched in Philly when it comes to crafting catchy, interesting, and fun dark punk songs. I’ve been looking forward to this new album for a while now and it pains me that we won’t be able to have a record release show anytime soon. To that end I got in touch with the band and suggested they record a set for me to broadcast on my WKDU radio show, so be sure to tune into that Sunday night at 10 p.m. cause it’s going to be awesome.
There’s a whole lot more that’s coming out this week so be sure to support these bands in whatever way you can.
On top of all those new albums you owe it to yourself to watch this recently-posted video of new wave geniuses The Stick Men playing at the Brandywine Club in Chadds Ford opening up for Gang of Four in the early 80s. Yes, punk shows in Chadds Ford. How wild is that?!
Also be sure to check out everything Freedom Has No Bounds, the Philly punk history blog, has uploaded recently. There are videos of Ruin and Scram, some bootlegs, an album from 9Fireman9 – featuring future Bunnydrum Marc Laurick and Jon Wischmann from one of my favorites Sink Manhattan – and a whole bunch of cool zines from the 80s.
On the topic of Ruin (check the wall, it’s definitely on there), have you seen this video of XPN host and writer John Morrison and his partner from the Serious Rap Shit podcast Josh Indi Leidy decoding the ESPO mural in Old City? It’s great.
Okay, let’s get back into the calendar as there are a few more dates left before I close out this column.
Tuesday the 9th at 6p.m. XPN and Cherry-Veen Zine’s Unprecedented Sessions series will be broadcasting sets from South Philly rockers RedTouchBlack and electronic duo Decouplr, recorded at Germantown’s Sleepless Sound. You can watch those on the XPN Facebook page and get more info here. Also be sure to keep your ear to the radio on the 16th when the station will be playing tracks from the listener-curated “Songs That Got Us Through The Year” playlist. I’m sure that’ll be equal parts sweet and sad.
On Wednesday the 10th, Bowerbird is presenting a set by percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani as part of their Liminal States concerts. That’s the late-night series where musicians “will seek to lead listeners to that magic space between awake and asleep.” Nakatani will be performing on the gongs from his home in New Mexico though you might recognize him as a longtime Philadelphia resident.
Starting on the 12th and running through the 21st, the Lightbox Film Center will be streaming Martha: A Picture Story, the documentary about photographer Martha Cooper and her impact on the graffiti scene in New York City. Sure, that isn’t totally Philly-related but I suspect that if you’re reading this column you’ll probably find that to be a really interesting topic.
That Monday the National Museum of American Jewish History is hosting a night of opera in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s birthday. The noted opera fan would be turning 88. I recently wrote about all the pandemic programming the museum has been doing over the past year and you can check that article out here.
Okay! That is it for me. I want to end this column on a bit of a bittersweet note because that feels very fitting right now. A couple weeks ago Eddie Gieda III, lead singer of An Albatross and everpresent Barbary DJ, finished a year of running at least ten miles a day every day. He started the streak to help deal with the sudden death of his wife and continued it through bad weather, pandemic, even worse weather, and everything else the world has thrown at us over the past 12 months — a process documented in this music video from the aforementioned RedTouchBlack. He posted a video from that 365th day of running and I wanted to share it with all of you.
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with any hot tips at @talkofthetizzy! See you in a couple weeks.