The man in the unironic mask is Jonathan Bree, the New Zealand musician, producer and label mogul who led twee-pop outfit the Brunettes. Now a solo artist, Bree is exploring more classically inspired, orchestral composition, and impressive third album Sleepwalking (Lil’ Chief) shows this sophisticated singer/songwriter at the top of his game. Bree and his fellow veiled virtuosi wowed the crowd at Philly’s Kung Fu Necktie, and MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there to document a little night music by the real masked singer.
If you aren’t yet totally down with the gnarly awesomeness that is Steel Panther, you deserve another four years of Reagan, er, Trump. These righteous Sunset Strip vets are, like, keeping hair metal alive and well and as bodaciously big as ever. Touring in support of the wicked Heavy Metal Rules (featuring PMRC-friendly songs “All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight),” “Always Gonna Be A Ho” and “Gods Of Pussy”), Starr, Satchel, Lexxi and Stix—plus members of the crowd—played two fantabulous nights at Gramercy Theatre. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski had a most triumphant time banging his head to these choice jams.
As L.A.’s Starcrawler gears up for a handful of hometown-area gigs starting the end of next month, we’re bringing you these awesome shots that MAGNET’s Chris Sikich did of Arrow de Wilde and Co. when they recently played Philly’s Boot And Saddle. Starcrawler is promoting excellent sophomore album Devour You (Rough Trade), which came out in October.
“Sad About A boy” and “Mad About America” is one way to sort Lula Wiles’ songs. In the first category are the virtual a-side and b-side of the Boston trio’s new stand-alone single. “It’s Cool (We’re Cool, Everything’s Cool)” (as Eleanor Buckland, one of the group’s three terrific singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists, admitted at World Cafe Live, taken verbatim from a real text she sent to a real man) and “You Only Want Me When You Need Me” are instant indie-folk sing-alongs that derive their power from their relatability.
In the second category, “Good Old American Values” and “Shaking As It Turns,” both from last year’s What Will We Do, confront the lasting damage that colonialism and white supremacy have wrought, and the clear and present threat they pose today. They’re no less captivating for being so pointed. Introducing the former, Mali Obomsawin compared land acknowledgements without action to announcing whose car you’ve stolen and then continuing to drive away in it.
While both sorts of songs benefited from the mix of timeless textures and timely topics, it was the soaring harmonies from Buckland, Obomsawin and Isa Burke that left the deepest impression. From the a cappella “What Will We Do” to a thrilling version of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” that featured Matt Lohan and Louisa Stancioff of openers Dyado, the solution to the emotions and dilemmas that rush through Lula Wiles’ music seemed as clear, as simple and as complicated as learning to harmonize.
Listen. Connect. Support. Organize. Lift your voice and share the mic.
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich
Night one of Strand Of Oaks’ fifth-annual Winter Classic at Philly’s Boot & Saddle was something of a homecoming for Tim Showalter, who recently moved to Texas—and it was a most welcome one. If there was a single sentiment that prevailed, it was this: He may be an Indiana native and a Texas resident—and he may have even spent significant time in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.—but Philly is where Showalter is from as an artist, and this is his family forever.
Strand Of Oaks has always been whoever Showalter says it is—especially at the Winter Classic shows, which have been everything from solo auteur to quasi-full band to special collaborations. On this night, lap-steel journeyman Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner proved to be one of the best guests of the series, first with a solo instrumental workout that peaked with “Hava Negila,” then by adding a melancholy edge to Showalter’s bruised and brooding songs.
Highlights: “Visions,” “Forever Chords,” a cover of Songs: Ohia’s “Whip-Poor-Will” and a new song about cosmic dust and aliens listening to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after he died.
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich