INSIDE: Nicos Gun, GANG, Sandman, Michael Nutter & more!
Sarah & Rob of
Front cover photo of Reading Rainbow by G.W. Miller III. Back cover photo of Nicos Gun by Colin Kerrigan. This page: revelers watching PhillyBloco perform in April. Photo by Megan Matuzak.
Volume 1, Issue 2: Summer 2011
The JUMP Off
We hang with City Rain, Aime, Verbatum Jones, Mercury Radio Theater, Turning violet Violet, GANG, The Fleeting Ends, Grandchildren, Josh Wink, The Toil Records crew, The Arts Garage team, Lost in Company, John Oates, Nazir Ebo, This Temper, Dave Patten and Creepoid.
We enter the scene with Mike Onufrak, Keith Birthday, Joe Annaruma and Joe Mckay.
This Place Rocks
We visit Weathervane Music, Connie's Ric-Rac, the PSALM Salon and Cunningham Piano.
Music & Politics
We talk to Mayor Michael Nutter about DJing, the arts and the creative economy.
Music & Education
Stanford Thompson is trying transform a neighborhood through music.
Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia found each other by chance. They fell in love, moved to Philadelphia, formed Reading Rainbow and have been making awesome music ever since. Nicos Gun blends dance beats with psychedelic grooves, creating an infectious sound.
Jessi Teich, the muse; Enter Sandman; June Divided; The Brazillian Revolution.
Check out the summer listings from Modern Bropar and Phrequency.com.
Le Cochon Noir serves jazz, R&B, ribs and love in West Philly.
Brendan McKinney recognizes that he couldn't do it alone.
Our Collaborators Food That Rocks Liner Notes
publisher G.W. MILLER III senior staff KELSEY DOENGES LAUREN GORDON COLIN KERRIGAN CHRIS MALO MEGAN MATUZAK staff LAUREN ARUTE, SOFIYA BALLIN, BRITTNEY BOWERS, CHRISTOPHER BROWN, NICK BRYDELS, CARY CARR, JACOB COLON, BEN DAVIDS, MATTHEW EMMERICH, CHRISTIE FRANCIS, ASHLEY HALL, SARAH HULL, RICK KAUFFMAN, KANDACE KOHR, ROSELLA LaFEVRE, ERIK LEXIE, KIM MAIALETTI, NIESHA MILLER, BRANDEE NICHOLS, CORY POPP, JOE POTERACKI, JANE SORENSON, KEVIN STAIRIKER contributors MICHAEL JAMES MURRAY, MIKE ONUFRAK, NIELA ORR, ELIZABETH PRICE, MARIEL WALOFF much love and thanks to A.D. AMOROSI, KYLE BAGENTOSE, BERNIE PRAZENICA, MARY BETH RAY, NIGEL RICHARDS, LIZ SCHILLER WE PRINT 10,000 FULL-COLOR ISSUES FOUR TIMES PER YEAR - IN MARCH, JUNE, SEPTEMBER AND NOVEMBER. WE DISTRIBUTE THEM FREE AT PHILLY MUSIC VENUES, STUDIOS, RESTAURANTS, RECORD SHOPS, BARS, CLOTHING BOUTIQUES, GYMS, BOOK STORES, COFFEE SHOPS, UNIVERSITIES, CLUBS AND OTHER PLACES WHERE MUSIC LOVERS HANG OUT. IF YOU WANT MAGAZINES AT YOUR LOCATION, LET US KNOW - JUMPPHILLY@GMAIL.COM JUMP is an independent magazine published by Mookieland Inc. The magazine was created by a bunch of passionate people with no money and no plans to get rich in publishing. This is a total break-even-at-best venture so please, please don't sue us. We welcome your input. If you want to get involved, if you have story ideas or if you just have something to say, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh ... and we need advertisers. Advertising money allows us to print this magazine and tell stories about the awesome people doing awesome stuff in Philly. By supporting JUMP, you are supporting the local music scene. Philly rocks. Spread the word.
From the Publisher
met my girlfriend at a funeral. At least that's the story we always tell people. She was a TV reporter. I was a newspaper photographer. We were covering the funeral of a 15-year old girl in the Northeast who had been killed by another teenager over a boy. We watched a parade of somber school girls walk down Torresdale Avenue and then enter a church for services. That was 15 years ago and I can still remember every moment after the mourners entered the church. The media stayed outside, which meant we had an hour or so to wait until mourners would be available again for questioning, shooting video and taking pictures. With that time, I went to work. I walked over to my now-girlfriend and wooed her so smoothly, she couldn't resist. I was suave, dashing even. At the top of my game. Actually, I think I stuttered, guffawed, said some really inane stuff and then started to lumber off, shoulders drooped in defeat. Her videographer had to grab me as I was walking away. "Ask her out, dude," he said. "She's great. Call her." Sadly, that's a true story.
hy bring up that old yarn? Well, the theme of this issue is "The Hook-up." We reached out to a world of folks and learned how they wound up together - romantically, work-wise or whatever. We learned a lot of great stuff, as you'll soon see as you read through the magazine. Some folks went to high school together before forming their bands. The band June Divided found their drummer on Craigslist. Rob and Sarah, the couple who make up the awesome band Reading Rainbow (and who grace our cover), met because Rob randomly played an open mic night with a childhood friend of Sarah's. The bizarre chain of events that brought these disparate individuals together, I think, is pretty amazing. So many things had to fall into place. If Rob hadn't taken that class and sort of befriended that dude - who also happened to be a musician, who knows if Rob and Sarah would have ever gotten together?
ne of the comments I kept hearing after our inaugural issue came out in March was, "My friend was in your magazine!" One of my baseball friends works with one of the guys who was on the cover. One of my former Temple University students posted the table of contents photo from that issue on her facebook page. Her sister was smack in the middle of the image. And she didn't even realize that her old professor was the mag publisher. Philly is a great place and, as you probably realize by now, it's wicked small. We are all connected in some way or another. You probably know someone who knows me, or someone who knows the name of my dog (Mookie, he's with my girlfriend in the picture above) but can't remember my name. Enjoy the issue. Tell your friends about it. Shoot ... you might see them in these pages. And if you see me out and about, say hey. - G.W. MILLER III
Photo by G.W. Miller III.
City Rain 6
arrett Zerrer (left) and Ben Runyan grew up together. Sort of. They went to the same middle school and then the same high school. But they never spoke. They both wound up at Temple University and they barely talked there, despite living on the same floor of a dorm during their freshman year. "I don't think we talked once," Zerrer says. "We were friends," Runyan offers. "But we weren't butt buddies like we are now." College came and went and both found themselves jobless. Ironically, they both broke up with girlfriends around that same time.
And that's when they found each other. Because of mutual friends, Zerrer and Runyan started hanging out, playing guitar together. In March 2010, they formed City Rain, a neo-New Wave, electropop band.
t their first show, at the Velvet Lounge in Washington DC, they got kicked out of the club. "The bartender girl was being rude to me all night," recalls Runyan, still with contempt in his voice. "So I called her out on it." Turned out her boyfriend was the bouncer - a huge bouncer, and he grabbed Runyan, wrapped
him in a headlock and threw him out of the bar. "We had already played," Runyan adds. "So it was OK."
he duo released a fulllength album last fall, Running Man LP, and they have created numrous remixes. They are constantly making new music - a new album is in the works and will probably be ready this summer. In the meantime, you'll find the guys playing around the region, usually topless, like they are above, in the vacant lot behind the North Star Bar. - G.W. MILLER III
Photo by Brittney Bowers.
The Jumpoff TWO OF A KIND:
Verbatum Jones (left) with mentor Aime.
Rapper & Mentor Sofiya Ballin hangs with a pair of young rappers who connected in Philly.
“Yo, it smells like shit!” Verbatum Jones’ face contorts until he points out a mound of manure fertilizer being used at a neighboring park. His attention shifts as the door opens behind him and he’s greeted by producer DCypher. “I’m at the point in my life when I can make bad decisions,” he explains. Jones walks into the apartment alongside friend Kayin Malcolm with self-assured uncertainty. Jones is laying the groundwork for the EP titled Verb and he’s eyeing a mid-summer release. “The songs need more mixing,” Jones says as the first track plays. “I came up with the sound of the EP yesterday.” All three heads begin to bob in unison. “You’re probably not going to like the shit I have,” DCypher says.
“No it’s cool,” Jones assures him. “I’m not trying to get locked in a sound too early.” His full name is Garry Dorsainvil. The moniker Verbatum Jones was born on a car ride to a concert with a friend. “I was rapping and she said I should should come up with a name,” he recalls. “So I threw out a few silly names. Then she said, ‘Verbatim.’ It sounded funny alone so I added Jones.” The spelling was due to the need to differentiate from a record company but also for ritualistic reasons. “As a rapper, there are a few things you have to do to be cool,” he states. “Use slang, be a little arrogant and misspell things.” Jones was raised in Cheltenham, in a religious household where hip hop was not allowed.
(cont. at the top of page 8)
Aime arrives a little late. The buzz surrounding his recently released video for the single “Who Can’t Rap?” has kept him busy, his hands glued to his phone. He’s been promoting his new mixtape Perfect Aime, making sure the hard copies are in on time, planning for his next video shoot, talking to prospective management, doing interviews, and recording with other artists. “I wasn’t always exposed to hip hop music,” he says. “I grew up in a Haitian family. My parents didn’t want me listening to rap music. They thought it was bad all about guns and girls.” Aime, whose full name is whose government name is Jean-David Aime, Jr., started rapping in the 6th grade for a D.A.R.E. project. “Everyone loved it,” he says. The real magic hit him when he was in the 10th grade. “My boy Marcus asked if I rapped,” Aime recalls. “I said,
‘Yeah, I used to do a little somethin’ somethin’.’ The next day I came back with the greatest rap I had ever written at that time. We began writing more songs together and created the group 2-Thorough. Our first official song was 'Heavyweights.' Joint was banging. It went hard.” The zealous duo started performing at all their high school talent shows and held freestyle cyphers in the hallway. Aime continued rapping when he came to Temple University. He performed at talent shows around campus. “I wasn’t sure I was good enough,” Aime says. But he had support from friends. Eventually, in 2009, Aime dropped his first mixtape, Class Act. His popularity began to escalate - on and off campus. He met Paul Beats and they worked on Aime’s next project, a February 2010 EP titled When It’s Cold Outside.
(cont. on the bottom of page 8)
(Verbatum Jones, continued from page 7) “I discovered hip hop really late,” Jones says. “Because of that, I’m always in the past and the present at the same time. The Black Album by Jay-Z was the first album I ever heard in its entirety.” “Not a bad album to start off with,” DCypher interjects. “It wasn’t until I was around 16 or 17-years old that I really began to embrace hip hop,” Jones says. “But I never felt I could do it. I was nerdy. I never cursed. And I had a big head.” When he was a freshman at Temple University, Jones would often walk by a group of people crowded around the bell tower freestyling. “I went at first to laugh at them,” he says. “I freestyled as a joke and my boy Mic Stewart said I had potential. So I went every Friday. I was so bad. It’s like they made a bad movie re-play every Friday.” Jones got better with each Friday and caught the attention of fellow rapper Aime. Jones credits him with being the first person to help him write rhymes, explain the concept of writing bars and teach that fewer words is more. “Working with him was really cool because he was doing all the hard work,” Jones says. “Now, I understand stage presence and connecting with the audience. He was young too and he took me under his wing. He didn’t have to do that. He’s an awesome dude and so funny too. Oh! Aime records barefoot add that and embarrass him.” Like Aime, Jones’ parents are Haitian immigrants who instilled in him the importance of education, family, and religion. “My music is very personal and very honest,” he says. “Is that cheesy? I’m not preaching. I’m reflective about things in my life. Hopefully it brings self-awareness to others.”
(Aime, continued from page 7) His music touches on a broad range of topics, from gentrification to the regrets of cheating on an ex-girlfriend. “You gotta be real with yourself,” he says gazing down. While music was a full-time career – recording and performing almost daily, he was also a fulltime student. He graduated with a 3.7 GPA and a rap career. At that point people began to look up to him, and he quickly became a mentor, especially to another Temple student/ rapper, Verbatum Jones. “I saw Verbatum perform at a spoken word event,” Aime says. “He was quirky, nerdy, funny. And the girls loved him.” Jones would write stuff and get Aime’s opinion. The two share an appreciation for lyrics that aren’t overly crude or misogynistic. “I don’t walk up to a girl and smack her on the butt so why would I rap like that?” he asks. His ideology stems from his favorite artist. “Lupe Fiasco,” he states. “Hands down. Period. Lyrically he’s thorough, in-depth, creative and really good with word play and punch lines.” He’s ready to do a full album, maybe even join a label. “But I want to create my own buzz before I do anything of that nature,” he says.
The JUMP Off MERCURY RADIO THEATER New album, Kilroy, drops this summer. www.mercuryradiotheater.com
Photo of Mercury Radio Theater by G.W. Miller III. Photo of Turning violet Violet courtesy of Turning violet Violet.
Since the advent of rock music, instrumental rock bands have thrived in a multitude of ways. Not being restricted to sacrificing parts to the whims of vocals melodies, bands as diverse as Dick Dale and His Del-Tones and Mogwai have been critically lauded for making incredible music without any vocals. This is where Mercury Radio Theater come in, ready to blast away any pre-conceived notions music fans may have about instrumental music. “I believe that instrumental bands are not viewed the same as bands with lead vocals or lyrics,” explains Joe Getz, Mercury Radio Theater's drummer. “I really think it boils down to people who have an appreciation for music and can be open to new experiences.” Bass player Jason Todd thinks some instrumental bands get ignored because, well, they’re boring. “We strive for catchy and wellwritten,” he says. “I think we're accessible, but what do I know?”
Mercury Radio Theater rarely sticks to a singular genre from song-to-song, seemingly preferring to go wherever the music takes them. Although one song may remind a listener of the ferocity of Superchunk, another might bring to mind the technical weirdness of Cap'n Jazz. Sometimes, like in the case of “The Very Merry Unbirthday Song,” three or four genres get mixed in the pot and what comes out is entirely different than what you were expecting. When it comes to the live show, MRT is also different than most bands in that they perform with images and video splashed on large screen, with narration throughout some of the songs. “We like the audience to be immersed in the experience of the performance,” says lead guitarist Buddy Mercury, “like the way a gentle lover will lay down rose pedals and massage nubile young flesh with scented oils while soft music lulls them into a sense of security before we hit them over the head with a
croquet mallet. Only it’s musical.” Like most bands, MRT is feeling the hit of an economy that doesn't exactly welcome people looking to make bank off of the creative arts. “We all have day jobs as we have experienced the difficulties of being in a band full time,” Getz says. “We enjoy very much the process of creating and performing these compositions and just having fun with it.” Sticking your neck out to be in
a band at all these days is just ballsy. Try being an instrumental, three-piece band whose bassist swears their upcoming album is about “the story of a geriatric werewolf veteran who terrorizes a small town.” That new album, entitled Kilroy, drops this summer. The band will be playing all over town in support of the effort.
