by Kirsten Becker
Phantogram’s sold out stop at the Union Transfer on December 6th was part of their highly anticipated tour in support of their latest album, Voices, which is also their first album in four years.
I was pleasantly surprised by opener Until the Ribbon Breaks, the relatively new project of Welshman Pete Lawrie. The act blends electronic elements seen in recent dance music as well as plain old rock influences. At various points during the set Lawrie showed off his talents on the trumpet as well as other instruments, and displayed his versatility in his unique style of music. Welsh’s distorted vocals also added an interesting addition to his somber lyrics. Songs like “2025,” “Romeo,” and “Pressure” won the crowd over. Until the Ribbon Breaks is definitely a band to look out for in 2014, and you should expect to see more news from Lawrie’s project in the future.
Phantogram came on around 11:00 p.m. to an ecstatic crowd. Singer Sarah Barthel’s powerful voice cut through the band’s shoegaze vibes. A chilling rendition of “Mouthful of Diamonds” captivated the audience as well as fanfavorite “When I’m Small”. The quirky “Running From the Cops” featured guitarist Josh Carter taking over vocal duties.
Their latest single, “Black Out Days” showed a different side of the band. The high energy song accompanied by an incredible light show brought the performance up another notch. Barthel took the time between songs to thank the crowd and Philadelphia for consistently being a great place to play. It was visible she and Carter were feeding off the crowd’s energy and were having a great time on stage.
Phantogram played a couple more new songs from Voices including “Never Going Home” and “The Day You Died” before finally ending the set just around midnight.
Bombino, photo courtesy of cumbancha.com
by Kirsten Becker
After hearing Here We Go Magic and Bombino would be touring together this winter, I knew the December 5th show at The Blockley was not one to miss. Though both bands have different sounds, they incorporate a very rhythmic aspect in each of their songs.
Here We Go Magic is a group I only recently got into following their 2012 release A Different Ship. The Brooklyn-based band has received a lot of hype for their sets at Glastonbury and Bonnaroo. What peaked my interest in the band was that the album was produced by longtime Radiohead producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich. The album definitely has his influence clearly rooted in it.
They opened with the first single from A Different Ship, “Make Up Your Mind.” This high energy song featured pulsating guitar riffs and glimmering synth accents. Other cuts from the album like “Hard to Be Close” and “Alone But Moving” also were heard in the set. Towards the end, the band broke out one of their older songs, “Collector,” which got the crowd moving. They went into an extended jam session where each member got to show off with virtuosic solos. It was clear that the members of Here We Go Magic are extremely talented and very encapsulated in their entire performance. The subdued lights on stage added to the very intimate feeling they were going for. Their set ended with “How Do I Know,” a crowd favorite and left the stage with loud applause.
Here We Go Magic, photo courtesy of Last.fm
Up next was headliner Bombino in support of his latest album Nomad. Nigerian-born Omara Moctar came onstage dressed in blue robes and an electric green scarf. For the first half, he and his band played in a line at the front of the stage for an acoustic set. Traditional drums were present while Bombino played an acoustic guitar and another member played bass. Bombino does not speak English but he still managed to connect with the crowd through his music.
For the second half, the band switched over to electric instruments where the music switched formats to a more bluesheavy feel. “Amidinine” was a particular favorite of mine as well as “Azamane Tiliade.” The variety in Bombino’s music is what’s most captivating about him. Each song has its own feel while still remaining very true to his sound.
You can listen to Bombino tracks here.
Last week we spoke with Kevin Devine about his two latest albums (Bubblegum and Bulldozer), his biggest influences, and even got to hear an impromptu cover of Elliott Smith’s “The Biggest Lie”. If you missed the on-air interview, you can listen here!
By Shannen Gaffney
Last Thursday night Fred Armisen put on one of the coolest variety shows Underground Arts has ever seen. A little bit comedy, a little bit music, and even a little bit of one-on-one conversation, there wasn’t a dull moment throughout.
Underground Arts announced on Facebook that Fred would be bringing “a surprise legendary guitar player” just hours before the show. After an opening musical set by his British SNL character “Ian Rubbish,” then doing some jokes as himself, he soon brought out the truly legendary J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The first song they played together was Dino’s “Feel the Pain”. They also played “Massachusetts Afternoon” by the Blue Jean Committee (an SNL sketch which featured Jason Segel on piano) and had the whole crowd singing along to the ridiculous lyrics about apple cider. He ended this portion of the show with “It’s a Lovely Day,” another Ian Rubbish song. Armisen played the song in character on his last SNL performance in May, where many of his musician friends including Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann, Carrie Brownstein, Michael Penn, and Mascis joined him on stage.
