I don’t care what you were doing on Saturday afternoon. I know that if you weren’t watching Low Cut Connie at the first Yards Brewery Brawlerfest in Philly that you weren’t having as much fun as I was. I’ve seen many bands this year, from rock legends to small indie bands. But there is no band out there right now that is as good a live act as LCC.
A bit of background. Low Cut Connie is a Philly-based band led by Adam Weiner. It was co-founded by Dan Finnemore, but as far as I can tell, Finnemore is no longer in the band. Others in LCC are James Everhart, Will Donnelly, Larry Scotton, and Lucas Rinz. They have three albums out, each one a keeper. President Obama has one of their songs, “Boozophilia,” on his iPod. So if you don’t know LCC, that’s bad. The leader of the free world has taken the time from an unusually busy schedule to discover them. What the hell have you been doing?
Yeah, yeah, so what, right? We know that some staffer passed the LCC thing on to Obama to make him look cool. And there are lots of bands out there with solid studio output. But here’s the deal. Translating great albums to the stage, nay, transcending the studio stuff and making it better live, now that’s a rare talent. And LCC has it in spades.
OK, here’s some fun facts to share with your less-enlightened cronies. The band is named after a waitress from Weiner’s boyhood who was named Connie and who wore her outfits, well, low cut. I can imagine the type: better to focus men’s eyes on the attributes that you have, right? And another different thing is that LCC tours with a piano named Shondra (see picture below) that is named after a stripper at an Atlanta club. And they seem to party and drink like mad.
I first heard about them from the boys at SoundOpinions a few years back. I checked out the youtube videos and downloaded the albums. I got hooked on the sound – think Jerry Lee Lewis with some gospel, doo wop and heavy garage rock influences, lots more in-your-face raunch, a post-punk attitude, and a live fast/die young attitude, and that gets you into the ballpark. It’s great stuff, highly recommended.
But the live show was missing for me. As you might recall, I had the chance to see them at the Troc a few weeks back, but accidentally bought tickets to see the Buzzcocks on the same night, and ended up seeing the older band instead. Despite the fun I had seeing Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle one last time, I’m now convinced that I made the wrong choice. And remember, the Buzzcocks are an all-time BRP favorite, and put on a show for the ages that I caught at the old 9:30 Club in DC in the late 80s. To say that I made a mistake in seeing them again is high praise for LCC indeed.
What’s so great about this live act? Well, first off, its danceable music. It’s hard to keep from moving the bones around when these guys are on stage. That’s always a plus. But it’s also Weiner’s infectious stage personality. This guy is a crazyman, playing piano on his knees, standing up on the piano bench while singing or playing the guitar, going out into the crowd, and all the time keeping the songs pumping and the hips grinding. Whatever, he’s spontaneous, interactive, and clearly enjoying every minute of this ride. And he eggs on the rest of the band – they are all into it, too, playing guitar on their backsides, climbing on top of Shondra and letting solos rip, and otherwise bounding about on stage with the confidence of knowing that they are just kicking ass.
Did the crowd appreciate it? Those who were smart enough to pull themselves away from playing cornhole or sitting by the fire pits were clearly enjoying the hell out it. But most of the people at Brawlerfest were millenials drawn by the all-you-can-drink-for-one-low-price ethos. I know that feeling of getting my alcohol money’s worth all too well, but damn, even when I was a young crazy drunk, I always went to see the live music, too. And with this demonic act on stage, it made me worry about the future of the country.
I’m not going to bore you with the names of the songs that LCC played. Instead, I’ll link to a youtube version of Boozophilia that is part live show, part stage video. It gives a clue of what it’s like to see these guys grooving live. Here we go:
Oh, and of course, I took lots of pictures. Sorry if I overdose you here, but I was right up front, and it was daylight so I got lots of great shots. Check out the outfit that Weiner is wearing: no-sleeved jumpsuit with white socks, hahaha. And of course, at the very end, a picture of the queen herself, Shondra.
I’ll be back with one more review from Brawlerfest. Another great Philly band, Marah, was the headliner, and they, too, tore it up. No offense to Marah, who are terrific live, but LCC was the highlight of the day, and I thought they were worthy of their own review. Check back soon for more BRP, and enjoy the day knowing that your fair city is the home of rock ‘n roll’s best live act going right now.
A beautiful fall evening in Philly is the backdrop for a hot show at Union Transfer. While not advertised as a double-bill, that was what we got: The Weeks and The Revivalists touring together. Both bands are worth your attention.
I was not familiar with the Weeks until last night. Try as I might to keep up with the music scene, there is just an amazing amount of music at the moment, and many bands slip past me unnoticed. Such is the case with the Weeks. This band out of Mississippi brings it with a combination of alternative and southern rock. Led by twins Cain and Cyle Barnes, and amply supported by two guitarists (Samuel Williams and Johny Fisher), Damien Bone on bass, and Tyler Craft on keys, they have a solid live show that had me fired up.