Hundred at Johnny Brenda’s on June 11th, where they will be releasing two digital singles off of their upcoming full-length. When it comes to what sets her band apart from every other struggling band the world over, Sarah isn’t really bogged down by the sometimes terrifying thought of what makes a band original and worth seeking out. “I think that at the end of the
day, you need to make music that you believe in and not worry about how different or original you are,” acknowledges Sarah. “We might add some Willy Wonka audio clips or sparkly outfits to our live show to ramp up the originality but we hope the music speaks for itself.“
- KEVIN STAIRIKER
TURNING vIOLET VIOLET Two new singles in June, with an album pending. www.turningvioletviolet.com Sarah Gulish is really, really excited about her band Turning violet Violet, and she has every right to be. With two new singles dropping in June and an EP under their belts, T.v.V. is only just beginning to fashion a place for themselves in Philadelphia and beyond. “The first seeds of the band were planted when I met Brandon Gulish when I was a freshman at Temple,” Sarah explains. “We didn't decide to start T.v.V. as our own project until after we were married and had taken a little break from playing together.” One by one, other members were settled into place. Not long after they officially formed in 2009, they began to record their first EP Fierce Remains. The songs on that EP, as described by Sarah herself, are a combination of all of the different musical backgrounds that the group is versed in, largely “punk, classical, straight rock and roll, and funk.” They blend standard rock band jumpphilly.com
instruments with classical strings, piano and banjo. Someone looking for a quick and easy genre classification might classify Turning violet Violet as “chamber pop” but that would just be lazy. The songs on Fierce Remains brim with an earnest sense of urgency. And yet none of them seem to be racing to a rushed finish. As for touring, T.v.V. has the same aspirations as most other bands. But they are smart enough to realize that first, a band must build up a sizable enough hometown following. And in a city like Philadelphia, where it seems like new bands sprout from in between cracks in the sidewalk everyday, it can be a rough task. “We are playing a few out of state dates in the early summer,” begins Sarah. “But in a lot of ways, we are still just finding our niche in the Philly scene and making connections.” Speaking of connections, Turning violet Violet will be cohosting a release party with East
- KEVIN STAIRIKER
Photo by Brandee Nichols.
GANG was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia, just two kids, Jaclyn McGraw and Amanda Damron, singing along to Britney Spears and dancing to N’Sync. They were kind of obsessed with the pop music and the elaborate moves. “Oh my God!” Damron screams, remembering when she and McGraw saw N’Sync in concert. “J.C. Chasez threw his shirt to you and that big fat fucker tore it out of our hands.” “We wrestled that guy for like 10 minutes,” McGraw chips in. They knew they wanted to start a band but they went to college first. One night after college, Damron hung out at McGraw’s Manayunk apartment and they started singing about random stuff. They found some rat poison under the sink and sang about that. That spawned their first song, an electro-hip hop dance tune, called "Rat Poison," which in turn officially launched GANG. McGraw’s sister Nicole was brought in to
create the song’s video, which featured choreographed boy band dance moves and a world of attitude. Nicole stayed on to play bass in the band. Her husband, Tim Sonnefeld, is the drummer. They signed on with local label Hot Dog City Records after someone at the label picked up one of GANG’s hand-made cassette tapes. Since then, the band has played with Lil’ Kim, Peaches, the B-52s, The Dead Milkmen and countless other acts. Their style has been described as dance, indie, electro-punk, artpunk, opera and rap. “I don’t call myself a rapper,” says Jaclyn McGraw. She describes the group as being more in the tradition the Beastie Boys or Le Tigre. “We have so many different inspirations,” says Sonnefeld. “We experiment with whatever we are listening to at the time.” Damron, who writes most of the lyrics, says she discovered punk five years ago and continues to learn about music. And she also
likes to burst into glass-shattering, highpitched, operatic style in mid-song. GANG is slowly working on a full-length album. They say April 2012 is their release date but that’s really just throwing a date out there so that people won’t expect anything anytime soon. “Our process takes a really long time, Damron says. “We won’t release anything until we’re all really into it. And we’re all really different.” In the meantime, they’re performing frequently, including at a June 16th show at the TLA, opening for Marina & the Diamonds. Their shows are high performance art mixed with danceable grooves and sassy lyrics. Damron tends to wear sequins or anything that draws attention to her. “I wish I could play a band set every night of my life,” she says. “I don’t enjoy anything more in my life than performing with GANG. I’m obsessed with GANG.” - G.W. MILLER III
PERFORMANCE ART: (L to R) Jaclyn McGraw, Amanda Damron, Tim Sonnefeld and Nicole McGraw at The Fire, where GANG played their first live show, back in 2006.
Photo by Ryan Treitel.
Photo by Ben Davids.
Christopher Brown asked Aleks Martray, frontman for Grandchildren (top), to list his musical influences.
Interstate 95 For years I was in constant commute between DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Moving across a landscape has and inspirational effect on the creative process. So does traffic.
Terry Gilliam films The combination of production design, artistry and music always creates a world greater than the sum of its parts. That’s always my goal - to use craft to create a transportive experience and seamless reality that transcends instruments and lyrics.
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 Opened the doors to orchestral music for me.
Django Reinhart Showed how a gypsy with three fingers could reinvent an instrument.
Charlie Chaplin The man invented modern comedy, political satire and persona. He also scored and conducted most of his own soundtracks. A true visionary.
Philadelphia garbage Many of Grandchildren’s beats are comprised of audio samples of broken glass, old rakes and tools and other relics of the alleyway behind Danger Danger.
Danger Danger For more than two years, I lived in a house in West Philly called Danger Danger where we recorded, practiced and hosted shows for hundreds of bands from all over the world. It was a golden age of sorts, unlike any other time in my life. This is where Grandchildren took form.
Radiohead’s Ok Computer For me it was the end of genres as a thing of confinement. It blew the whole concept of “alternative” out of the water and symbolized a movement toward a new frontier. They may not have invented that modern blend of electronica and rock but they definitely popularized it and opened the doors to kids like me to expand their musical consciousness.
Here they are:
Dropping Soon: The Fleeting Ends Matt Vantine and Matt Amadio were just kids back in 1999 when Vantine moved into Amadio’s Upper Darby neighborhood. Vantine’s mother had been in a folk group, Just Us, so she started teaching him how to play guitar. Amadio wanted to play as well. He taught himself how to play guitar, with Vantine’s assistance. “Matt was kind of intimidating to me back then,” Amadio says with a laugh. One day, they listened to the Beatles’ Abbey Road and decided they had to make music. “I’ve always wanted to be in a band,” Vantine says. “Then Matt bought a drum set and wanted to be in it as well.” They practiced in the basement, playing songs from the Beatles and The White Stripes. Then, in 2004, they began playing original music together in bands. It wasn’t until 2009, when they teamed up with former Raccoon Fighter bass player Rusty Langley, that everything started to click.
The Fleeting Ends were born. “I was in an art class and I thought it sounded Smith-sy, flamboyant even,” Vantine says of the band’s moniker. “And it felt like just about everything else was taken.” They began recording with Tommy Joyner from Milkboy Records. Their first EP, Goldmine in the Gutter, dropped on Valentine’s Day 2010. They spent much of this past winter working on their second EP, which should be released soon. Their inﬂuences range from the Rolling Stones to The Clash. Their pop rock music has been played on local radio stations and they’ve appeared live on local television. As they continue to reach and surpass goals, they remain comfortable here - they now live in Fishtown. “We want to stay in Philadelphia," says Vantine. “I would feel overwhelmed by the competition in Brooklyn.” - NICK BRYDELS
Michael Jackson His songs take me back to my childhood when music was a purely visceral impulse, before I over-thought things. I think a lot of my sound comes from what happens when a guy with a laptop strives for King of Pop production quality: “Epic Lo-fi.”
Latin America and the Caribbean My time spent in Nicaragua and Cuba in particular opened my mind to the role music plays in a culture.
The Jumpoff THE SHAKEDOWN Philly's own Josh Wink (right) travels the world to spin at parties. But he holds his annual birthday bash here in town with DJ friends Will "Willyum" Putney (left) and Rob Paine. Willyum and Wink know each other from their days at WKDU. Paine got to know Wink at DJ Nigel Richards' old DJ Mecca, 611 Records, in the mid '90s. www.joshwink.com www.worshiprecs.com
Connected THE ARTS GARAGE
TOIL RECORDS C.M. Carroll (bottom, in the hat) runs Toil Records and hosts an Internet-based radio show, Toil Rock Radio. On this night, he broadcast live from the Hard Rock Cafe. Among others, he's joined by Tom Theurer of the band SezHU, co-host Ben Cook and Shan Egan, lead singer for Funk Church (and the son of Chubby Checker). www.toilrecords.us
Ola Solanke (bottom right, with his daughter Mofe and his staff) left a career in risk management to open The Arts Garage in 2002. The idea was to use the arts to help revitalize the neighborhood. It took nearly seven years to be fully operational because of city beauracracy. The Arts Garage now runs more than 40 events per month, from Nigerian-style birthday parties to hip hop nights. www.theartsgarage.com
Photo by G.W. Miller III.
Photo by Megan Matuzak.
John Oates is not the guy with the mustache John Oates was backstage at the Adelphi Ballroom in West Philadelphia when a gang fight broke out. He ran out the back to the service elevator and wound up running into Daryl Hall. The two met, began working together and embarked on a relationship that has lasted 40 years. While he’s since left the city, Oates says his roots are here. “The core of our music, if you really analyze it, is Philadelphia,” he affirms. “It has to do with the Philadelphia folk tradition and the gospel and R&B traditions that come from this city.” Hall & Oates has sold more than 60 million albums. They crafted eight #1 singles. And they became icons – of the ‘80s, for better or worse. “Something happened to me in the 90s,” Oates says. “I was no longer that guy with the mustache. I didn’t want to be him. I had to move on.” Oates, who still tours with Hall, recently released an indie album, Mississippi Mile, that harkens back to his folk influences. - G.W. MILLER III
Lost in Company lead singer Christopher Johnson comfortably slouches in his spot on a brokenin semi-circle couch, examining and smiling at the rest of the members of the band gathered around him. Changito, better known as drummer Luis Santos, cracks a joke about his beginnings in Texas. Bassist Benjamin Contios, originally hailing from Massachusetts, admits to a more nomadic life, dictated by whereever music takes him. Guitarists Ryan Reese and Paul McCoy were long time friends of Johnson. But it wasn’t until the members made connections in Philly in 2009 that Lost in Company emerged. “The five of us coming together doesn’t really make any sense,” Johnson says with a laugh. Their song “Entertain,” which is about searching for the answers to keep a girl to stick around, begins with bluesy guitar lead-in to Johnson’s vocals. Like most of Lost in Company’s music, the
bass and guitar riffs converge to create the funk, jam, pop and rock fusion that distinguishes the band. Even Johnson can’t easily describe their sound. “The things that John Mayer tried to do with pop and the blues, what Maroon 5 tried to do with pop and with Stevie Wonders range of vocal ability,” Johnson explains. “It’s also dance music. And we have a some guitar going on in there like Lenny Kravitz.” Lost in Company’s self-titled EP was released in 2009. It was recorded in Port Richmond at Cedar Street Studios, which is where they are currently working on their first full length album. Where the EP was the brainchild of Johnson, the new material is going through a more collaborative process that is both exciting and nerve wrecking, according to McCoy. “We almost called ourselves ‘The Overly Diplomatic Blues Band,'” he says. during the recording sessions.” - MEGAN MATUZAK
Photo by Mariel Waloff.
In the Studio: Lost in Company
Meet 11-year old jazz drummer Nazir Ebo After getting over the initial shock that Nazir Ebo is eleven-years old, you might then be able to appreciate his music for its own sake. He is a passionate and deliberate drummer. But it's hard to get over the immediate disbelief that someone so young is able to produce a sound that requires such maturity. Nazir comes by it honestly: his brother is renowned jazz drummer Justin Faulkner, 20. "I used to listen to my brother perform at the Kimmel Center and I'd memorize some of the songs," says Nazir, who was 3 when he tapped his first beat. "Afterward I'd go home and play the songs I remembered on his drums. My mom got really hype." These days, Nazir is busy practicing at the Philadelphia Clef Club, performing with the Nazir Ebo Quartet (of which he is the youngest member by at least seven years) and doing homework. Learn more online at jumpphilly.com. - MARIEL WALOFF jumpphilly.com
Photo by Lauren Gordon.
Band of Brothers: This Temper In a dimly-lit skate park, deep within a sea of teenagers in eyeliner, an unlikely pair of musicians takes the stage. “And now for something completely different,” promises drummer Nick Mehalick, 26. He and his 18-year old brother, guitar prodigy Mike Mehalick, comprise the rock duo This Temper. Mike, a self-taught guitarist, begins wailing on stage. Nick beats the drum wildly with one hand and simultaneously strokes the keys of “Cynthia the Synthesizer” with the other, all the while belting out poetic, free-verse lyrics. “Our uncle really got us into music,” Nick recalls after the
show. “I have been in bands my whole life.” Mike, who is all smiles all the time, notes, “I've grown up listening to Nick play. Us starting a band was bound to happen.” In a renovated van, Nick and Mike take their talents on the road, booking venues across the country. Their music blends heavy shreds and pleading vocal to create a rousing sound and killer live show. This band of brothers is more than just your typical garage band. Nick is also a high school English teacher in the Philadelphia School District. Mike, though currently in high school, is a talented artist. - LAUREN GORDON
Photo courtesy of Dave Patten.
The Jumpoff WORLDS APART? The new musical team of Meek Mill (left) and Dave Patten.
The Cut Creator
Niesha Miller sits down with Dave Patten, the genre-hopping filmmaker, singer, songwriter and all-around talent.
Dave Patten is taking a break from cutting the video for his new single, “Melt.” The performer, producer and film director sits in a corner of Mugshots CoffeeHouse & Café in Fairmount, practically screaming to be heard over the espresso machines, afternoon conversations and '90s rock music blaring from the café’s speakers. Appearing as handsome and charismatic in person as he does in his videos, the musician wears faded blue jeans and a navy blue and white striped shirt that hangs off his slender frame with a perfectly styled faux-hawk and intense hazel eyes. “I like to make stuff and create stuff,” says Patten, 23. “That’s what I like to do. If I didn’t have anything to do, it would probably drive me nuts.” He writes and performs his own music, then crafts his own cinematic music videos. He’s garnered more than one million views on YouTube and his videos sparked an unlikely relationship with Philly rapper Meek Mill. The two have collaborated on several songs over the past year. “We come from completely different worlds, but we both have the exact same taste and feel in music,” Patten says. “That’s why we like working together.”
