Blogs > Talk about the Passion

It's an old R.E.M. song. Thoughts on music, or whatever else is distracting me, can be found here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Don't "Say No" to War on Drugs

It was during the Nixon years when America officially declared a "war on drugs."
Ticket editor Aixa Torregrosa recently asked me what I thought of the Philly band The War on Drugs, and I told her I hadn't yet heard enough to form an opinion even though they've been around for nine years. That was, until I heard this song:

 Ignore the noisy first 33 seconds and the hazy "Day in the Life" shoegaze ending ... but yeah, buddy! It's like Paul Simon meets the dreamy atmospheres of The Ocean Blue with some saxes thrown in.
Right now it looks like they're touring Australia, New Zealand and England -- selling out a lot of these concerts too.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bucks County band with quirky nom-nom releases sixth album

Alternative rock outfit Birdie Num Num and The Spirit Squad -- long-time regulars at John & Peter's in New Hope, by the way -- are up to six full-length albums now with their latest, "Subject to Change."
While making the album, they learned in almost hilariously tragic fashion why analog is dead. They had six reels of old-school tape, which they were planning to spool up, hit record and let run -- something that fits with the Bucks County band's jam-then-develop-the-best-bits style of songwriting. They recorded their first take at their studio, Robot Recordings, only to hear dead silence when they played it back. The playback head of the tape machine was shot. 
Ha, ha, ha "Subject to Change," indeed!
Among the album's tracks that you can hear on the band's Soundcloud page are "The Creek" and "Ride The Pony." 
 Birdie Num Num and The Spirit Squad have had a whopping 36 different members, that have rotated in and out since 1999. But today, they are drummers Todd Mason and J.P. Wasicko, R.J. Gilligan on bass and vocals, Joe Montone on keyboards, and Joe Ujj, who formed Birdie Num Num after a previous band had been courted by the likes of Geffen and Sub Pop during the '90s grunge explosion.
For live shows and more om-Num-Num-Num, go to   

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jazz very near you

The Towamencin-based websites All About Jazz and Jazz Near You are creating a network of affiliates around the world to host jazz house concerts.
 The house concerts concept has been very successful for the Xtreme Folk Scene and the Philadelphia Folksong Society because a house party is a super-intimate and casual environment to enjoy live music. Plus, you can talk to the musicians and get to know their music better. According to Ricci, there are already successful jazz house concert networks in Princeton, Baltimore and Seattle.
As if the idea of a jazz house concert all by itself wasn't the coolest, the Jazz Near You series debuts right here this Friday, Oct. 24, featuring The Jōst Project performing live at the home of the sites’ founder, Michael Ricci. Tickets are $15 a person (you can BYOB) and can be purchased here (it's an Eventbrite page) Once the ticket is purchased, the concert site address will be shared.
One of the band's specialties, Ricci said, is jazz arrangements of familiar '70s music. A quartet scaling back to a trio for this performance, might they be bold enough to take on "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin?

The Jost Project
"It's really about jazz musicians being able to make a living," Ricci said, noting that Chris' Jazz Cafe is still the only full-time jazz venue in Philadelphia.
All About Jazz gets 500,000 to 750,000 unique visitors each month. Jazz Near You launched two years ago; is a website, an e-blast with 170,000 subscribers, an IOS app and more; and can take you to concert calendars for 250 cities. 
Here's a 2011 story, with video, that I did on Ricci. Jazz Near You hadn't been launched yet at the time. 

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hooray for Jim Boggia!

One of my favorite people to talk music with is Reporter Circulation District Manager Gar Webb.
"Have you heard of  Jim Boggia?"
I knew he was a Philly singer/songwriter, who had recorded an eerily spot-on cover of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't be Late)," but that was about it.
I was pushed to learn more after checking out this video.

Besides combining Springsteen's Phil Spectorian bombastic anthem (one of my wife's favorite songs of all time, by the way) with "Over the Rainbow" (a nod to the uke version made famous by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) perhaps the other most impressive thing about this clip is there are NO dislikes by the extremely snarky, and often off-topic, users of YouTube.
Boggia co-wrote Jaci Velasquez's "Glory"  and has been one of those behind-the-scenes guys, writing commercial jingles, playing/touring with the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Amanda Marshall and Bernadette Peters, and occasionally getting plum song placements in a BlackBerry commercial ("Live the Proof") and ABC's "Men in Trees" ("Several Thousand").
Some of you might even remember the Philly local supergroup he was in with Scott Bricklin, Ben Arnold and Joseph Parsons called 4 Way Street.
It looks like his ukelele performances are what's getting him noticed ... and it looks like you just missed him at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville.
But check for more, and don't miss him the next time he's anywhere in the area.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jumping the Shark-nado

I have a guest blogger, who insists on remaining anonymous on the condition of possible future posts. 
The 2013 SyFy original movie, "Sharknado," blew up Twitter for a while, which was enough to warrant making a sequel.

I love disaster flicks. 
"Jaws" is one of my favorite movies, and "2012." I would like to think I have pretty high standards.
After a particularly long, stressful week, the weekend was finally here!!
Come Friday, my head is ringing.  I want nothing more than to turn the week off.   The TV remote is my salvation!
 OMG all day on SyFy nothing but ridiculous mutant sea creatures, the climax being "Sharknado 2: The Second One"!!!  It was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Mindless entertainment … for hours … mutant sharks and octopi.
Finally, after struggling through the original "Sharknado," "Sharknado 2" came on.  It’s awful, but totally entertaining.  I thought nothing of work or real life while watching.  It was so ridiculous, cheesy and campy, that it took me away from the stress of real life.  It has awful reviews, and more comments than I can remember on any other movie on how unbelievably stupid it is.  

