Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dani Mari at Starr Garden

The Community Cultural Exchange, a South Street area arts and music collective, held its first annual craft exchange this week at Starr Garden (6th and Lombard). There were a few Philadelphia crafts, a table from the now-defunct South Street institution the Curiosity Shoppe, a table of Philadelphia short story books, and even a tarot reader. Also there to entertain the crowd: an amateur soccer league, some pick-up basketball games, and music.

The acts included the ever-hilarious Sexcop (sample lyric: "pretty girls want to be assassins... so they don't have to wait tables"), some covers and originals by Stephan Tsapatoris, and a kinda awful mid-90s-rock sounding band. The highlight was a Philadelphia-based singer Dani Mari, who performed some of her own sweetly textured compositions, armed only with an acoustic guitar. There are echoes of Mazzy Star and folk-country, but the voice is original, the beats off-kilter, and the changes well considered. She just released a new album, Impulsive, and was giving away three-song samplers from the pressing that included "Vampire" (there's a video on youtube) and a good exemplar of her work, "The Fall" (listen on her myspace page). The album is available on iTunes.

She'd be great in a coffee shop, catch her at one of these upcoming Philadelphia shows (from myspace.com/danimarirock:

8/31 The Note (West Chester)
9/17 Blinkin Lincoln
9/25 Hootenanny 2 (Plymouth Meeting)
10/16 Triumph Brewery
10/25 Connie's Ric Rac

Video of Dani Mari with a child dancing

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Philly Folk Parade at the Fire in May

There are two more weeks of this great event left:

~ 4 Nights, 28 bands
~ 7 bands a night ~ Front stage/back stage = continuous music!
~ 9 PM SHARP ~ lots to do
~ sponsored by Yuengling = plenty o beer
~ 7 bucks - a dollar a band


Cowmuddy, Hezekiah Jones, Johnny Miles and the Waywards, Sisters3, The Doublewides, Hoots and Hellmouth, Josh Park, Hey Nude Friend I'm Tired, Jim Boggia, The Spinning Leaves, Wissahickon Chicken Shack, Andrew Lipke, Up the Chain, Chris Kasper, Brittany Ann, The Matt Helm Scream, The Great Unknown, The Phil D'Agostino Quintet, Shannon Pelcher, Psalmships, Birdie Busch, Daniel of the Moonlight, Jack Ohly, Sean Hoots, Spirit and Dust, Joe Duffey and his Underwater Window Garden, and some Special Mystery Guests!!!

18th hosted by Chris Kasper
25th hosted by Hezekiah Jones

the rest of each night is a mystery, ya dig.................

Hope to see ya there!!!!!! Bring someone who never comes!!!! We all need to meet someone new ~

The Philly Folk Parade is a sounding bell of human musical freedom and a celebration of brotherly love! Made of the intermingling inspirations and revelry of 30 to 40 Philadelphia artists, it is absolutely alive with the sounds of people power - a stage busting full of stomps, claps, choirs, and movement. The Philly Folk Parade is organized around the premise that building community empowers everyone, and to that end, the collective is responsible for a series of large concerts and a tour with the aim of showcasing to the world the incredibly vibrant music scene of Philadelphia and the flourishing new folk movement blooming in its streets.

Taken from the Philly Folk Parade Facebook event

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mason Porter is cursed

Philadelphia has had some epic snowfalls this winter. In December, 20+ inches closed down the city for days just before Christmas; in early February, another large snowfall saw transportation and businesses shut down again.

I'm sure many interesting stories have come from these snow dumps, but our favorite in the world of Philly acoustic music is that of Mason Porter. The West Chester-based roots/bluegrass band scheduled the CD release party for first full length album (Thunder in the Valley, Uncle Nicky Records, 2009) for December 19, 2009: Canceled due to snow. Rescheduled for February 6, 2010: Canceled due to snow.

