All posts by Ryan O'Connell

Finish ‘Em Up, Time to Go Home: Last Call for the 2012 Phillies

I found a dead squirrel in our backyard Saturday morning. I’m not sure of the cause of death, but at the time I was fairly certain it would be the only lifeless thing I’d see all weekend.

I was wrong. It was the only lifeless thing I saw on Saturday.

On Sunday, with endless blue skies and an unfortunately secretly powerful sun overhead, I saw something even more lifeless than that poor squirrel- the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.

It was an idyllic fall day and if we weren’t watching fake baseball then we’d probably be apple-picking or hob-nobbing our way around a pumpkin patch or corn maze. They just don’t make fall days any better. The weather was perfect, the tailgating delightful and the beers wonderfully tasty. Thanks to the team’s mostly lousy season, tickets to the game were cheap- like pre-2009 cheap. And thanks to the team’s unlikely resurgence and valiant attempt to sneak into the 2012 playoffs’ through the back door, the game had meaning- like pre-2009 meaning. It all harkened back to the good old days of a couple years ago, before each season came with the massive expectations of a World Series win and the regrettable accompaniment of disappointment when those wins didn’t happen. The 2012 Phillies had once again soaked themselves in the fountains of plucky, scrappiness, becoming the establishment-bucking upstarts that we had grown to love in the latter years of the previous decade. Things were fun again in South Philadelphia and it didn’t cost your first born to see it all happen. Giddy up!

But ah yes, this is baseball, where expectations are raised in the blink of an eye and the flames of hope are subsequently doused just as quickly. Expectations in general are a lousy son of a bitch. They always seem to lead to disappointment- a heavy-handed buzz kill version of disappointment, made worse by the fluffing up of whimsically engineered circumstances. Disappointment from expectations doesn’t stop there either. This specially-ordered, knife-twisting brand of disappointment is nice enough to incite merciless finger-pointing, because someone has to be at fault for this awful feeling.

On Sunday, it was the Phillies who were at fault. And no matter how many cold beers we drank or how many entertaining Phanatic appearances we witnessed; it wasn’t going to make it any easier for them or us.

Perhaps it was Saturday’s 8-2 lost to the visiting Atlanta Braves or maybe it was the pain of saying goodbye to long time Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones, but the Phillies were flat from the get go. They were flat from the middle go and they were flat from the end go. Just like in the early months of the season, they wasted a perfectly good pitching performance from Cliff Lee, who pitched eight innings, giving up only two runs while striking out eleven. The Phillies, who prior to Saturday, had shown actual and legitimate signs of life on offense, were held to only two hits- one by some dude named Kevin Frandsen, who I didn’t know existed until Sunday afternoon.

“Doesn’t Polanco play third?” My buddy asked, referring to apparently the former Phillies’ third baseman, Placido Polanco.

“He did,” I replied. “Maybe they finally did the right thing and put him out to stud.”

It was nice to see guys like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back in the lineup, but it was an all too familiar sight when Howard struck out to end the game. His batting average is currently .225. Just think, if he was only making $19 million this year instead of twenty, it might not even be that high.

Sunday’s loss was the death knell for the Phillies’ admittedly far-fetched playoff hopes, as it dropped them to five games back in the Wild Card race. With eight games left, their turn around is going to have come too late to mean anything more than simply creating some good will to carry with them into the off season. At this point, we should all just be routing for them to stay above five hundred- an accomplishment that would have seemed astronomically outlandish only a month ago. A losing streak at this point would just bring back the disturbing memories of the first few months of this season; memories that have been temporarily swept under the rug thanks to their late season surge. The best cure for the wretched sickness of bad memories, are good ones. It’s true that bad memories have more staying power than good ones, but that power is mitigated some if you leave on a good note. First impressions are important, but so are final impressions. For the 2012 Phillies, this next week should be all about creating a final impression that we can all feel good about- fans, the players, ownership, even the dudes outside Citizens Bank Park scalping tickets.

So we still have something to route for.

It may not be much and may not be what we wanted, but it’s still something. It’s not going to replace the sour patch taste of Sunday’s loss and it’s not going to put the money I spent on tickets to that worthless crap fest of an exhibition baseball game back in my wallet. But it’ll make the taste of the 2012 season go down that much smoother, making it taste better than it really should. It’s the life raft we need. We’d be fools to pass it up.

Wouldn’t we?

