September 21, 2007

Stomping On The Yard National Step Show Championship @ Liacouras Center, Philadelphia - 9/15


Considered to be the 'super bowl' of step shows, Stomping On The Yard: SUPER STOMP, presented by Boost Mobile, is billed as a celebration of leadership, scholarship & showmanship. Don't let the cordial subscript fool you however, because this championship competition is also one electrifying event. Not only did the real life step tour inspire the box office hit film Stomp the Yard, the one-of-a-kind competition also boast its own ESPN special.  This night was the culmination of a national step tour, now in its forth year.  The show brought a sold out Liacouras Center crowd to its feet for performance after performance, as historically Black fraternaties and sororities lit up the stage with eleborate sets, routines and costumes.  One by one, the various teams vied for the title of national step champions.  Adding even more sizzle (and comic relief) was America's favorite perfect gentleman, Fonzworth Bentley, who drew uprourious screams from fans when he hit the stage as host of the competition.  If you had a doubt, a misconseption, or were just plain uninformed about step as an elevated art form, this night was the night that you learned...



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September 18, 2007

American Idols Live Tour 2007 @ Wachovia Center - Philadelphia


Okay, I admit it - I saw the American Idols Live tour.  And this, my review, is the embarrassing truth that proves it forever. Now don't get me wrong, I do watch American Idol every season, but sitting through endless karaoke-like performances (made longer by a sudden 'intermission'), shrieking fans and schmaltzy speeches is another story. It turns out, American Idol in any arena is far less entertaining without the judges. If Simon, Paula and Randy toured along with these 10 finalist, I'm sure they would have packed the house. Fortunately, there were a few highlights that came along by way of a couple of this past season's shining songstresses. Idol winner Jordin Sparks, long-running favorite Melinda Doolittle, and most impressively Lakisha Jones, were all music to my ears. They may not have made the sea of tween girls swoon like the male hearthrobs did, but they ultimately won over the entire crowd, and me, with stunning vocal performances...

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August 23, 2007

Chaka Khan, Tank, Angie Stone, Chrisette Michele, taragirl @ Unity Day, Philadephia - 8/19


Unity Day in Philadelphia is a huge event. With a stage set up on the steps of the art museum, the party draws hundreds of thousands. This year, relentless rain left everyone wet, but not disappointed as numerous soul music stars hit the stage for the WDAS-sponsored concert. Once you found a good dry spot and some support for your umbrella, all you had to do was watch the excitement unfold on stage. And if you heard your jam, getting a little wet suddenly didn’t matter. This was the case for many spectators as performers taragirl, Ledisi, Lady Alma, Chrisette Michele, Angie Stone, Bill Holly’s Hard Drive, Tank, and headliner Chaka Khan hit all the right notes…

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August 15, 2007

Beyonce at Wachovia Center - Philadelphia, 8/10


The Beyoncé Experience is an extraordinary one.  If you do not yet know what a Beyoncé experience is when you step into this superstar's world, brace yourself!  Even the slightest of fans will have the time of their life here, probably leave with a sore throat, and maybe twist their ankle in the process…  Beyoncé was a strikingly beautiful image when she emerged in a sparkling dress with her hands lifted up something like Diana Ross, blinding sparks falling behind her.  After her royal intro, the show had a deafening opening with ‘Crazy in Love,’ the smash hit that B used to always close her show with.  That was definitely an indicator of all the excitement to come.  On this latest arena world tour, Beyoncé is confirming that she is an exceptional live entertainer, even for a mega star.  She puts it down vocally and dancewise everywhere she goes with genuine energy, delighting countless fans.  This night at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center is no different.

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August 12, 2007

Aretha Franklin @ The Dell East - Philadelphia, 8/6

'Can I get someone to come up and cut this fan off for me? I just have to be hot tonight!' said Aretha Franklin to roars of approval.  It goes to show you this entertainer doesn't play games when it comes to feelin' her music.  In the simmering heat of the night, classic song after classic song rang though East Fairmount Park’s Dell East outdoor venue.  Rumor had it that something had upset the diva before show time and Franklin was not going to come out (allegedly).  Thankfully she did and I got to experience some real music history.  Her band and singers were on point and her audience enthusiastically exalted her throughout the show.