Are they silly? Sure, one of the guitarists was sporting a Daniel Boone coonskin cap. And Cain climbed the speakers (see below) at the end for a big-time jump. But mostly, they are a tight band that rocks. Cyle Barnes on lead vocals is really good, but with some odd mannerisms. He sings looking up at the ceiling a fair amount, and has a resemblance to Tiny Tim of Tiptoe Through the Tulips fame. But his brother, Cain, on bass is a presence, and together, they are compelling. Given the six piece lineup, they had a wall of sound that was rockin’ and in your face.
The Weeks played for an hour, unusual for an opening act, and I was never bored nor thinking “I wish these guys would get off the stage.” Instead, I was taking some photos and making a mental note to follow up on these guys when I get home. Here are the pics, and also a youtube video of one of their singles. Check ‘em out, it will be worth your time.
It takes a confident band to tour with an opener like The Weeks. And the Revivalists are just that, playing with swagger that suits their outsized live show. This is a band that pretty much everyone would enjoy – they rock out, they play soulful ballads, and they bring the party. Who could ask for anything more?
The Revivalists were formed in New Orleans, and carry influences of that city’s musical sounds with them. They play a rollicking mix of soul, rock, funk and the blues, all cobbled together with some great jamming. Rolling Stone called them one of the “10 bands You Need to Know” in 2016, and for good reason. David Shaw is the lead vocalist and sometime guitarist who is a solid frontman. He’s very active on stage, moving about, engaging the crowd, and leading handclaps, holding hands in the air, etc.
Shaw is supported by Zack Feinberg (guitar), Rob Ingraham (saxophone), George Gekas (bass), Andrew Campanelli (drums), Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar) and Michael Girardot (keys/trumpet). The pedal steel is a nice southern touch, and was highlighted extensively throughout the show. Williams is damn good on that thing! The horn section, however, was just ok – they could beef this up to the betterment of the group as a whole. And when Ingraham’s mike on the sax gave out during the encore, the song lost what should have been a highlight but instead became a “I can’t hear it” moment. It was one negative during an otherwise excellent show.
These guys rock, jam and cavort about the stage much to the delight of the crowd. They opened it up hot and heavy, rocking through a number of great cuts like Keep Going and All in the Family. With the crowd heavily into it, they took things down a notch and played some soulful tracks that were well received.
They can down it down too much at times. One of the pictures below shows Shaw (well, sort of shows him) sitting on the floor at Union Transfer while Feinberg, Girardot, and Ingraham sit on the stage. Some of the crowd sat with them. These four guys played a slow song using mostly acoustic guitar. It was cool in a way, but the song was sort of boring, and I noticed a fair amount of the crowd chatting among themselves, going to get drinks, and otherwise carrying on. It became background music. But that was short-lived, and the boys were back with a lot more energy soon enough.
The crowd was clearly digging the whole thing. UT was sold out, it was hot, and people were ready to party. And the Revivalists are a southern party band, well named for the music they bring. It is always great to see how much receptivity there is to southern sounds during my northern exile. This is good rockin’, suh!
The band finished strong, then took the mandatory encore. They came back and tore through three more tracks, finishing with Wish I Knew You. Here’s the youtube version of that song, and it’s a keeper:
And here are some pictures from the show itself:
I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, you keep on looking good and having fun. And tell your friends about BRP – I’m not selling anything, just trying to keep you entertained. Au revoir!
Back to Music at Boot and Saddle
Hey guys, Billy boy is back to the music now. I can feel your relief through the keyboard as I type this. Are you ready for some rock ‘n roll? Of course you are! Up, up and away then.
There is a small club in South Philly called Boot and Saddle. It gets the bands that are the newest of the new or that lack a big enough following to be able to play one of the bigger clubs in town. I had never been, and wanted to go just to check out the scene. I found a kindred spirit, and off we trekked on a recent Wednesday night to see a band called Royal Canoe.
I didn’t know anything about Royal Canoe. I did know that it was $10 to get into the show, and since Friday was payday, I could float a third-party post-dated check for two days before I had enough cash to cover the hefty outlay. Haha, $10? That’s less than a movie. And for that, we got not only Royal Canoe, but also Vincent John.
