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Train & Goo Goo Dolls Tour

We are slightly more than halfway into the Goo Goo Dolls 15-song co-headlining set at BB+T Arena on Saturday, August 10th, 2019, and frontman Johnny Rzeznik is shot out of a cannon. “I see all you hippies on that lawn out there!” he addresses the crowd. “You need to put down your bongs, put down your vape pens, and put your hands in the air!” Rzeznik is in the process of introducing the 8th song of their set, ‘So Alive’ off of 2016’s ‘Boxes’ album. He is holding a black electric guitar that reminds me of a trapper keeper I had in 6th grade: white splotches of paint streaking the body, contrasting black splotches across the white pickguard. It’s radical. 

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“We’re going to try some of this audience participation shit! It’ll be just like that Queen movie….” He continues before instructing the audience on the syllables they will need to repeat: a series of “A’s” and “Yeahs.” He is disappointed with our first attempt at the call and response. “What was that shit? This is fuckin’ PHILLY!” he chides us. His second try goes much better and we are rewarded with the conclusion of the song. My mother, who has accompanied me to this concert in order to see the 2nd headliner of the night, San Francisco’s Train, does not know who the Goo Goo Dolls are. Eyeing up the Buffalo, NY 5-piece dressed all in black T-shirts on the stage before her, she surmises that the lead singer “looks like Pat [Monahan, lead singer of Train, who she most definitely has a crush on] except “more hard rock!” I’ve got to give Moms credit. We’re only about a half-hour into their set and she’s hit the nail on the head. I confer that they used to be a much harder, punkier band back in the late 80s and 90s. She thinks their name is silly. “I can see how it would work back then, but not now. Especially since that name has such a funny connotation!” I neglect to inform her of their previous moniker, “The Sex Maggots.” [Totally true, look it up.]

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However, much like the proverbial caterpillar turning into a butterfly, sometime after shedding that early name, the Goo Goo Dolls lightened up, switched from bass player Robby Takac on main vocals to guitarist Johnny Rzeznik, and started churning out some solid soundtrack-worthy hits. In fact, I bet you didn’t know that early on they had cuts on both Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare AND Pauly Shore’s ‘Son-in-Law!’ So very true! They even appeared on 90210! Personally, It was 1995’s Angus soundtrack that landed the band on my radar, with their alt-rockin’ tune ‘Ain’t that unusual’ (sadly absent from the night’s set.) This concludes the “Goo Goo Dolls Hollywood History” portion of the article, now back to their BB+T performance…

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The band had moved briskly through the first half of their set, illuminated by a giant video wall and just over a dozen moving lights. They blasted through the first 2 songs, ‘Stay With You’ from their 2006 album ‘Let Love In’ and ‘Big Machine’ from 2002’s follow up to ‘Dizzy Up The Girl’ entitled ‘Gutterflower’. Their logo loomed over them on the video screen for any fairweather Train fans who might not know who they are (looking at you, Mom) before morphing into a psychedelic swirl of black and white. 

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Their 3rd track was 1998’s top-10 hit “Slide” and by now the dolls (Goo Goo, not New York) had everyone’s attention. Concertgoers finally had the chance to sing along that they have been waiting for and by the end of the tune Rzeznik was fired up enough to address the crowd and ask how everyone is feeling. His gaze must have fallen on a curmudgeon however, as he continued: “How do I always find the one guy who is pissed? There must be 10, 15 thousand people here and I always see the angry guy. Fuck it, let’s do this!” Welcome to Philadelphia, boys! 

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As the video backdrop changed from vintage footage of a city into outer space, the band ripped through another ‘Gutterflower’ cut [Here is Gone] preceded by the only tune we’d hear from 2013’s ‘Magnetic’ album [Rebel Beat]. Some small black balloons had been popping up from the pit since the onset of the show, a harbinger of the full-on drop to come. When the Goo Goo’s finally broke into the 5th track from 1998’s ‘Dizzy Up The Girl’ [can you guess? ‘Black Balloon’!] a plethora of void-balls descended from the back row of the seated sections and bounced their way haphazardly up to the pit. Not to be outdone, dozens of smaller black balloons arose from the front rows, floating about aimlessly. Foolishly, I took out my phone to record the event and was promptly bonked in the head by one of the larger balls, much to the delight of the rows behind me. Whoopsie! 

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This is really the only gimmick the GGD’s employ during their hour or so on stage, and the rest of their set proceeded without dragging once, despite me not knowing many of the tunes. Highlights for me include the punkier tunes fronted by bassist Robby Takac, who took the stage in no shoes or socks with his jeans rolled up as if he expected a flood, his black t-shirt reading “Hysteric Glamor: Acoustic Ladyland.” He pounds his 4-string Yamaha bass, a myriad of non-descript stickers adorning them. Among them: a jolly roger and the Canadian flag. His first offering, “Free of Me” rocks hard. His second, “Bringing on the Light” has an almost Alkaline Trio vibe live. My Mom dances around. “I can see the punk now,” she says. Everybody freaks out when the band leaves the stage and Johnny starts plucking out “Name,” the band’s first hit, solo on an acoustic. But you already know that, much like the public freakouts that happen for closers ‘Iris’ and ‘Broadway’. Those are staple Goo Goo moments, and the band doesn’t disappoint. “This would have been the perfect opener,” Mom suggests regarding Iris, “Did they write this?”

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However, rather than wax poetic on the Double G Doll’s previous hits, allow me to expound on their newest cut of the evening, ‘Miracle Pill’, from their forthcoming album of the same name, the band’s 11th. Ever the rock and roll realist, Rzeznik intros the song, “We have a new album coming out…. Don’t patronize me… just go out on to the internet and steal that fucker! Just come back and see us next year!” and blasts into the title track to a backdrop of falling pills, like a deranged real-life Dr. Mario scenario. The band rips through the new material with gusto, most likely stoked to be playing a new tune. Rzeznik hits the chorus:

Baby, would you be my miracle pill?
And I could be somebody else
So sick of living inside myself
 

For someone who’s been rocking the same haircut for over 30 years, I have a hard time believing Rzeznik truly desires this escape. Especially since, just moments before, he addressed the crowd after a beautiful performance of ‘Name,’ the song that catapulted them to radio success almost 25 years ago, with his heartfelt appreciation: “Thank you for remembering that song, and thank you for keeping this band alive!” Stay you, Johnny. Stay you. [and don’t you EVER change that doo, my goo.] As the sun set on their closing tracks, the strobes activate and every phone in the place goes up. A girl dancing in the aisle videos herself singing into her boyfriends face; he sways just out of frame awkwardly, clutching a White Claw. A flailing 5 year old is whisked briskly to the front row by his parents. An older guy in a Hawaiian shirt one row behind me is losing his mind, singing along to every word.“I think they warmed everybody up!” observes Mom.

