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Archive for the ‘Philadelphia, PA’ Category

[ATTENDED: August 1, 2018] Radiohead

I have never really seen a band two times close together.  Sometimes with smaller bands if they are playing two clubs, but never a stadium show.

But I had already gotten my Radiohead ticket for WellsFargo, so I was sure as heck not giving it up.

I saw Phish twice on the Baker’s Dozen run–two shows 16 days apart.  Now here was Radiohead 21 days apart.  For some reason their tour didn’t go NY to Philly, it went NY to Canada, to Ohio to Boston and then to Philly.  This was a cool way to see the band twice with some decompression time in between gigs.

Strangely enough, these tickets which were literally at the side of the stage–I was parallel with the gap between the stage and the crowd and 23 rows back–and they actually cost more than the General Admission floor seats at Madison Square Garden (although the fees at MSG were more, so these tickets were technically cheaper when all was said and done).

Since I had trouble getting to the arena for Pearl Jam, I decided to leave work a bit early, drive in and beat the inevitable traffic.  Which meant I arrived 45 minutes before the gates opened.  Duh.  So I sat in the car and continued my book.

Then I went in and got some merch that hadn’t been available at MSG and found my seat.  As with the MSG show I was surprised at how uncrowded it was.  I guess many people didn’t care about Junun.  But when the lights went down for Radiohead, my section (and everywhere else) seemed full.

I had a pretty great view of the stage (except for one lighting pole which was directly in my view of whomever was up front (usually Thom).  I also couldn’t really see the screen in the back (which was ok) and the lights are obviously very different from off to the side instead of head on.

But what was most important was the music.  And despite what I thought was a terrible sound for Junun, Radiohead sounded amazing once more   The music was crystal clear and powerful without being too loud. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 30, 2018] My Bloody Valentine

Back in the 1990s I loved My Bloody Valentine.  I can recall checking the racks in Newbury Comics on a weekly basis just to see if there was some kind of follow up to Loveless (this is before the internet told us when things were coming out).  After waiting some 20 years I basically gave up on the band.  When mbv came out, I didn’t even bother listening to it, the hype was so much.

When they announced this tour I wondered whether it was worth going.  But I was assured that they always put on a good show.  I was also warned that it would be loud.  Really loud.  Like, people leaving the theater loud.  It actually made me a little nervous.  They were giving out earplugs at the entrance (which is a good idea for any show, nut especially for this one).

I knew I wouldn’t be there early enough to get too close.  But I’ve learned from past show that being up too close ruins the vocals.  So that was fine.  The crowd was pretty large when we arrived and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to be.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 30, 2018] Heavy Blanket

About a day before this show, I looked up who Heavy Blanket were.  Imagine my surprise to read that they are a side project of J. Mascis.  So this makes four times I’ve seen Mascis live now (twice with Dino. Jr and once when he jammed with Pearl Jam in Boston).

Heavy Blanket put out an album 5 years ago ( I completely missed it) and the backstory of the band is pretty funny:

It was the summer of 1984, and a teenage j Mascis was bored. Sure, his band Deep Wound were still playing shows and melting faces.  [but] he wanted to start something new. He wanted to shed the pretentiousness and elitism that had risen around him  – to slow things down and turn the volume way, way up.

He remembered a couple kids from his early high school days – stoner kids he’d always admired for their “who gives a shit” attitude. Those kids, Johnny Pancake and Pete Cougar, had been kicked out of marching band for smoking weed out of a tuba. Way better musicians than the marching band deserved, they’d formed a duo that was all rhythm section – no vocals, no guitar, a sick, punchy brew of Band of Gypsies and Japanese hard psych (Johnny’s uncle was a US Marine stationed on Okinawa in 1973. From his frequent visits to Tokyo, he brought home a killer psych record collection. And a mean dose of the clap). These were the guys he needed. He rounded them up and it soon became obvious that the heavy rhythms they created were the perfect backdrop to young Mascis’ insane, fluid ability on the guitar. The trio came up with six blistering tracks, named themselves Heavy Blanket, and set a date to record.

But then, tragedy struck. Johnny hit his head and nearly drowned while swimming in an old stone quarry in southern Vermont. His recovery was… incomplete. He gave up playing altogether and became something of a recluse, retreating to the relative safety of his grandmother’s basement. Disheartened by Johnny incapacitation, Pete moved out to Ohio to work in his uncle’s second-hand furniture store. He later did a stint in federal prison for repeatedly passing low-denomination counterfeit bills at the local Stop’n’Shop. Mascis went on to form Dinosaur jr, and the rest is history. The boys lost touch, and those blistering tracks were lost to history.

