Archive for the ‘Underground Arts’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] Starcrawler

I found out about Starcrawler in 2018, a few months after they played their first Philly show at Johnny Brenda’s.  They had also played the Non-Commvention a few months later, which where I decided I really wanted to see them live.

Their stage show was supposed to be insane with lead singer Arrow de Wilde being a force to be reckoned with (who seemed to always end up bloody–fake or otherwise).  I was super excited to see them open for The Distillers in 2019, but Brody Dalle hurt her back during warm up and the show was cancelled a few minutes before the show started.  Later Distillers shows had other opening acts.

They played a show in 2019 at Boot & Saddle, but I had other plans for that night.  Then they were supposed to open for Red Fang in 2021, but that show was cancelled.  So, basically, I’ve been wanting to see them for a pretty long time.

I actually don’t know a lot of their songs. I absolutely love two of them, but as for the rest, I was there more for the spectacle than the actual songs.  I was concerned that the 2022 Starcrawler would be different from the 2018 version.  And, well, it was.  This version of the band is all dressed up in tuxedos. Not a drop of blood to be seen. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] Vixen77

Vixen was (I see is) a glam metal band from the late 80s.  They broke up in 1992 and then reunited with crazy drama) and are still active.

Vixen77 are a Philadelphia punk band.  They chose the name Vixen77 as a reference to the energy and the musical influence of late 70’s punk.  The band consists of guitarists Caitlin and Liz (I’m not sure who was who, but one of them was wearing a Flyers sweater and lost her glasses twice during the set!  I think it was LIz), bassist Jaz, drummer Sarah, and singer Samantha,

The band came out on stage and proceeded to rock their asses off.  It was a solid set of simple, fast, angry rockers.

Samantha has a great stage presence (the day-glo hair was a nice touch) and even though she screamed and snarled, she had a really powerful voice and could hit some pretty high notes.  Both guitarists sang backing vocals, although Liz sang most of them–and she had a powerful voice too.

I couldn’t really see Sarah on drums, but when I did she was smiling the whole time.  Jaz on bass hung in the back (but that may have been due to the size of the stage) and while she didn’t do anything fancy, for a couple of songs she had a nice rumbling solo section that kept the song rollicking on. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] The Joy Formidable [rescheduled from December 16, 2021]

I was vaguely familiar with The Joy Formidable when they sold out Boot and Saddle in 2019.  I’d actually gotten a ticket to the non-sold-out show the next night, but stayed home because it was Thanksgiving vacation and we were staying in for the weekend.

Then I missed them when they opened for The Front Bottoms recently.  We had tickets but it didn’t pan out.  But I knew I had tickets to them headlining which I’d much rather see anyway.

And WOW, what a fantastic show.  I am now very bummed that I haven’t seen them fifty times.  But Ritzy Bryan said they’d be back in 2023, so I’m lining up to get tickets already (not really).

The Joy Formidable are a trio: Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan (guitar and vocals), Rhydian Dafydd (bass keys and vocals) and Matt James Thomas (drums).  They play alternative rock, but with an especially weird feel to it.  And sometimes, like when playing live, they rock like nobody’s business.

I have a couple of their records, but I haven’t listened to their whole catalog.  Nevertheless, each song instantly felt familiar and fantastic.

I was standing in front of Dafydd and I marveled at how he used the entire neck of the bass–sometimes playing melodies on the highest notes–and effects to really modify his sound.  I loved the way “Y Bluen Eira” started with crazy sounds and drums and was mumbled/sung in Welsh and then jumped into a ripping bass line while Ritzy played seemingly disconnected guitar lines.

The band blasted through a few songs from throughout their albums.  Ritzy looked really intense as she sang.  So much so that it came as a bit of a surprise when she  talked to us and was so genial and funny.

I was also really blown away by Matt James Thomas.  His drumming was intense.  Whether he was doing unusual beats or the intense snare pounding on “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” his volume control was outstanding.  Sometimes it sounded as if he was going to knock the stage down.  Of, and he had a giant gong, too.  Someone shouted “more gong please” and he promised to play it a few more times that night.  (This led to some very funny banter about gongs and how Ritzy wanted one to take out her frustrations on it.  Somehow this turned into a visual of Ritzy being strapped to the gong with Thomas suggesting throwing knives at her.  And thus their synth pop alter ego Gongs and Knives was born.

