A quick primer:
- “Emo” isn’t really a bad word, despite what the last 10 years of Fueled By Ramen and Fearless Records rosters have led many to believe.
- A lot of young bands in the Midwest and East Coast have been turning heads with fresh takes on the ’90s emo subgenre. Call it a comeback, maybe. I’m not sure yet.
- Doylestown’s Balance and Composure doesn’t exactly fall in line with their peers sonically, but their broad amalgamation of influences from the past two decades secures them as one of the more fascinating among said bands.
Thursday night’s show at Union Transfer, a homecoming for the five-piece, was also their largest headlining date in Philadelphia. Nearing the end of an almost month long tour with support from The Jealous Sound and Daylight, B&C came off as understandably battered. “I’m a little under the weather tonight,” vocalist and guitarist Jon Simmons confessed to the nearly sold out venue a third of the way through their set. It didn’t show at first, as the band tore apart tracks from 2011’s Separation, their split with Scranton-ites Tigers Jaw, and their Only Boundaries EP. They also snuck in a new song from an upcoming split with Braid.
Balance and Composure’s sound is an exercise in control and release, evidenced through their set in songs like “Burden,” “Show Your Face,” and “Quake.” It’s super heavy stuff except when it’s not, with songs often turning on a dime into shoegaze and post-rock territories (see: “Stonehands”). The lava lamp-esque projection behind the band was a nice touch that added to their ‘lock-yourself-in-your-bedroom’ aesthetic.
While Simmons’ performance and Jeff Mangum-reminiscent voice not so slowly depreciated through the night, the rest of the band managed to hold it all together. Drummer Bailey Van Ellis —whom my friend Julie kept reminding me between songs, was “really good” —adds a tribal fervor to Balance and Composure that translates strongly live.
But, man, poor Simmons. He was really toughing it out towards the end, even tagging in a couple friends for mic duties during parts of “Patience” and the incendiary closer “I Tore You Apart In My Head.” His best vocal delivery, however, came midway through the show, in a line from the pensive “Echo” that sums up the band’s pathos and lyrical nudity: “And I’ve been great these last few days / But, oh my God, who gives a shit anyways?”
It's also online, because we're not insane. Here's what's in it:
Moosh and Twist can’t be shut down! A young hip-hop duo is earning some rabid (and drunk) fans.
Tom Keifer rocks a new Cinderella story! And damn if he doesn't look like Alan Rickman these days.
Anthony Tidd is on a mission! The Kimmel's resident saxman has worked with The Roots, Pink and Macy Gray.
Gillian Grassie follows her harp! And it's leading her all over the place.
PLUS: Sgt. Sass divides and conquers! They're here, they're putting out solo shit, get used to it. This isn't technically in the Music Issue package, but who cares?
Permanent Wave Philly — West Philly's feminist arts/music/activism collective — continues the Create Chaos! multimedia art and performance series with a full evening of lady performers. I'm just getting into grungey drone-gazer Avataria, but you should do some clicking and see who you wanna see:
Tonight, Fri., Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., Eris Temple Arts, 602 S. 52nd St., more info here.
K. Ross Hoffman had some long sentences to say about the band formerly known as Reading Rainbow in today's paper:
Two minutes into the gently epic opening cut of Yeah Right (Kanine) — album number three from the local fuzz-pop lovelies formerly known as Reading Rainbow — the drums kick in, the pace ratchets up a few notches and there’s a shift from warm organ-drone and sweetly harmonized boy-girl vocals to a growling, pummeling guitar-smear evoking a certain other noise-obsessed band with a blood-related (and seasonally appropriate) moniker who, hey hey, also happened to release their third album last week! That feels like the moment, symbolically, when the band becomes Bleeding Rainbow, transforming from a vaguely cuddly neighborhood duo named for a PBS show to a sharp, aspirational four-piece with an unmitigated allegiance to the turn-of-the-’90s shoegaze-to-grunge continuum. From there on out, it’s a hearty, good-natured assault playing both sides of the noise/pop dichotomy, with Sarah Everton’s charmingly plain-Jane vocals channeling indie everywomen from Bilinda Butcher to Georgia Hubley to Frankie Rose.
