Photo by Rachel Barrish.
DeathFest In 2013? Deathwaltz Media Group is a Philly promotion company with an ear for originality. Justin Berger started the company a year and a half ago after he realized that managing bands might be easier than making it in one. Our Brian Wilensky talks to Berger about the business. Philly hasn't had a major annual festival until the announcement of the Made in America Festival. Why do you think that is? The reason there hasn't been a major music festival in Philly is because there hasn't been a promoter that is willing to give it a shot. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into making a successful festival. It's really a goal of ours to put together a large festival one day. We realize, however, that it’s important to have the perfect team to make such a thing possible. So this year we made it a priority to be involved in some fashion with every major festival so that we can start to assemble a team of the baddest motherfuckers in the business. We are focusing a lot of our time to making this goal a reality. DeathFest? We're still working on a title. What does Philly offer to you as a promoter that other markets don't? Until recently, there weren't really any promoters in Philly that worked with everyone. It made it very difficult to get things done. For some reason, I haven't had any issue working with the majority of venues and promoters in the city. I like to think it's because everyone that works for the company is charming, good-looking and hard-working, but I think the times have just changed. Everyone knows it’s more important to work and prosper together, rather than compete. I'm not sure our neighboring cities have this theory down yet.
You work a lot with jam, dance and world music. What draws you to those genres? I started really promoting when I became fascinated with world music. The shows were almost exclusively at The Rotunda in West Philly, and always free or with a donation. The shows were part of a project I called the Diaspora Series, which focused on experimental world music, and all seemed to have an audience of avant-garde musicians who sat down in chairs and studied the musicians pretty hard. The change in direction happened when I began helping out in a managerial role for the band Grimace Federation. They had abandoned the jam scene for a few years and I felt it was necessary to have them get back into the jam/ electronic world. When I made the transition to the more accessible live music, I saw that crowds began to flock and even combine. Since then, I have had a lot of fun placing two or three bands on a bill whose scenes never seemed to intermingle. What do you look for in bands that send you material? We look for new, fresh artists that defy a single genre. We aren't too interested in any acts that keep it safe. I grew up listening to a lot of fusion, and the idea behind Deathwaltz is to really push the genre-bending as far as we can. I like to see how motivated they are before working with them.
Medea photo by Bill DiCecca.
Maddy Court talks to the former wedding singers/performers from Medea. Named after a dog, Medea is a wedding band gone rogue. Founding members Pat Robinson and Irene Lambrou met while playing the local wedding circuit in 1996. In 1999, they started Medea as an outlet for their original music. “At a wedding, you're there to provide a service,” explains Lambrou, the singer, whose dog inspired the name of the band. “At a Medea show, people are there to see what you do.” Medea's lineup has changed over the years but Robinson and Lambrou think their current lineup, including drummer Pat Domanico, guitarist Tony Winkler and bassist Rich Curtis, is the best incarnation of their project. “The earlier versions of the band were more combustible,” says Robinson, who plays guitar and keyboard. “It was a heavier sound and it
was a lot more progressive.” Their upcoming album, Some Other Life, due out in September, is the product of two years of hard work. It melds jazz and earthy tones. The members of Medea have learned some things during 13 years on the scene. Most recently, they put their music online to reach a larger audience. They're not too stressed about Bandcamp, however. They know that their demographic is older, NPR-subscriber types. “We're grown-ups,” summarizes Robinson. “Our band is a testament to the staying power of great musicians in this city,” says Lambrou.
Young Veteran Rachel Barrish meets Lucy Stone, a 20-year old who began performing when she was 12. Lucy Stone’s life is crazy these days. She constantly bounces from place to place – singing, writing, recording and going to school, all while managing to maintain a social life. “I drink, like, six of these a day,” Stone says, referring to the iced coffee in her hand. She has strawberry hair and she sports a tattoo on her arm of a candle burning at both ends. It's a philosophy that she lives by; work to the bone, but have fun. She writes all of her own material, with her style varying from indie rock to sweet, soulful melodies, crossing over to folk. She grew up in nearby Flourtown, an only child whose parents introduced her to greats like Elliot Smith, one of the main musical influences in her life. Her parents used to harmoniously sing The Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl” to her every night. When Stone was 14, her dad punished her by taking her to a Belle & Sebastian show with The New Pornographers. She began making and performing music when she was 12 years old. At 14, she and her best friend created a Duke Ellington tribute band called Yuke Ellington. She has literally been in 10 bands since she was 14 – and she’s only 20 now. Stone came to Philly to participate in Drexel’s Music Industry program. Her main project now is her Lucy Stone outfit, which includes two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. Each serves an additional role to the project. Drummer Sean Donaghy is the booking agent. Bassist Paul Impellizeri is the manager. Guitarist Brandon Bost is the producer. Guitarist Isaac Louis is the publicist. They released an EP, Would You?, in July and then spent the summer performing around the region – from the Arts Festival at Penn State to Musikfest in Bethlehem. They opened for Rusted Root at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. This fall, Stone and her bandmates will tour the Northeast, Midwest and Canada. 9