show review

FOALS BRING THE “LONDON THUNDER” TO PHILLY
December 21, 2015 8:48 am

“Hello Philadelphia, it’s been a while,” Foals’ frontman shouted out to the crowd who was in attendance at the Union Transfer December 19th. “Are you ready to fucking rock?”

And the crowd certainly was.

The last time Foals played a show in the City of Brotherly Love was in 2011 at the TLA and before that, in 2008 at Johnny Brenda’s. It’s baffling to picture the Oxford playing a show at a small bar after the show I watched them play last night.

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Photo by Kenzie Gasper

Philadelphia was their last U.S. date so I knew the show was going to be insane, and after seeing them two years ago in New York City (and waiting all night to meet them — I was a teenager, ok?) I tried to prepare myself for what I was about to ensue, but there was no preparing.

Foals took the stage at about 9 P.M. and opened with “Snake Oil” off their new album What Went Down (an album I’d definitely consider as one of the best of this year) and immediately got the crowd energized. Even some of the security guards were bobbing their heads to this serious jam. Yannis Philippakis, Foal’s frontman had already begun doing his signature moves — which aren’t really moves, just him running back and forth, jumping, and spinning like a madman. To each his own.

If Foals decided to leave the venue, I’m almost certain everyone would be fine with it, as the first song was a show in itself. But they didn’t, they continued with “Olympic Airways” and added in “Balloons,” older songs from Antidotes, their first album. It was at this point I began to feel like a teenager again, wanting to scream at the top of my lungs due to the sheer force this band brought. Thankfully, there were two drunk girls next to me who did enough screaming for all of us!

Halfway through, the band slowed it down with “Spanish Sahara,” which is a long song, but a very beautiful one. As Philippakis shouted “I’m the fury in your head, I’m the fury in your bed, I’m the ghost in the back of your head” into the microphone, I looked around and saw mostly everyone in the crowd, myself included, singing along.

The band ended their set with “Inhaler,” one of their most popular songs, and looking out into the crowd I saw everyone on their feet screaming back at Philippakis. After the band left the stage the entire Union Transfer began chanting so loud that it sounded like I was at a futbol game.

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Photo by Kenzie Gasper

The band came back to play “Mountain At My Gates” and “What Went Down,” and I knew what song was coming next. As a huge Foals fan I almost feel it’s a religious experience to see “Two Steps, Twice” at least once in your life and thats exactly what happened.

The rest of the band started playing as Philippakis was notably absent from the stage, but suddenly a spotlight hit the balcony and there he was. If you aren’t a Foals fan you’d probably be really confused at what he was doing, and if you probably wouldn’t want to be standing underneath him.

In the blink of an eye he jumped from off the balcony and fans caught him. He then crowd surfed back to stage to finish the set.  Foals won NME’s best live band award and it’s obvious why. This band truly puts their heart, blood, and a lot of sweat on to every stage they play. I wouldn’t be surprised if Foals became the biggest band in the world.

The band is hitting up Australia next, and doing a run around Europe, so if you want to catch them, you’ll have to wait a little, but until then check out their new album if you haven’t had the chance!

PHILLY LOSES ITS MIND FOR THE 1975
December 7, 2015 1:08 pm

The 1975 played a sold-out show at The Fillmore in Philadelphia this past Saturday.

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Photo by Kenzie Gasper

The wildly popular indie rock band first hit American airwaves with their 2013 single “Chocolate” and gained a huge fan base seemingly overnight. The band is currently in the middle of an international tour to promote their upcoming album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. 

Rising indie pop group Swim Deep opened the show with songs from both their debut album and their recent sophomore effort, Mothers. Their bubbly, dream-like pop vibes complimented The 1975’s sound nicely, making me groove more than I initially intended.

Finally, around 9 pm, the house lights dimmed and all four members of The 1975 walked out to greet their adoring audience.  The stage setup was simple yet aesthetically pleasing, all pastels and neon lights. Upon seeing lead singer Matty Healy, almost every female in the room began screaming and jumping up and down (myself included). The band opened with their latest hit, “Love Me” (which I haven’t been able to stop listening to lately). In all my years of attending shows, I have never seen anything quite like the hysteria I witnessed that night. A gaggle of young girls standing next to me were nearly in tears during the first half of the show. Healy makes a perfect frontman, exuding the raw sex appeal of a young Mick Jagger while still seeming strangely approachable; a dichotomy that has aided in him being known as one of the best live performers of this generation.  The band played for a little over an hour and covered nearly every song in their catalog, including “She’s American,” off of their yet-to-be-released album.

“We have two more songs for you tonight, and I bet you can’t guess what they are,” Healy playfully announced, before going into fan-favorites “Chocolate” and
“Sex.” Before walking off stage, the band spent a few moments waving goodbye and thanking everyone for coming. Drummer George Daniel threw his sticks into the audience, the house lights came back on, and they were gone.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love The 1975 more than I already do, but after seeing them play live I have a new respect for them. If you get a chance to go to one of their shows, I highly recommend going. They will also be playing at Firefly Music Festival in 2016, so if you’re planning on attending make sure to stick around and check them out!

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Photo by Kenzie Gasper

HONING THE CRAFT WITH THESE KNEES AND THE WHISKEY HOLLOW
November 23, 2015 12:49 pm

It was another rainy night in Cleveland for These Knees EP release show. As I walk in, The Whiskey Hollow is sound checking for the night. Everyone was running a little behind so we kicked back and mingled with the likes of Cleveland Sofar Sounds and Cleveland Music City to discuss our excitement for the upcoming show. We all came to the same conclusion: this was not a show to miss.

When the show finally started, it opened up with a duo acoustic act. The Whiskey Hollow, an alternative acoustic-rock duo with folky undertones and vocals from the depths of hell reincarnated as angel’s song, can assure you’ll feel the pain of their music. The Ohio native, Madeline Finn, works at The School of Rock and rightfully so. Her voice makes you cry or wish you could sing like her. With sweeping to staccato guitar styles and bass lines to back her up, she bangs on her bass drum perfectly in time. For a moment you get lost in a trance of The Whiskey Hollow and forget you’re not actually drinking whiskey, but they’re just intoxicating enough to make you think you are.

Then, what we were all waiting for, These Knees jumped on stage and rocked the house with their indie rock pop. They did a nice mix of their originals including a majority off the new album and a few covers to fill up the night. The band held tons of energy and the singers voice pops out of nowhere making you wonder how the hell that came out of such a small person.

These kids deserve all the attention they get! They appeared very professional, friendly and worked very hard on all aspects of their stage presence. You wouldn’t guess that by watching them perform; it seemed to come naturally to them. The energy they bring to a room is massive and I enjoyed the hell out of it. At one point Stephanie jumps off stage with an acoustic guitar and starts singing an old These Knees tune with another member of an older version of the band and the crowd couldn’t get enough.

The album itself is a fun mix of Tegan and Sara like vocal patterns, sprinkled with poppy hooks and a dash of rock and roll. My favorite song off the EP is “Good Luck” which is a playful ode to old school rock and roll. I feel it rings true to traditional Cleveland Rock and Roll City music sounds.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview These Knees and mini session interview The Whiskey Hollow. Check those out below!

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Photo by Jeanette Sangston

THESE KNEES :

How was the process of writing this EP, and is it one writer or do you all collectively write the songs?

With Night Fires as well as our previous releases, I’ve done the majority of the songwriting. Typically I’ll demo a song and bring it to the group with guitar, bass, keys, vocals, and the overall vibe pretty well formed. Our drummer (Rob Hassing) has the biggest influence of the group given I play drums at a very basic level, so my demo drums are basic, leaving him with a lot of freedom to come in and add great parts and great value to the songs. Jesse and Bryan bring their own flare and style to each song, even when I’ve written the parts. One of Jesse’s great contributions to Night Fires is the lead on the song “Get Lonely.” It’s sort of a counter melody to the main vocal and is a perfect fit.

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Photo by Jeanette Sangston

What is your favorite song off of the EP?

It’s cliche, but they are all my babies! It’s very hard to choose. I like them all for different reasons.

What are your main musical influences?

I grew up on Cleveland’s WMJI (105.7), so feel-good oldies are in my blood. I would count Butch Walker, Tegan and Sara, The 1975, Jack’s Mannequin, and Paramore as my biggest modern day influences, though I’ve noticed I’m more influenced by individual songs rather than artists these days. A good song can come from any genre, so in that way I feel like I find influences everywhere.

Where did you record the EP?

We recorded Night Fires with Dave Piatek at his studio in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood (Dave Piatek Recording). Dave has a great ear and we clicked creatively. We recorded our EP while he was also working on individual libraries for his drum sampling company (Room Sound), so there were days he would go from recording a metal drummer to recording a song like “Believer.”

Are you all from Cleveland and do you identify as a Cleveland band?

We are very proud to be a Cleveland based band! Rob, Jesse, and I are all from the same hometown (the Nordonia Hills area), and Bryan is from Mentor.

What was your favorite city to play so far?

