Live Review: Sudan Archives, Philadelphia, PA, March 13, 2020

Sold out well in advance, the last show of Sudan Archives’ first U.S. tour threatened to be a ghost town after several days of cascading cancellations due to COVID-19, but by the time she took the stage, 100 or so brave and/or reckless fans spread out to fill Johnny Brenda’s.

Her one-of-kind synthesis of Sudanese fiddle music, R&B, electronica and classical motifs—largely drawn from last year’s debut LP, Athena (Stones Throw)—flowed almost like a suite over the course of her set and an encore nearly equal in length. In a time when it’s good to be anywhere, it felt especially good to be in the presence of an artist with such exquisite control of her craft and emotional expression. (Even if nine out if 10 doctors might’ve advised her against shaking hands so exuberantly with some rando whose face she couldn’t possibly have seen as he reached toward her from the darkness of the crowd.)

Cartel Madras opened with a clutch of Indian-Canadian femme hip-hop numbers that showed off their flow and hinted at a broad worldview but exceeded the maximum parts per million of “bitch.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Cartel Madras

Live Review: Drive-By Truckers, Philadelphia, PA, Feb. 27, 2020

There’s no way anyone could’ve known how much more truth could be applied to the title of Drive-By Truckers’ latest record, The Unraveling (ATO), when they visited Union Transfer. But with the current situation in the world, humans have surely unravelled more. The politically charged quintet stormed through new and old tunes with a nimble, awesome energy. Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley stirred a tightly packed crowd with tales of the American gothic while the rest of the crew—Brad Morgan (drums), Matt Patton (bass) and Jay Gonzalez (guitar, keys)—took Philadelphia on a journey from “Made Up English Oceans” to “Angels And Fuselage” with stops at Warren Zevon (“Play It All Night Long”) and the Ramones  (“The KKK Took My Baby Away”). So many high points can be had with the Truckers’ rawk, but “Thoughts And Prayers” will stay with us long after turntables turn to dust, leaving a stamp of decisiveness on the nightmare politics for generations to come. And when the clubs start oozing with alcohol and feedback again, Drive-By Truckers will be there, to remind us of who we need to be.

—words and photos by Chris Sikich

Live Review: Upholstery, Presages, Rainbow Crimes, Philadelphia, PA, Feb. 14, 2020

As joy, despair and resistance coexist in our hearts, there was no better place to be on Valentine’s Day than Philly’s Boot & Saddle, where Upholstery’s glitter-and-doom cabaret easily shared a stage with Rainbow Crimes’ existential howls and life-giving beats, as well as Presages’ heavy, chilly rock and thrum. Such is love.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Some Girl: Natasha Khan Brings A Stripped-Down Bat For Lashes To New York City

Bat For Lashes completed the U.S. portion of its North American tour at Town Hall in NYC. Multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan, accompanied only by Laura Groves on keyboard and backing vocals, came across the pond for an eight-date jaunt in support of last year’s Lost Girls. Aside from a handful of her new songs, Khan played some old faves as well as covers of songs by Don Henley, Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there, because it’s not just girls who wanna have fun.

Gathered In Song And Satire: Damien Jurado And Nick Thune’s Travelling Salvation Show Hits Philadelphia

Damien Jurado will release his third album in less than two years on May 1. What’s New, Tomboy? (Mama Bird) follows 2019’s In The Shape Of A Storm and 2018’s The Horizon Just Laughed, though the new LP is more of a band-based effort. Jurado’s recent tour, however, was a solo jaunt, even though he brought comedian/actor Nick Thune along for the ride. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich caught the “Sad Music, Sad Comedy Tour” stop at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live.