Ostensibly, they were touring their new album Into the Blue, although as they pointed out it came out and they couldn’t tour it.  So the first song they played from it was a bonus song that they added to the deluxe version of the record.  And for a tacked on bonus track, it was pretty awesome–it could easily have been a main track.

I have been listening to Into the Blue a lot since I got the vinyl and I really like it a lot.  It’s more mellow with a great quiet guitar lick and a delicate chorus.

But then they went back to rocking out with the older “Cradle” fitting perfectly alongside the new “Sevier”–with it howling guitars and pounding drums.

They slowed things down with a beautiful version of “Silent Treatment.”  Dafydd played an acoustic guitar while Ritzy sang and Thomas ended the song with a sprinkling of chimes.

Once the show had moved on a ways Ritzy started talking a lot.  She chided us for being too quiet between songs (it’s been three years since we’ve been playing, we need some good heckling).  She told a sweet story about her sausage dog who was with granny and getting spoiled. She told us a bit about the meaning of some of the songs, like “Chimes” which had special meaning to her as she imagined her grandfather talking to her when she was a little girl.  He sang a song about Chickadees and then noted that they don’t have them in Wales, so why was he singing about them?  Despite the sweetness, the song was a full-on rager.  I love the way the drums started and stopped in different styles.

I couldn’t believe that “The Leopard and the Lung” was the last song of the main set and yet when I looked at the time, they had been playing for 70 or so minutes.  Some of their songs are quite long and they often seemed to stretch them out with Ritzy standing in the middle of the stage while the guys followed her lead in terms of speed and duration.

They left for a pretty lengthy encore break, but when they returned they were decked out in Phillies gear.  Ritzy laughed saying she really doesn’t know anything about baseball.  But she was happy for Philadelphia since they hadn’t been in the finals since, what the 1800s?  She said that Wales had gotten into the World Cup for the first time in forever.  But she didn’t care about soccer either.  Ritzy had on a Phillies helmet which she had to take off because it was way too big.  Dafydd had on a giant foam fist which looked like it would hold a beer?  he gave it to Thomas and told him to smash the gong with it like the Hulk.  Which he proceeded to do–and fall off his drum stool.

Ritzy told us that “Gotta Feed My Dog” was essentially a kiss off–Sorry can’t talk to you I’ve gotta feed my dog.  The song has a slow opening with a whispered vocal but after the verse the song exploded–much bigger than the recorded version would have you expect.  It was awesome–as was Ritzy’s cool and weird guitar solo.

They ended with “Whirring,” a song that is on their original EP and was rerecorded for their first LP.  It’s super catchy.  On the record it’s got an extended outro that pushes the song to nearly 7 minutes and that’s how long they jammed the end for.  They had a blast rocking out the end–getting faster and faster.  When it seemed like they were playing as fast as they possible could, Thomas dropped one of his drumsticks and proceeded to play this remarkably fast drum pattern with one hand while pretending to yawn.

It ended in a colossal sound with Thomas once more smashing his gong.

What a great great show.  I certainly will try to see them again.  I only wish they had spoken in Welsh for me–I should have asked her to.

  1. The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade
  2. I Don’t Want to See You Like This
  3. Y Bluen Eira
  4. Ostrich
  5. CSTS (Come See the Show) (bonus on ⇔)
  6. Into the Blue
  7. Cradle
  8. Sevier
  9. Silent Treatment ϖ
  10. Chimes
  11. The Leopard and the Lung ϖ
  12. Gotta Feed My Dog
  13. Whirring

⇔ Into the Blue (2021)
∇ AARTH (2018)
ϖ Wolf’s Law (2013)
ℜ The Big Roar (2011)
♠ A Balloon Called Moaning (2008)




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[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] Cuffed Up [rescheduled from December 16, 2021]

I’d only heard of Cuffed Up because they were scheduled to open for The Joy Formidable last year.  I listened to some of their music and really liked it so I was glad they were still opening  year later.

Cuffed Up had a great dual vocal set up between Sapphire Jewell and Ralph Torrefranca.  Earlier this month, however, Sapphire left the band.  She was replaced by Christina Apostolopoulos (which I didn’t realize until after the show, having never seen what the band looked like before).  The rhythm section is Vic Ordonez on bass and and Joe Liptock on drums.  The band is from L.A. but Liptock is from Philly and he was proudly wearing his Phillies T-shirt since the team was entering the World Series the next day.

