Shellac @ Union Transfer


Shellac and Helen Money performed @ Union Transfer 9/30/11.

Helen Money began the night around 8:30. On stage Helen Money, aka Allison, played a cello that is almost bigger than her. There was also some electronic equipment that she used to create distortion effects and various rhythms- on her own or using the drum machine. Helen Money’s instrumental songs were edgy, she was able to blend various genres depending on how she was playing- classical, punk, drone. Lots of times if I closed my eyes it seemed like there was an electric guitar soloing, and at one point she put down the bow to play with her fingers, which is something I’ve never seen before and sounded great. She was able to fill up the room with her unique music and played with passion.

Shellac came on about 9:30 and played til 11. By this time the whole place was packed, and Union Transfer has a fairly large capacity. Steve Albini, the guitarist/vocalist, wore a Dolly Parton Shirt and raged around the stage.  He was pretty sarcastic when he moved around, looking like he was having a seizure, or with his facial expressions. He had his guitar strap around his waist. And the sound of it was rough, slicing and screaming, then at times matter of fact. The bass player, Bob Weston, was totally calm and cool throughout, even when screaming into the mic. He held his bass real low on his body. And the drummer, Todd Trainer, was awesome to watch, he holds his arms in real close and has an intense style, his big moment was on The End of Radio where he moved around on stage with his snare drum. Their music, even if you’ve heard it hundreds of times, is aloof, it’s unpredictable even if you know it, there are awkward pauses and variations in intensity, rhythm, and overall structure. I wasn’t ‘headbanging’ because watching them felt more like having a conversation or watching people do that. Their stage banter was alright, they had a brief “q n a”, made jokes about nuns/pedophiles, and asked the audience to stop singing along (which actually was distracting, because their songs are all about the minimal-hundreds of people also sing was jacked up). Not gonna list everything but they did Ghosts, Steady as She Goes, Squirrel Song, The End of Radio, Prayer to God, Dog and Pony Show, Copper, and ended the night with Crow. I want to say it was almost too perfect of a set. I felt like I was being tricked cause it sounded so good but I’m just lucky they decided to play Philly at all.



Mikrokolektyw @ The Rotunda


Mikrokolektyw played @ The Rotunda 9/27/11 at 8pm.

Mikrokolektyw is a duo from Poland consisting of a trumpeter and a drummer. Their set lasted 1.5hrs and there was a full house. Ars Nova Workshops put on this free avant garde jazz event. The songs would generally begin with a laptop that had preprogrammed sounds on a loop, with beeps and electronic noises then the drummer would start up and the trumpet would join in at various points. The musicians were wonderful to watch. The drummer had a unique style while playing, depending on the kind of rhythms he was creating his posture would be stilted and jerky or smooth and fluid, he had amazing bodily control. This was best demonstrated on songs where he’d be playing a series of notes on a xylophone positioned next to the (extensive) drum kit, he would then move into a beat with the cymbals or bass drum, then with his other hand play the snare or other drum…all at the same time! The trumpeter was in charge of the laptop noises. His playing style was also pleasing and had long held notes and a deep sound. A type of moog was hooked up to the drums and that sound was manipulated by the drummer with his hands reminding me at first of a theremin. I don’t know exactly how that worked but it sounded great. The harmonies created by the duo were intense; there were often off time beats, the cacophony also had the unexpected addition of the electronics. The collaboration between the two was complex, occasionally frantic, but more often just  pure jazz with impressive experimental features. The audience stood up to clap at the end and was treated with an encore.

Alice Donut @ Invincible Pictures


Alice Donut performed @ Invincible Pictures 9/24/11 as part of the Philadelphia Film & Music Festival

The show began around 10:30 with the screening of the documentary Freaks in Love, which traces the bands 25 year+ history and at 100 min was an in depth exploration of Alice Donut’s different career stages. It was pretty good at placing the band in context, every 15 min or so there was a mini timeline ‘commercial break’ where major world events and rock news were listed, from the 80’s to now. It also explained member arrivals and departures, the band name, how Chet got involved, the art of the albums, and the whole where are they now shtick. Jello Biafra spoke a lot because they are friends/on Alternative Tentacles, and so did a bunch of other rock scene dudes, but mainly the movie gave the band a voice to their utterly bizarre punk rock sound. I would’ve liked to have seen more live footage but whatever cause the band itself played right after.

