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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August 06, 2007

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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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

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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 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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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.

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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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