Pat Martino | photo via Chris’ Jazz Cafe
The Skeleton Key: Remembering Pat Martino, appreciating Philly, and listening to new music from The Ire, Jenna and the Pups and more
It’s always nice to lean into the NO ONE LIKES US, WE DON’T CARE trope – I mean, it’s gotten us this far, ya know? – but it’s also really nice when Philadelphia actually gets some recognition and positive feedback. Really. I recognize this is a bit of an anathema in our city but stick with me here, it’ll be worth it.
Over the past couple weeks I’ve heard multiple good things about Philly music from people who definitely don’t live here and have nothing to gain from buttering us up. The first was at the Mountain Goats show at the Fillmore when John Darnielle (you know, the guy from TikTok) complimented a fan’s Crypt Sermon shirt and then couldn’t shut up about how lucky we are to have such a sick metal band to call our own. And you know what? He’s right.
Also cool was the excellent Two Minutes to Late Night series picking Ink & Dagger’s “Road to Hell” as the song they covered for Halloween. The podcast’s band this time around included Aaron Heard of Nothing and Jesus Piece. In the video description they referred to the Philly vampire punks as “the spookiest band to ever exist.”
Yes, this is the second column in a row I’ve talked about Ink & Dagger and no I’m not going to stop. While we’re at it, go read this essay about the band and their influence that was written by Liam O’Donnell of Cinepunx.
There was also all the support given to Mannequin Pussy after the van and trailer containing basically everything they owned was stolen in Akron, Ohio during the tail end of their tour with Angel Du$t and Pinkshift. This is literally a band’s worst nightmare and while none of the equipment has been recovered just yet – check out the news report that never mentioned the group’s name for some reason – they received an outpouring of support from fans both around the country and here in Philadelphia. Their homecoming show was one for the ages and you can see our write-up of it over here.
Finally, and this is a lot more somber but still quite relevant, I was so touched to see the worldwide outpouring of love for jazz guitar great Pat Martino, who passed away yesterday following a prolonged illness. He was 77 years old. Born in South Philly in 1944, Martino started his career in music at 15, heading up to New York City to learn from the greats. He moved back home in 1980 while recovering from a brain aneurysm that caused near-total amnesia and forced him to relearn guitar. After getting better, he decided to stay.
Martino was brilliant in so many ways. It wasn’t just his playing; it’s clear from reading interviews with him, like this one he did for Jazz Times in 2008, that he would have been absolutely world class at anything he put his mind to. I asked Nick Millevoi, another jazz guitar player from Philadelphia, for his thoughts about Martino and this is what he said: “There’s something so unique about Martino’s vocabulary that feels so Philadelphian. He played with this old school kind of vibe and tone but was always looking a few steps ahead with his concepts.” He will be missed.
If you’re unfamiliar with Pat Martino, I’d suggest starting in the same place I did, his 1976 album Exit:
I hope you’re still riding that Halloween sugar rush cause there is so much happening in the next couple weeks. Today is election day – as a longtime poll worker it’s my responsibility to remind you that you can look up your polling place over here – and that evening is one of the most exciting and interesting shows happening all month with Lunacy, Writhing Squares, Mesh, and Mvtant bringing a real heady mix of dark electronic, post-punk, prog, and more to Johnny Brenda’s. It’s also the first of three nights for the Magnetic Fields at their City Winery mini-residency.
Thursday is the rare metal show at JB’s with Exhumed, Creeping Death, Bewitcher, and Enforced. More of that, please! I think the venue is a great place to see metal and honestly one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen there was Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune back in 2009. Also that night it’s Eliza Edens, Justmadnice, and Tubey Frank at World Cafe Live. Philly truly has something for everyone.
That weekend is very, very busy. I have no less than 14 shows and one parade on my radar, which is fantastic. Friday the 5th at Black Cat Tavern in South Philly it’s folk weirdos On The Water with Brook Pridemore, Yuckmouf, and Varlots. Back at JB’s it’s psych rock trio King Buffalo with local metalheads Heavy Temple. Art punks Godcaster are doing a record release at PhilaMOCA with abrasive noise act Sour Spirit and industrial freaks G. Crudd, who I wrote about last month in this very column. Finally up at Foto Club it’s the super catchy post-punk band Serfs who will be joined by Club Music and X-Harlow.
I know I haven’t mentioned anything about COVID-19 so far in this column – a new record for the last year and a half! – but I wanted to quickly pass along this article from the San Francisco Chronicle I read a few days ago that gave me a bit of hope. We’re not out of the muck just yet and we all need to do our part to stay safe and make sure we keep our community safe, too. For me that still very much means wearing masks when I’m inside places like venues, even if everyone there has to prove that they’re vaccinated. Still, if this is the new normal, we’re doing so much better than even six months ago when I talked about maybe 14 things for an entire column, not a weekend.
Speaking of which: Saturday afternoon is the 21st Annual Peoplehood Parade through West Philly, an always wonderful and inspiring event. That night Screaming Females are playing at the First Unitarian Church with the excellent Sweeping Promises and TVO. That show is, not surprisingly, sold out, but maybe you know someone with an extra ticket? You should figure that out cause it’ll 100 percent be worth it. If you don’t have a ticket for that or the also sold out Sheer Mag gigs at PhilaMOCA – Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, making up for the ones that were canceled back in August – you should check out Kristin Hersh from Throwing Muses at Kung Fu Necktie or Johnny Showcase with Martha Graham Cracker and Snacktime at Union Transfer. I mean, really:
If you’re in the more northwest suburbs or have a car and want an adventure, out at Sokols in Bethlehem it’s HIRS, Pissed Jeans, and Bad Heaven LTD. This is the first Lehigh Valley show for Pissed Jeans in five years and it’s sure to be a good one.