Apparently, the band put together an impromptu party at a home in West Chester after the second show fell through. They will also be on stage in Philly on February 11 (weather permitting) at the Fire. You can also hear their music on their myspace site and their official website, or buy some of their music on through Uncle Nicky Records, a great indie label that recently released a split 7" of the band and Chris Kasper.

Note: Mason Porter features three talented instrumentalists: Tim Celfo (upright bass), Joe D’Amico (mandolin), and Paul Wilkinson (guitar). It is not, as I once thought, a guys name.

Mason Porter doing a solid Dylan cover last year at Burlap and Bean

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chris Kasper tribute to John Lennon

The Beatles had their first British hit (Love Me Do) in 1962. Eighteen years later, one half of their timeless writing partnership was assassinated in New York City. Amazingly, it has now been twenty-nine years since John Lennon's death, but his impact on popular music is still profound. To commemorate this tragedy, top Philadelphia singer-songwriter Chris Kasper has recorded a cover of Lennon's "Mother" and posted it to his Myspace page.

The Beatles group and solo influence is so diverse, with everyone from heavy metal to country acts drawing inspiration from their catalogue. Acoustic music aficionados can point to such song's as "Blackbird" and "Cry Baby Cry." They would also do well to look to the first solo albums by both Lennon and McCartney. McCartney's eponymous effort is a stripped down offering that produced such classics as "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "That Would Be Something"; it's no coincidence that this album was the most heavily featured in McCartney's landmark appearance on the MTV series Unplugged.

Lennon's debut solo album (discounting experimental earlier offerings) was the brilliant Plastic Ono Band LP. Featuring Ringo Starr on drums and Klaus Voormann (designer of the Beatles' Revolver cover and a friend of Lennon's since the band's Hamburg days) on bass, the album was a raw and personal effort, heavily influenced by Lennon's experiments with primal scream therapy. Plastic Ono Band features an acoustic player's favorite in "Working Class Hero" and the sublime "God" before culminating in "Mother."

"Mother" is a deeply personal exploration of Lennon's feelings towards his mother, who died in 1958 (two years after McCartney lost his own mother, a shared experience that would bond the two young musicians). Kasper's version of the song looks more toward the version on Lennon's anthology, forsaking the album version's driving piano for a more subtle acoustic guitar. The result is a subdued but still powerful tribute to the great songwriter by one of the preeminent names of the Philly acoustic music scene.

Listen to it while you can: myspace.com/chriskasper.

Upcoming Kasper gig in Philly:
December 26th at the Tin Angel (with the Great Unknown)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cool Illinois Video

Illinois are a cool Philadelphia band who've had national recognition for a few years now. I first came across them in about 2003/04 going to see my friend's band in this short-lived monthly arts-music revue above an old city club. I forget the name, but I remember the band. They stuck out among other good acts with a clever use of banjo in a indie rock setting, good singing, and infectious hooks. They were the reason I joined myspace: so I could listen to their songs and see their photos. (Unlike me, they still keep up their site: www.myspace.com/illinois.) I've kept an eye on them ever since, only catching them live once or twice, most recently at a great show at the World Cafe earlier in the month. They've been on Lollapalooza, MTV, and all over the place really. This is a cool long-playing video used to promote their last album, The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe, which they released as a series of EPs monthly until early this year.

The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe, Illinois (the band)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Espers live on BBC 6

The Espers will be playing live on the British Broadcasting Channel's Radio 6, 2pm-4pm (EST; 7pm-9pm GMT). They will be featured on the Marc Riley show as today's "turn" (a regional English colloquialism for live entertainment).

