Archive for the ‘Johnny Brenda’s’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 17, 2023] Quasi

I explored Quasi’s music back in the late 1990s mostly because I loved Janet Weiss’ drum work with Sleater-Kinney.  I had no idea who Sam Coomes was (he was her husband at some point but is no longer), but he was clearly the main songwriting force behind the band (Janet is credited with some song, but Sam wrote the majority).

I lost track of them during the 2000s (they release sporadically and Sam does a ton of other work with other people–for instance he has played keyboards on every Built to Spill album since Keep It Like a Secret].  They have put out about five albums that I hadn’t heard of, including their most recent Breaking the Ball of History.

Janet Weiss got into a car accident about four years ago and broke her leg and collar bone.  It seemed like she’d never play again.  But she fought through the grief and man, she was amazing to watch.

I went to this show in part because I like their older songs and in part to give Janet Weiss some support.  She clearly didn’t need the support from me as everyone was there to cheer her on.  Apparently they used to sell “Janet Fucking Weiss” shirts, but don’t any longer.

And so they came out on stage, Janet and Sam setting up their own gear.  Since it’s just the two of them, they face each other.  Sam plays keyboards (which is the most limiting way of describing his performance) and Janet pounds the hell out of the kit. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 17, 2023] Bat Fangs

I hadn’t heard of Bat Fangs when this show was announced.  But when I looked them up I was really excited to hear them. I really love duos, especially bands that can really rock even with a two person set up.

I wound up missing the very beginning of this set (parking around Johnny Brenda’s can really suck).  But I caught most of it.

Rather than being a duo, however “(Betsy Wright (Ex Hex) shreds ‘n’ howls over Laura King’s (Flesh Wounds / Speed Stick) deep-thunder drums),” there was  third person on stage playing bass.  I have recently found out that bassist was Chrissy Tashjian (lead vocalist and guitars for the amazing Philly band Thin Lips).

I was a little bummed that they weren’t a duo, but Chrissy’s bass playing was awesome and their backing vocals were pretty incredible.  Indeed, each musician was great.  Betsy Wright played some fantastic guitar solos–shredding like nobody’s business.  And Laura King not only beat the hell out of the drums, but (for some of the songs) the patterns were complex and really interesting.

However, I really didn’t enjoy the songs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 22, 2023] Gilla Band

When Irish quartet Gilla Band first became a band back in 2011 or so, they were called Girl Band.  I first heard about them in 2015, when the single “Why They Hide the Bodies Under My Garage” came out.  It was noisy and abrasive and painful and wonderful.

I lost track of them for a bit (WIkipedia says they had a hiatus for health issues).  Then in 2021 they announced they were changing the name of the band because it was a “misgendered name” and that their former name could have been “propagating a culture of non-inclusivity.”  Which is pretty cool.  They changed it to Gilla Band (keeping the G and the Band).

The quartet has remained the same since the beginning: vocalist Dara Kiely, guitarist Alan Duggan, bassist Daniel Fox and drummer Adam Faulkner.  This is probably a good thing because I don’t see how anyone could reproduce what these guys do.

They opened with a bunch of older songs.  First up was “Lawman” which has scraping guitars and a mechanical sliding bass. as Dara sing/speaks (in a manner not unlike Mark E. Smith) as the song slams forward.   The end of the song features some high pitched noises that I don’t now how guitarist Alan Duggan even thought to make.   That song pushed six minutes and they followed it with the 90 second blast of noise called “Heckle the Frames.”  I loved the guitar that was just a high pitched note sliding up the neck.  (Is it about making fun of Glen Hansard’s band?)

“Pears for Lunch” was largely quiet (relatively) until about half way in when the guitars turned into a wall of noise.  “Fucking Butter” was amazing because bassist Daniel Fox was playing these really nigh notes that didn’t sound like a bass at all. The guitar was just a buzzsaw of scraping playing along with the drums.  Somehow the guitar made a increasingly higher and higher sound that seemed to keep going up and up long after he reached the highest point of his strings. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 22, 2023] Pure Adult

I knew about Gilla Band and have listened to a few of their songs.  They’re a bit too abrasive to listen to for fun, but I imagined that their live set would be amazing.

