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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 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.

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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.

Farewell Post: the end is the beginning

This semester at Rowan has drawn to a close, and so the impetus for the creation of this blog is also over.  This blog was for my Online Journalism class at Rowan, and it’s been a huge learning experience for me.  It’s important to note that although this blog was for class, I never looked at it that way.  I looked at the class as the reason to finally do something I had wanted to do for years: write about music.  I never imagined the success I would have with this blog when I first started.  I expected to be shot down or ignored by the bands I wanted to talk to.  That happened sometimes, but I had far more success than I imagined.  I expected to have to resort to writing about about bands I didn’t actually like or care about.  That didn’t happen at all.  I’ve genuinely enjoyed everything I’ve done for this.  Everything I’ve written here has been honest and true.  I don’t mind that focusing on only bands I actually like makes the blog less accessible to the public. When I get beyond the realm of things I want to write about, I don’t write as well.  I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer form this blog.

That being said, this isn’t the end of this blog by any stretch.  I’ve enjoyed it so much, I can’t imagine just stopping like that.  If anything, now I’ll have even more freedom with the blog–no deadlines, no specific assignments.  I’m going to continue to review every show I go to, and take as many pictures and videos as I possibly can.  I’m going to keep writing about bands I love, and bands I think are worth listening to.  As long as bands are willing to talk to me, I’m going to keep doing interviews, Q&As, and maybe even some new features with bands.  My next post will most likely be my top albums of 2011.

And now, the part where this becomes an awards show speech: I would like to thank each and everyone of you, my readers, whether you’re friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers.  Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for sharing.  I’d also like to thank the bands I’ve written about for producing awesome music–I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for your music and the inspiration it gives me.  Specifically, thank you to Michael Martens of O’Brother, Kevin Devine, Johnny Mick, and Christain Bitto for talking with me about their music and music in general for this blog.  Also thanks to Sibyl Kemp, Matt Hovern, Kimberly Southwick, Debbie Stevenson, and Eugene Kim of Invisible Children for talking to me and giving me some other perspectives.  Thank you to my friends for going to shows with me and putting up with me taking pictures and talking about my blog all the time.

Whether you’re an old or new reader, here are my five favorite posts.  I think they demonstrate my best work, and were all important to me for various other reasons.

1. Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum: Indie Rock Legend Returns

2. Q&A with Michael Martens, drummer or O’Brother

3. Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band put on a damn good show at the North Star Bar

4. Frank Turner proves that rock and roll really can save us all

5. My first living room show with David Bazan


Thank you for reading, and keep reading!

2011 in Review: Looking Back at an Awesome Year of Shows

As the year draws to an end, blogs and magazines all over the internet are naming their best albums of the year.  I am going to do a post with my favorite albums of the year, but for now, I’m going to try something different.  It’s been an amazing year for music for me, both with albums releases from my favorite bands and live shows.  For this post, I’m going to go through my ticket stub diary and talk about some of those amazing concerts. Continue reading

Thank you & farewell, Thrice & Thursday

I posted a couple days ago mentioning Thrice’s hiatus.  The next day, November 22, Thursday announced that they would be going on an indefinite hiatus.  This got me thinking quite a bit about my personal connections with both bands.  I wasn’t terribly sad or particularly surprised that Thrice and Thursday both announced hiatuses–all things come to an end and both bands had very productive 13 year long runs.  Both bands formed around the same time and had strangely parallel careers.  Often lumped together as post hardcore, Thrice and Thursday toured together more than once and were both signed to Island Records (and both left after a fairly short time) around the same time.  In their messages to fans, neither band ruled out the possibility of recording and playing together at some point in the future.

Facts aside, there’s another reason I’m writing this.  I discovered Thursday in 2003, right after their album War All the Time was released.  It was a formative time in my life; I was only 13.  That album completely blew my mind.  I had never listened to anything that heavy before, and I was amazed by how beautiful a loud record could be.  I didn’t realize before then that heavy music could be melodic.  Most importantly, Thursday showed me that lyrics can be literature, they can be poetry.  There was more to music than lyrics about broken hearts and partying.  Thursday’s songs were about bigger, more important issues.  I really can’t put into words how much discovering Thursday changed me and shaped me as a person, but War All the Time will always hold a very special place in my heart.  I would go so far as to say it was the first serious album I ever really loved (a vast improvement over the blink-182 and other pop-punk I had been listening to).

