It's Easter and Passover weekend! I know you think that I can't come up with a rock-inspired post to cover this confluence of the Judeo-Christian calendars, but rockers, you are WRONG. Does anyone remember Norman Greenbaum? Heh, heh, you should, because he performed one of rock's best God songs, Spirit In The Sky. Team, I've danced to this song in bars before. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, right? Here it is for your listening pleasure.
And with that, enjoy your chocolate and wine! God bless you all.
What’s happening? I’ve been hanging out on the dark web for a bit. Nah, that’s not true. I don’t even know how to access the dark web, but I am intrigued. Do you go to something like www.billyrocksphilly.darkweb? Anyway, I hear it’s a great place to buy personal identities and use them for nefarious purposes. It’s just like being on Facebook.
Truly, The Man has been ass busting me again, but I’ve been pushing back and getting in some good stuff. You already know that I had to miss the English Beat because of a damn snow storm, but a few days later the snow was basically gone and the Strypes were in town at Underground Arts. It was time to go see some fantastic rock ‘n roll.
You know it’s a good day when you snag free parking, there is no opening act, and a free seat is available at the closest table to the stage. It’s also good for me (but not the band) when the show isn’t sold out and it’s easy pickings to get that coveted spot in front of the stage. Rock bloggers are always afforded this professional courtesy. Or at least they should be. Ahem.
The Strypes are four Irish youngsters who play music that seriously resembles the early Yardbirds, Kinks, Stones or other “hard blues” ensembles coming out during the British Invasion of the early 60s. I think I first became aware of them watching Later … With Jools Holland. They kicked butt, and I was hooked.
In the picture below, you’ll see three each of Josh McClorey (lead guitar/vocals), Evan Walsh (drums), Peter O'Hanlon (bass guitar) and Ross Farrelly (lead vocals/harmonica). It’s not often that I can get decent shots of the drummer, and you might argue that these three aren’t decent, but you would be wrong. Enjoy:
I didn’t push my way into the middle of the stage in front, but hung out stage right. That put me right in by McClorey, and the guy can rip on the guitar. But let me tell you: the guy furthest away from me was the bassist, O’Hanlon, and he is one active hombre on stage. I mean, the guy was really moving, kicking his legs, headbanging and bringing it, all in elevator shoes, and for the entire 1:20 minute set. It was really something. And Walsh just brutalized his drum kit – but sometimes, he missed a beat or two. Farrelly needs work as a front man. He came out a bit sulky, but finally got into it. He has a good voice, but doesn’t move too well, and he needs to get over his “too cool for school” thing. Watch Jagger or Bowie or Mercury and understand what a front man can do even without a guitar hanging around his neck.
I brought the GoPro and got three videos. So why are there only two linked in this the post? Well, because your humble blogger is not immune from complete and utter stupidity. Here’s what happened. I’m close enough to the stage to see the band’s setlist, and I notice that Mystery Man is coming up. I love that song, so I get all set to video the tune. Did I get a video? You bet. What did I capture? Well, I seem to have held the GoPro a little differently than normal, and ended up with a nice shot of my hand and the dude standing next to me. It will make the BRP blooper reel one of these days. But hey, it’s not all bad because I did get two nice videos of 84 and Blue Collar Jane. Check ‘em out:
I also snagged the band’s setlist, complete with notes on the guitar that McClorey was using per song (Fender Telecaster or Gibson). But Setlist.com does such a great job with setlists, including links to the videos, that I figured it was easier just to point you in that direction. Here you go:
You have to admire a band that not only rocks their own very strong material, but also throws in a Beatles cover and plays a rousing version of Nick Lowe’s Heart of the City for its first encore. Nicely done, fellas.
The set time wasn’t overwhelming given that the lads have 3 albums out and it was Saturday night in the City of Liberty. But I had had a great but long day, and the 1 hour 20 minute set was ample enough for me to get my fill. The Strypes bring good energy, a garage-rock mentality that I love, and youthful vigor to a tried-and-true blues/rock formula. All in all, a worthy show and one that I’m glad I caught.