The band came out and I was immediately impressed.   The guitar interplay between Ralph and Christina was great (it’s hard to believe she’s new to the band).  She played some great lead parts and I really enjoyed watching some of the chords she was making.

On my favorite song, “Canaries,” she mostly scratched her pick along the low string (and occasionally played the high chime of the strings above the top of the fretboard) while the rest of the band rocked out. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 23, 2022] Metric

Metric’s Fantasties was one of my favorite albums of 2009.  I liked it so much I went back and got their first two albums as well and really enjoyed their brand of gritty synth pop all based around Emily Haines’ astute and observantly dark lyrics.  Then I kind of lost track of them.  They put out a record in 2012 Synthetica which I don’t understand why I didn’t listen to.  They’ve continued to release albums every three years or so, and I’d been hearing how good their live shows were so I decided to check out The Doomscroller tour.

The stage setup was quite simple–a wall of lights behind them.  The four members stood close to the center.   Amazingly, the four members have been the same since more or less the beginning (they had a different bassist but he left before their first album).  Joules Scott-Key on drums in the back.  Joshua Winstead on bass more or less in front of us.  James Shaw on guitar on the far side and singer Emily Haines in the middle.  They were all standing at keyboards as the moody intro to “Doomscroller” started.  Emily moved to one of the keyboards to add her parts and when the song shifted, she walked over to another keyboard–do they have different purposes?  

When the sound shifted, the guys moved away from the synths and started rocking out.  The lights changed.  Emily moved into the middle and the whole room rocked out.  Until things settled down again.  The song is ten minutes with several parts and it showed exactly what the band was going to do and what the show was going  to be like.

It was exciting and cathartic all together.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 21, 2022] Psychedelic Porn Crumpets

I’m not exactly sure how I discovered Psychedelic Porn Crumpets.  They are an Australian band and they are weird and pretty wonderful.

I wondered if they had any connection to fellow weird and wonderful Australians King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, but Perth and Melbourne are over 2,000 miles apart and it takes about 36 hours to drive from one to the other.  Which is about as long as it would take for someone in NJ to drive to Las Vegas.

Seeing them at Underground Arts was really fun because I was right up on the stage–I got to see Rodney the Turtle sing backing vocals).

I’ve listened to the band’s records a bunch, but somehow I didn’t expect the crowd to be quite so frenzied.  The songs are fast and frenzied (and not really psychedelic at all) and a Friday night Philly crowd is just waiting for a chance to slam and surf.  I was luckily just off to the side so I wasn’t in the pit at all.

PPC have three guitarists.  Jack McEwan is the band’s vocalist and main songwriter (he’s actually British, but moved to Australia when he a teenager.  Luke Parish is the lead guitarist for the band, although McEwan also plays lead and Chris Young plays the guitar/keyboard (which also includes lead–sometimes all three play leads at the same time).  Danny Caddy is the band’s drummer.  Wayan Billondana plays bass.  He was in front of me on the stage and his bass playing was outstanding.

The show opened up with the band placing Rodney the Turtle front and center.   I was concerned that someone might try to walk off with Rodney, but the fans behaved themselves.  And he sat patiently until a spotlight shone on him as operatic music started.

As the operatic song came to a close, the band came out and bashed into “Tally-ho,” a fast song full of wild guitar and funky rhythms that set the tone for the night.

The band jumped all over their discography, playing songs from their 5 albums.

Songs like “Lava Lamp Pisco” feature these wonderfully catchy high notes (sung and played on guitar) that act as a massive hook.  But no hook is as big and catchy as the riff of “Bill’s Mandolin” which got the crowd bouncing.  The floor would have been bouncing if we weren’t underground on bedrock.

More terrific riffs followed in “Mundungus” and then things slowed down for a breather in “Found God in a Tomato” the first of many from their debut album.  Things stayed mellow and actually got jazzy for the only track from High Visceral Part 2, “November.”

Like Acid Dad, PPC projected psychedelic images behind them.  It was cool when it showed up on them and their faces swirled around.

People went berserk for the riff of “Hymn for a Droid.”  I assume that most of us knew PPC because of And Now for the Whatchamacallit which i think was the first (and only for a while) PPC record you could get here.  I happen to love this song especially the middle section which sounds like one of my favorite Supergrass songs.

Even though they released their latest album Nigh Gnomes fairly recently, they only played two songs from it (“Lava Lamp” and the thumping and rocking “Acid Dent.”

The band was genuinely excited to be playing to a large (for them…in the States) crowd.  They had previously played to 100 person rooms and this room was four times the size.  And the crowd was really into it.

They ended the set with three songs from High Visceral Part 1–the three opening tracks in reverse order.  “Marmalade March,” has a series of great catchy riffs as the march proceeds to stomp all over the song.  “Cubensis Lenses” continues the riffing that culminated in a spectacular encore of “Cornflake,” which they stretched out far longer than its three minute recorded version.  It shifts back and forth between a big catchy riff and very mellow verses.

My son’s friend had seen them in New York the night before and he said I would love the show and I absolutely did.  It really got me out of my funk of less than stellar shows.  Which is just as well as there were two more shows in the next two nights.

  1. Tally-Ho ¿
  2. Lava Lamp Pisco
  3. Bill’s Mandolin &
  4. Mundungus ¿
  5. Found God in a Tomato
  6. November
  7. Mr. Prism ¿
  8. Hymn for a Droid &
  9. Acid Dent
  10. Marmalade March
  11. Cubensis Lenses
  12. Cornflake

♠ Night Gnomes (2022)
¿ SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound (2021)
& And Now for the Whatchamacallit (2019)
¶¶ High Visceral (Part 2) (2017)
¶ High Visceral (Part 1) (2016)

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[ATTENDED: October 21, 2022] Acid Dad

I became aware of Acid Dad through the Reverberation Appreciation Society and Levitation Records which aired a number of live shows during lockdown.  I’ve actually learned about a half dozen really cool bands from these lockdown shows.

I was especially intrigued about Acid Dad and had hoped to see them with Hooveriii at Philamoca (but I went to see Torres that night instead).

But here was Acid Dad opening for Psychedelic Porn Crumpets–a great opportunity to see two bands on my gotta see list.

I hadn’t realized that Acid Dad have no bassist (well, there is bass on the records).  Rather, for this show there were two guitars Vaughn Hunt and Sean Fahey and their drummer, Trevor Mustoe   I also didn’t realize that both guitarists sang lead on different songs. And the way the guitars played off of each other (with them each playing riffs and using all kinds of pedals) the bass was not missed (and I love a good bass line).

Rather, they played their kicking riffs and catchy choruses one after the other, which each guitarist showing some soloing chops.

They have a great retro sound because it seems to reference a whole bunch of musical styles–there’s a classic rock vibe, but there’s also a Jesus and Mary Chain feel (in the vocals and the fuzz).

I was really surprised by how hard they rocked live.  Their recorded output is a little gentler, but they ripped their songs (maybe with just the three of them they played harder).  Indeed, Mustoe broke a stick three quarters of the way through the show.  He threw it to the crowd but it got stuck in the cables at the front of the stage (amazingly no one climbed up to get it).

They played for about 45 minutes, which was great as they played through a bunch of new songs, including their brand new single, as well as a few older songs too.

I also really enjoyed their backdrops, which was full of all kinds of cool psychedelic images.  It was like a retro show with oily colors drifting behind the band, except that it was wholly modern and high tech.  It totally captured the band’s vibe.

  1. Mr. Major
  2. Searchin’
  3. Get Me High [single]
  4. RC Driver
  5. Don’t Get Taken $
  6. Dissin’
  7. BBQ
  8. She Only Eats Organic
  9. Living With a Creature [single]
  10. Marine

⊗ Take It from the Dead (2021)
∀ Acid Dad (2018)
$ Let’s Plan a Robbery (2016)

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[ATTENDED: October 14, 2022] Mother Mother

Back in February (all of 8 months ago), I took my kids and one of their friends to see Mother Mother at TLA.  We all loved it.  The kids had a great time and I was really blown away by their show.  They were supposed to play at The Foundry, which of course would have been neat, but they put on a BIG show and the TLA was the superior venue.  TLA holds about 1,000 people (Foundry is 450).  So I was really surprised to hear that they were coming back to Philly in 8 months to play the Fillmore (capacity 2,500).

And, as I say, it was PACKED.  We were all very happy  to have seen them at TLA where we were super close.  But this show was also fun because the crowd was totally into it and the band seemed bigger and more intense.

