Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Awakebutstillinbed

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Mom Jeans lead vocal and guitar, Eric Butler

Words by Brooklyn Fellner                                                                            Photos by Kayla Aughenbaugh

Union Transfer was particularly spooky this Halloween as they welcomed Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Retirement Party, and Awakebutstillinbed to their stage. With a large following, Mom Jeans announced on Instagram that they wanted everyone to dress up for their show. So, the Union Transfer was jam-packed with bloodied bodies, fairy princesses, and Dragon Ball Z characters that transformed the floor from pop-punk kids into a sea of disguised music lovers. The high ceilings and old architecture was the perfect setting for the holiday, as fog machines began to pump the floor with eerie faux smoke. Arriving in time for Awakebutstillinbed, I was greeted by the lead singer, Shannon Taylor in the lobby of the building next to a row of merch tables. She frantically gave me a press pass labeled “Nerd,” which I suppose was a joke made up by the box office at the UT. Shannon was then on stage setting up with her band two minutes later.

The band opened with a song about Philly, as Shannon disclosed she had lived here for some time. Paying homage to the city, Shannon credits her development as a DIY artist to the punk and emo culture that Philadelphia has to offer. A fast paced guitar mixed with a downcast melody and a hoarse, female voice radiated emo vibrations throughout the venue. Taylor’s voice resonated through UT, echoing with every scream she belted into the microphone. She moved all over the stage between verses, headbanging with her bandmates and slamming on her guitar in unison with the bassist. When it came to their third song, “fathers,” a more upbeat song with punk influences, the audience as well as the band were in sync with each other and it became clear to me that Awakebutstillinbed had a huge following in Philadelphia.

As the set went on, the music became more depressing in a thoughtful way, not a “this-is-so-sad-I-want-to-cry” type of way, but as a heartfelt connection to the feelings Shannon had. The last song played was particularly filled with emotion, and the band truly portrayed that as they played. The dark, soulful song ended with Shannon throwing her guitar under her arm, across her back and finishing with her chilling lyrics alone in the microphone. After the short set, Taylor escorted myself and Kayla backstage for an interview. There were several backstage rooms equipped with a large couch where Shannon plopped down on and began eating chicken wings. Her drummer and father accompanied us as we did the interview…. (interview at end of article).

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Review

by Abby Wagner and Matt Coakley

Pitchfork Music Festival can only be described as a musical wonderland — where psychedelia, dad rock and R&B join forces for a weekend of joy. Featuring headliners Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Fleet Foxes, Chaka Khan and Ms. Lauryn Hill — festival-goers knew they were in for a treat! The festival was held in Chicago’s Union Park July 20–22. With rain and thunderstorms in the weekend’s forecast, no one was really sure how things would play out.

The festival had three stages — two main stages (Red Stage and Green Stage) and one smaller stage (Blue Stage). The park was crawling with families, hipsters, and all around music lovers the entire weekend. When festival-goers weren’t entranced by a performer, they were typically found crowded around the park’s sole water fountain or checking out some of the great food and merchandise. The main street was lined with local food vendors and funky screen printers selling various prints. The churro ice cream sundae was particularly to die for. There was also a huge tent where records could be purchased and a few others with clothes and jewelry. Rumors of Bai Brands founder, Ben Weiss, making an appearance never seemed to come to fruition, although there were representatives in their decadent sponsor tent offering a photo booth while giving out free Bai beverages and swag.

Friday had a pretty stacked afternoon: Saba, Sid, Lucy Dacus, Tierra Whack and Julien Baker all gave great performances. Indie rock group, Big Thief, kicked off the evening at the Blue Stage. Songwriters and soulmates, Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek (aided by touring bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivcheniaput) put on a stunning performance. Charming and vulnerable as always, they modestly walked onstage and launched into the most rockin’ mom-appreciation song in the whole world, “Masterpiece.” Fans knew they weren’t pulling any stops when they immediately went into the dark banger “Shark Smile” off their 2017 album “Capacity.” Almost as if we were living out some dramatic music video fantasy, it began to rain during the first chorus. It rained a bit periodically through their set, but never too much for the entranced audience to do anything about it. They played another song about Lenker’s mom off “Masterpiece,” a faster arrangement of the brooding “Mary” off “Capacity” and FIVE new, unreleased songs. “Shoulders” and “Not” stood out as potential highlights to look for on their next release.