Shock and Awe: Putting the Phillies Turnaround in Perspective

Fact number 1: as of July 1st, the Philadelphia Phillies, having just been swept by the Miami Marlins, were 36-45, in last place in the National League East and 7.5 games back in the National League Wild Card race.

Fact number 2: as of July 1st, Hunter Pence was in right field, Shane Victorino was in center field and Joe Blanton was the team’s fifth starter.

Fact number 3: a few weeks later Pence, Victorino and Blanton would be playing for teams in California.

Fast forward to last week, the second week of September.

The Phillies, now only 3 games back in the Wild Card race, had jumped to third place in their division and were harboring a realistic, albeit far-fetched chance to make the playoffs. Things had gotten so strange for the Fightin’s of South Broad Street that even after dropping 3 of 4 games this past weekend to the very dreadful, very bad and very much in last place Houston Astros, the Phillies remained in the playoff hunt. Somehow, the Phillies making the playoffs has become a very real possibility.

Fact number 4: you didn’t see this coming.

It’s okay. You can admit it. Everyone in the Delaware Valley should. No one could have predicted this was how, up until recently, an extremely disappointing and largely unwatchable 2012 season would end. Yes the Phillies just won seven games in a row and that makes things a little easier to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that the team was routinely showing less life than Mitt Romney at a rave; looking about as comfortable too. The Phillies had given no indication as of July 1st that such a turnaround was possible. They didn’t look capable of it.

Quite simply, as of July 1st, fresh off being swept by the Marlins, the idea that the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies would be in a position to make the playoffs by mid-September just wasn’t realistic. In fact, here are ten things that would have seemed more realistic on July 1st than the Phillies turning their season around and making the playoffs:

1. The United States switching to the Metric system.
2. The Loch Ness Monster being spotted at the Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, awkwardly sporting an Oasis t-shirt during the Beady Eye performance while holding an “I Love Noel” sign above his head.
3. Justin Bieber growing facial hair.
4. Sarah Palin proving that you can in fact see Russia from her house (although she fails to mention that this is while watching Rocky IV on television.)
5. Cheesesteaks becoming the new, hip way to lose weight.
6. Andy Reid admitting that yes, he does frequently misuse timeouts. He also admits that he stores food for the winter months in his moustache.
7. Mayor Nutter spitting hot fire during Jay Z’s set at the Made in America festival.
8. Women finding farting attractive.
9. Everyone mutually agreeing that wearing socks with flip flops looks ridiculous.
10. Using a cellphone as a phone…to talk on…to a person.

Whether you thought so or not, it sort of, kind of maybe is possible that the Phillies make the Playoffs this year. How possible is it? Well I wouldn’t start wearing that Phillies t-shirt you packed away in early August yet- but I’d definitely make sure it’s clean. You might need it soon enough.

As of this morning, the Phillies were 74-74 and 3.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Made in America Preview: Predicting the Trending Topics on Twitter

Full discloser, I am not psychic. I don’t even know what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow. But with that being said, I like to think I’ve become a fairly adept predictor of trending topics on Twitter, especially when it comes to certain big events. For instance, with the Olympics, I totally predicted that Michael Phelps would be trending on Twitter and like, no one saw that coming.

Philly is currently all a buzz about this weekend’s Made in America festival and for good reason, it’s most likely going to be pretty flippin’ awesome. But what will people be tweeting about? If you hadn’t noticed, that’s how you find out what’s going on now- Twitter. Did you know that the Republican National Convention is happening right now? Probably not. But if you were paying attention to Twitter, you totally would. You’d even know that a A) a hurricane is threatening it B) a hurricane cancelled Donald Trump’s appearance and C) a hurricane created Tuesday night’s double bill of Ann Romney and Chris Christie, the oddest double bill this side of Jimi Hendrix opening for the Monkees.

So what will be trending about Made in America this weekend on Twitter? Here are ten educated guesses.

1. Beyonce showed up! And while we weren’t really surprised because of leaked reports that she would be making a surprise guest appearance during her husband Jay Z’s set, it still didn’t damper the awesomeness of her showing up.

2. People totally snuck in. Let’s face it, people sneak into everything. If you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it. Just look at the Red Sox. They wanted to perform what was basically an exorcism of their season and somehow they were able to do just that (thank you Dodgers .) So what if there will be two sets of fence put in place to stop people from sneaking in, it’s going to happen. It’s totally going to happen. Probably sometime in the middle of Skrillex’s set because that’s when security guards will most likely be the most confused about what exactly is happening because homeboy’s music is so confusing and weird.