The enjoyment of hearing a powerful and legendary voice like Aretha’s was made doubly entertaining by the material she covered—decades of hits!  It felt like a rare gift.  Franklin is a singer versed in many genres and a performer who can put on a Jazz-only show with as much ease as anything else, but it was a fiery classic soul and R&B show that Franklin lovers got this night.  This is the type of full-on performance that goes beyond entertaining to awe-inspiring at moments.  At 65, it is great that she still loves to show off too, riffing freely between songs and commanding the stage with a diva’s presence... there's nothing like a random vocal run between your sentences.  Franklin has that elusive old-school ability to entertain and connect with her crowd in a way that only a legend knows how…


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August 11, 2007

Tokyo Police Club; Ra Ra Riot; Vampire Weekend; Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia PA 08.09.07

OK, so let’s get something straight: if someone tells you Vampire Weekend are going to be "the next Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”, discredit their taste in music. Immediately. I mean, it’s not exactly a lie –- these kids will certainly blow up CYHSY stylee, but as for a musical comparison, your friend/mentor/music know-it-all has tin ears. I managed to squeeze myself into a little balcony spot and all I could think was, “this sounds like Paul Simon’s Graceland, and I don't like where it's going.” Then I saw, the barefooted lead singer, some boat shoes scattered on the stage and my suspicions were confirmed. (Actually, I’m lying – my good friend Josh from BadmintonStamps told me that the Shout Magic kids were saying the same thing too.) This isn’t to dissuade you from checking them out -- it’s more or less of a caveat emptor. I like to call this “divorced dad rock” – the kind of music a way out-of-touch adult clings to maintain some shred of relevancy/street cred with a younger peer group. So you know, if your divorced dad is looking for something that rocks, but reminds him of Paul Simon or world music… here you go.

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Tegan & Sara; International House, Philadelphia, PA 08.05.07

If you haven’t been paying close attention lately, there’s been a lot of talk about Tegan & Sara, the Canadian identical twin singing sensations, though most of it amounts to what what some in the biz call a “nontroversy” -– in short, a controversy that doesn’t actually exist. The majority of the fuss centers around a critic's decision to use the term “tampon rock” in a recent review. Feminists around the country have been calling her out, the cries ranging from being anti-female (and perhaps, a glib reference to their sexuality, which they have preferred to keep out of the spotlight) to “setting women back”. (I mean really, is the phrase “tampon rock” tying the apron strings back on, more so than say, the policies of a certain political leader?) Personally speaking, I don't see the big deal, as I fully agree with the writer's point that they've evolved light years beyond the genre they typically (and quite unfairly) are lumped into.

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August 06, 2007

Illinois; The Sw!ms: World Café Live, Philadelphia PA, 07.28.07

Look, I know I have a tendency to start these posts off with telling you about "how it is" here in the City of Brotherly Love, but let's face it -- there's few people like me who have the experience, history or whatever it takes to drop this science on all you readers out there. People say Philadelphia is the Next Big Thing, Sixth Borough and whatever, so let me tell you a secret (which I guess isn't really a secret now that I've shared it through Billboard!): some of this city's best exports are not Philadelphia bands per se, but rather from our surrounding areas. Thank heavens we have the keen sense to claim them for our own.

On this particular night it was a cavalcade of suburban indie rock; a great reminder that not every band outside city limits is chock full of soul-patch douchebaggery, and what better proof do you need than the one-two punch of Scranton's The Sw!ms and Doylestown's Illinois. Sometimes, you know, people just live outside the city 'cause it's cheaper. Or something like that. Who knew World Café Live could get so positively suburban?

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Sly Hats; Guy Blackman; Brown Recluse Sings: Tritone, Philadelphia PA 07.27.07

Let it be known: kids in Philly loves indie rock of the bloglike variety, but when it comes to twee things start to get a little... timid. I know, I know, the attitude's quintessential to the style. But I know Philly has tons of diehard twee fans and a night of well-curated pop (courtesy of the guys behind the "Go Back To Those Gold Soundz" DJ night) should have been enough to drive them out in slouched, argyle-bedecked droves. Failing that, this usually steamy late July weekend had a cool drizzle in the air, which is tailor-made for wistful nights such as this one.