Like cattle, festival-goers moseyed around the park, still in a trance over Big Thief’s performance, and made their way over to the main stages where Courtney Barnett was performing. The incredible crowd that amassed in front of her proves that straight up rock will never die! Barnett’s new album, “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” is getting a lot of love from critics and fans alike. She played a healthy variety of old and new songs, playing all the hits (and closing, of course, with “Pedestrian at Best”). With a slight shift in direction moving from one stage to the next, Tame Impala wrapped up the night with an other-worldly performance, as always. Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter Kevin Parker is simply on another level. Everything his band played sounded totally on point (save for a couple songs at the start of the show plagued by technical difficulties) and he even threw in a couple deep cuts (“Sundown Syndrome,” “Alter Ego”) for the #realfans. Their captivating light show and psychedelic LED screens mesmerized and entertained concert-goers near and around the stage, regardless of whether or not they could see the band. All around, it was a great way to conclude the first day of the festival.

Saturday started off on the right tone, with Chicago native Paul Cherry delivering a groovy set at the early hour of 1:00 p.m. There were some really cool acts throughout the afternoon, but the highlight was Nilüfer Yanya, who played the Red Stage at 3:20 p.m. She bills herself as “soulful indie” and that’s truly the best way to describe it. Heavy on the soul! She and her band gave an engaging and energetic live performance that was hard to forget. They even played Pixies’ classic “Hey,” which was awesome. She may be under the radar right now but that won’t last for long. As Twitter user @PTrewn puts it: “Nilüfer Yanya is a full length album away from being everyone’s favorite artist.”

As great as Yanya’s performance was, Moses Sumney was the set to beat that afternoon. He and his accompanists performed lush arrangements of songs from his debut studio album “Aromanticism” — all without the use of a prerecorded track! They used loopers and other effects pedals to give the performance a certain etherealness and otherworldliness. The violist even used a pitch shifter to make his violin sound like a bass instrument at times. Sumney stood magnificently at the front of the stage, brandishing his gold nose ring and gold rimmed sunglasses, and donning flowy black clothes and black boots. His appearance matched his music wonderfully; as Morrissey once put it, “I wear black on the outside, ‘cause black is how I feel on the inside.” Sumney stood in front of a black and gold podium which looked straight out of a sci-fi movie. Highlights from his set included “Quarrel,” “Lonely World,” “Make Out In My Car,” and he even did a beautiful Björk cover from her 1993 “Debut.”

Blood Orange played a great set full of groovy, dreamy original music. Their LED screens showed their music videos as well as strange clips from YouTube, including but not limited to, Lil Wayne shredding on guitar and people drag racing. If anyone came to Pitchfork to smooch with their lover, this was probably when they were doing it. Blood Orange is some real deal baby making music with nothing but good vibes. Everyone in the park was feeling the grooves on jams such as “Best To You” and “It Is What It Is.”

After a day full of R&B and indie, everyone was ready for some good-old-fashioned dad rock. Oh, yes! Hailing from Philadelphia (Go Birds!), indie rock legends, The War On Drugs, played a headlining set at the Red Stage. If you’ve never been to a War On Drugs show, let’s just say there are loud guitar sounds and lots of indiscernible singing, punctuated by lead singer Adam Granduciel’s impassioned “Woo!’s” and “Yeah!’s,” followed by long guitar solos. It’s awesome. How often do you see typically ordinary dads go all out with arms and legs flying? Not that often, right? This band really ignites something in these men that is not often sparked. It speaks to them. We need more bands with this magic formula to get dads moving and grooving again!