3. Pearl Jam still rocks. Because they do, they will and if they want to, they’ll do it again. That and Michael Vick only playing thirteen games this year are the most solid bets you can place right now.

4. Santigold’s back up dancers are crazy. Have you ever seen Santigold’s back up dancers ? They’re like wild robot cheetahs. Santigold choreographs them herself and occasionally joins in. If pressed to describe them as succinctly as possible- spastically wonderful.

5. Dude, it’s hot. It will be. So drink water. Did you hear me? Don’t just drink Budweiser. Drink water.

6. Ben Franklin. The event is on the Ben Franklin Parkway and yes, I love our country, but you know that roughly 37% of the audience will have no idea who Franklin was. 10% will think he was a president. 5% will think he invented syphilis…which may or may not be true.

7. D’Angelo! In case you don’t follow Questlove on Twitter, D’Angelo is back and we should all be really excited about it.

8. Mayor Nutter Raps. No, I don’t think this will happen, but in all fairness, I didn’t think Mayor Nutter would ride a soap box down the course at the Red Bull Soap Box race in Manayunk a couple years ago either. He’s nothing if not a dude who goes all in. Will he rap? Doubtful. If he does, will it be a De La Soul song? Probably.

9. Jay Z. It’s his festival, he’s headlining Sunday night and he’s a frontrunner for coolest man on the planet. His wife will pop in, he’ll deliver a banging set and he’ll probably plug the Brooklyn Nets- a potential rival of the Sixers (if not just geographically and not based on talent.) There is really only one question lingering about Jay Z’s set: will Freeway be there and if so, will it be as awkward as it was during the initial Made in America announcement a couple years ago?

10. Is Rick Ross really that large? Take a look at the latest Rolling Stone, featuring a shirtless Ross on the cover . That man is a mountain of a man and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he had literally eaten a rapper who was in his way at one point. The man has an enormous belly and during his set Saturday night with the rest of his Maybach Music Group (Philly’s Meek Mill and DC’s Wale,) is there any doubt that he’ll look bigger than the Art Museum, regardless of where you might be in the crowd?

Tickets are still available and you can check out a revised Septa schedule here . Jay Z headlines Saturday night and Pearl Jam on Sunday. Other artists are Run DMC, Miike Snow, DJ Shadow, Gary Clark Jr and many more. Check out Made in America’s website for more information.

Philly Concert Update Reaction: Jane’s Addiction Come to Town

Jane’s Addiction play the Mann Center in August

It was announced this week that Jane’s Addiction are playing the Mann Center in Philly this summer and there is a good chance it might have prompted you to wonder aloud- wait, Jane’s Addiction still exist? My initial reaction was, really, the Mann Center? My three month old niece had no reaction whatsoever.

Whatever your reaction, ultimately it’s kind of cool that Jane’s Addiction is A) still touring and B) coming to Philly this summer and I’ll give you five reasons why.

1.) There is a chance you’ll hear “Mountain Song,” one of the most bad ass rock songs written in the past twenty…no wait…twenty five years. For me, “Mountain Song” is one of the rare tunes that when it comes on the radio, I listen to it the whole way through. Granted another one of those songs may or may not be “Let Her Cry” by Hootie and the Blowfish- but that shouldn’t matter. “Mountain Song” rocks.

2.) Sitting on the lawn at the Mann Center, singing along to “Jane Says” sounds like a lovely way to spend a summer evening…especially if you can smuggle in a bottle of wine (which neither I condone.)

3.) Dave Navarro might be kind of a strange dude and he might possibly sleep in a coffin (suspected, not confirmed,) but he’s a hell of a guitar player. He’s old school, a throwback rock guitar god. There’s not many of those left anymore. We need to appreciate players like Navarro before they are extinct and all we are left with is Justin Bieber.

4.) Who plays bass for Jane’s Addiction? I have no idea. I don’t think it’s the original dude and sadly it’s not Flea. For a hot minute it was Duff from Guns ‘n Roses and then when recording their most recent album, The Great Escape Artist, it was Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. But he’s no longer involved. So that leaves…who? Guess you’ll have to go the show and find out.