Fast forward to the winter of 2011. While on his semi-annual ski retreat to Stowe, Mascis runs into an old friend. Johnny had emerged from his grandmother’s basement (having been forced to, once her demise stopped the flow of milk and sandwiches to his underground lair) and taken a job grooming the ski trails with a Snowcat. Convinced his long-ago accident was the handiwork of those schemers in Pearl Jam, Johnny begged j to reform the band. It was the only way to get back at them, he insisted. A quick search of Ohio prison records turned up Pete, living in a halfway house in Columbus. After securing the proper permissions from his parole officer, Pete boarded a Greyhound with the only recording of Heavy Blanket in existence – an old practice cassette. Building off those old tune structures, the boys – now men – have finally succeeded in fulfilling the promise of that long past summer.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 25, 2017] Japandroids

I saw Japandroids in February of last year.  It was a wild show in which two guys made a ton of noise and sounded great doing it.  The crowd was huge, there was much slam dancing and crowd surfing.  It was intense and exhausting.

So I was pretty excited to see that they’d be playing Boot & Saddle for two nights in a row.  I can remember standing outside on a cold day trying to refresh my page while the wifi tried to connect to something, anything.  But I was sold out.  And then they announced a third show, just as I refreshed my email.  I was able to score a ticket for that third night.  They later announced a fourth night.

I assumed it would be really packed so I got  there plenty early,

I was right up front and, in a club this size, there’s no slam dancing or crowd surfing (just lots of yelling).

As with most Boot & Saddle shows, it felt like this show was just for me and the girls in front of me.  Just like at Union Transfer, Brian King stood with his guitar on my left and David Prowse was behind the kit (facing King) on my right.

I didn’t realize that the band was still touring their last album, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  This wasn’t a new showcase or anything.  They told us that they had opened this tour in Philly at Union Transfer (I didn’t know that) and they wanted to finish it up here as well.  (Although they did add an extra night to their tour when they played Asbury park when they opened for Hold Steady.

Like last time, they opened with the roaring title track.  And how much fun is it when a whole room screams that hey are “fired up.”

The setlist was surprisingly similar for all four nights, with the different songs being one old song and two brand new ones.  Japandroids have 3 albums out (and a B-sides collection).  They played 4 of 8 songs from their new album and 5 from the previous album and 4 of 8 from their debut.  This surprises me given that it’s just the two of them and they don;t have to worry about stage effects or lights or anything.

In fact the lights were giving them a hard time on our night.  The lights went out for a second.  They got stuck on red for a bunch of songs (Brian: can you please change the lights to anything but red)  I also happened to get this weird lighting effect on camera.

But Japandroids are all about fun and they came to have fun, to sweat and to stretch out their songs to pretty lengthy jams.  And, heck it was great hearing those songs up close.  “Fire’s Highway” and “Heart Sweats” sounded fantastic and it was great watching King play these surprisingly complex chords.

It was also fun having Prowse so close–watching him lean back between songs to stretch out.

Prowse pounds the drums.  At one point his snare drum even fell over–someone in front of me righted it–that would have been a cool stage story, if I had been closer.

During one of the pauses, Prowse was chatting with the audience.  The guy who replaced the snare seemed to have been at the previous two shows and they started talking about Vancouver.

King sings most of the songs, but Prowse does get lead on a couple, like Rockers East Vancouver and of course he does all of the backing vocals like on North East South West.

The whole show was great–an excellent, if brief set list and the five last songs were stellar: No Known Drink or Drug, Young Hearts Spark Fire, Continuous Thunder (one of my favorites) and the supremely crowd pleasing The Nights of Wine and Roses.

I was really happy to be able to get so close for these songs (again, seeing King play thsese cool chords), because for the last song (which they announced as the last song–11PM curfew and all).

Especially since for the final song, a football team’s worth of very tall guys pushed their way to the front to slam dance and pogo everyone around them.

I wound up surprisingly far back for the last song. It was even more surprising when the lights went out for about a minute of the song (the sound stayed on though).  I think this led to a bit rougher slam dancing, so I was glad to be out of it.

This was all fine, except that after the show, their roadie handed out drumsticks to the meatheads who forced their way up front for the end.

Regardless of where you stand and what or how any songs Japandroids play, they put on a hell of a set.  It is fun, it is sweaty and it demands that you scream.

I’m glad I saw them in a bigger venue, but this was a great, intimate performance.