I’ve got a bit of a roll going, and next up it’s Yo La Tango at Union Transfer. You check back because I might even have some other cool things happening before that show. And be sure to do your sun dance so that spring hits hard here in Philly – I’m sick of the gray and cold! But I’m never sick of the fact that you took some time to hang out here at BRP, and I hope you enjoyed it. Remember to live fast! Later.
Gang, I was ticketed and all ready to see the English Beat at the Queen. And then Nor'Easter Number 4 rolled into town and that plan was DENIED. One of the hazards of buying tickets in advance, I guess. Nonetheless, here's a quick video of what was missed: Save It For Later:
I love that song. Hey, not to fret, I have another show tonight, The Strypes at Underground Arts, one of Philly's very funky live venues. I'm hyped for this show.
Another band that I think everyone ought to be familiar with is The Weeks. Here's a rockin' tune from them, Alter Girl. Twin brothers from Mississippi front this band, but they now reside in Nashville. Lovely.
I'll be back soon with lots, lots more. Have a great day - make the most of it, no matter your mood. I don't know where you are, but its gorgeous in Philly today. Yum.
Don't say that you weren't warned. I told you that I was going to have a big March. Wednesday brought another live show, with the Menzingers visiting the fabulous Queen in Wilmington. BRP was there and if you missed it, you missed a darn good show.
For those unfamiliar with Menzingers, they are a pop-punk band originally hailing from Scranton, PA, but now calling Philly home. They have been around since 2006, have 5 studio albums out, and also have quite a loyal following. The crowd was raucous and fun, and if you thought Wilmington was sleepy, you were wrong at least for one night.
The Menzingers are Greg Barnett (vocals, guitar), Tom May (vocals, guitar), Eric Keen (bass) and Joe Godino (drums). You've got to love a band that has a guy sporting a Black Sabbath shirt and also has a lefty guitarist. I know that you might think that punk is for young 'uns, and you would generally be right. I thought that at some point I might outgrow it myself. But I never did, and in fact, seeing a band pumping out fast, guitar-heavy songs before a moshing and crowd surfing audience was just what the doctor ordered. And the Menzingers have plenty of songs with sing-along lyrics and "whoa whoa" kinds of things, and that makes for plenty of crowd participation.
The boys came out and immediately blazed through some of their best tracks. There were about 100 lead singers as everyone near the stage was belting out all the lyrics with the band. And even the guys in the band who don't sing, like bassist Keen, was singing along to the hook-laden songs. Check out the BRP exclusive video of the track "Tellin' Lies" to get a sense of what the show was like:
These guys come to rock it, the crowd is fired up from the start, and there is a lot of back and forth between the band and the fans. It's a good time. And the band is up for whatever happens, including a first for me: the rock 'n roll marriage proposal. So Ryan and I are pressed up near the front, and there is a man and woman close by who have made a sign and are showing it to the band. Barnett reads the sign, and invites the guy up on stage to play a song with the band. The guy from the crowd gets on stage, hijacks the mic, and says that he wants to marry the "dyke looking girl" who accompanied him to the show. So then she gets invited on to the stage, and the guy gets on his knee and formally proposes. She accepts. He subsequently gets to play the song on rhythm guitar. Pretty good night for the newly engaged couple, right? Here they are:
Want to know what songs the band played? Setlist.com beat me to it, and also linked each song to the video for that tune. It's a cool site in case you haven't checked it out.
Playing twenty songs and jamming for about 1:45 is a pretty good value these days. There were two openers, but we missed most of the first one. The second was a band called Mannequin Pussy, and they played a decent enough set, but you shouldn't go out of your way to see them.
I brought the GoPro, pushed my way to the front, and got three good songs. One was named just for me and my friends: Bad Catholics! Hahaha, I'm a TERRIBLE catholic, how did they know? Here are the videos for your viewing entertainment:
The videos are kind of fun to watch because you get to see the bouncers earn their keep the entire songs. What a job - making sure that crowd surfers are safely landed in front of the stage on their feet.