In addition to this short but awesome set, the crowd enjoyed previewing clips from the new season of Portlandia that will air “in early 2014” according to IFC’s website, and another surprise musical guest, Kurt Vile!
Towards the end of the show Fred spent a good twenty minutes answering questions from the crowd. His response to a question about whether it’s frustrating working with SNL hosts who are not actors reflected his optimistic and quirky personality: “I’m going to sound like such a wimp, but the idea of greatness is overrated. When someone is great, I’m bored. When something’s a little off, I’m fascinated!”
Words to live by.
To reiterate our Tennis review, Underground Arts is currently Philly’s coolest and most unique venue; if for nothing else, go for the great $2 popcorn they’re now selling at the bar. You can see a list of their their upcoming events here.
Filed under Features, Shows
By Shannen Gaffney
Denver based indie pop group Tennis played on November 7th to an intimate and excited crowd at the Underground Arts space in Center City Philadelphia, which opened just last year. If you haven’t been to Underground Arts before, you’re missing out! The coolest new semi-hidden venue in Philly, it’s a small industrial warehouse-type of basement, covered in Christmas lights and art pieces.
They began the set with “Petition,” and played most of the best songs from 2012′s Young & Old: “My Better Self,” “Traveling,” and “It All Feels the Same,” along with some new songs. Their new EP, Small Sound, is a continuation of their cutesy, airy pop sound and has been released on the band’s own label, Communion. Alaina’s signature lush vocals are the focus point of Small Sound. On their single, “Mean Streets,” she sings, “Born and raised on the mean streets / That’s where she learned how to keep the beat”. The rest of the EP is full of similarly playful lyrics and melodies that got the small but energetic crowd dancing all night.
Here are some pictures from the show!
Courtesy of Flickr user Kmeron
By Jonathan Plotkin
Let’s just get this out of the way now: I don’t listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. My friends have told me all about them and I’ve seen that scene in 28 Days Later that uses one of their songs to show the utter hopelessness of waking up in a post-apocalyptic world. But save for the one time I heard Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven while driving my friend back from New York, I’ve heard more about them then I’ve actually heard them. So when I saw them on on Wednesday I really had no idea what to expect.
Post rock, much like prog rock, is a genre I’ve always wanted to get into but never got around to doing so, mainly because the songs are so long and dense. That doesn’t stop me from reading about post rock while I should be doing homework though so I have a good idea about what the genre means. I always hear it described as “music for the Apocalypse” or “the soundtrack to the end of the world.” This has colored my opinion of the genre, but it’s more like looking through a foggy window instead of just walking outside and climbing some trees.
Courtesy of Spin
By Kirsten Becker
I jumped at the opportunity to see Atoms For Peace kicking off the US leg of their tour in support of “Amok” at the Liacouras Center. For those who don’t know, the superband is composed of Thom Yorke of Radiohead, frequent collaborator and producer Nigel Godrich, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, and Joey Waronker. They entered the stage and kicked things off with the opening track to “Amok” entitled “Before Your Very Eyes…” Yorke then broke between the next song to voice one of the few words he would say that night: “My name is Jay Z,” (gesturing to Flea) “and this Beyonce.” Delving back into the music, Atoms For Peace played both original songs and versions of Thom Yorke’s solo material from his 2006 record “The Eraser.” Yorke flailed around the stage doing his signature moves while his haunting voice danced above Flea’s erratic basslines. Refosco showed off his talent playing various indigenous percussion instruments, some of which I could even recognize. The performance had a high level of energy and emotion, something that couldn’t ever be captured on an album. All of the members were fully invested in each song and every move and note was calculated; even down to the lights which fluttered and pulsed to the music.
After an impressive set, Atoms For Peace walked off the stage to roars from the crowd. When they returned for an encore, Flea had a melodica in hand. They performed an interesting and jarring version of Yorke’s “Skip Divided.” Also in the encore was a cover of UNKLE’s “Rabbit in Your Headlights” and Radiohead rarity “Paperbag Writer.” Five songs later, they left the stage again. It was clear they weren’t over just yet, roadies tuned and adjusted guitars in the dimmed lights. Finally, the collective returned; this time Flea making a costume change into a Temple basketball jersey. The final two songs were again Thom Yorke originals, “Atoms For Peace” and “Black Swan.”
The musical genius of this band is remarkable and seeing them live is an experience in itself. “Amok” is available now, for more information on the band and future tour dates, visit http://atomsforpeace.info/