Funk, soul, and holiday magic!
Friday, December 13: Lee Fields & The Expressions
Add a little soul to your weekend with veteran blues man Lee Fields, dubbed "the second-hardest working man in showbiz" by AllMusic—a nod of course to Fields influencer James Brown (other nicknames include "Little JB.") Since the early 1970s, Fields has churned out funk and soul singles, from the swaggering "Let's Talk It Over" (released in 1973) to 2012's cover of The Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile," which recasts the famous rocker as a soul ballad. Born 1951 in Wilson, NC, Fields got his start belting gospel tunes in church, and released his first single in 1969, earning a small following as a progenitor of brash, playful funk (he also briefly preformed with Kool & The Gang, before their major breakthrough.) He kept quiet during the 1980s but resurfaced again during the '90s—thanks in part to hip-hop's renewed interest in funk samples, and thanks in part to label Desco Records, who released his comeback record in 1999. These days, Fields records and tours with new band The Expressions, whose sweeping horns and strings lend his tunes lively vintage appeal. This Friday, he'll pop by Union Transfer with similarly-minded locals Market East and Aaron & The Spell—for an evening of unabashed vibes and Friday night grooving.
8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $16–$18. Tickets available here.
Friday, December 13: Bilal
Germantown native Bilal is one of the most charming men in showbiz, winning hearts with his warm smile and powerful vocals, which are both technically on-point (he's classically trained in opera) and imbued with emotive candor. A singer since childhood, when he began performing with his mother's Catholic church choir, Bilal first turned heads with his 2001 record 1st Born Second— which yielded popular jazzy single "Soul Sista"—and high-energy live shows, which attracted a growing fan base. At first, critics were quick to peg him as another neo-soul revivalist, in the style of D'Angelo… but he quickly proved them wrong, incorporating hip-hop beats and modern electronics into his tunes, and collaborating with a range of artists, from Common to Beyonce. We <3 Bilal because he's always remained true to his vision (when label Interscope tried to shelve his sophomore record Love for Sale, he stood behind it…and when it eventually leaked it generated enough buzz for him to tour without a label)—and because through the years, he's continued to mature. His 2013 record, A Love Surreal, is a sultry, sweeping affair filled with vocal layers and lush guitars: enough to make you fall in love all over again.
9:00 at The Blockley, 3801 Chestnut St., $25–30. Tickets available here.
Friday, December 13: YACHT
We liked them so much back in October, we're seeing them again! Ever since LCD Soundsystem called it quits in 2011 and left a void, we've been on a quest to locate the next big indie-dance act, whose creative songwriting and on-point lyrics perfectly encapsulate the 20-something lifestyle… while still providing a veritable soundtrack to rage along to. LCD's label mates (on DFA Records) and LA-by-way-of-New-York-by-way-of-Portland duo YACHT seem perfectly poised to fill that void. And it's about time too. Their 2011 record, Shangri-La, was one of our very favorites of the year, mixing gravelly disco numbers with bass-y hooks and throwback trip-hop, and asking big questions about life and God. Formed in 2001 by weirdo/idealist Jona Bechtolt (the name YACHT was originally intended as an acronym, standing for Young Americans Challenging High Technology), the group expanded to include Claire L. Evans in 2008, and has released five full-length records total. They play Underground Arts this Friday as part of WINTERWALTZ, a two-day celebration of holiday music and vibes at UA and the neighboring Electric Factory (also check out !!! Friday at UA and Washed out Saturday at the E-Factory.) See you at the fest Philly!
11:00 pm at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St., $16. Tickets available here.
Saturday, December 14: The Work Drugs Christmas Spectacle
Honestly, we're not 100% sure what to make of this event, billed as a spectacle by Philly popsters Work Drugs—but we're hoping for Santa hats, cocoa, and possibly a cover of the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick." For three years now, the duo of Thomas Crystal and Benjamin Louisiana (plus friends) has regaled crowds with their self-described music for "dancing, boating, yachting, sexting, and living," releasing songs with a prolificacy that makes Bob Pollard look lazy, and gaining more than 135,000 Facebook fans while doing so. We've already detailed our love for their 2012 record Absolute Bearing, which marries images of gleeful destruction with smooth-as-ice beats—since then, the band's released two more full-lengths, and a smattering of singles, including brand new holiday tune "Never Gonna Be Alone on Christmas." This Saturday, they'll bring them all to Johnny Brenda's, for a very spirited celebration. Also on the bill: Philly chamber-pop fivesome The City and Horses, plus new Spinto Band side project Teen Men, featuring music set to synchronized video. Saturday nights have never felt more festive.
9:15 at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $12. Tickets available here.
Tuesday, November 17: Eternal Summers
Roanoke, VA band Eternal Summers have been on our radar since 2010, when their debut record, the punky, straightforward Silver, first dropped. Since then, they've become an underdog fave, winning our love with sparkling guitar pop and new wave-y charmers. Formed in 2009 by Nicole Yun and Daniel Cundiff, of Roanoke's infamous Magic Twig Community (a D.I.Y. group of musicians and music lovers), the band expanded to include Jonathan Woods in 2011, and released their sophomore record, Correct Behavior, in 2012. Last time we wrote about ES, we spotlighted killer single "Millions," which is (in our own words!) liable to insight "office workers across the country to fling their papers into the air with abandon, and burst out the front door." Since then, millions of papers have been flung, and the band is hard at work on their third record, The Drop Beneath, due out this March. Perhaps we'll be treated to some new material this Tuesday? Either way, we expect vibes.
8:00 at Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., $10. Tickets available here.