Openers Sly Hats and Guy Blackman (who both hail from Australia) shook things up a little bit by opting to perform together, as opposed to two separate sets. Sly Hats wears its new wave and psychedelic influences on the sleeve for all to see, at times highly reminiscent of local psychedelphians Lilys. On the other hand, Blackman is steeped in the folk & classical traditions, something you can clearly hear on "Dark and Quiet", his collaboration with Jens Lekman. I don't know if these two have a history of touring together in this fashion; regardless, despite being on opposite ends of the pop spectrum, they managed to find a nice middle ground with their accompaniments.

Following the Aussies were local kids Brown Recluse Sings. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I've booked shows for these guys before.) Perhaps you may have heard their track "Western Meadowlark" on Veronica Mars? On this particular night they presented a spacier version of their currently most-well known track that was quite nice.

And now, for some photos...

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August 03, 2007

BEASTIE BOYS @ Festival Pier in Philadelphia - 8/1

With the Beastie Boys’ new instrumental album The Mix-Up I didn’t know what kind of show to expect from the legendary trio tonight, but alas I largely got a classic Beasties Hip-Hop show! (I’m talking ‘Paul Revere’ and all).  This stop did have sprinklings of their new instrumental material, which made for nice dynamic shifting and was great for interlude purposes. I learned that they’ve scheduled some 'gala' dates with fewer rap performances within their tour, but I must say I am ecstatic at what I got.

The veteran Brooklyn group kicked off their summer tour in grand style to a jam packed crowd of fans eager to see them. One front row spectator I spoke to traveled to Philly from Columbus, OH, waiting at the venue more than 5 hours early! The show started over an hour late so after the third chanting of ‘beast-ie boys, beast-ie boys’ I feared a riot. Luckily the barricades of the press pit would have protected me, but there was nothing to fear once Ad Rock, MCA & Mike D appeared. [Much more of my review below]


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July 28, 2007

Jay Reatard; Clockcleaner; Home Blitz: Johnny Brenda's 07.26.07

Jr072607_3 Once again I headed to Johnny Brenda's on Thursday night, that glistening jewel in the crown of Philadelphia's hipster bar scene. Granted, the place looks like a glamorous old music venue but on a closer look, as my friend that night suggested, there's no graffiti tags lingering on the walls. A lot of bands manage to grab the appropriate aesthetic markers, but in the end there's not much there there. Mind you, this isn't a call to arms for authenticity, 'cause I believe fake can be just as good -- sometimes better than the real thing, baby -- just sayin' that advertising looks are not enough.

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July 24, 2007

David Vandervelde; Blitzen Trapper; The Peekers: Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia PA 07.23.07


No offense to the No Depression enthusiasts out there, but when the phrase "country rock" gets dropped, oh boy. I have to batten down the emotional hatches and prepare myself for a long evening filled with seemingly endless songs comprised of steel guitar, "harmonies" and earnest lyrics. And the prospect of watching this all go down on a Monday night -- especially after a long birthday weekend -- certainly did not thrill me. In the end,  tonight's show at Johnny Brenda's was totally worth leaving the house for.

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July 22, 2007

Musiq Soulchild @ Bank of America Sounds of R&B Series at Penn's Landing, Philadelphia 7/20

What a memorable show!  It felt like history was being made during this summer series/homecoming concert.  It’s amazing the consistency in which Musiq Soulchild flows song to song with full crowd enthusiasm. Consistency has been the soul story of Musiq’s career, with a series of platinum- and gold-selling albums and a stream of R&B hits to go right along.  Mixed in with those hits were popular cuts from his latest hit album ‘Luvanmusiq.’  Musiq’s voice is one as convincing and confident live as it is on his soulful records.