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Around 9:20 a train whistle erupted from the sound system at BB+T. True to form, I was in line for a White Claw. Trooper that she is, my mother waited for me to obtain it before we hurriedly rushed back to our seats for the opening bars of ‘Calling All Angels’. Train came out like a freight…. err… like a freighter. Let’s just say they came out with the force of a… locomotive engine. The audience was already dancing and singing whole-heartedly from the gate. This is a band who has plenty of hits to spare, so bookending the set with crowd favorites and sprinkling more than a few covers throughout the night was not going to be a problem for Mr. Monahan and company. Now going on their 26th year as a band, Train announced this 39-date co-headlining amphitheater tour with the Goo Goo Dolls (and special guest Allen Stone) back on November 9th, 2018, the same day they dropped their 17 track ‘Greatest Hits’ album, which combines 15 cuts from their first 2 decades as a band with the new single ‘Call Me Sir’ and… not kidding… a cover of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ featuring Kenny G. The first of those 2 new tunes we were treated to at BB+T, the 2nd, thankfully, was left to the album. No offense, Kenny. 

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Having moved over 10 million albums and 30 million tracks, it’s fair to say Train is deserving of a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection, and throughout the night we would hear 13 of the 15 collected greatest hits live, along with renditions of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’, Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’, Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’, and even Led Zeppelin’s ‘Heartbreaker. It’s safe to say that Train knows how to rock a crowd, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that front-man Pat Monahan (formerly of Led Zepellin cover-band ‘Rogues Gallery’) is a handsome devil, beloved by moms, aunts, and older sisters everywhere. If you’ve never seen him before, picture Jason Bateman’s younger, better-looking brother fronting a rock band. You get the picture. Oh, and he knows how to work the room too. “We’ve been waiting all tour to come here,” is his opening quip. “This is our favorite place!” I have to wonder in how many cities he says that. Referencing the audience’s singing along he says, “Soooo much better than New York!” A quick scan of previous articles on this tour prove that this comment HAS appeared before, insert [your city] here. Regardless, Pat knows how to get a rise out of his adoring fans. I’ll give him that one.

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Full disclosure: I mostly know Pat from his guest appearances on the Howard Stern show. There’s a slight chance that might also be where my mother first encountered him, but it’s more likely it was actual radio play than his real-life exploits that garnered him her attention, as in the late 90s and early 2000s you really could not escape the music of Train. I was reminded all night of how many of their songs I knew the melody and words to, without owning a single album. I even found the stuff I didn’t know pretty catchy, and who doesn’t love a Tom Petty cover? Train had something for everyone in this set, and it was clear why they scored the closing slot of the evening. Momma Dukes was actually surprised to learn that the Goo Goo Dolls had been a band for longer! Along with their featured slot came two times the video walls, displaying a breathtaking vista as the 7-piece took the stage. With 5 band members and 2 backup singers (randos with tambos?) Train hit full force for their 2nd track: ’50 ways to say Goodbye’ from their 2012 album ‘California 37’. Everyone knows the words, everyone dances. The screens display 3 sugar skulls in hues of green, white, red: La Bandera! The three-piece Mariachi from the official video suddenly appears on the upper screen, filling in the brass part. Sadly, Hasselhoff does not reprise his cameo. Sparklers spark, confetti cannons erupt, people throw cameras onto the stage and Pat takes pictures and [precariously] throws them back. The entire venue is on its feet and this is only the 2nd song of their set… Train knows how to kick off a concert! 

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Prior to playing ‘If It’s Love’, the 1st of 4 tunes they would visit from 2012’s ‘Save Me, San Francisco’ Pat took a moment to introduce new drummer Matt Musty, who replaced Drew Shoals after last Summer’s tour with Hall & Oates. Shoals has gone on to resume his law career, and this now marks the 3rd drummer for the band after original drummer Scott Underwood departed in 2014. In fact, the last original member of Train (besides Monahan) was guitarist Jimmy Stafford, who left the band in 2016. ‘Call me Sir’ came next in the set, and has the distinction of being the only tune of the night not penned with an original member of the band, as it features as the single on the greatest hits album and was not released until 2018. It’s a fair tune, but as Tom Haverford would say… is it a banger? Time will tell. Following that was the eponymous ‘Save me, San Francisco’ and was accompanied by a shower of beach balls, large and small. The smaller, orange balls were emblazoned with the Train logo. Although these are meant to be bopped about the venue, the gentleman in front of me snagged one and quickly tried to hide it under his seat. No dice bro. I saw you. You’re probably the same dude who scowled at Johnny Rzeznik.

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Next up was ‘Angel in Blue Jeans’, the only cut from 2014’s “Bulletproof Picasso” album that we would hear, and also a great indicator of how Train titles their tracks in order to ensure maximum female fandom! Their smash hit ‘Marry Me’ would come later in the set and have every wedded Woman in the room reaching for their iPhone. These dudes know what they’re doing, trust. The only oddity of the evening would come in the form of Pat’s cover of Jay-Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’ featuring guest vocals from opener Allen Stone. Whenever a front-man feels the need to provide context on the microphone for why he is performing a song [this was the lead into the penned-in-NY ‘Bruises’, also a duet with Stone] it’s never good. This was actually ok for what it was, but like… it’s weird to hear songs about ‘hearing it for NY’ in NJ, and also: you’re from Erie, PA anyway, Pat! At one point he even told the crowd a secret (?) – his grandfather was born in Philly! Wow! We can kind of claim you, or would have until all of those NY overtures!

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At the halfway point of their set, Pat asks the crowd “Does anyone remember this one?” and begins their hit single ‘Meet Virgina’. My Mom likes this one. Oh, Pat, you devil. Of course, we remember! The lead single from their self-titled first album would be the only one off that record during the night, and it still holds up nicely. Now that we are eating out of the palm of his hand, Pat asks if it’s ok if they play a little Tom Petty? I’m cool if that’s all they play, but instead, we just get two tunes crammed together: a nice long version of ‘American Girl’ (perfect for their fan base) with some ‘Freefallin’ tacked onto the finale… alright, crowbarred into the finale. Next up are the back-to-back tearjerkers: ‘When I look to the Sky’ (penned for Pat’s late Mother) and ‘Marry Me.’ Eyes water, couples get closer, I go get another White Claw.

