If you live in the Philadelphia area and are a fan of alternative music, you are probably familiar with Radio 104.5. It’s the only radio station I listen to in the area. Not only do they play a lot of good music over the radio, but they promote live music in the Philadelphia area as well.
You may have read my previous reviews of their two “Birthday Shows” earlier this summer, which were day long music festivals that featured big national acts like The Killers, Kings of Leon, Bastille, Foster the People and others, along with a side stage featuring local bands. While you had to purchase tickets to those shows, they were very reasonably priced for the amount and quality of music that you could see during the day.
During the summer, Radio 104.5 puts on what they call “Block Parties” once per month. These shows are completely free – you just have to download a ticket – and feature 4 or 5 local or lesser known bands that play 30 minute sets, and then one headliner that plays a 45 – 60 minute set. The block parties are held at Festival Pier, located on the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia. I love these shows, because not only do I get to see a bunch of bands for free, but you can bring your chairs and sit out on the sand (yes, they bring sand into the venue to give it the beach/boardwalk feel) and just relax and enjoy a day of music.
I attended the July Block Party, which featured 4 bands along with headliner MisterWives.
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THE BAD BEES
The afternoon kicked off with local band, The Bad Bees. Based out of Cinnaminson, NJ, the band is made up of members Jake Barbadoro, Brandon King, Bryan Kelly, and John Melvin. On their Facebook page, they describe themselves as an Indie rock band, with influences from The Black Keys and Kings of Leon.
The guys seemed really appreciative to have the opportunity to play in front of a big crowd, and for being able to share the bill with some pretty popular national acts. While the crowd was a little thin for the opener on a hot summer afternoon, they seemed to have a good following of fans right up front, and I’m sure they converted a few new fans as well.
I found their set to be very entertaining, even though I wasn’t familiar with any of their music. Their lead singer has a unique and recognizable voice, which I think can help them stand out from other bands as they try to gain attention outside of the local area.
You can catch The Bad Bees at various shows around the Philadelphia area. Follow them on Facebook to stay up to date on their upcoming shows.
If you read my review of the Levitate Music Festival I attended a few weeks ago, you know about my love for this band. I first heard them when they opened for Lake Street Dive (make sure you always check out the opening band!), and have grabbed the opportunity to see them live every time I can since then.
If you didn’t read my review of Rubblebucket previously, here’s a little background on the band. They are a quirky little indie band based out of Brooklyn, NY. The band is made up of Annakalmia (Kalmia) Traver (lead vocals, tenor and baritone saxophone), Alex Toth (backing vocals, trumpet, bandleader), Adam Dotson (backing vocals, trombone, keyboard), and Ian Hersey (backing vocals, guitar). The band was formed when Alex and Kalmia met as music majors at the University of Vermont. They released their debut album in March of 2008, and began touring.
In 2014, they signed with Communion Records and released the album “Survival Sounds”. The song “Came Out of a Lady” was featured in the movie “Drinking Buddies”.
The band has recently become known to the Radio 104.5 listener base, as their song “If U C My Enemies” has gotten quite a bit of play on the station lately. I was excited to see them have a chance to show off their stuff to this crowd, many of whom weren’t familiar with their other songs. Download If U C My Enemies here.
As usual, Rubblebucket put on a great show. Their songs are catchy – you’ll find yourself singing and humming them days later. They are great musicians, and the horn section really adds a uniqueness to their sound that you don’t often find. Kalmia is a great frontwoman – she is quirky which makes her intriguing to watch, but she has the talent – both vocally and musically – to match. Despite the near 90 degree temperatures and hot July afternoon sun, I was dancing and singing during their set until I worked up a sweat!
As usual, they wrapped up their set with “Came Out of a Lady”, which always features Alex jumping on the shoulders of a fan and parading through the crowd, with Kalmia following behind. The only negative thing I have to say about their set, was that 30 minutes was way too short!
I’m always on the edge when I discover a new band that I love. Part of me wants them to have huge success, as I know how hard they work. But part of me loves that they still play small venues, ride into the crowd on the shoulders of their fans, and hang out in the merch tent after the show. I feel like Rubblebucket is just on the precipice of taking that next step in popularity. I hope they don’t lose the quirkiness and fun that makes them so great as a live band.
Rubblebucket is in the process of recording a new record, so they only did a couple of live shows this summer, and have no new dates planned. Be sure to follow them on social media and check their website (www.rubblebucket.com) to stay up to speed on their new music.
Set List: On the Ground, Donna, Forlornification, If U C My Enemies, Silly Fathers, Came Out of a Lady, Carousel
The next band up was Beach Slang, who are from Philadelphia, but have gained some national attention. The band consists of James Alex (vocals, guitar), Ed McNulty (bass), Aurore Ounjian (guitar) and Cully Symington (drums). They describe themselves as a punk rock band. Formed in June of 2013, they started playing live shows about a year later, as well as released their first EP – “Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?”