Thrice followed shortly after Thursday, mainly because I kept reading that they were so similar.  They’re really not, but that’s another story.  It was love at first listen.  Thrice became a fixture in my life from that point on.  In fact, from the time I first saw them in 2004, I went to almost every headlining Thrice show in Philadelphia (and some extra gigs too).  Thursday may have started my love affair with lyrics, but Thrice continued it.  Where Thursday waned in and out of my life at various times, Thrice never left me.  Their music made me feel empowered.  I became more socially aware by listening to their music.  When I was 15, I went to my first Warped Tour and Thrice were headlining.  I had recently bought their live album, and a membership to their fan club, The Thrice Alliance, came with it.  I was ecstatic when I found out that this would get me into a meet and greet with the band, but I didn’t realize how cool it was going to be.  My friend and I got to go backstage.  Then while Thrice played their set, we got to stand on the side of the stage to watch.  Then we met them.  I was just a kid, and I was starstruck.  I probably said about a total of ten words the entire time we got to chat with them.  It’s still a story I tell, and it’s still one of my fondest memories from that point in my life.  Here’s an incredibly embarrassing picture from that day:

Me and Thrice

Me with Thrice circa Warped Tour 2005

Well, that’s awkward.  I think I was suffering from heat exhaustion at the time.  Back to my little open love letter to Thrice and Thursday.  I owe so much to Thrice.  Their music evolved with my own musical taste in a way that was almost eerie.  Each album changed in just the right way for the time in my life it was released.  I’m grateful I got to meet Thrice again this fall and see them perform on one of their last tours.  Here’s a much less embarrassing picture of me with Thrice from last month:

Me with Thrice circa October 2011.

There’s so much I can say about this band, and I’m starting to draw a blank and lose any eloquence I had going…  The point of this post was to say thank you to two very important bands.  Thank you, Thrice.  Thank you, Thursday.  Thank you for the 8 years of music you’ve created that I’ve followed, and the years before I started listening.  Thank you for creating something beautiful.  Thank you for playing countless shows and taking time to connect with your fans.  Thank you for all you’ve done for me and people like me.  Just thank you.

News Round-up for 11/21/11

A lot happened in the small realm of music I cover on this blog in the last few days, so I present you with the first conglomeration post for this blog.  There will surely be more in the future.

  • Garden Window album art

    Last week, O’Brother, who I’ve talked about several times on this blog, digitally released their debut full-length album, Garden Window.  As beautiful as it is fiery and visceral, the hour long record shattered my expectations.  Even after hearing songs from Garden Window live and interviewing Michael Martens about the album, I wasn’t sure what to expect.   I went into my first listen of Garden Window with my expectations dangerously high and was completely blown away.  The record engulfs you in a wall of furious sound that immediately drags you in.  Each time I’ve listened to Garden Window, I’ve heard something completely different, something that I did not hear on previous listens.  If you want to hear the intense heavy and experimental record for yourself,  you can buy the album digitally on iTunes or Amazon, or pre-order the gorgeous vinyl version or CD here.

  • The Philadelphia based experimental band mewithoutYou have been added to the line-up for Saturday night’s Brand New show at the House of Blues in Atlantic City.  O’Brother will be opening, followed by mewithoutYou, then Brand New.  It’s going to be an amazing line-up and awesome night of music, so if you can find a way to get into that sold out show, I strongly encourage it.
  • Thrice’s lead singer and guitarist, Dustin Kensrue, has announced via the band’s website that after a final spring tour, Thrice will be going on hiatus.  Kensrue assured fans that Thrice were not breaking up, merely taking a break from being a full time band.  You can read his statement here.

My modest collection of Devil and God vinyl variants.

  • Lastly, today is the 5th birthday (or anniversary, if you prefer to call it that) of an album I hold very close to my heart, Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.  When that album was released five years ago today, I was only 16 years old.  My taste in music was still developing, and I can honestly say that the Devil and God totally changed my musical taste forever.  The way I perceived music was turned upside-down by that record.  I could write volumes on Brand New  and this particular album (I consider it their best work thus far), but I’ll keep this short and sweet.  It’s an album that means a lot to me, an album that effected my life in different ways, an album that brought me closer to  some very important people in my life, and an album that you should listen to if you’ve never heard it.  Maybe you won’t like it, maybe you will.   I think it’s a heartbreaking and beautiful masterpiece, and that hasn’t changed in the last five years.


Hello, readers.  My name is Kate Gaschnig.  I’m a senior at Rowan University with a major in English and a minor in Journalism.  My love of writing, along with my passion for music, led me to create this blog.  Sifting Through Static is going to be a blog about live music, specifically alternative and indie rock and the various facets of it, in the Philadelphia area.  I’ll be focusing mainly on small venues and bands that aren’t that well-known.  My favorite concerts are at small independent venues, and I will be talking a lot about venues like this in Philly, specifically those connected to r5 Productions, an independent production company in Philadelphia.  I’ll be going to shows throughout the fall and blogging about them, and it just so happens these shows are in order of smallest venue to largest venue, which will provide an interesting perspective.  I’ll also be writing about new releases of bands I’ll be covering.  I plan to recommend several shows in the area each week, regardless of whether I’ll be attending them.  I’ll be taking lots of pictures and hopefully some video to post on here, and  I hope to have a few interviews with fans and bands as well.  If you want to find out about some new bands and some awesome places to see live music, keep reading.