Although the setlist was largely the same, the order of the songs was quite different.  In fact, they opened with a song that last time was way near the bottom of the set.  At TLA, Ryan said

they were going to play a song that they knew was weird when they recorded it.  But they had to put it out there.  And now, it sounds like the non-binary community has embraced “Verbatim” and made it their own.

They opened with “Verbatim” and the crowd went nuts.  After a rollicking “O My Heart” (the album that their most popular song is on and which has been revitalized by TikTok), they played a couple of songs that they didn’t play last time.  In all they played five different songs from the previous show (and didn’t play six songs that they played last time).

One of these new songs was “Creep” by Radiohead, which was a huge surprise.  When we saw them last time, Molly Guldemond sang “Pure Love” a nearly a capella song that highlights her voice nicely.  For this show, she did “Creep,” instead.  The crowd really responded to it.  The only problem for me was the guy right behind who wanted to prove that he knew all the words (like everyone else) by singing them very loudly in my ear.  It was especially crappy because Molly has a great voice and really hit all the notes perfectly (this guy didn’t). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 14, 2022] Vundabar

My daughter has a Vundabar song, “Alien Blues” on her playlist and I really like it.  Turns out I’ve been aware of Vundabar since 2018 and would have enjoyed seeing them at any time.  They seem to tour a lot–at least I’ve seen their name around opening for people quite often.  I didn’t know that they were supposed to open this show.

The first opening band was Transviolet, who I didn’t know, although the lead singer Sarah McTaggart was hanging around the lobby wearing a fascinating outfit–fishnet stockings and something like leather underwear.  She was super friendly to all the fans.

Originally, Sir Sly was slated to be a second opening band.  Then one of the members had a baby and decided that he couldn’t be away from the baby (good for him) and Vundabar stepped up.

Had I known about Vundabar I would have encouraged us to arrive earlier.  We dawdled and knew that a Friday night would be very trafficky, but I didn’t really mind as I hadn’t heard of either band.  However, t turned out that Transviolet went on at earlier than 8.  And Vundabar started before 8 as well.  Or maybe they went on at 8 and between parking, buying merch and the like, we didn’t get into to see them until half way through the set.

Worse yet, the show was PACKED and we were stuck not only at the back but in the walkway, so we had to move constantly.  It wasn’t until we were really settled that I was able to enjoy whatever song they were playing.  Soon after they played “Alien Blues” and the crowd went berserk.  This is a big TikTok song apparently.  We even saw a fan face timing her friend who was dancing to the song as she streamed it.  Weird but fun.

Vundabar played one more wild song and I determined that I would very much like to see them again.

Then the crowd adjusted and we were able to get a little closer 9not a lot, but out of the walkway) for Mother Mother.

  1. Tonight I’m Wearing Silk
  2. Diver
  3. Ash in the Sun
  4. Worn / Wander
  5. Darla
  6. Nosferatu µ
  7. Petty Crime
  8. Alien Blues
  9. Oulala
∞ Gawk (2015)
Smell Smoke (2018)
µ Devil for the Fire (2022)
⇔ Either Light (2020)


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[ATTENDED: October 13, 2022] Alec Nicol [rescheduled from May 7, 2020]

I was pretty excited when The House of Love announced a 30th anniversary tour of the States in 2020.  It would be their first time playing here in 30 years.  Then COVID, obviously.

I was never a huge fan of the band, but I’ve liked them since college–part of the whole 90’s Creation scene.  And they have half a dozen songs that routinely get stuck in my head.

I hadn’t given too much thought to the band’s lineup.  I believe that when the 2020 tour was announced the original band was back together.  But this show had a

new HoL lineup that Guy Chadwick announced last summer after telling fans he’d parted ways with original members Terry Bickers and Pete Evans, as well as Matt Jury, who’d been on board since the group reunited in 2003.

The new lineup will find Chadwick backed by Keith Osborne on lead guitar, Harry Osborne on bass and Hugo Degenhardt on drums. The band also has recorded a new album, though its release has not yet been announced.

So that’s kind of a bummer.  Although Guy Chadwick wrote and sang all the songs, so I guess the rest of the band isn’t that big a deal.  The only thing I missed was Bickers’ backing vocals.

I knew there were a few songs I really wanted to hear (and they played them all), but I didn’t have a big set list in mind.  They played songs from their first three albums and then a bunch from the one Chadwick just released (which was kind of a solo album). (more…)

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