5.) Perry Farrell’s voice might not be exactly what it was, but he’s still an amazing front man and still commands a room like a true rock ‘n roller should. Similar to how Navarro is a rare breed, so is Farrell. We want our musicians to enjoy what they’re doing and Farrell seems to enjoy fronting a killer rock band more than most. Plus he says things like “now’s the time. You know I figure there’s a time for everything. The universe is so big. There’s a place for it too.” I’m not sure what that means, only that it’s a cool way to introduce a song.

Jane’s Addiction play the Mann Center August 15th with openers Die Antwoord.

The Philly Big Time Summer Concert Preview

Your guide to the big concerts coming to the area this summer.  Photos by Liz DeMartino.

I remember the first big summer concert I went to was the H.O R.D.E. Festival in Old Orchard Beach, Maine in August of 2006. We went after soccer practice. The lineup was Blues Traveler, Rusted Root, Lenny Kravitz, Son Volt and more. The show was at an unused minor league baseball team’s stadium and the main stage was in center field; the side stage along the first base line. The parking lot scene was a madhouse, traffic was terrible leaving and I ended up getting in trouble because I got home so late.

It was a damn good time.

The summer concert is always a damn good time. It’s one of the few things I’ve learned on my own in my life- summer concerts are awesome, mental health days are a necessity and four beers are currently enough to give me a hangover the next morning.

The precursor to the summer concert season is the research that comes with it. You need to see what’s out there, when it’s happening, who’d be down to roll with you and unless you know someone who knows someone, find out how you’re going to afford it. The downside of summer concerts are the price. It can get expensive quicker than owning a boat or constantly gambling on the Eagles. I don’t know if you’ve heard- but the economy is still in the tank (depending on who you talk too.) So this summer, you need to spend your money wisely.

In putting together the Philly Big Time Summer Concert Preview, I wanted to take price into consideration. Each show previewed will be accompanied one of the following labels:

Tax Return Money: Tax return money is for special occasions because even though it totally isn’t, itfeels like free money. So you want to use your tax return money for a show that is exceptionally awesome.

Birthday Card Money: You usually know birthday card money is coming, but that doesn’t make it any less helpful. It is money that gets added to your regular budget. You use birthday card money to help get you over the hump. So if it’s for a show, it’s a show you want to go to, but just can’t afford to, until you get that birthday money. Then it’s all systems go.

Finding Money in Your Pocket Money: Totally unexpected! You find a twenty in a pair of jeans, you have to spend on something good…like maybe that show you had written off because the money or interest wasn’t quite there. Well boom, you get some free money and giddy up, you’re going.

No Brainer Money: This is for a show that you’re going to without a question. Tickets go on sale, boom you buy it.

The Hook Up Money: Yeah, you want to go to a particular show, but you really just don’t want to have to pay for it. Do you know someone who might know someone who could talk to someone? It’s always worth a shot, especially if it works out.

Here’s some big summer concerts coming up this summer that would be worth checking out:

The Roots Picnic
When: June 2-3
Where: Festival Pier in Philly
Who: The Roots, Kid Cudi, De La Soul (backed by the Roots,) Tune-yards, Wale, Major Lazer, Diplo, Chill Moody and more
Fun Fact: This is the first year the picnic is spread out over two days. Up until this year, the picnic had been a jam-packed afternoon into evening that was a marathon to get through. Now it’s broken up a bit and I bet that will be helpful. No word on what each day’s lineup will be, but you’d have to think the Roots will at least be there both nights. If Twitter has shown us anything, it’s that Questlove doesn’t really take many nights off.
Survival Tip: There are two universal truths about the Roots Picnic. The first is that the music will be awesome. The second is that it will be unbelievably hot. It just will be. It might be sixty degrees on June 1, but it will be at least ninety on both the 2nd and the 3rd. Drink water. Double fist your way through the day and never let water out of your hand. It’ll make both the shows and the day after that much better.
Financially Speaking: No brainer money

WXPN’s Xponential Festival
When: July 20-22
Where: Wiggins Park and the Susquehanna Bank Center in sunny Camden
Who: Wilco, Avett Brothers, Dr. Dog, Counting Crows, the Hold Steady, War on Drugs, Work Drugs, Mike Doughty, City Rain and more.
Fun Fact: Much like the Roots Picnic, the Xponential Festival is stretching out a bit, both in the length of the festival and number of locations. The regular location in Wiggins Park on the mighty Delaware River will be the main venue, where you catch Philly’s War on Drugs and City Rain. But the Wilco, Avett Brothers, Dr. Dog show and the Counting Crows’ show will be next door at Susquehanna Bank Center.
Survival Tip: I mean, it’s Camden– should be pretty straight forward.
Financially Speaking: Birthday Card Money

