BEING THERE: Garbage @ BB&T Pavilion

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER Any aging Gen-X-er worth their scuffed-up Doc Martens will wax nostalgic for music’s middle-alt era, but Thursday night’s show at BB&T pavilion was better than any Third-Eye-Blind reunion supported by the Spin Doctors and the Nixons.  A pandemic postponement from last year, Alanis Morissette’s now-25th-plus-1 celebration of the release of her seminal 1995 debut record Jagged Little Pill traded originally scheduled supporting guest Liz Phair for Cat Power, and retained post-grunge synth-rockers Garbage when it came to at long last to the BB&T Pavillion on Thursday. Twenty-eight years on now, after their inception as drummer and […]

BEING THERE: Wilco/Sleater-Kinney @ The Mann

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER The post-global-pandemic resumption of live music events seems like the sort of thing that should be accompanied with some fanfare, some skywritten announcement or proclamation from a town crier. Something. It’s a big deal, and the abrupt shutdown a year-and-a-half ago of nearly everything — including most painfully, for many of us, live music — was a stark reminder never to take for granted the opportunity to attend, participate in and share these collective cultural experiences. But that’s old news, anyway: just when post-global-pandemic life may have looked back in June as though it were within […]

BEING THERE: Laura Jane Grace @ Four Seasons

Photo by DYLAN JARED LONG “I’ve performed at big arenas, I’ve played Wembley Stadium. I sang on stage with Cyndi Lauper, written songs with Weezer. I’ve been on stage with Joan Jett. And nothing compares to this,” said Laura Jane Grace,  the singer-songwriter known best for founding punk group Against Me!,  mid-set atop the parking lot at Four Seasons Landscaping on Saturday. “I draw a bigger crowd than Rudy Giuliani, and I have more Twitter followers than Donald Trump,” she declared to a sea of eager smiles, “which isn’t fucking so bad for a transgender high school dropout.” The makeshift […]

BEING THERE: Japanese Breakfast @ Union Trans

Photo by DYLAN LONG The long-awaited return to live music at Philly’s beloved Union Transfer was spearheaded by none other than Philly’s own Japanese Breakfast. The breakout indie pop unit, headed by frontwoman, author and director Michelle Zauner, played its second of five sold-out shows last night to a packed, masked up crowd spanning all ages, backgrounds and creeds. In terms of homecomings, five nights over six days is wildly impressive without the existence of a pandemic, and exactly what the people needed with one. The night was as beautiful as it was a stark reminder of the pandemic. The […]

BEING THERE: Modest Mouse @ The Met

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER At a punctual 9 PM this past Thursday, Isaac Brock martialed his Modest Mouse crew to their instruments, squared off with a house thick with expectant minions, and plucked the first waltz-time notes of “Dramamine” to kick off a luxuriant 20-song set. The Golden Casket, their first new music in six years, offers elegiac overtones that include a music video for album single “We Are Between” in which Brock is crushed inside of a car in a junkyard. In the context of global pandemic and climate change, oppressive anxiety and existential dread may be the zeitgeist, […]

BEING THERE: This Is America

NEW YORKER: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” This is how Martin Luther King, Jr., explained matters to Mike Wallace, of CBS News, in 1966. […] In September, 1967, with little more than seven months left to live, King delivered a speech in Washington, D.C., in which he addressed a society “poisoned to its soul by racism” and the question of how to confront and overcome that malignancy. This was in the wake of uprisings in Detroit and many other American cities. King considered the question not in the spirit of endorsement but of comprehension. Urban riots, he […]

BEING THERE: Black Lips @ First Unitarian

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER I have to admit that when I first checked out the Black Lips about a decade ago, it had nothing to do with their music. I’d never heard it. Rather, I was drawn in by their already legendary antics such as whipping their junk out, vomiting, and kissing one another. That last stunt allegedly got them kicked out of India. This stuff may seem pedestrian to you, my faithful old-school punk reader, but for a dyed-in-the-wool folkie like me it sounded super-cool. I mean, in the folk world, the worst we get up to is, say, […]

BEING THERE: The Black Crowes @ The Foundry

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER After breaking up three years prior, The Black Crowes reunited in 2005 and began work on a record that would shift away from the rollicking radio-ready electric blues boogie of Shake Your Money Maker and the space-kissed psychedelia of 2001’s Lions. The resulting LP, 2008’s Warpaint, featured a balanced narrative of contemplative ballads on America’s southern mountain life: bittersweet odes to sunsets, backwoods swamp-stomp evangelism and a subtle, irreverent iconoclasm reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor. All of which revealed Chris’ and Rich Robinson’s deep roots in the lore of early-20th-century Appalachian folk music that framed up new […]

BEING THERE: Kiss @ The PP&L Center

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER Could have been the fact that I was recently promoted to Theater Critic at Phawker and have a background in Kabuki.  Or the fact that both my wife (who, concerned for my personal safety in Trump territory, forbade me from donning my Lizzie Warren kit) and my editor (who blew out of there like some sort of psyclone ranger during the Reagan era) are from Allentown and this, therefore, would practically be a family affair.  Or maybe it was just my desire for an alternate State of the Union. No matter. On Tuesday night I laid […]

BEING THERE: Blackalicious @ Ardmore Music Hall

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER Halfway through a characteristically killer set from opener Reef the Lost Cauze [pictured, above], the Philly rap artist noted, “I expected more Black people! There’s not a lotta Black people here for a band called Blackalicious!” Reef’s rap swings hard and pulls nothing, offering in his trademark explosive delivery shrewd social commentaries that tend not to dodge the uncomfortable, even if he affixes a modicum of self-aware humor at the end — the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. His observation on the crowd was only half in jest. Wherever they stand with […]

BEING THERE: The Jesus Lizard @ Union Transfer

Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER The Jesus Lizard – if you’re into the trashy side of ’90s alt rock/noise rock/post-hardcore, you either know ‘em, or you don’t know ‘em yet. If you fall into the latter category, I suggest you go blow your ears out to their 1991 record, Goat; it’s a good place to start. What makes this band special is their ability to meld harsh punk tones and belligerent drunken preaching into something that sounds much more mature than the sum of its parts. Their hooks and grooves are the glue that holds this seasick monkey trick together. The […]

BEING THERE: Twin Peaks @ Union Transfer

Photo by DYLAN LONG Chicago rock stars Twin Peaks touched down in Philly this past Tuesday ready for another round of rowdy, jangly, good ol’ rock n’ roll at Union Transfer. The five-piece is touring on the heels of their latest album, Lookout Low, an album that shows signs of maturity in their songwriting yet retains the signature feel-good sounds that fans know and love them for. Like the single track off the album, “Dance Through It,” fans jumped around the room in elation to classics like “My Boys,” “Walk To The One You Love” and “Butterfly.” Fans in the […]