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Fishtown Shad Fest 4/23/11 – Penn Treaty Park

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The 3rd Annual Shad Fest went off with what seemed like 800 or so people enjoying music, beer and scenery down along the Delaware River.  After a bit of a rainy morning we made it over to catch The Spinto Band and Black Landlord drive the rain away and produce a wonderful afternoon of music and beer.   Peep the video below to see all of the afternoon action!

Wye Oak – Live at Johnny Brenda’s – 4.15.11

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Watch Wye Oak as they play Johnny Brenda’s.   The video below contains snippets from the show as well as a great rock and roll moment where rebellious singer, guitarist Jenn Wasner turns 25 at the stroke of midnight.  Pre-song she asked the crowd to throw napkins at her to signify the event.  She was greeted by a few blasts of the birthday song and then promptly downs a shot and beer and finishes the song.  Long live Rock and Roll!

The Barr Brothers – Live in Philadelphia – 4.15.11

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The Barr Brothers stopped by the Fire this past week in support of their self-titled album.  The set was quick, but clearly demonstrated why the combo of Brad and Andrew Barr is one of the greatest pairs of brother musicians going today.  The brothers weren’t alone, and just like the album they had Sarah Page accompanying them on Harp and Andres Vial covering bass, keys, and additional vocal duties.  Vial’s deep voice complimented Brad’s on many songs through-out the evening including a rare cover of the Slip’s “Suffocation Keep”.  Page’s delicate yet precise finger plucks of her harp added to the worldly vibe. The highlight was her linking up with Brad’s Ali Farka Toure influenced guitar riffs in a spirited jam during “Deacon’s Son.”  They concluded with “Beggar in the Morning,” so far one of my favorite songs of the year. Learn more about the Barr Brothers here – http://www.thebarrbrothers.com/

Peep The Barr Brother’s in action in the video below

 

Hacienda – Live in Philadelphia – 4.7.11

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You can hear Dan Auerbach’s influence on this band from San Antonio, TX.  He produced their last albums and his touches shine through.  Enjoy the video below.

 

The Joy Formidable – Philadelphia, Pa – 3.30.11

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Ritzy Bryan, lead singer and guitarist extraordinaire for the Joy Formidable has got serious spunk.  She let her fire hang out for all to see at their show at Johnny Brenda’s this past week in Philadelphia.  The Welsh front woman and her band mates were extremely comfortable in the club setting as they put on a clinic in everything to do right with rock and roll.

Bryan was a professional at letting go and quickly found the vibe to her liking as she dropped her guard let the music take control.   During “Cradle” she split her time jamming with her trio and making wide-eyed stares deep into the crowd.   She over-emphasized the words and stuck them to the back wall like darts being tossed into a board.  At the end of “Whirring” she turned her back to the crowd, took to her knees and pulled feedback from her amp by writhing against it with her guitar.  She rode it’s fuzzy wave as she turned back to
the crowd to bounce on her knees and hand slap her peddle board.  The effects grew into a trance of fuzz, feedback and drum beats that shook the onlookers.  Bryan sung delicate echoes during the beginning of Austere as Rhydian Dafydd filled in the holes with Bass.   His board of effect peddles was larger than Bryans and he used them repeatedly to help fill their sound past the point that you may expect a power trio to go. Drummer Matt Thomas matched Bryan’s bouncy spirit and tonal escapes with a trouncing of the skins.  There were even moments that the entire band played percussion.  The highlight of the evening was a performance of “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade.”  It glued the evening together with a powerful and fiery bit of rock music that just made the crowd want more.

Bryan demonstrated a comfort and charisma that is a rarity.   Her stage energy bared similarities to Heartless Bastard’s Erika Wennerstrom, but her guitar play was quite different.  She played in a groove more in the raw vein of the Pixies meets the stadium pop rock echoes of the Kings of Leon.  Whatever was going on it was quite delicious to the ears and eyes.  A small side note – I snagged their debut album The Big Roar after the show.  I am not entirely convinced that this album does them justice.  It’s engineering clouds the raw energy that their live show clearly produces.  My suggestion – Your first listen should be this.

Watch Ritzy Bryan let it all hang out in the video below

Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group – 3.28.11 – Philadelphia

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Surprise guest at a mid-week show – excited, but a whole band – Freak-out!   Monday night the Omar Rodriguez Lopez group visited South Street’s TLA and what a surprise the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group turned out to basically be the Mars Volta. Apparently the SXSW showing of Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala wasn’t a once off.  Bixler-Zavala is out on the road with the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, and they’ve been performing new Mars Volta material.

Other than Bixler-Zavala’s short new hairdo not much has changed he’s still busting out fancy dance moves, super banshee shrieks while swinging the microphone by its cord every which-way.  Together Lopez and Bixler-Zavala inserted from what I could gather new Mars Volta material into the evenings solo project.   The set of all new music featured Bixler-Zavala singing lead vocals the entire set.  The first few songs were down right funky in terms of the Mars Volta.  The first few songs each had the poetic punches that would remind a listener of moments from Frances the Mute.   Bixler-Zavala kept his voice sturdy with pulls from a steaming pot of liquid that sat next to him on stage.  Between songs there was even a bit of on stage chatter back and forth between the band,  a foreign concept for the Mars Volta.  But then again this was not billed as the Mars Volta so their alter ego the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group could do whatever the hell it wanted.

