Concert Review: Cibo Matto @ The Boot and Saddle (2/11/14)


By Kirsten Becker

Japanese expatriates Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori are the creative minds behind Cibo Matto (Italian for “crazy food”). The group received heavy praise for their first two albums, Viva! La Woman and  Stereo Type A in the 90s before they went on hiatus for the new millenium. Honda and Hatori still remained very active, doing collaborations with Yoko Ono, The Gorillaz, and Beck as well as solo gigs during those years. In 2011, Cibo Matto announced they were back together and were recording new music, much to the excitement of diehard fans everywhere.

Cibo Matto’s earlier music mostly consisted of songs about food, yet they gradually expanded their subject matter over the years. Hotel Valentine, which is officially released today, is their most mature album to date. Appearances from Nels Cline (Wilco) and Mauro Refosco (Atoms For Peace) are included with Cibo Matto’s signature mix of trip-hop, pop, and funk tunes. To add to the Valentine’s Day theme, Hatori and Honda have also handwritten Valentine’s cards for those who pre-ordered the album. The record is also released on Sean Lennon’s label Chimera Music.

After 15 years of hiatus, Cibo Matto has returned to tour the country to mostly sold out dates. I was beyond excited to get a chance to catch them at The Boot and Saddle on February 11. I pretty much counted out the idea of ever getting to see them live, never thinking they would record a follow up to Stereo Type A. They started off the night with just the two main members playing. Classic “Sugar Water” started off the set, which featured Hatori’s soft whispered vocals and mysterious backing beats. Later on, the two ladies were joined by Yuko and Jared Samuels for a full band to play new songs from Hotel Valentine. “Moonchild,” “Deja Vu” and “MFN” were all highs of the night. Cibo Matto graciously thanked the crowd for their support at the end of the set, but very quickly came back to entertain the fans with an encore, including the song “Happy Birthday.”

Cibo Matto continue their reunion tour through March. Check out Hotel Valentine as well as the rest of the band’s impressive catalog.

Concert Review: Dr. Dog at Eletric Factory 2/1/14


There really is nothing quite like a Dr. Dog performance. If there’s any band that can instantly turn my mood around, it’s them. I was lucky enough to catch the band for my fifth time at the Electric Factory. February 1st’s show was their second of two sold out shows in Philly and the energy from the night before carried into this show as well. The Pennsylvania locals played a high octane set that lasted almost two hours. The entire range of their albums were covered, including “Say Ahhh” from their 2002 album Toothbrush to singles from their latest release entitled B-Room.

Crowd favorites like their Architecture in Helsinki cover of “Heart it Races” and “Lonesome” had the entire room singing along. Vocalists Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken took turns with belting out their respective songs as well as joking around in between tunes. They also expressed their gratitude for Philly’s overwhelming support of the band through the years. During their encore they had the Philly Phanatic join the stage during “Oh No.” Steve Marion from the opener Saint Rich joined the band as well to solo on “Easy Beat.” Marion is also the mastermind behind the band Delicate Steve.

Overall, Dr. Dog did not disappoint the sold out crowd at the Factory. They will continue their extensive tour that goes well into March in support of B-Room.

Concert Review: King Krule at Johnny Brenda’s 12/7/13


by Kirsten Becker

I could be the biggest King Krule fan I know. Since discovering him in 2011 I have been completely obsessed with his completely unique brand of music. King Krule is largely a “love it or hate it” kind of artist, but there’s no denying his incredible talent. Archy Marshall, the 19-year old mastermind behind the project has created a sound all his own. His thick South East London accent doused in heavy reverb combined with hip hop beats and minimalist guitar riffs creates an almost dream-like kind of music. For someone so young, it’s almost astounding how intricately crafted each song on his debut LP 6 Feet Beneath the Moon really is.

Marshall’s December 7th stop in Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s was part of his first headlining tour in America, so it was obviously something I had been looking forward to for sometime. To add to the excitement, the show sold out months beforehand.

TOPS opened the show with their 60s-inspired indie rock sound. The Montreal band features ethereal and breathy vocals from Jane Penny over punchy pop guitars and drums. They played songs off of their first full length album, Tender Opposites, which came out last year.

Entering the stage at a little past 11 PM, King Krule took control with their moody brand of indie rock. The band played most of their songs from 6 Feet Beneath the Moon as well as some tracks from their 2011 self-titled EP, most notably the single “The Noose of Jah City.” The dim lighting added to the band’s dark aesthetic and Marshall’s frantic dance moves were a sight to see.

What really shone through was the talent of the band overall. Each member had fine tuned each riff and melody, everything just seemed to click. The show was definitely one of my favorites that I have yet to see. It is looking like things can only get better for King Krule, the wild success of his first album has catapulted him into the spotlight for sure.

Concert Review: Phantogram at Union Transfer 12/6/13


by Kirsten Becker

Phantogram’s sold ­out stop at the Union Transfer on December 6th was part of their highly anticipated tour in support of their latest album, Voices, which is also their first album in four years.

