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Our monthly concert picks: December 2015

What we’re checking out this month!

What we're checking out this month!

Wednesday, December 2: Vince Staples

The first single I heard from Long Beach rapper Vince Staples was "Norf Norf," a fast, hard look at West Coast street life. I confess I didn't really like it —"it's so grim," I thought. But over the next few weeks it grew on me. The hook—Staples avowing "I ain't never ran from nothing but the police"—kept lodging itself in my brain, and something about this blunt assertion, juxtaposed with Staples' stream-of-consciousness flow, gave the song resonance. This wasn't party rap, that you blast Friday night while pre-gaming; it's heavy stuff that captures something real and raw. And that's precisely what makes it so powerful. A high school drop-out raised on a culture of violence, Staples started rapping to stay out of trouble, and soon hooked up with Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt and Syd the Kid, rapping on early OF tracks. Later he joined forces with Mac Miller, who produced acclaimed mixtape Stolen Youth, and shortly after he signed with Def Jam, who released his debut LP Summertime '06. Drawing from his formative years growing up in Cali, Summertime sets out to capture street life like it really is—sans the glamour and drama of other rappers. He stops by Union Transfer this December for what we suspect will be one of the most moving performances this year.

8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $15–60. Tickets available here.

See also: Honey Radar (Tuesday, December 1 at Bourbon & Branch), Cheerbleeders (Tuesday, December 1 at Kung Fu Necktie), Jesse Hale Moore (Tuesday, December 1 at Boot & Saddle), Panama Wedding (Wednesday, December 2 at The Foundry), Son Step (Wednesday, December 2 at Boot & Saddle), Sanctuary Sound (Wednesday, December 2 at Kung Fu Necktie), Ben Hughes (Wednesday, December 2 at Milkboy Philly), Mo Lowda & The Humble (Thursday, December 3 at The Foundry), Communion Philly with Nombe (Thursday, December 3 at Milkboy Philly), West Philadelphia Orchestra (Thursday, December 3 at Underground Arts), Milo (Thursday, December 3 at Kung Fu Necktie), No Good Sister (Thursday, December 3 at Bourbon & Branch), Curren$y (Friday, December 4 at The TLA), Tokimonsta (Friday, December 4 at The Foundry), The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (Friday, December 4 at Union Transfer), Bondage & Discipline (Friday, December 4 at Ortlieb's), The Paper Kites (Friday, December 4 at Milkboy Philly), Weston (Friday, December 4 at First Unitarian Church), Rocket from The Tombs (Friday, December 4 at Johnny Brenda's)

Quirky LA DJ Tokimonsta hosts a vibe-y dance party at The Fillmore December 4.

See also: Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz (Saturday, December 5 at Electric Factory), Photon Band (Saturday, December 5 at Johnny Brenda's), The 1975 (Saturday, December 5 at The Fillmore), Spencer Moody (of Murder City Devils) (Saturday, December 5 at Kung Fu Necktie), Tommy Trash (Saturday, December 5 at Soundgarden Hall), Kingsley Flood (Saturday, December 5 at Boot & Saddle), Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders (Saturday, December 5 at Milkboy Philly), Rebirth Brass Band (Saturday, December 5 at Underground Arts [2 shows!]), Ross Bellenoit (Saturday, December 5 at Bourbon & Branch), Deerhunter (Sunday, December 6 at Union Transfer), Darwin Deez (Sunday, December 6 at Boot & Saddle), Car Seat Headrest  (Sunday, December 6 at Johnny Brenda's), We Were Promised Jetpacks (Sunday, December 6 at Underground Arts), Bunk (Sunday, December 6 at Bourbon & Branch)

Fill up on a double-dose of Bradford Cox, when Deerhunter (whose new record Fading Frontier is their best yet) teams up with Cox solo project Atlas Sound December 6 at Union Transfer.