I had no idea who would open for them, and had not heard of Pure Adult.

Pure Adult is technically a duo: Jeremy Snyder and Bianca Abarca.

Although on stage there were five people.

Pure Adult is that wonderful kind of band that I feel like was more prevalent in the 1990s (and maybe bands like this have always been around and I don’t know them).  They play weird music that doesn’t really fit a style or pattern.  There are catchy parts and non-catchy parts and sudden stops and starts and vocals that may or may not match with the music.  The singers are weird and the lyrics have no context and feel like they are story songs.  In other words, they will never be popular and never make any money.  But they may find some fans on college radio stations.  And they will always be amazing live.

They came out and Jeremy Snyder looked like someone straight out of a 70s movie (possibly pornographic).  He had on tan pants (maybe polyester) with a button down shirt and a jacket.  He had shaggy hair and a bushy mustache.  He jumped around the stage shouting and relating his lyrics.

Bianca Abarca was on keys, but they traded off when she sang the lead parts.  She also did some cool moves–the Johnny Brenda’s stage was way too small for them.

Their guitar player Nelson Antonio Espinal (in the dim light I pictured him as Paul Rudd in a big curly wig) played some wild solos and made some great noises as well.  I also really enjoyed the sounds that their bassist created ( I didn’t get the name of him or their drummer who was solid and handled the wild time changes easily). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Tropical Fuck Storm

I saw Tropical Fuck Storm open for Modest Mouse four years ago and I was really impressed by them.  Since then, they have put out a couple more albums and seem to have made some headway into the American market (even with a name like that).

This show was sold out (it was their first show in Philly).  However, it was also a night that the Phillies were playing in the World Series.  So, the crowd was not packed in tight.  It worked out for everyone–the band got a sold out show and I didn’t have someone on my toes.

The band came out were fun but not super chatty.  I’m pretty amazed to see that they played largely the same set that they played back in 2018–especially since they have two new albums out since then.

They opened with “Braindrops” (from my favorite of the three albums).  I love the way the band sounds like a big pile of chaos and yet they are all really tight and focused.

I was in front of RKO (Erica Dunn) who mostly played guitar and occasional keys.  In the middle was Gaz, (Gareth Liddiard).  Off to the far side was Fifi (Fiona Kitschin).  On the drums was Hammy or Hammer (Lauren Hammel).  And she smashed the drums harder than anyone I’ve seen.

I loved watching RKO play wild guitar parts–sometimes conventional chords, sometimes solos.

But really it was Gaz who was the focal point.  And how could he not be since he sang most of the songs and played a frenetic and noisy lead guitar.  He has a huge stack of effects pedals, including what I’m thinking is some kind of loop, so that when he does … something, it sounds like a siren going off (but only for a second).

His playing is loose and seemingly crazy and yet full controlled with his hands almost never off of the whammy bar.

One of my favorite parts of their songs is when RKO and Fifi sing backing vocals.  They have great voices, but they can also sing in a surprisingly high register as well–which contrasts perfectly to Gaz’s low growl.

RKO sang lead on “New Romeo Agent,” a kind of slow burning song.

The crowd was very much into the whole set but they went nuts for “You Let My Tyres Down,” a personal favorite of mine, too.  It’s just as frenetic and wild as the rest but with a slow and catchy chorus.

FiFi sang lead on the cover of the Stooges Ann, a slow moody piece.   They ended with “Two Afternoons,” a song that has slow verses but is just a noise fest in the beginning and the end.  As this was the last song, they really jammed out the end with Gaz squatting on the stage playing with effects pedals and causing all kinds of noisy feedback–glorious chaos.

They came back after a couple of minutes and played “Paradise,” a killer song from Braindrops.  On the record it’s 6 minutes long but they stretched it out even longer with noisy jamming sections and aural chaos.

I thought they might do another song (they had been playing “Stayin’ Alive” as a second encore.  And they’d already long passed the 11PM mark (there’s no curfew apparently).  But nope, that was it.  I would have really enjoyed one more song, but it was clearly an exhausting set and it was quite an intense 75 minutes.  Highly recommended.

2022 2018
Braindrops Chameleon Paint
Chameleon Paint Antimatter Animals
New Romeo Agent ♠ Soft Power
Antimatter Animals You Let My Tyres Down
You Let My Tyres Down Back to the Wall (Divinyls cover)
Legal Ghost ♠ Two Afternoons
Ann (The Stooges cover) Rubber Bullies
Rubber Bullies Baby Squared (The Drones cover)
Two Afternoons

⊗ A Laughing Death in Meatspace (2018)
∀ Braindrops (2019)
♠ Deep States (2021)

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[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Nina Ryser

Nina Ryser is a member of Palberta (I love that name) whom I saw live a while back.  I recently also saw her bandmate Lily Konigsberg solo, so that’s 2/3 of Palberta I’ve seen solo now.   (Clearly Anina Ivry-Block will be opening for someone in the near future).  I have also seen Nina Ryser play drums for Old Maybe.

Like the rest of her Palbertans, Ryser is a prolific songwriter who is classically trained but who likes to push the boundaries of what music should do.

For this little set, she and her husband played keyboards (and all manner of gadgets).  The set sounded improvised, but I’m sure it wasn’t.

Most of the songs were built around a beat and a simple chord pattern.  There was a droney component to it and Nina’s vocals were kind of deapan.

I know she played “Shelf the Trophy.”  She played another song that reminded me of a lo-fi Stereolab.

My favorite parts of the show occurred between songs where Nina would mess around with looping pedals and make these interesting collages out of bits of the song she’d just played.  There was definitely some improv in here and I enjoyed watching her manipulate the sounds to create something cool.

She ended the set with the catchiest song.  I don’t know what it’s called but there was a repeated refrain of “you never looked better.”  It was simple, but the vocal line complemented the music really nicely.

There’s so many interesting Philly-based musicians and so many places to play.  It’s quite a rich scene.

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[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Chris Forsyth

I saw Chris Forsyth a few years ago and have been wanting to see him again.  It didn’t really matter what he was playing, I knew I’d enjoy his improv-filled jamming rock songs.

I was pretty excited to see him at Johnny Brenda’s as I knew I could get up close to watch him play.  It turned out that this particular show lined up with the Philadelphia Phillies’ first home game of the World Series.  Which meant that a) it was impossible to find parking and b) hardly anyone was in the concert hall.  Which was fine for me.  And probably for him, as I’m sure he sold a bunch of tickets ahead of time.

After raving about Meg Baird, Chris came up on stage with some of the band that Meg had used.  Douglas McCombs (from Tortoise!) and my favorite new (to me) drummer, Ryan Jewell.

The show started with Chris on a guitar that he didn’t play for the rest of the night.  The song was quiet and a little trippy.  A simple guitar chord structure with very loud simple bass line from McCombs.  I thought I knew the new album pretty well, but I didn’t recognize this song.  Nevertheless is was clearly a Chris Forsyth song with an interesting riffs and a tasteful solo or two.   I enjoyed how after about three or four minutes of this quieter introduction, the band totally rocked out. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Meg Baird

I saw Chris Forsyth a few years ago and have been wanting to see him again.  Having Meg Baird co-headline was a bonus.  As Chris said:

On this tour, Meg & I will each be doing a set with a great band (Douglas McCombs, Ryan Jewell, and Charlie Saufley, and if they don’t appear throughout your music library, how did you even get this email?). Although it’s very much a co-bill / co-headline thing, we’ve decided that Meg will play first and I will play second, mainly for volume/dynamic considerations.