I also took a lot of photos (for you, of course), and here are some of the best. One of these days I'll have to publish some of the other pics that don't make the blog. Digital photography is just the best as you can take shot after shot, and bring home all kinds of quality stuff. Well, not me, of course, but I understand it's theoretically possible. Here are the other pictures:
What's next? Funny you should ask. The English Beat are playing at the Queen on Tuesday, and regular readers know that I just love that band. Their shows are just incredibly fun - danceable music, Dave Wakeling singing and playing that southpaw guitar, the Ranking Roger substitute who is the most energetic and lively dude ever, and great ska songs. We have lots of folks joining us for this one, too, so it will be more fun than should be allowed.
One time I saw the English Beat with the other band called the Beat, led by Paul Collins. The Beat is a great band, too, and you ought to check them out. Power pop is much beloved here at BRP, and here's a song by Paul Collins Beat to prove what a great genre it is. Hell, yeah, I wanna be with a rock 'n roll girl, too!
And with that, I'm out of here. You enjoy the rest of your weekend, gorge on March Madness (the absolute best sports tournament EVER), and remember to come back often to see what's going on here at BRP. And if you like it and are so inclined, tell your friends and family to come over for a visit. Remember to visit the new YouTube site and see all the great BRP original videos. I'll continue to populate that puppy as I go to more shows. Love you, rockers!
Hey rockers, I have two things for today. First, VT is in the NCAA men's basketball tourney again. A number 8 seed, they play a tough Alabama team. I'm glad that they are there, but hey, it's not an easy draw.
So what is easy? Checking out these two great Sheer Mag videos that I shot at Union Transfer in August 2017. Yeah, it took me some time to get them loaded on YouTube, but better late than never, right? Right? Yes! Enjoy them:
It's really cool that you swung by to spend some time here. As always, I'm glad you're here. You guys really rock, I just try to keep up.
Oh baby, BRP is back into the live music scene! It’s not true that I made a December promise not to see any live acts until Low Cut Connie came to town, but that turned out to be the case. Well, sort of. LCC wasn’t exactly “in town.” Nope. I had to partake in one of rock’s great traditions, the road trip, and I should have gone on this baby:
Instead, I got into a sedan and headed to one of America’s great rock cities, Bethlehem, PA, to see LCC. I’m blowing some smoke at you. Bethlehem occasionally gets some good live acts, but it ain’t Nashville, New Orleans or Austin. Nonetheless, Bethlehem does have the annual MusikFest thing in August (which I’ve never attended, but probably should) and they have added a couple of venues that can snag acts of interest here at the blog.
I saw Gregg Allman at the Sands Casino venue, and now LCC at the Musikfest Café (located at the Steel Stacks, the site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant). The Sands venue is pretty big – I would estimate it holds 4 or 5,000 people. The MC, however, is much more intimate, holding about 400. Deer Tick, Nick Lowe, Steve Earle and the Fabulous Thunderbirds are all playing at the MC in the next few months. Cool, right? But there are also a lot of tribute bands and the 2018 High School Jazz Band Showcase Finals on the calendar, thus confirming that, yes, you are in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem used to house Bethlehem Steel, the huge industrial powerhouse that at one time employed 30,000 people just at the one Bethlehem plant. Alas, those days are gone, and the city is still struggling with the loss of such a huge and important employer. Check out these pics of some old abandoned plant buildings – they don’t make them like that anymore, do they?
On the arts side of the equation, Bethlehem kept the former steel plant’s blast furnace, lit up the ghostly remains, and put floor to ceiling windows in the Musikfest Café to focus the stacks as the backdrop to live music. It’s pretty cool. And it makes aesthetic use of what is basically the flotsam and jetsam of the former steel plant – and that would probably cost a pretty penny to dismantle and remediate. Take a look both during the day and at night:
As a club venue, the MC is pretty large, with a balcony area overlooking the stage, and lots of room around the edges. It is long and not too deep, meaning that tables fan out from the stage and go pretty far away from the performers. That’s ok because they kept a large SRO area right up in front of the stage. The café is mainly glass, concrete and steel, but there are insulated walls in the back. The venue compensates for all those hard surfaces somewhat as the acoustics are decent, but not great, particularly for the vocals. (I’m beginning to wonder if poor vocal acoustics are more of a mixing board problem than a venue problem as a lot of clubs seem to suffer from it). Let’s put it this way: it ain’t the Ryman, but it also ain’t the Funky Biscuit.
