The Skeleton Key: Join in the chant with these Bandcamp Friday recs, a Philly punk gigography, gospel and hardcore livestreams, jazz lectures, and a Moor Mother dance party
You ever see something that is so absurd that you’re sure it has to be a joke even though you know it’s not? No, I’m not talking about anything related to the pandemic or politics – for once! – but this video from 1987 I watched recently of a bunch of hip teenagers and 20-somethings on the Philly-based Dance Party USA show trying their best to shake it to “Join In The Chant” by industrial greats Nitzer Ebb.
I mean, really, how great is that?! Also one of those dancers is Kelly Ripa, which makes this recently-uploaded clip even more ridiculous and amazing. Maybe you’re having a bad day? Maybe you’re not. But one way or the other watching this will make everything better.
Hello and welcome to yet another edition of The Skeleton Key, your bi-monthly source for all things Philadelphia music. Well, all the things that matter and I can fit in to the column.
There are a ton of events in the next couple weeks but since today is Bandcamp Friday – the first Friday of the month is when the music-hosting website waives their cut of all proceeds – I figured I’d kick this off with a few previews of some local stuff. Obviously this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all list of everything, so be sure to do your own digging or at the very least check out the Bandcamps of some of your favorites and support them in whatever ways you can.
Writhing Squares – Chart For The Solution
I can only imagine the conversation at Writhing Squares HQ when Kevin Nickles (sax, flute, synth) and Daniel Provenzano (bass, vox) were figuring out the details of Chart For The Solution: “What if instead of a normal album … we did a double LP. And we put it out during a global pandemic when we can’t play shows. What a great idea!” But you know what? This is not only one of the best albums that’s come out all year but the proggy psych punk duo has been getting so much press that I imagine they’re well on their way to selling out this Trouble In Mind Records release.
Also if you can’t get enough of Nickles – I’m right there with you – be sure to give a listen to the new album by Allentown rockers Tavern Tan. Tandemic features him not just on sax but also organ and electric guitar.
Phil Yeah – Friends In Power
I know I talked about Phil Yeah in my last column but that was for his previous release, the Grey & Gold cassette. This is Friends In Power, an hour long multi-layered ambient piece made up of field recordings, synths, more synths, and whatever other toys and tools Phil has at his disposal. I’ve seen pictures of his setup and it’s inspiringly complex. While there’s definitely a lot going on with Friends In Power it’s also clear that everything on here is quite intentional. It’s sometimes hard to find the right balance when it comes to this kind of thing but Phil nails it through and through.
On top of putting out a couple excellent albums in the past month, Phil Yeah has also been keeping himself quite busy on the DJ front. Be sure to tune in to the Great Circles website on the 6th to watch him spin ambient, jazz, dub, and more.
Monkey 101 – Rusts, Smuts and Heart Rot
I love digging through record crates. Always have. I’d go so far as to say that the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hours I’ve spent digging have shaped my musical tastes more so than anything else. This was especially true when I was younger and first figuring things out. I’m 41 now so I’ll let you do the math. Back then I’d buy stuff if I recognized the band name – which admittedly was rare – or if the album looked cool and was cheap. As you might imagine I ended up with a lot of duds.
Figuring things out meant not only learning what I liked about music but also learning about the bands and labels. As a budding Philly music nerd I made the decision to buy anything I found that was local and seemed decent. As you might imagine … I ended up with a lot of duds. An important lesson was that anything on Siltbreeze, Rave, or Compulsiv was worth picking up even if I wasn’t totally familiar with the band.
Still, no matter how big a nerd you are, there are still things that will totally pass you by. That was certainly the case with Monkey 101, a noisy and fun indie rock band who I should have heard about before because they put out a 7” on Siltbreeze in 1990 and had a track on a Rave compilation alongside Blue, Immaculate Hearts, and Uptown Bones. Thankfully Sister Raygun Records just reissued their lone LP – is it really a reissue if it never officially came out in the first place? – Rusts, Smuts and Heart Rot and I am very excited to dig into it. I’d put this squarely in the Guided By Voices camp of music, something made even more concrete by knowing that Chino, the post-Monkey 101 band, was asked by GBV to open for them on a string of dates in the early 2000s.
Vitamin – Recordings 1981
I already wrote all about these long-lost songs by Boston no wave art punks Vitamin, featuring longtime West Philly resident Margie Politzer on violin and keys. The album finally comes out this month and I am so stoked. Read the interview we did with Politzer over here and pre-order a copy of the Don Giovanni record.
Civic Mimic – Deep Clean 7”
We might not have any new recordings from New Brunswick / Philly indie rock trio Glazer but this lathe cut 7” from Civic Mimic – that’s Jeff Hersch, drummer of that band – certainly scratches that itch. Hersch plays everything on Deep Clean and even put together this nifty video for the title track. It’s clever, it’s fun, and it’s catchy. What else do you need?!