Sunday includes sixties girl group revival band Habibi, recently signed to Kill Rock Stars, with heavy psychers Heavenly Bodies at JB’s. Down the block Inter Arma, Artificial Brain, and Backslider are at KFN for what is surely going to be an incredible (and sold out) night of metal, grind, and punk. The Rotunda in West Philly is hosting trombonist Dan Blacksberg’s Community, a “site-specific sonic organization” featuring musicians from across the city’s experimental and improvisational scenes. You can see the full lineup and read more about the piece on the Facebook page.
This is a good time to pause the calendar and talk about a few local albums that dropped recently and some other stuff that crossed my radar. There is always so much new music and only so much room in my column so please go out there and do some digging of your own. If you find anything good feel free to send it to me!
The Silver – Ward of Roses (Gilead Media)
The Silver is a new group made up of the drummer of the aforementioned Crypt Sermon along with two of the members of Horrendous and a vocalist who, up until this point, had never before sang in a band. Their music is a fantastic mix of epic sounding goth rock with some incredible black metal screams and blast beats. This is truly something that needs to be listened to very, very loudly so get on that as soon as you can.
Jenna & The Pups – Out of Debt (Self-released)
If you watch grind duo HIRS play or even just listen to their music you might assume that frontwoman Jenna Pup must be the most aggro person in the world. I mean, just listen to her scream and yell on the recently-released Third 100 Songs collection and try and tell me you’re not intimidated. But here’s a little secret: Jenna is a softie who absolutely loves the corniest pop punk out there. Okay, so maybe it’s not a secret, especially if you’ve ever heard her one person band Jenna & The Pups. On her new release Out of Debt she covers all the proper pop tropes on ten songs that barely break a minute each. It’s perfect.
The Ire – CS (Self-released)
I have been waiting for more songs from West Philly goth post-punkers The Ire ever since they dropped their demo back in January of 2019. While this isn’t the LP they’ve been promising, it is three more tracks and an excellent remix by Speaking Parts and I am very much okay with whatever I can get my hands on from one of the best bands out there.
Mudrot – Halloween (Self-released)
Sure this collection of instrumental songs by Mudrot is Halloween-themed – think haunted houses, horror movies, that sort of thing – but there’s no rule that says you can’t listen to this sort of thing year round. These tracks are in the grand tradition of stuff like Goblin and John Carpenter and were crafted by someone who obviously knows what they’re doing. The songs are spooky, catchy, and extremely evocative, and I really want someone to use them in a horror movie because I’m sure it would be a perfect fit.
I’m going to hop back to the calendar in a second cause there’s still a lot to get to but first I want to share a few links to things you should probably check out. First and foremost are the new episodes of the Under the First Floor podcast with performances from the gothy post-punk Poison Ruin and lo-fi indie rockers Julian. If, like me, you’re also very into everything podcast-creator David Settle does, you can pick up the third volume of his mixtape of bands that have played the show.
Also while we’re talking podcasts be sure to listen to GG from Soul Glo on the Superweaks Superweekly Supercast, Jenna Pup on Turned Out a Punk, and Kilynn from Taiwan Housing Project on the Watt From Pedro Show! Remember what I was saying about all the love Philly has been getting lately? So cool.
Freedom Has No Bounds, the Philly punk archive site, has really become a valuable resource. I know I mention it just about every column but I also found it really useful when I was writing the recent Key article about the history of St. Mary’s Church on Penn’s campus as a venue. So much of subcultural history is lost – when we’re talking about things like flyers and demo cassettes, it’s really not meant to last – so having a place that is trying to collect all of this ephemera and music in one place is really rad. The most recent upload on the site is a bootleg of the great Killing Joke playing at the East Side Club in August of 1981.
Okay, calendar time: on Monday the 8th it’s the second show of that sold out Sheer Mag run at PhilaMOCA, this one with Poison Ruïn and Ghösh. The final one will be the next night with Dridge and ICD-10. Very excited for all of that. Also Tuesday long-running experimental band Black Dice will be at Kung Fu Necktie with Taiwan Housing Project and Gay Nightmare Support Group. Wednesday back at KFN it’s Spiritual Cramp, Bacchae, King Azaz while Surfer Blood and Echo Kid play at PhilaMOCA.
Thursday night at The Rotunda there’s a screening of Chris Morris’ “The Day Shall Come” from 2019 and Melvin Van Peebles’ 1967 classic “Story of a Three Day Pass” at an event hosted by Dan Buskirk of WPRB and Fleisher Arts Memorial. You can read more about that double feature on their website. Also that evening the amazing Shilpa Ray is at Kung Fu Necktie with Beyries.
The weekend kicks off with a whole mess of shows Friday including an exceptional metal lineup at Ortlieb’s with No/Mas, Grishka, Come Mierda, and Bandit. At PhilaMOCA it’s Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt, and Body Void, there’s a record release for Quarantine at Foto Club, and over at Franny Lou’s Porch the Monthly Fund is hosting Decouplr, Upholstery, and more.
Brooklyn electronic act Black Marble is at Underground Arts on Saturday and The Ire is opening, which is awesome. That night there is also a great experimental and post-punk show at Ortlieb’s with Planning For Burial, Timelost, and Dridge. The final show on my calendar is the very fun Run for Cover Records band Narrow Head with Young Guv and Phantasia at Foto Club Sunday night.
That is it for this edition of The Skeleton Key! I want to end things with this absolutely wonderful picture of Philly punk band King Of Siam that Jacy Webster from the band just shared. There’s not a lot out there about them and virtually no songs online – paging Freedom Has No Bounds – but this shot, taken on the steps of the Art Museum in 1977, is too cool not to share.
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with any hot tips at @talkofthetizzy.