Live Music

Fern Knight, Brian Wilson, Tombs, Robes, Amanda Palmer, Marc Silver & the Stonethrowers, Dark Horse and the Carousels, Benjy Ferree + Shortstack

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Fern Knight

Sat., Nov. 22, 8pm. With P.G. Six + Samara Lubelski. Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. 215.573.3234.

Fern Knight is one of those integrity music projects you expect to like only in theory, except it's the only relic of the hyped "freak-folk" Dungeons and Dragons moment in time a couple of years ago that remains in frequent rotation. The nom de musique of songwriter/cellist/guitarist Margaret Wienk, Fern Knight spins a glistening string section into literary Celtic-Appalachian compositions with darkling twists of melismatic vocals, electric guitar and spooky Grimm imagery. And it's awesome. I like to lend last year's eponymous album to friends, then pester them with questions of when and where it's from before being all, "Fishtown, last year!" with smug, childish triumph. Recommended if you like: echo chambers, unironic beards, the way your grandmother's crochet blanket smells, a slightly copper taste in the mouth, magic Druid botanicals, Vikings snuggling at sunrise on acid and tiny licks of flame in a huge, cold forest. (Tara Murtha)

Benjy Ferree + Shortstack

Sun., Nov. 23, 8pm. $8. With Two Handed Engine. M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave. 215.739.5577.

God bless 'em, but D.C. has more to offer than the Fugazi, Minor Threat, Thievery Corporation and Chuck Brown acts that have long been the city's calling card. If twangy pop and country is your deal, prepare to have your aural desires satiated by two of the District's mainstays. Domino recording artist Benjy Ferree offers rollicking tunes that range from complex cello, drum, guitar and harmonica harmonies to heartfelt rockabilly � la Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Providing the counterpoint to Ferree's foot-stomping country pop are Shortstack, which focus on the down-and-out, brooding and melancholic aspects of old-school country. With an upright bass, harmonica and lapsteel, these guys create, in their own words, "early American music that adamantly eschews all revivalist and retro cliches." 'Nuff said. (Katherine Silkaitis)

Marc Silver & the Stonethrowers

Sat., Nov. 22, 9pm. $10. With Sweetheart Parade, the Papertrees + the New Time Band. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

"Take back your heart/ I don't want it no more," pleads Philly song-slinger Marc Silver on Past Is Prelude, his third album. Another tune finds him on similar footing: "I don't wanna leave just to learn/ All I need was inside your heart." Just as timeless as those sentiments is the plucky, bluegrass-tinged folk delivered so sharply by Silver and his regular band the Stonethrowers. There's banjo and mandolin, upright bass and pedal steel, and lots of harmonies raining down, all serving to brighten Silver's somewhat mournful songwriting. But like the well-worn Appalachian tunes he looks to for inspiration, his own work is uplifting in its clear-eyed honesty. (Doug Wallen)

Brian Wilson

Sat., Nov. 22, 8pm. $49.50-$65. Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave. 215.572.7650.

It's rather remarkable seeing Brian Wilson happy, animated and confident onstage these days given the fact that, for decades, the former Beach Boy (and mastermind of Pet Sounds, one of the greatest pop albums ever recorded) seemed to be going the way of Syd Barrett: A drug-damaged, severely mentally ill recluse destined to die in a tragic haze of "what might have been." But somehow Wilson pulled himself together, completed his forever-in-the- making SMiLE, and is now touring behind the new That Lucky Old Sun, a bittersweet song cycle about Southern California that ranks maybe one small notch below Pet Sounds as the best work he's ever done. (Michael Alan Goldberg)

Dark Horse and the Carousels

Fri., Nov. 21, 9pm. $8. With Federale. The Khyber, 56 S. Second St. 215.238.5888.

With the DIY punk sound of D.C. hardcore bands like Nation of Ulysses, Rites of Spring and Fugazi coupled with some serious '60s and '70s garage rock influences, Philadelphia's Dark Horse and the Carousels not only make some solid recordings, their live shows are just as explosive. They're energetic and passionate, with a slight sneer and some good ol' disassociation. That is, until they break out an anthemic pop gem that would make even Big Star smile--harmonized choruses, joyous hand claps and some badass guitar solos. Whatever style they're emulating, however, expect noise: Between the reverb, feedback, thrashing drums and cymbals, wailing guitars and singer Joe Kusy's snarled screams, Dark Horse is not for the faint of heart. (K.S.)


Sun., Nov. 23, 9pm. $5. With A Life Once Lost + Made Out of Babies. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

Philadelphia-based and quite very awesome national metal mag Decibel is celebrating its 50th issue--no small feat, considering how many music magazines have folded in recent years--with this low-priced rawk blowout headlined by local metalcore heroes A Life Once Lost. You'll definitely want to get there early to check out Brooklyn trio Tombs though, who bring both a post-hardcore sensibility and a love for the atmospheric textures of Swans, Neurosis and My Bloody Valentine to their moody, well-constructed, highly engrossing metal. They're among the best of an impressive cadre of heavy bands emerging now, which should give Decibel plenty to write about for another 50 issues. (M.A.G.)


Thurs., Nov. 20, 9pm. $8. With East Hundred, Do You Need the Service? + Jeremy Messersmith. M Room, 15 W. Girard Ave., 215.739.5577.

Together only since last year, fresh-faced locals Robes have already played a huge Campus Philly gig and released a slick-sounding EP called The Breaks. With a cocky swagger and gritty cool, the boys rattle off dancefloor-fit guitar-pop slathered in a thick shoegaze-y haze, emerging like bastard children of Ride, the Strokes and Joy Division. Their densest tune, "I'm Floating on You," divebombs us with effects pedals without losing a drop of romance, and the EP's equally dreamy title track slows things down while ramping up the bitterness. Fresh off opening for the Strokes offshoot Little Joy, Robes' next step is a three-state jaunt that should find them as driven as ever. (D.W.)

Amanda Palmer

Sat., Nov. 22, 9pm. $20. Theater of Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011.

Usually, the provocative, gothically attired, theatrically minded Amanda Palmer can be spotted fronting Boston duo Dresden Dolls, the self-described "Brechtian Punk Cabaret" act. But this year the singer/pianist has stepped out with her fine solo debut, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?--a more subdued and intimate batch of songs produced, strangely enough, by Ben Folds, and featuring such guests as Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray, Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) and Bowie strings arranger Paul Buckmaster. Despite the disc's ballady bent, Palmer remains as caustic and deliciously dysfunctional as always--as you'll see when she performs new song "Oasis," a perky ditty about rape, disease and abortion. (M.A.G.)

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