Patten formed South9 Entertainment, a Philly-based production company specializing in music video and film production, during his senior year at Temple University. He met Mill while shooting a video for hip-hop group Paper Department. Mill and Gillie Da Kid were just hanging out on set. Mill saw the video after Patten completed it and he liked Patten’s work. “So then we linked up and I started shooting his videos,” Patten says. It was a few months later that the two began collaborating on music together. Patten felt more comfortable forming the partnership as they became better acquainted. Once Patten and Meek agree on a beat and song, the two separate and work in their own elements. Patten sits at his piano and shuts the world out of his Fairmount apartment, with locked doors and closed shutters. Meek records in a studio with an abundance of people around. Patten and Meek then get together to merge their styles and personalities, forming a sound that combines hip hop, R&B, pop and soul. Patten started his music career playing in a slew of classic-rock bands in high school in Havertown, Pennsylvania. After a short stint at Penn State University, he transferred to Temple where he majored in film. “I didn’t want to go to college for music because I didn’t want to ruin it,” Patten says. When Patten wasn’t in class, he was either recording new tracks in the studio or shooting
music videos. He describes his music as a combination of John Mayer, Jason Mraz and elements of hip hop. “I don’t like using the word hip hop when describing my music because people automatically think I’m like some white rapper or some variation of that,” he says. He’s performed at World Live Café and The Arts Garage, and has appeared on NBC’s The 10! Show and Radio 104.5. His solo career and the growth of his production company are Patten’s dual obligations. Though he considers himself a musician first, he can’t see himself without a career in film. “I have to have both,” he says. “When I get stuck in a rut with music I have film that I can go to. If I can’t write songs for some reason, I can edit some music videos.” Patten’s production house is responsible for Meek Mill’s videos “Where They Do That At,” featuring Young Chris, and “Believe Me.” His most celebrated and intense short film/ music video combo, "Inside," won second place at the 2010 Williamsburg International Film Festival. The majority of the videos Patten has produced are filmed in Philly. “It’s all about finding the cool little spots and making them work,” he says. “When I walk up here, I see all the trees are blooming, I think that that’ll be a good scene to have something romantic, like, walking down the street with a girl, you know. Do something like that.” His work has appeared on VH1 and Mtv, where he currently has a licensing deal. “The end goal for me,” Patten states, “is to have my music heard by everyone.” jumpphilly.com
Photo by Brandee Nichols.
Inside The Mag
Creepoid: Like a Family Brandee Nichols sits by the fire with the barely clothed indie rockers.
There isn’t a cloud in the sky on this sunny afternoon on quiet DuPont Street in Manayunk. Anna Troxell, the bassist and singer for Creepoid, sits on the front steps of her row home. Her husband, Pat Troxell – Creepoid’s drummer - steps outside after placing a My Bloody Valentine vinyl on his record player. He sits down and puts one leg over the other. “Your shoe still says $7.99 on the bottom,” Anna states. Pat just laughs in response. The remainder of the band - guitarist Peter Joseph Urban IV and guitarist, singer Sean Miller - stand nearby in their casual, thriftstore clothing, harassing the Troxell’s pit bull, Genny (short for Genesis) by making fun of her nipples. The four-piece, indie, psychedelic, folk rock sensation that is Creepoid has received plenty of love from the local music press. Their four song EP, Yellow Life Giver, and full-length album, Horse Heaven, released in January, has garnered them attention across the country as well. While nearly impossible to pinpoint a distinct comparison, Creepoid’s music has a way of catching your attention and drawing you in jumpphilly.com
much like a car crash but in a good way. Pat, Urban and Miller have known each other since they all attended Upper Moreland High School. Pat met Anna, who grew up in Northeast Philly, at the Audience of One show at the Killtime, the legendary but now defunct DIY venue in West Philly. They became friends. It wasn’t until years later that they realized that they should be together. “It’s funny because Pat never thought that we would be married,” says Anna. Urban convinces everyone to relocate from the steps to the living room because he’s cold. The Troxell’s living room is cluttered with records. Trouble, their large black cat, wanders into the room and strolls past Genny. “They’re in cahoots,” Pat says. “They fuck shit up together. They cuddle and shit.” Anna adds, “They steal treats together.” The Troxells moved into their home nearly two years ago. There was a brutal snowstorm their first winter there. Creepoid was conceived during that storm. “Sean came down to party and he got snowed in and was stuck here all weekend,” says Pat. “Sean and I recorded the original songs that he had already written. We recorded them together on a reel-to-reel tape machine. After we played it back we went upstairs and were like ‘Anna, come downstairs. We want you to
sing on this.’” That EP sparked a series of live performances. “I didn’t think we were going to be playing shows,” Anna says. “Then it quickly became more than just a project.” “It lets us do the chaotic thing that we have to live with,” Pat says. “We can do that shit, and explode, and just like lose our fucking minds.” Creepoid went into the process of creating their full-length album with every intention of completing it themselves. After recording seven or eight drum tracks, producer Kyle “Slick” Johnson reached out to them. With Johnson, they completed Horse Heaven, an 11-track album that dropped on January 11, 2011 (get it - 1/11/11?). “We would work our day jobs, get done at five or six, and go there every day and be there as late as we could, until we’re all sleeping on the floor and shit,” Pat says. Anna decides that it’s time to check on the guys, who are working on the fire in the backyard pit. She makes the short trek from the house to where the boys are fooling around in front of the flames. The close-knit group of friends stands together with the bright heat in front of them. Then they take their clothes off. Like a dysfunctional family.
Photo by Julia Hoff.
Inside Voices SERIOUS BUSINESS: Ryan Moys at The Studio.
Our musician/ writer's quest for quality ends at
A Real Studio
hroughout my life, I have been on a and I let them hear the latest basement mission to find a way to record my project. music without breaking the bank. I “It sounds great,” my uncle said, “but when started with a Tascam 4-track Portastudio are you going to get into a real studio?” and continued on until the birth of the MBox I never thought about that before. A real and the modern-day home studio. studio? Do real studios even exist anymore? Since the beginning of my obsession with recording onhe day I got back from the the-cheap, I’ve also learned a trip, I decided to check out great deal about microphones, studios in the area and see if microphone placement, recording I could be totally convinced about software, audio editing and plugspending more money than I could ins. afford. The first, and only studio But I have never really been able I visited was Larry Gold’s on 7th to achieve a sound I could stand street. While trying to figure out if I proudly behind. was at the right building, I ran into Jeremy Grenhart who assured me After I realized all of my efforts Mike Onufrak I was in the right place and led me were only going to help me make a demo - which in today’s world, has absolutely to the elevator. I asked him what he did at the no value - I decided it was time to seek out studio. some better options. “I play keys,” he said. “A little bass too.” One day, a friend offered to let me record Cool. Then I asked what was his most in his basement studio for a good price. I recent project. was cautious but once he told me about all “Just finishing up a few tracks on the Roots’ the gear - a 60’s Fender Bassman, Neumann new record,” he said. mics, tons of digital plug-ins, some nice preCool. I kept walking, following Jeremy. amps and an actual mixing console - I figured Once we reached the third floor, I found it was worth a shot. myself facing a wall covered with gold and After spending a few months working on platinum records. I tried not to look too some of my songs, I finished two or three enamored but I couldn’t hide it as 8-foot tall and was happy enough to post them online session musicians stepped over me to get to and e-mail them out to people who I thought the coffee pot. might be able to help me. Then I was greeted by Ryan Moys, one of With these recordings I was easily able to the studio’s engineers. He showed me around form a band and get gigs around town. and told me about all the top-notch gear he But whenever I tried to compare the had the privilege of working with. I nodded production quality to anything I grew up at most of the names he rattled off and when listening to, it always fell short. he got to items he was particularly impressed with, I would mirror his excitement by saying spent the next year chasing that professional something that would convince him I knew sound in a budget environment, hoping I what the hell he was talking about. It was time could capture something to sonically rival to book a session. the best recordings of the '90s and early I took my entire tax return and met Ryan 2000s. It never happened. there a few weeks later to put down basic Everything that resulted from this period tracks on two songs that I wanted to turn into proved to be nothing more than a great demo. quality recordings. While visiting family in Florida, some of my Surprisingly, set-up was no big deal and relatives asked to hear my new recordings most of the stuff we needed for the session
was already in place. After pressing a few takes of bass and drums to my 2” tape reel, it was time to head to the control room and give a listen. What happened next blew me away. Yeah, it sounded incredible but that’s not what convinced me I was in the right place and working with the right people. I saw a notepad next to Ryan’s workspace and was amazed at what I read: a full page of notes describing keeper and throw-away takes and random critiques about the session. It felt good to be working in such a high-end studio and be given this kind of respect.
e moved smoothly and efficiently from instrument to instrument at a rate of productivity that I never thought achievable. After finishing up the last guitar part of the day, I went in for another listen and realized why he had been taking notes. Ryan was comping (taking the best pieces of certain takes and combining them to make one solid take) in Pro Tools without any instruction to do so. This session was the first time in my life that I had ever actually finished exactly what I had set out to without compromising the integrity of any part, important or not. After writing the check, I realized that the amount of money I spent that day was equal to two ten-hour sessions in less-expensive studios. I thought about that for a second and was full of regret - not for spending my entire tax return, but for all of the time I wasted worrying about my budget.
ere all the basement recordings a waste of time? Maybe the countless hours of working with less-than-professional grade gear got me to the level I needed to be at in order to work as efficiently as possible in a real studio. One thing was clear after leaving the studio that day: I had begun a recording that I could be confident in. jumpphilly.com
Photo courtesy of Brendan Mulvihill.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED: The view from the bus, en route to the Tuvan nomads' village.
Drinking Vodka with Nomads W
e woke up early, set out early. A long bus ride out into the steppe, deep in the heart of the Republic of Tuva, in Russia. We were to meet nomads. Ahead of us were very tall mountains, snow on grass and maybe a hill or two to climb. The mountains on the horizon were our guide. The bus was filled with people: four American visitors, one newly arrived Nigerian student and about twenty local students. We had already started to drink cheap local beer out of two-liter plastic bottles. The boys in the back had started to sing. The professors in the front shook their heads, probably thinking fondly of their Keith youth or something.
e started in Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva, and headed toward the mountains. A few hours into our journey, we pulled over to the side of the road. Most of us were mildly drunk. Two horses approached with riders on them. Then two cars pulled up. The riders got off and the drivers got out. They all walked over to our hosts and had a conversation in Tuvan. One of the riders was a girl and she said we were to follow them. We all got back on the bus. The horses rode off and we followed them off-road. Russian buses are different than any other buses I've been on. The new ones look the same as the 30Birthday year old ones. They are compact and ugly with giant tires and noisy ake a map of Asia and find the transmissions. They are shaped roughly like a geographical center. According to the breadbox. They grind and yawn and shudder. natives, this is where you’ll find Tuva. They are the color of dusty dried white glue. The southern part of Russia, technically They always have curtains inside and I think Siberia, on the border with Mongolia. Most the driver chooses his curtain fabric. I always of the buildings looked Russian. All of the found that funny considering the masculinity people looked central Asian. most Russian men tried to put forth. For some I had been in Russia for about seven reason, I had decided that the men were months at this point. This bus ride fell under 'inefficient' and 'unreliable' but then I learned the guise of working for Tomsk University and that I was being ignorant and a little bit stupid. 'spreading goodwill' on behalf of the Fulbright program, of which I was a participant. e followed the horseback riders But it was mostly because I had recently through giant mud puddles, brush emerged from a period of serious, purposeful and other obstacles. Sometimes solitude. Being around fellow Americans the bus would get stuck on a muddy hill. stationed in various Siberian cities felt good. I Sometimes one of the cars would get stuck. had felt pretty awful for months already. The horses never got stuck and I thought that Also Tuva is where throat singing is from. was ironic. When something got stuck, the
drivers would all get out and discuss how to solve the problem. At this time, we passengers would be permitted to exit the bus and walk about. More than once, this was conveniently next to some post-Soviet ruin, whether a factory or processing plant or who knows what. On the ground you could see things like sun-bleached cow skulls and bones. I gathered some flowers and pressed them in my book. “What do you think this was?” someone invariably asked. “I don't know, maybe a factory or something,” was the general response. At every stop, it was the same: “It's weird how only the stone walls remain.” “Is it not cool for me to pee on this?” “Oh wow, look at this bug I found.” At one point, the bus got stuck for good, in spite of all of our best pushing, and we had to walk the rest of the way to the camp. It wasn’t far. The nomads met us halfway. All of the nomads were younger than twenty-two. They walked us back to the camp, eyeing us. They had never seen ‘real Americans' before. They had also never seen a ‘real black person’ before.
e were given a tour when we got to the camp, and they placed us in a simple, semi-permanent house, made of found wood, with a wood-burning stove inside. They gave us milky, salty tea to drink. Outside, there were about one hundred sheep and goats in a pen. These boys were shepherds. (cont. on the bottom of page 18)
Joe Annaruma, formerly known as Joey Slutman, watched the evolution of punk and the rise of hardcore from the center of the mosh pit, and also from the stage. He played shows alongside Minor Threat, sang in costume for GWAR and continues to perform with his current band, Man is Doomed. Elizabeth Price talks to Annaruma, a recent graduate from Temple University's history program.
How long were you with GWAR before you started on another project?
Where are you from? Where were you born?
When I first got here in the mid-'80s there were some great bands, a great scene. I was just dying. There were bands like Ruin and Homo Picnic, Pagan Babies. It just goes on and on, so many great bands. Then things got kinda weird. I was in a band called Throttle. We were kinda strange.
When was I born? Wow, you go right for the jugular. Well, I was born a long time ago. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I left when I was 17. I joined the Navy. I was stationed in Virginia. That's where I got hooked up with music. My first band was in 1980, Judicial Fear. We bought guitars for $50 in pawn shops. Six month later we were opening up for Minor Threat, DOA, Nina Hagen Band, all the old punk bands. What were you listening to when you were growing up? My mother was listening to old Motown. She was listening to stuff like Spiral Staircase, the Turtles, Mamas and the Papas - all that '60's stuff. My dad, he was like the polar opposite. He was listening to like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, all the big band acts. He also liked people no one has ever heard of, like Sergio Franchi. He's Italian, my dad. The biggest influence on me was in my neighborhood we're talking about the '60s now, when I was a little kid 6, 7, 8-years old. All the hippies out there, blasting away Jefferson Airplane. I never liked the Grateful Dead. I still don't. How did you get into punk music? As I got older - into junior high, high school - I totally got into Black Sabbath. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. That album really changed me. That and Deep Purple's Burn. Other people turned me on to Patti Smith. The Ramones came out. I started off listening to heavy music. Then punk rock started happening. (Vodka with Nomads, continued from page 19) One thing I noticed during our visit is Russia still contains millions of square miles of untouched land. So much, that the government allows the shepherds free use of the land they graze. Or at least that’s what I was told. This made sense to me. The shepherds selected the goat that we were to kill and eat. Some of the men in the cars that had tagged along were already very drunk. They wanted to show off. They showed us how you kill a goat the Tuvan way: slit in
Photo courtesy of Joe Annaruma.
I was with them for maybe 16 months. Most of that time was building costumes, writing songs. I played like three shows with them and then we did a house party with no costumes. Then I met a girl down there and she wanted to move to Philly. I chose her over the band. How was adjusting to Philadelphia? How did it compare to playing music in other places?
