Kevin Devine Celebrates 10 Years of Music

Kevin Devine at Webster Hall

Kevin Devine at Webster Hall

Ten years of music, six albums, tireless touring, and thousands of devoted fans–all celebrated in one beautiful, sublime evening.  I could probably write a novella in this post, but I’ll not to be too verbose (no promises).  Saturday night, December 1, 2012, was Kevin Devine’s 10th anniversary show, offically titled Write Your Story Now: Celebrating 10 Years of Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band(s).  A celebration of the tenth birthday of his first solo album and the advent of his solo career, Kevin Devine performed three of his six full-length albums: his first album, 2002’s Circle Gets the Square; his most recent album, 2011’s Between the Concrete and the Clouds; and his 2005 release, the recently reissued, Split the Country, Split the Street.  Over 1,000 tickets were sold to the event which was held at Webster Hall in New York City

The show was announced a few months before, and I immediately knew I had to go.  This wasn’t any show.  This was a once in a lifetime event.  It wasn’t something that was going to happen again.  My friend bought us tickets as a birthday gift to me, the show falling pretty close to my 23rd birthday.  We took a car, and a ferry, a cab, and walked a whole lot.  We shelled out money we didn’t have, but it was worth every penny and then some. Continue reading


Where have I been?

A ton of music news has come and gone.

I’ve been to a decent amount of shows, three in the past week alone.

So, where have I been?

I intended to keep up this blog forever, but I started a master’s program in education immediately after graduating from Rowan University with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in journalism.  I didn’t realize how much of my time it would take up.  I just couldn’t find the time to write the posts I wanted to, and I couldn’t bring myself to write a farewell post and give up on this blog.

So now, I’m in the homestretch of my summer sessions with this program, and I’m starting to realize how much I miss blogging.  It took this whirlwind week of shows for me to realize it.  It took a particularly amazing show last night to push me into logging back in and writing this post.

The amount of free time I have is going to dwindle further once the fall comes, and I have even more on my plate.  For now, I’m going to make an effort to start posting on here again.  I hope to have a new post by the end of next week.  For now, here’s a video I took when I saw Andrew Jackson Jihad back in the spring.  I somehow managed to get to stand on the stage with the band at the First Unitarian Church.  It was an amazing experience.


The Revival Tour 2012 in Philadelphia

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Going to the Revival Tour a couple of weeks ago was the best last-minute concert decision I’ve ever made.  I knew about the tour and wanted to go, but I didn’t have the money.  I forgot about it until a few days before when the special guests for the Philly date started to be announced.  A few days before the show, Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem announced that he would be doing a guest spot exclusively at the Philly date.  I was sold.  I bought tickets immediately and was blown away by the night.

When I write in detail about concerts, it’s because I really found them to be special (corny, but true) experiences.  Not every show is.  This however, was one of the most moving shows I’ve ever been too.  Started by Hot Water Music‘s Chuck Ragan in 2008, the Revival Tour takes punk musicians and puts them together for a tour of collaborative acoustic performances.  Many of the artists involved have roots in folk music; Ragan himself has released a few solo folk records.  What you get at the Revival Tour is a bunch of friends making music together.  There’s far more love and integrity and camaraderie between musicians and fans alike than most shows.  It’s a very intimate setting.  At this particular show headliners: Chuck Ragan, Tommy Gabel of Against Me!, Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, and Corey Branan were joined by several special guests: Brian Fallon, Dave Hause of the Loved Ones, and Tim Barry (formerly of Avail).  To allow time for all the special performances, the headliners played shorten sets.  This didn’t bother me at all.  The show started and ended with everyone on stage playing together songs from each headliner.  In between, the musicians took turns playing their songs solo while the others came and went, adding vocals here or a part there.  Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg joined the tour to play violin and double bass, respectively.

It was an amazing night of music from start to finish.  There was a certain kind of respect and fellowship in crowd that’s rare.

Here’s a video I took of Tom Gabel playing the Against Me! song “Tonight We Give it 35%”

Band of Skulls at the Union Transfer

Band of Skulls at the Union Transfer

Band of Skulls at the Union Transfer

Sorry for the lack of posts, folks!  I hadn’t been to any shows lately, but that’s recently changed.  Last week I finally got to check out the Union Transfer and see Band of Skulls.  I saw Band of Skulls a few years back at the North Star Bar just when they started to make their break.  Needless to say, the Union Transfer is a big step up from that tiny bar.  Band of Skulls put on a fun show to an enthusiastic crowd.  The Union Transfer exceeded all expectations.  It’s truly a beautiful venue, and it has definitely become my favorite larger venue in Philly.  Here’s a video I took of Band of Skulls performing “Fires” from their first album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey.

