We’re going to say it: This moment RIGHT NOW is the most exciting in Philadelphia’s storied music history. Truthfully. No exaggeration. Gamble and Huff be damned. There are many music-related New Things happening at this very moment that back that up. In this here Music Issue, we attempt to cover some of them. First, a new , big-time venue: Union Transfer. Next, a uncompromisingly odd, new underground venue: Bookspace. Philly’s venerable metal label Relapse Records is entering a new phase. They’re old enough to drink, turning 21 this month. Mike Cooper is opening a new record store, Borderline Records & Tapes, with the personal collection he’s amassed over the last three decades. The War On Drugs have a new album out, Slave Ambient, and it’s their best yet. No easy feat. Finally, PW ’s Concerts in the Park have found a new home at the Piazza. Concerts at the Piazza kicks off this week with a reggae night, and continues next week with a sweet, sweet lineup of Nico’s Gun, Cheers Elephant and Hezekiah Jones, who used an old movie for new inspiration on their latest album. So there you new.
In This Issue:
Sacred Union: R5 Productions, Four Corner Management and Bowery Presents are set to open Union Transfer this September at 10th and Spring Garden streets.
Bookspace: The odd and awe-inspiring Fishtown venue offers a home for shows that otherwise wouldn't exist.
We Love Hezekiah Jones: And not just because they used the sci-fi classic Bride of Frankenstein for inspiration on their new album. They play PW's Concerts in the Piazza Aug. 24.
Addicted to the War on Drugs:They released an incredible album, Slave Ambient, this week. They kick off their whirlwind tour Aug. 18 at Johnny Brenda's.
Made of Metal: Venerable metal label Relapse Records turns 21 this month. We head to their Upper Darby headquarters and find out that the record industry isn't as bad off as you've been led to believe.
Record Timing: Mike Cooper's house was bursting at the seams with the thousands and thousands of records he's collected over the last three decades. His remedy? Start selling. He's opened Borderline Records & Tapes with his impressive collection.
Mike Cooper’s place is bursting at the seems. Any day now, this rowhome’s going to swell up and discharge its dusty contents onto Allegheny Avenue. He’s got a lot of records. Piles and piles of albums everywhere. The whole situation is overwhelming and getting out of control. A man could drown in all that music. Cooper’s solution? Start selling.
Despite the endless industry reports about the decline of record sales and the grim prospects for labels, Relapse is thriving. They’ve had almost 600 releases since 2000—about 35 this year alone—and 75 percent of sales currently come from physical releases. Based in Upper Darby, Relapse has 15 staffers and three interns, along with minions in Portland, Ore., New York City, the Netherlands and Japan.
Adam Granduciel’s a rock ’n’ roll multitasker. His time’s split between his band, the War On Drugs, and Kurt Vile & the Violators, for whom he’s played guitar since the beginning. He knows the road. “I’ve spent a lot of time in a van the past five years,” Granduciel recalls while puffing a cigarette outside Fishtown’s Lola Bean Cafe. “On the last Drugs tour, we did 16,500 miles in six weeks ... It was intense.”
Sometimes, Cutrufello sits in front of his television, guitar in lap and remote in hand, rewatching the film for the umpteenth time, searching for just the right three-to-four minute clip to inspire his next song. “I press play and record at the same time and go, but it’s really difficult,” he says.
“It’s unlike any other place in Philadelphia,” co-owner Ben Orlock says on a recent Saturday evening after helping a customer find a dictionary. “It has a unique vibe and it’s impossible to not be awed by the space.”
This time last year, the venerable old building at 10th and Spring Garden streets was a Spaghetti Warehouse, cramming ’em in daily with sickeningly huge plates of cheap pasta. The restaurant is history, but starting next month, three of Philadelphia’s longtime entertainment and nightlife entrepreneurs—with the help of some major out-of-town players—hope to keep the place packed with much tastier fare of the musical variety.
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide