What am I going to do with this Philly music scene? I’ve already gone on and on about Sheer Mag, The Menzingers, Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs and Low Cut Connie. Enough of them already. They’re so 2018! There are others, oh yes, that deserve some freaking recognition. And I’m about to blow your mind with a few more that you ought to check out.
[Can I first take a little frolic and detour? Thanks, I figured you might oblige. Here is a revelation: Philly is a pretty darn good music town. It has a lot of different venues, from bars to clubs to theaters to arenas, and a number of them are new or refurbished. The city’s citizens do a nice job in filling these venues, night in, night out. It helps to have the second largest number of college students in the country (behind only Boston), but it also helps to have a large and diverse population with some money to spend on entertainment. That being said, I think the area is getting saturated, and shows don’t sell out as much as they used to. But all in all, the touring bands that come through here recognize Philly as one of America’s great music cities, and they come year after year. While this post is aimed at Philly’s indigenous talent, let’s not forget that we are blessed to live in a place that is just oozing with great live options. I’ll be back later with more on the venues.]
Double - Doink! Hey, Chicago, that was tough for you. We in Philly are feeling bad about what happened ... not.
OK, back to the Philly band call-out. First up, it’s Hurry. Do you like power pop like Weezer or Teenage Fanclub? How about Yo La Tengo? Those bands are right up my alley and my old iPod is full of songs by them. Well, if you like those bands, you’re going to dig Hurry. Don’t believe me? Listen to this track. Then consider yourself converted:
I’m not kidding on the power pop. I love it. And another great band, kind of a cross between the Strokes and the Lumineers, is RFA. Four grads from St. Joe’s Prep, they put out a great first album in 2018, the eponymous RFA. Unbelievably good:
If there is a band that has more of a local following than Beach Slang, I don’t know who that band is. Beach Slang is a punk band, but also a movement of sorts. If you want to know where the fringiest of left-wingers hang out, it’s at Beach Slang shows. I don’t know if that appeals to or revolts you, but their tunes are rockin’ and they are clearly a pretty big part of the local scene. Check ‘em out:
I’m not sure about this next guy. G. Love, with his band Special Sauce, serves up some Louisiana-ish brew of music. Some call it affected, but those people are dopes. Good music is good music no matter where it is made, and everyone is derivative these days, right? I’ve seen G. Love live and it’s a pretty good show. Grip it and rip it!
I know nothing about this next band except for the name: Japanese Breakfast. I love that name. Here’s why: I was in Kyoto a few years back, and my son wanted to sleep later than us. So we would get ready, and then wake him up and give him his p-r-i-v-a-c-y. There was a 7-11 across the street, and if you’ve never been to a Japanese convenience store, well, your life is not complete. Anyway, they had a freezer full of various ice cream bars including those double dark chocolate ones made by Magnum. Deelish! We started getting those and eating them for “breakfast.” We coined the term Japanese Breakfast for a Magnum bar, and now whenever we eat them, regardless of where we are or what time of day it is, we consider ourselves as having a Japanese Breakfast. And with that, my friends, here’s a track by JB that had the most YouTube hits – I hope you like it:
I saw Purling Hiss a while ago opening for someone that I can’t remember now. They were good. Talented musicians, a bit more jam-bandy than I normally go for, but with solid songs that cranked. I’m a fan, and encourage you to check them out. Ok, ok, I’ll spoon feed you – here you go:
How about Philly’s answer to Linda and Richard Thompson (or is it Exene Cervanka and John Doe?), it’s Swearin’. Taking turns on lead vocals, but both backed by a powerful band, the former lovers Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride bring it with their album Fall Into The Sun.
Hey, what about Dr. Dog? I know, it’s not a big revelation as they have a national following, but I don’t think it’s fair to skip these stalwarts of the local scene, and I’ve done them a disservice over the last few years. Dr. Dog has a good sense of the humorous – every band member has a nickname that begins with the letter T for example – and they built a nice discography building off of great bands like the Beatles and Beach Boys, and then combining it with heavy indie influences. They did an NPR mini-concert and it’s worth seeing. Here you go:
Finally, can I get a harrumph for Hop Along (hey, I didn’t get a harrumph out of you). I’ve been a fan for a while of this Francis Quinlan quartet, and they have garnered national attention with their 2018 release, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Quinlan’s voice isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s quirky and different. Here’s their NPR mini-concert that might convert you or convince you that you wish I had never given them a plug.
Uncle! I know there are others that are out there, some of whom are even worthy of acclaim, but I’m tired and ready to move on to bigger and better things. Yep, you guessed it, dinner is SERVED. Ribs! Yellow rice! Collards! And Cuban bread! Why do I feel like Grandpa on Hee Haw? Anyway, you listen to these bands and then you tell me what you think about this burgeoning Philly scene. It’s a badass place to hang your hat, and with the talent and venues that we have in this city, I think we should all look around, smile, and feel pleased about ourselves. Talk to you rockers later.
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.