How we’re celebrating our (extended) Memorial Day weekend
Wednesday, May 21: Conor Oberst
In some ways, it’s sort of mind-boggling that Conor Oberst is only 34 years old—already, his discography is longer than artists three times his age, and he shows no signs of slowing down. A music fan since childhood, who was weaned on his brother’s record collection (think Fugazi, The Cure, REM), Oberst supposedly played his first show in 1992 at age 12—then went on to self-release his first record, Water, in 1993, on what would eventually become his own Saddle Creek Records. (For comparison, when I was 12–13 I was mostly focused on middle school boys and shopping at LimitedToo.) Since then, he’s become one of our generation’s most prolific and intriguing songwriters, and years later, it’s hard to underestimate the dark, skulking sensibilities of “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” or the life-affirming catharsis of “Bowl of Oranges” (both recorded as Bright Eyes, off 2002’s Lifted, or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.) Yet Oberst is more than just a compelling solo act—he’s also lent his sense of melody and keen, incisive lyrics to projects as diverse as Norman Bailer (early moniker of The Faint), Commander Venus (his collobaration with Cursive’s Tim Kasher), Desaparecidos, and The Monsters of Folk. This Wednesday, he brings his wide-eyed yet critical pop to Union Transfer, touring behind 2014’s Upside Down Mountain. Hearts will be broken; hearts will be mended. You’ve been warned.
8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., sold out.
Thursday, May 22: Guided by Voices
Anyone who knows me well knows I have a VERY deep-seated love for Guided by Voices—the Dayton, OH garage rock project-turned-acclaimed indie stalwarts, whose ear for melody is rivaled only by their ridiculous output. Over the past 25 years, the band’s released no less than 500 songs—or 22 records—ranging from drunken party anthems to catchy synth-pop gems, and earned a reputation for fun, unwieldy live shows. Formed in the early ‘80s by Robert Pollard, a fourth grade teacher with a creative streak—plus a rotating cast of friends and neighbors—the band began jamming in basements and garages, recording on cassettes and four-tracks and self-releasing tunes for friends and families. Their breakthrough came with 1994’s Bee Thousand, distributed by Matador, which launched them to indie stardom. They later disbanded in 2004…only to reunite in 2010, and continue churning out records. This Thursday, they headline Magnet Magazine’s 21st birthday and honestly, we can’t think of a better pick to celebrate reaching legal age. The last time I saw GBV live (at their 2010 reunion show), they played for three hours, regaling the crowd with rock stars antics and a communal bottle of tequila. Also on the bill: West Palm Beach rockers Surfer Blood and Jersey punks Titus Andronicus. See you there Philly!
8:00 at the Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., $35. Tickets available here.
Saturday, May 24: Mock Suns
Your fave new band! Philadelphia psych-pop foursome Mock Suns write warm, wiggly, vintage-tinged charmers that will surprise you with their creativity and depth. The songwriting vehicle of Greg Puglese, a designer by day and auteur by night (and by day too, we suspect)—Mock Suns set themselves apart thanks to an impressive and overarching sense of artistic cohesiveness—from their sun-drenched cover art to the beautiful, blustery video for “The Last Time.” It’s no surprise coming from Puglese and co., who established their affinity for shattering expectations years back—to celebrate the release of their first LP, Here Nor There, in 2012, the band hid copies of the record around the city, with redemption codes that could be traded for chocolate sculptures of their faces. And while we’re pretty sure there’s no chocolate involved in this Saturday’s show (save the metaphorical sweetness of their tunes), we definitely expect some vibes. The show doubles as a release party for their new record Satander/All That I Knew—a two-part suite that explores questions of self-fulfillment and possibilities. Before you go: stream Satander/All That I Knew for free via Soundcloud, and be prepared to be swept away in the fantasy.
7:30 at Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., $8. Tickets available here.
Sunday, May 25: Jam on the River
It’s been 6 years since the last Jam on the River—Philly’s Memorial Day weekend celebration of music and sunshine—and we couldn’t be more psyched for its return. In the past, the event’s attracted bands as diverse as Deadmau5, The Flaming Lips, and Cypress Hill, although this year will be focused more on electronica and EDM, with headliners Lotus and GRiZ. Bring your glow-sticks! (Actually don’t, because it’s during the day, and glow sticks are kinda overplayed anyway). Also on the bill: locals Conspirator (jamtronica, but with a twist) and Grimace Federation (vibey electronic tinkerers). Honestly, this event is so much fun, and with Sunday’s forecast looking positively gorgeous, what excuse do you have? Head down to the waterfront, pop open a cold brew, and vibe out. You’ll have all day Monday to nurse that hangover.
1:30 at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, Columbus Blvd. at Walnut St., $45. Tickets available here.