Our monthly concert picks: November 2015

Grimes performs at Made in America Festival in Philadelphia on August 31, 2014.

What we’re checking out this month!

Monday, November 2: The Polyphonic Spree 

Seeing The Polyphonic Spree live is a special experience. For one, there’s the question of sheer numbers: the band currently boasts 16 members, although its ranks at times have ballooned up to 29 — including a full band, six-piece choir, and various brass, woodwind, and string instruments. (In some venues, I imagine, they don’t all fit on the stage). Then there are the rumors of possible culthood — intensified by their matching white robes and exuberant, life-affirming sounds. Add in a laundry list of famous ex-members, including St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, and several high profile gigs, including a tour with Bowie — and you start to get the sense that this band may be special. That sense is correct. Formed 15 years back around Texas musician Tim DeLaughter, The Polyphonic Spree was conceived as an experiment and blossomed into a long-running phenomenon, that succeeds because it’s able to transcend the novelty. Since forming, the band has released five records and launched several large-scale tours… incorporating costumes, props, balloons, confetti canons, and an awesome emphasis on musicality. (Their 2012 holiday “extravaganza” at The Troc remains one my very favorite shows, and I don’t even like holiday music that much.) This November they return to Philly for another rager — we’re not quite sure what to expect but have a feeling it will be epic.

8:00 at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St., $25. Tickets available here. 

See also: Born Ruffians (Monday, November 2 at Johnny Brenda’s), Soundwavves (Monday, November 2 at Connie’s Ric Rac), Jr. Jr. (Tuesday, November 3 at Union Transfer), Kendrick Lamar (Tuesday, November 3 at The Troc), Static Mountain (Tuesday, November 3 at Boot & Saddle) 

Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar drops by The Troc November 3.

See also: Keep Shelly in Athens (Wednesday, November 4 at Johnny Brenda’s), Lydia Loveless (Wednesday, November 4 at Milkboy Philly), Craig Finn (Wednesday, November 4 at Underground Arts), Misterwives (Wednesday, November 4 at The Fillmore), The Royal Concept (Thursday, November 5 at Milkboy Philly), The Lone Bellow (Thursday, November 5 at Union Transfer), Peacers (Thursday, November 5 at Kung Fu Necktie), Voltheque (Thursday, November 5 at Franky Bradley’s), The Hotelier (Thursday, November 5 at First Unitarian Church), West Philadelphia Orchestra (Thursday, November 5 at Underground Arts), Man About a Horse (Thursday, November 5 at Bourbon & Branch), Antigone Rising (Thursday, November 5 at World Café Live), Pepper (Thursday, November 5 at The TLA), Django Django (Friday, November 6 at Union Transfer),  Cold Fronts (Friday, November 6 at Johnny Brenda’s), The Districts (Friday, November 6 at Electric Factory), Man Overboard (Friday, November 6 at The TLA), Beirut (Friday, November 6 at The Tower), Communion Philly with Highly Suspect (Friday, November 6 at Milkboy Philly)

Philly rockers Cold Fronts celebrate the release of new record Forever Whatever November 6 at Johnny Brenda’s.

See also: Deafheaven (Saturday, November 7 at Union Transfer), Albert Hammond Jr. (Saturday, November 7 at First Unitarian Church), Marina and the Diamonds (Saturday, November 7 at Electric Factory), White Hills (Saturday, November 7 at Kung Fu Necktie), Creem Circus (Saturday, November 7 at Ortlieb’s), Die Choking (Saturday, November 7 at Boot & Saddle), Carsie Blanton (Saturday, November 7 at Milkboy Philly), Dani Mari (Saturday, November 7 at Bourbon & Branch), Questlove Supreme (Sunday, November 8 at The Foundry), Gina Chavvez (Sunday, November 8 at The Troc), RAC (Monday, November 9 at Union Transfer), Atlantic Thrills (Monday, November 9 at Kung Fu Necktie)

Tuesday, November 10: Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki — a.k.a. Mitski — is a 25-year-old Japanese-American, who loves collared shirts, chocolate, and Drake. She’s also a classically trained musician and DIY songwriter, who writes emotional, incisive punk in the vein of Waxahatchee or Frankie Cosmos, and who has been quickly climbing in the indie ranks. An army brat born in Japan and raised in countries across the globe, Mitski is no stranger to loneliness and alienation, and captures both with honesty and power on breakthrough record Bury Me at Makeout Creek — a charged, diary-esque journey recorded DIY-style in makeshift studios. Songs ricochets between the heart-breaking and the banal — searching for a love “that falls as fast as a body from the balcony” and killing time on a jobless Monday in Brooklyn. At her most desperate, she taps into something real and raw in all of us; at her most casual, she’s the friend we want to hang with on lazy weekends, maybe watch some Simpsons with (the record’s title is a quote from Milhouse). And ultimately, that’s what makes her so compelling. She plays PhilaMOCA this November. Come be a part of something special. 

