Tag Archives: philadelphia

The Revival Tour 2012 in Philadelphia

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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.


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.


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.


Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum: an indie rock legend returns

Jeff Mangum, source unknown.

Jeff Mangum, lead singer and songwriter for the 90s indie rock band, Neutral Milk Hotel, is quite an enigmatic figure.  He hasn’t released any new music under the Neutral Milk Hotel moniker since 1998.   No one knows if he’s written anything since that point, that he’s like the Salinger of indie rock, leading a quiet life writing music only for himself, or if he’s totally dried up and incapable of writing anything.  It’s likely somewhere in between–in a 2002 interview with Pitchfork, Mangum said he hadn’t written in a while, but also said he writes songs and being unsatisfied with them, throws them out.  With his recent triumphant return to the music scene years after that interview, perhaps new material will be released at some point.  Mangum is a man shrouded in mystery to most.  For the decade since his band Neutral Milk Hotel’s critically acclaimed album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was released, little is publicly known about Mangum’s life. Forget what he’s been doing with his time, few sources agree on where he’s been for the bulk of the past 13 years.  Some say he’s been living quietly in Athens, Georgia, others that he’s traveled all over, hopping from friend’s house to friend’s house.  It’s a mystery created out of hearsay and the rampant curiosity of fans and journalists who starve for answers.  The truth is, it doesn’t really matter where Mangum’s been–what matters is that Mangum’s returned.

Despite the following of devoted fans, and the accolades from publications, musicians, and Stephen Colbert, you may not know who Jeff Mangum even is.  You may have never heard of Neutral Milk Hotel, so back to the beginning, back to the roots of what made Mangum the icon he is today.  Neutral Milk Hotel was the name Mangum began using for his recordings in the early 1990’s.  For years, Neutral Milk Hotel wasn’t really a band as much as simply Mangum and whoever felt like playing with him at any given moment.  After releasing his first full-length album as Neutral Milk Hotel in 1996, On Avery Island, Mangum was joined by Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes, and Scott Spillane for touring, and Neutral Milk Hotel as it is commonly viewed was formed.  Two years later, Neutral Milk Hotel released their second and final album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, an album that continues to sell and gain the band new fans today.  Listed as one of the greatest albums of all time by more than one source, it’s now heralded as genius and revolutionary by many.  Less than a year after its release, after Neutral Milk Hotel started to create some buzz in the indie rock scene, they disappeared.  The band broke up, went on hiatus, whatever you want to call it.  Mangum disappeared, popping up here and there, but only playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs a few times over the next decade.  Recently though, Mangum has returned to playing shows and playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs.  After all these years, why is Mangum still relevant, and not just relevant, but able to sell out shows in seconds?  How did In the Aeroplane Over the Sea manage to be the sixth best-selling vinyl in 2008, when it was 10 years old and still rather obscure? Continue reading


This Venue is Not Wheelchair Accessible: a video interview with Deb Stevenson

Deb & her boyfriend, Ian, with Andrew Jackson Jihad

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I love going to concerts.  I spend a good amount of my small college student income on tickets, but I’m still constantly frustrated by the amount of shows I just can’t afford to go to.  I think I’m incredibly dedicated to music, probably more so than almost everyone I know.  Enter Deb Stevenson, my longtime friend and concert-going partner.  She goes to far more shows than I can even imagine, partially because of her involvement in the local music scene.  About a month ago, Deb got into a nasty car accident that left her with serious fractures in her left hand and foot that required surgery.  She was left totally wheelchair bound for a few weeks, only able to hop on one leg to move around at all and unable to use crutches for assistance due to the hand injury.  I think it’s safe to say that most people would resign themselves to taking a break from concerts–I certainly would, but not Deb.  Even in the days following her surgery, Deb was still determined to not let being temporarily wheelchair bound effect her love for live music.  The inconvenience of the wheelchair was definitely not going to stop her from seeing one of her favorite bands, Andrew Jackson Jihad, when they came to Philly a few weeks ago.  In the following video, Deb talks about why she goes to shows, how being in a wheelchair changes the experience, and her experience at the Andrew Jackson Jihad show.  Also featured in the video is Deb’s chihuahua mix, Lupe, who frequently attends local shows with her and her boyfriend and some footage of Andrew Jackson Jihad at the show we went to.

Disclaimer: this is my first ever foray into video editing of any kind, and I experienced quite a few technological disasters during the making of it.

This Venue is Not Wheelchair Accessible from Kate Gaschnig on Vimeo.


Q&A with Philadelphia singer-songwriter Christian Bitto

Christian Bitto, photo courtesy of his Christian Bitto Music.

I did a brief question and answer with an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, Christian Bitto.  He’s played at various small venues in the Philly area opening for a variety of bands.  Christian is currently working on an album, and you can listen to one of the first songs at the end of the post.

Question: How long have you been making music and performing in Philly?

Answer:  I’ve been playing guitar for over 10 years now.  I was in a few bands where we never really did anything, and I gave it up for a while.  I rededicated myself a few years back.  I started writing my own songs a little over two years ago and have been performing for a little less than that.

Q:  Any favorite places to play in Philly?

A:  The apex for me was definitely the North Star Bar.  I’ve played there twice now solo and can’t wait to perform there with the full band.  That’s where all of my formative musical memories happened with my best friends, so to go there and be on the stage was such a surreal thing.  Not to mention they’re so professional and easy to deal with, something that’s not always the case.

Q:  What bands and songwriters influence your music?