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Having introduced his younger brother Luis earlier in the set, Pat now introduces the crowd to Bass player Hector Maldonado and announces “Here is a treat for you…” as they launch into Queen and Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure.’ Luis takes lead. It rocks, in a similar fashion to when I watched Taylor Hawkins do literally the exact same thing last Summer while Dave Grohl [presumably] swilled Jagermeister just off stage. Déjà vu! Rounding out the end of the set are ‘Drive By’, ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ and heart-and-soul clone ‘Play That Song’- three hits from the later eras of Train. Sparklers go off, the classic Train ‘Crown’ logo appears, the crowd smiles, records and sings every word- fulfilled by the parade. Their 2016 cover album ‘Train Does Led Zeppelin II’ flew under my radar but they rip through a faithful version of ‘Heartbreaker’ and toss in a little of Aerosmith’s ‘Sweet Emotion’ just to remind us they can rock. This fact has not been lost on me, as guitar wizard Luis Maldonado has been shredding all night, including at one point a pretty damn sweet dual-necked guitar. I’m a fan.

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The evening’s closer is… shocker… ‘Drops of Jupiter,’ Train’s massive 2001 hit and also the song with which I am most familiar. My Mom sings along, emphasizing the extended “Heyyyyyyyyy” in unison with Pat, waving at him from the 5th row. She asks me to take a picture of us with him in the background and will later request via text that I send her them immediately. This is the first front-man since Sting that I have seen my Mother go gaa-gaa for, so Pat must be doing something right! If they keep on this track, there just might be a Greatest Hits Volume II in their future… sometime in say, 2040?

[Photos by Jen Strogatz]

[Article by Aaron Ruxbin]

**Thank you for voting Independent Philly as a four-time Top 5 Finalist and 2014 the Winner of “Best Local Blogger” in the Philly Region!**

Be sure to “like” Independent Philly on Facebookfollow us on Twitterfollow us on Instagramenter our contests, and love us in person!

You can view the full setlists below:

GOO GOO (15 songs):

  • Slide

 (DIZZY UP THE GIRL)
  • Name

(A BOY NAMED GOO)
  • Iris(DIZZY UP THE GIRL) 

 

TRAIN (18 songs):

  • Marry Me

(Save me, San Francisco) 

 

 

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Mad Decent Block Party 2017

Ah, the Mad Decent Block Party, or henceforth: MDBP. That old bastion of Philadelphian debauchery at it’s finest…or worst. Once a free event held on 12th and Spring Garden in front of the eponymous Mad Decent Mausoleum that has since grown to overtake the likes of the Piazza at Schmidt’s [peep the cover of Diplo’s ‘Express Yourself’ record], the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, and now returning to roost, once again, at the Festival Pier, it’s perennial home.

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With lineups that initially mirrored the random (and often culture clashing) sounds of the label in its infancy (Afghani Punk Bands and Baltimore Club remixes of Nu-Metal), the MDBP roster has been scaled back from its two-day extravaganza of last year to a one day event held last Friday, July 7th, right there on the river, including recurring Philly favorites Nadastrom and Dirty South Joe, young bloods Swizzymack and Matt OX, and the heavyweight assaults of 4B, Flosstradamus, and the mad daddy himself, DIPLO[docus].

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Though named after a dinosaur, the big dipper has his finger firmly on the pulse of today’s youth (hence the inclusion of fidget-spinner-adjacent Matt OX on the lineup) and to that effect, we decided to take 3 of our youngest writers to the MDBitsr it’s ten year anniversary. Having experienced every single MDBP ourselves (including one in NY just for the hell of it; ours are better) it was time to bring fresh eyes (and ears) into the equation, so to complete this review I enlisted the talents of two interns, Mike and Luis, and my right-hand man and rising club music purveyor, Musho! The rest of our review will take on a ’roundtable discussion’ style of everyone’s observations, with color commentary included by yours truly (in bold). Please enjoy our random, Gonzo reiterations from a day clouded by tall, cold cans of Heineken and assuredly some form of irreversible ultra-violet damage between us; all in the name of music journalism! Enjoy!

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Mike: Walking up to the Festival Pier the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Fellow Mad Decent attendees cut through hectic Columbus Blvd traffic to make their entry. The long line fills with excitement and cheer as everyone chatters about the set they can’t wait to see most.  After getting past check-in and entering the pier the block party seems to turn into a beach party.

Luis: As I’ve never been an attendee of the MDBP myself, I was a little thrown off to discover this was next to a pier. Aside from that, I arrived pretty early and the crowd felt so right, just chillin and groovin to some Jersey beats from Dirty South Joe.

Unfortunately, we missed the initial performer of the day, SNKM

Mike: With sand all around, cold beer being served, and big tents for shade, the only thing that was missing was water, which we got later in the form of rain. In front of the stage is a huge rubber dance floor where all of the hard partying took place.

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When we arrived, D$ Joe had already whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Dirty South Joe has been a long time staple of the Mad Decent Block Party, so walking in to his performance set the perfect tone for our block party vibes.

Luis: Nadastrom came after him and simmered us very well into Swizzymack’s set.

Nadastrom was actually part of the very first block party held on Spring Garden St 10 years ago!

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Luis: From this point on everything just keeps getting more lit (except for fidget spinner kid, sorry little dude).

Truc:  As it was time for local-hero, Swizzymack, to take the stage, the lad brought out his grandmother, put headphones on her, and allowed her to open up his set with Future’s hit, “Mask Off”.

Mike: SwizzyMack’s set, is an amazing experience with his combination of contemporary hip hop, pop music, and dubstep. The crowd enjoyed top charting songs such as, Migos’ ‘Bad & Boujee’ being mixed into high energy dance music.

Luis: Swizzymack’s flow could’ve been slightly better, but the beats were definitely felt, and danced to, throughout the dance floor.

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Mike: As the hits rolled, the crowd charged up, and a mosh pit opened up in front of the stage.  Farther back from the stage, a dance circle opened up and kids were back flipping in the crowd.

Truc:  Soon after, Swizzy dropped Xxxtentacion’s ‘Look at me’ and instigated a mosh pit, causing the crowd to go WILD.

Mike: Meanwhile in the background, videos played of our childhood’s lone ranger, Samurai Jack, in rare form showing off his sword skills.

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I think we can all agree that bringing your Grand-Mom on stage is the bossest move of all time. Kudos to you Swizzymack for a killer set!