It would seem that this new work was being road tested knocking the kinks out a bit more before they take it back into the studio for their sixth album.   So for now the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group is Lopez shredding guitar, Cedric Bixler Zavala on vocals, Deantoni Parks on drums, Marcel Rodriguez Lopez on keys, Juan Alderete on bass, and Lars Stalfors on the tweaking of sound.

Watch as Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala destroy the TLA stage

J Mascis and Kurt Vile @ The World Café Live – 3.23.11

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J Mascis and Philadelphia psych rocker Kurt Vile played at Philadelphia’s World café Live on 3.23.11 showcasing both new material and old.  Kurt Vile’s latest album, “Smoke Ring For My Halo,” is a wonderful album filled with gutsy, American rock.  It’s a shame that I found myself wanting to hear more vocals during his World Café Live show and wonder why he muddied them up so much with effects.

On the other hand, the long gray haired Mascis pushed an old Gibson acoustic guitar to its limits as he brought to life the magic that is his latest album Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop). Hearing Mascis string together the gentle acoustic folk songs, mixed with long looping squeals of peddle affected guitar riffs was a delight.   The highlight of his set was a cover of Edie Brickell’s “Circle of Friends” and an amazing execution of the Fog’s “Get Me.”  On the latter, Mascis opened up and soared through a three minute guitar solo that he fueled with a constant bending of his instruments strings.  All the while Mascis added new low end portions that he looped together on a slow delay that brought us charging ahead.  He rattled off a few more songs before Kurt Vile came back to accompany him on guitar and backing vocals on “Make It Right”, “Not Enough”, and “Ocean in the Way”.  Mascis said that the evenings encore was meant for the Vermont show the night before.  Before much of the crowd had emptied, he laid out the Dinosaur Jr. song “Quest” and another Fog treat, “Wagon” finishing the night.

You can listen to Mascis’ Several Shades of Why here -  http://www.spin.com/articles/full-album-stream-dinosaur-jrs-j-mascis

Watch J Mascis doing “Ammaring” and Kurt Vile joining him for “Not Enough”

Spring is here – It’s time for NEW music!

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As the dust clears from SXSW 2011 it’s good to get down some of the finer points and more importantly some of the finer bands just brought into my line of sight. As it tends to create some fine unexpected moments, this year’s SXSW was no slouch. From Jack White and his yellow recording studio on wheels parking lot performance to Connor Oberst and J. Mascis revitalization. Here are four bands that require some extra attention if you don’t already know about them.

Guadalupe Plata -This trio from Spain has the flavor of Mofro and the Black Keys.  These three may be young, but they channel a soul much deeper similar to the Barr brothers as they create gritty swamp blues.  These guys create something larger then themselves and its raw musical power is awesome!

More Guadalupe Plata music here

Ages and Ages - Folksy, Rock with a similar feel to the fluffy hand claps of Edward Sharpe – worth a listen here

More Ages and Ages music here

The Joy Formidable - and their singer Ritzy Bryan is pure rock and roll. She reminds me of an English version of Erika Wennerstrom from the Heartless Bastards mixed with Karen O from the Yeah, Yeah Yeahs.

More of The Joy Formidable music here

Yellow Ostrich -Just listen to Alex Schaaf singing on “Whale” and see if like me, it reminds you of childhood.  He has something simple and fun going on in his vocals, a singsong quality that just feels good.

*Video from The Big Ugly Yellow Couch*

More Yellow Ostrich music here 

Spring is right around the corner – it’s time for new – feel free to share your new music finds

The Thinking Man – Are they really just going to eat us?

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I saw this video clip a few weeks back and tried to park it in the back of my brain.  It keeps pushing back to the front.  As an optimist who generally sees the positive side of progress, the ramifications of this clip are somewhat troubling.  Man has made a consumer-friendly, flesh-eating robot.

Even if you are skeptical about this example, a quick Google search will turn up stories about government funding of battlefield robots design to operate on biomass.   The press quickly spun this fact into battlefield robots consuming biomass in the form of flesh from fallen soldiers.  The creators of the technology tried to point out that the technology would have some built-in sensors to distinguish one form of biomass from another, but isn’t the genie out of the bottle by that point?  Does your garbage disposal let you know when something gets “consumed” that shouldn’t have been?

Whether or not a biomass consuming robot or the mouse-eating table is real is not exactly the point.  The point is that we have arrived at the time when we can have this conversation without talking about some nebulous future.

Thinkers like Bill Joy and others raise serious concerns about what could go wrong with technology.  Over 10 years ago, a lot of time in the world of Moore’s Law, Joy wrote his hugely influential essay “Why the future doesn’t need us.” If and when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, wouldn’t we be seen as a competitor for scarce resources?  This is a scenario that Joy and countless other sci-fi writers have envisioned.

I’m pretty sure that the group responsible for “Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots” didn’t program the mouse-eating table with Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics built into the CPU. I always thought we were supposed to be wiped out in an Artificial Intelligence directed nuclear disaster or that the human race was to be used as batteries or something when the robot masters take over?  Are they really just going to eat us?

Akron/Family – Mash-up Video – Philadelphia 3.4.11

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Friday evenings Akron/Family show was tremendous!

Watch the video mash-up from The Blockley as these freak folk rock monsters throw-down a heavy dose of their goodness…