But it does have good sight lines, and the stage is at a good height. It’s also large enough to give the band some room to work. The bar and restrooms are appropriately placed out of the action. And there is a ton of free parking. So all in all, you could do a heckuva lot worse. I’ll be back.
And with that, my fine rockers, I’m going to head off. Before you go, you should check out some of the BRP archives – you know that I am long-winded and so just assume that there is a lot to catch up on. As for future entries, like I have been telling you, I’ve got lots more upcoming, and I’ll be blasting out many stories in the near future. Until we get together again, live life loud!
God help us here in the Northeast. We just survived a late-winter Nor’easter on Friday that still has people waiting for their power to be restored. Today, another one is gearing up to stick it to us. And this one is bringing a lot more snow with it. Joy.
What is the proper response to this crappy weather? Live music, of course! Sure, we could stay home and watch the news people spook up the storm, or we could go see a show. We chose the latter. And we’re not just picking any show, we’re going with Spoon, the Austin, Texas indie rock band. And we’re not just picking any venue, we’re grabbing the TLA. Stick that up your coastal low pressure system, ok?
Getting to see Spoon at the TLA is a mega-bonus. The TLA holds maybe 300 people, has a nice elevated stage, and also features a sloping floor for the height-challenged. There are good sight lines all around, and the acoustics befit a former theater. You can do much worse – I know I have. To get to see a band of Spoon’s caliber in such a venue is remarkable, unless of course you caught them pre-fame and on the rise. This band has played really large venues in past forays through Philly, and last night’s show presented an opportunity not to be missed.
Spoon has been around since the mid-90s and they have a ton of critically-acclaimed albums and songs to their credit. You could liken them to Jennifer Anniston: both have been around a long time, but both are still bringing it in 2018. And like Ms. Anniston, they are nothing if not consistent – they have a signature sound that grooves; without being formulaic they don’t wander far from the ranch. As some in the media have noted, these guys just seem incapable of making a bad record. Here are two BRP exclusive videos from last night’s show to get you into it:
These guys have seen commercial success and they are clearly doing this tour to get back to their roots and play intimate venues. The Philly show sold out in less than a day thus proving that they could have played a much larger venue. We still found a good spot a few rows back from the stage, but off to the side where it was less crowded and we had good sight lines. Sorry that I didn't push my way to front (ala Low Cut Connie) to get you better pics and videos, but I'll try harder next time.
The band isn’t super dynamic on stage, but perhaps it’s because they had a major screw up with their equipment. Apparently, they had just played a festival in the Dominican Republic with My Morning Jacket, and while they arrived back in the States ok, their equipment got pulled by customs for extra screening. They borrowed and begged other equipment for last night’s show, and pulled it off. Nonetheless, that has to take something out of you.
It was a good setlist, and they played songs from a lot of different albums. Spoon is smart enough to play their better cuts, and it was an upbeat show with a lot of good tunes. They played about 1.5 hours, which isn’t exactly busting it, and they spent a bit too much time with the synth intros, but when they broke out into song, they were well played and professional. Here’s a link to the setlist:
One bummer was the opening act. The TLA listing didn’t include an opener, so I stupidly showed up at 8:30. But Spoon brought someone named Sneeks along anyway. In the competition for worst opening act over the past 12 months, Sneeks is neck-and-neck with Del Mar. I always respect a band that brings along stiff competition, but Spoon preferred to play it safe by bringing along a dud. We survived, but it was a long 30 minutes.