Any good tour stories? In New Jersey, I forget the club, it had to be 1991 or '92. My band, Throttle, was with Murphy's Law and some other hardcore bands. There was this metal band from Brooklyn, called Marauder. They were an all-Puerto Rican metal band. The singer was nuts. I was in the pit and he had a big-ass taser. He started tasing dudes in the ass. Next thing I knew, there was a major brawl going on. In all directions, people were beating the shit out of each other. There had to be 100 skinheads wailing. I actually got splashed with someone's blood. Someone, I don't know who. I was laughing, because that's what I do when I am in those situations. How do you feel about the hardcore scene of the 1980s being canonized now? I feel like I was a lucky person to be at that point, right there where it started. I was living in Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia. D.C. was burgeoning - Iron Cross, Double O, Minor Threat. Black Flag would come to town all of the time. Then you had the New York scene - Agnostic Front, Cause For Alarm. Just so many bands, that would all come through Norfolk and Richmond. As far as them all being canonized now? They all should. They started something huge. They really did. the chest, stick your hand in, pull the aorta off the heart. The goat frothed at the mouth but that was basically it. They said the blood stays inside because it is sacred/you should eat it. We ate boiled goat and sat around the campfire playing songs. At some point one of the drunk men came up and tried to put the Nigerian on a horse. Both of them ended up falling over into a pile of horse dung. Some of the students were professional throat singers. We had consumed vodka with dinner and were all drunk. So, we started to sing together
NOT JOE COOL: Joe Annaruma (top), and the 2004 GWAR album featuring demos with Annaruma from 1986. Any upcoming plans for Man is Doomed? We're going to be doing more recording. It'll be out, hopefully, within the year. It could be two months from now. Or it could be a year from now. It's a factor of time: we're all doing so many different things. I'm only playing because I enjoy playing still. I'm not trying to get signed. I'm not trying to be big. I'm just doing it for me. Man is Doomed plays for Man is Doomed. That's what we always say. It's better to be in a band with your best friends than to have some worthless hipster say you're cool. Because we're not cool. And we'll never be cool. Thanks for you time Joe. I wish I could have done better. It's pretty lame, wasn't it? - me in my poorly imitated Tuvan throat singing voice. They asked me to play a song and handed me a guitar. I sang “Runaway” by Del Shannon and they sang along. Everybody clapped. The shepherds laughed and made fun of the high notes. Maybe you could say two worlds collided and stuck together for a moment. I think it was more personal than that. EDITOR'S NOTE: Keith Birthday is the pen name of Brendan Mulvihill, founding member of the OX and part of Norwegian Arms. jumpphilly.com
Photo by Sarah Hull.
Payback Time Joe Hardcore is making up for years of being an asshole, as Lauren Arute learns.
Joe Mckay’s mother took him to see Metallica when he was 7-years old. That, in combination with copious amounts of watching Mtv’s Headbangers Ball with his cousins, led to Mckay’s interest in music that went beyond the mainstream. And his mother booked hardcore shows. “It was thrust upon me,” he says. “The people who I was interested in were people who weren’t normal, everyday people. They were people who were listening to music that no one else listened to.” Mckay booked his first hardcore show in Philadelphia when he was only 15-years old. Now 30, Mckay, known as Joe Hardcore, still books shows, including the annual multiple-day hardcore fest, This is Hardcore. This year’s event is a four-day spectacle starting on August 11. He was taught to resolve his problems with other children by fighting. His mother would drag him by the shirt to the parents of boys he had issues with. “Your son has a problem with my son,” he jumpphilly.com
recalls his mother telling the other kid’s parents. “Let them fight and settle it.” While growing up in rough and tumble Frankford, Mckay’s mother encouraged him to go to hardcore shows to keep him out of trouble. The first hardcore band Mckay saw was Sheer Terror. He was 13. And he quickly discovered that shows were a breeding ground for violence. “It scared the hell out of me,” Mckay says. “It was street-level violence in a show atmosphere, something I’d never experienced before.” At the same time, Mckay admits that the experience ignited a part of him that did have violent tendencies. Hardcore shows became an outlet for him to act on these tendencies. When he was a teenager, he attended local hardcore shows with significantly older men, some who had “Made in Philly” tattooed across their foreheads. Although he and his friends weren’t the biggest guys at shows, that didn’t stop them from starting fights, dancing with bricks in their schoolbags,
“ninja-kicking” other show-goers and jumping on people standing in the back of the crowd. The scars on his face and neck hint at the years of violence he had been immersed in. Mckay says he eventually built up a high level of apathy toward the world, which grew to the point of sociopathic violence, comparable, he says, to the mentality that soldiers are forced to take on during a war. He began involving himself in fights that he now describes as trivial. “There was a reasoning then,” he says. “But 30-year old Joe thinks there was no reason. It was stupid.” Mckay later became involved with Friends Stand United, which the FBI classifies as a street gang. Its members are anti-racist and straightedge, meaning they abstain from drinking alcohol and doing drugs. They resort to violence with the intent of “defending” hardcore shows from various racist gangs, such as white-power punks. FSU had chapters across the country. It is currently no longer active in Philadelphia. Mckay gained notoriety after appearing on the History Channel’s Gangland program. “I did that to clear my conscience,” he explains. “Instead, I got eight minutes of infamy. Nobody saw the part where I took the FSU hat off and said ‘I want nothing to do with this anymore.’” The violence at local hardcore shows is nowhere near as bad as it was a decade ago, Mckay says. He even periodically brings his 14-year old daughter to his shows. The whole hardcore scene has evolved, he says. When Mckay was growing up, he found out about new bands by going to South Street, looking through boxes and boxes of records, reading ‘zines, looking at show fliers and by talking to people. “Now you can instantly download an entire hardcore library that took me 20 years to get,” he says. Mckay toured with several different bands, including Shattered Realm and Punishment, from 1998-2005. Touring was a humbling experience and was one of the factors that led to him changing his behavior at shows. He began to realize that fighting and ruining shows could lead to a small town losing their only venue. Booking bands that kids never had the chance to see before, or standing at This is Hardcore fest amongst a sold-out crowd and knowing that he was responsible for it gives him a sense of pride. “That’s ten times more rewarding than hiding from the police,” he says. Mckay proudly admits he is willing to lose money on a show if it means it can help a smaller band gain some popularity. He helped Agitator, a hardcore band from Boyertown, Pennsylvania, by booking them on This is Hardcore last year. The band was subsequently able to tour the Mid-West. He also feels strongly about organizing benefit shows for various causes. “I have to make up for the multiple years of being an asshole, starting trouble and ruining shows,” he says. “It’s my turn to facilitate and administer what goes on. It gives me a chance to re-live my own youth vicariously.”
Bottom photo byDavid Hartley. Top photo by Peter English.
This Place Rocks
COMMUNITY BUILDING: Brian McTear (top) adjusting equipment. Sharon Van Etten recording with Weathervane.
Michael James Murray spends time with the community-builders at Weathervane.
Sharon Van Etten was the ideal artist to launch the Shaking Through series, a recording opportunity for independent artists. “She came to us enormously talented, reasonably well known, had amazing songs that she was ready to go with,” says producer Brian McTear, the co-founder of Weathervane Music, the incubator that runs the video and recording series, along with WXPN. “She just needed some sort of force that would bring it all together for one concentrated moment and give her something to catapult from.” Van Etten’s “Love More” single, which she recorded over two days in McTear’s Fishtown studio, was released in January 2010 and made available for free download. A week later Pitchfork reviewed the song. The Brooklynite’s career exploded from there. “A couple months after that,” McTear notes, “someone sent me a YouTube video of Justin Vernon from Bon Iver covering ‘Love More.’ It wasn’t that he was just covering a Sharon Von Etten song. He was covering the song that we recorded and released.” A few weeks later, Van Etten performed with The Antlers, opening for indie heroes The National at Radio City Music Hall. She released a full album in October that drew rave reviews. This year, she has toured around the world. And she released another album in May.
While she had a self-produced album under her belt before working with McTear and the Weathervane/ Shaking Through crew, it was Van Etten’s experiences here that really thrust her into the world. “It definitely reinforced the idea of music being a huge community, and that you’re a part of something bigger,” Van Etten says. “It was definitely reassuring and refreshing to work with people who just love music, who are being supportive and helping you do it.” That’s exactly why Weathervane exists. The story of Weathervane Music, although extravagant in detail, started as a rather simple idea: a couple of friends wanted to foster a healthy independent music ecosystem. They wanted to create opportunities and offer resources to support and advance the careers of independent musicians. They wanted to start a movement. In 2002, McTear and musician Matt Pond started talking about a musicians’ retreat, like a writers’ or artists’ community, where a musician could live and work for free while pursuing their craft in an inspiring and comfortable setting. That idea evolved over time. Seven years later, Weathervane Music became a reality a non-profit, community-funded organization that assists musicians early in their careers, and sees the world from the music fans’
perspective. “The mission of the non-profit, generally, is to find artists who could use the nudge, who are doing great things but haven't yet had the opportunity to record in a real studio,” says Mark Schoneveld, a Weathervane board member, guest curator and the brains behind the influential blog YVYNYL. Weathervane produced four songs in 2009 before the WXPN partnership was established and the whole project was re-branded as “Shaking Through.” The Sharon Van Etten song was the first official project of the new operation. In the community spirit, Van Etten was given the opportunity to select a guest curator, a person who would choose a band or musician who would participate in a Shaking Through production. She chose Peter Silberman, the singer and guitarist from The Antlers. Silberman picked Nick Principe, the multiinstrumentalist behind Port St. Willow, to be a Shaking Through artist. Silberman and Principe have been friends all their lives, so they collaborated on the entire project. “I didn't expect it to be as immersive an experience as it was,” Silberman says. “Bringing Nick in as the musician changed the notion of what we were going to do completely. In the same way that Nick had me there as a familiar face while in the midst of an extremely daunting task, I had him there as a friend, someone I had worked with very closely. So, in a way, it was more comfortable than I expected.” The production was the February 2011 feature, which is available online at www. shakingthrough.com. The series has featured several Philadelphia bands including Reading Rainbow, Party Photographers and Hezekiah Jones. “We only do ten of these projects in a year and there’s easily ten bands in Fishtown that we could focus on,” says McTear. “But that doesn’t help spread the word far and wide. In an effort to reach people we don’t know or people in far off locations, we've decided to start reaching out to these guest curators who would have audiences that would fan in all directions.” Dr. Dog co-founder Scott McMicken, another guest curator, elaborates, “I see it as a humanitarian effort in a way. Brian’s offering so many people these opportunities to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t have the chance to do. Not only that but also taking the fruits of the labor and presenting it to the world.” McMicken invited his friend Mike Visser of the band Springs to participate in a production. “It was life changing,” McMicken says. “It brought Mike and I a lot closer.” While the entire project is a communitybuilding effort and the work of many people helps make it a success, it was the leadership of Brian McTear that made the effort a reality. “It has a lot to do with the fact that it’s a great idea,” says Peter English, Weathervane’s assistant director. “And Brian is a visionary guy. That’s something that Brian might leave out.” jumpphilly.com
This Place Rocks
Pete remembers differently. "Joe asked me," he says. "I wanted nothing to do with it, to tell you the truth." But he does seem to want something to do with it now. Pete handles the paperwork and the bar side of the venue was his initiative. Before they were business partners, Pete recalls that he would hang out with Frankie and Joe on weekends and the three of them would drink wherever they found a space. “This really just became our newer drinking place,” he says. “We realized that if we got a liquor license, a lot of people would come and drink with us." You get the impression it’s like a second home for them. Frankie’s paintings are all over the walls, along with a variety of figurines and a bunch of Rocky paraphernalia - supposedly, Joe was in the background of a shot when Sylvester Stallone was running down 9th Street.
“Bullshit,” says Pete. “We actually started being friends, the three of us, because we all made a movie together,” says Frankie. “I think that we all, in the back of our heads, wanna do that again.” The film, titled Puncuality, is an urban mafia story about debt and reliability, or the lack thereof. It was directed by Joe and featured Frankie and Pete as actors, as well as the original electronics store version of the RicRac. Frankie suggests that people should be on the lookout for Puncuality 2. There’s also Frankie and Joe’s band, the Discount Heroes, who are regarded as the venue’s house band. They have been playing since well before its inception. It was because of the Heroes that the Ric-Rac first became a live music venue, according to Frankie. “Any musician friends of ours we had, we’d show them the stage, and they’d say ‘We wanna do shows here,’” he says. “And this guy Amos Lee was coming on Mondays, just kind of jamming and bringing other musicians, and just kind of set it off.” Frankie handles booking and Joe does sound for all performances, which includes comedy, theater and ping-pong. Just about any type of music is welcome, although “loud crazy devil music” is strictly prohibited. Apparently there was a bad experience with it. “A lot of those bands like to break things,” says Frankie. “We’re not into having our stuff broken.” - ERIK LEXIE
however, it provides crisp acoustics that surpass those in most theatres. Using state-of-the-art equipment, Reilly can adjust the sound to accommodate solo artists with guitars, such as Leon Redbone, or bands like the Andreas Capsalsis Trio, who employ a variety of drums, keyboards and string instruments. Reilly is a music veteran who has worked as a sound engineer for major artists including Aerosmith and Frank Zappa. “Music is my passion," says Reilly. He opened the PSALM, which stands for the Philadelphia Society for Art, Literature and Music, in 2004 (there is no religious affiliation). They hold all-ages shows every weekend, mostly jazz, folk and world music, with around 80 performances per year. During intermissions, the audience is invited
into the kitchen where they are offered a gourmet meal catered by a nearby restaurant Avril. The musicians generally join the patrons for this dinner. While the salon has a few regular fans who return for almost every Saturday evening show, most patrons discover the venue by following an artist faithfully. Anthony Patrick traveled from New Jersey to see the Andreas Capsalsis Trio. “I came here excited to see them perform,” he says. “And then I ate dinner with them!” It winds up being an amazing experience for the musicians and fans. “This is one of the nicest venues we’ve ever played,” says Genna Gillespie of the local Celtic band Burning Bridget Cleary. - JANE SORENSEN
CONNIE'S RIC-RAC 1132 South 9th Street www.conniesricrac.com Connie's Ric-Rac feels a little like home. If not your own home then definitely someone else's. It fits nice and snug between a variety of restaurants and shops on South 9th Street, quietly doing its own thing. The venue has its own personality, a composite of the three men who made it happen: brothers Frankie and Joe Tartaglia, after whose mother the venue takes its name, and their friend Pete Pellulo. "I don't really know how it started anymore," says Frankie. "It just came to be." The simple version of the story: the Ric-Rac was an electronic store that Frankie and Joe's mother Connie chose to shut down in the mid 90s. It lay underutilized until the summer of 2006 when - nobody's sure how anymore, but somehow - it was transformed into a performance space and eventually a bar. But the story really isn’t simple. A band, a film, and the need for a place to house a variety of creative endeavors - not to mention somewhere to just hang out and drink - all seem to have gotten involved in some order. "Joe says the reason we built the stage was for improv seminars," Frankie recalls. "Then once the stage was here, we couldn't remove it. So we figured out things to do with it." Connie says that Pete offered to build the stage after Joe and Frankie started talking about doing something with the space but
Photo of Cunningham Piano by G.W. Miller III. Photo of Connie's Ric-Rac by Colin Kerrigan.
THE PSALM SALON 5841 Overbrook Avenue www.psalmsalon.com “I like finding the strangest places to play,” says California singer-songwriter David Berkley during his recent performance at the PSALM Salon. About 60 people – a full house - sit in the intimate listening room, which is decorated with candles and ornate vases. If there is a sense of comfort, a homeyness, in the Overbrook venue, it’s not by accident. PSALM Salon chairman Jamey Reilly resides there with his wife Suyun and their children. The stage is located in what was previously a living room. Unlike the average living room,
CUNNINGHAM PIANO 5427 Germantown Avenue www.cunninghampiano.com Cunningham Piano has been a Philadelphia institution since it’s founding by Patrick Cunningham in 1891. During the early part of the 20th century, the company crafted up to 2,000 pianos per year. They competed locally with 11 other Philadelphia piano manufacturers. Patrick Cunningham reportedly offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove they could build a better piano. No one ever took him up on the deal. So he labeled his creations “The Matchless Cunningham.” jumpphilly.com
Then the Depression struck, followed by World War II. While all of the other local manufacturers disappeared, Cunningham continues operating. In 1943, the company quit making pianos and instead, focused on rebuilding and restoration. They have since become an internationally known restoration facility for vintage and high-end pianos. The rebuilding of a century-old piano can take up to six months. In 2006, the company introduced a new line of Cunningham Pianos, the first piano they built in 65 years. Their showroom, in a former Masonic Temple, is open six days per week and full of beautiful and historic pianos. - NIELA ORR
Photo by Rick Kauffman.