When: May 18-20
Where: Asbury Park, NJ
Who: Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Incubus, Bon Jovi, Gaslight Anthem, Bouncing Souls, Mac Miller and many more.
Fun Fact: This is the tenth anniversary of Bamboozle, a launching pad for shitloads of up and coming bands. This year’s festival features over 50 bands on the revitalized Asbury Park boardwalk, including bands with wildly inventive names like My Children My Bride, The Dear Hunter and Spacehog. Dude, there was already a band called Spacehog and…oh wait, it’s the same Spacehog. Oh. I guess that’s cool.
Survival Tip: Only so many people in Asbury are going to be cool with you asking them if they know Bruce Springsteen, so think carefully before asking someone if they do.
Financially Speaking: Hook up money

Reggae in the Park
When: June 10th
Where: The Mann Center in Philly
Who: So far it’s officially Jimmy Cliff, Beres Hammond and “more artists to be announced,” but Cliff and Hammond would be enough for me.
Fun Fact: Come on, it’s a reggae festival right at the start of summer. Scientific studies have shown that these kinds of shows can’t be a bad time. And have you been to the Mann Center? It’s beautiful; the perfect venue for spending a summer evening at a concert.
Survival Tip: Despite what your buddy might tell you, it’s not legal to smoke weed openly at a reggae festival.
Financially Speaking: Finding Money in Your Pocket Money

When: June 13th
Where: Susquehanna Bank Center
Who: Radiohead, with openers Caribou.
Fun Fact: I’ve never met a single person who has seen Radiohead live and hasn’t declared it one of the best shows they’ve ever seen.
Survival Tip: Trying to dance like Thom Yorke is an easy way to pull a muscle if you don’t stretch properly.
Financially Speaking: Tax Return Money

My Morning Jacket with Band of Horses
When: August 17th
Where: The Mann Center
Who: My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses
Fun Fact: I saw My Morning Jacket last summer for the first time and I came away from that show convinced I had seen the truth. I saw what big rock ‘n roll was meant to be, what it was meant to sound like and what it was meant to look like. It was an amazing show and a fantastical night. And that doesn’t even factor into account that there was an earthquake that day.
Survival Tip: Got lawn seats? Sweet. Don’t forget a blanket. Oh, and you probably want to plan on not standing at all. It’s just not that kind of scene out there- unless of course you’re cool with people staring daggers at you.
Financially Speaking: It’s a tie between No Brainer Money and Tax Return Money. Either way, I’m going.

Orion Music + More
When: June 23-24
Where: Bader Field in Atlantic City
Who: Metallica, Modest Mouse, Arctic Monkeys, Gaslight Anthem, Best Coast, Titus Andronicus, Gary Clark Jr and more.
Fun Fact: For those of you out there who have never been able to decide which Metallica album you like better- Ride the Lighting or the Black Album, this festival is for you. Metallica will be playing one album one night and the other the next night; both in their entirety. This is awesome news unless you believe Metallica died with Cliff Burton. In that case…well, Modest Mouse is always a good time.
Survival Tip: Avoid eye contact with the guy stumbling around, chugging whiskey and yelling “James Hetfield for President.”
Financially Speaking: Hook Up Money

Here are five shows I’m not going to lie to you about…

1.) I’m not going to lie, I bet Coldplay put on a pretty good show along the same lines that theAvengers is probably a pretty good movie. Both are big, loud and full of bright lights. You can’t really go wrong with that.
– Coldplay plays two shows at the Wells Fargo Center July 5th and 6th.

2.) I’m not going to lie, if you were to give me tickets to 311’s annual summer show at Festival Pier, I’d totally go and would totally have an awesome time. 311 shows are like Yuengling- good, reliable and you know exactly what you’re going to get.
– 311 play Festival Pier in Philly on July 27th with Slightly Stoopid and SOJA.

3.) I’m not going to lie, there’s part of me that wants to see Nicki Minaj live because I think it could be a lot of fun. There is also a part of me that thinks it could be terrible. Mainly there is just a part of me that has a crush on Minaj and another part of me that can’t get her songs out of my head.
– Nicki Minaj plays the Wired 96.5 Fest at Susquehanna Bank Center on July 1st with T-Pain, B.O.B. and more.

