A Decade of Lame-O: Inside the anniversary of Philly's tastemaking indie label - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

It is somehow both impossible to imagine the Philadelphia music scene without Lame-O Records and inconceivable that ten years have already passed since they first formed. Such is the enigma of the Philly born and bred label that so quickly established themselves as essential catalysts of a local scene that has grown exponentially. Next weekend, First Unitarian Church will play host to two jam-packed days of music highlighting the best Lame-O has to offer, a perfect way to celebrate all that the label has accomplished over the last 10 years.

As is the case with most independent, grassroots record labels, Lame-O’s history can be traced to a single release, a time when the only option was to learn on the fly and create something out of nothing. It just so happens that Lame-O’s first release was Modern Baseball’s Sports, an album that made considerable waves upon its release and continues to be one of the most influential records of its time. At the time, label founder Eric Osman simply wanted to find a way to get the record to as many ears as possible. Osman was attending Drexel University, studying Entertainment and Artist Management, so he figured what better way to learn than by doing?

“My job was to figure out how the record was going to come out and whether there was going to be a label,” says of his early responsibilities as Modern Baseball’s de facto manager. “I didn’t have any of the tools to get an artist signed to a record label, so I just started one myself.” And so, with a modest pressing of 300 vinyl records, Lame-O was born.

After the success of that initial pressing, which quickly sold out, Osman suddenly felt confident enough to start releasing music by local artists looking to join forces with the fledgling label. “It was different once we had a little bit of success,” Osman said. “There was a reason for bands to want to put out stuff with us because we had a bit of experience.” That experience became even more solidified when the label added fellow Drexel student Emily Hakes, who has run the label alongside Osman since 2014. Early records include work from Philly mainstays The Superweaks, Three Man Cannon, and Thin Lips. It soon became clear that Lame-O was as much a community of like-minded musicians as a proper record label. Everything from the label’s notable “moon man” logo to their rock residency at Boot & Saddle were works of collaboration and fostered a sense of family among the labelmates.

“They’ve really created this tiny web of Philly musicians, it’s really something special” said folk singer-songwriter Shannen Moser who has been releasing music on the label since 2015 and will perform this Friday at the 10th Anniversary celebration. Matt Scottoline, frontperson of Philly indie rockers Hurry, has been with label even longer. “It’s not an overstatement in the least when I say that Lame-O changed my life,” Scottoline says. “Eric and Emily have been nothing but supportive of my songwriting, and through that support, they’ve directly and indirectly opened so many doors to so many wonderful opportunities.”

For newer artists — like 2022 signee Attia Taylor, who released her album Space Ghost back in July — this kind of thought and care is even more important. “As a musician putting out my first LP, I was cautious about how it came to the world,” says Taylor. “Lame-O took extra care to give it star treatment.”

All three artists praise the way Lame-O seems to operate outside of the more profit-driven, genre-focused music industry. “It’s clear from the records they release that this isn’t some kind of hair-brained get-rich-quick scheme,” says Scottoline. “You can tell that they truly love music and want to see artists they believe in grow and thrive,” says Taylor.

Osman acknowledges as much, telling me that one of the most difficult parts of his job is actually tempering his own excitement. Despite how great he thinks a record is, he knows by now that the music industry is a fickle beast and he has learned to be more realistic about expectation over time. “Disappointing friends or musicians you really admire, who have trusted you with their art, is a really difficult part of it,” says Osman. And yet, I think any artist would be happy to sign on to work with a label like Lame-O, who have consistently shown such passion for the work they release.

That will all be on display this weekend when Lame-O takes over First Unitarian Church with three shows in two days. The celebration will kick off Friday night when Moser performs alongside Attia Taylor, Golden Apples, and The Superweaks. The party will continue on Saturday afternoon with a special matinee show featuring shoegaze band Dazy, new label signees, with label mainstays Hurry, Big Nothing, and Thin Lips. For Saturday night, the show will move upstairs into the sanctuary for solo performances from Mo Troper and the weekend’s headliner Slaughter Beach, Dog. The latter a band which, of course, features former Modern Baseball songwriter Jake Ewald, bringing whole weekend full circle back to Lame-O’s origins.

For Osman, the whole weekend is less a celebration of his own accomplishments and more an excuse to bring everyone together at the Church, the venue he calls the “spiritual home” for the label. “I am really happy with what this weekend is shaping up to be,” said Osman.

Three-show-passes and weekend tickets for Lame-O Turns Ten are available now via R5 Productions.

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