Our trip to Chicago this year was really great. There’s something about driving around together that just bonds you. I’ve known Rob for 16-17 years and I only now discovered his road rage on our trip through downtown Chicago. The crowd howled at us instead of cheering, which I kind of want to encourage everywhere because it was amazing and hilarious. Plus there’s just something special about the midwest. A “je ne sais quoi” quality. We’re really looking forward to heading back there in 2016.

Where does the band name ‘These Knees’ come from?

I have had knee problems since I was very young. I found a kind of silver lining in the pain I was having one night, and that was how blessed I am to be someone who can walk and more freely with just minor restrictions. Through sports injuries and knee surgery, I’ve always bounced back, and I took that as a life lesson. There are some things in life that are going to slow you down and hold you back, but what matters is that you keep moving. So These Knees is a representation of that forward movement for me.

What do you have coming up in the future?

We are in the planning stages of our regional shows and trips for this spring and summer. Now that the album is out and my head is clear of the logistics of releasing a record, I’ll probably start writing again.

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Photo by Jeanette Sangston

THE WHISKEY HOLLOW :

How do you like playing acoustic music vs what you were doing before?

I loved envoi don’t get me wrong. It was super energetic, really fun. I’ve always felt my voice has had sort of a bluesy twangy tone to it so I think it suits me a little bit better and it’s so different than what we had been doing that its such a breath of fresh air. I feel like I have more of an opportunity to speak my mind, I think it is very true to me.

How did your collaboration with DJ Scrilla come about?

I work with a recording engineer which is how I met These Knees, Jim Stewart who has done a lot of work for me. He did all of my high school rock off stuff. Every time he has someone who needs a feature he would be like ‘Hey Maddie come hang out’. So he talked to DJ Scrilla who he does all the tracking for and was like ‘do you (Maddie) want to feature on this?’ I was like ‘yeah of course I would love to.’ DJ Scrilla was awesome he gave me the track and I wrote my own part so I wrote the hook and I sang which was a lot of fun.

What is your genre? Are you experimenting or is this going to be a long term sound?

The genre is very off, its not like it’s acoustic rock or strictly blues or anything like that. On tour Joe and I came up with the term cocktail punk but it’s not true to what we’re doing, its just funny. Honestly I think I’m playing me, just doing what comes naturally. I’m taking a lot influence from Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons so you can almost call it alternative acoustic rock.

What are your top three influencing musicians?

Okay, top three: obviously Paramore. Haley Williams was just this random girl seventeen years old, her voice is incredible. Then she comes in and just rips it and she comes with such confidence as this tiny little seventeen year old girl. And I’m just like ‘wow’ so it inspired me a lot. Lacey Mosely from Flyleaf actually inspired me when I was younger. She inspired me to keep playing music and keep doing what I’m doing. Her sound is not what I’m going for but just the passion she has awoke in me is insane. And more lately I’ve been taking a lot from a local artist named Jane Decker. She’s from Cincinnati and she was on The Voice . It’s cool to find someone so genuine about what they’re doing and it makes me feel like there is still hope and there is still a reason to play music.

How do you feel about the Cleveland Music scene?

Oh my God, you know when I was in high school it was good. Then it kind of dropped off a little bit, but I feel like in the past like 3 years it’s really started to gain more traction. You know we had 21 pilots and they’re huge. Then bands like These Knees, By Light We Loom and the Lighthouse and the Whaler. The Cleveland music scene is so diverse and I think that is what I enjoy about it.

How do you feel about the scene after touring other cities.

I teach at the School of Rock so a lot of students ask me the same question. You know I’ve toured the west, east, south, and north, I don’t think anybody can touch what we have here because it is so diverse and so passionate. You know I go to NYC I love it there but people aren’t as passionate about music as they are here. I mean I just had a group of sixty people stand here and watch me and they’ve never heard me before that doesn’t happen in Boston or New York. Cleveland is a home city, people listen to music because they love it.

What advice do you have to offer to up and coming musicians?

I’ve been in the scene since I was fourteen when I won the Tri C high school rock off in 2010 and if I had any piece of advice it would be to keep going no matter what obstacles hit you. Keep going and keep honing your craft, strive to make the world a better place.