4.) I’m not going to lie, I would be more inclined to go down to Delaware and the Firefly festival and check out Jack White if I knew which Jack White was going to be there. On Saturday Night Live and backed by an all-female band, I wasn’t a fan. But then when he was on the Colbert Report and had a totally different band, I loved it. That band rocked. I would go see that band in a second. But you just never know with White and as a result, I probably won’t be going to Firefly even if it’s in Delaware. I’m a sucker for tax free shopping.
– Jack White, along with the Black Keys, the Killers, the Flaming Lips, Death Cab for Cutie, Philly’s Chiddy Bang and more play the first Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware July 20th-22nd.

5.) I’m not going to lie, I’m endlessly curious about Childish Gambino, even though I’ve never listened to one of his songs the whole way through. I’d go see him live, but I’d be worried I’d just be waiting for him to do comedy bits from Community.
– Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) plays the River Stage at Great Plaza in Philly on June 22nd.

Stay tuned for previews of club shows and free shows coming to the area this summer.

And remember, that when it comes to summer concerts, water and comfortable shoes are your best friends.

See you out there.

photos by Liz DeMartino and Ryan O’Connell



One Man’s Reaction to the 2012 Welcome America Lineup

Putting Questlove on the hot seat.

To be completely honest, I didn’t really care for last year’s Wawa Welcome America concert, presided over by The Roots’ Questlove. Part of the reason was that I was wrong in thinking it would be a Roots’ show, with small sets by the other acts they had on the bill: Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael McDonald, Sara Bareilles and more. Instead, we were treated to a concert featuring The Roots as the world’s most versatile backing band and mildly entertaining, occasionally painful sets by the headliners. And while The Roots’ chameleon-like ability to back any musician on Earth is certainly nothing to laugh at, it’s just not as good as The Roots, the world’s most entertaining live hip hop act by themselves.

Now I fully realize that a show like the Welcome America concert is designed to appeal to a mass audience. I get that. It’s why I didn’t do anything drastic after last year’s show like un-followQuestlove on the Twitter machine. But in this dude’s humble opinion, part of what makes The Roots so dynamic and impressive is how universally appealing they are. With every passing day, The Roots are edging towards Bob Marley’s status in terms of how many different people are fans of them. Call me a Roots’ homer, but I think if you just threw the Roots on stage by themselves (maybe with Dice Raw and someone like Talib Kweli joining them) you’d have a pretty dope show that would appeal to practically everyone. Heck, you could even add John Legend…a little something for the ladies and Temple alums if you want to really make sure you touch all the bases.

This week, the line-up was announced for this year’s Welcome America show and once again, the endlessly busy Questlove is serving as musical director and the Roots will be back on stage. Joining them will be Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates,) Common, Queen Latifah, Joe Jonas and more.

Initial reaction? Well I didn’t even know Queen Latifah was even doing music anymore, I thought she was just doing terrible movies and I’m cool with Hall playing, provided he doesn’t skip “Maneater.” I have no feelings about Joe Jonas, largely because I never developed a particular allegiance to him or either one of his brothers and as for Common, well I guess that’s kind of cool. Is it too early to request “The Light?”

I’m sure the show will be fine and I’m sure it will be fun. The Roots will be tight and consummate professionals because I’m guessing that’s how they wake up in the morning- as consummate professionals. But I’d like to ask just one thing…more Roots please. One or two songs, or even worse, a medley of half of two songs, just isn’t good enough. I want at least five songs (and if one of those could be “Lighthouse” off of undun, that’d be awesome) from The Roots this year. It can be at the beginning, the middle or the end- but at just one point during this whole Welcome to America thing, I’d like to see some semblance of a Roots’ show.

I don’t think that’s asking a lot.

Your move Questlove.

The Wawa Welcome America concert starts at 7pm on July 4th on the Ben Franklin Parkway.


A Philly Rapper You Should Know: Kuf Knotz

The Philly rapper on Tupac, live bands versus DJ’s and holograms.

Well Kuf is short for Kufie and Knotz is a play off of my hair. My friends used to call me Notty so I stuck with that and Kufie is a name given to me in college…It means spiritual warrior and born on a Friday (West African.)