 

Boot and Saddle (Night 3 of 4) July 26, 2018  Union Transfer February 25, 2017
Near to the Wild Heart of Life * Near to the Wild Heart of Life *
International [new song] Adrenaline Nightshift !
Fire’s Highway ! Fire’s Highway !
Heart Sweats ∅ True Love and a Free Life of Free Will *
True Love and a Free Life of Free Will * North East South West *
Rockers East Vancouver ∅ Younger Us !
Younger Us ! In a Body Like a Grave *
Alice [new song] Wet Hair ∅
North East South West * Arc of Bar *
Wet Hair ∅ The Nights of Wine and Roses !
No Known Drink or Drug * Evil’s Sway !
Young Hearts Spark Fire ∅ Midnight to Morning *
Continuous Thunder ! Continuous Thunder !
The Nights of Wine and Roses ! No Known Drink or Drug *
The House That Heaven Built ! Heart Sweats ∅
Young Hearts Spark Fire ∅
The House That Heaven Built !
(I’m) Stranded (The Saints cover) (with Craig Finn)
  • * = Near To The Wild Heart Of Life (2017)
  • ! = Celebration Rock (2012)
  •  ∅ = Post-Nothing (2009)

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[ATTENDED: February 25, 2017] Mannequin Pussy

I ordered a Japandroids ticket as soon as they went on sale.  The first two nights sold out quickly and then they added a third as I refreshed my email.  So I was able to score a Thursday night ticket,

I had no idea who the opening acts would be.  Later, they announced that these four Philly bands were the openers:

Thin Lips
Hounds
Mannequin Pussy
Queen of Jeans

Of the four, I had only heard of Queen of Jeans.  I have since heard Thin Lips on All Songs Considered.  But I was pretty excited to hear Mannequin Pussy, a band whose name I still don’t understand. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 3, 2018] LVL UP

I had two ideas of what LVL UP sounded like.  I thought they were either a punky crazy band or were a poppy band.

Turns out they were neither.  They’re more punk than pop, but there’s a kind of a DIY quality to their music more than anything polished.

I was also delighted to see that they have three singers (and I assume songwriters) as well.  For this show, they basically went around the horn with who sang lead.

Bassist Nick Corbo started off with “Angel From Space.”   He was followed by guitarist Mike Caridi with his more angular song “Blur.”  Then came second guitarist Dave Benton with his more chill sounding “Soft Power.”

The only one who didn’t sing was drummer Greg Rutkin.

Then they repeated the cycle.  Nick Corbo with his big old-fashioned looking bass played the slower “Five Men on the Ridge.”  Back to Caridi with a new song (all the others are, I believe on their new album.  It was followed by Benton’s “I Feel Extra Natural” which references the Silver Jews.

They went through the cycle of singers one more time and then played a couple more songs at the end.  It was cool that they kept things moving and all sounding pretty different while maintaining their overall vibe.

 

 

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[ATTENDED: July 18, 2018] Speedy Ortiz

I really enjoyed Speedy Ortiz’ Foil Deer.  Sadie Dupuis has a great sense of melody (in a delightful alt-90s rock package) combined with excellent lyrics.  Check out this great blurb about Dupuis’ lyrics:

It’s very strange (“Or not strange at all! Hi!” says feminism) that most of the music we funnel into little girls’ ears——even music written by former little girls——is about how women are petty, pretty garbage whose only valuable function is to hold perfectly still in men’s boudoirs and wait for intercourse. “I wanted to make songs that were the opposite of ‘Genie in A Bottle’ or ‘The Boy Is Mine,’” Sadie Dupuis says of Slugger, her new solo album under the name Sad13. “Songs that put affirmative consent at the heart of the subject matter and emphasize friendship among women and try to deescalate the toxic jealousy and ownership that are often centered in romantic pop songs.” What!? Songs for women that actually champion women’s autonomy, reflect women’s desires, listen to women when they talk, and let women be funny and normal and cool, like women actually are?   – Lindy West

When Speedy Ortiz released their new album, they did a mini tour of…ice cram parlors.

As The Key noted:

It was a little suspicious, previously, that Speedy Ortiz’s only tour appearance in Philly would be at Little Baby’s Ice Cream in West Philly to scoop a new flavor, “Twerp Verse Dessert Burst Sundae,” and not to perform.

Then they announced a proper tour, which included a headlining spot at PhilaMOCA.  Amazingly, four days after our show, they were going to open for Dinosaur Jr and Foo Fighters at Fenway Park!  I don’t know how many people arrived early enough to see them, but I have to assume thy were seen by more than the 150 capacity crowd at PhilaMOCA.  And yet Sadie said she was more excited about our show than that one.  And it seemed like it.

Before the shows even began, Sadie was hanging out at the merch table.  We chatted, she sold me a copy of Twerp Verse and even signed it for me.  She was super nice.   (more…)

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