Meg’s name sounded familiar to me and I realized that I have an album that she made with harpist Mary Lattimore.  But it also turns out that she is the drummer for the band Heron Oblivion whom I saw back in 2018.  Turns out that Charlie Saufley is also in Heron Oblivion.

For this set, Meg sat at a keyboard, although mostly she played acoustic guitar.  Saufley played lead and Douglas McCombs played bass.  I was also pretty excited to find out that Ryan Jewell was on the drum kit.  He is one of my favorite drummers to watch.

Meg sat right in front of me and I was enthralled by her voice (which can soar to incredible heights).  For Ashes she “oohed” rather than singing words and it was angelic.  She sounds like she could be singing with a Fairport Convention or another sixties British folk rock band.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 2, 2022] Otoboke Beaver [rescheduled from from April 9, 2022]

I wanted to get to this show early because it was sold out and I knew it would be crazy.   But between one thing and another I wound up arriving at 8:25.  Only to find out that the opening band (opening bands at Johnny Brenda’s tend to go on a little later than advertised) was DONE.  Apparently Soft Torture, a Philly hardcore band, did a super-fast set (their debut EP has nine songs in about 13 minutes).  Listening to it, they sound really tight with a great vocalist.  Shame I missed them.

But I was there for Otoboke Beaver.  And so was the rest of the riotous crowd.

About their new album, SUPER CHAMPON (ス​ー​パ​ー​チ​ャ​ン​ポ​ン) the band says:

CHAMPON is a Japanese noun meaning a mixture or jumble of things of different type.

Our new album is a mixture of songs from love to food, life and JASRAC. Our music is genreless and has various elements. We hope that it will be our masterpiece of chaos music!

Otoboke Beaver are a four-piece from Japan.  There’s Accorinrin on vocals, Yoyoyoshie on lead guitar (and crowd surfing), Hiro-chan on bass and Kahokiss on drums.  The band plays primarily hardcore, but with a comical and fairly wild edge.  But even that is an extremely limited view of their set.  The songs shift without warning, from frenetic punk to … well, anything else.  It’s amazing how tight the band is that they can keep up with these twists and turns.

Accorinrin is up front.  She stomped around the stage, sometimes pointing finger pistols at the audience, enagaging really well with everyone.   Stage right was Yoyoyoshie who is as ferocious on guitar as her howls of “Otoboke Beaver!” between songs.  On the left was Hiro-Chan standing bare-footed (the band has pleaded that people not put any drinks or throw anything on the stage to protect her feet).  She seems remarkably chill given the frenzy around her, and her growls are awesome.  Kahokiss on drums somehow sounds fantastic while all of this is going on.  How on earth can she keep all of this straight?  It’s really amazing. (more…)

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[DID NOT ATTEND: April 14, 2022] Gustaf / Pedazo De Carne Con Ojo 

I saw Gustaf open for Idles and they were weird and wonderful and someone I definitely wanted to see live again–preferably headlining.  They have a very late 1980’s punk aesthetic with spoken words and random sounds.  Plus a lot of humor.  I was really excited for this show.  But by the tuime it came around, having misse da whole bunch of shows that I was really looking forward to, I wound up blowing off this one as well.

Shame, really.

Pedazo De Carne Con Ojo is the project of Steven Perez, a Philadelphia musician with sincere love for hip hop, poetry, punk and hardcore, pop, R&B, salsa, bachata, merengue, and even more. Perez has lived in Philly since 2016, writing, playing punk and indie, and he started releasing solo material under the Pedazo moniker in 2019 after years of struggling with doubts about sharing his own music.  Pedazo is a kaleidoscopic project, pinned on samples from past recordings of pop and merengue, salsa, bachata and other styles of Caribbean music, all of which Perez heard in his family’s home in Florida growing up.

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