Ghosh | photo by Cecil Shang Whaley
The Skeleton Key: Get into Rocktober with Philly Music Fest, new tunes from Ghosh and Irreversible Entanglements, and a whole lot more
Was everything this busy two years ago? I’m not being hyperbolic, that’s an honest question! I don’t know if it’s due to taking all that time off from stuff, or maybe it’s that everything feels downright exciting. I touched on this in my last column but it’s something that has really stuck out when I was putting together this one. There’s just a lot going on! It’s a diverse list, too, and I’m not just talking about musical genres. There are outside shows, inside shows, online shows, and even a couple hybrid events.
I want to jump right into things but first I just want to remind everyone about how lucky we are to live in Philadelphia. A friend was telling me recently about a conversation he had with a touring band who was saying how stoked they were to be in a place that was actually taking the pandemic seriously and where everybody had to provide proof of vaccination just to get in and where a majority of people in the audience were wearing masks. Which is to say: things could be a lot worse.
On that generally positive note, let’s talk shows, starting with tonight’s jam-packed schedule. In Clark Park at 7 p.m., the Bismuth Quartet are performing the music of Javier Alvarez and Jessie Montgomery and then, with assistance from everyone there, doing a group improvisation of “Love in Outer Space” by Sun Ra. Audience members are encouraged to bring instruments. Also outside and around the same time it’s the Ghösh record release show – more on the new album later – at Sunflower with Palberta, Drill, and DJ Kwan. At Kung Fu Necktie it’s the return of one of my favorites, Amanda X, after a couple years of forced time off. I’m pretty sure their last show was also that final one at Everybody Hits, which is damn depressing all around. They’ll be playing with Nyxy Nyx and Bam Bara.
Stinking Lizaveta and Northern Liberties are playing Johnny Brenda’s with Alright Junior, which is such an excellent lineup that I might haves screamed a little when it was first announced. Northern Liberties just celebrated their 21st anniversary a week or so ago – read more about their history in our article here – and I expect them to pull out some old songs at this one. The final show on my calendar for tonight is A Country Western, Ben Special, Prude, and Hooky at PhilaMOCA.
Tomorrow during the day it’s the annual Upper Darby International Festival with food, martial arts demonstrations, and of course a ton of music. That night you have a choice to make: King Azaz and Screamcloud are at Ortlieb’s, the Sun Ra Arkestra is playing World Cafe Live, there’s a death metal show with Glorious Depravity, new local band Profligate, and more at Century, and Birds of Maya, Heavenly Bodies, and Urideath are rocking Johnny Brenda’s. I told you there was a lot going on!
Finish off the weekend with They Are Gutting a Body of Water, Them Airs, Full Body2, and Bather at PhilaMOCA Sunday night. TAGABOW and Full Body2 are releasing a split, at that show so keep an eye out for that.
On Wednesday the 6th it’s the premier of the newest episode of poet Ursula Rucker’s Close Ups: Scars & Emblems series, now in its second season. The focus of this episode is local R&B singer Solomon Temple. The pre-recorded performance and interview will be screened online and also in-person down at Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philly. Speaking of screenings, at PhilaMOCA that night they’re showing one of my favorite movies, Phantom of the Paradise, about a scorned songwriter and his Faustian deal with the devil. Phantom expert and scholar Ari Kahan will be in attendance, which I’m sure will be a treat.
That’s also the first night of the 2021 Philly Music Fest, which is running from the 6th to the 10th at venues around the city and includes performances from a multitude of bands including Menzingers, Alex G, Control Top, West Philly Orchestra, Highnoon, and many, many more. Wednesday could be called the Moor Mother Festival, as Camae is playing World Cafe in three different bands: solo, with her jazz group Irreversible Entanglements, and in a new configuration of her hip hop / punk / noise thing Moor Jewelry. I’m excited. Check out our full coverage of the sold out festival over here.
Speaking of Irreversible Entanglements, they just dropped another track from their album Open The Gates, which comes out next month. Listen to that below and read the review we published a couple days ago.