See also: Edelweiss (Monday, December 7 at Bourbon & Branch), Kopecky (Tuesday, December 8 at Johnny Brenda's [2 shows!]), Kid Cudi (Tuesday, December 8 at The Fillmore), Teen Men (Tuesday, December 8 at Boot & Saddle), City and Colour (Tuesday, December 8 at The Tower), Monica (Tuesday, December 8 at The TLA), Joanna Newsom (Wednesday, December 9 at Union Transfer), Vanessa Carlton (Wednesday, December 9 at World Café Live), Clique (Wednesday, December 9 at PhilaMOCA), Pears with Lithuania (Thursday, December 10 at Johnny Brenda's), Dogs on Acid (Thursday, December 10 at Ortlieb's), Gun Outfit (Thursday, December 10 at PhilaMOCA), Wetbrain (Thursday, December 10 at Bourbon & Branch)

Thursday, December 10: Speedy Ortiz

As a fan of '90s guitar rock and feminism who came of age in the early 2000's, I always lamented not seeing bands like Sleater-Kinney and The Breeders during their heyday (when I was still listening to Disney). Luckily, the past decade has afforded me myriad chances to make up for it: The Breeders toured in 2010 (and played the Church); Wild Flag had a good run 2 years back; and these days even Sleater-Kinney is back in action. Add to my list: New England rockers Speedy Ortiz, led by the formidable Sadie Dupuis, who shreds (with her fingers) and slays (with her words). Originally formed as a vehicle for Dupuis's own creations, some written while teaching summer camp — Speedy Ortiz coalesced into a four-piece band in 2011, while Dupuis was studying at UMass Amherst. Combining brash, angular riffs, odd time-signatures, and Dupuis's wordy, snarky vocals, Speedy Ortiz replicate the angst and lo-fi feel of acts like Pavement, Liz Phair, and Polvo, while at the same time carving their own niche in the scene. They've released three records to date, including 2015's Foil Deer, a fractured, capricious listen that is one of my faves this year. They play the Church December 10; come get sweaty and shreddy alongside them.

8:30 at First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., $13–45. Tickets available here.

See also: Thievery Corporation (Thursday, December 10 at The Fillmore), Void Vision (Thursday, December 10 at Kung Fu Necktie), Weekender (Thursday, December 10 at Kung Fu Necktie), Smalltalk (Tuesday, December 10 at Boot & Saddle), The Yawpers (Thursday, December 10 at Milkboy Philly), The Aimee Mann and Ted Leo Christmas Show (Friday, December 11 at Union Transfer), Evan Dando (of The Lemonheads) (Friday, December 11 at World Café Live), Desk Ark (Friday, December 11 at Everybody Hits), Get the Led Out (Friday, December 11 at Electric Factory), The Get-Up Kids (Friday, December 11 at The Troc), Strand of Oaks (Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12 at Boot & Saddle)

Saturday, December 12: Work Drugs (host a holiday spectacle)

The Work Drugs Holiday Spectacle is one of my very favorite holiday events because it combines two things I adore: the music of Work Drugs, Philadelphia's self-described makers of music for "boating, sexting, dancing, yachting and living"—with low-key vibes that leave you feeling nourished—not overwhelmed—with holiday spirit. This year is the fifth annual Spectacle and we expect Santa hats, ugly sweaters, and hot toddies for all, not to mention some classic holiday covers (fingers crossed for Wham's "Last Christmas.") Formed half a decade back by Philadelphians Thomas Crystal and Benjamin Louisiana (not their real names), Work Drugs found inspiration in sailing and Steely Dan and quickly established themselves as a rising act, thanks to the strength of their songs and a formidable social media presence. Within a few months of forming, they garnered thousands of Facebook fans and Bandcamp streams, and shortly after hit the road with Two Door Cinema Club, turning on more still to their sexy, sultry sounds. We love Work Drugs because of the way they make you feel—swaying along to their (hazy, New Order-y) beats always makes me feel like a VIP at the coolest club in town, where everyone is attractive and the party goes til 4 a.m. And really, is there anything better than that? See you on the floor, smoothly.

9:00 at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Franford Ave., $1012. Tickets available here.

See also: Mac Miller (Saturday, December 12 at The Fillmore), Modern Baseball (Saturday, December 12 at Union Transfer), Kevin Devine (Saturday, December 12 at The TLA), Patrick Watson (Saturday, December 12 at Underground Arts), Tutlie (Saturday, December 12 at Everybody Hits), Bridge Underwater (Saturday, December 12 at The Fire)

Strand of Oaks' Tim Showalter sets up shop for two nights at Boot & Saddle December 11 and 12. Souls will be cleansed.