And it ended up costing me. I found a street parking spot about two blocks away on South Street, and maxed out the time on my credit card. I'm thinking it's my lucky day. But when I came out, I had a parking ticket. My meter expired about 10 minutes before I got to the car, and the ticket was written 5 minutes before (and only 5 minutes after my meter expired - who says governments aren't efficient?). Without the opener, I would have been way good. Sneeks cost me an additional $35! Damn. But oh well, it was worth it in the long run!
If you want more info on Spoon, here’s a link to their website.
Of course, Wikipedia, the font of all true and accurate knowledge in the world, has more biographical information if you are into that kind of thing.
Up next is The Menzingers. I’m really looking forward to seeing them, and it will be good to see them at the Queen in Wilmington. In the meantime, I’m going to keep pumping up the kicks here at BRP, so check back to catch the very latest. Survive the storm! Spring is almost here.
Hey gang, I just posted two more Low Cut Connie videos from Saturday's blowout show in Bethlehem. Yeah, these are BRP originals. Lucky for you, I have them linked directly from youtube to billyrocksphilly.com. Want to see them? Of course you do because they illustrate just how great this band is when they are performing live. Check out the great LCC cover of Tom Petty's "Free Girl Now" in particular. Here you go:
How about BRP getting all sophisticated and techie on you! Yup, that's my youtube channel sporting that amazing hi def video. Nice quality on those puppies, right? I used my GoPro to capture these videos on Saturday night. Pretty cool for an old guy like me to figure this young person's stuff out. OK, I did get some help from a younger person, yuck yuck, but I'm taking credit, dammit.
I'm planning on doing more videos, but not every venue is so GoPro friendly. So who knows how this will all work out, but for now, let's freely fantasize about hundreds of videos and millions of hits, ok? Hahaha!
I'll be back shortly with my review of the Musikfest Café in Bethlehem. In the meantime, I'll be going to see yet another show tomorrow night and will be writing that bad boy up for your reading and visual entertainment. Are you with me? Nice - glad to know I can count on my friends. As for those who haven't become part of the BRP posse yet, tell them to step aside while we rock this scene.
Friends, it was a righteous return to live rock 'n roll on Saturday. Braving treacherous weather from the day before, we ventured north to the former great steel city of Bethlehem, PA to see Low Cut Connie. Long time readers of BRP know that LCC is one of my favorites, and they did not disappoint. Check out that picture of Will Donnelly flying off of the band's piano, Shondra. Is that beautiful, or what?
But before we get to the review of LCC, let's talk about one of the opening acts. The National Reserve is lead by Sean Walsh, and plays country-rock with the best of them. We caught them, standing right up front, and they ripped through an 8 song set that marks the group as one to watch.
One cool and different thing about National Reserve is that not only do they have two guitars, bass and drums, but they also feature an organ, and the band used it to great effect. I looked on the 'net to see who are the members of National Reserve, but could only find Sean Walsh's name. I'm here to tell you that the drummer just tore up the skins on their finale, and the organist played inspired and passionate riffs throughout the set.
I love live blues, and NR played them. But they also played songs reminiscent of the Allman Brothers, complete with slide guitar picking, and they also played some pure country. American roots music at its best, played with respect and depth of knowledge, straight out of the back woods of Brooklyn, New York. Who woulda thunk?
NR has an album coming out in May called Motel La Grange. For more on the National Reserve, check out their website. Here's the link:
And here are some pics to get you in the mood.
As good as the National Reserve was, we didn't drive up the Northeast Extension to see them. Nope, that honor went to Low Cut Connie, the Philly-based throwback rock 'n roll band headed by Adam Weiner. I've seen LCC about 4 times in the last 18 months, and I'm not the only one who has caught the bug. The MusicFest Café in the Steel Stacks was packed with LCC's growing fan base to see them rip it up again. And they didn't disappoint.
I took a huge number of pictures, which you'll see in a minute, but I also brought along the GoPro and got a couple of videos. So here you go, BRP fans, the very first original BRP video, Low Cut Connie doing "Death and Destruction." I think it's pretty badass and gives you a flavor for what it's like to see these guys live:
How about some pictures? Sure, here's your first installment.
