Saturday night, World Café Live Upstairs saw a trio of bands warm up a brisk night. First up was Brooklyn-based Ponyhof. Usually a fourpiece, on this night it was just lead-singer and keyboardist Carrie Erving and cellist Chris Loxley. The duo lit the night with their shimmering indie rock currents.
Bedroom rocker Alex Giannascoli (aka Alex G) is one of the latest Philly artists to pop onto the national scene, but this weekend’s show wasn’t too far removed from his comfort zone. The Temple English lit major — who’s one of the most-buzzed-about musicians in town — got his start playing DIY house shows around the North Philly area. Saturday night, he ended up almost back where he began at what is arguably Philly’s most DIY concert venue, First Unitarian Church.
Confession: ODESZA is my go-to for both pump-up jams while I’m getting ready for a night out and chill tunes for zoning out on my long train home every day. There are few music artists who can play both roles, and this duo does it to perfection. I had some pretty high hopes for last night’s concert, and ODESZA blew them out of the water.
I’m not sure what I was expecting — a Coachella-esque feel, teens moshing, perhaps? That was certainly the vibe I was getting from the crowd outside Union Transfer beforehand in their booty shorts and headbands, at 7 pm on a Wednesday. (Don’t these kids have school in the morning?) Thankfully, those of us over 21 split off upon entering into a bar area that leads to the upper deck of the venue. If you’ve never been to Union Transfer, this place is off-the-charts as far as concert spaces go. Remnants of this train station’s former life provide grandiose details of a bygone era: soaring beamed ceilings, ornate lighting fixtures, and a pair of squid chandeliers over the bar. Although, you’d never know it when the lights go down and all eyes are on the stage.
Vivid Seats, a website for buying and selling music, sports and theater tickets, recently compiled a list of the 20 best North American cities for live music. It should come as no big surprise that Philly was at the top of that list. They analyzed factors like number of concerts and average ticket price for upcoming shows to rank the cities, all of them being from the U.S. except for Toronto. They noted that Philly was particularly great for genres like alternative, blues, jazz, country and folk.
There is an inherent all-sensory mood in the music of Lera Lynn. Old alcohol and smoke reside in the nostrils while the eyes can only faintly see the figures on the stage through the dimly lit room of sound. And there is the voice: a rich, sultry concoction that veers to country and folk, sometimes simultaneously. The guitar rumbles, sometimes gutturally, sometimes slight, layered with percussion that is never an afterthought. This sound certainly made her the perfect partner to the art of the second season of True Detective (for which she created the soundtrack).
I’ll admit it: I still grin when people refer to Marina and the Diamonds as a band. In reality, the Diamonds are her fans, and Saturday’s concert at the Electric Factory proved why we are such an integral part of Marina Diamandis’s iconic persona.
When I arrived half an hour early for the 7:30 pm doors, I was shocked — but shouldn’t have been — to see how long the line of people was. It snaked all the way around the venue for at least a couple of blocks. Cheery youths donned colorful fruit on their heads, diamond-shaped signs and little hearts on their cheeks. I followed suit, making sure to draw one on my own cheek before I arrived.
Thankfully, there was no major opening act. The only introductory segment was a half-hour set by DJ Wyllys. He had a fun energy, but just having the turntable and vinyl records wasn’t enough to put it over the top.
Marina hit the stage at 9:15, opening with the quirky song “Mowgli’s Road.” To all of our delights, the show was split into three acts, each one a snapshot of the eras surrounding her albums, The Family Jewels, Electra Heart, and finally, her 2015 record, Froot. In between segments, an animated Marina would bat her eyes on the set screens, appearing in each of her album’s looks — like the famous blond hair and long lashes from Electra Heart — while she changed costume.
Like the headline says, this post is a review of the Gary Clark Jr. show at the Fillmore last night. But before we get to the reviewing, two things must be stated:
1. The Fillmore is absolutely gorgeous. Last night was my first time there, and I was absolutely in awe. It’s B-E-A-utiful. There are bars everywhere, you can actually order decent food, the beer selection is above average, it’s not too difficult to get to (parking is everywhere and it’s less than a 5-minute walk from the Girard el station and Frankford Avenue trolley stop) and the revamped factory vibe provides a magnificent industrial aesthetic. Very rock-and-roll. Would highly recommend. Two thumbs up.
2. I don’t usually mention the opening band in reviews, but this time an exception is necessary. Black Pistol Fire was killer. They reek of old school blues — probably even more so than Gary Clark Jr. himself. They even did a cover of Son House. And a cover of a Led Zeppelin song that was basically a cover of a Howlin’ Wolf song (long story). Anyway, they’re playing Ortlieb’s on December 12th. Go. It’s $10, and it’s on the weekend. You have no excuse. I’m telling you, you should go.
The Beatles are such a universal music experience that many of us have odd entry points to their work. Mine was getting to learn “Yellow Submarine” as an elementary school student back in 1980s Northwest Indiana for a school concert. Little could I imagine that this would be one of the touchstones for a love of rock music, and that around 30 years later I would be in Upper Darby singing along with Ringo Starr to the same song — one he introduced by saying if you do not know it you should be at a Led Zeppelin concert (not missing a beat, one of his bandmates even started playing “Stairway to Heaven”).
UPDATE [10/14/2015, 2:47 pm]: Philly YouTuber Amber Leigh captured the moment when Mac DeMarco dove from the upper-level balcony at the Troc onto the crowd of fans on the first floor. Check it out below. His ascent to the upper level begins around the 8:50 mark.
ORIGINAL: When Mac DeMarco’s fans show up to one of his gigs, there’s expectation thick in the air. The likable 25-year-old singer songwriter is known for his dreamy, slackery ballads that wax wistful over love, longing and pain. But, he and his bandmates are also known for a progressive hedonism that blooms sloppily onstage throughout their concerts. In the past, he’s been hammered during his set, or nude on stage, or touched private parts of fellow musicians, and initiated lots of crowd-surfing. Not necessarily all in one show. But you get the idea. His fans pay attention. And things did get messy and awesome at the end of last night’s sold-out Troc show. But first …
Every time Fishtown-based rocker Kurt Vile makes the trek back to his home city (technically he’s from Lansdowne, but whatever. Close enough.) it’s a special event. But last night, Vile brought fellow local rock act Waxahatchee with him to the Union Transfer, creating a powerful one-two punch of Philadelphia indie rock and roll.
The night began with Nashville-based acoustic singer Luke Roberts. But it wasn’t until Waxahatchee and lead singer Katie Crutchfield‘s arrival that the Union Transfer really began to fill up. The set was well-received, as the band’s electric, groovy sound was an excellent prequel to Kurt Vile and the Violators’ dreamy set.