Mayor Nutter: I Could Make A Party Happen Our mayor knows the lyrics to "Rapper's Delight" and he's not afraid to grab the mic and bust into song. G.W. Miller III talks to mayor Michael Nutter about his old DJ days, when he was known as Mix Master Mike, and how the city can help the creative class.
IN THE ZUNE: The mayor in his City Hall office, playing with his Zune mp3 player.
DJing was a way you broke into politics, wasn’t it? Yeah, to some extent. I worked at a place called the Impulse Disco at Broad and Germantown. I started working there in the summer of 1976. The owner, his son and I are high school best friends to this day. He’s godfather to my daughter. Robert Bynum. He owns a couple of establishments – Warmdaddy’s, and he manages Relish up in West Oak Lane. I was working for his father, Ben. Ben Bynum owned a number of bars and clubs. The Impulse, before it was a disco, was more of a club on Germantown Avenue, called the Cadillac Club. Billy Paul recorded an album there. All the great stars of that era in the 70s came through the Cadillac Club. Ben had traveled to Europe where disco was, of course, the craze. He decided to close the Cadillac Club, completely gut it out and turn it into in essence the first black-owned disco in Philadelphia. When the Impulse opened a few weeks later,
I started working there. I was a sophomore in college. I didn’t start out DJing. I was really kind of cleaning up from the night before, get it ready, stock the bars, deal with the ice and the liquor and sodas and all that. We had house DJs but they didn’t come until later so someone kind of had to get the party started during the early stages. So Robert and I would alternate. We’d play records until the house DJs came. Then I’d go back to what I normally would do, which was walk around and make sure everything was ok, make sure people weren’t doing anything they weren’t supposed to be doing. Guys could not wear hats. Make sure guys weren’t too aggressive with the ladies. You were the muscle? A little bit. But I was really more about persuasion. As you can see, I’m not the biggest guy in town. I honed negotiation skills very early on. I was working about 60 hours per week at the club. It was just a different form of education. I was an early subscriber of never letting your schooling interfere with your education. Through that, I met a bunch of people involved in politics. One thing led to another. I started getting involved in the neighborhood political jumpphilly.com
Music & Politics and civic scene. This was the early '80s. Then I worked on a campaign in 1983 for council at-large John Anderson. That, of course, was the year W. Wilson Goode Sr. was running for mayor and would be the first AfricanAmerican mayor of the city of Philadelphia. My guy, councilman Anderson, won. He came in first out of 57 at-large candidates that year. W. Wilson Goode Sr. won the Democratic primary and I realized right at that moment, “This is what I want to do.”
I’m working on a couple at the moment. That one is pretty much ingrained. I heard that a lot. It was a crowd favorite.
But you continued DJing for a while?
Rather than just making their own playlist, putting their MP3 player in and just playing songs for a party, one of the things is, hire a DJ. Bring in the real deal. There is a serious art to making this happen. You build people up a little bit, take them to one place, then ease off. So, it’s a series of peaks and valleys that really makes a great party.
That’s where I worked. That was my job. I had started working at Xerox right out of college. I graduated in ‘79 and started working at Xerox in January of ‘80. I worked there for almost two years but while I was working there, I was still working at the nightclubs. I had two full-time jobs. You can do that kind of stuff when you’re 22, 23-years old. I worked at the Impulse for about eight years until 1985 or so. Did you elevate to the top DJ spot? We always had house DJs but as time went on, my skills got better. And this was before CDs, before music on computers. This was headphones, two turntables – the workhorse turntables still used today, the Techniq SL1200s. Real DJs still use those turntables today. They are absolutely the workhorse turntables of the industry. As I got better, house DJs, in the middle of the party, sometimes they’d need a break and they’d let us do our thing. I could hold my own. I could make a party happen. If things started to die down, did you have a go-to song to get people back out on the dance floor? In our day, there was slow dancing. If you were coming out of that and you put on Hamilton Bohannon’s “Let’s Start The Dance,” you’re going to fill the dance floor. Guaranteed. No doubt about it. You just never had to worry about it. You put that on and you’re good to go. We closed out for about eight months with the last song being Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.” That was for a couple of reasons. First, the song is 17 minutes. If you have stuff that you needed to do, if you had somebody you needed to catch up with, talk to before the night was over, you put that on. Before there was your elevator speech, there was the twominute drill, the last rap at the end of the night. It’s also a great song. It always got people up and dancing. That was very considerate of you to buy them that time. Well, you know, there was a lot of self-interest there. You’ve been caught doing Rapper’s Delight several times. Do you have other songs you secretly like to perform? jumpphilly.com
I’ve tried one or two others but that’s really the signature song. That’s the one I know the best. We have a real DJ culture here. A lot of our DJs wind up flying all over the place. They could live anywhere. What can we do to keep the creative folks here in Philadelphia?
One of the things we wanted to do was put more economic incentive for artist creative spaces, in terms of tax incentives. But like I said, we weren’t able to do much of that because we had to pull back in a variety of areas because of the economic crisis. But that’s still on our radar screen. What did Mix Master Mike look like? Were you a Kangol guy? Back at that time, I was a little bit in Kangol. You might also see me in just a cap, frontwards. I wasn’t much into the backward cap thing. I was always worried my mom was going to see me. In my twenties, I started losing my hair. When you have a hair situation like mine, it’s best to keep it covered, at least in the winter months. What music do you listen to now?
No matter how good your playlist is, there is something about mixed music, in the middle of a party, that really just makes it happen. There’s nothing like it.
"There are a lot of things that we can, and more importantly, should do to better promote our music. Philly is a music town. There’s no doubt about it." - Michael Nutter Is there anything the government can do? Are there arts districts that could be created, for instance along Frankford Avenue? A part of what we can do is make sure we are promoting these areas. Get as much information on our website, other websites, inspire, from time to time, folks to write stories about this activity. I should spend a little more time in some of those communities as well and maybe the press will follow me. There are a lot of things that we can, and more importantly, should do to better promote our music. Philly is a music town. There’s no doubt about it. Is there a way to support that creative economy aside from having art czar Gary Steuer down there? Primarily because of the recession, to be honest with you, we’re not able to make as much of an investment in that area. We did though, for the first time in the city’s history, put a half million dollars of community development block grant funds into the creative economy to support a variety of groups and organizations. The city had never done that before. I think we’re doing a better job at promoting many of the artists who come to town.
In the car, it’s all about what’s going on that day. It’s about mood and attitude. If something tragic happens, it’s about trying to come back up. If I’m already kind of up, sometimes I want to go to the next place. Sometimes you want to just chill. I have a playlist that’s called “Driving home.” What’s on your pick-me-up list? There’s one playlist called “Jamming.” “Closer” by Ne-Yo. "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss," by PM Dawn. Then I go into a set with the Black Eyed Peas, followed by The Roots. Got a little Janet Jackson in there. Then I just go all out with "I Got The Power," "This Is How We Do It," back-to-back. Then, "Gonna Make You Sweat." A lot of times, I like to come back with different versions of the same song, which really drives my daughter crazy. I’ve got two different versions of "Closer" and "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss." I like to hear different artists interpretations of the same song. My daughter Olivia, it just drives her crazy. ‘Dad, we heard that before.’ ‘No, sweetie, this is a different artist with a whole different treatment.’ ‘No. Skip to the next song.’ We have a big debate about Jennifer Hudson's "And I’m Telling You.” Big, big argument in the car. I prefer the original – Jennifer Holiday. I’m an original kind of guy. No disrespect to Jennifer Hudson but I like Jennifer Holiday. Can music and music education help solve some of the ills of the school district? It’s a part of the solution. Art and music are critically important to the overall education of young people in this city and any school system. Unfortunately, they end up getting hit early on whenever budgetary channels get cut. Music, for many young people, that is their expression. That is how they try to get their message out. Every generation has their music. You can communicate across generations, in many instances, through music.
Photos by Rick Kauffman.
Music & Education
Finding Purpose Through Music Rick Kauffman learns how Stanford Thompson and his team of music instructors are inspiring children in Southwest Philadelphia Tune Up Philly is the first of its kind in the United States, an intensive after-school program aiming to nurture urban school children by engaging them with music. Director Stanford Thompson aspires to ingrain in the students a level of confidence, to teach them to learn more effectively and to foster their musical talents. “The skills they learn after school everyday make an unmistakable impression on them,” Thompson says. “It’s a cost-effective way of bringing change to a Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood.” Starting in September 2010, 85 students at St. Francis de Sales school, ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade, began learning how to play string, woodwind, percussion and brass instruments. Nearly 200 students had applied to be a part of the first-year program. There are only 500 students at the small Catholic school located on Springfield Avenue at 47th Street. “I thought we’d be lucky to get 50 students to participate,” said Thompson. “But when almost 200 signed up in less than a week, I knew we were onto something.”
Out of the 85 students accepted into the program, only seven of them had played an instrument previously. “You’re going to play an instrument,” Thompson tells the children. “And you’re going to play it well.” TUP did not lose one single child throughout the school year. All have stayed in the program, adhering to the strict regimen of study. Thompson says that over the past year, the students have matured both as musicians and young people. In May, TUP was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Knight Arts Foundation. That money was matched by arts patron Carole Haas Gravagno, ensuring that TUP will continue during the next school year. “Kids need two things to become whole adults,” says Haas Gravagno. “To feel confident that they’re good at something. And they need to know that somebody cares about them. In this program they get both.” Thompson, 24, began playing the trumpet at age 8. The seventh of eight children, Thompson cites music as being the earliest driving force in his life. “Playing music gave me a purpose in my life that I never had before, “says Thompson. “And it hasn’t left since.” While in high school, he performed around the world – China, Germany, across the United States. He came to Philadelphia to attend the
Curtis Institute of Music. After graduating, he continued to travel the world, thanks to his horn and his talents. Thompson enjoys the travel but what has really inspired him has been visiting schools and seeing the impact of music upon children. In 2007, Thompson traveled to Venezuela to oversee an El Sistema youth orchestra. The El Sistema approach to music education emphasizes ensemble participation and peer learning, a community approach intended to make learning fun. Thompson came back to America inspired. He tried to create a similar program in his home state, Georgia, but he couldn’t find a good fit. So he looked for partners in Philadelphia and connected with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. Within three years, he found other partners, raised money, hired instructors and launched the program. Since TUP started operating, Thompson has overseen every detail of the program. “I never quite understood why, with everything my brothers, sisters and I put my mother through for nine months and 18 years, she was always there,” Thompson says. “She told me it was because she loved us that much. And I feel this way, along with all of our teachers, about our children in Tune Up Philly.” TUP is more than an after-school program. jumpphilly.com
The instructors have become mentors, friends and surrogate parents of the students. They inspire hope in children who may not have otherwise been optimistic about their futures. “We’re here to help fill the void these kids may have at home,” says Thompson. “Some are missing fathers or other role models in their lives. We’re here to not only teach them but we also aim to challenge them to achieve more.” The students are given intensive, hands-on training from for more than two hours every day after school. There are twelve instructors plus Thompson, so the workshops are small and personal. The training goes beyond music - punctuality, attentiveness, and compliance of the rules are strictly monitored. In addition, all of the work is done as a group, so there is a lot of peer-to-peer instruction, support and encouragement. “If the kids take their mind off what they are doing for five seconds, that could ruin what could happen to the entire group,” Thompson says. “This is all a metaphor for life.” Students have improved musically and academically, Thompson says, and some have developed strong leadership qualities. Lanese Rogers says that her daughter, first chair cello player Simone Rogers, a 7th grader, finds herself in random situations where she offers to teach other kids how to play instruments. “We spend a lot of time in church,” Lanese Rogers says. “She sits at the piano, teaching the younger ones notes. It’s amazing to see her confidence. It’s like she’s getting something she wants to share. She doesn’t want to keep it to herself.” That is why the program exists – to facilitate social-emotional, behavioral and cognitive development. Through music training, the students are supposed to develop teamwork skills and self-esteem. “What we do with the children for two and a half hours every day,” says Thompson, “is that we tell them, ‘You’re going to do you’re best,’ and ‘You’re going to care about one another.’” He’s building a model he wants to see replicated around the city. He thinks this program can help young people deal with the ills of the difficult urban environment. The connections these children have made with each other wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the connections made between people eager to make a change in the way children are taught. After Thompson’s visit to Venezuela, he was introduced to Philadelphiaarea philanthropist and champion of the arts, Carole Haas Gravagno. Her initial contribution enabled TUP to function during the first year. “I think the arts - not just music - play a very big role in education,” says Haas Gravagno. “There needs to be a reason to learn to read and to learn mathematics. Through the arts, kids can really see the reason to do it. When they can express themselves through the arts, it makes learning come alive.” During difficult economic times, though, funding for the arts is often sacrificed. And with the state budget threatening massive cuts to education spending, music and other jumpphilly.com
SEEDS OF SUCCESS: Stanford Thompson (opposite page) conducts the student orchestra during a recent performance. "We’re here to not only teach them but we also aim to challenge them to achieve more," he says of his students (above). art programs around the city are in danger. “It breaks my heart to see music essentially taken from schools,” says Haas Gravagno. “Music made school a much more vibrant place for me and I want to share that.” Mayor Michael Nutter visited a recent TUP performance and even guest conducted. “Now that you’ve been given this gift, please don’t you ever forget it,” he told the student musicians. “You might go far away to school but promise to come back, right here. Because we need you here to give something back to another young person.” The TUP students want to come back. Most of them don’t actually want to leave. “My oldest, she’s about to be in 8th grade, the last year of the program,” says Eleanor
Rooks, mother of second seat cello player Anjelica Rooks. “She already wonders, ‘Do you think there’s a way I can still be a part of Tune Up Philly? There’s got to be a way! I’m going to ask Mr. Stanford if I can still play in the orchestra.” Rooks says that her daughter has formed bonds with the TUP instructors, as well as with her fellow performers. She has matured by working collaboratively with her classmates, including her sister, Christina Rooks, a fourth grade trumpet player. “She’s upset that it’s going to come to an end,” Rooks says. “It’s not every day that you see kids wanting to go back to their former school to teach the younger kids what they’ve learned.”