Mike: 4B, who was amazing, was a great act that was totally disrespected by a daring thunder storm. Although some stood out in the rain and raged on without concern for mother nature, others took refuge under tents until the storm passed. Even through the rain, heavy fans and heavy partiers couldn’t be stopped by a little water. Luckily the storm silenced its cry before 4B’s set ended and the Block Party as a collective was able to jam out to some amazing spins.

Luis: 4B’s set was the right fit to be played right before Flosstradamus’ fire, son! 4B definitely knows how to get a crowd hyped up! I could not keep myself from jumping and fist pumping from his point on.

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We actually witnessed both Luis’ fist-pumping AND cheesing at this point, and we can confirm: he is a fan of 4B!

Mike: Flosstradamus was the perfect set to follow the discouraging rain storm that hit the Mad Decent Block party. The audience, who were anticipating his set, turned up as the rain eased up and the opportunity to party hard presented itself again.

Truc: Later in the evening Flosstradamus brought DJ Sliink out on stage, and played their collab tracks ‘Crowd Control’ & ‘Test Me’ as a tribute to their ‘Nomads EP’ that was released on Fool’s Gold in 2013.  As I go through my Instagram feed, Sliink captions a video of the action and dropped hints towards a Nomads 2.0 release.

Luis: There were a few mosh pits forming here and there throughout the whole night, but when Flosstradamus played ‘Moshpit’ that’s when the shit hit the proverbial fan. I’m sure people walked out of that pit with some minor bruises, myself included, but it was so worth it!

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Mike: Flosstradamus brought the crowd back to the dance floor and raised the energy levels with his DJ style. At this point in the night, the drinks took effect and the vibes were outstanding. Girls grinding on guys, girls kissing girls …the night was surely taking a turn for the best.

Luis: It was hype AF during his whole set, which is an incredible feat to accomplish. Something Diplo did as well, but not as intense. Don’t get me wrong, we were all dancing and grooving during the whole Diplo set (it was definitely lit) but I guess I’m a little skewed, as I’m a headbanger, but to each his own.

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Flosstradamus x DJ Sliink is truly indicative of the sound the MDBP has strived for the past half decade. Floss started off strong with MDBP roots, remixing odd indie records and making club edits before becoming the trap powerhouse he’s known for today.

Mike: Matt OX’s set for various reasons was a rough set to stand through. He came on after the rain and although the party was still going, most people were ready to see Diplo. Matt began his set and out of the three or four songs performed only one song seemed familiar to the crowd. During his set people chanted, “Diplo” and others talked amongst themselves about their disgust for the set. Matt OX gave it all he had on the stage but in the end Mad Decent attendees weren’t interested in his performance.

Luis: It was a great vibe throughout the whole night. I think the fidget spinner kid killed some of the hype for Diplo unfortunately, but Diplo surely did not disappoint, it was the perfect epilog to an amazing day of partying.

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We still have no idea who Matt OX is.

Mike: Diplo had an awesome set, the energy in the crowd was unmatched by any other set of the day. His set began and smoke blew from the stage, lights flashed from behind the DJ booth and the name Diplo appeared on the screen. The crowd went wild and everyone from all areas of the pier moved to the dance floor space. As the set went on and Diplo played some crowd favorites, the audience started raging on the dance floor. Off the dance floor, groups of people band together and started to rain dance and shuffled in the wet sand. As more smoke blew from the stage, Diplo gave a shout out to the Mad Decent Block Party for their ten-year run.

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Ten years later and Don’t call me Duplo can still pack out a Philly venue. From the Mummer’s Museum, to Reading Terminal Market, to inside a Mausoleum, we’ve seen Wes play some real weird spaces [and sets] in Philadelphia. And though I had to miss his headlining performance handling some business for the after party, we rest assured that our youth culture was cradled safely inside the random white hands of that dude who be everywhere; held tight to his breast like so many off-shoots of that PHILLY-BORN brand we all know and love, Mad Decent. Whether he be Majoring in Lazers, Hollering at the Tronix [or board], or just Jackin’ Ü, Diplo is a DJ’s DJ; a curator of culture. His every move is worth watchin’, especially if it’s going to be portrayed soon on screen by James Van der Beek. He has the power to touch the talent around him and transform them into a celebrity, and that in itself is transcendent from DJ culture. Clearly, he is ahead of the game. We’re plugged in for the full ride, so congrats on 10 years of Block Parties to the MAD DECENT CAMP: all it took was $20 and a permit!

Mike: Overall the Mad Decent Block Party was a rad event and definitely an experience like no other. The sets were on point from start to finish and the atmosphere was fun and safe. The crowd was outrageous throughout the short rain storm that could have easily killed the spirits of lesser party goers. This was surely a five out of five stars event for anyone living in the tri-state area to attend.

**Thank you for voting Independent Philly as a four time Top 5 Finalist and 2014 the Winner of “Best Local Blogger” in the Philly Region!**

[Photos by C2H2 Photo]

[Article by Aaron Ruxbin and friends]

Be sure to “like” Independent Philly on Facebookfollow us on Twitterfollow us on Instagramenter our contests, and love us in person!

You can view additional photos below (click images to enlarge):

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Radio 104.5 10th Birthday Show (Part 2)

Your intrepid reporter set out for Camden, NJ on a beautiful Spring afternoon last Sunday, June 11, bound for the BB&T Pavilion for Day 2 of the Radio 104.5 Birthday Celebration. The event featured headlining acts The Killers, Foster the People, Bleachers, Kaleo, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Marian Hill, and Andorra, as well as numerous supporting artists on The New Music Discovery Stage. Flanked by food vendors and a giant Lundy Law sign, and set to the gorgeous backdrop of the Delaware waterfront and Philadelphia skyline, this smaller stage featured 4 artists: Kevin Garrett, A R I Z O N A, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas and Northern Faces.

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Having been talked out of biking across the Ben Franklin to reach my destination, I exited my hastily commandeered ride-share at the police barricade and approached the concert with throngs of my day-drunk compatriots. The tell-tale sign of how lit a concert is going to be at BB&T is how full the lone trash can you pass between the parking lot and main gate is. Last Sunday it was already overflowing by mid-afternoon, and I followed the trail of empty cans and discarded plastic sleeves of Bacardi (didn’t know that was a thing until last weekend) like so many breadcrumbs out of the forest that is Camden and into the wondrous spectacle of the anniversary event.

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The day kicked off with main stage sets from local alt rockers Andorra. Being self-described as “Sweaty, bearded, boozehounds” you might not expect their sound to be as polished as it is, and the band provided the perfect kick-off to a day that was celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Philadelphia’s Premier Alt Rock Radio Station. You wouldn’t be hard pressed to imagine the sounds of Andorra blaring out of a boombox at your local Philly dumpster pool this Summer.

