Concert Review: King Tuff @ First Unitarian Church (October 9, 2014)

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Words and photos by Nick Stropko

I think the most apt way to describe seeing King Tuff live is to describe the banner in front of which he performed. The words “KING TUFF” are spelled out in flames, surrounded by sunglass-clad skulls with varying numbers of teeth missing. The sunglasses have the words “KING” and “TUFF” emblazoned across the lenses.

King Tuff is not big on subtlety.

On Wednesday, Vermont-based garage rock weirdos King Tuff played to a packed house at the Church–part of the string of final shows this fall before R5 cedes the storied space to an after school group. Mr. Tuff (actually named Kyle Thomas) may be one of the world’s best ambassadors of dad rock, slinging shamelessly massive riffs with a bright blue Gibson SG through a beat up Marshall full stack, backed by what appeared to be two aging roadies for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band exuded a certain skeezy charisma, affecting the part of rock star idols (replete with sweet moves) despite the dingy basement setting. They wasted little time in working the crowd up, which devolved into a mass of moshing entropy after two or three songs that only grew throughout the night. If you suspended you sense of disbelief and squinted just a little bit, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine King Tuff in the mid-seventies selling out stadiums. For now, though, he seems perfectly content being the freak working up weirdos in basements–and I seriously dig it.

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( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Pre-EMM chat with Blueshift on house music, brunch

Ahead of his set on the #2014EMM, I caught up with Philly DJ and producer Blueshift to chat about house music, changing tastes (music and otherwise), and the Philly scene. He’s got a release out on the legendary New York label Nurvous Recordings, and was the co-founder of the highly acclaimed French Express blog, amongst manyyy other things.

Blueshift in the mix!

Blueshift is one of the many artists we are honored to have as part of our 2014 Electronic Music Marathon. He’s a sick DJ and reps the deeper, house-y sounds – don’t miss his set!

Chris B: Wassup man, thanks for linking up, and looking forward to having you on the EMM!

Blueshift: Noo problem, man – happy to chat, and stoked to participate!

CB: So, how did you get into house music?

Blueshift: I’ve always been a fan of 80’s music. Even as a kid, synthesizer-heavy stuff caught my ear. I loved Eurodance! When I discovered dance music and really got into it, it was mainly the harder stuff like hard trance and such. Over the years, I just branched out and moved to different genres.

CB: What was one of the first tracks like that that you loved?

Blueshift: Snap! – “Rhythm Is a Dancer” is one I always really liked.

CB: As you got older, what was some of the dance-y stuff you got into?

Blueshift: In the later years of high school, I was really getting into music, but listened relatively passively. I remember this one track by Ghost in the Machine called “A Time Long Forgotten” – I listened to that a lot. I think I had a few Hybrid tracks around then, too. College is where I discovered internet radio dance music stations and got into hard house and trance. Stuff like Tidy Boys and Tunnel Trance Force.

CB: So how did you end up moving towards the funky side of things?

Blueshift: Just through changing tastes. I moved from trance, to progressive stuff, and somewhere around 2006/2007 my ear really caught onto the french house and nu-disco sound.

CB: Around that time for me, that was Justice / MSTRKRFT – what was it for you?

Blueshift: I liked their sound, but for me it was the Lifelike/Fred Falke/Alan Braxe crew that really did it for me. Thinking back, the turning point might have been when my friend played one of James Grant’s early Anjunabeats Worldwide shows for me, and I heard Michael Cassette’s tracks for the first time. Something about it just seemed to combine trance, but with a pure 80’s sound and it totally shoved my taste in that direction for the next few years.

CB: They are both awesome crews – as a side note, have you heard Erol’s fabric live mix? Pure FILTHH.

Blueshift: I haven’t! I’ll load it up on queue for today :D

CB: Have you always been based out of Philly?

Blueshift: For the most part. I was in NJ for a couple years for the last year of high school and for college, but moved back around 2006.

CB: I feel like the ‘scene’ here has kind of blossomed recently – tell me about your experiences in Philly – as a resident, as a DJ, etc

Blueshift: The scene in Philly DEFINITELY has exploded in the past two years or so. The caliber of artists coming through now is so great. We have tons of awesome and current acts in on a regular basis, and lots of smaller groups popping up as well. There’s a pretty steady rotating lineup of good gigs. Philly can also be a pretty tough city to get a handle on though; I’ve played a wide range of shows here, from empty to packed, but I’m definitely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to play here.

CB: Who are some of your artist homeys in Philly that we should know about?

Blueshift: The Worldtown peeps have been putting out some great tracks recently (and crushing it with their events) **editor’s note: they’re spinning for us on the EMM, too!**, Apt One always brings the heat **also spinning for the EMM**, Les Professionnels are super pro **ALSO spinning for the EMM**, and PS 118 has some really tight stuff upcoming. Maggs Bruchez are also some of my favorite Philly producers.