The band has a bit of turmoil in their short history. At a show in Salt Lake City in April of 2016, they band basically broke up on stage. James Alex told the crowd it was their last show, and asked the venue to refund the crowd’s money for the tickets. Ruben Gallego, who was the band’s lead guitarist at the time, slammed his guitar down and walked off the stage. About a month later, the band fired drummer JP Flexner, who was accused of instigating the break up. The band recovered, eventually replaced Gallego and Flexner, and continues to record and tour.
You can download their album The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us here.
I have to admit that I was a bit confused by the band’s set. At times, it felt more like a comedy skit than a concert, including Alex having to deal with a heckler in the crowd that at one point shouted out that the band sucked.
A good portion of their 30 minute set included them playing little teasers of covers from other bands, only to stop after a few seconds and have Alex tell the crowd some sort of little antidote. While this may have played well with a full show, it seemed like a waste of valuable time during a 30 minute set. I felt like I didn’t get a good feel for the band and their music, because the number of their original songs that they actually played through was limited.
Beach Slang has a full touring schedule into December, including a couple more chances to catch them in Philadelphia – once at the Made In America Festival over Labor Day weekend, and a second time at the TLA on December 2nd. Check out their website at www.beachslang.com for upcoming shows in your area.
Set List: Noisy Heaven, Hard Luck Kid, Porno Love, Ride the Wild Haze, Punks in a Disco Bar, Spin the Dial, Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas, Where is my Mind? (Pixies cover)
Ballyhoo! (and yes, the exclamation point is part of the name) is a rock/reggae band out of Aberdeen, MD. While you might not have heard of Ballyhoo!, they are not a new band. They formed in 1995, and are made up of current members Howi Spangler (lead vocals/guitar), Donald Spangler (drums), Scott Vandrey (keyboards/programming/harmonizing vocals), and Nick Lucera (bass).
The band started touring heavily on the national stage in 2012, when it played every show on the Vans Warped Tour. They’ve also opened for bands like 311 and Slightly Stoopid. Their music is popular with the surf/skate crowd, and has been highlighted in several surf/skate videos, as well as movies like “Beach King” and “Road Trip: Beer Pong”.
You can download their album girls here.
Ballyhoo! was one of my favorite bands of the day. I’m a big fan of reggae, and their twist on reggae (which gives it a little more of a rock feel) was something new and interesting to listen to. The band worked the crowd well. The audience – which was mostly made up of kids in their late teens/early twenties – seemed to really connect with the music, which was perfect for an outdoor setting. I found their set to be just enough to give me a taste of their music. There wasn’t a lot of banter – just playing their songs – which you need when you have such a short set.
Ballyhoo! is playing throughout the U.S. the remainder of the summer, before they head to the U.S. Virgin Islands in November. If you like reggae music and want to hear a little different version of it, check out Ballyhoo! You can find information on their upcoming tour dates at www.ballyhoorocks.com.
Set List: Jameson & Ginger, Mixtape, Girls., Battle Cry, Diamonds, One in a Million, Walk Away
MisterWives was the headliner for the July Block Party show. Based out of New York City, the band formed in 2012 and is made up of Mandy Lee (lead vocals), Etienne Bowler (drums), William Hehir (bass guitar), Marc Campbell (guitar), Jesse Blum (multi-instruments), and Mike Murphy (saxophone).
The band played their first official show at the Canal Room on February 1, 2013, and signed with Photo Finish Records shortly after. The band released their first EP – “Reflections” – in January 2014, which featured the title track as their first hit, and most well-known song. They released their debut album – “Our Own House” – in February of 2015. They’ve had the opportunity to tour as the opener for several popular bands like Panic! At the Disco and Twenty-One Pilots.
Download their single Reflections here.
I was familiar with MisterWives’ hit single “Reflections”, but knew very little else about them before this show. After a hot and sunny afternoon, the sky started darkening up shortly before MisterWives was due on stage. I started getting a little concerned about whether or not we were going to get rained on, or worse yet, evacuated from the venue due to storms (which had happened to us a couple weeks before at the same venue for the Gorillaz show). But, at 6:00 p.m., MisterWives took the stage with Mandy Lee wearing what almost appeared to be a see-through yellow rain jacket.
Mandy is small in stature, but she’s a powerhouse. Her vocals are strong, and she commands the stage. She didn’t stop running, jumping and dancing during their set. She had the crowd wrapped around her finger, and even with the looming dark clouds in the sky, I didn’t see too many people take off and not see the end of the show.
Although MisterWives is characterized as a “pop” band, which can sometimes have negative connotations, they are very talented musically. I was particularly impressed when the entire band walked to the front of the stage without their instruments, and slapped/clapped/snapped out a beat to start a song.
I was totally entertained by MisterWives, and I’d like to see them in a smaller indoor venue, where I could hear the music better and see Mandy Lee’s performance up close. MisterWives are on their current tour through October, including another stop in Philly at The Filmore on October 21st. I may just have to check that out! You can get more information on MisterWives at www.misterwives.com.
Set List: Imagination Infatuation, Coloring Outside the Lines, Drummer Boy, Out of Tune Piano, Vagabond, Same Drugs (Chance the Rapper cover), Kings and Queens, Only Human, Revolution, Oh Love, Reflections, Machine, Our Own House
Have questions or comments about any of these bands? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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