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Next on the Main Stage bill was Marian Hill, a local duo consisting of vocalist Samantha Gongol, and Jeremy Lloyd on production duties, who pulled their band name from characters in the musical ‘The Music Man.’ Featuring electronic production and R&B influences, Marian Hill is representative of the synth pop wave that has dominated radio play in recent years, and for good reason.

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Running counter to these main stage acts at the New Music Pavilion were sets from Anthemic Rockers Northern Faces (NY, Equal Vision), Soul-Pop-Rockers Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas (Detroit) and the spaced-out pop of A R I Z O N A (NJ). The New Music Pavilion offered some very solid variety set to incredibly gorgeous scenery. I have to say it was very nice to have a secondary destination that made hoofing it around the BB&T worth it. Passing P,B+J trucks and Neshaminy Creek pop-ups, I plied myself with provisions and caught the tail end of Brooklyn based, Pittsburgh born singer-songwriter Kevin Garrett’s set. With beautifully layered vocals on top of soulful, bass heavy production, I would highly recommend Kevin’s sound as strong enough to cross-over genre boundaries and appeal to both fans of dance, pop, and soul music. Having previously toured with Mumford & Sons, I’d expect him to make the jump to main stage soon enough.

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Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness closed out the ‘open portion’ of the main stage show at 4pm. Up until that point the floor seats were completely open to anyone (though everyone knows the real party is on the lawn) and the former frontman for Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate peppered the crowd with tracks from his s/t solo effort as well as 2017’s “Zombies on Broadway” before our Radio 104.5 hosts appeared to inform us that the day’s main events were about to begin. Celebrating 10 years on the radio of consistent programming and messaging is no small feat, and the name Radio 104.5 rings out proudly in the Philadelphia area as a station committed to not only quality on air programming, but incredibly well produced (and thankfully so very often, under-priced) events. Day 2 of their 10 year anniversary would be no exception, and our congratulations from Independent Philly go to the incredible staff of folks over at WRFF on reaching this monumental milestone: we know it takes an army! On-Air personality Mike Jones came on stage to inform us that sadly beloved long-time host Wendy Rollins couldn’t be with us at the event today as she had recently relocated to Atlanta, but that she was instrumental in the success of the station at large and she was with us in spirit! It’s truly a great team over at 104.5 and we wish them all the best and many more continued years of rocking the Philadelphia market!

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Resident rock-jockey DJ Reed Streets entertained the crowd while the ushers removed the GA ticket holders from the reserved seating. Those of you familiar with his style know that he is deftly able to blend rock records in the same way most popular DJs cut club, dance, and hip hop. The result is an expertly crafted mix of familiar tunes, eras, genres, and DJ effects, filtering and echoing rapid fire into one another before you have a chance to lose any interest or guess what beat is blending in next. A-ha and the Romantics blended into Jimmy Eat World (who we might add will be at BB&T Pavilion on July 20th with Incubus) before a hip-hop mega-mix of ‘Blister in the Sun’ got the crowd really grooving. At this point the sold-out arena was packing out; everyone ready to finally take their seats, jumbo beers and cheesesteaks in hand, for the highly anticipated four main acts.

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At 5:31 pm Kaleo trudged onto the stage. Pronounced “KUH-lay-OH” this Icelandic rock band began their set without any vocal fanfare, letting their bombastic mallet-pounded percussion echo over the arena. Featuring a whistled-into and a steel-guitarist, Kaleo grabbed my attention with nary a word spoken and held it, rapt, for the duration of their set. This is what the radio is best for: holding you in a captive position and allowing new tones to creep into your ears, and eventually take hold in your brain. This is definitely a band I will be seeking out on vinyl after their soulful performance.

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Marred only by a couple of mic crackles, the only discernible tech issue of the night, the very minimalist rock and roll of Kaleo crept on, accented by one lone right handprint and the band’s logo on the kick drum, their slow grooves built over the din of the invigorated crowd and choruses of “Walking” and “Without You” winded down until they were spinning over and over in your head. Their sound is a catchy one. By the time the lead singer, an Icelandic-Elvis/Rex Manning type, was crooning about how the “Devil [is] gonna set me free” their epic blues rock has almost transformed to G ’N R level screeching, and more whistling and harmonica solidified the catchiness of their kitschy songwriting, in a very good way. By the time the bass tones of a lone synth rang, I realized this group has all the bases covered; they know their ABC’s of Rock N Roll for sure. When “No Good,” their rock radio hit, was delivered, the crowd reached a fever pitch and once the set was over, DJ Reed Streets appeared again stage right to keep everyone rolling with some Billy Idol.

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Truly dancing with myself at the BB&T arena, by this point in the day I had knocked back quite a few jumbo craft brews and was utilizing my photographers seat (he’s off shooting somewhere more fun, I am sure) as a double beer and cheesesteak holder. Imagine my dismay then, when NJ’s Bleachers were greeted to not only thunderous applause, but to every single person in the arena standing up at their seat to greet them. A great reception for them, sure, but a terrible occurrence for your lazy, starved, and semi-intoxicated reporter.

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Undaunted, I knew I must rise to the occasion. Literally.  And so I stood, to be greeted by the sight of a guitarist in overalls… but no shirt. Hey, at least it wasn’t a romper. Still, I could see why all the ladies in the seats around me had risen to their feet. I instantly get a Talking Heads vibe from Bleachers first track, a nod that sadly disappears as time goes on. My notes from this section get a little blurry because the whole ‘standing up’ fiasco caused me to spill about 8oz of beer (read: $14 worth) on one of my notebooks. Never fear, bc I switched over quickly. Salvaged phrases from this section include, out of context, “I miss those days,” “What they lack in cohesion they make up for in energy,” “Can’t believe dude is wearing a Mets’ shirt. Risking his life here, but my grandfather would be proud,” “Much better when employing piano —> saxophone.” [Yes, I drew the little arrow in my notebook.] Towards the end of Bleachers set was one of the oddest covers of “You Can Go Your Own Way” I had ever heard. Not entirely displeasing, but in a weird pitch and totally unexpected. Despite my initial quizzically vibe, the crowd remained unfazed and rocked out along to the band with fervent gusto, absorbing every lick and spitting back choruses where appropriate. As a self-labeled “old head,” some things are lost on me and I resigned to chalk this one up to that category, though I can definitely appreciate some good ol’ fun-time radio rock n roll when I hear it.