So how was the show? Well, Adam Weiner was spot-on, as usual, as the focal point for one of the best live acts going. He plays on his knees, he plays with his butt, he plays with his feet, he stands on Shondra, and he does it all with a showman's aplomb. It's hard to take your eyes off of Adam.
But you should because the pictures you are viewing show that this band is far from a one-person show. Larry Scotten is an amazing drummer, Lucas Rinz drives the bass while smiling throughout the show, and Will Donnelly and James Everhart both are skilled guitarists. Donnelly has a great rock 'n roll look, has all the right poses, and does the patented Shondra leap at the end of every show. And Everhart has a unique voice that complements Weiner's. This is a tight outfit.
The band has become more and more professional, and their act is primed for widespread acclaim. They are due to hit the big festivals this year - SXSW, Bonaroo - and it's very likely that these upcoming performances will make them stars. The show features great originals, plus covers of Prince, Tom Petty and David Bowie songs. They are doing all the right things.
But the changes and developments to the show have changed the experience. The act seems less freewheeling and spontaneous than previous tours - there is a setlist that is not going to be messed with and the covers are carefully selected to hit deceased legends that are universally loved and respected. And while it is still an amazing live show, if you see them a few times, you recognize that certain things are done every night and, while not exactly formulaic, are calculated.
Is that bad? I don't know. They are still amazing, their rapidly-expanding crowd loves them, and I still wholeheartedly recommend that you go and see LCC when you get the chance. It is throwback rock 'n roll, emulating but not copying past legends like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and has energy, enthusiasm, passion and sheer fun not easily found anywhere else in rock today. They are great.
I'm still a HUGE LCC fan. I strategically positioned myself right up front and in the middle so that I could grab some fantastic pictures and videos ... and to have a jamming good time, too. Weiner is magnetic, a star already, and is amazingly interactive with the crowd. He goes out into the milieu, pulls people on stage, prances and preens, slaps hands, pulls out chest hair and throws it into the crowd, and bangs the hell out of Shondra. Going to a Low Cut Connie show is a cure for whatever ails you. It's a guaranteed great time, with rock 'n roll fun that is just amazing.
I'm going to drop a few more pictures on you. But before I do, I'm a bit disappointed that LCC ignored my request (both emailed to them in advance and yelled out during the show) to play Say Yes. C'mon guys, humor a crappy rock blogger, ok? And who is the woman that accompanied you all night? That's another change in the act, but to what purpose?
For more on Low Cut Connie, visit the BRP archives and LCC's website. BRP is loaded with pictures and reviews, and the band's official website has a lot of videos, media reviews, and the like. Here's the link:
Enough of LCC. LCC started a March BRP tear that is going to leave you and me breathless. I'm way back into the live music groove right now, and off to see Spoon on Tuesday. Are you ready? I'm so ready!! And I'm going to continue to upload videos and post them - original stuff, only accessible through your BRP know-how. It's big, and you are right on the cusp and in-the-know. God, I feel cool just hanging out with you! Check back often to keep up. And if you haven't been here for a while, be sure to check out the archives. There is a lot of great stuff there, and it's all so easily accessible. See you later, friends.
The weather once again blows in the Philly area today. It's snowy, super windy, and the Shore is getting pounded by a N'oreaster. As I watched Sports Center this morning, they showed a professional skimboarder (who has THAT as a profession?), and it was cool and made me think of summer. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but I found this instead.
Did you watch that? Look at how little the surfer looks compared to that wave! I was scared just watching that thing - who in their right minds thinks it would be cool to SURF IT?!? Why, Sebastian Steudtner of Germany. Badass alert. And if you think big waves are only in Hawaii, Australia, Northern California and the other famous surf spots, well, Portugal has another thing entirely. That is one gnarly wave. Watch it again, and check and see how many seconds it takes just to drop into that wave. It is fantastic video.
I was a big skateboarder back in the day (which explains my affinity to punk rock) and still get out in the surf on the body board. How about surfing? Well, the Rev. Horton Heat wrote a song that captures my surfing abilities. It's a great surf tune with that signature surf guitar sound. Enjoy it.
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.