After the success of last year’s Bob Dylan songfest, UPenn’s Kelly Writers House is putting together a night dedicated to The Boss. Al Filreis, Greg Djanikian and Anthony DeCurtis (who is also a contributing editor at Rolling Stone), along with students and guests like New York Times music critic (and former City Paper jazz writer) Nate Chinen, will be on hand to dissect and analyze the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. The tracks discussed will come from a wide range of Springsteen albums, including this year’s Wrecking Ball and 1982 classic Nebraska. There will be a reception afterwards for those who don’t feel like immediately heading back to the streets of Philadelphia.
TONIGHT, Thu., Nov. 15, 6 p.m., free, Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk, 215-746-7636, writing.upenn.edu/wh.
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.]
We didn't even put anything in the paper about this show because we were like 100 percent certain it'd sell out. But Sean Agnew says there are still some tickets available. More info here.
On Saturday night, Philadelphia’s The Low Road — the much-loved folksy pop five piece that ruled our weird mellow ’90s — played two packed-tight reunion gigs at the Tin Angel on S. Second Street. They grooved. They moved. Their harmonies were intact and the way the harmonica floated through its wall of violin and stringed bass was heartbreakingly impeccable. When their “Devil’s Pocket” was emptied, the Low Road’s cast came into the crowd and hung with their old friends.
This month the Tin Angel celebrates its 20th anniversary. Long live the Angel and all who sail her.
The Tin Angel defined that ’90s folk freaky scene as well as being defined by local acts such as The Low Road, Jeffrey Gaines and several solo Hooters as it was equally by nationally known-and-growing punk folkies such as Ani DiFranco, Alejandro Escovedo and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. “I don’t think you’re off the mark,” says booker/curator Larry Goldfarb who was busy dancing up a storm on Saturday at the Crystal Tea Room during the wedding reception of his son David Goldfarb to Dr. Candice Leah Gollomp while the Low Road ruled his roost.
The Tin Angel was a perfect spot for that sound. Cramped, dark, yet airy and always homey is what Tin Angel was at its start. Shows there are always a funky family affair that artists and audiences are driven to. Plus, it’s a great place to get trashy drunk in as long as you can keep a civil tongue about it.
“That’s probably why in the whole time that we’ve been here we’ve had only two sound people, three managers, two owners and me booking the room for 20 years — that’s stability,” says Goldfarb. “That’s family.”
A veteran of the booking biz for 43 years, Goldfarb had done scads of shows at venues such as the Academy of Music (50 shows including several of all time personal faves with Tom Waits, Chic and Nina Simone), the Trocadero and the Empire Rock Club before coming to the Tin Angel before its opening. “When I walked upstairs to that little fucking narrow room and got asked if money could be made doing original music, I figured yeah, if we did everything right.” Goldfarb knew that he had to find an intimate niche to suit the small space.
“The singer-songwriter revolution of the ’90s. David Gray, Jeff Buckley, Brandi Carlisle, Ray Lamontagne... that was and is us.” Goldfarb says it has been tough to maintain the strength of the Tin Angel’s initial decade what with the erection of the New Hope Winery and World Café Live. “It’s hard to go up against millionaire realtors. We can’t get the state to build out a gorgeous venue. We’re the little guys.” Goldfarb makes one truly great analogy between himself and the Oakland A’s. “We’re the Money Ball. And we soldier on.”
What Goldfarb has is personal integrity, the love of artists who know him well and dig his vibe and that of the Tin Angel. “I’ve befriended guys like Citizen Cope, Raul Malo, people who are way bigger than the room. They dig it, man. They dig the Angel. I remember asking Gil Scott Heron that question the last time we had him here — why play the Angel when you could fill a much bigger space. He told me that he trusted me, a quality that he thought rare in this business and that he personally valued. That’s great. That’s why I do this. I have a love for it. And I’m a pro guy — I’m not paying a guy $4,000 when they’re a $500 act. We know what we’re doing here.”
More info on the Tin Angel at tinangel.com.
Megan Biscieglia’s got a voice like a sleep-deprived Appalachian angel. It’s heavenly high and earthily robust, but there’s also an unfakeable weariness to it — a strain here, a whispering trail-off there — that gives Philly folkies Bad Braids their edge. Lovely.
Wed., Nov. 14, 8 p.m., $8, with Company, Company, Chelsea Q. Mitchell and The Suicide Magnets, North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St., 215-787-0488, northstarbar.com.
