Nightlands plays Johnny Brenda’s on Saturday. (Dustin Condren)
Macy Gray @ Ardmore Music Hall | Thursday, May 25
Macy Gray remains one of the most unique voices in R&B, and I’m not just talking about those fine sandpaper vocals. In case you missed it, her recent standalone track “White Man” is the kind of fierce you can dance to. Warning: 1 out 100 people who see this video will get offended. The other 99 will be into it.
Chris Kasper @ World Café Live | Thursday, May 25
The local folky/bluesy singer-songwriter celebrates the release of O, the Fool. They’re streaming it over at Folk Alley, and it’s giving me a classic, weary, early-Springsteen vibe. I can’t seem to embed anything from the new record, so here’s an oldie but a goodie. Read more »
Ty Segall plays the Troc on Saturday. (Denée Petracek)
FRIDAY, MAY 19
Happy Birthday @ Plays & Players Theatre
Says theater critic David Fox: “Marc Camoletti’s play, a huge hit in London in the ’70s, has acquired the patina of a period piece, something of a send-up on the silliness of middle-aged swingers. I’d say that only adds to the fun, especially when it looks as smashing as here, played on Lance Kniskern’s luxe living room set, which somehow manages to be both chicly elegant, and a louche bachelor pad. But the virtuosity of a farce really is in the performing. Director Trey Lyford has a masterful sense of staging and energizes the hell out of Happy Birthday; mostly, this pays off.” Through May 21.
Laura Marling @ TLA
It’s petty, but I never liked the idea of Laura Marling hanging out with that Mumford crowd. Those pedialyte folk-pop jingles, that grandpa fashion sense — it’s no place for a singer-songwriter with real promise. With each record, the British-born/L.A.-based Marling explores new territory and re-focuses her formidable, increasingly conversational songwriting skills. On the new Semper Femina, she explores the subject of womanhood, from friends to frienemies and beyond. P.S. It’s invigorating to hear this once rigidly delicate performer wrap her lips around the F-word on “Wild Fire.”
Read more »
Scottish trio The xx — tragically conjoined following a hair product mishap in 2015 — plays the Mann’s Skyline Stage on Wednesday. (Alasdair McLellan)
The xx @ The Mann | Wednesday, May 17
Wouldn’t it all be so dreadful — the profound sparseness of the sound, the oft-declared shyness of the players, the lowercase — if The xx sucked? Lucky for them, and for us, this British electronic pop trio is kind of amazing. Released in January, their third record I See You pretty much cemented their status as a band of note, with singer Romy Madley Croft (omg that’s her middle name) reaching new emotional heights and depths. At this show under the stars, contemplative ecstasy will stream through the crowd like neutrinos.
Charly Bliss @ Boot & Saddle | Wednesday, May 17
Yeah, Charly Bliss is pretty ’90s. NPR nailed the namechecks — Weezer, Veruca Salt , Letters To Cleo — in its review of the band’s debut record, Guppy. But there’s too much joy in what Charly Bliss does do to dismiss them as merely retro. I’d been listening to The xx all morning before I put these guys on and it was a revelation: Oh yeah, rock ’n’ roll can be fun. Read more »
Ron Gallo plays with Baskery, Laura Marling and Real Estate on Thursday. (Lindsey Michelle Gardner)
WXPN’s annual NON-COMMvention is really an insidery type deal — a place for music programmers from non-commercial/independent/triple-A radio stations from all over the country to gather for panel discussions and performances by big-name talent. Every night (and some afternoons) from May 17 to 19 features acts with new or coming-soon records. Some of them never play a venue this small.
But Pat, you say, I’m not in the biz. How can I see Wednesday’s Blondie/Ani Difranco/Chicano Batman gig, for example?
Check it out: There are still some tickets available for XPN members. And if you’re not one, I bet you know one.
HERE’S THE FULL LINEUP: Read more »
Marc Maron plays the Merriam Theater on Friday.
FRIDAY, MAY 12
Marc Maron @ Merriam Theater
If you only know him as the host of WTF and the star of Maron on IFC, you’re not getting the whole picture. His thoughtfully acerbic standup shows are a stream-of-consciousness maelstrom of conflicting thoughts and anecdotes that make you laugh at the strangest things.
Nichole Canuso Dance Company @ The Bok
Even if you’re not a dance fan, you gotta admit this sounds excellent: “The Garden of Forking Path is a movement and sound installation that leads audience members via audio prompts on a headset through a sprawling fabric labyrinth.” Multiple performances on Friday and Saturday. Read more »
San Fermin plays World Café Live on Friday. (Denny Renshaw)
T.I. @ TLA | Wednesday, May 10
T.I. is closer to the end than the beginning. The 36-year-old rapper whose hits include “What You Know” and “Bring ’em Out” told the A.P. recently that he’s only got “two or three” albums left in the tank. After that, he’ll probably focus on acting and filmmaking. See his socially conscious epic music video/short film Us Or Else:
Adult. @ Johnny Brenda’s | Wednesday, May 10
Detroit electro-punk duo Adult. is coming up on 20 years of making you say “ugh” when you see that dumb period in their name. The dot is beside the point, though, if you like the way Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller make music. It’s dark, dancey and futuristic, but also something of a throwback to the days when synthpop like Roxette and The Talking Heads ruled the radio. Read more »
The Up! Up! Ups! play Creep Records on Saturday. It’s also singer Molly’s birthday.