If you need even more local stuff, and I’m sure you do, be sure to check out what Heavenly Bodies, I Think Like Midnight, Heavy Medical (Portland these days but forever Philadelphia), and King Azaz have recently uploaded to Bandcamp.
My calendar is actually jam packed so let’s switch gears and run through the next two weeks or so of events, starting with tomorrow afternoon’s online concert presented by The Marian Anderson Historical Society. The South Philly museum was recently featured in an NPR article about the struggles many of these smaller institutions are facing after a year of pandemic so it feels extra important to support the work they’re doing. Tomorrow’s event is a selection of spirituals from the great singer’s catalog, presented in honor of the 72nd anniversary of her historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson was mentioned in a Key article about Philly musician gravesites that we published last summer.
Not to jump straight from spirituals into hardcore punk but that’s the way these things work out sometimes. Sunday afternoon Fixation is playing a live set as a bit of an opener to a Q&A with Chaka Malik of NYHC bands Burn and Orange 9mm. You can watch that on Twitch.
Monday is the latest in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Our City, Your Orchestra series where small ensembles play at various landmarks around the city. This one was shot at PAWS and features a string trio performing the works of Beethoven and Mozart. On Tuesday the Philadelphia Jazz Legacy Project is presenting a lecture and discussion about jazz pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali, a local legend – he wasn’t called the Legendary Hasaan for nothing – whose second album is finally being released this month more than 55 years after it was recorded. Very excited for both those things.
On Thursday the 8th, tune in to the American Composers Forum Philadelphia Chapter’s “Artist to Artist Talk” between Dan Blacksberg and Kinan Abou-afach. Blacksberg is a trombonist whose work stretches from klezmer to jazz to avant garde noise and Abou-afach is a cellist and oud player who mixes traditional Arabic melodies with western music traditions including classical, jazz, and musique concrète. They will be discussing their artistic processes and also share recent works.
Also that night Richard Thompson is giving a talk via the Philadelphia Free Library about his newly-released memoir Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967-1975. Thompson will be appearing with Wesley Stace aka fellow folk singer and writer John Wesley Harding for what is sure to be an interesting and lively conversation. The event isn’t free but the price of admission does include a signed copy of the book which feels pretty worth it.
That Friday is the Monthly Fund’s April show, this one featuring Decouplr (recently featured in WXPN and Cherry-Veen Zine’s Unprecedented Sessions series) as well as Hassiem The Dream, K.C. Raniero, and Upholstery. The concert, a benefit for the local hub of the global Sunrise Movement for environmental justice, can be viewed via Instagram. At about the same time the Paul Robeson House is hosting an online concert to celebrate what would be the 123rd birthday of the great singer, actor, and activist and raise money for the museum at 50th and Walnut that honors his legacy.
Saturday night Moor Mother is part of an amazing lineup of musicians including William Basinski, The Garbage Man (Grouper) Dan Deacon, Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Matmos, Maria Chavez, and more who will be DJing a giant virtual dance party to raise money for artists in the Bay Area. I can’t wait to hear what tracks Camae busts out. Can I hear some Nitzer Ebb??
Speaks of Camae, her group Moor Jewelry has been in the studio recently working on a followup to theirTrue Opera tape from last year. I’ve seen a few pictures and it seems like they’ve recruited Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster, which is very cool.
The following Monday, Vision Driven Artists and The Rotunda are hosting a workshop on finances for artists that looks both interesting and quite necessary. You can read more about it and register over here.
The last two dates on my calendar for this column are both on Thursday the 15th. This month’s Warp Factor 9 concert showcases the piano and bass duo Moon! Moon! and improv jazz group After Z Quartet, which features members of the Arkestra, Sonic Liberation Front, and more. It will be broadcast online and weather permitting there will be limited distanced seating outside the Suzuki Piano Academy at 47th and Cedar. Also that evening poets Sonia Sanchez and Laureate Trapeta Mayson will be speaking about “the role of poetry in social justice movements” for a Mural Arts-presented program.
Before I end this I want to quickly shout out the ongoing efforts of the Freedom Has No Bounds crew. I know I talk about this just about every column but it feels like week in and week out they are constantly uploading more and more interesting stuff. This time around it’s a doozy: a “Philadelphia Punk Gigography” from 1977-1987. It’s not complete but there is a lot to take in and it’s all super cool, especially if you’re someone like me who loves lists of events and calendars. Big surprise, I know.
Also check out the first installment of the Special Candy Sesh, a new video series being done by brothers Robin and Lucas Carine from the band Cranes Are Flying. They kicked things off with Zula Wildheart and have promised a bunch more in the future. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
As always you can reach me via Twitter for all your accolades and/or complaints. My handle on there is @talkofthetizzy. See you in a couple weeks!