I started writing little raps and rhymes around 5th grade, but I didn’t actually began saying them or speaking them out loud to people until high school.
Growing up in a musical household is what led me to become an MC. My Grandmother was a gospel singer (RIP Mary Vanderpool) and my brother was an MC. I would go to church every Sunday and hear my grandmother sing. I would always hear her sing around the house too, especially when she was cooking something. My brother and his friends were always in the basement smoking what I now know was pot and rapping and breakdancing. I would spy on them from the top of the steps. I was so intrigued by how my brother would put these words together and make up crazy stories in perfect time with someone making crazy noises out there mouth. I was blown away to say the least.

I grew up a little outside of Philly in Bryn Mawr. My family is from Buffalo.

My biggest musical influences have probably been Tupac, Q-Tip & The Roots. Tupac…I absolutely love his passion, writing and ability to reach a wide gamut of people. Q-Tip makes beautiful music, creates his own beats, has a very unique and distinct voice, which is very important and has mass appeal I dig. He is also so comfortable with being “outside of the box” as well. The Roots because they are a live band and have built their fan base in a ground up, grass roots movement type of way. Building it like that you make very loyal and appreciative fans and they consistently put out good music and work HARD!!! They experiment with music and Tariq (Black Thought) is definitely the illest lyricist out there.

I prefer to perform with a live band. I have been in four bands now since the start of my career so I have become very accustomed to the band dynamic and the live energy on stage that only a band can produce…not to say that I don’t enjoy rocking with a DJ I just prefer the band.

The Fire…yes something about The Fire I just love. It’s like you know you won’t make any money there but you still play there & have a blast, the vibe is great and what band in Philly hasn’t started out playing The Fire or played The Fire at some point.

Not only was I opening for Bruce Springsteen but it was for such a monumental and historic event (a rally for President Obama.) The campaign for the first Black president ever and it was on the (Ben Franklin) parkway in Philadelphia with 70,000 people in attendance. Nora Whittaker played the keys and sang vocals while I rhymed; it was an amazing 17 minutes! We did 3 songs all together. As an MC I was very proud to be able to get up there in front of young children, middle age people and older folks and not have to worry about editing myself or taking words out or being too offensive. I was proud that the music I make and words I write went over well with everyone and that such a diverse crowd could get into and enjoy “Hip Hop”…even though it was acoustic Hip Hop it was still Hip Hop.

BoomBox Logic was released in October 2010 on Mad Dragon Records. The making of the album took about 6 to 7 months. I went out to Spring City, PA to record the album with Rich Brickel at Studio 210. I would be in the studio for hours upon hours sometimes in a session from 8pm to 8am crazy but fun – I would have a lot of people at the sessions so it made for a real comfortable family/party type feel and everyone would encourage everyone else which was awesome. I enjoyed working with so many different artists and producers it really allows you to step outside of what you might consider your “thing” and open up to different styles and approach to making and writing songs.

(G.Love) and I met thru my friend Mutlu and began sitting in with G at shows and we become pretty cool so when I was doing my album I reached out to him and he was all about it.

Who isn’t a Digable Planets fan?

My summer plans are to finish up this album I am working on A Positive Light and to shoot a handful of dope videos & of course perform at some festivals! All the while enjoying the sunshine.

I wear my heart on my sleeve musically and am very dedicated to making music and making music with a message. I believe in writing positive tunes because I believe our words are very powerful. This newest album I am finishing up is a very uplifting fun and introspective album.

Hologram yes for sure!!! but let’s say that will be way down the line I have a lot more live performances left to do all over the world. The Tupac hologram performance was awesome. It’s really dope that Snoop did that – he definitely started something!

It would definitely be with Bob Marley! (If he could perform with a hologram of a dead artist.)

Yes indeed…soul.

Photos courtesy of Kuf Knotz.

A Philly Band/Rapper You Should Know is an ongoing series featuring oral histories of up and coming Philly Bands and Rappers.

Album Review: Santigold is Back

Santigold finally returns with Master of My Make-Believe

Some people’s brains just work differently than others.

I used to work with a dude who was one such person. We’ll call him This Guy I Know and when discussing a plan of attack for something, I’d have to stop him in mid-sentence and stress the need for his ideas to come out in a 1-2-3 fashion. Otherwise, they made no sense to me. I firmly believed that if you asked him to say the alphabet, he’d start at A, go to B and then go straight to L, lump M-P together, before finally just going straight to Z.