A:  I grew up in that post-punk screamo scene with bands like Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, The Early November, so I guess it started there.  That was the first music I ever really liked and my first bands were all in that vein.  But as for my own stuff now, Kevin Devine is a huge influence along with Conor Oberst [Bright Eyes], and Glen Hansard [The Swell Season].  I respond to lyrics almost more so than the music, so I love good songwriters.  Oh and I forgot to mention Elliott Smith, what a huge influence his songs have had on me.  I sing softly so Elliott Smith was the first person I listed to that didn’t scream or belt out tunes.  When I heard him whisper his way through songs and they were just as powerful it made me have faith that I could sing as well.

Q:  So you’re recording an album now, right?

A:  I am recording an album.  We’re finished two songs.  It’ll probably end up being a 5 or 6 song EP [to be release] sometime early in the new year.  It’ll have both [full band and acoustic songs], I had a demo out last year that was mainly just acoustic songs but this is definitely more indie rock-ish.  I’m recording with my friend Jesse Gimbel at his studio, and he’s playing the drums.  I’m pretty much playing anything else on it.  I’m really looking forward to getting it done and getting out there with a band and performing.  I enjoy the intimacy of sitting there on stage with just an acoustic guitar and telling a story, but it’ll be nice to change it up.

Q:  The last show I went to last Friday, the opening band was just a guy with an acoustic guitar (Into It. Over It).  He was really good, but I feel like it’s really hard to get people’s attention that way.  I definitely give credit to anyone who can get up in front of people and keep playing despite the audience being uninterested and disrespectful at times…

A:  I agree.  I put a big emphasis on writing good lyrics, and for a while I was almost opposed to putting together a fuller band sound for fear it might take away from that…but I realized the stories are going to be there, and if people can enjoy the music without even noticing that, then that’s ok too.

Q:  How have your experiences been playing in Philly?  Good, bad, both?

A:  I’ve had both.  Like I said it’s great playing at the North Star, and there are other places that were great too. The Fire was my first show so they have a place in my heart too…but I have dealt with some people who clearly did not care or pay attention to what it takes to put on a good show.  I played one show where the door guy didn’t show up, the promoter didn’t answer his phone and no one knew the set times.  It was a mess…but even with that, you’re still playing music in front of people, so it’s not that bad.

Q:  Do you go to a lot of shows in Philly? Any favorite venues to see shows at besides the North Star?

A:  I used to go to a ton when I was younger.  I stopped for a while but have started up again recently.  There’s a ton of good venues, and I tend to prefer the smaller ones, which I think is why I love the North Star.  It’s sort of the smallest place where you get really good nationally touring acts.  I just saw Bright Eyes at the Mann Center and that place is just beautiful, such a different atmosphere than a rock club.  Both types of places definitely have their merit though.

Q:  Are there any local bands that you’ve played with that you really like?

A:  Well I mentioned my friend Jesse Gimbel earlier.  He has his own stuff, and we’ve played a few shows together and have become really good friends.  I’ve met quite a few nice folks along the way, but Jesse and I definitely share a similar musical taste which makes it super easy to work together.  It’s weird because I’ve played with everything from punk acts to country acts to poppy singers.  It’s been rare to actually play with people in my general genre of interest.  I guess they usually just want a guy with a guitar to open the show.


Breaking news: Jeff Mangum announces more solo dates

For years, Jeff Mangum, the former singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, has stayed out of the spotlight. While the incredibly influential lo-fi indie bands albums continue to sell–in fact the bands 1998 release, the critically acclaimed In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was in the best selling albums on vinyl in 2008–Mangum has avoided the music scene, with the exception of playing unannounced solo shows every now at then. In the past year though, he seems to have come out of retirement to play a few strings of formally announced shows. What makes this particular announcement significant is that Mangum will be playing in Philadelphia. The show, put together by r5 Productions, will be held on January 25, 2012 at University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium.  Tickets go on sale this Friday 11/11/11 at 12 pm, and will surely sell out quickly.

Here’s a video from one of his solo shows earlier in the year that I found on YouTube:


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

Last night, I saw Frank Tuner play his largest headlining show in the United States so far, a sold out show at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia.  Earlier in the day the punk and folk influenced British artist performed at the World Cafe for XPN‘s weekly Free at Noon segment.  I’ll admit that I’m relatively new to Frank Turner.  I’d heard good things about him, but I just never really got around to listening to his music until his latest album, England Keep My Bones, was released earlier this year.  I was completely hooked on Frank by the time I got to track three.  The album is simply addicting, a rollicking mixture of folk, punk, and good old-fashioned rock and roll, all clearly marked by Frank Turner’s distinct voice.  When I listen to England Keep My Bones, I start to experience this strange feeling of English pride.  I honestly have to remind myself that I’m in America, and that I have no English heritage whatsoever (although that album makes me sincerely wish I could claim some).  When an album can have that effect on you, you just know it’s got to be good.  From the rock and roll anthem “I Still Believe” to the fantastic a capella song about the Norman Conquest of England, “English Curse,” England Keep My Bones is an incredible and diverse album. Continue reading


An interview with local musician, Johnny Mick

Johnny Mick, bassist of The High Five

I sat down with Johnny Mick (given name: John Coyle), a veteran member of the South Jersey and Philly punk scene, to talk about his take on local music and his experiences as a musician in South Jersey.   At the age of 22, Johnny has spent the better part of the last ten years playing in various punk bands, most recently the pop punk band Suit Up, who played at the North Star Bar a few weeks ago.  Johnny talks about his newest musical endeavor, The High Five, an indie influenced rock and roll band, who are currently finishing up recording on their debut album.  The album is slated for a December release, and The High Five will start playing shows shortly thereafter.  Johnny also speaks about his experiences playing in the area with a former punk band, The Quaran Teens, and his excitement about the blossoming music scene in Philadelphia.

You can listen to the interview here: