Tag Archives: Philadelphia

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Shabazz Palaces Offer a Glimpse of a Hopeful Future at Boot & Saddle

March 19th, 2018

Shabazz Palaces – Boot & Saddle – March 18, 2018


If now feels dangerous, it’s time to expand our minds. It’s time to imagine new possibilities. We want Black Panther’s Wakanda. We want to shift the boundaries of discussion, and music can be our messenger. Space is needed. Today is cluttered. But through clever lyrics and rich soundscapes, Shabazz Palaces move through the void. They inspire thoughts on an astral plane, somewhere beyond the earthly concept of what is possible to what can be imagined. They are steeped in art, from their dress to visual displays. On Sunday night at Boot & Saddle, the duo of Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire stood behind a projection of thought-provoking imagery. Even when the screen went blue, with a NO SIGNAL icon dancing about, it felt intentional. More so, clips of rocket travel, African tribes and a tense scene with Christopher Plummer.

The whole room was wrapped in sound, the low end rumbling against the walls. And the songs spanned the group’s entire catalog, including last year’s third and fourth LPs—centered on our relationship to devices—Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines. The content of those two albums was woven in between standout tracks from previous recordings, such as songs from their debut release, Black Up, which received some of the loud crowd’s wildest applause. It was interesting to see such a cozy venue host such an immersive hip-hop group. With limited lighting, the two were backlit by the screen. We saw occasional flashes of a face, a necklace or a metal plate like armor. There were shadows of a drum machine. It was like ghosts in the machine: The voices and the grooves, space to imagine, boundaries pushed and a glimpse of a hopeful future. —Jared Levey | @Playtonic

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Slowdive Look Toward Their Past and the Future at Union Transfer

November 16th, 2017

Slowdive – Union Transfer – November 15, 2017

(Photos: Silvia Saponaro)


Perhaps there’s no better description of Slowdive than the one on their Twitter page: “Formed in 1989 in the Depths of Reading, UK. We like noisy guitars and cool pedals.” In two sentences, the band captures their long history and general musical aesthetic. The latter, while evident on their earlier records, is revived on their most recent release, Slowdive. The album is their first in 22 years, and it gives new material to their devoted fan base while making a pitch for another generation of listeners in 2017. Both crowds came out on Tuesday night at Union Transfer for a packed, sold-out performance.

Being there, the most immediate sensory impression was total visual immersion in a carefully planned light show. Lamps, strobes or a background video—and in some cases, all three—accompanied each song. Sometimes it was overtly synched with the music, like the loop of a white pill rotating in space for “Sugar for the Pill.” Other times, it was an all-out assault of brightness and backlighting. This, paired with the band’s all black clothing, made the experience of seeing Slowdive a deeper exploration of their sound and mood.

Looking around at the audience, both young and old stared at the stage, smiling, or taking a break from the visuals, closed their eyes and moved their heads with the music. Plainly, they sounded great. The vocal interplay between Rachel Goswel and Neil Halstead came through clearly and beautifully, the two voices sounding as good as their earlier work. It was a night to both bask in the nostalgia of an earlier sound and celebrate the return of the noisy band from the depths of Reading. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic

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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