Unique picks for the first week of December
Wednesday, December 4: The Walkmen with Sun Ra Arkestra
For nearly 14 years now, NYC rockers The Walkmen have delighted fans with their organic blend of garage rock riffs and piano-tinged melodies, transitioning from the sort of gutsy buzz band every music geek goes crazy over (I still remember gleefully screaming lyrics to “The Rat” the first time I saw them live [in 2005 at the Starlight Ballroom!!])—to the sort of reliable stalwarts whose easy-going melodies make them a favorite with aging hipsters and cool dads (my own dad named “Heaven” his fave track of 2012). Formed in 2000 by former classmates with a love of vintage gear, the band went on to release seven full-length records while never faltering—and treated Philadelphians to some pretty epic shows throughout the years, including a free, drunken performance on South Street and a home-cooked spaghetti dinner. So it seems only right that their final show should be back in the City O.B.L., where they’ll bid fans adieu before going on indefinite hiatus. They’ll be joined by legendary Philadelphians the Sun Ra Arkestra, a.k.a., the long-running brainchild of Sun Ra himself, now housed in West Philadelphia and led by saxophonist Marshall Allen. Did we mention all proceeds from the show go to local charity Friends of the Rail Park, a nonprofit working to create a park along the Philadelphia & Reading rail line? Rocking out has never felt so bittersweet, or so good.
8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $30. Tickets available here.
Thursday, December 5: Cults
NYC band Cults’ 2011 self-titled debut was one of our fave records of the year, bursting with sparkling indie-pop gems like the jangly “Abducted” and the glockenspiel-tinged “Go Outside.” Now, two years later, the duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion are back with the decidedly darker Static, which teases out Cults’ bleaker undercurrents, and brings them to the fore. Spurred by the pair’s break-up (they used to date but called it quits last fall), plus feelings of frustration and monotony after spending months on the road—Static trades its glocks and sweetness for moody, cinematic growers, like the lush, fuzzed-out “I Know” and the float-y, waltz-y “Always Forever.” It’s not a charming record per se (or at least not in the same immediate sense as Cults), but it does offer a sort of melancholy beauty, anchored by Follin’s breathtaking vocals. Cults aren’t broken—they’re simply finding their voice all over again. And we’re just happy to be along for the ride.
8:30 at the TLA, 334 South St., $16. Tickets available here.
Friday, December 6: Pattern Is Movement (cover J Dilla)
Local mood-makers Pattern Is Movement are no strangers to hosting fun+unique events—from their Pizza Brain-sponsored show at UT this past October to their Tuesday Tune-Out at PhilaMOCA last spring (which featured new material synched with scenes from Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.) This Friday however, the duo of Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward will take on a new challenge: adopting the music of J Dilla for a performance at The Barnes Foundation, during the museum’s new First Friday series. It might seem like an unlikely pairing— in the past PIM have tended towards sweeping, cinematic concoctions (such as new single “Suckling”)—yet it turns out Thiboldeaux and Ward harbor a deep-seated love of hip-hop, and even performed in a rap group together in their teens. Their show this Friday will act as a tribute to legendary hip-hop producerJ Dilla, who passed away tragically in 2006 at age 32 due to a rare blood disease, shortly after the release of his third record, Donuts. Illvibe Collective co-founder Mr. Sonny James and local performance groups Ghetto Bolero, Team Sunshine, and Yellow Rage round-out the multi-disciplinary line-up, which is probably your best chance to drink wine while looking at priceless art.
6:00 at the Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, $25. Tickets available here.
Sunday, December 8: Joey Sweeney & the Long Hair Arkestra
Two Arkestras in one week? We say yes! Follow-up your brunch plans this Sunday with a performance from lovable long hairs Joey Sweeney and co., who will play a family-friendly afternoon set at Philly’s gorgeous Art Alliance building. During the day, Sweeney edits snarky local gossip blog Philebrity—and on nights and weekends, he fronts the Long Hair Arkestra, a collective of similarly-minded local musicians, including Lushlife’s Raj Haldar, trumpeter John Pettit, drummer Charlie Hall, and many others. It’s the next in a long series of projects for Sweeney, who turned heads back in the early aughts with critically acclaimed pop project The Trouble With Sweeney, described by Pitchfork as “resourceful…unabashed… 70s-inflected indie pop.” With the Long Hair Arkestra, he adapts both ‘60s folk and ‘70s rock tropes, incorporating jazzy horns and strings, sing-along choruses, and yes, a little bit of snark. Before you go: check out this live vid of the Arkestra earlier this year at the Philadelphia Fine Arts Festival; then stream the record for free via EMusic.
3:00 at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St., $10. Tickets available at the door.