So who are these musical acts? I did a little research. Vincent John is a Philly guy who put out his debut EP 'Never Go Back' on October, 21 2016. On stage, it was Vincent playing a keyboard/synthesizer, and guitar, too. There was also a drummer. Credit to VJ for having a live drummer (who was damn good, btw) rather than synthing out the whole thing. Vincent’s music reminded me of pop/electronica acts like Hall & Oates and New Order. I really enjoyed his set. Here are some pictures:
The headliner, Royal Canoe, is a Canadian indie rock band with six guys. How to describe their music? Let’s see, how about psychedelia mixed with slow funk and heavy Frank Zappa influences. You better listen if that intrigues you because it’s different and unique. These guys were accomplished musicians with a very keen sense of what they wanted to do musically, and they were into it. But it wasn’t my cup of tea. Oh, and the guitarist must have a side job as a plumber - he kept bending over to adjust something on the floor and had his back to the crowd. It seemed like he was looking for a pencil or something, but couldn't find it because it was in that ass crack that he was flashing at the audience. Pictures? Of course, this is BillyRocksPhilly, right? But no ass crack because there might be kids checking this out. Here you go:
What about Boot and Saddle itself? Well, you get to park free on the street amid the ubiquitous Philly broken glass. It’s not in a rough neighborhood, but it’s not very nice – think warehouses, empty lots, and construction suppliers, with some housing a few blocks further away. It’s right on South Broad, which is trying to gentrify, but it has a ways to go.
The club itself has a western motif. You could find it in working class parts of Wyoming or something, but not the hipster millenials that frequent it. It has a front bar with tables and serves food, and the music venue is in the back through a steel door. You have to buy your drinks at the bar, then go past the ticket taker to get into the music venue because there is no bar back there. In fact, the back room where the music is played is as simple as it gets. It’s about the width of a two-car garage, and maybe three times as long. At the far end is a simple stage, and there is a sound board at the back. No tables, no chairs. Basically, it’s as stripped down as it gets. But it has good acoustics, decent lighting, and was not crowded. I’m guessing there were 75 patrons at most on Wednesday. Would I go back? Hell yeah. I recommend it if there is someone you want to see there. Or, to do what we did: just go to enjoy some live music at a remarkably low cost.
Following up on Wednesday, it’s going to be a big weekend here at BRP. Tonight, it’s the Revivalists at Union Transfer, and tomorrow, Low Cut Connie and Marah at some beer festival in Philly. And, if I'm lucky, no more ass crack. Turn up! Reviews to follow. Thanks for reading and I hope your weekend is full of fun!
Grecian Formula DC
I’m sure you’re wondering, BRP, where is the music stuff? What is all this about Mount Vernon, the Hokies and Mexican artists? And my answer is simple: hell if I know. I just go and do stuff and share it with you. Is that ok? Or as they said in the cheesy cult movie The Warriors, “Can you dig it?” Anyway, I’ll get back to the music soon enough, and you can choose to skip these posts and head straight to the music later if you want. Or you can read on, and I hope that I can entertain you for a few minutes.
Or if it makes you feel any better, you can imagine me writing this while I’m on a plane to Floridaaaaah while jamming to the great Undertones song “Here Comes the Summer.” Because that is the truth. And you can also imagine me on the plane grooving to the song while I type – you know, head bouncing to the music, shoulders moving, skinny little butt bouncing a bit in my seat, foot tapping, and sound on so loud that the poor dude next to me gets to share my song selection. Yup, the truth again.
In fact, the last time that I went to Florida, as I was exiting the plane the flight attendant commented to me that I really seemed to be enjoying my music and asked what I was listening to. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was “Waitress in the Sky” by the Replacements, so I fibbed and told her that it was Beethoven. Haha, roll over, baby!
Anyway, I was in DC recently, and got a chance to hit the National Geographic’s display of “The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.” I like antiquity stuff, but I can’t fully explain why. Part of it is that I can relate to humans being humans and doing the same kind of stuff we do every day, but doing it 3,000 years ago without all the modern technology. I’m interested in learning how they did the mundane, entertained themselves, governed themselves, etc.
I also love the legacy of cool stuff that the ancients left behind that still is fascinating and influential: the art, the philosophy, the literature, the architecture. I like learning things like “classical” statuary in white marble isn’t how the ancients viewed them at all; rather, they were actually painted vibrant colors to make them realistic. Haha, the joke is on us! I also like the military history, and God knows that Greek history is chock full of epic wars and battles. And when it comes to the Greeks, I like learning about how this small collection of people in warring city-states eventually coalesced to fight outsiders bent on their domination, and then collectively developed the basics of Western Civilization that still form my world view: democracy, human rights, property rights, scientific curiosity and discovery, philosophy, law, and of course, art, literature and architecture.
NatGeo brought together some great historical objects, told a good story of the 5,000 year development of the Greek nation, celebrated its epic heroes, and did it all by using artifacts, videos and creative museum displays to great effect. For instance, when telling the story of Thermopylae (you know, the 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas that fought off thousands of Persians for days, but ultimately were slaughtered), NatGeo had a cool display of arrows in flight, shields and other weapons, and an efficient telling of the story. It was well done.