But I liked it.
I escaped realty for a bit, and had a wonderful time with my husband watching this horrible piece of film.  It was so needed.  The cameos were a blast!  Andy Dick, Kelly Ripa & Michael Strahan, Kelly Osbourne, Matt Lauer & Al Roker, Billy Ray Cyrus, Robert Klein, Paris Hilton, Jared Fogel  from Subway, Biz Markie, Judd Hircsh (as a TAXI driver), Robert Hays (as an AIRPLANE pilot),  Rachel True, Wil Wheaton,  The Naked Cowboy from NYC, Pepa from Salt ‘n’ Pepa, “Downtown” Julie Brown  and many more.
 I have decided, with all we deal with day to day, there is nothing wrong with some mindless entertainment.  We all need it.  It makes us laugh and gave us hours of discussion outside of the "how was your day?" monotony.
Waiting for “Sharknado 3.”

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Catching up with former WYSP and WMMR DJ Anita

Once upon a time, radio personalities not only lived in the same metro area that you did (Ahem - Howard Stern, Mario Lopez, Ryan Seacrest, Elvis Duran, Steve Harvey; the list goes on forever), but they were also given the room to have a personality. In Philly, you don't have to go all the way back to Jerry Blavat to find those DJs. In the '80s you had DJs like Anita Gevinson, who did an advice call-in show during her mid-day on-air shift on the old 94 WYSP. "Ask Anita" was such a hit that the station had a promo spoof song about her set to The Cars' "Just What I Needed."

 "I guess I'll just ask Anita/just ask Anita ..." LOL

 Anita has since retired from the radio business, but was tapped by WMGK (where several of her former colleagues are still on the air) to be a judge for their 2014 Houseband Competition. To my surprise, there I was sitting right next to this person that I listened to on the radio in my teens, and thought was the coolest. Working with event emcee Andre "Mr. Beatles" Gardner was an honor, but this was a bonus.

 The above three photos, courtesy of Andre Gardner took the photo above. Our striking-a-pose judge is long-time Philadelphia concert photographer Tom Collins (not his real name).

Anita's outgoing, bubbly persona has not changed at all in 30 years. She still lives in the area and is working on a screenplay of her 2012 autobiography "You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio ... My Wild Rock 'N' Roll Life" (Oooh, nice Joni Mitchell reference).
The cover features Anita's infamous racy photo, where she appears to be naked underneath a bunch of scattered LP records. Presumably it includes her observations about working with rocker Billy Squier as one of the backup singers on his song "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You."

 "He was so Spinal Tap," said Anita of an episode when somebody caught an angry earful from Squier after bringing him a Tab instead of a Diet Coke. I didn't know they even still made Tab in the '80s, did you?
She mused that Billy Squier never seemed to be enjoying his success, which rapidly dried up after 1984.
She also raved about how great the Espy Awards were going to be because of Drake, made some hysterical observations about the fans of one of the Houseband Competition bands, confessed that Googling herself is sometimes embarrassingly unpleasant, and made me crack up laughing a lot.
Well hopefully this sort of changes that part about Google searching her name.
Can't wait to see what a movie version of the book will look like, Anita ... and who plays Warren Zevon.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Philly region bands competing to be WMGK Houseband

Had a great experience judging four cover bands competing for the honor of becoming 102.9 WMGK's next official Houseband. The opening round was held at Malvern's Twenty9 Restaurant.
If you haven't yet heard Mystery Guest, The Paper Shakers, The Tommy Froelich Trio, or Work Release -- who were the victors of Round One -- I recommend going to see all of these talented musicians!

Mystery Guest is from Downingtown. Lead singer Matt Stauffer's natural rasp was great on versions of "Vehicle" (Ides of March, anybody?) and Bob Seger's "Main Street."   

The Paper Shakers, a group of young 'uns from Philadelphia, brought tremendous energy and hipster cool. It hurt to have to judge them on their song selection. "I Fought the Law," "Build Me Up Buttercup, "I Only Want to be With You" and "Johnny B. Goode," are all terrific songs, but you won't hear any of them in MGK's classic rock format.  


Hailing from Coatesville, Tommy Froelich and his trio brought some tasty southern rock and blues. Big, powerful sound for just three guys.

And  I wish I could have seen more of Collegeville's Work Release. The enthusiasm of their posse was noteworthy, but distracting at times. Can't deny that the music was very well done though.

  But wait, there's more!!  Round Two is set for July 31 at Havana, 105 S. Main St., New Hope, with Fuzzy Side Up, Reaction, The Outlits and PixieDix. Performing Aug. 7 at the Craft House, 2310 W. Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, N.J., will be Strange brew, iCDC, The Whitewalls and The Pour Boys. Then on Aug. 14 at Big Heads, 1034 Second Street Pike, Richboro, it's Tangled, Some Assembly Required, Parmageddon and Cool With Me.  These are all Thursday nights, and the music happens with no cover charge from 8 to 11.  The finals will be Aug. 21 at Parx  Casino.
Good luck to all the semi-finalists, who will all be vying for $1,000 of new gear, two days of studio recording time and the opening slot of the Let Freedom Rock Festival.

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