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Photo by Jeanette Sangston

CARROLL SUMMONS PSYCHEDELIC VIBES IN PHILLY
November 2, 2015 12:02 am

It was a drizzly, damp evening. The Boot & Saddle is a cosey South Philly music venue that bring in a wide range of indie upstarts befitting its intimate setting. Carroll is a Minneapolis four-piece that creates gentle, lush sound collages tinged with swirls of mild psychedelia. The quaint stage a perfect platform to usher in their debut self-titled album and kick off a brief tour of the East Coast.

keys1Carroll are a young band and you can tell. They haven’t gotten all of the nerves out yet, there are some hesitancies, nervous fidgeting, minor nuances in their stage presence. To be fair, I’ve always found the smaller crowds make it tougher to get into your groove. Large crowds are so all-encompassing- insignificant little ants. Smaller audiences are a nerve-racker, brings you back to classroom stage-freight. There’s nothing covering up even the most trivial imperfection, missed note, belting out a line in the wrong key. None of this mattered though, Carrol’s sound mirage was spectacular.

Colorful interlocking guitars. Vibrant vocal harmonies. Swift, punchy drums that gave the music an energetic punch. Waves of deep, robust bass- filling out the hazey soundscape. They played through the highlights from their new album no particular order, and also threw in a few bonus concoctions. All in all a solid set. Each song had a new and unexpected transition, rewarding avid listeners with a fresh dynamic.

This promising new band is traveling across the country to rile up hype for an album they’d put countless hours into, and that passion and genuine love to entertain spews out.  Definitely catch them if they come through your city.

I got a chance to ask Carroll’s bassist, Charles McClung, a few questions prior to their show, discuss the origin of the name “Carroll”, transplanting from the outskirts of Minneapolis to Philly, and the nervous energy associated with a new album. Here’s what he had to say:

So we know the name Carroll is derived from the Iconic Minneapolis hot spot, what brought you to name your band after that?

We named the band after the avenue in St. Paul where Brian and Charlie started the band. In our own way, we made it a hot spot, although I doubt anyone else would consider it such.

I looked up name “Carroll” online, it’s a surname, Irish in origin, meaning “manly” or “champion”…so you guys believe you’re “manly champions”?!  

We would be very hesitant to call ourselves manly champions.

You guys are picking steam in Minneapolis and you’re summoned to record an album out here in Philly. What was that like?  

It’s funny you use the word “summoned”! We definitely learned a thing or two about the art of summoning from that experience; namely, summoning the psychedelic vibes from within!

How does that compare to the Northern Wilderness?

On a more serious note, it was definitely a rad experience to leave the Twin Cities to record in a totally different creative environment out here in Philadelphia. Some of us liked it enough to move out here, actually. Both cities are special places.

Recording tracks in a studio environment versus recording demos out in the woods are very different experiences. I think we have an affinity for both domains, though. Disparate inspirations come into play.

Apparently you guys recorded the album in 18 days–did you guys actually get to check out the city?  Or were you locked up in the studio the entire time?

You can fit a lot into 18 days, as it turns out! We were able to finish tracking and get a feel for the city as a whole during that recording session. Some days were more stressful than others, both in and out of the studio. From Max taking his sweet time dialing in guitar tones to Charles getting lost in South Philadelphia looking at murals… it was a fun time.

Are you looking forward to returning to Philly and playing the Boot & Saddle?  Philly’s a pretty fun crowd, right?!?

Yeah, Philadelphians are a hoot. We actually just peeped Here We Go Magic at Boot & Saddle earlier this week, and we’re excited to get back in there!

How was it working with Jon Low (who’s produced Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs, The National, and many more) you must have been absolutely floored.

Jon Low is a wizard. But he’s not the only one. See www.shatteredorb.net for evidence.

Releasing a record is a major milestone for any up-and-coming band. Are you more anxious or excited about rolling out your self-titled second record? It sounds amazing by the way- as if my opinion counted for anything.

Thank you so much! Your opinion totally counts, don’t sell yourself short! Although we are generally an anxious bunch, I think that it would be the wrong adjective to describe our view on our record. We’re proud of it and happy that it’s out in the world now.

Heyrocco Smells Like Teenage Movie Soundtrack
October 9, 2015 1:31 pm

In Charleston, where there is nothing to do but skateboard, drink “shitty box wine”, and hangout, three dudes in high school formed a band called Heyrocco that personifies the teen angst of growing up in the suburbs.

Nathan Merli sings lead vocals and plays guitar, the guy with the real cool name Chris Cool plays bass, and then there’s Tanner Cooper or “Taco” on drums. Together they make melodic grungy tunes about the awkward, vulnerable, and rebellious feels of being a hormonal teenager.

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I first saw Heyrocco back in June at Shea Stadium.  Their debut album Teenage Movie Soundtrack had just come out on Old Flame Records and they were about to play their first show back in the US after a super successful tour in the UK.