Alice Donut from NYC, went on stage at around midnight. I felt like I was in a timewarp hearing the music and even the audience looked like they were straight outta 1992. Invincible Pictures is a movie studio so the film and the band played in this huge room with high ceilings and white walls, and had movie set lighting going on, it was somewhat like being in a warehouse but was clean and the rest of the building was kinda swanky. I’m pretty sure every seat was packed. Anyway Alice Donut did not disappoint. To me they are more of a alt.noise punk band than the indie label I heard thrown around. Number one they rock too hard to be indie, number two their lyrical content is off the wall, just totally random, sometimes repulsive stuff, I mean these are not typical pop songs although they were on the radio back in the day. The vocals are snide and instrumentation fierce, great rhythm, and the trombone came out too. And the performance piece, these guys are artists; the music is good & they’ve lasted this long because you can tell they enjoy what they’re doing. The nonconformist attitude Alice Donut has is fucking awesome. Their setlist was at least 15 songs, spanning all the albums with a 3 song encore and people went crazy! Dancing, shouting, singing along, and taking pictures of Chet prancing around with his pants down, full frontal while they were playing, (he fell asleep on stage after a bit.) Badass show and I think after was another band but I had to go.

Purling Hiss @ ICA

mg_8546Purling Hiss performed @ the ICA 9/21/11.

Purling Hiss  are a 3 piece band from Philly with a guitarist who does vocals, a bassist, and a drummer. They began their set around 8 and played for a solid hour at the top of the stairs at the museum. The event was free to the public and the crowd was a decent size. With the amount of sound generated it seemed like there were more than 3 musicians, they had so much energy tonight and every riff and bassline was clear. Purling Hiss played a few songs off of Public Service Announcement, which is a great garagey noise (kinda pop) album with psychedelic elements. I’ve been listening to it lately but seeing them live really does their music justice. They’ve got some other releases too but not as cohesive, sometimes their music goes out into the void which is also enjoyable. There were some monster solos tonight and overall I want to emphasize how exciting the sound was, because I saw them a few months ago and it was nothing like this! Sometimes they remind me of High Rise, MC5 kind of music. They play a bunch around Philly, so go out and see them, and are up for a mini European tour this fall which is awesome.

Savage Republic @ M Room

Savage Republic, Tone, Caspian and Cloud Minder performed @ M Room 9/17/11

With the exception of the vocals of Savage Republic, this was a night of instrumental rock of varying styles.

Cloud Minder began at 9 pm. They  are a 4 member group based in Philly with two guitars, a bass, and drums. They have a release on Anthropic Records. Their music had intricate melodies and pleasing songs that started out soft and built up to a controlled frenzy, reminding me at times of space rock,or  post rock, blending genres or just ignoring them. Their lead guitarist was such a relaxed player, floating up and down the neck with skill.

Caspian  from Beverly/Boston MA were up next. They are experimental post- rock /metal group with 5 members- 3 guitar players, bass, and drummer. They also had a xylophone accompanying one song and an impressive amount of pedals and effects. In fact, the noise and distortion created from their playing was overwhelming, especially as their songs are on the longer side with ‘breakdowns’ in the middle that would slam into you. The M Room is narrow, and the sound bouncing off the walls almost overtook their progressions. When I stepped outside briefly I was able to hear them clearly, probably more how they’d sound on a record. Caspian had a lot of energy on stage, all the guys were rocking out and the crowd loved them. Their drummer plays without a tom and is fantastic.

Tone, from DC, had 4 members up, 2 guitars, a bass, and drums. Apparently the previous night in DC they had 8 members on stage! This band was aggressive post punk and had a semi industrial sound; but with some beautiful melodic harmonies, very low freq. at times. There were no vocals, if there were if might have sounded like a hardcore/metal band. At the same time, if there were no drums, it might have been a mellow instrumental band. Their last song was completely crunchy and powerful. They are well seasoned in what they play and have a new album coming out.

Savage Republic from LA ended the night with A BANG. So right away they jumped into playing. I’m posting a video so you can see how intense they look on stage- just the facial expressions alone were interesting to watch. This band is about rhythm- there were drums, maracas, an empty oil can used as a drum- which created a steel drum sound (except think of it as intense slams of steel drum, not the traditional way). The 4 members exchanged instruments, shared vocals, and didn’t give a fuck. They were active in the 80’s and have been playing out a bunch since 2001, mostly on the west coast. A frenetic industrial sound with vocals like a man possessed, doomsday, the total effect of their sound was awesome.I felt the walls and the whole place was vibrating- was told the amp was turned to 1. And they played in the crowd and just moved all over. They did Siam, 1938, more songs off 1938, and some of their older material. Their last song they had 2 guys playing the oil drum at once along with the drummer, going on for about 7 min. I never thought I’d see them live so that was a real treat.

Each band played for an hour at least, and it felt as if I saw 4 headlining acts.