I was pleasantly surprised by opener Until the Ribbon Breaks, the relatively new project of Welshman Pete Lawrie. The act blends electronic elements seen in recent dance music as well as plain old rock influences. At various points during the set Lawrie showed off his talents on the trumpet as well as other instruments, and displayed his versatility in his unique style of music. Welsh’s distorted vocals also added an interesting addition to his somber lyrics. Songs like “2025,” “Romeo,” and “Pressure” won the crowd over. Until the Ribbon Breaks is definitely a band to look out for in 2014, and you should expect to see more news from Lawrie’s project in the future.

Phantogram came on around 11:00 p.m. to an ecstatic crowd. Singer Sarah Barthel’s powerful voice cut through the band’s shoegaze vibes. A chilling rendition of “Mouthful of Diamonds” captivated the audience as well as fan­favorite “When I’m Small”. The quirky “Running From the Cops” featured guitarist Josh Carter taking over vocal duties.

Their latest single, “Black Out Days” showed a different side of the band. The high energy song accompanied by an incredible light show brought the performance up another notch. Barthel took the time between songs to thank the crowd and Philadelphia for consistently being a great place to play. It was visible she and Carter were feeding off the crowd’s energy and were having a great time on stage.

Phantogram played a couple more new songs from Voices including “Never Going Home” and “The Day You Died” before finally ending the set just around midnight.

Concert Review: Bombino with Here We Go Magic 12/5/13


Bombino, photo courtesy of
Bombino, photo courtesy of

by Kirsten Becker

After hearing Here We Go Magic and Bombino would be touring together this winter, I knew the December 5th show at The Blockley was not one to miss. Though both bands have different sounds, they incorporate a very rhythmic aspect in each of their songs.

Here We Go Magic is a group I only recently got into following their 2012 release A Different Ship. The Brooklyn-­based band has received a lot of hype for their sets at Glastonbury and Bonnaroo. What peaked my interest in the band was that the album was produced by longtime Radiohead producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich. The album definitely has his influence clearly rooted in it.

They opened with the first single from A Different Ship, “Make Up Your Mind.” This high energy song featured pulsating guitar riffs and glimmering synth accents. Other cuts from the album like “Hard to Be Close” and “Alone But Moving” also were heard in the set. Towards the end, the band broke out one of their older songs, “Collector,” which got the crowd moving. They went into an extended jam session where each member got to show off with virtuosic solos. It was clear that the members of Here We Go Magic are extremely talented and very encapsulated in their entire performance. The subdued lights on stage added to the very intimate feeling they were going for. Their set ended with “How Do I Know,” a crowd favorite and left the stage with loud applause.

Photo courtesy of
Here We Go Magic, photo courtesy of

Up next was headliner Bombino in support of his latest album Nomad. Nigerian­-born Omara Moctar came onstage dressed in blue robes and an electric green scarf. For the first half, he and his band played in a line at the front of the stage for an acoustic set. Traditional drums were present while Bombino played an acoustic guitar and another member played bass. Bombino does not speak English but he still managed to connect with the crowd through his music.

For the second half, the band switched over to electric instruments where the music switched formats to a more blues­heavy feel. “Amidinine” was a particular favorite of mine as well as “Azamane Tiliade.” The variety in Bombino’s music is what’s most captivating about him. Each song has its own feel while still remaining very true to his sound.

You can listen to Bombino tracks here.

Fred Armisen Brings Surprise Guests to Underground Arts

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By Shannen Gaffney

Last Thursday night Fred Armisen put on one of the coolest variety shows Underground Arts has ever seen. A little bit comedy, a little bit music, and even a little bit of one-on-one conversation, there wasn’t a dull moment throughout.

Underground Arts announced on Facebook that Fred would be bringing  “a surprise legendary guitar player” just hours before the show. After an opening musical set by his British SNL character “Ian Rubbish,” then doing some jokes as himself, he soon brought out the truly legendary J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The first song they played together was Dino’s “Feel the Pain”. They also played “Massachusetts Afternoon” by the Blue Jean Committee (an SNL sketch which featured Jason Segel on piano) and had the whole crowd singing along to the ridiculous lyrics about apple cider. He ended this portion of the show with “It’s a Lovely Day,” another Ian Rubbish song. Armisen played the song in character on his last SNL performance in May, where many of his musician friends including Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann, Carrie Brownstein,  Michael Penn, and Mascis joined him on stage.

In addition to this short but awesome set, the crowd enjoyed previewing clips from the new season of Portlandia that will air “in early 2014” according to IFC’s website, and another surprise musical guest, Kurt Vile!

Towards the end of the show Fred spent a good twenty minutes answering questions from the crowd. His response to  a question about whether it’s frustrating working with SNL hosts who are not actors reflected his optimistic and quirky personality: “I’m going to sound like such a wimp, but the idea of greatness is overrated. When someone is great, I’m bored. When something’s a little off, I’m fascinated!”

Words to live by.

To reiterate our Tennis review, Underground Arts is currently Philly’s coolest and most unique venue; if for nothing else, go for the great $2 popcorn they’re now selling at the bar. You can see a list of their their upcoming events here.