Fleet Foxes closed the second night with a wonderful performance, featuring their sweet, winter-time classic, “White Winter Hymnal.”

Sunday also featured a variety of great acts throughout the day. Earlier performances from acts such as Kelly Lee Owens and Ravyn Lenae got everyone amped up for another night of killer acts. Lenae, a Chicago native, put on quite a show, performing soulful tracks off her recent Steve Lacy-produced EP “Crush.” She spread positive vibes left and right as she lit up the stage with her words and her shiny metallic outfit.

At 4:00 p.m., the Blue Stage was the place to be. Philadelphia bedroom pop kween Michelle Zauner, better known by her stage name Japanese Breakfast (or her Twitter handle, @Jbrekkie, to the #realfans) gave a truly swell and upbeat performance. Playing songs off her 2016 debut “Psychopomp” as well as last year’s “Soft Songs from Another Planet,” Jbrekkie entertained the masses with her erratic dance moves and beautiful washed-out vocals. She and her band also pulled out a really fun and spot-on rendition of the Cranberries’ 1992 hit song “Dreams.” with her drummer singing backup vocals.

Chicago rapper, Noname, had one of the most energetic sets of the evening. Despite a couple lyrical flubs chalked up to “smoking before the set,” she was totally on point and delivered bar after bar with eloquence and fervor. That being said, she got increasingly frustrated with the crowd as the show went on because of their participation (or lack thereof). She voiced this frustration mid-way through her set, addressing the audience as “you lazy white privileged people.” Her backing band was entertaining, supporting Noname with smooth, jazzy arrangements. However, the band was perhaps a tad overzealous; there were times when the busy bass lines would poke out over Noname’s vocals. Several other musicians from the weekend’s lineup joined her onstage for various features, such as Smino and Ravyn Lenae. Overall, she glowed and rapped with the smoothest of flows.

D.R.A.M. probably would have been a fine choice for almost any other music festival lineup — such as Chicago’s other popular festival, Lollapalooza. D.R.A.M.’s music and performance featured many misogynistic undertones which have sadly become normalized in popular music. Many concert-goers were unamused when he announced his “exciting” new song, “Best Hugs,” whose chorus sings “Your girlfriend gives the best hugs” (a euphemism that didn’t go over anyone’s head). There was also another song about a girl being all alone in a sundress (as if that begs for him to approach her). His questionable lyrics were accentuated by his choice of LED visuals, flashing breasts and pole dancers in bright neon. Also, just as a side note, he said “goddamn” way way too much. Alex Cameron and (Sandy) Alex G both gave solid indie rock performances at the Blue Stage, entertaining the exodus of hipsters as they made their way from D.R.A.M.’s stage to literally anywhere else.

Veteran R&B and disco singer, Chaka Khan, got people moving their feet as the sun began to inch its way out of the sky. Chaka Khan busted out all the classics and crowd favorites, including her 1974 smash hit with Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good” (written by the one and only Stevie Wonder!) and her 1978 hit “I’m Every Woman.” Even though her vocal performance was slightly weaker in her old age, she came through with enough energy and catchy hooks to get everyone singing and dancing along. Her band picked up any slack in her performance; her backup vocalists were on point with their dance moves and harmonies, and the lead guitarist shredded away with each extended jam. He eventually played behind his head and even used his face and head to play the final chords.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, the headliner everyone was waiting for, only made us wait about 20 minutes this time, as she took the stage around 8:50 p.m. after her DJ got the crowd warmed up. Her set celebrated the 20th anniversary of her 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” The ex-Fugees singer really brought the heat, delivering each of her classic songs with passion and grace, even as she faced monitoring difficulties throughout her set. She conducted her band and backup singers on the spot and made each song special and powerful. Most of the songs were played in a new arrangement, featuring remixed verses and choruses as well as extended jams at the end. This may have gotten in the way of singing along for some fans, but there was never a dull moment so everyone was captivated the entire time. The people truly needed Lauryn Hill to reemerge now more than ever. Her words of justice and empowerment from 20 years ago still ring true today with her songs like “Forgive Them Father” — during which she showed clips of police brutality and racial injustice throughout the years. Her set was a perfect bookend to a perfect weekend at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival.