They opened to a scattered crowd and played songs from the album which covers pretty much every topic that teen-dom entails.  Let’s see, there’s girls, peer pressure, horny teens, virginity, clumsy sex, hookups, heartbreak, house parties, hating everyone and everything around you…yup, I’m pretty sure that covers everything.

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Heyrocco describe their sound as “disney grunge” and it gives a very 90s feel to them that sometimes (bear with me as I try to compare them to other bands) reminds me of a grungier Motion City Soundtrack but if Conor Oberst was the vocalist.

I wonder if they would hate it if I compared them to Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down” or Simple Plan’s “I’m Just a Kid”I’m going to do it anyways, because their music reminds me of a time where I would play songs like that on repeat with my bedroom door shutting out the world so I could wallow in my teen angst to the band (the only people who understood me). Dramatic, I know.

It was funny talking about some of the verses with Merli.  He stopped mid-sentence at one point and was like, “Oh my god, I sound emo.” Because it’s true adolescent feelings and behaviors can sound pretty ridiculous, especially from an outside perspective. But Heyrocco embraces the humor in it, for example by holding up a t-shirt that says “daddy issues” at the end of the music video for “Loser Denial”.

Other times, especially when they played their song “Virgin”, Heyrocco really sounds like Nirvana.

“Virgin” makes fun of stereotypical macho males bragging about sexual conquests and pressuring others to do the same.  They approach many similar themes in the same deadpan style of Kurt Cobain, and to complete my mental comparison for the night, Cooper was wearing the same “Hi, How Are You” Daniel Johnston t-shirt Cobain often wore.  

Although Heyrocco claim to be “packing more bowls than venues” I would say they’re doing pretty well.  They are currently back touring in the UK, where they have been selling out shows, and are playing in Manchester the 13th before coming straight here to play CMJ on the 14th at Webster Hall.  So what’s next? Some touring around the US then on to Canada eh. I also vaguely remember Merli saying something about going in a different direction with their music…but anyways still can’t wait to see what they do next. So cheers Heyrocco, thanks for reawakening the nostalgic angsty teen in me!

LEWIS LANE AT BROOKLYN BOWL
August 10, 2015 5:09 pm

Last Friday Lewis Lane dominated Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn’s quirky bowling alley turned bar turned music venue. The bill also featured performances by edgy indie pop rockstars Hank & Cupcakes, and King Holiday.

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At 8PM sharp, Lewis Lane stepped on to the stage looking classy as hell in all black and rocking a short hair cut. The band blended perfectly with her sexy and smooth vocals. Her voice is naturally powerful and blew me away. Her indie pop sound reminded me of Adele- emotional lyrics that will take you right down memory lane. The deep and booming drums backing the songs are simplistic and the perfect touch on slower more personal tracks like “Low” (I’m a mess you made that clear/ I’ll get drunk and spill your beer). The crowd was grooving to each song, even if they were just sitting at the bar or eating diner. She performed her most popular track “Hunter” which is currently receiving a lot of attention from prominent indie blogs like The Wild Honey Pie. I came anticipating her performance of that track in particular and she nailed it to perfection. Lewis Lane puts on a great show because she is a natural performer. I definitely enjoyed myself and recommend all you #Beasts go support her at a show near you.

Written by Lupe Ramirez 

Hippo Campus Kills Baby’s Alright
June 22, 2015 4:00 pm

Hippo Campus is a new indie pop/rock 4-piece that is stealing the hearts of girls in every city they play. Thursday night at Baby’s Alright I checked out the band and talked to the boys after the show and they are every bit as adorable as their set would have you believe- with the musical chops to back it up.

The band hails from Minnesota and has been on a rigorous tour schedule all year. Their stop in New York was to a jam packed room. They played hits off their last album Bashful Creatures like “Little Grace” and “Suicide Saturday” in addition to lots of newer and dare I say, slightly heavier, material. The songs on Bashful Creatures remind me of an early Vampire Weekend. Both bands have polished and urbane lyrics, coupled with fast and fussy guitar lines to get your heart rate up. Their band name itself is even a high-brow academic reference to the part of the brain associated with your long term memories, something Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij would appreciate. Their lyrics are sophisticated while also telling to the intrinsically jealous, passionate and sometimes idiotic nature of the teenage boy brain. “I cannot tell what you claim to see, that your heart is black and mine is so green” is the opening line for their song Little Grace, and lead vocalist Jake delivers it with swoon-worthy sincerity.

Their arrangements are fun without being “fun”; catchy melodies supported with funky, solid, bass and drum grooves. The band has also nailed their live performance with coordinated dance moves and witty banter with the audience. Be sure to check them out coming to a city near you on their ongoing tour.