Description from BBC site:

"Tonight's live delight or band as we usually call the turn is Espers.
They usually reside in Philadelphia and are described in the press as indie folk.
The band is comprised of singer-songwriter Greg Weeks, Meg Baird and Brooke Sietinsons, Otto Hauser, Helena Espvall and Chris Smith.
The band have released 4 album over the last 5 years, The Weed Tree was a covers album they released in 2005, all the other albums have been self titled Espers, Espers 11 and Espers 111, I'm sure Marc will have something to say about the amount of time and effort that went into choosing their album titles. You can only find out by tuning in!!!" Listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music/

The Espers are currently in the middle of a European tour, but will back in Philadelphia on December 3rd for a show at Johnny Brenda's before heading off for other U.S. dates. They recently released an excellent new album, Espers III. Listen to them here on their myspace page.

Note: The Espers' three- or four-song performance was very well-received by Marc Riley and the audience. They should expect a fan bump in England, although they probably shouldn't have shied away from their obvious British-folk influences, as they did during one of their interview segments.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: Tim and the 23s, "Dislocated"

Dislocated album cover by Tim and the 23s
I was sent a copy of a CD by a San Diego rock band, not the obvious review choice for a site dedicated to Philadelphia acoustic music. But like the live Papertrees show (see below), this is a music experience of authenticity and unpretentiousness, a stripped-down recording with acoustic sensibility.

Fronted by songwriter and guitarist Tim Malley, a exile from the Philadelphia coffee shop circuit whose previous work includes a stint in the shock-rock Whiskey Dicks, which also featured Philly folk stalwart Chris Kasper. Kasper also guested on Malley's debut LP, 2006's Tim and the 23s, an credible effort made possible by the input of strong players from the Philly and San Diego music scenes. In the wake of this recording, Malley put together a tight and talented three-piece band with bassist Chris Dutton and drummer Matt Liebowitz. They hit the San Diego bars (for gigs and otherwise) and embarked on several regional tours, forging a close musical bond of straight-up rock with a simple song-centered ethos that shines through on Dislocated (Swell Music, 2009).

From its opening, Dislocated hits with the honest hedonistic rock of "This Party's Gotta Woo!" The lyrics on this and songs like the excellent "Been to California" (with it's great fadeout sheet "I was a mess") and "Gotta Go to Work" express a world-weary knowing: these guys have been around, lived a fun, hard life, are touched by the world they inhabit, but know not to take things too seriously.

Other entries reveal a vibrant sense of humor. Malley references local heroes Ween with his line "didn't believe the roses were free even when they were given to me," and the influence of the "brothers" from New Hope comes across on songs like "Breakfast," the sincere country-folk-rock "Chained to the Line," (co-written by Dan May, now bassist for London pop-punk stars the Spivs [watch their new video here] and for Atomic Suplex, the UK's answer to Bob Log III) and the reggae-esque "Gale Force Winds" and "Mr. Bob Todd." This light-hearted sensibility veers into un-pc territory on "Bad One" (sample lyric: "I slept with your sister, I found her down at the pound") and "Squeel Like a Pig", but never drifts into offensiveness.

Where Malley's debut effort was blighted by some inconsistent production and musicianship, the tight musical comradeship of this 23s iteration perfectly backs up the honest hedonistic rock. Leibowitz's intelligent, well-stated drumming and Dutton's earthy bass-playing combine in a grungey interplay, an ideal platform for Malley's excellent guitar work (see tracks 3, 4, 7, and 8, among others) and strong, forceful vocals.

The striped down sound, unrepentant rock, and existential/humorous lyrics come together perfectly on Dislocated's high-quality final track, "Neighborhood," Malley and co's homage to their friendly SoCal beach town. (Sample lyric: "my friend named Karen's got a friend named Larry and he sleeps on her couch.") When the band sing "we all live in the neighborhood," they make you wish you did too. A Philadelphia return is eagerly anticipated.

Band: Tim and the 23s
Album: Dislocated (Swell Music, 2009)
Produced by: Tim and the 23s
Engineered by: Chris Dutton, Tim Malley, Kyle Thompson, and Deborah Reeves
Mixed by: Kyle Thompson
Engineered by: Alastair Spitzley

See Timandthe23s.com for more information.

"Been to California" from the album Dislocated by Tim and the 23s, live at the Radio Room