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To my utter dismay, I am waiting in line for food when I hear the opening notes of Foster the People ring out from the main stage. Most notable for their radio smash ‘Pumped Up Kicks,’ which is a song that a lot of people are troubled to learn is about a school shooter, but hey, there’s no arguing with lyrics. They’d save that payoff for later though, and it wouldn’t be until their 2nd to last song of the night that we’d be able to sing along about people needing to “run for cover!” Seated in time for “Pay the Man” and “Doing it for the Money” one could almost guess there was a running theme in Foster’s set, and I sat doe-eyed in the audience, now a mixture of standing and seated, to absorb the tracks that FTP were putting down.

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The recognizable ‘Don’t Stop (color on the walls)’ brought the crowd to life once more, and finishing their set with ‘Kicks’ and ‘Houdini’ Foster the People left the stage leaving the audience wanting more, especially me, because they didn’t play a lot of my favorite tracks and this was my first time seeing them. I’m okay with that though, as I got the impression that Foster is a band you need to see at their own concert, free of time constraints and the necessity of rushing to the hits. I’d love to spend 75-90 minutes or more getting deep into their catalog, live in the future, and I look forward to the day that opportunity presents itself..most likely at a 104.5 show!

Just after 9pm it was time the main event. After our Radio 104.5 hosts got us primed up one more time, The Killers took the stage to purple lights and thunderous applause but sadly the band did not allow anyone to photograph their set. Unlike the preceding band, The Killers wasted nary a second ‘getting to the hits’ and the instant their instruments were in hand the opening notes of their smash-hit “Mr. Bright-side” erupted into the pavilion. At this point there wasn’t an ass left in a seat, and the power of approximately 20k people singing the chorus in unison provided a very telling realization of the true power of radio airplay. This was the perfect way to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 104.5!

The hits just kept coming as the band, accented on stage by one lone letter “K” filled up with light bulbs, profusely thanked the audience for being so receptive and “reminding them why they do this.” Frontman Brandon Flowers was all smiles and gestures as tracks like “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Somebody Told Me” were met with enthusiastic approval. Sandwiched in between those rockers, however, was a very thoughtful cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” Displaying an ultra tight-knit sound and taking the stage to Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom,” it’s clear that the Killers are firmly cemented in the upper echelon of what is considered Radio Rock today. Although Brandon Flowers has enjoyed mainstream success as a solo artist, the combined package of the entire band is a true rock and roll tour de force. There just really isn’t anything left like it these days, and we must clutch these showmen near to our breast and appreciate every nearby stop of the tour: when they rock for 20k you can really still feel the personal connection and that electricity was present in waves at the BB&T Pavilion last Sunday.

Now supercharged up for the dual closers of “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “When You Were Young” the audience for the Radio 104.5 10 Year Anniversary Show was set forth into the cooling Camden air, totally spoiled, and rocked to the core. Hearing so many hits in rapid succession on such a beautiful day was a glorious experience; so many different genres covered (and beers consumed) in such a short amount of time had me feeling like a college freshmen again, stumbling towards my unamused Uber driver still whistling “Mr. Brightside.” I could hear those hits all over again right then and not be bored for a second. Perhaps in an attempt to not to have to listen to me ramble incoherently about the concert, my driver asked me what I want to listen to.

“Smash that FM Button my friend, and turn it to 104.5 FM… maybe the Killers is on.”

[Photos by: Brockswell Photography]

[Article by Aaron Ruxbin]

**Thank you for voting Independent Philly as a four time Top 5 Finalist and 2014 the Winner of “Best Local Blogger” in the Philly Region!**

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Prophets of Rage at BB&T Pavilion

