Wednesday, July 10: Belle & Sebastian with Yo La Tengo at the Mann Center
Are you a child of the ‘90s, suburban rebel, or vinyl collector? Does your appearance regularly incorporate bangs, vintage cardigans, or thick-rimmed glasses? Do you harbor a deep-seated distrust of religion, or affinity for snark? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be a Belle & Sebastian fan. Welcome to the club! Over the past 20 years, few bands have perfectly captured feelings of iconoclasm and suburban ennui quite like B&S, the gently prolific, Scottish, twee pop masters who first wormed their way into our hearts with 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and have maintained a firm grip ever since. Stuart Murdoch’s wistful vocals and colorful characters are the stuff of legends, and this Wednesday, the band will bring them to life with their first Philly show since 2006. Indie trio Yo La Tengo, frequently dubbed “the best band from New Jersey” (by yours truly) open, for what is sure to be an evening of low-key charmers imbued with passion. Plus, unlike other Mann Center shows, this one is at the smaller Skyline Stage, which means open admission and no annoying seats to restrict your dance moves.
8:00 at the Mann Center for Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave., $39.50–$42. Tickets available here.
Wednesday, July 10: Work Drugs at Morgan’s Pier
There once was a band with grooves as smooth as ice, know to incite sexting and debauchery with lush synths and sexaphone saxophone. They called themselves Work Drugs and their new take on yacht rock won them thousands of fans in Philadelphia and worldwide. Inspired by summer nights, dance clubs, and life on the open seas—and driven by their own relentless pursuit of vibes—the band’s released no less than nine albums of originals and remixes since 2010 (including the recent Mavericks) and won’t be stopping anytime soon. “We don't have a label, or booking agent, or manager trying to keep us from releasing music... which is liberating in a way,” explained 1/2 founding duo, Thomas Crystal, when I interviewed him last year. “As soon as we finish a new song that we feel is up to our own quality standards, we usually release it as a single.” These days, the band’s busy traveling and touring, but will make one stop in Philly to play a free show at Morgan’s Pier. We can’t stress enough the strength of the Work Drugs/Hell or High Watermelon pairing, which was practically the reason summer was invented. Plus stop by early for openers Norwegian Arms, whose unique take on Afro-pop is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, minus the ego.
9:00 at Morgan’s Pier, 221 N. Columbus Blvd., free.
Saturday, July 13: Mac Miller and Meek Mill at Penn’s Landing
2013 has been a banner year for Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller, between the release of his second record, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, and his MTV reality show, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family, and this summer, he’ll celebrate with an epic national tour. Having first burst onto the scene in 2010, at age 18, Miller (real name: Malcolm James McCormick) quickly won fans with fratty, high energy raps, selling out his first national tour (and apparently, lots of tee shirts). His debut record, Blue Slide Park, followed in 2011, and debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts. On Movies, he dares to get more introspective, reacting to the break-up of his long-term girlfriend, while still churning out hits like the Flying Lotus-produced “S.D.S.” He’ll bring a slew of special guests along on tour, including Philly Dreams and Nightmares rapper Meek Mill, as well as Chance the Rapper, Odd Future’s The Internet, and Vince Staples.
4:30 at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, Columbus Blvd. and Spring Garden St., $35. Tickets available here.
Saturday, July 13: Wire at Union Transfer
Whoever said punk is dead obviously forgot about the Wire. 36 years after their critically-acclaimed (and wonderfully acerbic) debut Pink Flag, the London four piece returned to the studio, with nothing but a handful of song fragments, and an insatiable attitude for rocking. The result was 2013’s Change Becomes Us, a record inspired by old late ‘70s/early ‘80s song sketches, and described by Pitchfork as simply “fantastic” (a word we all know they don’t throw around lightly.) Live, the band has ricocheted between tight punk sets with no filler to avant-garde art performances complete with Dadaist cabarets. We can’t say for sure what to expect of their Philly performance—but judging from front man Colin Newman’s much-shared distrust of nostalgia, we’re thinking lots of Change, with some creative reinterpretations of older material to boot. Punk is never doing the same thing twice! Before you go: stream Change in its entirety via NME, and get ready to rage.
8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $18–$20. Tickets available here.
Sunday, July 14: Savages at Union Transfer
Punk shows at Union Transfer two nights in a row? Yeah, that’s right. Much like Wire, Savages hail from London, England, and display an undisputed penchant for raucousness and art-rock (guitarist Gemma Thompson stated that a recent art piece at England’s Electric Ballroom was inspired by the Wire’s previously mentioned “cabaret” at the same venue 33 years earlier.) Yet unlike the Wire, who boast a long history and discography, Savages are relatively new to the scene, having formed just two years back yet already having launched themselves to headliner status—thanks in part to their excellent debut, Silence Yourself, which draws from acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division—and thanks in part to their explosive live shows, which drew mad press before they had so much as released a song. The band’s appeal lies in its juxtaposition of control and release—front woman Jehnny Beth shrieks and screams one moment, and falls silent the next—and their rejection of feminist ideals in favor of their own (sometimes controversial) views. “I like twisted, original desires,” Beth tells Pitchfork. “To twist that thing is very important, because it's the existence of life.” Spoken like a true punk.
8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $15. Tickets available here.
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