Kelsey Doenges learns about the origins of Reading Rainbow, the psychedlic, garage punk band, which is actually a married couple who live in Fishtown.
hey bonded over Blur in a mutual friend’s apartment in Blacksburg, VA. That’s it. That’s the love story of Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia, the couple who make up the two-piece garage punk band, Reading Rainbow. There were no elaborate tales of Peter Gabriel songs spilling from a boom box that Rob, now 28, held above his head for hours (or at least until the song's completion). There were no stories of Sarah, 27, falling in love with her summer camp dance instructor. No stories with roses, conveniently kissing in the rain or any of that Hollywood romance stuff. This was no Nora Ephron movie. Four years ago, there was just Blur, a couch and a friend in common who thought Sarah and Rob might just get along. “My really good friend Josh, who I have known since middle school, he went to Virginia Tech and I went down to visit him,” Sarah remembers. “He just met Rob and they lived in the same apartment complex. Josh said, ‘Hey, lets go over to visit my new friend Rob.’ So we went over and that’s how we met.” Sarah and Rob’s common love for the English alternative rock band was just the beginning of their relationship, which led to their relocation to Philadelphia, a marriage, the formation of Reading Rainbow and, this year, and a cross-country tour playing with the likes of The Dodos and Dum Dum Girls.
hey sit in the backyard of the Rocket Cat Café in Fishtown to tell the tale. It is an overgrown garden with flowers blooming amongst weeds and neglected garden equipment. Paint is chipping away from the turquoise aluminum chair that Rob sits in. A tattoo on the inside of his arm creeps out from underneath his black t-shirt, which seems like it would clash with his navy pants and brown shoes but somehow he seems to be pulling it off. Sarah sits on a wooden bench beside him, dressed in black tights, black shorts and a striped blue and white t-shirt. Her tattoos are much more obvious than Rob’s - a tiger on her shoulder, a bird on her chest and arrows running up her right arm. They arrived in Philadelphia by default – it was urban and relatively inexpensive. They got married because Sarah, then a graduate student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, needed health insurance.
“She’s my best friend,” says Rob, an engineer by day. “It’s not that I don’t love her. I just don’t believe that you need to be married.” “We aren’t religious or traditional,” Sarah adds. With hopes to downplay the ceremony as much as possible, their wedding took place in what Rob describes as a “God-awful courtroom” somewhere in Maryland. “The reason why we did it in Maryland instead of Philadelphia,” says Rob, “was because in Philadelphia you need a thirty day marriage license thing or something like that.” The courtroom was filled with church pews. Painted clouds covered the walls. Fake ivy crawled up faux Roman columns. “It was sometime in April,” Sarah says. “Actually, it might even be today. Honestly, today could be our wedding anniversary and we don’t even know.” “We thought you would just walk in and sign a paper,” Rob says. “But there was this whole ceremony.” “They didn’t even ask us what we wanted,” Sarah adds, still bitter. “The judge came up to us and said, ‘I’m going to be marrying you today.’ And we thought, ‘Oh cool.’ And then she reappeared in a robe and made us hold hands. It was so forced.” Rob wore dress clothes. Sarah didn’t wear white. “I was wearing this empire waist thing that made it seem like I was hiding a pregnancy,” she says with a laugh. “Looking back, that was probably a bad choice. I almost wore jeans and a T-shirt just to prove a point. I thought I was real smug, thinking Rob’s family is going to feel real silly because they all wanted to be here while we sign some papers.” After a fancy dinner with the family on their wedding night, the couple slept on a pullout sofa in Rob’s sisters’ living room. “It was the most awkward day of my life,” Sarah states. “I could not stop laughing.” The following Monday, Rob started his job as a green engineer in Center City.
efore there was Reading Rainbow, Sarah and Rob were part of a band called Forensic Teens with their friend Corey Saunders. Rob played keyboard, Corey played drums and Sarah played a circuit bent keyboard. They describe it as more of an art project than an actual band. “The songs of Forensic Teens were just so over the top and super spastic,” Rob comments. They had two shows booked in Virginia, but their drummer Corey had moved to Philadelphia and wasn’t ready to return back to Virginia. Rob and Sarah scrambled together to make something work. Within two weeks, Sarah taught herself how to play the floor tom and snare and they recorded eight songs, some of which appear on their first album, creating the formation of what is now known as Reading Rainbow. Now, Rob plays guitar. Sarah is making her way up to playing a full drum kit. Everything is sung in unison and the music is loaded with reverb, creating a harmonized rush of energetic sound. jumpphilly.com
Photos by G.W. Miller III.
Cover Story POWER COUPLE: Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia.
They released their second album, Prism Eyes, on HoZac Records last year. They went into the studio with all intentions to record an EP but the songs kept coming and everyone encouraged them to flesh out an entire album. “What fueled us for writing really fast was feeling like we were on the edge of something and we wanted to put all of ourselves in that,” Rob remembers. The inspiration for their songs comes from what they are experiencing in life at the moment. The whole second album deals with growing up and the responsibilities that come with being a grown-up – for example, the couple had recently bought a home in Fishtown.
how to play guitar - with a little help from Rob. “Sarah’s inner punk doesn’t let you tell her how to do anything. She wants to learn by herself,” Rob says. “She found this book from the '60s from this jazz guitar player. She found it at a thrift store and it has all these chords in it. So between making up these chords and sounding totally like Sonic Youth to learning these weird chords from this book, it sounds awesome.”
arah’s ultimate dream is to be able to play a full drum kit on all of the songs and be able to simultaneously sing and play guitar on at least one song. “I think it’s cool when people are in bands
“It’s all about anxiety but still trying to stay positive even though the future is really uncertain and you are just really freaked out.” “It’s all about anxiety but still trying to stay positive even though the future is really uncertain and you are just really freaked out,” Sarah says. Rob grew up around music. His father and uncle played in jazz bands. Rob learned to play piano as a child. He also played alto sax, took guitar lessons and played in a big band in high school. Sarah, on the other hand, has no formal musical training and so far, has taught herself everything she knows. She believes that girls are often discouraged from picking up instruments. Around the age of twelve, she really started to get into music and she longed to play the guitar. “My brother played the violin,” she says. “In my house it was more like, ‘Well Sarah’s the artist. She’s good at drawing. Andy plays the violin and he’s good at music.’ I wasn’t outright discouraged but everyone acted like it was this stage I was going through and so that instantly shut it down.” Lately, she has also been teaching herself
and they learn as they go,” she says. “I think that is the only real way to do it. To fully immerse yourself and say, ‘Fuck it,’ and just do it. It is also really scary because you are learning in front of all of these people. But it’s important because you are saying, ‘Look I can do it, so you can too.’ Anybody can do it.” Maybe it was fate that brought Rob and Sarah together. Maybe the stars aligned and everything made sense. Maybe, but Nora Ephron isn’t writing this story. The truth is there is only one person to thank for their relationship, for the formation of Reading Rainbow, for the fulfillment of Sarah’s musical dreams. And that’s Josh, Sarah’s best friend and Rob’s former neighbor. Without him, Sarah would probably be teaching art somewhere and Rob would only be working his humdrum nine-to-five job. Josh made the connection. He brought them together. The rest is history. And an unpredictable future.
MUSICAL YOUTH: (L to R) Barney Cortez, Nick Bockrath, Harry Zelnick and Andy Black.
Appreciation Nicos Gun blends dance beats with indie rock hooks and psychedelic grooves to create an infectious sound. Colin Kerrigan discovers how the band formed and developed their style.
n a rainy Saturday afternoon, four dudes stumble out of their apartment building in Kensington South into a forest green Jeep Cherokee circa the late 90’s. They look kind of worn out, which is not surprising since they just got off a six-week tour traveling throughout the South in a big ass RV. The four of them - Barney Cortez, Harry Zelnick, Nick Bockrath, and Andy Black - make up the disco dance/ pop, sometimes psychedelic indie band Nicos Gun. They’re headed down to a.k.a. music in Old City to check out some music, maybe pick up a record or two. Before that though, they make a quick stop at Nana Petrillo’s Gelateria in The Piazza at Schmidts for some much-needed coffee. There are four different kinds available Tanzanian peaberry, Sumatra, yellow bourbon and Panamanian bouquet, so they just order one of each and chose at random. Black must owe everyone since he pays for the coffee. While they’re here, the guys make sure to taste several of the gelato flavors including sea salt, dark chocolate, tiramisu, Thai coconut … before deciding they are content with just coffee. All four consider themselves Philly kids – they live together in a Fishtown loft - but only two of them are true natives. Cortez, 25, and Zelnick, 23, grew up in Southwest Philadelphia. “Barney and I had similar childhoods, knowing all the same people in Philly and having the same experiences,” says Zelnick. “But I didn’t even know he played music when we were growing up. We just hung out with the Changs, who were friends of ours.” “We’d smoke a lot and fucking break people’s windows and shit,” recalls Cortez with a laugh. “Do stupid stuff.” They used to hang around Rittenhouse Square back when it was the place young people congregated. “Growing up, there was kind of like that scene from Kids,” recalls Zelnick, “where all the kids would meet after school.” “Rittenhouse used to be rowdy,” adds Cortez. “Now it’s kind of toned down. But when we were 12, 13, 14, it was a rowdy place. All the crust punks would be there, all the homeless people and all the kids.”
t’s still raining out when the guys finally find a parking spot a few blocks away from a.k.a. music. As they walk, they do their
best to stay as close to the buildings as possible to avoid getting wet. When they get into a.k.a., they scatter to different areas of the store, checking out various artists and bands. Bockrath, 23, grew up near West Chester, skateboarding and playing music. He would take the train in on the weekends to skate various spots throughout the city. “I think skating and music are similar in a lot of ways,” says Bockrath. “I got into certain skaters’ styles and skating certain spots. Each spot would attract different types of skaters. It was a community thing, kind of like being in bands.” Bockrath and Black came to the city to attend the University of the Arts, which is where Cortez also went. The only non-original Pennsylvanian of the bunch is Black, 24, who grew up in Bayville, NJ. It’s in the middle of the state, along the beach, not far from where they filmed those fools on the Mtv show, Jersey Shore. His first taste of music was when he was in elementary school, though he quit after an awkward situation unfolded. “I took pianos lessons from my principal’s wife but they were going through a divorce at the time,” explains Black. “So I would be taking piano lessons and he would come home. They’d go into the kitchen and scream at each other. I promptly gave up the piano after that.” When he was 13, he went to the music store and picked up a bass guitar.
nside a.k.a., Zelnick, in his leather jacket and fedora, wanders around the CD section of the shop. He comes the jazz area and immediately points out John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. “He’s so important to me because he brought this real spirituality into the music that people hadn’t really done before,” Zelnick says. “He’d tried to go other places with the music, which is really inspiring.” Zelnick knows many of the jazz records because he used to make a lot of hip-hop tracks and he would sample pieces of jazz. He’d take a snare from one song, a high-hat from another and bass from another to create a drum set sound from various records. While originally from Southwest Philly, he later moved to Germantown. His dad was a jazz musician, which is why Zelnick learned to play the drums at the age of nine. By the time he was 11 or 12, he started getting into the
production side of music. At 13, he made a hip-hop album with some unsavory characters from his neighborhood. He sold them on South Street. As a teenager, Zelnick met two well-known Philly producers - Andre Harris and Vidal Davis, better known as the hit-makers Dre & Vidal. They’ve worked with Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys, among others on a list that could go on for days. Zelnick started working for them when he was 16. He produced a track for Ludacris, “War With God,” off the Release Therapy album, which won a Grammy in 2007. After that, Zelnick produced for Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Beanie Sigel and others. That put quite a bit of money in his youthful pockets. “I was financially fulfilled and, at the time, I thought I was creatively fulfilled,” explains Zelnick. “But now I realize I really wasn’t, cause I wasn’t really doing the type of music I love to do.” Then he found his Nicos Gun bandmates.
hile Zelnick was producing for the mainstream pop world, the rest of the guys jammed in various projects as session musicians or just for fun. Bockrath and Cortez met one day when their music teacher forced them to play a guitar duet together. They pulled it off and went on to form a band, Cortez! Cortez!. They met Black at UArts. Zelnick was originally recruited to be a producer and songwriter. He produced beats for the trio for months before they realized how good Zelnick was on the drums. So they forced him into the band.
ll four of them love music. It’s clear that they live for it, whether it’s playing or listening. As they walk around a.k.a. music, each one of them could teach a history lesson on several genres of music. “Tom Wait did almost like a jazz-lounge thing up until Swordfishtrombones came out,” explains Cortez as if it was common knowledge. “He started experimenting with jazz musicians from the downtown New York scene in the late 70s and was inspired by punk music. He was, like, older than all that shit, too, so it’s kind of cool.” One record they all agree upon is Loaded, by The Velvet Underground. “It’s so fucking good," says Zelnick. “Lou Reed just changed rock music.” Lou Reed and company didn’t perform for the fame. They did it for the music. And that’s exactly what the members of Nicos Gun want to be known for: their music.
All photos by Nema Etebar.
ill power and love saved singer Jessi Teich’s voice, she says. The singer was in jeopardy of losing her instrument last year when a cyst developed on her vocal cords. Jessi’s fiancé, Nema Etebar, introduced her to a friend, a world-class surgeon, who suggested surgery to remove the cyst. People told her not to risk it. They told her she’d never sing again. Ultimately, she decided to go through with the procedure. “I could never have the career that I wanted if I didn't get the surgery,” Jessi says. Fortunately, the surgery was a success. And seven months after the operation, Jessi released her debut album, Barely There, on Fuzztone Records. By introducing her to his surgeon friend, supporting her decision and then assisting her through her recovery, Nema, 32, helped Jessi, 26, through the difficult period. While Jessi believes will power played a large part, she says, “In a way, Nema helped save my voice.”
eich's relationship with Nema, a street photographer whom she calls her business partner and soul-mate, continually provides her with strength. The two have created a world in which they can live their dreams together. Nema frequently shoots Jessi, a brown-haired, brown-eyed beauty whose usually makeup-free face seems to transform in every picture, and she uses these images to promote her music. They met in August 2008, three weeks before Nema, who is half-Persian and has long, dark, wild hair that he tends to keep in a topknot, left for a month-long trip to India. They only had a small window of time together. “We were just scrambling to get to know each other,” Jessi says. “It takes time to get to know somebody, whether you're going to be friends or lovers.” They decided quickly. “He is it for me and I didn't settle,” Jessi says. “Now we're creating these tiers of art and beauty and people. I get so excited about it.” Jessi rarely performed in front of others at that point. “I was too scared,” she says with a laugh. “I just didn't think my music was good enough.” One of the first times Nema heard Jessi’s jumpphilly.com
silky, soulful singing voice was when she strummed a guitar and sang a cover of Feist's “Let It Die” in his bedroom. A month later, Jessi sang some of her original songs for Nema. “I'll never forget those,” he says. “Because I was blown away.”
THE ARTIST AND HIS MUSE: Nema Etebar (right) with fiance Jessi Teich.
ema, who had been single for six years before meeting Jessi, took his first photos of his muse on New Year's Day 2009 after the Mummer's Parade. She stood before a brown brick wall, wearing the same green hat that graces the cover of her CD, carrying a yellow Mummers umbrella. “I was so nervous because I'd seen him take pictures of people for three or four months,” Jessi says. “That birthed what we do today. That was the beginning of what he have grown into, what we have created. We planted a seed and we've grown an oak tree. It is a joint effort. Although he's the photographer and I'm the model, the photos wouldn't be the same without each other.” Today, Jessi accompanies Nema on his street shoots. This female presence puts Etebar’s subjects – many of whom are mothers with children or homeless people – at ease. In addition to creating images together, Jessi and Nema write songs together. They wrote “Tuesday” and “Beggin' You,” both of which are on Barely There.
n June 2009, Nema introduced Jessi to another friend, producer Daniel Marino, the general manager at Fuzztone. They started talking about recording an EP. Jessi planned to travel to South America with her sister that September for three months.