See also: Questlove Supreme (Thursday, December 13 at The Foundry), Grandchildren (Sunday, December 13 at Bourbon & Branch), You Do You (Sunday, December 13 at World Café Live), We Are Scientists (Sunday, December 13 at Boot & Saddle), Jackie Paper (Sunday, December 13 at Ortlieb's), Banned Books (Tuesday, December 15 at Johnny Brenda's), Big Thief (Tuesday, December 15 at Boot & Saddle), The Arcs (Wednesday, December 16 at The Fillmore), The Dickies (Wednesday, December 16 at Kung Fu Necktie), Ron Gallo (Wednesday, December 16 at Boot & Saddle), Jesse Malin (Thursday, December 17 at Johnny Brenda's), Song Dogs (Thursday, December 17 at World Café Live), Black Masala (Thursday, December 17 at Bourbon & Branch), Madalean Gauze (Thursday, December 17 at Boot & Saddle), Julian King (Thursday, December 17 at Underground Arts), The Pretty Greens (Thursday, December 17 at Ortlieb's), Good Old War (Friday, December 18 at Union Transfer), York Street Hustle (Friday, December 18 at World Café Live), Golden Bloom (Friday, December 18 at Boot & Saddle), Bosley (Friday, December 18 at Kung Fu Necktie), Mannequin Pussy (Friday, December 18 at Everybody Hits), August John Lutz II (Friday, December 18 at Bourbon & Branch)

Saturday, December 19: Spacin'

Philadelphia's Spacin' sound exactly like you'd expect a band named Spacin' to sound, which is to say awesomely shredful, swaggering, indulgent, and oh yeah, spacey. The Philadelphia four-piece formed by Birds of Maya's Jason Killinger creates murky psychedelic jammers to get lost in, whose fuzzed-out licks make you feel like you're hanging in some 70's acid den… unless maybe you're hallucinating those twisted guitar solos? (You're not. They're real).  Originally conceived as a solo project for Killinger, Spacin' emerged as a fully-formed band in 2011, and won over lots of important blogs with debut record Deep Thuds. Since then, they've gigged on and off and recently emerged with new pounding new single "Titchy," which is the first off new record Total Freedom. They'll celebrate Freedom, and play their first hometown show in months December 19 at Everybody Hits, those cool batting cages on Girard you've probably been meaning to check out anyway. Check out their discography first on Bandcamp to get acquainted.

9:00 at Everybody Hits, 529 Girard Ave., more info available here.

See also: Baronness (Saturday, December 19 at Johnny Brenda's), Foals (Saturday, December 19 at Union Transfer), Beach Slang with Tim Kasher (Saturday, December 19 at First Unitarian Church), Pine Barons (Saturday, December 19 at Boot & Saddle), Whaler (Saturday, December 19 at Kung Fu Necktie), Crucial (Saturday, December 19 at Milkboy Philly)

British dance-punk band Foals ignite a music explosion December 19 at Union Transfer.

See also: China Crisis (Sunday, December 20 at Kung Fu Necktie), The Sixties (Saturday, December 20 at Bourbon & Branch), OCD: Moosh & Twist (Wednesday, December 23 at The Foundry), The Shondes (Wednesday, December 23 at Boot & Saddle), Tremellow (Saturday, December 26 at Kung Fu Necktie), Sports (Monday, December 28 at Everybody Hits), Clutch (Monday, December 28 at Electric Factory), The Queers (Monday, December 28 at Kung Fu Necktie), Steady Hands (Tuesday, December 29 at Boot & Saddle), Cheerleader (Thursday, December 31 at Ortlieb's)

Thursday, December 31: A Sunny Day in Glasgow

New Year's Eve is one of those weird holidays that has all the potential to be amazing but more often leaves you slightly disappointed and hungover. I've experienced many different kinds of NYE's over the years, from hanging in friends' basements while their parents watched Dick Clark upstairs to big blowouts with champagne, confetti, and sparkly dresses. And while all of these have (some) value, I've found all I really look for in a NYE celebration is good music, good friends, and good vibes for the new year. A Sunny Day in Glasgow is a six-piece band that traffics in joyous, yet subdued psych-pop. Formed nearly a decade back by former Philadelphian Ben Daniels (he now resides in Sydney), the band's gone through line-up changes and evolutions, but has remained committed to a brand of shoegaze that is both invigorating and calming, replete with fuzzy guitar, layered vocals, and bright, creative melodies. Add a non-pretentious setting, reasonably-priced beer list, and solid openers, including fuzz-rock band Mercury Girls and cool-guy-about-Philly Jeff Ziegler and you have every excuse to tune out your friend's weird college buddy in town for the holiday and tune in to the vibes. We should also mention their new record Planning Weed Like It's Acid / Life Is Loss is pretty great, and is available streaming via Hypem.

9:00 at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $15. Tickets available here.