Like a lot of you, I’ve spent the last 8 years attending loads of parties and listening to a crap ton of DJs. Though I’ve managed to pepper my mainstay diet of the 1’s and 2’s with the stray rock and rap concert here and there, it really hasn’t been until last couple years or so that I’ve truly been able to dive back into the live music arena like I’ve been longing to. With the 20 year anniversaries of all my favorite records coming and going, I’ve been first in line to punch my ticket for the nostalgia train. And while it’s great to revisit classics and to finally hear some chart topping favorites on instruments not processed through a Disc Jockey’s Laptop, it’s clear that a lot of these tunes-much like the pop hits of today-were composed during a lighter time, eras where lyrics were focused a bit more on keeping people grooving than inciting a political riot. It was with great joy then, that on August 20th at BB&T Pavilion, that I was asked to review the first ‘Prophets of Rage’ performance to hit the Philadelphia area since the super-group’s formation, in support of their newly-released debut EP, ever-so-aptly titled ‘The Party’s Over.’
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Fronted by ‘B Real’ of ‘Cypress Hill’ and ‘Chuck D’ of ‘Public Enemy’, the 6 piece live ensemble of Prophets of Rage is rounded out by DJ Lord (also of Public Enemy) and 3/4 of Rage Against the Machine; bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, revered guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk (you can read our recent interview with him here). With the harsh looming political climate in America, coupled with the Post-EDM and lyrically vapid landscape of popular music today, I could think of no better harbingers for this particular prophecy than these 6 gentleman, trusted forefathers of my fired up youth. Men with messages, Men of substance, Men who could really play their instruments. At long last, the Prophet’s have arrived: The Party is Over.
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Our night started with a warm up set from AWOLNATION, another band we are quite familiar with after covering them several times and interviewing front-man Aaron Bruno. While AWOLNATION’s message does not delve into the political realm like the collective (and new) work of Prophets of Rage, their self-described “brutally hard” live sound still easily managed to set the proper tone for the evening. The message of a band can easily be lost on a crowd that is not in the proper mind-set to receive it but AWOLNATION prepared the crowd to rage, and rage they would.
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After a deftly cut intro medley from DJ Lord featuring bars from ‘Ironman,’ ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ ‘7 Nation Army,’ ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Sound of the Police’ and more, sirens filled the air and the band entered the stage bathed in darkness, MC’s with fists raised in the air. With 5 fresh collaborative tracks under their belt, the super-group boasts an updated version of Public Enemy classic ‘Prophets of Rage’ on their new EP with both new music and a new verse courtesy of B Real. They burst out of the gates at BB+T Pavilion with this track, their namesake, Tom’s opening riffs shredding thru the system with optimal clarity. Quickly displaying their tightness as a unit and the benefit of having not 1 but 2 seasoned MC’s accompanying a veritable Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Class as a backing band, Chuck D and B Real traded verses while the audience struggled for which superstar to focus on for more than a few seconds at a time. In my biased opinion Chuck sounds stronger, and more relevant, than ever when he hits us with lines like “…I’m keeping you from sleeping… I roll with the punches so I survive, try to rock cause it keeps the crowd alive, I’m not ballin’, I’m just calling’, but I’m past the days of yes y’alling.” Originally released in 1988 on Public Enemy’s 2nd album, ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,’ Prophets is 1 of 2 Public Enemy tracks to get a rework for the group’s new release, alongside ‘Shut ‘Em Down,’ the popular single from ‘Apocalypse 91.’ Though 25+ years old, these tracks take on new thunder being backed (fronted?) by Rage Against the Machine’s entire instrumental section. Honestly, I have never seen a rock/rap hybrid group so effectively blur the line between one genre and the other as to not to be able to definitively labeled; they are the perfect balance of both worlds.
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After a quick intro of everyone in the group, Chuck grabs a megaphone for the intro to ‘Guerrilla Radio’ and the crowd erupts. Prophets touches on the catalogs of all 3 of it’s members previous groups, and if you have been wondering how Rage [Against the Machine] hits would transcend live for this configuration, let me tell you: it’s a thing of beauty to behold. Already some of the highest caliber poetry absorbed by radio suburbia in the alternative 90’s, hearing Chuck D backed by B Real (and vice versa) barrel through ‘Bombtrack’, ‘People of the Sun’ and ‘Take the Power Back’ (sandwiched nicely with ‘Miuzi Weighs a Ton’) I can tell you that nothing was missing from the songs I grew up loving and instead the classic tracks transformed before my ears, lyrics being punctuated with newfound clarity. When B Real takes over verse duties on ‘Sleep Now in the Fire,’ the track takes on a blistering new persona entirely, and the true future potential of Prophets shines through; somehow this a supergroup greater than the sum of it’s parts. Though the band has stated that the door is always open for Zack [de la Roca] to join them again, it’s a beautiful thing that these songs aren’t remaining stagnant for the lack of a messenger, and when B Real gets on the mic to remind the crowd how lucky we are that these musicians have come together to deliver this project we can truly feel the respect for this undertaking ripple through the audience. These guys are superheroes in their own right and they’ve essentially formed ‘The Avengers’ of current musical social commentary.
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After kicking the place into overdrive by dropping the first true Cypress Hill track of the night, ‘Rock Superstar,’ followed by ’Testify,’ the trio from Rage left the stage and Chuck and B Real descended into the pit to perform a medley of hits accompanied by the legendary DJ Lord, including “Hand on the Pump / Can’t Truss It / Insane in the Brain / Bring the Noise / I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That and Welcome to the Terrordome.” Back-to-back working mics, smoking blunts (from the crowd of course) and grabbing fans phones to snapchat without missing a beat, the 2 Prophets of Rage frontmen ripped through so many recognizable tracks so quickly that by the time Chuck’s ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ line seamlessly flowed into the opening riff of ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’ you had totally forgotten that a guitar god had just walked offstage for a hot fifteen minutes. With a couple more classic Public Enemy cuts to follow, the real ramp up comes in the final act of the Prophets set, when Rage Against The Machine classics ‘Bullet in the Head’, ‘Shut Em Down’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ were aired alongside verbal barbs intended to light a fire within the gasoline-soaked crowd. Prophets doesn’t just warm their crowd up, they light a damn powder keg. Unfurled banners baring raised arms with clenched fists flag the performers. Sweaty guitarists shred neck, sporting hats emblazoned with the mission statement: MAKE AMERICA RAGE AGAIN.
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Prophets kept the banter to short, in no way and at no time lecturing the crowd, poignant vignettes in between songs, often tying the preceding or proceeding lyrics into the messages as only seasoned MCs can. Only a couple times throughout the night were extended statements addressed to the audience, once by Tom after a ripping version of ‘Bullet in the Head,’ to let us know that a portion of every Prophets show would be going to local homeless or charity organizations and to thank the workers who set up, tear down and clean up the concert, another a lengthy diatribe from B Real before ‘Killing In The Name,’ the closer of the night. Though at no point was any individual candidate or ideology disparaged by name, at one point in the evening Tom flipped his guitar upside down to shred a solo and revealed a secret message taped on the bottom of his guitar that said it all: NO ONE FOR PRESIDENT.
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As a fitting counterpoint to that hopeless inscription, B Real left the crowd with a call to arms: “We’re going to play this one last one for you tonight… but right here, this Prophets Of Rage thing, we started as a call to action. Because the people in the middle who don’t believe in the false leaders need a voice. We know that you’ve been hungry for this shit. We know you’ve been needful of it. It’s been absent. There’s a lack of compassion, a lack of fucking-just-intellect in the world today. There’s some stupid fuckers out there with a backwards way of thinking. 2 of them are running for President. Raise your voice, raise your fist, create the change you want.” And with that inspiring message, the band launched into ‘Killing in the Name,’ another track receiving the full Prophets update for the new EP, a record I highly recommend you obtain and digest as quickly as possible.
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In a night chock full of memorable hits, nostalgia laden riffs and updated takes on game changing classics, Prophets actually saved their best 2 tracks for last. The 1-2 punch of ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘No Sleep til Cleveland’ perfectly punctuated the theme of the evening, and really brought it home for this reviewer: these guys are just getting started [and thank the heavens!] Though they’d go on to encore with 2 popular RATM songs (Bulls and the updated Killing in the Name of) right afterwards, these 2 brand new songs marked a tonal change in the evening for me. No longer were we comparing and contrasting the strengths and focal points of these damn fine musicians and front-men, now we were witnessing the coalescing of these players into one final fighting unit. I know I’ve already made an Avengers metaphor in this article, but this part of the program was more like witnessing Voltron form from 6 already bad-ass-on-their-own Lions. The first of these new songs was 1 of 2 studio recordings new for the debut EP, and the title track, with the second being a politically charged and updated cover of the Beastie Boys ‘No Sleep till Brooklyn.’ Incorporating Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power,’ Prophets of Rage shined a glaringly bright light on the unique talent they’ve brought to the table here: they’ve actually got something to say, and they’re finally somebody really worth listening to! In 2016 they’d brought more people together for a concert relevant to inciting political action than any I’d seen in this previous election year; nothing else in demo had even come close. Looking around a packed BB+T Pavilion last Friday I realized the union of this super-group had assembled more chanting faces and more raised fists than I had seen in a long, long time. In weaving these beloved elements from our past into an intricate narrative so overwhelming relevant to our present state, Prophets tricked us, almost forced us, into acknowledging the message that had been with us all along (albeit absent from the lyric booklets of late)- we have the power, there has always been strength in numbers! We’ve just been too busy partying too realize it.
Purchase ‘The Party’s Over’ here: http://smarturl.it/ThePartysOver