7:30 at PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., $12–14. Tickets available here. 

See also: El Vy (Tuesday, November 10 at Union Transfer), Sinkane (Tuesday, November 10 at Johnny Brenda’s), Soulside (Tuesday, November 10 at Boot & Saddle), Odesza (Wednesday, November 11 at Union Transfer [2 shows!]), Natalie Prass (Wednesday, November 11 at World Café Live), Public Image Ltd (Wednesday, November 11 at The Troc), Emilie & Ogden (Wednesday, November 11 at Boot & Saddle), Promised Land Sound (Wednesday, November 11 at Kung Fu Necktie), I Am Not the Universe (Wednesday, November 11 at Bourbon & Branch), GWAR (Thursday, November 12 at Electric Factory), Dead Sara (Thursday, November 12 at Johnny Brenda’s), The Bul Bey (Thursday, November 12 at Kung Fu Necktie), Pouty (Thursday, November 12 at Everybody Hits), Muscle Tough (Thursday, November 12 at Ortlieb’s), Carly Rae Jensen (Friday, November 13 at The Troc), Shamir (Friday, November 13 at First Unitarian Church), Rachael Yamagata (Friday, November 13 at Union Transfer), Grandchildren (Friday, November 13 at Ortlieb’s), Son Little (Friday, November 13 at Johnny Brenda’s), Black Horse Motel (Friday, November 13 at Boot & Saddle), Futurebirds (Friday, November 13 at The Foundry), Minus the Bear (Friday, November 13 at Electric Factory), Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers (Friday, November 13 at Milkboy Philly)

Saturday, November 14: Grimes

I get the sense sometimes that if Claire Boucher — alias: Grimes — hadn’t become a pop star, she might have followed many different careers paths, among them painter, designer, scientist, and philosopher. So I feel very fortunate that she chose music — or rather that music chose her. A multi-media artist and producer whose oeuvre includes her 2012 breakthrough record Visions, in addition to stories, paintings, and videos, Grimes’ success is due, in large part, to her cohesive and instantly identifiable artistic vision: anchored by other-worldy vocals and imbued with a sense of experimentation and mysticism. Raised in Canada, Boucher began recording while studying neuroscience at McGill University and eventually dropped out to focus on music. I first discovered her via 2011’s Darkbloom, a 12” split with Canadian musician d’Eon — and fell in love with trippy single “Vanessa.” Shortly after, she signed with 4AD to release Visions, and the rest is history. We love Grimes because she refuses to compromise her art, no matter what (she reportedly scrapped her last record because she didn’t like it) and because she refuses to be commodified as a woman in music (for proof check out this interview, where she contemplates punching Regis Philbin). Live she’s all fluid dances moves and kittenish charm, and this November she stops by UT in support of highly-anticipated new record Art Angels.  We’re psyched to soak up her energy.

10:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., sold out. 

See also: Wild Child (Saturday, November 14 at Union Transfer), Ill Doots (Saturday, November 14 at Johnny Brenda’s), Fuzz (Saturday, November 14 at Underground Arts), Hoser (Saturday, November 14 at Kung Fu Necktie), Shakey Graves (Saturday, November 14 at Electric Factory), Onyx (Saturday, November 14 at The Troc)

Saturday, November 14: Alex G

Philadelphia’s Alex Giannascoli — front man and songwriter of eponymously-named rock band Alex G — is probably most known for his live show, but I confess I first discovered him via Bandcamp. I remember liking his stuff a lot — it had this loose, unpretentious quality that reminded me of Guided by Voices, and I remember thinking once people find out about him, he’s gonna be huge. Turns out, he already was. Six months later, I caught the band live, and was blown away by the massive crowd circled around them, screaming and shouting lyrics as if they could save them. Looking back, it’s very possible they did. Born and raised in Havertown, Pa., Giannascoli began writing songs at age 13 after acquiring his first Macbook, and continued writing and gigging throughout high school. But it wasn’t until college at Temple U, when he began posting songs online and playing out with friends, that things really took off. His fan base grew, and in 2014, Fader dubbed him “the Internet’s secret best songwriter.” That same year, he signed with Domino Records (Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Pavement) — who released his seventh LP, Beach Music. He’ll celebrate it this month at the First Unitarian Church — stream it via Bandcamp first so you can scream along.

7:30 at First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., sold out. 