REVIEW: Turnover w/ Mannequin Pussy, Summer Salt & Pronoun 5/01

IMG_0447On April 1st, Turnover finished their 2018 US tour at Union Transfer, here in Philly. This was their second show in Philly since the release of their new album Good Nature that was put out at the end of last summer (August 27, 2017). They played at the TLA in October.

This show’s line up was an oddly pleasant mix of bands spread across the “rock” genre spectrum.

Pronoun is a one-woman band from Boston. Supported by a second guitar, a bass, and drums, Pronoun played a set that bordered between rock and pop. The music was very upbeat with catchy melodies. Pronoun was a great opener to get the crowd excited.

The second band, Summer Salt, shared some ~beachy vibes~ to get the crowd in the zone for Turnover. Their slow surf rock style mixed with the vocalist’s impressive range was reflective of bossa nova and The Beach Boys all in one. The crowd definitely enjoyed their set.

With another change of pace, Mannequin Pussy brought their high energy to the stage. Popular in the Philly scene, Mannequin Pussy is a four piece band that combines elements of shoegaze, punk-rock, and bursts of hardcore. Personally, I was very excited to hear that Mannequin Pussy would be joining this line-up. Vocalist, Marisa Dabise, has an incredible ability to transition from soft hushed singing to loud, fast, yelling, and her performance surpassed expectations. The pit opened and the crowd was ready.

Though earlier in their career, Turnover was considerably more “pop-punk”, Peripheral Vision, their second album, and Good Nature, their third album, enter a softer realm of indie/dream rock. Their set was filled with summery guitar sounds and Austin Getz’s soothing vocal melodies. Though their sound has transformed, Turnover’s fanbase is strong and does not cease to dance and crowd surf at their shows. Their stage was set with old TVs stacked on top of one another with whimsical imagery playing at different paces with no other lighting (poorly shown in the picture above), which fit their set perfectly. They opened their set with the newest albums first song, Super Natural, and ended with one of their many hits from Peripheral Vision, Dizzy on the Comedown. After the show, people were walking out of Union Transfer happy and carrying old TVs on their shoulders.

WKDU Presents: Vundabar @ Philamoca

Words and photos by WKDU guest writer Madison Kierod

Vundabar brought Philly out of hibernation on Tuesday, March 6th with their sold-out show at PhilaMOCA. Devoted fans had been awaiting their return to the City of Brotherly Love since their show at the First Unitarian Church with The Frights and Hockey dad this past November. This time, the Boston punk/surf/math rockers headlined the show with support from Chicago-natives Ratboys, and D.C. indie rock duo, The Obsessives. The intimate venue was decorated with paintings and prints from local artists, allowing the performance to become tailored and personal for Philly fans.

The band jumped right in with their upbeat new single, “Acetone” off of their 2017 record Smell Smoke, and, after some dramatic pauses and heckling from the audience, continued the show with fan-favorite “Chop” from their second studio album Gawk. This single particularly showcases the band’s ability merge catchy vocal melodies with crunchy guitar tones, and incorporate tempo changes from Grayson Kirtland’s groovy bass lines to Drew McDonald’s quick, almost frantic drum solos. The progression was inherently entertaining to watch and the urge to dance was hard to resist.