CB: Where’s your fave brunch spot?

Blueshift: Cafe Renata in West Philly. I’m always there. I’ve also found myself at Broad Street Diner a bunch recently.

CB: I love pork roll – how do you feel about pork roll?

Blueshift: Pork roll is great, man. Blew my mind when I first heard it called Taylor Ham.

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The 11th annual Electronic Music Marathon will take place October 10-13 on WKDU. 91.7 FM Philadelphia / wkdu.org worldwide!!!!

Tune in for our amazing lineup of DJs, on-air giveaways, and support college radio and arts education while you’re at it!!!!!

Get @ us all weekend long during the marathon for info / giveaways | @wkdu #2014EMM

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Get Stoked for the Electronic Music Marathon!

The first round of DJs have been announced:

See here to donate/enter.

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ANOTHER 10 Songs That Make Us Cry

hospiceball

By: Glasses

A fellow DJ here on WKDU called me cold and emotionless recently, so I decided to jump on the “10 songs” bandwagon to prove to myself in a meaningless way that I was still doing okay. Written at 4AM against harsh fluorescent light.

1. Spiritualized—Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space

This one goes way back for me. The gentle swinging in the background, the layering of the vocals, the juxtaposition between hope and despair. Whether or not this track was written about heroin is irrelevant. Spaceman taps in to a universal feeling of confusion between hope and biased preconception, and the result is something special. I ended up listening to this album a lot when experimenting with my first relationship. I was in no way ready emotionally, and by the time I realized that there was nothing real beneath my expectations and illusions, I found that this album was the only thing that was really left after the full ordeal. Great record, great live show, too.

2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Sleep

“They don’t sleep on the beach anymore.”

3. Fuck Buttons—Olympians

Fuck Buttons takes me back to careless summers in high school playing now-dead video games with close friends and feeling a general acceptance of the world. These days are gone. Things change, and experience is flitting. There is no use in harboring desires informed entirely by past experience as they hinder any chance for real progress to be made going forward, but every time I hear this track, if only for a moment, I feel that a nostalgic lifestyle might not be too awful.

4. Daniel Johnston—True Love Will Find You in the End

5. Jeffrey Lewis—The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song

My friend Max sent me this song one of those early mornings in which you go to bed to the sounds of birds chirping outside. I took it as a personal attack. Never before had I felt more spiritually connected with a song. If anything sums up my most successful social experiences with others, this songs does it. Re-listening to the track for this article made me cry again. The universe is absurd, and no regrets are logical because the sheer amount of factors pulling us in all directions are limitless.  At least that is what I tell myself to when I find myself in these places. There is a line in the song about writing love songs without every really having love to write about, but what is more important is the final vignette about the universality of all of these feelings.

6. The Antlers—Wake

“The hardest thing is never to repent for someone else, it’s letting people in.” In a particularly difficult summer, I found myself on the roof of a building in Las Vegas in 114 degree heat crying to this album.

7. Strand of Oaks—Pope Killdragon

8. Mount Eerie—Moon Sequel

“What gives? I yell and there’s no answering sound. And there is nobody around, and there my answer was found.”

9. Leonard Cohen—Suzanne

Please, just leave me alone, Leonard Cohen warned me about this and I’m not about to fall for it again.

10. The Microphones—Instrumental

Goodbye my friends, I am gone.


About the author: Glasses is doing much better now, thank you for asking. He is one Top 10 list away from making the Buzzfeed shortlist of list writers for 2014.

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Another 10 Songs that Make Us Cry

Happy first week of classes!

Happy first week of classes!

by Shannen Gaffney

As a last little hurrah as music director, before the reigns are handed off to DJ Glasses, I decided to follow DJ Esmail’s lead in listing ten songs that make me cry. It’s the perfect time to listen to this kind of playlist anyway, Back 2 School time!  I would also like to just clarify that there are many, many more than ten songs that could make me cry under the right circumstances. Here’s a fraction of those.

1. Built to Spill – “Carry the Zero” (1999)

I nearly failed Math 101. But carrying a zero is a simple enough concept, even for me, to compare to a relationship gone wrong – and BTS do it just right. Those opening chords alone just strike a nerve. This song comes from my favorite album of all time, Keep it Like a Secret. If you don’t know them and need an album to start with, listen to that one!

2. Elliott Smith – “Between the Bars” (1997)

We’re going there. There’s loads of reasons why this song makes me cry from the lyrical content, delicate vocal timbre, and Elliott Smith’s story in general. Though many of his songs are, this song in particular is clearly about the struggle of overcoming addiction, and it’s utterly heartbreaking, as is everything this man is associated with.
=/

3. Jose Gonzalez – “Heartbeats” (2006)

This song was originally by The Knife, which is a much livelier, synthtastic (yup) version, but the way Gonzalez reforms this song with nothin’ but guitar arpeggios fits perfectly with its solemn lyrics and theme of broken promises. (This song works great on a sleep playlist.)

4. Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)

I couldn’t leave this classic song out. Sinéad is an artist and activist and a heroine despite any mental breakdowns or illnesses she’s experienced, and this song is indisputably heartbreaking. Even Miley Cyrus was inspired by this music video, and tried to pay homage to it with “Wrecking Ball,” which, was not as good.

5. Ben Kweller – “Old Hat” (2009)

I grew up listening to every Ben Kweller album. His older songs stick with me the most, but this one off 2009’s Changing Horses is a beautiful tune about avoiding the pitfalls of boredom in a long-term relationship featuring a giddy little piano line and heartstring-pulling lap steel guitar.

6. The Cure – “A Night Like This” (1985)

In 2014 there’s almost nothing more existential and sad than watching the Cure live. They aren’t the performers they once were, but in 1985 they were #sad for other reasons. Those perfectly timed and striking opening chords paired with in-your-face hollow drums open up the song with a void that rips through you, and just keeps pulling. Pure goth sadness.

7. Waxahatchee – “Catfish,” “Lively,” “Blue Pt. II” (2012-2014)
(Also P.S. Eliot’s “Diana”)

It’s scientifically impossible to pick just one Waxhatchee song that “makes you cry.” I had to include all of these, and even one from P.S. Eliot (Katie and Allison Crutchfield’s older band; you won’t be sorry). I’m assuming you’re having a horrible day since you clicked on this article, so wallow in these intimate tearjerker songs (and all of American Weekend) and you may feel a little better.

8. Kevin Devine – “Ballgame” (2003)

It only takes three chords to make a great song and Kevin Devine may just be the king of this rule. With three simple chords, “Ballgame” explores alcoholism, war, regret and growth in one of his most poignant songs ever written.

9. Drake – “From Time” ft. Jhene Aiko (2013)

I’m putting a Drake song on here. Sue me. Though I’ll admit a good portion of his lyrics are a bit elementary, tunes like “Furthest Thing,” and “Pound Cake” have that yearning, apologetic quality that we can all relate to – and an aural emptiness Drake cultivates extremely well. Aiko’s beautifully fragile voice carries this one, and Drake’s reflections on his relationship with his father add to the drama.

10. Bright Eyes – “Poison Oak” (2005)

Bright Eyes is up there with Waxahatchee in that the whole discography is emotional as hell. Oberst is a known existentialist, of course, his effective and assured recipe being a simple song structure, steady acoustic guitar and a philosophical debate, the piercing lyric in this one: “I’m glad you got away, but I’m still stuck out here, my clothes are soaking wet from your brother’s tears.”

CHARLIEBROWN

Listen to more cry-worthy jams on Shannen’s Rock Bottom Radio, Wednesdays at 2pm.

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10 Songs That Make Me Cry

By Esmail Hamidi

So there’s this thing going around on Facebook where people post about 10 albums that make them cry. In the post, they tag a bunch of their music nerd friends, who do the same thing. Participants bare their soul on social media, everyone discovers a lil’ more music, it’s a good time.

I was recently nominated to do this by WKDU DJ Maren Larsen. In her post, she listed songs instead of albums. By doing this, she brought up a good point, and maybe I’m projecting here, but who wants to sit through an entire album, let alone sit through an entire album crying? Is any album consistently cry-worthy?

Like any good book or fine meal, an album is traditionally sequenced with introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion in mind. Musical intensity that may or may not provoke crying can occur during any of these parts of an album, but not all. A song that is cry-worthy may be on an album that is very much not. It is for this reason that I’ve opted to choose 10 songs, not albums, that make me cry.

These songs are in the order they occurred to me. I definitely wouldn’t play all of them on KDU, but they are all significant. Hold on to your hankies, fair readers.

1. Fuck Buttons – Sweet Love For Planet Earth (2008)

It’s hard to nail down why, but this is the first song that I thought of. I guess it might be attached to some old memories. Over this ten minute track, Fuck Buttons uses swampy electronics to build a hulking groove.

2. The Rolling Stones – Shine A Light (1972)

The penultimate track from the Stones’ drugged out, ambling, classic album: Exile on Main St.

Mick Jagger delivers a great vocal performance. True fact: Shine a Light was written about ex-Stones guitarist and 27 Club member Brian Jones’ worsening drug addictions in the late 60s. Cut with the Rolling Stones Mobile truck, a legendary thing among studio nerds and musicians alike.

3. Weekends – Camp Nowhere (2008)

The final track off Weekends’ first, self titled album. The coda features an oscillating snippet of the drummer yelling “Hey!” in a way that some may find annoying, but I interpret as exploding with emotion. It’s the musical equivalent of a thought loop, emerging from the background while life continues in the form of the duo bashing away on their gear.