Unfortunately, NatGeo prohibited photos of the exhibit. Fortunately, BRP forgot this rule a couple of times, and snapped a few anyway. I think you’ll like what I have below, but recognize that this is just a fraction of what was on display. There was a lot to absorb and observe, and it was a few hours of well-spent time to get through the displays. Check out the photos below: yeah, the figurine is from the Cycladic period (of course!), and that’s Plato before he moved to New York and opened his Retreat. Yup, those are adorned hoplite warrior masks. And that gold myrtle crown is, according to NatGeo, one of the best preserved treasures from the ancient world – I believe them, it was stunning.
Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Thanks for reading – I’m back to music very soon, I promise. I have a couple more shows to review, a new Philly venue to be rated, the finale to the rock ‘n roll alphabet series, and some other posts that I have been working diligently on that I think you’ll find fun. Cool? Of course it is: it’s BillyRocksPhilly!!! Love you for reading and hope you keep coming back!
Human, Synthetic and ... European?
Take a look at the picture below. There is a lot of weird in Florida, which is one reason why I love it. But I want someone to explain this to me. I understand that you can get hair implants using human or synthetic hair. But what in the world is European hair?
Is it elitist? On vacation? Defended by American troops? Sitting at Café Sportivo shooting the breeze all day long? Smoking a cigarette? I have no idea, but I thought this was funny. Let me know what you think European hair might be - no cheating and calling them - and if it's funny, I'll post it, sort of like captioning the cartoon at the back of the New Yorker. Rock on, brothers and sisters.
PMA, South of the Border
On a recent visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we wandered into the new exhibition “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910 – 1950.” It was not only a revolution in there; it was also a revelation for your not-so-humble blogger. Look, I know that Mexico has a lot more than Corona, tequila, and El Chapo; after all, the country is the source for all those hard-working people who cut your grass, clean your house, and cook your food. Seriously, Mexico is a fantastic country with a deep and amazing culture, a very complicated but compelling political history, beautiful natural wonders, a friendly and hard-working populace, and some pre-Columbian sites that are on par with (or ahead of) their contemporary equivalents across the oceans.
Nonetheless, other than Rivera, Kahlo and Orozco, I was pretty much clueless when it came to Mexican artwork (other than what is on display at Taco Bell, haha). And what a mistake! As I discovered at PMA, there is mucho for me to learn about Mexican art.
Of course, there was plenty of the big three on display at the PMA exhibit. In fact, there were huge video screens that showed via films the frescos of Rivera at the Ministry of Education building in Mexico City, and of Orozco at Dartmouth College. But there was a lot more than movies. In fact, there were pieces by many artists that I had never heard of that had painted some very cool and interesting artwork that is on par with the best that the world was producing in the 20th Century. And there is other adventurous art that would be appropriate in today’s galleries or at Art Basel Miami.
I had never heard of David Alfaro Siqueiros or Rufino Tamayo. Oops. It’s sort of like me coming to the realization last December in Boston that John Singer Sargent was just an amazing American artist. Hey, better late than never, right? And with this Mexican show, PMA did a good job of bringing together art that documented and facilitated the political changes sweeping the country during the 1910 revolution and the violent and destabilizing period that followed it. Artists in Mexico were at the forefront of the revolution, painting propaganda, espousing political views on agrarian and “common man” themes, and generally pointing the direction to a more modern and more inclusive regime that included all Mexicans, not just those of European descent. So expect a lot of works showing Zapata and other “common man” heroes of the revolution.
Alas, these artists also ultimately ended up becoming cheerleaders for one of the most repressive and murderous 20th century regimes, the USSR. They also opposed capitalism vehemently. But kudos to them for opposing, very early and quite stridently, fascism.
It’s hard to separate the art from the politics at times. Rivera, in particular, loved painting thematic pieces and large scale frescos that were politically charged, and mainly communist in nature. If you’ve ever seen his frescos at the Detroit Museum of Art (and you should – more on Detroit in a later post, I promise), you will know that he loved championing the working class and poking at the capitalist masters that “exploited” these workers. Nonetheless, there is much to admire in this exhibition, and PMA did a solid job in curating and displaying it.
Of course, when you get to the end, there is a store hawking all kinds of Mexican stuff, and PMA kind of dropped the ball on this one. Expect lots of Day of the Dead and other modern Mexican “folk art” stuff that you can buy at a fraction of the cost across the border in Tijuana. But the nachos were great!
Here are some other photos of artwork in the show that I found interesting and wanted to share with you. Thanks for reading and I hope you get a chance to see the exhibit. Back to rock 'n roll very soon, I promise.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.