Tag Archives: Jared Levy


Mitski Romances Union Transfer on Friday Night

July 10th, 2017

Mitski – Union Transfer – July 7, 2017

Toward the end of show-opener Half Waif’s set, frontwoman Nandi Rose Plunkett mentioned speaking with headliner Mitski in the green room, saying a 30-minute set is like all the good parts of a relationship. It was a clever remark and many laughed, but it was also something to think about when taking stock of the talented lineup at Friday night’s sold-out show at Union Transfer. All three acts shared their unique, intimate selves and left like a perfect affair. Half Waif with dazzling and self-confident songs from her EP, Form/a, and Julia Jacklin with a hushed, solo electric guitar set, blending melancholic music with a soft yet powerful country-twanged voice. Each built on the other until Mitski, on bass and vocals, arrived with her two bandmates on guitar and drums. Then it was a great romance.

Mitski, playing coy, barely addressed the audience until she stepped forward with the spotlight shining on her. She wore a white dress, about which she later said, “Do I look like a princess? If I’m living my dream, I should do it up.” This kind of blunt vulnerability and dark sense of humor comes out on her most recent album, Puberty 2, and especially in the standout track “Your Best American Girl,” in which she sings, “If I could, I’d be your little spoon/ And kiss your fingers forevermore.” On the bass drum was the word HAPPY in reference to Puberty 2’s opening track. And while many of Mitski’s songs deal in darker times, at least when sharing these experiences, she found a deep connection with her audience. In that sense, like all of the performers, she found a way to have all the best parts of a relationship. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic


Josh Ritter Takes Union Transfer to Church on Sunday Night

February 22nd, 2016

Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band – Union Transfer – February 21, 2016

(Photo: Jared Levy)

(Photo: Jared Levy)

Faith was in the air last night at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. Josh Ritter came to town touring behind his most recent release, Sermon on the Rocks. And for this album, he explores relationships, love and religion through a mix of honest lyricism and rollicking folk rock. The album art features Ritter in a paint-smeared jumpsuit, and in concert, he wore the same outfit. It looked like he painted the backdrop, two exploding pastel mountains, and with lights flashing on the backdrop as well as on Ritter and the Royal City Band, he and his band traded solos and smiles, comfortably and confidently.

Ritter, for his part, was disarmingly sincere. While he performed, his expressions oscillated between full-faced grins and looks of deep emotional searching. And these expressions were reflected back from those in the crowd who delighted in every song. But it was mutual faith because Ritter sang like these tunes mattered to his very core, and the audience, in turn, looked back in hypnotized delight.

All material was welcomed, whether it was from Sermon on the Rocks or past albums. And “Snow Is Gone,” played on acoustic guitar, was especially well received. For sing-alongs like those, the sound in Union Transfer was that of a rich unison. For the most part, those in attendance seemed to be in their late 30s or older, a veritable army of local radio station WXPN devotees. And when Ritter repeated “homecoming,” during the last song, “Homecoming,” he pointed the microphone toward the audience, beckoning them to sing along, which they did, devoutly and passionately. Ritter inspired this kind of faith and it was a pleasure to witness. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic




Dungen Bring Swedish Psychedelic Rock to Boot & Saddle

October 19th, 2015

Dungen – Boot & Saddle – October 16, 2015

It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider whether Dungen would be as popular as Australian contemporaries Tame Impala if they sang in English. Both bands play a similar brand of classic rock–inspired psychedelia, but the difference is that Dungen sing in Swedish. That’s not insignificant. While Dungen sold out Boot & Saddle, in Philadelphia, last Friday night, there were only small pockets of cheers for familiar melodies. Otherwise, it was a different form of appreciation, something more internal and directed toward the music rather than the lyrics. As such, it was refreshing—different in a good way.

Confusingly though, all members of Dungen seem to speak English very well. At one point, frontman Gustav Ejstes mentioned that Philadelphia was the home of the “scratch” and asked if the audience knew the scratch. Someone in the crowd sarcastically responded, “Yeah, we’re American.” But the band’s sincerity was endearing. Before “Festival,” one of a few songs played from Dungen’s classic album, Ta Det Lugnt, Ejsetes dedicated it to “Melissa, who drove 10 hours for the show.” And for the last number, “Du e för Fin för Mig,” drummer Johan Holmegard led people to clap along, encouraging them by saying, “Feel the vibe” before the tune digressed into a wall-of-sound jam. That was the sweet spot for Dungen: beginning quiet and building to a climactic finish.

“Thank you for listening to Swedish music,” said Ejstes after “Du e för Fin för Mig.” For an American audience, not knowing Dungen’s lyrics is part of the band’s unique appeal. They play within a cross-cultural genre while preserving their own culture. This is either disorienting if you cling to the necessity of understanding the words in songs or refreshing if you free yourself from that constraint and absorb yourself in the music. Choosing the latter, it was a wholly satisfying experience. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic





Purity Ring Dazzle with Two Sold-Out Shows on Saturday Night

June 1st, 2015

Purity Ring – Union Transfer – May 30, 2015

The genre witch house makes me think of angsty teens swaying in a graveyard. But outside the graveyard and inside Union Transfer on a warm Saturday night, the teens did more than sway: They stood, transfixed by Purity Ring, who captured their ears while an intense light display captured their eyes. It was worth coming early for the opener, Braids. Midway through their set, everyone around me was captivated by the music. I turned around to look at the crowd, and behind me, a girl who was crying. It was emotional. During the last song, “Miniskirt,” frontwoman Raphaelle Standell-Preston sang, “But in my position/ I’m the slut/ I’m the bitch.” In an audience that was mostly women, these kinds of painful, confessional lyrics connected.

And although there weren’t any tears during Purity Ring’s set, I did see two people ferociously making out halfway through the first song. They didn’t stop for the entire set and neither did the dazzling light show. The stage setup was really something: threads coming down from the ceiling and a hazy globe, much like the cover image of the band’s newest album, Another Eternity. The songs they played, including “Heartsigh,” got the kind of reception that’s to be expected from a band that sold out two shows in one night. Leaving the venue, a line snaked around the block for the late performance. Not to the graveyard, but to somewhere life-affirming, if only for a night. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic

(Purity Ring play Terminal 5 tomorrow night and again on Wednesday night.)