Soul Glo, Zulu, and Playytime fill The First Unitarian Church with community and camaraderie - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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Philadelphia’sSoul Glo might be the most unstoppable band I’ve ever seen. The tour they brought their hometown Sunday night, following last year’s gutsmashing Diaspora Problems on Epitaph Records, delivered all I had hoped for, and so much more than any record or video ever could. With LA’s Zulu and Atlanta’s Playytime, they ripped up all the seams between emo, hardcore, punk, trap, pop, fans and their heroes, centering Black rockers and promising the crowd, “there is no one cooler than you.” The hours-long, sweltering-hot display of friendship in a basement of hundreds, set against my own journey through months of personal letdowns, self-doubt and musical setbacks, was enough to move me to tears while I stood in line for the bathroom.

In a few years, these three acts seem to have cultivated an all-ages network of fans ready to brave anything that might happen on stage or in the pit. Even before the first set, fans were stepping out onto the sidewalk to notify others the room was “hot as ****” and “smells like absolute *******,” while the ticket line only got longer. Playytime kicked it off with headbanging backbeat grooves and plenty of lead guitar, feeling more like metal compared to their costars’ screamo and powerviolence. Zulu felt more familiar to Soul Glo’s crowd and had plenty of front-row fans ready to scream along. Vocalist Anaiah Lei rocked a sampler with love between commands to “BOUNCE!! BOUNCE!! BOUNCE!!” and “GIVITTOMEGIVITTOMEGIVITTOME YALL CAN TURN UP MORE THAN THAT COME ON!!” slamming into guitarist Dez Yusuf sideways. Yusuf spoke generously on the mic, inviting all Black people to the front for a slow dance break dedicated to Philly hardcore heroes Jesus Piece, explaining, “We don’t want you to tokenize, we don’t want you to look up to us; we want you to go start your own band, do your own thing.” For one last song, they revved up again and pulled a few extraordinary guests from the wings, including Soul Glo’s Pierce Jordan who finished everyone off with a brutal “WHAT THE F*** IS UP PHILADELPHIAAAAA!!!!!”

Zulu | photo by John Vettese

Between sets, I loved seeing these bands share so much with each other and their fans — checking mics with everyone watching, tiptoeing among us between the stage and merch tables, folks in line for Playytime merch already wearing Zulu merch. Lights dimmed to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” before Soul Glo stepped on stage and ripped open a dark four-on-the-floor beat for “Coming Correct Is Cheaper,” Jordan’s 808 drum samples snapping like a haunted Giorgio Moroder production. Through “Jump!! (Or Get Jumped!!!)((by the future)),” I was captivated threefold by the finesse of Croc-clad drummer TJ Stevenson, Jordan and fiery guitarist GG Guerra.

The band kept drawing everyone closer, and when Guerra cried “PULL UUUUP!!!!” to the crowd every few songs, it sounded like a matter of life and death. Before long, Jordan held out the mic to the closest in the crowd to let them deliver, “These b****-a** n****s don’t give a F***!!” for “GODBLESSYALLREALGOOD,” and pointed out personal friends, like “my n**** Marquis, a true Philadelphian, born and bred, exemplifying the spirit of the city.” They mostly drew from Diaspora Problems — “Driponomics” slammed the hardest — but also featured their new single “If I Speak (Shut The F*** Up)” and older singalong “B.O.M.B.S.” Jordan played A$AP Ferg’s “Shabba” from his laptop for an early interlude, disarmingly, Zedd’s “Clarity” (“Don’t you love this song?”) before my favorite, “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?).” Chanting fans demanded that last song fiercely, and one even made twerking and stagediving into a single routine, earning a rare smile from bassist Allen Nuñez.

Soul Glo | photo by John Vettese

Soul Glo packs an unbelievable amount of energy into one set, which I heard fans note ran longer than most hardcore or punk sets they’d seen. Late in the night, during a beatless moment, piles of noise spewing out of Guerra’s sampler and Nuñez’s pedalboard, Jordan’s longest growls rumbling from his deepest guts, I noticed that everyone around me was still, I was still, and I had lost track of time. I thought of Coltrane, the jazz and “pure sound” improvisers here who cancelled all musical rules, stood on stage and threw an avalanche of noise over a thick crowd of neighbors transfixed, without any sense of schedule or business exchange, giving like they might just keep giving forever. No sound, sweat or smell could possibly turn that audience away. It’s the opposite of clickbait.

Soul Glo, Zulu and Playytime conclude their tour this week before Soul Glo tours Japan and returns for US dates next month with Baroness. Find Soul Glo’s unforgettable new video for “If I Speak (Shut The F*** Up)” below, plus their recent cover of System of a Down’s “Soil” for Sounds of Saving and 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and Zulu’s video for “Where I’m From,” featuring Soul Glo’s Pierce Jordan and Playytime’s Obioma Ugonna.

Soul Glo - "If I Speak (Shut The Fuck Up)"
Soul Glo covers System of a Down for SoS and 988
Zulu - Where I'm From (Official Music Video)
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