Before her departure, she and Marino got down as much of the basic recordings as possible. They recorded nine songs, mostly ballads, with Jessi on the piano for several songs. They planned to continue when she returned from her trip. During the spring of 2010, the cyst was embedded in her vocal fold. Jessi quit talking for one week, hoping the cyst would be more defined on the day of the operation. She broke her silence before going into surgery to tell Nema that she loved him. Nema did not want to photograph Jessi that day but she insisted. The black and white image he created shows a wavy-haired Jessi in a hospital gown, her head resting in her right hand and her left arm outstretched, an IV needle taped into the crook of her elbow. “I am glad now that I have it,” Jessi says of the photo. “It reminds me to keep working hard and that, no matter what the situation, if I believe hard enough and make myself strong enough, I can conquer just about anything.” She didn’t speak for a week after the surgery. Teich broke her silence and called Nema to say hello. “No! You can’t do that yet!” she remembers him crying out.
t took nearly six weeks for Jessi to fully regain her voice. For much of that time, she did not speak. The couple developed a system to communicate. “We would call each other on the phone and he would talk to me and ask me yes or no questions,” Jessi says. “I would hit a key once for yes, twice for no and three times for ‘I love you.’” At first, Jessi saw a speech therapist. Then, she started seeing a vocal therapist. “I immediately could hear a difference in my voice and the way that it felt to sing,” she remembers. “It took me honestly about eight weeks before I sang a full song but it was absolutely worth the wait.” All this time, Barely There was put on hold. Finally, Jessi completed the record and released it on December 18, 2010. “Right now, Philly's really receptive to me,” she says. “I've been able to bring people out without really asking. I really feel like, from the bottom of my heart, outside of my ego, that my music will do well [elsewhere].”
Photo by G.W. Miller III.
Chris Malo talks to the smooth rhyming, Philly-repping rapper who is constantly on the cusp of making it bigtime.
Walking up to meet Sandman,
the first thing I see is the flash of light fom the photo shoot. Night time, light drizzle, in a back lot off a side-street in Northern Liberties. Sandman's hulking frame stands before the lights of a Dodge Magnum wagon as the photog snaps away. "Yeoooo, Caaaaaanonnnnnnnnnnnn," I yell. Sand doesn't holler back. He's in grindmode flicking it up. Photos finished, Sand approaches me with his big hand outstretched. We exchange pounds and head inside a friend's house/ studio to knock out the interview. First, a stop in the studio where the finishing touches are being put on a new track called "Roam," a single with Sandman accompanied by an acoustic guitar and hook courtesy of Cookie Rabinowitz. A break from the norm but Sandman is no stranger to breaks. Good or bad. His first deal was offered to him at 15 years old by RuffNation Records. There is a Trackmasters produced album no one has heard. At one point, he had a deal with Interscope Records. During a meeting with Capitol Records A&R President Wendy Goldstein, Sandman walked out after she asked if he could make Chingy records. It is one thing to never have come close to the big break but Sandman’s brushes with it have only made him hungrier.
e move upstairs where Sandman, draped in a dark plum Dickies outfit, Timbos and a black Phillies New Era cap, sinks into the leather couch. Known for his stylized and versatile flow patterns, voice inflections that ride the beat flawlessly and well-crafted storytelling rhymes, he settles in while waiting for his weed bol to come through. I promise not to ask any questions about what happened with the Re-Up Gang, his former quartet with Malice and Pusha T from the Clipse and Philadelphia's Ab-Liva. The situation was tight and looked promising but yet again, another situation imploded. There were accusations and a fallout. Then the quartet became a trio with Sandman's departure. "Naw, I'm going to speak on it,” he says. “For the last time. And that's it." The details are virtually irrelevant but Sandman makes reference to questionable decisions that were made by those in charge. Pusha and Malice were the "CEOs." He doesn't agree with some of the decisions they made, noting that not one video was shot for the critically acclaimed We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series. In the end, he accepts it. There's no ill will. "Shout out to Clipse," Sand states. “Shout out to Liva.” jumpphilly.com
here was a point in time where the pairing of Sandman and the Clipse may not have made much sense to Sand. The Clipse are known as the forefather's of coke rap. Sandman was vehemently against drugs after seeing his grandmother’s house get raided in his youth. "I come from a family of kingpins,” he offers. “All that shit I said, I've seen. Every day." He is still able to recite a rap he wrote when he was 15. Hat pulled low, his eyes close as he zones out and dips into the memory banks. For 5 minutes straight, Sandman spits a capella style. Originally over the Wreckx-NEffect’s “Rump Shaker” beat, the rhyme is full of the staple street images. But listening to the story and saga unfold, you realize it's not a happy ending or glorification of the lifestyle. "Back then all my rhymes were aimed at the downfall," he notes. Later, Sand is in the middle of kicking another anti-drug rhyme from his younger days when we his weed bol arrives. Sandman acknowledges the entrance of his connect and finishes the rap he won a school contest with. The last line: “Do yourself a favor/ And don’t sell drugs.”
JUMP Presents the speakers, Sand decided he had to let the dude know he was nice with his word game too. A cipher broke out. That cipher grew into weekly battles. Impressed by the number of people the weekly battles attracted, the rink owner hired Sandman to perform on Friday and Saturday nights for $500. His manager/ mother, then known as PDP (Positive Duo Productions), negotiated the deal.
ack then, Sandman wasn't known as Sandman. He went by his governmentname, Daytwine. When I ask where the name Sandman comes from, Sand starts fucking with his phone. He wouldn't be the first rapper to take a call, send out a Tweet or check his email during an interview. But it turns out he is calling Aisha, the girl who gave him the nickname when they were teenagers. The woman on the other end of the speakerphone is sleepy and sultry. I have no idea what she looks like but with a voice like that, I can only imagine. After some gentle prodding, she relents. “He got the name from kissing,” she says. “His kisses used to feel like they were putting me to sleep.”
"Another reason I go at this rap shit so hard is that I don’t ever want to hustle again. The game is fucked up."
o how did he transition from anti-drug dealing to stone cold hustler? “That’s life,” Sand explains earnestly. But while many rapper’s are braggadocious about it, he isn't trying to justify his actions. Only explain them. “Another reason I go at this rap shit so hard,” Sandman explains, “is that I don’t ever want to hustle again. Not like that. The game is fucked up.” During high school, street life took him away from a serious football future. The rap game got him off the corners. Sandman connected with legendary DJ and producer Clark Kent. Clark said he didn’t want to fuck with a drug dealer. Sand had to make a choice. What really pushed him over the edge was Clark telling him he gave the same choice to two other drug dealers: Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z. When put like that, the choice was clear. Sand told his business partner he was out the drug game and gave him all his work. "Philly is hard,” he says. “The shit I was listening to, I was seeing. Whether drug dealing or fighting or block parties and happiness. The whole reality of what was going on here. It was real. it was pure. But it was also hard. Being from Philly, you are prepared for anything." Part of what it prepared Sand for was battle rapping, he says, noting the influence of Philly’s Schoolly D, the original gangster rapper. "We breed rappers,” he says. “I was able to spar all the time because they were rappers everywhere in the city." One of his early breaks came at a roller skating rink on Roosevelt Boulevard in the Northeast. Sand was taking on someone over a game of NBA Jam. The other kid started freestyling and when the game ended and EPMD's “So Whatcha Saying” came over
His boys used to clown him. Then, one day on the football field, he delivered a devastating hit, putting someone else to sleep in an entirely different manner. The name stuck.
andman dropped his Mt. Crushmore mixtape back in May. If you have any doubts about his skill level, please refer to him blacking out over Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now.” On the original track there is a guest spot for the silver-tongued Busta Rhymes. Sand manages to out bust Busta’s flow. But here’s a dirty little industry secret: In the studio there is a technique known as “punching in.” It is the practice of being able to take snippets of vocals and arrange them, cut-and-paste style. More times than I can count I will hear a rapper on a mixtape, then see them in person, and realize they are a studio legend. They only sound good because of the studio engineer. A few weeks earlier, however, I witnessed Sandman performing the track live at a show. He managed to sound even crazier than on the mixtape. That’s a rarity and deserves acknowledgement. He has a mixtape of his crew - the C.A.N.N.O.N.S. Inc. movement, with 11 MCs - ready to flood the streets. He has visions of a distribution deal and a major label merger. He wants to turn C.A.N.N.O.N.S. Inc. into Philadelphia’s hip-hop Motown. For his own projects, he has videos for Mt. Crushmore en route. He’s re-releasing his Ginormous mixtape with new tracks. His latest album, Grains of Sand, just dropped. Those breaks don’t happen as a result of luck but from a combination of relentless and consistent hard work and talent. Sandman has both going for him.
Divided June Divided educates Lauren Gordon on the value of Craigslist, college and connections
eith Gill vividly remembers the day he met two of his future fellow bandmates. He was half-fearing for
his life. “I called my friend who is a cop and was like, 'I am meeting these guys about their band. You have to come with me. I don't want to end up dead,'” he recalls with a chuckle. In all fairness, it is a reasonable worry when you opt to meet anyone on Craigslist. Gill, 23, a skilled drummer from Northeast Philly, was sick of only playing with musicians interested in hardcore. In an attempt to find a band whose music he'd actually listen to, Gill sent out a hopeful message into the vast reaches of the Internet in April 2009. Then he waited.
few months later, Chris Kissel and Melissa Menago were presented with the all-too-familiar “Now what?” scenario after graduating from Drexel University. Though they had earned degrees in the music industry program from a prestigious university, the pair of musicians were at a loss for what was supposed to happen next. “When you go through the job hunt it just gets boring and discouraging,” says Menago, 24, the band's front-woman vocalist/guitarist extraordinaire. “Chris and I started writing together that summer just for fun.”
Her dream was to write and sell her own songs, or hang out behind a soundboard in a studio. She never considered being on the front lines of entertainment. But something started clicking. So they began rehearsing the new songs with a few friends. When their drummer friend went on tour that December with another band, they put an ad on Craigslist. Gill reached out to them. He was the only person to whom Kissel and Menago responded - on New Year’s Day, 2010. A few days later, they all met. And it wasn't scary. That’s essentially when the pop rock sensation June Divided was born.
've played music my whole life,” says Menago, who grew up in Delaware. “I seriously started studying music and classical piano around 11, started writing songs around 12 and picked up the guitar when I was 13.” She points her thumb across the table toward her bandmates and says, “I would have killed to have these guys to write with. When I was younger, the girls weren't really into music the same way I was.” The guys - Kissel, Gill and bassist Rich Mancinelli - let out a collective, halfpatronizing, half-sincere, “Awww.” Menago shoots them a murderous glare with
such affection that the condemnation behind it holds no weight. Despite the harmless teasing, each bandmate, at their core, is thankful to have each other. It is this specific quartet that made June Divided's energetic sound so signature. They've been compared to Jimmy Eat World's instrumentals with the vocal powerhouse of Paramore. Their lyrics are relatable enough that band members have been approached by thirteen year olds - who Menago says she could talk to forever - and fans older than their parents. Gill, who was born in Dublin, was immersed in traditional Irish music by his parents. His first instrument was the Irish flute. He continued playing music as he grew up in the Northeast, attending Father Judge High School. Their early performances always had a foundation of Gill’s friends and family. “The rest of us aren't from around here originally,” explains Menago. “We came here because of Drexel. So having the support of Keith's friends and family is what really helped.” Kissel began focusing on music after his sports dreams ended. “I had been playing guitar for a few years, when I tore my ACL playing freshmen football,” says Kissel, who hails from Harrison City, a three-stop light town near Pittsburgh. “Then,
Photo by G.W. Miller III.
INTERWEBBED: (L to R) Keith Gill, Melissa Menago, Rich Mancinelli and Chris Kissel.
I tried to come back for basketball season and tore my ACL, MCL and cartilage. I basically didn't have anything inside my knee left. That forced me to sit on the couch for a while. That was when I really started playing guitar.” “I also got into music due to a sports injury,” begins Mancinelli, 24, from South Jersey. “I got cut from the basketball team freshman year and ended up with a lot of free time.” “That's not an injury Rich!” Kissel teasingly interrupts. “You got cut. There's kind of a difference!” For his part, Mancinelli jokingly insists he's not really in the band. The former vocalist/ keyboardist/ guitarist of Taking Sides and a Drexel classmate, Mancinelli became the bassist in September 2010 after the original bassist, Dane Kline, left to pursue his PhD. Mancinelli picked up Kline's complicated bass groove in time for the band to begin recording their first EP. They worked with yet another Drexel colleague, Alec Henninger, 24, a producer at Soundmine Studios in the Poconos. After months of practicing, playing, mixing and mastering, their six-song EP, The Other Side of You, dropped in February 2011.
nd that's when the whirlwind began. They landed a spot playing their single, “Bullet,” live on Radio 104.5.
That song wound up getting airtime on WXPN. Suddenly, the Philly band was Texasbound on a road trip to play the South by Southwest music festival. While driving through the desolate Southern states, the group grew bored and silent. Then, manager Lenny Sasso, another Drexel classmate, received a phone call. The van erupted with Sasso’s screaming. All of the sudden, everyone’s phones started ringing in unison. Everyone was calling to tell them that June Divided was getting airtime on 93.3 WMMR during Jaxon's “Local Shots” show. Gill hurriedly launched his WMMR app on his iPhone so they all could fully enjoy the moment. “We pulled over and were so excited, hugging each other,” Kissel recalls. “It was pretty surreal.” The hungry band tapped into more Drexel connections - Dylan Steinberg, Bruce Pinchbeck and Dante Molino - to help conceive and direct their first music video, for "Bullet." Menago and Kissel had helped Steinberg and Pinchbeck when they were film students by composing scores for their shorts. Mancinelli wrinkles his nose as the conversation turns to the video. He had to wear eye-liner. Menago ruefully adds how nervous she was to be on camera.
“You mean 'Miss Natural' over here?” Gill exclaims. “Please, they were convinced you took acting classes.” She ends the complimentary tête-à-tête with, “Well, they did use our eyes the most throughout the video.” Gill leans toward Menago and the two meet for an enthusiastic high-five.
he band’s focus now is pushing the EP so that people can appreciate their talents. It’s all-consuming work – they are scheduled to perform numerous concerts in the coming months. “No matter where we are or what we do, it always comes back to the band,” Kissel boasts. “It is amazing,” Gill adds. “We've only really been together, working seriously at this for less then a year.” In that time, they’ve forged a bond, taken advantage of connections and established themselves on the local music scene. In May, they were nominated for Mtv’s freshman of the week, and that garnered them national attention. Their journey is far from over. Their next goal is to get back into the studio to record their first full length album, one that promises to reflect the professional attitude and mindblowing sound they’ve created.
All photos by Megan Matuzak.
Over the last quarter century, a quiet storm has been building in the city. Megan Matuzak learns about the origins of the Brazilian Revolution, the intoxicating wave of infectious sounds.
Revolução Brasileira I
n the late 1960’s, Brazilian president Costa e Silva ordered the construction of a bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro with the city of Niteroi, on the other side of Guanabara Bay. Eugene Rausa, a young civil engineer from New York, packed his bags and left for Brazil to work on this extensive project. Rausa found himself placed in the middle of fate’s hands. He fell in love with Rio instantly. The vivacious culture ignited something in his heart that permanently bound him to the city for the rest of his life. It was there in Brazil that Rausa met his wife. His two daughters were born there. And Rausa, who had performed as a jazz pianist in New York while in college, became completely immersed in Brazilian music.