But to complete your mental picture, you really gotta watch the video and hear the song at the top of this post. "Waking Dream" is a damn fine rock song. Play it for someone you like.
Bleeding Rainbow plays tonight, Thu., Feb. 14, 9 p.m., $10, with Pet Milk and Ghost Light, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com.
If you’re looking to dance after doing the First Friday thing, head to Kung-Fu Necktie. You won’t want to miss headliners Gemini Club, the Chicago-based trio whose electronic dance-rock is continually remixed and reinvented live on stage, but you’d be wise to get there in time for show openers The Downtown Club. This Philly-based trio, rooted in British post-punk and New Wave like Gang of Four and Public Image Ltd., combines metronomic drumlines and gritty picked bass with warm synths and reverb-drenched guitars. Singer April Harkanson’s vocals, alternating between hushed utterances and anguished belting, sit over the instrumentation to create as haunting as it is groovy.
Fri., Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m., $15, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com.
Hopefully you saw Neal Santos' awesome Birdie Busch photo on our cover last week — and read A.D. Amorosi's interview. Well, then you know what you should do tonight.
The Philly Opry and album release party for Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night, Fri., Jan. 18, doors at 8 p.m., music at 9 p.m. sharp, $12-$15, with Joy Kills Sorrow and Jason Loughlin, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com, birdie-buschmusic.com.
Apparently City Paper is not the only crowd of folks who know April Mae and the June Bugs are a lot of fun. This Saturday night, one of their regular venues is giving them six hours to bring in fellow artists to throw a variation on the ol’ rent party theme, officially titled a Get Outta Town Party. The rent here is for that houseboat on wheels, the Boogie Bus. April Mae and Catfish are rolling that converted coach south to Mississippi and Alabama for two big recording sessions and a spot at the International Blues Challenge. Their friends — bands like the Missing Keys, Midnight Shift and Blue Cat Blues — are playing for free. The catch is, all would like you to show up and invest in your musical future by taking part in the silent auction. Pennsylvania Blues Festival has kicked in a pair of tix, Bucks County Blues seems to have shipped down everything they’ve got: blues CDs and books, plenty of merch as they say.
Why a funder now, given that the bus has been converted to bio-diesel and there is no shortage of fried food in the direction they are heading? The band has some big recording sessions coming up on the trip. April Mae is cutting with the International Blues Women Project in the heart of blues country, Clarksdale, Mississippi. Up river a bit both compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. After that they have a session booked at the original Sun Studio.
Sat., Jan. 19, 6 p.m.-midnight, Red Hot and Blues, 2175 New Jersey Route 70, Cherry Hill, NJ. More info here.
On Wednesday, Philly natives the Disco Biscuits performed at the New Year's Run Kick-Off concert at the Best Buy Theater in NYC. The Biscuits' signature style, "Trancefusion" — a crossbreed of jam, prog and electronica — has elevated their status from sonic experimenters to pioneers to figureheads of the jam-band circuit. And, with the mainstream advent of EDM and dubstep finding the band's techno-savvy sound in high demand, it seems they're looking to make this New Year's Run one for the books.
The band returns to Time Square's Best Buy Theater again tonight and Sunday, taking a night off before hitting Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve with fellow jam giants, Phish.
If this is all jargon to you, the video above from Wednesday's show will give you a taste of the atmosphere. If the intoxicants don't get you, the light show will.
In my recent pick on Bad Braids, I attributed their lofty, dreamy, cartoon-ghost sounds to the ol’ singing saw. Last night I discovered that was a theremin I was hearing, played with seamless finesse by Mike Bruno. He also plays one of those spooky brass Tibetan singing bowls, a tin whistle type thing and this sort of hub cap that chimed like a church. And yet, for all those bells and whistles, Bruno’s playing was more about mood-setting than spotlight-getting. Indeed, the ears most often went to singer Megan Biscieglia whose singing charmed the room with urgency and passion. Check them out.
I’m glad I got there in time to catch Chelsea Mitchell’s ambitious and assured singer-songwritery stuff. It mighta been a tough sell in a noisy bar, but I was intrigued enough to buy her CD, If I Got Mine.
[CORRECTION: That was Mike Bruno playing with Bad Braids, not Jared Stafford-Hill.]
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