Thrice’s Farewell Tour

Thrice recently announced the dates for their farewell tour this spring.  Animals as Leaders and another very special guest will be opening.  If you’ve never seen Thrice, or even if you’ve seen them 10 times, I highly recommend trying to make it to one of these dates.  They’ll be in Philly on May 25 at the Electric Factory, and I’ll be there.  You can buy tickets for that date and all the others right now and save on fees.  If the show you want to go to is sold out already or you don’t have the cash right now, you can wait till the general sale which starts on March 1.  I’m sure these events will sell out very quickly, and they are definitely not to be missed.  You  can read Thrice’s announcement of the tour for more details here, and you can even vote for songs you’d like to hear them play.

In Photos: O’Brother at the North Star Bar

On Sunday, I got to see O’brother for the fifth time, this time at the North Star Bar.  But this time was different; this time they were headlining.  It was awesome (maybe not so awesome to my eardrums) to see such a talented band kill it for a full set.  They sounded phenomenal as usual, and they put on a hell of a show.  For the first time ever in my life, I actually headbanged…I couldn’t help it.  You just have to completely lose it and rock out when you hear the epic “Lay Down.”  The opening band Junius were also really good and are featured in the gallery below.


All photos were taken by me unless otherwise noted.

Jesse Lacey of Brand New talks about the band’s hopes for their next record

If you know anything about Brand New, you probably know that they rarely do interviews.  While in the UK for a series of dates earlier this month, lead singer Jesse Lacey broke the bands silence with an interview for a local music zine.  It’s an interesting read/listen, and Lacey talks about a wide range of subjects both relating to his personal life and the music industry.  Lacey said in the interview that the band has studio time booked for April and hopes to get new music released by the end of the year.  In regards to the sound of this album, Lacey said, “I think we’ve taken what we do and taken it as far as it can go, in terms the way we build a song, the way we layer our instruments and arrange everything, and the way I do my own vocals, and even the more technical side of recording.  We’re not very excited about going back into the studio and trying to find those sounds again, we are interested in being ‘Brand New,’ but writing, recording and structuring songs in a way that we haven’t done before.  I’d like it if, on the next thing we release, if someone who was familiar with us were to walk into a room, and it be playing, I’d like them to not know that it was us.”  You can read the whole interview and listen to the first half of it here.

Brand New have also recently announced that they will be playing the Bamboozle festival in New Jersey.

The Experience of Jeff Mangum at Irvine Auditorium in Philadelphia

I can be long-winded, but I don’t want to do that here.  I believe that the beauty in what I witnessed seeing Jeff Mangum was the simplicity, the unity, the love.  I don’t want to dampen that.    This is not a review.  This is different.  Think of it as a diary entry.  Think of it as me trying to recount a profound and beautiful experience completely and as concisely as possible.

I wrote about Mangum in depth last month, so I’m not going to recount any information about him or Neutral Milk Hotel.  I’m just diving into the concert I attended on January 25.  First there was the anticipation.  For months, I looked forward to this concert.  I was one of the lucky 1,200 people to get tickets, and I was so grateful for that.  This wasn’t like most shows I go to.  Getting tickets was a mission, it was a requirement, it might have been my only chance to see Jeff Mangum live.  I never worried that my expectations would exceed Mangum’s delivery.  I never worried about being let down or disappointed.  The opportunity to see him at all was wonderful; a year ago, I would have never thought I’d get the chance to.

As I walked into Irvine Auditorium, to my seat in the second row, I was struck by how perfect the place was to see Mangum.  The architecture, the organs, the colors, everything.  It fit the Neutral Milk Hotel aesthetic in a way that no other venue I know could have.  My attention was immediately drawn to the stage, where a huge array of instruments and other gadgets were set up for the opening band, the Music Tapes.  Featuring former Neutral Milk Hotel member Julian Koster, the Music Tapes are beyond the realm of rational classification and description.  Among the instruments on stage: a banjo, a bass guitar, a tuba, a trumpet, a trombone, a saw, various bells and cymbals.  In addition to the somewhat traditional instruments there was a 7 foot tall metronome, a automatic mechanical organ machine, and a television set that was later introduced as “Static,” the founding member of the Music Tapes.  The Music Tapes were strange, they were unique, they were charming.  I said to a friend that the only way I could think to describe Julian Koster, adorned in a bizarre mismatched clothes, was as a magical being, an elf perhaps, that hopped out of a Disney movie to tell us stories full of magic and wonder.  The Music Tapes took the fuzz-folk feel of Neutral Milk Hotel and turned it up a few notches, creating something I think is easiest to describe in the way it made me feel: happy, enchanted, childlike, innocent.  Part music, part three-man show, it was genuinely entertaining.