[Photos by: Rick Pettine]

[Article by Aaron Ruxbin]

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Explosions In The Sky at The Fillmore

It was a night of few words last Friday evening, May 20th, at the Fillmore Philly. Chicago 4-piece ‘Disappears’ opened for Explosions in the Sky to a completely packed room, and what was lacking in banter was surely made up for in rolling crescendos and thunderous applause. Walking in past a fully stocked merch booth being decimated by throngs of eager fans, I was quickly clued in as to how the night would unfold. With 7 vinyl records for sale versus only 4 T-Shirt designs, it was clear that these were bands who favor substance over style.  Delighted early-birds were more than eager to snap up wax and limited-edition poster prints, exhausting the entire supply of previous dates designs before the openers even hit the stage.  To say this room was stocked with super-fans would be an understatement.

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In their 17 years playing music together, Explosions in the Sky have developed quite the  passionate and dedicated following. Tickets for this headlining performance were rapidly snatched up in presale and not available at the door. I was eager to situate myself for the opening band, Disappears, who were quick to assemble onstage and kick the night off with a janky bassline and very little fanfare. Hey, who needs a microphone when you can let your instruments do the talking for you?

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Disappears, a nondescript 4 piece rock outfit (3 guitars and a drummer) instantly won the attention of the room. With little to get in the way of (or add to) their musical message, I could glean no clues as to their influences or individual personalities. Here were 4 dudes in solid t-shirts (ok, one had a skull) jamming out on their respective instruments (my favorite being a black bass patched up with pink duct tape) and pummeling through their setlist with nary a stray word in edgewise. It wasn’t until the penultimate moment when they thanked Explosions for taking them on tour that the crowd was addressed directly, and even then briefly. Instead they maximized their time on the beautiful Fillmore stage by alternating angular rock and heady shoe gaze; with many in the crowd appropriately staring holes through their vans while nodding along accordingly. I likened the bands sound to very early Hot Hot Heat with a dash of the Nasty Bits, my companion hearing them as an ‘early Radiohead meets Interpol’ (kind words!) and both of us agreeing that this will be a band worth checking in on, and who were well suited to set the stage for EITS.

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After 45 mins of Disappears, EITS hit right around 9:30 to an eruption of applauding hands, signaling those few stragglers still at the Ajax bar or merch booth to hightail it back to the main room. In dozens of shows at the Fillmore, I have never seen the back area so desolate during a headliners set, let alone at a sold out event! The feel of electricity in the room was palpable, and I scrambled upstairs to the VIP viewing area just in time to witness 2,000+ smiling faces illuminated by a flash of the house lights as Explosions greeted the crowd. One lone microphone stand hung out on stage right as the band assembled into their places amidst a bevy of pedalboards and instruments. As my tag-along and bandmate put it, [EITS] is “All about the pedals, man.”

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Indeed it was. If you are unfamiliar with Explosions In The Sky, there is one thing you should know: their’s is a musical journey. Songs do not abruptly stop and start, mathematical equations and high tech trickery have no home in the soundscapes they evoke. Instead, songs unfold. Layers build upon layers. Themes are revisited as pieces shape into wholes, instruments blending together in both immediate moments and the echoes thereafter. Notes wash over you until you become one with the songs driving force, willing the melodies into place and languishing in their reverberated delays. Opening with the title track from their newest (and 7th) LP, ‘Wilderness,’ the band demonstrated these strengths immediately; guitars weaved and intertwined with each other to a building drumroll until suddenly, it was over.

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The crowd barely had time to applaud before the band began the opening notes of ‘The Birth and Death of the Day,’ much to the delight of fans who have been with the group for the past decade. With so many beautiful songs to choose from, picking an EITS set must be no easy task but the band really delivered for their sold-out headlining performance at the Fillmore Philly, alternating crowd favorites with at least 4 tracks off their new album including “The Ecstatics,” “Logic of a Dream,” and “Disintegration anxiety” all of which translated spectacularly to the live setting.

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Blue and Purple lights bathed the stage as the band continued to roll through the setlist, with lulls being filled with cheers and applause even when they did not signify the end of a piece. The audience at the Fillmore was all smiles and energy, and covered a very diverse cross section of musical tastes and styles. At one point in the night I found myself discussing the need for more talented local bass players to help round out the New Order cover band one man at the bar was attempting to fashion, and within minutes I was in a luxury box with Philadelphia club DJ and trap legend Swizzymack, who was head banging along with the most diehard of fans. I even scoped a Dillinger Escape Plan shirt and a Saves The Day patch in the crowd, a clear sign of the diverse appeal of Explosions in the Sky.

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Wether you know the band from the adaptation of their track ‘Your Hand In Mine’ (used as the Friday Night Lights theme song) or overheard them in a record store and demanded to know what album it was (this was me, it was All of the Sudden I Miss Everyone) the fact is there is just no other band like Explosions. Perhaps it is the lack of lyrics to muddle the message, perhaps it is just the incredible synergy between these musicians, but when you see 2,000+ people enthralled by instrumental music, each experiencing their own personal soundtrack, you see why this band is so special, transcendent even. By the final quarter of their 90 minute set the room was practically buzzing; it was one of the most positive concert experiences I have ever had.

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Closing with the 10 minute+ opus “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” I had to shut my eyes to take in the beauty of this composition. Guitar strings strike out like piano keys, cutting through the giant room with precision and clarity. The mind wanders. The eyes, water. Transfixed by the moment, the Fillmore collectively held its breath. As the track built to it’s crescendo and gradual conclusion we were granted release, the echoes still churning in my mind. With the swirl of guitars still fading in our ears, Explosions thanked us for being such a great crowd and I had to agree, this was easily the most focused and rapt audience I have seen at the venue. It was a spiritual experience, to put it lightly, and one that I will eagerly seek out again in the future. I’ve never left a concert with less words spoken feeling more enlightened, my positivity recharged. As the band left the stage and the merch booth line began to snake deep into the venue, that one lone microphone remained bathed in blue light on the stage as a testament to what we had witnessed. 90 minutes, a dizzying display of guitars and drums and not one wasted word: it really was ‘all about the pedals.’

[Photo credit: DOLA Photography]

[Article by Aaron Ruxbin]

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