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THE EARLY WORD: Andrew Bird At The E-Factory

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With St. Vincent at the Electric Factory October 25th.

Sometime in 1977 – A four-year-old Andrew Bird picks up his first violin at the age of 4. Actually, it is a Cracker Jack box with a ruler taped to it, as the first of his many Suzuki music lessons involve simply bowing to the teacher and going home. So begins a formative period soaking up classical repertoire completely by ear followed by a teenage expansion into Hungarian Gypsy music, early jazz, country blues, South Indian music and more, as well as the discovery of an uncanny whistling ability.  MORE

CONCERT REVIEW: St. Vincent’s Holy Soul Jellyroll

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meAVATAR2_1.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER Saint Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419), was a missionary and logician. Annie Clark (1982- ), the American singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist who goes by the name St. Vincent, brings a missionary zeal to her current status as indie’s ambassador of goodwill from The Other Side. Likewise, despite all its head-spinning detours and U-turns, her music follows the pristine logic of a flowchart. Such was the case Thursday night when St. Vincent stunned a near-capacity crowd in the sweaty basement of the First Unitarian Church with a flawless recreation of selections from Actor, her just-released and deservedly hyped sophomore collection of otherworldly, asymmetrical pop.

Clark plays all the instruments on Actor, but Thursday night she was backed by a crack four-piece band – a flutist/saxophonist, a violinist, a bassist, and a drummer – that expertly replicated the album’s jigsaw arrangements and dreamy vistas. Clark handled guitar and vocal duties, and proved extraordinarily adept at both. Her guitar playing sounded like some unholy union of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and the Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary; her singing evoked the dream-pop enchantment of the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, and the whisper-to-a-scream inscrutability of Bjork and Kate Bush. The whole ensemble was strikingly lit like a David Lynch dream sequence, with washes of bordello red and cerulean blue flickering in time with the music’s shape-shifting permutations.

Like the album, the concert opened with the aptly titled “The Strangers” and the quiet desperation of “Save Me From What I Want,” and closed with the climactic coda of “Black Rainbow” and the buzz-bomb disco strut of “Marrow.” In between came the menacing lullaby of “Bed” and the Abba-meets-Elastica “Actor Out Of Work” –  and everything mirrored the dizzying bipolarity at the center of St. Vincent’s music, dramatic and altogether compelling living proof that the shortest distance between the ethereal and the visceral is not a straight line, but a pleasingly crooked one.

The performance concluded with “Your Lips Are Red,” from 2007’s Marry Me, a show-stopping meditation on 9/11. The song began as a sepulchral march, only to split open and reveal what sounded like the world’s most ornery klezmer band, which proceeded to erupt into a sonic approximation of sheer terror not heard since the shower scene in Psycho. Like just about everything St. Vincent touches, it was a potent reminder that the border between dreams and nightmares remains disturbingly porous.

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TONITE: Digable Planets

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Digable Planets: Butterfly and Doodlebug

“When hip-hop trio Digable Planets emerged in the early 90s, their memorable moniker raised eyebrows. What, exactly, did it mean? The name sprang, they explained, from the notion that every individual is a planet. But the unique worlds that their tracks mapped out were not insular ones; as their Grammy-winning hit Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” would prove, the Planets were primed to connect with audiences weary of the aggressive posturing of gangsta rap. Filled with literate lyrics, honey-smooth flow, and inventive arrangements, their albums Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space) (1993) and Blowout Comb (1994) redefined hip-hop, and set standards for the generation of soul poets and innovative producers that followed.”
941 Theater
941 N. Front St.
Philadelphia PA
$18 / All Ages
Purchase Advance Tickets! 

Aquil

“Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa. Aquil is a lifelong admirer of music and has honed his skills unafraid to mix genres such as the Blues, Jazz, Afro Beat, and Funk into a Hip Hop interpretation. His live shows are remarkable leaving the crowd captivated, inspired and shouting for more. As a graduate of Temple University Aquil choose music because he wants to help return the feeling of inspiration hope and creativity. Many have alluded to similarities in his style with Rakim Nas Tupac The Roots, KRS-ONE, Common Mos Def and Talib Kweli. With lines that are unapologetic such as “I entered into a drought of musical doubts but open my mouth and eloquent notes just flow out” and “This platform for the stories that’s untold I’m like Dubois with a flow kick the souls of black folk” Aquil gets his points across with passion and technical grace. He gives you his thoughts and feelings along with historical analysis and social political commentary.”

Writtenhouse

WrittenHouse are producers Chris Conway, Kush Shalimar and emcee Charlie K (with hypeman Somerville Sleeves thrown in for good measure during live shows) —- four friends who have known each other for close to a decade or more, and, by natural extension, have an affable, easygoing relationship with one another. (Imagine your family at Thanksgiving, provided they actually get along.)
Their positivity together as friends bleeds out in their work as a group: a breezy, jazzy A Tribe Called Quest-
inspired pastiche that’s best displayed on their newest mixtape, Sunshine Philadelphia Vol. 2, which is highly listenable and remarkably upbeat for Philadelphia-based hip-hop, which can often veer toward the gritty. 
The unique tact of the group speaks to the way they came together: as seasoned vets who’d studied hip-hop and formed WrittenHouse with a game plan.
(Brian McManus, Philadelphia Weekly)

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