Them there was the wait for Mangum, the announcement that photography was forbidden, a rule that seemed to be strictly followed, his entrance, and the silence and respect and awe of the crowd.  He opened with “Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two,” and I knew it was going to be an unforgettable night.  Immediately enchanted by Mangum as he sang alone on stage, I wasn’t at all surprise to feel my throat choking up and the presence of tears in my eyes.  There’s no way to describe the experience without sounding cliché or over-the-top, but it honestly was magical.  Next came “Holland, 1945,” and at some point around this time Mangum mentioned how happy he was to see his fans, to see how people were affected by the “messages in bottles” he wrote and recorded so many years ago.  He encouraged people to move closer, and a group of fans quickly moved to sit on the floor in front of the stage.  It was as if we needed his permission to do anything.  We all just watched with wonder in our eyes, some of us in tears, others watching with unblinking reverence and love.  He strongly encouraged us to sing along–yes, us, at this point, everyone in that place was part of something.  I felt connect to everyone else in that auditorium.  Everyone shouted, “I love you, Jesus Christ,” during “King of Carrot Flowers Pts Two & Three” regardless of their beliefs.  We all meant it.  Even as I’m typing this, I still have that overwhelming feeling of unity and emotional catharsis sweeps over me.  When I think about that evening, I start to get a little choked up in spite of myself…I can’t help it.  It was special.  Of all the concerts I’ve ever been to, this one was the most moving.  It was a deeply spiritual experience.  I believe in something I didn’t before that day, be it the power of music, or God, or some kind of spiritual unity of souls, or some “endless endless” spoken of in the liner notes of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.  It’s the feeling that matters, the pride, the emotion, the love, not the order of songs or every word exchanged between Mangum and fans (he encouraged fans to talk and did answer back).

Mangum played a lot of songs from Aeroplane, a few from On Avery Island, and two that didn’t appear on albums: “Engine,” in which Mangum was joined by Julian Koster on saw, and the last song Mangum wrote and played publicly after Aeroplane, the dark and ominous, “Little Birds.”  He remarked that we took his breath away during “Engine,” and thanked us for being there.  By the end of the show, Jeff Mangum invited everyone to stand, a mass of people get up and move towards the front, myself included.  Standing close to the stage, mere yards away from Jeff, I screamed “Two-Headed Boy” at the top of my lungs along with everyone else.  My voice cracking with emotion and strain in a way I can’t remember experiencing in a long time, I felt like I knew that Two-Headed Boy, I could feel for him.  At the end of the song, Mangum stopped and pointed out into the crowd.  The Music Tapes began marching toward the stage playing the instrumental from Aeroplane “The Fool.”  Jeff joined them on guitar as they marched toward the stage, stopping in the middle of the crowd to play the rest of the song.  Koster climbed up on stage and left with Mangum.  The crowd roared with applause and cries for an encore.  Mangum reemerged to play his encore, “Song Against Sex,” followed by “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” where Koster again joined him on the saw.  That song, so delicate, so beautiful, so melancholy, yet so hopeful was the perfect ending to a truly amazing evening.

Something happened in that room that evening to me and to others.  Something beautiful and one of a kind.  Calling it a religious experience feels too narrow.  Neutral Milk Hotel resides outside of the constraints of religion, outside of all the boundaries in our society and our minds.  The stories Mangum sings to us, the characters he presents, surreal and fanciful as they are, stir up something deep within us.  Something beyond words.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Philly concerts to look out for in 2012

Here’s some promising shows I’ve come across for the coming months.  They’re all worth your time:


1/20/12: Anthony Green (of Circa Survive) with The Dear Hunter at the Union Transfer

1/21/12: Man Man at the Union Transfer

1/25/12: Jeff Mangum at Irvine Auditorium (SOLD OUT)

2/4/12: Jack’s Mannequin at the Theatre of Living Arts

2/16/12: Northern Liberties Winter Music Fest ft. River City Extension at The Fire

2/19/12: O’brother at the North Star Bar

2/19/12: Portlandia: The Tour at the Trocadero

2/25/12: Buried Beds at Johnny Brenda’s

3/10/12: The Black Keys with the Arctic Monkeys at the Wells Fargo Center

3/16/12: Megafaun at Johnny Brenda’s

4/05/12: Cursive with Cymbals Eat Guitars at the Union Transfer

4/13/12: The Ting Tings at the Trocadero

4/15/12: Say Anything with Kevin Devine and Fake Problems at the TLA (on sale 1/26/12)

4/28/12: fun. at the TLA


There are tons of shows between now and the start of May that aren’t listed here, but mayvery well be your cup of tea.  Check out another Philly music blog, The Swollen Fox, for a complete listing of shows in the Philadelphia area.  

I apologize for the infrequent updates, but you’ll be hearing more from me soon.

2011 in Review: my favorite albums of the year

I listen to a lot of music, but I simply can’t listen to everything.  That’s why I’m saying explicitly that this is not a “best of” list.  This is just my opinion, my favorite records of the year.   If I listened to more albums, there may have been some others on this list as well, but 2011 is over, and this is what I’ve come up with.   I am numbering them, but the main ranking is through tiers.  The first tier consists of my favorite albums and the ones I consider to be objectively excellent.  The second tier consists of my other favorite albums, ones that were just a step below my top five.  The third tier is honorable mentions.  These albums are fantastic as well, but for one reason or another, they didn’t make the final cut.

Without further ado: Continue reading