See also: Neon Indian (Sunday, November 15 at Union Transfer), Nobunny (Sunday, November 15 at Johnny Brenda’s), Telegraph Canyon with Oldermost (Sunday, November 15 at Ortlieb’s), U.S. Girls (Monday, November 16 at Johnny Brenda’s), Made of Oak (Nick Sandborn of Sylvan Esso) (Monday, November 16 at Boot & Saddle), Family Vacation (Monday, November 16 at Boot & Saddle)

Toronto’s Meghan Remy — a.k.a. U.S. Girls — brings her eccentric, genre-defying noise rock to JB’s November 16. 

See also: Diane Coffee (Tuesday, November 17 at Kung Fu Necktie), Hudson Mohawke (Tuesday, November 17 at The TLA), Quiet Company (Tuesday, November 17 at Milkboy Philly), Priests (Wednesday, November 18 at First Unitarian Church), Matt Pond PA (Wednesday, November 18 at The Foundry), Together Pangea (Wednesday, November 18 at PhilaMOCA), Bombadil (Wednesday, November 18 at Kung Fu Necktie) 

See also: My Morning Jacket (Thursday, November 19 at The Tower), Slow Magic with Giraffage (Thursday, November 19 at Union Transfer), HiSoft (Thursday, November 19 at Boot & Saddle), Freeway (Friday, November 20 at The Troc), Flamin’ Groovies (Friday, November 20 at Johnny Brenda’s), Givers (Friday, November 20 at Boot & Saddle), The Ocean Blue (Friday, November 20 at World Café Live), Diarrhea Planet (Friday, November 20 at Underground Arts), Suburban Living (Friday, November 20 at Ortlieb’s), Needle Points (Friday, November 20 at Bourbon & Branch)

Saturday, November 21: Ground Up 

Ground Up is rappers Azar (Alexander Azar) and Malakai (Malcolm McDowell), and producer Bij Lincs (Bijan Houshiarnejad) — three friends who make warm, engaging rap and who pride themselves on their “skills over swag,” DIY mentality. Formed more than a half decade back when Azar and Malakai joined forces freshman year at Temple — with Bij Lincs coming aboard soon after — the group scored fans with smart rhymes, cool vibes, and several high-profile gigs — including opening slots for Wu-Tang, Asher Roth, and Rick Ross — all booked DIY style, by the band and their “staff” of friends and family. Along the way, they dropped a few killer mixtapes, and last month, they were dubbed one of Philly’s most promising hip-hop acts by Noisey. (They also boast the rare ability to make Bucks County seem like the most bad-ass place on Earth.) Of course, none of this would matter if they didn’t throw a totally killer live show (which they do) or if they took themselves too seriously (which they don’t). This month, they headline a Saturday night at UT — wear your flyest sneaks, cause s--- will be kickin’.

8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $16–20. Tickets available here. 

See also: Frankie Cosmos (Saturday, November 21 at PhilaMOCA), Summer Fiction (Saturday, November 21 at Boot & Saddle), Illinois (Saturday, November 21 at Milkboy Philly), The English Beat (Saturday, November 21 at Underground Arts), Aunt Dracula (Saturday, November 21 at PhilaMOCA), Angela Sheik (Saturday, November 21 at World Café Live)

Philadelphian Bill Ricchini brings a slice of summer to life with indie pop project Summer Fiction, playing Boot & Saddle November 21.

See also: Beat Connection (Sunday, November 22 at Johnny Brenda’s), Royal Teeth (Sunday, November 22 at Milkboy Philly), Alex Bleeker + The Freaks (Sunday, November 22 at Boot & Saddle), Angel Haze (Sunday, November 22 at Underground Arts)

Rising Seattle vibe-makers Beat Connection blanket JB’s in their dreamy electro-pop November 22.

See also: Man Illuminated (Tuesday, November 24 at Boot & Saddle), Surfer Blood (Tuesday, November 24 at Johnny Brenda’s), The Main Squeeze (Tuesday, November 24 at Milkboy Philly), The Wonder Years with Motion City Soundtrack (Wednesday, November 25 at Electric Factory), New Sound Brass (Wednesday, November 25 at Boot & Saddle), Sad Actor (Wednesday, November 25 at Ortlieb’s), Circa Survive (Friday, November 27 at Electric Factory), Foxtrot & The Get Down (Friday, November 27 at Bourbon & Branch), Elle King (Friday, November 27 at Union Transfer), Kiska (Friday, November 27 at Boot & Saddle), Loafass (Friday, November 27 at Ortlieb’s), Low Cut Connie (Saturday, November 28 at District N9ne), Vacationer (Saturday, November 28 at Union Transfer), The Front Bottoms (Saturday, November 28 at Electric Factory), Nicky P and Friends (Saturday, November 28 at Milkboy Philly)