I’m no scientist but I have spent a lot of time reading about COVID-19, vaccines, masks, and the dangers of closed environments packed full of people. I guess there are many things under that banner but in this case I’m talking specifically about shows. After all, this is the Skeleton Key, your bi-monthly column covering everything cool that’s happening here in Philadelphia. Welcome!

Over the past three months we’ve gone from the occasional outdoor gig and online stuff to a packed calendar of both inside and outside concerts. Through all that, there’s been a very palpable fear of getting sick. I mean, it makes sense: up until the decision in August to require proof of vaccination in order to attend indoor events – or for a handful of spots just a recent negative test, which feels less safe to me but is better than nothing – it was a crapshoot when it came to safety. At least now we can feel somewhat secure in these spaces, which is more than I can say for going grocery shopping.

But is it enough? That’s a question I don’t feel comfortable answering for other people. You need to weigh risk versus everything else and figure out what makes the most sense. Some venues are a lot better than others when it comes to masks and it feels almost glaring when I’m looking at pictures or video from a show and most people there are not wearing them. At the same time, just having everyone in a space is vaccinated counts for a whole lot. The most recent science news is that the rates of infection between vaccinated people is very, very low – from a layman’s perspective that makes total sense – which possibly accounts for what is seemingly a total dearth of outbreaks at shows here in Philadelphia.

What does that mean for us? Well, I’m going to continue wearing a mask at all indoor shows and also outdoor ones if I’m in close proximity to other people. Even mild COVID-19 sounds horrible and I’m not trying to risk long-term problems just because I didn’t want to have a piece of cloth on my face offering me some protection from airborne virus particles. I also interact with people who are immuno-compromised, those with kids who can’t be vaccinated yet, older folks, and so on. I’m not trying to put them at risk. It’s really not that complicated. I’m almost back to my pre-pandemic social life – psych, all I do is go to shows, big surprise – and we need to do everything we can to stay safe and move forward. Also, thank goodness we live in Philadelphia. See this post by the currently on-tour Mannequin Pussy for a sense as to how terrible things could be like if we were in a place like Texas:

I’m going to kick off the calendar cause there is an an almost obscene amount of stuff going on in the next couple weeks. Going to begin with Monday and the Frankie & The Witch Fingers show at PhilaMOCA with Acid Dad and Hooveriii cause that’s sure to be a good, weird, and fun night of rock n’ roll. Speaking of PhilaMOCA, this week they shared that their most recent obstacle in remaining a terrific independent all-ages performing arts space — a demolition notice from L&I over structural issues, something we touched on in a previous Skeleton Key — has been overcome. A permit for facade repairs was approved, a structural engineer and restoration contractor were brought onboard to handle the work, and none of the costs involved fell on the venue’s shoulders. As PhilaMOCA’s Eric Bresler put it on Facebook, “another crisis averted!”

The following night at the Institute of Contemporary Art in West Philly go see celebrated avant-garde composer Alan Licht talk with art and music scholar Julie Beth Napolin about his new book Sound Art Revisited. That will also be simulcast online. Also on Tuesday the Mountain Goats are playing at The Fillmore. While Dark In Here, the band’s newest, might be a bit less avant than Licht it is no less enjoyable.

On Wednesday slowcore three piece A Country Western continue their October Philadelphia tour with a show at Ortlieb’s with The Ricos and Romance. I’ve been in the position before where your band ends up playing three or four or more shows around the city over a month’s time and it’s really not that bad! It’s easy to take Philly for granted but even now, with only so many venues up and operating as normal, the fact that a band can play four different gigs at four different spots over the course of a month is actually awesome.

Thursday night you have a choice between … well, okay, fine, maybe I’m the only person who is crossover audience for all three of these. At Kung Fu Necktie it’s an absolute classic hardcore lineup with Slapshot, Sheer Terror, and Skullcrack. Bring a helmet! Maybe a hockey one so it doubles as a face shield. At PhilaMOCA it’s the first of two sold out nights with indie rockers Vundabar, Boyscott, and Another Michael. And at the Harold Prince Theater in the Annenberg Center on Penn’s Campus noted composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey will be performing with jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell for what will definitely be a fantastic show. Also it’s free, which is great. You can pre-register for a seat on the website.