Thirteen years later, Rausa and his family moved to the Philadelphia area. With him he brought an intense passion and love for samba, the musical genre that is the soul of Brazil. And just like magic, a Brazilian music scene was born here in Philadelphia.
rlando Haddad’s eyes twinkle as he gazes across the table at his wife, Patricia King, whom he met on a beach trip in 1975 while both attended the North Carolina School of the Arts. During college, they discovered they shared a love of Brazilian music. Haddad plays guitar. King plays piano. Both sing elegantly. By the time they finished college, they formed the band Minas, named after Haddad’s home state in
Brazil, Minas Gerais. They performed up and down the East Coast for a while and then went to Brazil, where they recorded their first album. They returned to the United States in 1984, arriving in Philadelphia with only an old, lumpy mattress and an uneven card table. They looked around Philadelphia for a slice of Brazil. To their surprise, they found very little. But they did find Rausa. Haddad and Rausa, who studied with a cuica drum master while in Brazil, became friendly while taking samba classes at the University of the Arts. They wound up continuing their drum practices in Haddad and King’s basement in Lansdowne. Within a short time, the basement sessions included dozens of people.
speak another language and have hundreds of people turn out?” Shaw asks.
Eventually, Haddad and King launched a samba school, PhilaSamba, with the help of Rausa and the Latin American Musicians Association. Every Wednesday evening, musicians would come over and turn their family home into a mini Carnival. “The whole house would just shake and our neighbors would dance outside,” King explains. It was fun and educational, a cultural experience as well as a good time. The PhilaSamba workshops launched a Brazilian music revolution in the region. While the original crew disbanded after a few years, others groups followed – Banda Bacana and Samba Nosso, for example. PhilaSamba was the predecessor of today’s local crews like Philly Bloco and Alo Brasil. “Brazilian music is really great for education and schools and for bringing young people together in a group of percussion,” King says. “They can express themselves because it’s an instrument that kids can get their hands on.” “It unites communities with young people who are looking for a positive outlet in their lives,” Haddad adds.
n several ways, Alex Shaw, of Alo Brasil, represents the old guard of the Brazilian music scene in Philadelphia as well as the new. Shaw, a drummer, truly believes in the traditions and legacy of the Afro-Brazilian musical styles that have found a home here. Alo Brasil focuses on a concoction of traditional and modern day drumming where African rhythms converse with Brazilian styles. “As a percussionist, understanding the folk traditions behind the music and where they come from is very important,” Shaw, 34, points out. With Alo Brasil, Shaw performed alongside Rausa, who passed away in 2005. Shaw says that Rausa was the endless reservoir of gusto that gave the band it’s prodigious flight. Shaw isn’t shy to mention his practice of Capoeira Angola, the dance-like martial art that is put to Brazilian drums. He credits it as a major source of traditional inspiration. This practice of dance-fighting, which was originated by slaves during the transcontinental slave trade, goes hand-inhand with Afro-Brazilian spiritual traditions that are intricately woven into the Brazilian music scene today. “What is it about these traditions that are so powerful that it unifies communities and starts movements?” questions Shaw. “It’s that the percussion traditions are so empowering. They gratify the need to be heard as well as jumpphilly.com
REVOLUTIONARIES: Michael Stevens (opposite page) leads Philly Bloco, which includes Jay Beck and Adwoa Tacheampong (top). Orlando Haddad and Patricia King (middle). Alex Shaw. celebrate life and culture.” Alo Brasil’s 12 members teach the history behind the music as well as put on shows. Shaw, for instance, has run workshops at the University of the Arts. “Bands like Alo Brasil and Philly Bloco have done a lot to shift and facilitate this interest in Brazilian music,” Shaw says. “People didn’t really have a reference for it before.” The amazing thing is that Alo Brasil only sings in Portuguese. “How many groups do you know of that
hillyBloco is the new kid on the block, making the most noise in the Brazilian music scene right now. The group, which launched in 2008, is the brainchild of the industrious Michael Stevens, a previous member of Alo Brasil. “A bloco is two things,” he says. “It’s a big parade organization at Carnival where 200 to 300 drummers take to the streets. But there are also smaller versions that go out to shows with their best drummer and build the rest of the band around them. The core is the samba-style drums.” Stevens, a self-taught drummer, shares Shaw’s passion for educating the masses about Brazilian music. He serves as the musical director of the University of Pennsylvania Samba Ensemble. He founded Unidos da Filadelfia, a samba school, in 2005. He teaches drumming at Circle of Hope on Frankford Avenue and Studio 34 in West Philadelphia. “Ultimately my goal is to bring samba to as many people as possible,” Stevens says. The majority of the people he attracts to bang and tap on the drums, he says, aren’t musicians at all. They are just captivated by the lure of Brazilian drumming. “Brazilian music is awesome,” he adds. “It makes people feel good. It makes people happy.” PhillyBloco performs with 22 members but the line-up changes as instruments are added. The 12 drums are regularly joined by bellowing singers, guitars, an accordion, a full brass section and a dancer. When operating at full force, it’s hard to find someone not dancing to the rousing melodies during a PhillyBloco performance. “It’s a very open and appreciative community we have that turns out for our shows,” says singer Adwoa Tacheampong. “Native Brazilians and nonBrazilians love to feel good and have fun. Brazilian music gives them what they want. why people keep coming back.” The band released their first CD in March. It’s a fusion of funk, samba, reggae and other genres, all backed by frenetic drums and Stevens’ whistle-blowing.
he Brazilian music scene in Philadelphia is exciting, appreciative and growing,” says Stevens. “Native Brazilians feel like they are experiencing a slice of home.” The legacy of Eugene Rausa, the local “Godfather of Brazilian Music” is wildly living on. The Brazilian music revolution continues to force people out of their seats.
Jazz, R&B, Ribs and Love in West Philly Kim Maialetti samples the rub recipe and witnesses the magic at the one-year old Le Cochon Noir.
he smoky scent of barbecue wafts through the dining room as if being carried along on the notes of a song. A waitress delivers plates of ribs and sides of cornbread with showgirl style in towering five-inch heels. And a young woman in a sequined sweater takes the stage, promising to make it a night to remember. This is the first open-mic night of the year-old Le Cochon Noir in West Philadelphia and friends and family turn out in force to listen to Alexis Joi, Stash Robinson and the City Hall band perform. At least that’s how it seems. But we’re in for a surprise.
as does a giant mural of the American flag with dates marking the assassinations of John F. Kennedy (Nov. 22, 1963), Malcolm X (Feb. 21, 1965) and Robert Kennedy (June 5, 1968).
djacent to Fairmount Park and a stone’s throw from the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Le Cochon Noir is a one-year old barbecue restaurant and music venue aiming to kick things up a notch in a section of the city that is being recreated as the Centennial District. The space is a former warehouse on Parkside Avenue, outfitted with an open kitchen, leather booths, tables draped in red and black linens and of course, a stage. Paintings by local artists decorate the walls
with selected spirits. Not that that matters much. The ribs and the music are the highlights at Le Cochon Noir. “I grew up in a household where there was always great music playing,” says owner Jamal Parker. “This was a great opportunity to put my two loves together – food and music – and package them up and serve them to the public.”
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: performer Alexandra Day at the piano (top) and Executive Chef Billy Grant with the ribs. Plans call for the addition of a wine loft that will accommodate around 2,500 bottles but for now, the temporary bar carries a limited selection of mainly West Coast wines along
e Cochon Noir is all about the love. Just listen to Stash Robinson sing “Lady,” the R&B hit by D’Angelo. Robinson – who does not have a mustache, but got his first name because his mother craved pistachios when she was pregnant – has a smooth, baritone voice that conjures up images of the late Teddy Pendergrass, one of Philadelphia’s great R & B legends. When he sings, it’s soulful and sexy like Le Cochon Noir itself. “It’s a beautiful venue,” Robinson says later. “It’s a nice place to have a mellow night out.” Robinson, 27 and spoken for, grew up in the neighborhood and still lives there today. He drives a truck full-time but singing is his jumpphilly.com
Photos by G.W. Miller III.
Food That Rocks passion, his true love. “If I could make this a full-time thing, believe me I would,” he says. “But right now, I have to pay the bills. There’s so much talent here, and for the most part it’s very hard to make it.” Parker agrees and wants Le Cochon Noir to be a springboard for up-and-coming artists as well as an up-and-coming neighborhood. He envisions the restaurant as a place where not only visitors to the Mann come before and after a show to enjoy a meal and more music but also where neighborhood residents stop in for a bite to eat and some good local talent. He concedes, though, that his vision may be a little ways off. “When I was growing up, no one went into Northern Liberties,” says Parker. “I strongly believe in the whole Parkside area. I am in for the long haul.”
ne of his best ingredients for success right now might just be the rub – the dry spice mixture that earned the ribs at Le Cochon Noir second place in the restaurant division in last year’s Stephen Starr-Garry Maddox BBQ Challenge. A Delaware contestant took first place, technically making the ribs at Le Cochon Noir the best in Philly. “That was our first competition,” Parker says. “When we go up against him again in August I plan on whoopin’ him.” But don’t ask Parker what’s in the rub recipe. Only two people know – him and his father, and Parker is the only person at the restaurant who makes it.
HOT SPOT: Owner Jamal Parker preparing Bananas Foster (top). The pork belly and beans entree (left).
here is no question that the ribs at Le Cochon Noir are worth a visit. Meaty and juicy, they have a deep smoky flavor attributed to the rub and slow cooking in the restaurant’s customized indoor smoker, which can cook 150 racks of ribs – or four whole hogs – at one time. Le Cochon Noir is French for the black pig, a heritage breed of pig believed to be developed in the late 1800s from Chinese breeds brought to England. Le Cochon Noir is a rare breed and is said to produce lean, moist, flavorful pork and exceptional bacon. Executive chef Billy Grant, who has spent time working for Stephen Starr and Georges Perrier and served as the personal chef to former Sixers point guard Eric Snow, supervises the kitchen.
Le Cochon Noir 5070 Parkside Avenue (215) 879-1011 info@ lecochonnoir.com www. lecochonnoir.com
s diners debate ordering a full rack or a half rack, vocalist Alexis Joi performs a second set that includes the Patti LaBelle classic “If Only You Knew.” “If only you knew, how much I do, do love you,” sings the 26-year-old Indiana girl, now living in the City of Brotherly Love after a detour in Los Angeles. Moments later as Joi leaves the stage, her boyfriend Isaiah Hamm takes her hand and escorts her back up. He gets down on one knee and, sure enough, asks her to marry him. The crowd of friends and family, all in on the secret, erupt in applause. It is indeed a night to remember. Reflecting on the moment later, Joi says jumpphilly.com
when she first saw her man heading toward the stage she worried he would embarrass her. Even though they had talked about marriage, she wasn’t expecting a proposal that night. “I had no idea,” she says. “I was very shocked he would come up with something like that. To see him get on his knee, I was excited. I was happy. I was a little
embarrassed.” The couple plans to get married in May next year. In the meantime, Joi and Robinson will continue hosting open mike nights at Le Cochon Noir every second and third Thursday of the month.
Photo courtesy of Brendan McKinney.
Liner Notes Singer/ songwriter Brendan McKinney has traveled the world because of his music. He learned a huge lesson along the way.
You Can't Do It Alone
y first professional solo gig was in the early '90s at the Grape Street Pub in Manayunk. It was one of the roughest nights of my career. At the time, Guy Campo, of a band called the Rockadile’s, helped with bookings at the Grape Street. Guy knew me from playing his open mics at the Rusty Nail in Ardmore on Wednesdays. He believed in me enough to give me my first break. I was eager … but very green. The system I brought was barely running and I really didn’t know how to use it. The sound was tinny and pretty horrible. While Tom, the owner, looked on, a customer yelled across the bar, “Tune your guitar man!” I was perplexed. I thought it sounded in tune. My confidence crumbled. On my first break, the same loudmouth told me he had his horn “just down the street." I could tell he’d probably been drinking too much but I foolishly invited him to get his trumpet and jam with me anyway. I thought it would help but It made things sound much worse. And it dashed any hope I had as coming off as a pro. I never expected to play there again. But Tom saw me months later performing at the Rusty Nail (another gig that Guy Campo got me) and decided to give me another shot. This second chance turned out to be crucial for my career: Vince Schneider, a musician, agent and Philadelphia staple watched me perform. He liked what he saw and began booking me in other rooms in and around Philly.
ince, who is still a great friend, also had some connections in Europe. He booked me to play for a month at a pub in Copenhagen, Denmark.
From there, I picked up gigs in Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany and Greece, as well as places throughout Denmark. That connection with Vince changed my life profoundly, both professionally and personally. In Denmark, I met the love of my life, a girl who became my wife and the mother of my two children. I should back track a little here. Before I first went to Denmark for the first time, I recorded in Eric Horvitz's studio. Eric had a popular Philadelphia band called Dynagroove. He was managed by Steve Mountain who, in those days, also represented Tommy Conwell and the Hooters. Eric produced my first original recording project, which ended up catching the attention of a few key people in Denmark and led me to many recording opportunities in Copenhagen and Bergen, Norway. It was in Bergen where my band, The 99 Brown Dogs, was born. We began recording and producing my original songs, which led to two CD’s, Right Where I came in in 2003, and My Dad’s Car in 2006. Around that time, I made another great connection, with a New Zealander named Robin Tripp. Trippy played as a solo guitarist around Denmark and he was a fan of my songs. He hooked me up with a booking agent in Vail, Colorado.
fter living and performing in Copenhagen for about seven years, and with the promise of a fresh, lively music scene back in the U.S. beckoning, my wife and I decided to make the move. In Vail, I met and began playing with a great guitarist named Joel Racheff. Joel introduced me to Jim Attebury, the owner of The Durango Songwriters Expo, a songwriters convention in
Colorado. Participating in the expo would prove pivotal in my writing and recording career. Jim opened many doors for me. I ended up signing a deal with a Los Angeles licensing company called Riptide, which has since placed many of my songs on TV and in films. I began travelling to Nashville, also thanks in part to some connections I made at the expo. There, my music caught the attention of Jim Tract, the president of a Nashville-based label called Adroit Records. As it turns out, Jim and his business partner Tim Boylan, both grew up not more than 5 miles from where I grew up. Life had come full circle. I signed a record deal with Adroit and in October 2010, we released an album, Best They Can, with the revamped 99 Brown Dogs.
returned to Manayunk at the end of April. This time, I performed at the Dawson Street Pub. I was joined by friends and colleagues of Eric Horvitz's - Jim Steager and
Kevin Hanson from Philly's own Huffamoose. We performed with guest harmonica players, Joe “Fat Benny” Innes and my brother, Kevin McKinney, who was in a band called Driving Wheel with me before I first went overseas. I was charged up to be back home, so close to where it all began for me. I played my guitar with a very special pick that night. It was a medium black pick with the name "Guy Campo" monogrammed on it. I see Guy every so often and I always ask for a few. I try to make sure I have at least one on hand when I’m doing an important gig. For me, it’s a good mojo. Numerous people helped me get to where I am today. Every connection matters and each has led to something life changing that I could have never expected. I still look ahead with great anticipation for what's next but I'm always looking back with thanks for all the good people who have helped me along. You can’t do it alone. Never underestimate, nor forget, your connections. jumpphilly.com
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