Now while I don’t know her personally, I can only assume Santigold would also have a different way of reciting the alphabet as well, because like This Guy I Know, she is someone whose brain works differently than most.

On May 1st, Santigold releases Master of My Make-Believe, the follow up to her 2007 self-titled debut album. Much like that album, Master of My Make-Believe just sounds completely different than anything else out there. But unlike that album, the level of accessibility is much different. The new album is nearly devoid of singles or pop hooks. There certainly isn’t anything nearly as bouncy and summertime-friendly as “Lights Out” on the album. “Disparate Youth” is catchy, but it’s catchy in the way that it almost lulls you into a gently bobbing your head while you listen to it trance and after listening to it, you find yourself humming the chorus to yourself, even though you might not totally know the words. The self-titled album was easy to get down to. Master of My Make-Believe is get down music, it’s just a different kind of get down. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while the party jams might not be there, the jams still are- just to a different kind of party.

2007 was a while ago and Santigold’s debut album was well-received. But instead of jumping at the opportunity to really break out, she seemed to disappear. The break in between albums and the relative obscurity Santigold faded back into makes Master of My Make-Believe almost a debut album version 2.0 for her. This is a confident album, complete with calculated risks and chances most artists aren’t willing to take. It seems like we are meant to take Santigold for better or worse. When she emerged in 2007, there wasn’t really anyone else out there doing what she was doing- this brazen mix of Caribbean beats and pop-punk rambunctiousness. But since then, that album doesn’t seem nearly as wild as it did back then. That’s what makes Master of My Make-Believespecial- it’s casual disassociation with the past as it moves toward the future. But it’s not a scorched Earth transition and the new album isn’t jarring to the point that fans will be turned off, which is always reassuring. If anything, it shows that the 2007 album wasn’t a statement or declaration of who Santigold was as much as it was a launching point for her to take off from.

With summer coming right around the corner, this album drops at just the right time. There is other music out there for your beach parties and block parties. Enjoy Master of My Make-Believeon a roof deck with friends or on car ride to the beach and remember, the jams are still there, the setting has just changed.

People like Santigold and This Guy I Know make our lives interesting. They may say the alphabet differently or take way to long between albums, but it’s a small price to pay for being kept on our toes.


Album Review: 447 words about Lushlife


Philly rapper returns with the excellent ‘Plateau Vision’


Lushlife keeps finding his way into my life lately. Whether it’s through the Twitter machine or local newspapers, he keeps coming back around like a student loan collector. Thankfully he is much easier to deal with. The crazy thing about it was that I had no idea what Lushlife was. Was it a person? A group? What kind of music was it? I’ve only seen one picture and it’s an Indian dude with funny glasses holding a violin. That told me nothing. What exactly is Lushlife?

Lushlife is a Philly rapper and producer who recently released Plateau Vision– a delicate car crash of sounds, moods and crafty, intelligent hip hop. As a rapper, Lushlife is subtly aggressive with an undercurrent of the tastiest kind of attitude, the chip on your shoulder kind. His flow reminds a little bit of Nas, but that could largely be because Nas is a sick rapper and so is Lushlife. Lushlife might not spit hot fire like Nas does, but he definitely spits luke warm volcano juice- and I’m not even sure what that is, just that it sounds fitting.

As a producer, Lushlife is off the hook. Each song is a cavalcade of sounds akin to the Beach Boys or the Avalanches. The sounds creep in and out of his verses like waves. It’s great production- tight as a drum and nearly every song has a classic hip hop beat to it, which makes the tunes that much more appealing. I love the first tune, “Magnolia,” a straight up beat and a harp. It’s money. “Anthem” is a great tune too.

You could make an argument that either Lushlife lacks focus with his production or that his desire to bring different sounds into the world of hip hop is possibly too jarring. Okay, that’s cool. But I would disagree. I’ve always felt that there are two kinds of hip hop (and both are different than rap.) There’s book smart hip hop that you can nerd out too and there’s the smooth sailing hip hop that you can jam out too. Lushlife brings together both of these styles and creates a mash-up of sound that should be appealing to both the headphone junkie obsessing over production and lyrical word play and the casual boomboxer who just loves a sweet jam.

We live in a divisive world, but Lushlife’s sound floats above that.

No doubt there are plenty of young rappers kicking around our fair city that are demanding our attention. Lushlife however, might be the cream of the crop. If he keeps it up with more jams like the ones found on Plateau Vision, he won’t be one of many for long.