That Friday one of the most interesting – and weirdest – Philly musicians Body Meat will be performing at PhilaMOCA. I don’t totally know what to expect of a live concert featuring the multi-instrumentalist but I’m sure it’ll be very cool. You can learn a bit more about him in our review of the Year of the Orc EP. If you’re reading this from South Jersey or just want to take a bit of a drive, Nothing, Soul Glo, and Noun (Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females and friends) are at the Anchor Rock Club in Atlantic City.
Also that night Dehd and Bnny are at Johnny Brenda’s, Sing Slavic, Martronimous, and a couple other bands are playing in Fairmount Park as part of a Monthly Fund show benefiting Project Safe, and online there’s a fundraiser for the Texas Equal Access Fund put together by Exotic Fever records with performances from a multitude of bands around the country including Ximena, Lily, and one of my favorites Lung, a cello and drums duo from Cincinnati. Oh, and at Ardmore Music Hall Reef the Lost Cauze is opening for KRS One. Can someone split me into ten so I can go to all these shows?!
WKDU’s Electronic Music Marathon returns that weekend with a mix of remote broadcasts and DJs performing live from the station’s West Philly studio. That kicks off Friday night with a party at the historic Paul Robeson House. Full details on the KDU EMM website. Also while we’re on the topic there is a fascinating exhibit about the history of the station up at the Drexel W.W. Hagerty Library now through the end of the year.
Saturday in the basement of the First Unitarian Church – how good does it feel to say that?! – is that Armand Hammer and Soul Glo show that was announced so long ago that I was sure it was going to get cancelled. Very happy it wasn’t. Also that night is avant jazz greats Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog at an Ars Nova show at Johnny Brenda’s, heavy metal rockers Horrendous, Outer Heaven, and Witching at Milkboy, and the debut of brand new hardcore group Scorpion Mouth at The Nail in Ardmore.
The calendar is so busy that there are actually three great shows on Sunday the 10th. In the afternoon in the backyard of Common Beat Records on Baltimore Ave. it’s gothy post-punkers The Ire with minimal synth duo Plastic Ivy and a brand new band that’s members of Munchausen and The Guests. Hallucinogenic Bulb, Lambeth, Gay Nightmare Support Group, and more are playing a matinee at Century while at night across town at Ortlieb’s it’s the excellent experimental duo Factual Brains.
This is a good enough spot to pause the schedule and talk about some releases that dropped recently. Philadelphia never stops and rarely disappoints. Before I go into all that, I want to quickly mention the music video that Poison Ruin just put out as a sort of accompaniment to their debut LP of super catchy post-punk tunes.
G. Crudd – THE CONCERN DEPARTMENT (Self-released)
G Crudd was not on my radar until the recently-announced Godcaster show in November that they’re playing with Sour Spirit at PhilaMOCA. I saw that they played some shows in 2019 but I don’t think they got to do too much before the pandemic shut everything down. This album, their first release, is an incredible mess of noise that sounds almost like a mix of Melt Banana and Lard. If you’re familiar with either of those bands I can guarantee that you are hitting play on THE CONCERN DEPARTMENT immediately. It’s punk, it’s noise, it’s industrial, and there’s more than a little bit of no wave snottiness enveloping the whole thing. This is great stuff and I look forward to finally seeing them play next month.
Frankly Lost – the Creation Of Van EP (Self-released)
The late Erik Petersen and his folk punk band Mischief Brew inspired and continue to inspire a lot of music. Some of it is good. Some of it is … less good. Frankly Lost, who mentions Petersen as an influence right there in his Bandcamp bio, definitely falls into the first camp. The tracks on this recently-released EP are built on that same sort of folk storytelling perfected by Mischief Brew but with a pop cadence and horns stolen straight from a ska band. The resulting songs are fun, catchy, and sweet without being cloying.