This free outdoor concert drew a massive drove of Philadelphians, so much so that some individuals were overwhelmed by the crowd size upon arriving and promptly left.  Most of the nose bleeders though enjoyed the sounds, the food, and the warm breeze in folding chairs all around the outskirts of the pier. ( much more of my review below! )


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The Police @ Citizens Bank Park - Philadelphia, 7/19

It was their first Philly performance since 1983.  Reunited for this world tour, the new wave musicians are in top form.  For those in the nosebleeds at Citizens Bank Park, yes, The Police were barely visible, but for those up close, the massive screens and blinding light show nearly outshined the veteran rockers themselves. Still there is nothing quite like seeing living legends perform their classics!  I was in awe the whole time.  Yea some of it sounded dated, but that’s because their last album came out almost 25 years ago.  However long it’s been, the hall of fame trio displayed career spanning musical genius in genre mixing, and focused their energy on slamming musical and vocal performances rather than onstage theatrics.  Sometimes it felt nearly as though you were peaking on a studio session in front of 40,000 spectators.  The band’s chemistry was electric and it was hard to ignore the reserved intensity of Sting’s onstage persona.  All of this in row 15 center, a once in a lifetime experience… And The Police’s hardcore adult fans adore them beyond measure—all it takes is a few doo doo doos and da da das to excite them out of their minds.  Blame the nostalgia…


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July 19, 2007

Harry & the Potters: Starlight Ballroom, Philadelphia PA 07.18.07

Hp071807_01_3Philadelphia's Starlight Ballroom is located in an area that one usually does not take children to: blocks of dilapidated factories, trash-strewn parking lots and forgotten railways. Inside this space (which is known alternately in the Asian community as the nightclub Polaris) is a completely different story.

Bedecked in decorations that look as if they were plucked straight out of someone's Sweet Sixteen (pictured left), the Starlight Ballroom took on an inviting, kid-positive glow. So kid-friendly, in fact, your correspondent was unaware that the show had an earlier-than-usual start time for an all-ages gig. Even though I may have missed out on Math The Band (the girl working the door referred to them as "crazy") and the Hungarian Horntails, I couldn't have been better timed to catch Harry & the Potters.

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Bowling for Soup w/ Melee @ TLA in Philly, 7/16

I caught great shots of BOWLING FOR SOUP and MELEE on my wonderful enV by LG as each band rocked a packed room at the The Fillmore, Theater of Living Arts (TLA).  Both bands expressed their awe in seeing so many of their fans, Melee even crowning PHILLY as their best crowd yet!  Bowling for Soup were truly entertaining (especially with moments like their 'big Emo breakdown').  Melee gave fans songs like 'Built to Last,' which the band categorizes as their 'love songs' (the other group are their 'not love songs').  Bowling for Soup kept the energy up straight through, and you can see that in my snapshotz from tha show.  Check 'em out and leave your comments!  So much more to come from my way...stay tuned!


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July 16, 2007

69 Eyes & Wednesday 13 @ TLA Philly, 7.10

What a performance these guys put on! I caught Wednesday 13 and headliners 69 Eyes (in the last show from the US leg of their tour). I got amazing shots for my first Billboard outing of the summer--thank u enV by LG! Life's truly Good in the press pit so check out this great set of pics because sometimes pictures say a thousand words... till next time!

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July 02, 2007

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone; Donkeys: First Unitarian Church Chapel, Philadelphia PA 07.01.07

You'd think the dark wood paneling, pews and gilded flourishes of the First Unitarian Church's side chapel would make for a stuffy, imposing atmosphere; the kind of place where if one makes a single false move, God will personally see fit to their eternal damnation. Chalk it up to the freewheelin' nature of the Unitarians themselves, the acoustics, whatever --  every performance I've witnessed in this fifty-person capacity space has been anything but staid.


That said, rock bands can't seem to shake off the novelty of playing in a house of worship; I'm pretty sure I've heard every single religious-themed joke, thanks to all the years of watching bands at the Church.  Tonight, the drummer of the Donkeys asked,  "Are there any Unitarians in the audience? Do they know we're here?" Is there an emoticon for a sigh, with some serious eyerolling?

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