By Black Landlord, the entire band
We’ve been involved in the Philly music scene for a long time and it’s been many things. The “Sound of Philadelphia” isn’t just the songs and sounds associated with the city’s heyday as the Motown of the ’70s. Today’s Sound of Philadelphia is diversity: it’s punk, it’s hip-hop, and it’s old-time music, among many other things.
The beautiful thing about the music scene here is that we try, and often succeed, in supporting our own. The scene is such that, no matter what music you play, there is a built-in audience for it, and a group of musicians to support and contribute to it. We are family. So, when our saxophone player Mike suggested that his instrumental band, Do You Need the Service?, play our annual BBQ in August, we said “Of course.” Because that’s how we do things here.
That said, we weren’t quite sure how an instrumental rock band would go over with our fan base. Our lyrics are a big part of our music and our songs tend to be very danceable and accessible. When you hear “instrumental rock band,” you tend to think of several things: jam band, mathematical, overly serious, progressive. Surprisingly, Do You Need the Service? was none of these things. On a hot-as-shit day in August, these guys took the stage dressed in British postal uniforms, the meaning—intentional or not—was not lost on us: these fuckers DELIVERED!
Yeah, it’s true. Lots of people have trouble listening to music without vocals and these guys don’t sing. But they counter the lack of lyrics with really catchy tunes, little hooks and riffs that get stuck in your head for days. Almost maddening, but really cool. The songs typically follow a simple, almost pop song structure. These aren’t your typical pop songs though. And these guys rock.
These aren’t shoegazers; they’re not just throwing their music at you. This is a rock show! They engage the audience. They wear costumes. The band is all over the stage.
Their drummer Mark scares you a little bit. (That’s not a compliment.) He’s a monster on the drums though. His drums and the bass are the lead instruments. Do You Need The Service? is fun. Period.
Right now, this is our favorite band in Philly. See them as soon as you can. You will be thankful to be part of the madness and spectacle that is one of their shows. You never know what they’re going to do, and how long their songs will be stuck in your head.
By Birdie Busch, beloved singer-songwriter
Now in his 80s, Philadelphia’s Mr. Huff has been singing gospel since the 1940s. As the only original existing member of the Huff Family Singers he continues to uplift many a local congregation with others who have joined him to keep the music going.
He’s sung at executions of neighbors he felt were falsely accused and at Honolulu festivals with his longtime friends the Dixie Hummingbirds. He continues to practice in his basement like a bloodhound who hasn’t finished the search.
Vocals are Mr. Huff’s instrument. The style he is endeared to is the four- to five-part male harmony group, with the instruments falling in and around the songbirds. I imagine he hears harmonies around his telephone’s ring. The precision that goes into the craft ends up a calm yet ferocious lament, like what it might sound like if the lion and the lamb who laid down together started to duet.
Over the years he’s been a great source of inspiration for my songs and my spirit and continues to reveal to me that I should never give up in my vision and voice. To always take, as he has told me, “the crooked path.” I think of Huff when I think about Whitman’s line about how we contain multitudes. He is excuseless, boundless, human, and searching.
Keep your eyes out, perhaps for someone handing out Xerox flyers with handwritten type inviting you to go to Greater St. Luke’s for a Saturday Jubilee. You’d be sorry to have missed it.
By Alec Meltzer, drummer, Summer Fiction; Papertrees; Yellow Humphrey
I got my hands on a vinyl copy of Bucky Fellini, the Dead Milkmen’s third album, at 14 and was soon hooked by the band’s irreverently scrappy performance and witty, sardonic songwriting. The foursome from Philadelphia inspired me and a friend so much we spent countless hours after school attempting to craft our own would-be sophomoric classics (we penned such gems as “Baby, I’m A Schizo”), recording them to a two-track cassette deck in my basement. We were armed with nothing more than a Radio Shack microphone, a drum kit and a clarinet.
Fast forward to a couple years ago, and I’m partaking in an acoustic rendition of the Dead Milkmen MTV hit “Punk Rock Girl” with late rock outfit Walker Lundee. An enthusiastic crowd packed the club located, fittingly, just off South Street. No one seemed to mind that the guitar solo was performed on accordion or that my percussion arrangement entailed beating on an empty suitcase while sloppily hammering a glockenspiel.
The 50 greatest Philly pop songs
PW's Summer Guide 2015