If someone were to describe Kung Fu Necktie this past Sunday in three words, it’d probably be boots, lollipops and sleaze. The show was quite a combo, some honky tonk flair, hair-raising guitars, and the ability to make a whole room fall in love with you. Mandy Valentine, Kelsey Cork & The Swigs and Thelma and The Sleaze were the bands to pull it off. 

Mandy Valentine | photo by Megan Mat for WXPN

Mandy Valentine opened up the night at KFN with three vivacious vocalists at the helm with a 60s boot scootin’ country and a pop attitude of The Chicks. Singers, Missy Pidgeon, Abby Heier, and Delaney laughed with one another between tambourine hits and stomps: it showed through the crowd at KFN that they were having a genuinely good time.  

Stacked with some of the usual suspects in the Philly music scene — includng Mattie Klauser of Pillow Princess on drums and Sam Perduta of Elison Jackson on guitar — Mandy Valentine is a newish project. So far they have released a dual single called Baby! back in February. It features “Oh Baby!” and “Sugar Baby,” which had the band stepping in time because it has that natural walking pace to it. The song has that honkey tonk cuteness, “get a lil sugar if you love me too.” 

Later the band performed “Run, Rabbit, Run” released just two days prior to the Sunday gig. Influenced by Elvis, a “wink” lyrically in “hound dog playing on the record machine,” Mandy Valentine found the stylistic sweet spot the King used to charm everyone. With a dual single release, then another single release it’s fair for the KFN crowd to assume an album is on the way. Time shall tell.

Kelsey Cork and The Swigs | photo by Megan Mat for WXPN

Sunday had been a minute since the last time Kelsey Cork and the Swigs performed live. Band members paced and exchanged nervous glances, understandably so, as they were about to play their new album Lollygagger…from top to bottom, no less.

First was “Alabama Earth.” The song feels like a summoning call, an activation. All ears perked up and goosebumps on the neck despite the loads and loads of sweat. Kelsey’s voice cleared out the noises across the KFN crowd with the first long note. With the crowd securely locked in to the anticipation of Kelsey’s next move, Kelsey Cork & the Swigs celebrated Lollygagger. 

Lots of lollipops sprinkled the front of the stage. Kelsey coaxed the KFN crowd, if you come closer there’s candy on stage. 

“Crimson Red,” brought the energy level to a peak later on. Klauser, doing double duty by playing guitar in the Swigs after she spent a set behind the drums in Mandy, added texture to the overall sound, elevating the emotional intensity like catchy melodies and guitar solos are one to do. The track reads like the beginning of a revenge story against a lying lover, Kelsey’s pouty and playful attitude made it all come alive.

The last track on Lollygagger is “Girls in the Bathroom.” It was a whole KFN effort, with the crowd singing “hanging out with the girls in the bathroommm” again and again at Kelsey’s command. Lollygagger is out now via Kelsey and The Swigs Bandcamp, and you can explore the making of the album in WXPN’s series of documentary shorts about it.

Thelma and the Sleaze | photo by Megan Mat for WXPN

All facing in towards the drummer, nicknamed Sporty Spice Sunday eve, Thelma and The Sleaze did a little warm up jam that felt like a team getting hyped up in a locker room. Slowly, singer and guitarist LG turned, dawning highlighter yellow hockey goalie mask. Dramatically whipping it off their face, they placed a white ten gallon hat on their head regally, straightened their patched denim vest, puffed out their chest, making the yellow bowtie bulge from their neck. KFN knew right away that they were about to see something.

Every bandmate had a nickname and every song had a story. When there wasn’t a story about a particular song, it was a top-of-the-head story. Maybe it was just Philly that sparked LG’s mind about spending a night in a storage unit, going to get a coffee the next day on their birthday and getting punched in the boob by some random lady. It all came together in a way that felt autobiographical and fuller picture by LG, plus lots of shredding.

Introducing the song “Easy,” LG called attention to the braveness of the LGBTQ community and remembered how it was in the midwest for them.  LG said they always knew that about themselves, but they sold drugs and knew how to fight, so they had it a little easier, they said to lighten the mood. 

Thelma and the Sleaze hail from Nashville are in the midst of their Holey Water Tour to support the new album releasing soon. In addition to “Easy,”  LG’s storytelling style was front and center in “Black Car” off said album, like “I took a sip from the devil’s cup, I’ve been down more than I’ve been up” for example or more  simply, “I’m down to my very last sin.”

Thelma and the Sleaze | photo by Megan Mat for WXPN

Live this past Sunday eve, LG and guitarist Liliana Jones got up close and personal to play the harmonizing guitar solo during the track, egging each other on without missing a note from what the crowd could tell. There’s something specific about their western outlaw style from the fit, the bowtie, a bikini top, jorts with yellow suspenders and the zipper is undone that clicks it into place. Songs they played like “Knifefight” from 2014, “In Prison” from 2020 and now “Vulture Dog” support that.

Speaking of “Vulture Dog”, the song is a wall of sound with bricks missing that the listener seeps into discovering different worlds. It’s Liliana’s domination of stank face riffs, fret sweeping punctuations and pedal modulations that the crowd’s face might actually be melting off. LG even had to step out for a quick cig. 

Regardless if it was a new single celebration, an album release party, or upcoming album preview, sweaty KFN was showered with new music by Sunday’s lineup. Check out more photos from the show below.