Live music for the new year!
Friday, January 2: Philadelphia Slick
"Slick" is not a word most people generally associate with Philadelphia; we're more likely to be called "dirty" or "gritty" or sometimes "authentic" (a nice way to put it). Philadelphia hip-hop collective Philly Slick, I'm sure, are aware of this characterization. Yet at the same time, if anyone is to carry the "slick" label, it's these dudes, whose take on hip-hop is soulful, smooth, and yes, a little slick — but more in a carefully polished way than a false, fronting way. Formed nearly a decade back by Emcee Noesis, producer "El Smooth," and a full backing band, Philadelphia Slick landed squarely on the radar with a win at the 2007 Philly Sound Clash, and has been mostly unstoppable since, releasing four full-length LPs, in addition to countless solo projects and one-offs. Anchored by Noesis's smooth flow (we once compared him to Nas and Mos Def), bright horns, and hard-hitting lyrics not afraid to touch on political or social issues — the band really shines in a live setting, where their energy and passion are contagious. They'll bring it this Friday at Boot & Saddle; come kick off 2015 in style.
8:30 at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St., $10. Tickets available here.
Thursday, January 8: Spaceship Aloha
It's definitely winter in Philadelphia (freezing temps and early sunsets, checkkk), but that doesn't mean you can't mentally transport yourself to some place warmer. Enter Philly psych-spazz dance project Spaceship Aloha, guaranteed to deliver mega-vibes. An outlet from Man Man drummer Chris Powell (aka, Pow Pow), Spaceship Aloha combines Powell's trademark spastic drumming with space-age sound effects and traditional Hawaiian vibes, for a result as lush and vibrant as a luau on Mars. A long-time advocate of Hawaiian culture ("I've been obsessed since childhood," he tells The Key), the project first came to fruition in 2011 after a voyage to Maui, where he fell in love with the tunes on Hawaiian FM radio. His first record, Universe Mahalo: Volume #1, dropped in 2012 — since then, Powell's been busy working on new stuff, and perfecting his energy-fueled live show. This is probably the closest you'll get to a tropical escape this year (without leaving city limits!), so best to not sleep.
8:00 at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $10. Tickets available here.
Friday, January 9: Northern Arms
Philadelphia art-pop collective Northern Arms craft grand, sweeping concoctions inspired by emotional truthfulness and driven by their impressive, 10-person line-up. A project some 13 years in the making, the band realizes that music — like visual art — is created through a process that is sometimes long, difficult, and a little bit drunken — but that's sure to find its way as long as it remains honest. Formed in 2001 by Keith Richard Peirce and Eric Bandel, Philadelphians and self-described "f*ck ups," who met fortuitously and bonded over a shared musical vision, Northern Arms started strong but quickly fizzled due to the pair's self-destructive tendencies. Fast-forward nearly a decade and it was reborn once more as an unstoppable army — the group's past struggles the fuel that drives them forward. Over the past 2 years, the band has released a stunning debut, Northern Arms, and has charmed audiences across the city. This Friday, they play a very special show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the centuries-old paintings should be the perfect backdrop for songs that are equally epic.
5:00 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, free with museum admission.
Saturday, January 10: The Lawsuits
Philadelphia fivesome The Lawsuits are both the city's best kept secret and the band most likely to explode in a War on Drugs-like fit of popularity. For a half-decade now, the group's been constantly at work: writing new material and touring the country, building a name for themselves the old-fashioned way, with solid melodies and passion. Formed in 2011 by Brian Dale Allen Strouse, whose playful guitar lines and sandpaper vocals help anchor their sound; siren singer Vanessa Winters; and Brendan Cunningham, Josh Friedman, and Joe Bisirri—the band traces its roots back to elementary school, where Winters and Cunningham first met—and came together for real following graduation from Temple University. Combining blues, rock, R&B, lush, Americana-style sing-alongs, slow, twinkling guitar lines, and feel-good classic rock tropes, the band succeeds by tapping into something honest and universal, captured in tiny lyrical details or miniscule pauses between turns of phrase. They headline Boot & Saddle this Saturday; escape winter oppression with tunes that warm you from the inside out.
8:30 at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St., $10–12. Tickets available here.
Saturday, January 10 and Sunday, January 11: Future Islands
Baltimore synth-rockers Future Islands are one of those bands that has been sorta on my radar for years now, but earned a proper place in my heart (and my playlists) with 2014's excellent Singles. I have a feeling I'm not the only one. A trio featuring impassioned front man Samuel T. Herring — a khaki-clad crooner with a receding hairline and deep, booming voice — Future Islands evolved, over the years, from a heartstrings-soaked new wave adventure to the type of bold, expressive dance rock that makes you wanna kick off your shoes and try out this move. Herring has one of those instantly recognizable voices in rock — sometimes thick and gruff, like Tom Waits, and sometimes calm and soothing, like Rod Stewart — and when laid over a poppy dance beat, the effect is pretty much mind-blowing. They play TWO shows at Union Transfer this weekend, where we are sure much dancing will occur. Hope you scooped up your tix in advance though, because both are long-since SOLD OUT.
8:30 Saturday and Sunday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., sold out.