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Consistent with the name of their first studio album, their show was certainly filled with Antics. Their fun, high-energy tunes kept the audience jumping, and lead singer Brandon Hagan’s commentary between sets kept them laughing with cheeky rants promoting their band, asking for food, and asking silly, rhetorical questions such as “what do you sound like when you sweat?”. His witty sense of humor even kept the audience entertained while dealing with some noise interference mid-show, as the band had to overcome what Brandon described as “the crickly-crackly.”

Part of Vundabar’s charm is in their unpredictability, their improvisational dance moves, facial expressions, and vocal runs while jamming and soloing mid-song. No track shows this better than “$$$”, where the band took a 2-minute detour to exchange solos just to build up to a clean and abrupt end to the song.

The songs off of their newest album Smell Smoke such as “Diver” have a slower vibe, and were aptly placed in the middle of their set This left room for extra-long, extra-loud, extra-crunchy renditions of one of their more mosh-able tunes “Alien Blues” and “Voodoo” for last.

Overall, Vundabar’s set was tight and precise, yet natural and energetic–a difficult balance that their fan base acknowledges and appreciates. The band’s animated stage presence emanated into the audience, and kept the whole crowd moving (and laughing) for their entire hour-long set. The fun-loving band was exactly what the audience needed to get out of our houses on that cold and soggy Tuesday. Without a doubt, Vundabar fans will be anxiously awaiting their return to the east coast.

 

Destroyer @ Underground Arts

When Dan Bejar sings ruefully “I’ve seen it all,” you’ll believe him. The slouching pop mastercrafter gave a spellbinding performance to a packed room at Underground Arts last Monday, in support of his eleventh studio record, “ken”. The album draws on more goth and 80s synth-pop influences than his previous, still woven through with his iconically cryptic lyrics.

Simply listening to his recordings, one hears a sardonic quality in Bejar’s delivery. But seeing him live lends the lyrics an almost despairing earnestness. Whether imploring or berating, he punches each syllable of tongue-twisting verse with knit eyebrows and white knuckles. During instrumental interludes, he would kneel down to take a swig of Modelo’s and fitfully comb at his wild, greying mane.

The band opened with a few tracks from the new album, “In the Morning” and “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood”. The 8-piece ensemble conjured a full, slowburn sound remniscent of New Order to back the vocal’s heart wrenching intensity. This touring band has been together since the release of 2011’s Kaputt, the soaring pop album that earned Destroyer a nomination for Canada’s highly competitive Polaris Music Prize. The tempo then picked up with the glitzy track of the same name, the audience beginning to groove along with the band. By the time they launched into the ecstatic instrumental freakout at the end of the sunny and dramatic “Times Square” from 2015’s Poison Season, everyone in the room was enthusiastically bobbing along.

Perhaps the best moment of the night was an inspired rendition of Kaputt’s “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”, which the trumpet player opened by bending and looping his sounds on an effects board for two or three minutes,  to create a sonic palette straight out of a Michael Bay film. The movement climaxed with a sailing riff on the alto flute and Bejar clapping away at a tambourine. While the emphasis throughout the night was songs from the latest album, several more tracks from Kaputt, Poison Season, and even a few from further back in his massive discography appeared. 

It’s hard not to notice the cloud of cynicism that enshrines Bejar. Throughout the performance, he barely acknowledged the audience, doing away with any chatter between songs. The most he offered was a small, flourishy bow mid-performance, a gesture mimicking the anachronistic elegance that often appears in his music. This cynicism was especially apparent when he waved his hand toward the crowd while singing “why’s everybody sing along when we built this city on ruins?” But he ended the night with the upbeat anthem “Dream Lover”, a song Bejar himself described as “a positive reinforcement song for very negative people.” And, for the first time the whole evening, the misanthropic rocker cracked an almost imperceptible smile.

Snails @ The Fillmore

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Canadian native “Snails” will be Performing at The Fillmore Friday night December 15th! You wouldn’t want to miss this if your a huge bass fiend and love grimy trap/dubstep. Philly being one of the stops for his “The Shell Tour” Snails wants to celebrate his success in the release of his new album “The Shell”! About 2 weeks prior to his arrival to our city we got a chance to interview him while he was on the road, just having completed a show in Huston he was more than happy to give us 30 minutes of his time to tell us how he has become what he is today.