4. The White Stripes – The Air Near My Fingers (2003)

“Life is so boring/it’s really got me snoring/wearing out the flooring in a cheap hotel”.

Jack White said that the album, 2003’s Elephant, was a commentary on “the death of the sweetheart” in American culture. In a New York Times interview, White elaborated, saying that “The sweetheart, the gentleman — it’s the same thing. These ideas seem to be in decline, and I hate it. You look at your average teenager with the body piercings and the tattoos. You have white kids going around talking in ghetto accents because they think that makes them hard. It’s so cool to be hard. We’re against that.”

I take this to mean that with this album, the Stripes rally against the lack of emotion in early-oughts American culture. Emotion can be good or bad, but is always powerful. This song is sniffle-enducingly powerful.

5. Jimi Hendrix – Bold As Love (1967)

The final track on Jimi’s sophomore effort Axis: Bold As Love.

The final “underwater” section guitar solo, featuring the first example of flanging on a studio recording, is incredible.

“My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of war, and ribbons of euphoria/Orange is young, full of daring, But very unsteady for the first go round”

6. Mumblr – Sober (2014)

The first time I saw Mumblr was under the Greys Ferry bridge, with my friend Nick. We talked to some Temple freshmen girls, drank out of red Solo cups, climbed on the abandoned rail bridge, and got really hurt in the dusty, dirty moshpit. With broken glass underfoot, surrounded by skateboard-swinging punks, huffing generator fumes, my mind went to a really beautiful place.

This song is on their upcoming album Full of Snakes, which comes out September 16th.

7. The Plugz – Reel Ten (1984)

This is off the soundtrack to Repo Man (not Repo Men), the 1984 film about Otto, a young Cali punk played by Emilio Estevez. There’s space travel, secret agents, and great music, often all in the same scene. The lesson to be learned here: when punks grab synthesizers, good things happen.

This track is surfy, spacey, eerie, and jubilant. Many chills to be had.

8. PILE – The Jones (2012) 

“tried to keep up by running in place/tried to keep my cool but all that blood went in my face/now i’m cold”. 

I could go on about PILE forever. They’re my favorite band you can bum a cigarette off of. Their KDU live session was awesome. Rick’s lyrics are about as abstract as you can get. That means they have a wide appeal, but are still cutting-edge intellectual.

My thoughts are racing as my body is transformed into a sweaty mosh alien, feeling the air of the Golden Tea House thicken with the essence of fifty other people having the same exact experience.

9. The Front Bottoms – Skeleton (2013)

“Who was I kidding? I can’t get past you/ You are the cops, you are my student loans”

It’s desperate and ragged, but chugs on and on, like a drunk kid making his way home. Drug abuse, feelin’ loose.

10. Double Dagger – Rearranging Digital Deck Chairs (2007) 

Double Dagger is special to me because they were more or less my introduction to basement music, waay back in 2009. Yeah. While this song was never one of their live favorites, it still holds significance because it was pretty much the first Double Dagger song with introspective, philosophical lyrics that are more thoughtful than pissed off. This song is the moment where Double Dagger ceases to be a joke band about graphic design (see also: this song), and becomes the most dangerous band in the land.

“It’s always a problem/when the weight of the world/it’s always a problem/is outweighed by the girl”

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Some observations about this list: 7 out of 10 bands on this list are post-2000. 2 are from Baltimore. 1 hails from Philadelphia. 5 are bands that I’ve seen live. 4 are bands that cease to exist. Take from this what you may.

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5 More Quick Hits from Ultrasound Radio USA

Last time I did this, I picked out five songs that were informing the beats and beeps you hear on Ultrasound Radio. This time? A few quick words about new and recent albums. Music that moves me becomes music that moves you:

  1. Cocksure, TVMALSV—Chris Connelly’s new Wax Trax!/Metropolis outfit picks right up where Revolting Cocks’ brand of intense, irreverent industrial music left off.
  2. Cabaret Voltaire, #7885 (Electropunk to Technopop 1978-1985)—Richard H. Kirk continues reissuing his electro group’s work, and this serves as a very good greatest-hits primer.
  3. clipping., CLPPNG—As sad as Death Grips’ disappearance was, this laptop-rap trio’s new album is a fine replacement. Dare I say they stole the recent Shabazz Palaces show?
  4. deadmau5, While (1<2)—Don’t let the name scare you. This deep double album is a restrained take on EDM’s bombast, embracing tinkling techno and dark ambient swooshes.
  5. The Bug, Angels & Devils—This British bass-music dude finally (for me) finds the right formula to back up aggressive, sinister dancehall rap.
 (Adam B and Ultrasound Radio USA are currently on hiatus through the summer term break.)

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