There’s a great metal and hardcore show the following night at Original 13 Ciderworks with Supine, Infant Island, mt.ida, and Closer. Johnny Brenda’s is hosting a sold out Laura Stevenson and Anika Pyle concert and over at Ruba it’s the Black Celebration goth dance party with a special guest DJ set from electronic pop duo Korine.

October of course means HALLOWEEN and while we haven’t talked about anything too spooky just yet that is about to change. Saturday afternoon at Mount Moriah in Southwest there is the Darksome Art & Craft Market with “100 weird and spooky artists” and that night at PhilaMOCA it’s a screening of spooky season classic “Satan’s Little Helper” with filmmaker Jeff Lieberman in attendance. Also that night – a bit less scary but still excellent – it’s Fay Victor’s SoundNoiseFUNK and Dan Blacksberg’s Snake Lines at a sold out Fire Museum Presents show at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement and Hurry, Cave People, Goshupon, and more at Attic Brewing Company.

Sunday afternoon is the Honey Radar, Long Hots, and Slomo Sapiens gig at Sunflower. Not only is that an excellent show but it’s outside, it’s during the day, and there will be a Softwax-curated record market and other vendors going on in the space at the same time. This was all put together by Sometimes Publishing, who are marking the occasion by putting out the 8th issue of their magazine. What more do you need? That night at PhilaMOCA it’s the record release for local doomers Deliriant with fellow freaks Dirt Woman and Professor Caveman. You shouldn’t miss either of those shows.

This is the official midway point of the column and therefore a great spot to stop and talk about some of the new releases that I’ve been obsessed with recently.

Veda Rays – Crucial Fictions (Self-released)

I am such a sucker for the sort of dancy, dreamy post-punk that Veda Rays does so well. While I’ll tell you that I want to listen to the most morose music out there … that’s a bit of a front. What I want is stuff like Crucial Fictions, the recently relocated band’s new album. The songs here might be rooted in the rather serious sound of British gothy post-punk – more Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and Modern English than Joy Division, mind you – but they’re so fun and perfectly catchy. Welcome to Philadelphia, Veda Rays. Happy to have you!

Quarantine – Agony (La Vida Es Un Mus)

I might be sitting down while writing this column but listening to Quarantine it’s impossible to sit still. This is the most pummeling stuff I’ve heard in years and I am proud to live in the city that birthed such an ugly masterpiece of hardcore punk music. No words can do this justice so just put it on and start moshing. It’s the only way.

Side note: the band predated the actual quarantine, though not by much. Check out this classic pandemic Skeleton Key from March of last year where I talked about their demo and revel in the horrible confusion of the time. Better yet, don’t, it’s depressing.

Fracture – Jaulas (Ryvvolte Records)

No, not the pre-Atom & His Package Fracture from the 90s, though “No Way DNA” is definitely my jam. This is a totally different Philadelphia band with a different sound who happen to share the same name. Deal with it. Fracture 2021 – I think they started sometime in 2019 but that’s a funny way of differentiating between the two so we’re going with it – is a bilingual political punk four piece with some excellent hooks and bouncy percussion. On this, their first official release following a demo put out two years back, no song gets close to two minutes long, which is perfect. It’s the kind of music where you want to sing along even if you don’t know the words and really that’s all I want out of punk.

Ceiba – Dear Lord Don’t Forget Me (Self-released)

This might be the exact opposite of everything I’ve talked about so far but that’s okay too. Variety, people. Dear Lord Don’t Forget Me is a solo guitar album recorded by Gabriel García-Leeds, a West Philly musician who plays under the name Ceiba, which is a “large flowering tree” according to the bio on Bandcamp. This is some very lovely and interesting music and while I’m hoping some of these songs get the full band treatment – you can hear that on the Song Sparrow Sang album from last year – they stand well enough on their own.

I want to get back into the calendar cause the following week is just as packed as the previous one if not more so but first let’s quickly delve into some older recordings and other stuff that I’ve come across recently. Top of that list is this absolutely incredible clip of Sun Ra and the Arkestra being interviewed on WPIV (6ABC nowadays) in 1988. You’ve got to watch the whole thing cause it’s all completely wonderful. The Arkestra might not be playing Halloween this year but I’m sure we’ll be seeing them very soon.