Suuduer – 4(Ω)8(Ω) (Self-released)
The new one from experimental / drone / post-rock collective Suuduer doesn’t come out until next month but I’m so enamored with the single song that’s up there now that I wanted to include it now. The core of the band is multi-instrumentalist Jordan Sniff who plays guitar, bass, and drums on the new album. He has surrounded himself with a veritable collection of all stars here with Agnes Kline (Oktas, St. James and the Apostles) on cello, Thuy Nguyen (Lastima, Divine Hand Ensemble) on violin, Kyle Press (Love Club, Secular Fusionists) on alto sax, and Richie DeVon (Lastima) on guitar. You can imagine how all these different parts come together to produce something that is both haunting and beautiful. The track that’s up there now is called “No Am∞ No (Ω)” and it comes in at just about a dozen haunting and beautiful minutes.
Ghösh – Alien Nation (Get Better Records)
Petition to have Ghösh play every gig from here on out. Metal show? Their mix of punk, industrial, and hip hop will fit right in. Experimental dulcimer show? Those people could use the excitement. On Alien Nation Ghösh has given us five tracks of pounding digital hardcore that would fit right alongside anything Atari Teenage Riot was doing in the 90s but better. This is some great stuff and I can’t wait for what’s next. See you at the record release tonight!
I recently found out about the death of longtime Philly artist and performer Peggy “Pegalina” Swartz, who found a home with the freaks and weirdos of the early punk scene here in the city. There’s a lot up on her Facebook page – a friend created it a few days after her passing last month and so it’s serving as both memorial and archive – and it’s all worth getting into. Something I discovered while digging around was a live recording of her singing with More Fiends back in 1985. The whole thing is perfectly over the top, which from what I’ve gathered from social media posts and talking to older friends about Pegalina was very much the way to describe everything she did.
From the intro of her 1984 book The Nude Testament, which is available in the rare book department at the Penn Library:
Speaking of the 80s, did you watch the video Dead Milkmen shared of Robby Krieger from The Doors listening to “Bitchin’ Camero” – a song that very much pokes fun at the classic rock band, though certainly not maliciously – for the very first time ever? Despite the fact that it came out almost four decades ago, Krieger had never heard it. His reaction, which was posted to the Doors social media, is priceless. Also, here’s a weird bit of related trivia I learned from his Wikipedia: back in the 60’s Krieger learned how to play flamenco guitar from Frank Chin, who was later briefly married to Philadelphia artist and political activist Kathy Change, famous for self-immolating in front of the peace sign on Penn’s campus in 1996.
It wouldn’t be a Skeleton Key if I didn’t mention what Mike Eidle from Philly punk history website Freedom Has No Bounds has been up to so be sure to check the site out! Mike recently shared a bunch of excellent songs from early 80’s post-punks No Milk, a video of the Circle Jerks playing the Starlite Ballroom up in Kensington in 1981, and more.
Let’s get back to the calendar cause there are still a bunch of shows to talk about, though thankfully it’s not as busy as this week. On Wednesday the 13th over at The Fillmore it’s one of my favorite current post-punk bands Idles, who just announced that their new album will be coming out next month on Partisan.
Listen to their new song “Beachland Ballroom” named after the Cleveland venue, which would be like if the British band had decided to write a song about Union Transfer. Maybe someone should ask them?
On Friday you have a choice between Shannen Moser, A Country Western, and more at The Khyber, KC rock n’ rollers The Whiffs over at The Fire, and a benefit for the Women’s Medical Fund at Century with punk bands Nightfall, Fright, and Ra!d.
The next night it’s one of the shows I’ve been looking forward to the most during this busy month when noisy psych rockers Sunburned Hand of the Man invade Ortlieb’s. There is nothing quite like seeing the long-running band play live and the fact that Bill Nace and Blues Ambush are opening makes this a true can’t miss gig.
I’m going to end this on a bittersweet note with the recent announcement that a new community fridge outside of the LAVA Space community center and venue on Lancaster Ave. has been named for the late Curan Cottman aka Ronnie Vega, frontperson of the similiarly-named rap rock band. Ron was a mainstay at LAVA for years and I know that he’d be honored to know that his name will be gracing this much-needed resource. Read a bit more about Ron in this memorial piece we published last year and maybe make a small donation on his behalf towards maintaining the fridge.
See you in a couple weeks! As always, feel free to reach out on Twitter at @talkofthetizzy.