Circadian Rhythms @ PhilaMOCA | Saturday, May 13
At press time, the only track I can stream from Circadian Rhythms’ new record A Peculiar Kind Of Afternoon is this one, “The Wait.” But I’m liking what I’m hearing: a kind of gentle, dreamy, synthy pop ditty with breathy vocals and strings. A sweet little trumpet sneaks in here and there, too (a signature Circs move). As for the rest of the album, we’ll have to wait.
Old Arrows @ Ortlieb’s | Saturday, May 13
I like the way Old Arrows does rock ’n’ roll. A strong lead guitar and Chris Woodhead’s gruff and grumbly vocals set the tone for a generally earthy, urgent Americana undertaking. (I’m hearing hints of Bob Seger and Wilco, maybe.) The melodies are resilient and the choruses are strong; you have something to sing along to. The new four-song Rebuild You is a snapshot of the band doing what it does best. By the way, their 2015 LP Proof of Past Lives is free to download here. Rec’d.
Up! Up! Ups! @ Creep Records | Saturday, May 13
This release show is a vinyl two-fer for Philly’s Up! Up! Ups!. The snarky, snarling power-punk band is dropping both the Everytown, USA EP and a split seven-inch with apparently unkillable British punks Abrasive Wheels (founded in 1976!). The Up! Up! Ups! are fierce, funny and fast, sure, but there’s something classic and catchy going on here. More straight-up rock than rockabilly. Plus, they have a sweet side. “I’m the denim to your leather” means I love you.
See Also: Last week’s Listen Here featuring music by Cayetana, Psychic Teens and Taiwan Housing Project.
Ryan Adams plays the Tower Theater on Saturday. (nastylittleman.com)
FRIDAY, MAY 5
Russell Howard @ TLA
A one-off comedy show by the British standup best known for his Good News TV show/video series.
Dwight Yoakam @ Keswick Theatre
A genuine country music star comes Glenside. Did you know he did a ramblin’ cover of “Mama Tried?” Also: Did you know he dated Sharon Stone? Just a weird little fun fact.
Fronteras: A Door in the Desert @ FringeArts
Acrobatics and storytelling by Almanac Dance Circus Theatre collaborating with Mexican choreographer/theater artist Emmanuel Becerra. Read more »
Jeffrey Stockbridge’s Kensington Blues series captures the images and stories of people who live along Kensington Avenue (detail). (Jeffrey Stockbridge)
Kensington Blues @ Savery Gallery
Between 2008 and 2014, photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge captured a side of Philly rarely seen, rarely talked about anywhere else. The photos and interviews on his Kensington Blues site tell stories of addiction and sex work, survival and struggle along Kensington Avenue. These images are not just stunning — they’re essential. This exhibition doubles as the launch of his new book of photos from the project. Reception Friday, May 5, 5-9 p.m. Read more »
Taiwan Housing Project plays Johnny Brenda’s on Saturday. (Donald Bruno).
Cayetana @ First Unitarian Church | Friday, May 5
Philly’s pop/punk superheroes Cayetana celebrate the release of their second full-length, New Kind of Normal. The trio makes it look easy, constructing catchy tunes around vivid lyrics and muscular garage riffs. Like they were born to do it. (The utterly infectious “Mesa” has a video, by the way).
Psychic Teens @ Boot & Saddle | Friday, May 5
The post-punk/proto-goth rock band from Philly celebrates the release of their new EP, Hex. It’s exactly as heavy as you want it to be while highlighting the Teens’ steel-tipped shoegazey side. Still villainous as hell, though. Psychic Teens have sorta earned their rep as one of the gloomiest acts in town, but they’re fun in a Faustian way.
Taiwan Housing Project @ Johnny Brenda’s | Saturday, May 6
Okay, let’s get noisy. Taiwan Housing Project are about to drop Veblen Death Mask on Kill Rock Stars and I think people are going to pay attention. This band is loud and chaotic, with guitars howling and screeching like the souls of the damned. But there’s something deeply catchy way beneath the pandemonium, the Kathleen Hanna/barbarian brutalism of singer Kilynn Lunsford which is its own sort of pandemonium, really.
P.S. WXPN’s The Key just released Studio Sessions Vol. 19, a free-to-download compilation of local music. Includes Creepoid, Shannen Moser, Stinking Lizaveta and more.