On that jazz tip, you should also check out this video put together for the Moers Festival by Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Groove 2000. That’s Questlove on drums – Moers was the site of the first overseas Roots show back in 1993, something Tacuma helped make happen – Ursula Rucker on vocals, saxophonist Louis Taylor, Orrin Evans on keys, guitarist Jake P Morelli, and of course Jamaaladeen on bass.

This is sort of a reprise of a great album by the same name that Tacuma put out back in 1998 that you need to listen to, especially if you’ve never heard if before. It doesn’t seem to be on any streaming services but it’s definitely worth the effort tracking it down. The listing of who played on it includes everyone from Malik B to Grover Washington Jr. to Black Thought, Zachary Breaux, Quest, and even Rick Iannacone shows up on a couple tracks. So cool!

No Skeleton Key would be complete without a quick mention of what the history nerds over at Philly punk archive Freedom Has No Bounds have been up to recently. Since the last column they’ve uploaded a fantastic bootleg of Iggy Pop at the Hot Club in ‘79 who was performing with a band that included members of The Damned, Patti Smith Group, Sex Pistols, and Tangerine Dream. You can imagine how awesome that is, I’m sure. There’s also a couple local Who bootlegs, a compilation of Pennsylvania garage bands from the 60s, and a Live on WKDU recording from one of my favorite late 80s / early 90s Philly noise rock groups Grisly Fiction.

Okay, enough of this nostalgia. Let’s talk about stuff happening now and head back into the calendar!

On Wednesday the 27th at The Fire it’s Frankly Lost – read my review of the folk punker’s latest in the previous edition of the Skeleton Key – with Fuzzy Slippers, Rat Earth Society, and Proper Punktuation. That Friday there are no less than SIX good events happening around the city. How great is that? Also: exhausting. At Kung Fu Necktie it’s a night of heavy metal with Imperial Triumphant, Pyrrhon, and Witching. Joey Sweeney & The Neon Grease and The Tisburys will be at World Cafe Live to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Wilco’s absolutely crucial sophomore album Being There. At PhilaMOCA it’s the Sixteen Jackies record release with Number One Lovers, Fast Car Slow Car, and Froggy.

There’s also a screening of the 1979 cult classic film “Radio On” with soundtrack by David Bowie, Devo, Robert Fripp, and more at the Lightbox Film Center at UArts and outside of Tattooed Mom’s on South Street a spooky punk market put together by the great folks at Shock Exchange featuring vendors including Come On Strong, Lost Mirage, Lot 49 Books, and many more. Later that night it’s the return of the Unknown Pleasures DJ crew for a Halloween dance party at The Dolphin.

The following day is just as busy. That afternoon at the Kensington Community Food Co-op on Coral St. check out the Carnatic concert Fire Museum Presents is doing with South Indian musicians Siddharth Ashokkumar and Vinay Mallikaarjun. Later on rock n’ roll weirdos Evil Sword, The Primitive Finks, and The Out-Sect are playing a special Mischief Night show at PhilaMOCA that I’m sure will be a lot of fun. At The Fire it’s a hardcore and punk gig with Two Man Advantage, Battalion Zośka, The Parasitix, and more all getting together to celebrate Pat from Violent Society’s birthday. If you want to go all out – it is Halloween, so that’s encouraged – Gwar, Napalm Death, and EyeHateGod are at Franklin Music Hall and, not to be outdone, Dracula’s Ball is back with The Crystal Method and Stoneburner at Underground Arts. Party like it’s 1995. Better yet, dress the part. Instant Halloween costume!

On Halloween itself you should be out there making your own fun. If you need a soundtrack, check out this great one by the Cinepunx crew and be sure to also spend some time on their website cause they always go all out this time of year. I will be on WKDU that night at 10pm doing my own Halloween show, which I’m sure will include lots of Ink & Dagger.

Devil children unite! Vampires on the loose tonight!

Feel free as always to hit me up on Twitter with any hot gossip: @talkofthetizzy