Our weekly concert picks: July 16–July 22

INDIO, CA - APRIL 12: Musicians Josh Homme (L) and Michael Shuman of Queens Of The Stone Age perform onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2014 in Indio, California. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella

It’s the middle of the summer and there are a million cool things going on. Get psyched!

Friday, July 18: Cheers Elephant with Toy Soldiers

About 8 months ago, Cheers Elephant—the rollicking, Philly-bred, pop-rock quartet whose breezy anthems and high-energy shows made them a local fave—bid the City of Brotherly Love adieu—as a band—and relocated out West, for a fresh perspective on life and music. Since then, they’ve gigged around SoCal AND logged some studio time—and are now headed out on a massive, cross-country tour, which stops by Union Transfer this Friday. Originally formed by pals in Downingtown, PA, Cheers Elephant bonded over a love of British invasion and Elephant 6 artists, and spent 8 years refining their sound before making a move. The show also doubles as a farewell—for now—for Philly blues rockers Toy Soldiers, who will be entering a “deep, dark hibernation” following their set, to focus on other projects. Over the past 7 years, there are few local bands who’ve made us dance, sing, and smile with quite the same aplomb, and while we’re sad to see them go, we wish them the best of luck in the future.

8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $14. Tickets available here.


Friday, July 18: Cruiser

One of our new fave discoveries for 2014 is Cruiser, a Philly pop foursome who write songs perfect for road trips and summer vacations, the sun on your back and the smell of salt water on your hair. Formed in 2012 as a solo project for Andy States, a Central, PA-born, Philly-bred songwriter with a penchant for beach-y melodies, Cruiser quickly evolved into a full band, whose sunshine-y vibes have won them slots at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar and Firefly Music Fest, in addition to the adoration of dozens of young fans. Combining fuzzed out guitars with cheery harmonies and the type of life-affirming attitude that prioritizes roof-top hangs and perfect bbq—these dudes are proof that sometimes “living the dream” means capitalizing on your current reality. They play JB’s this Friday alongside electro-pop trio Bel Heir; major summer vibes expected. Before you go: stream new single “Kidnap Me” for free via Bandcamp, and hop on aboard the cruise ship.

9:15 at Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $10–12. Tickets available here.



Saturday, July 19: Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura are one of my very favorite bands, and my FAVORITE band (that’s not Belle & Sebastian) to feature Stuart Murdoch in a music video about science. Formed in 1996 in Glasgow, Scotland—a city known for spurring whimsical pop—Camera Obscura set themselves apart thanks to front woman Tracyanne Campbell’s perfect, wistful vocals, and breezy melodies that nearly eclipse the feelings of unease behind them; and launched themselves to fame following an endorsement from John Peel. Since then, they’ve released five records, including 2013’s Desire Lines, which sees them honing their pop craft into something beautiful and stirring. Now, one year later, they’re touring behind Desire Lines, and will stop by World Café Live this Saturday. (The delay, we should add, was due to Campbell birthing first son Gene, who will accompany her on the tour bus). It’s been 5 years since their last headlining show in Philly, so suffice to say, I am pretty psyched!  Before you go: stream Camera Obscura’s “Back on Tour” playlist (via Spotify) and get psyched. See you there Philly!

8:00 at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., $20. Tickets available here.


Saturday, July 19: Spank Rock

Can we talk for a sec here about how excited we are to have Spank Rock back? Not that he ever left, exactly—but these past 3 years have featured just a handful of Spank appearances, as he toured Europe and (ostensibly) worked on new material. These days though, he’s officially back—and between his new single “Gully” and a guest set earlier this year with Plastic Little, we couldn’t be happier. Born Naeem Juwan in a West Baltimore row house, Juwan moved to Philly after marinating in the B’more club scene, and starting rapping as Spank Rock soon after, along B’more producer Alex Epton. His clean style and dirty, dirty raps quickly ingratiated him to the hipster party crowd, and frequent collabs with Amanda Blank (Philly’s club Sweatheart) only solidified the bond. In 2011, he released his sophomore record, the outrageous, sex-drenched Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a F****** Liar, featuring club anthem “Nasty”—and then went quiet.  This Saturday he plays his first headlining show in Philly since 2011, and a guaranteed wild time.

8:00 at Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St., $3 with RSVP ($10 without). Tickets available here.


Sunday, July 20: Queens of the Stone Age

Anyone complaining about how rock music these days has gotten soft needs look no further than Queens of the Stone Age, the SoCal alt-rockers who have been slaying face for nearly 20 years now, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, if anything, the band’s become MORE of a force to be reckoned with in recent years, with their 2013 record …Like Clockwork becoming their first ever to debut at Number 1 on the charts. Formed in 1996 following the dissolution of Josh Homme’s previous band, Kyuss, QOTSA thundered into public consciousness with their debut, self-titled record, then never looked back, introducing thousands to their volatile, brooding rock. Over the course of their career, they’ve dodged both line-up changes and near-death experiences, and have emerged, in 2014, a triumphant force, who will take on the Mann Center this Sunday. We love QOTSA for their manic, cathartic songwriting, their refusal to take s$*% from other artists, and their absolute fearlessness when it comes to speaking their minds. Rock’n roll’s not dead—and Josh Homme is here to prove it.

7:30 at the Skyline Stage at the Mann, 5201 Parkside Ave., $45. Tickets available here.


Monday, July 21: Neutral Milk Hotel

Neutral Milk Hotel are an actually pretty great band from the ‘90s that gets a bad rap because of all the dramaticwhiny hipsters that claim them as influences. Don’t listen to these people. Instead, listen to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, their breakthrough 1998 record supposedly inspired by The Diary of Anne Frank, whose creative palate twinkles with jangly guitar, brass, and creator Jeff Magnum’s distinct, emotional vocals. Formed in the early ‘90s by Magnum—a Ruston, LA native + Elephant 6 co-founder—Neutral Milk Hotel released two records in ‘96 and ’98, then disbanded just as they started to become popular due to Magnum’s fragile emotional state. For years afterwards, he remained mostly inactive, contributing only to related E6 projects and refusing nearly all interview requests—despite growing interest in Aeroplane and the band. These days, Aeroplane is practically required listening for any freshman scenester, and the media’s interpreted Magnum’s silence as a sign of mad genius—a portrayal that might or might not be accurate, but certainly has contributed to the legend. He’ll stop by Philly this week at the Mann Center. Don’t sleep!

7:30 at the Skyline Stage at the Mann, 5201 Parkside Ave., $29.50–36. Tickets available here.