WKDU: What was that one track that pretty much blew your name up and paved your way to success?

Snails: Miami 2015 Ultra! Jack U (Skrillex and Diplo duo) played my track I produced with Antiserum called Wild. this track gain recognition and approval from many trap/dubstep fans and led me to working with Skrillex’s Label OWSLA.

WKDU: What are your favorite types of venues to play at?

Snails: playing at clubs is fun because judging by the how the crowd vibes I am more flexible to change my style of play and music selection and experimenting with new things on the fly. On tour and at huge venues like the Fillmore I pretty much have a set plan of what I want to play because for big shows like this I want my fans to experience a story that goes with my music. The sound system, the shell stage, and the visuals is what gives my fans the ultimate experience of my new album.

WKDU: We can see that you really love and have an immense amount of respect for your fans, where does that come from? I know this pretty unusual for a lot of DJs because everyone just wants to do their gig and move on to the next city.

Snails: If it wasn’t for my fans I wouldn’t be where I am at today! On my new album there is actually a track I dedicated to my fans called “The Anthem”,  my biggest fans call themselves “The Vomit Squad”! Before my sets I try to walk through the crowd to take photos and just give back with my presents and just say hi on a personal level.

WKDU: What are some pre show rituals?

Snails: I drink tea, and try to watch the crowd during my openers to calm my nerves. even though Iv performed so much and in front of so many people in the past years every show I still get butterflies in my stomach.

WKDU: Tells us about the come up and development of your new album.

Snails: It took about 9 months to finally have it done. with my work I don’t like to rush I like to do every track with no deadline and carefree. this was a very fun project because I worked with tons of different artists ranging from many different genres like rap, metal, reggae, and other dubstep/trap guys who help contribute. I myself have a metal background so this for me was refreshing.

POND at Johnny Brenda’s 10.16.2014

by Kirsten Becker

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Spearheading the neo-psychedelic rock movement, Australia’s Tame Impala has brought a fresh and exciting new sound to indie rock within the past five or so years. Their lesser-known, wild-partying young brother, Pond, has been doing just the same while staying just below the radar. With five albums already under their belt, the Perth-born and bred band is something of a cult favorite. Featuring both former and present members of Tame Impala, including at one point mastermind Kevin Parker, it’s no wonder Pond has garnered an incredibly loyal fanbase.

The October 16th performance at Johnny Brenda’s was their first time back in Philly in two years, having played at the same venue back in March 2012. Lead singer Nick Allbrook had fond thoughts about the city, pausing many times between songs to say he loves Philly because the city knows “how to let loose.” And let loose the crowd did that night. Leading the charge,Pond, visibly intoxicated the moment they arrived, brought a feverish energy that was reciprocated through the venue. Each song was played with a flawlessly rough vibe, with jarring solos and descents into musical madness interspersed in each epic track. Allbrook at one point went on about how he is terrified of America and his lack of knowledge of the Pumpkin Spice craze. The band also continued their love for Philly saying that most of their knowledge of the city comes from repeated watchings of Always Sunny.

The set included a composite of songs throughout their career, featuring newer songs from Hobo Rocket like “Xanman” to those of my personal favorite, Beard, Wives, Denim like “Fantastic Explosion of Time” and “You Broke My Cool.” They even reached into the archives and played some of their first songs recorded from Psychadelic Mango, including “Don’t Look at the Sun or You’ll Go Blind.”

The rousing finale of “Frond” was filled with rocking anthems and wild crowd surfing and energy. Pond’s performance was one of the most energy-filled shows I have seen in quite some time and one of incredible creative and nutty genius. Pond is slated to release a new album, Man, It Feels Like Space in January 2015.