Classical music in the 20th century went through a whirlwind of style battles, but for now, the kind of modernist tonality that was championed by composers such as England’s Benjamin Britten and Russia’s Dmitri Shostakovich seem to hold sway as the voice of the era, in terms of both audience reception and academic acceptance. The music of both men is on the program of the superb Takács Quartet, including the 1940 Shostakovich Piano Quintet (with the amazing Marc-André Hamelin at the piano) and Britten’s late-in-life String Quartet No. 3. The concert opens with Schubert’s magically beautiful Rosamunde.
Wed., Nov. 14, 8 p.m., $24, Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St., 215-569-8080, pcmsconcerts.org.
Ani DiFranco coaxes atypical sounds from her guitars with her percussive and staccato strumming and picking patterns. Unlike any other performer I've ever seen, Ani also told the audience, "You're welcome," during the cheers after several songs. But she can get away with that because of her dedicated fans that have followed her for 20 years or so. And, of course, Ani also chatted with the audience about politics, genderlessness, and patriarchy. She shared one anecdote about her five-year-old daughter's obsession with gender. Her daughter named each student in her class at school describing each one as "boy" or "girl" until she got to the last student and described her as "both."
Ani opened with the title track from her latest album, ¿Which Side Are you On? (released by Righteous Babe in January), and followed it with another two from that record ("Promiscuity" and "Splinter"). She also played some of her classic oldies like "Fire Door," "Shameless," "Napoleon," and "Coming Up", joking with the audience that she can barely remember how to play some of them. After a discussion about The Alphabet Vs. the Goddess, a book Ani recommended, she shared a new song/poem inspired by the book. Although she played most of the songs with bassist and percussionist, she did do two songs solo ("Rain Check" and "Two Little Girls"). For her two-song encore, Ani played "Both Hands" and "Overlap."
More photos at davetavani.com.
But here's a little something on them anyway.
Influential as the Beatles obviously are, it’s truly rare to encounter a record that actually, legitimately sounds like them. Strictly speaking, Lonerism (Modular), the fantastically swirly second full-length by Perth, Australia’s Tame Impala, doesn’t either — they’d never issue an LP so relatively monolithic in sonic texture and coloration (that’s no knock; by any other measure it’s practically kaleidoscopic) — but it’s a remarkable facsimile of what might’ve emerged had the Fabs stuck it out through ’74 or so, dropped deep into a Floyd-ian trip, returned to their formative Germany to dig the nascent Krautrock/Kosmiche groove, retained Lennon on all lead vocals (Kevin Parker’s laconic, often-Leslie’d voice is a dead ringer) without sacrificing McCartney’s preternatural melodicism (in the bassline and everywhere else), and taught Ringo some killer slow-motion psych-funk fills.
Thu., Nov. 8, 8:30 p.m., $16-$18, Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.
Engaged in the sort of naggingly diffuse thinking-feller’s future-bass we’re accustomed to from his Planet Mu peers Machinedrum and Kuedo, Brighton beatsmith Alan Myson prolongs the label’s love affair with the buzzed-up beat-rates and jittery micro-loops of Chicago footwork. His third full-length as Ital Tek, Nebula Dance, is almost aptly named. Almost, because while Myson certainly knows from nebulous, swaddling these tracks in lush yet mildly ominous grayscale soft-synths, his dedication to dance in its less abstract, more terrestrial form — the lowly business of working actual feet — seems slightly more contingent. When he does deign to let it bump, with flecks of electro filtered through the ragga end of jungle and/or hints of Ninja Tune-style turntablism, it becomes a dance of both cerebral and corporeal dimensions.
TONIGHT, Wed., Nov. 7, 11 p.m., $8, Popular Science with Grimace Federation and Sonkin, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com.
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard has been called a lot of things, but “prolific” typically isn’t one of them, despite a healthy track record of side projects during the band’s 15-year career. As it turns out, Gibbs has long been sitting on a formidable stockpile of tunes that just didn’t fit with Death Cab or anywhere else. He’s finally gathered a dozen of them on Former Lives (Barsuk), his first proper solo album. Roots-rock rave-ups, wistful baroque pop and tropicalia-tinged campfire ballads all have a home here, tied together by Gibbard’s sweet, earnest voice. And while heartbreak seems to be the prevailing concern, don’t go thinking the album’s necessarily a rejoinder to his recent divorce from Zooey Deschanel — romantic woe’s always been the primary color on Gibbard’s songwriting palette. Proof comes this evening, when he draws from his entire songbook — solo, Death Cab, Postal Service and otherwise — during a solo acoustic performance.
TONIGHT, Wed., Nov. 7, 8 p.m., $25-$35, with Advance Base, Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.
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