Union Transfer

1026 SPRING GARDEN STREET, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19123 Ι 215-232-2100

WHY?

WHY?

Astronautalis, Dream Tiger

Thu, February 14, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA

$15.00 - $17.00

This event is all ages

WHY?
WHY?
Let's get some things out of the way. WHY? is a band-three Cincinnati-bred gentlemen who've shared a whole lotta past together. Two of them are brothers. Yoni Wolf, who founded the project by his lonesome in 1998 is one of those (see also: cLOUDDEAD, Greenthink, Reaching Quiet). The other is Josiah Wolf, who first started hitting the skins at their father's synagogue during worship service. They like being in a band together so don't ask about it. WHY?'s third fella is Doug McDiarmid, a high school friend born to French teachers, discovered by the Wolfs whilst playing guitar in a Steve Miller cover band. These men are handsome and meticulous, especially when they do ugly and unwieldy things with words and music.

Like we said, the project started awhile ago. Really, with Yoni in the synagogue basement on a forgotten four-track, recording bad poems and sloppy beats that none of us will ever hear (again, don't ask). Flash forward through his monumental discovery of A Tribe Called Quest and his later untimely egress from art school and you'll arrive at the next most pivotal moment, when the punctuated letters W-H-Y-? graduated from an enigmatic tag loopily scrawled across various Ohio surfaces to something printed on tapes, fliers, records and CDs. As a founding member of Anticon, Yoni had one of the first releases on the label: the Split EP! with Odd Nosdam, WHY?'s half a kaleidoscopic seven-song suite of sweetly sour song-rap.

And then the albums began, with the cult-revered Oaklandazulasylum in 2003, documenting WHY?'s quickening march from an enticingly idiosyncratic outside-of-art, inside-the-bedroom experiment to the fiercely chopsy and wildly creative band of badasses they are today. (If you haven't heard their stuff, you should check it out. It's like pop-inflected psychedelic folk-hop, or chamber music imagined by the most lovelorn and death-anxious Beat Poet that never lived.) 2005's lauded Elephant Eyelash paved the way for tours (Silver Jews, Yo La Tengo, Islands), collabs (Danielson, Department of Eagles, Hymie's Basement, Subtle) and more albums. Oh, and they lived in Oakland for awhile. (You remember that, don't you?)

Everyone comes into their own at different times. For WHY?, most agree that this happened across 2008 and 2009 with a pair of oddly engrossing stunners-the tightly rhythmic Alopecia and its quieter, kinda country cousin Eskimo Snow-which turned the oft-boxed music world on its hella gross cauliflower ear. High marks were awarded by the coolest of customers as the band momentarily swelled to five with the induction of Fog guys Andrew Broder (shred) and Mark Erickson (boom). When they finally came off of the road, WHY? set themselves to humbler tasks: turning out intimate tunes for lucky fans (via a Golden Ticket mail-order merch contest) and intricate beats for rapper Serengeti's praised Family & Friends LP.

Now, it happens to be 2012, so there's a new EP called Sod in the Seed and...

Nipping at the ragged heels of their eagerly devoured Sod in the Seed EP, WHY? at last unleash their fifth long-player, a meticulous work of morbid fascination and offbeat romanticism dubbed Mumps, etc. Though there is a mysterious sickness (perhaps of the mind) that lurks about these thirteen songs, one might also imagine the title as describing the musically swole state of these three Midwestern men as they bring their sound into glisteningly buff focus. Yoni Wolf, brother Josiah and Doug McDiarmid are in the pocket, the unbreakable rock core at the center of a spinning ball of sonic kaleidoscopie. And all the things we love about them are still true: the grinning sun-warped choruses, that jangly Western lope, those confessionals cut with wry wit and crude details, set dancing down the odd knots of complex poetic daisy chains. It's just that ... well, all of it sounds better than ever this time around.

Part of that is due to how Mumps, etc. was made. Far from their native Cincinnati, the fellas spent a month and a half in the Denton, Texas, studio of Centro-Matic's Matt Pence. They showed up with a pile of demos suspected to be nearly done-some five years in the making-but their aspirations evolved in the shadow of the great University of North Texas music school. Reaching out to a professor therein, they wrangled an ace crew of green-and-white gunslingers to exact their wild schemes: a string quartet, an eight-person choir, woodwinds, horns. The whole set was recorded to two-inch tape (no loops), produced by the Wolf brothers, and mixed in Atlanta by Graham Marsh (Cee Lo Green, Katy Perry) with Yoni. Thus every song pops exactly as it should, smearing genre with pointed intent until the end result became an articulated work of unusual artistry and catchiness-a WHY? record, naturally.

We're not here to tell you what to like; the highlights are many. There's the opener "Jonathan's Hope," rattling forth over a pile of cooing ladies and crunching percussion, its measured optimism leveled at the songs that follow. There's "Waterlines," which folds idyllic harps figures into a darkly shimmering beat while Yoni drops backwards brags-"Rocking soccer socks with sandals like, 'Yeah, bro.'"-and dissects his public persona. "White English" bounces over some kind of mutant mariachi dub, a continuation of the coiled grooves WHY? devised for Serengeti's Family & Friends (2011). "Thirst" bends Mumps' spare chamber-pop into a desert-worthy drawl, bullwhips cracking and spurs jingling under a tale about black cowboys and failing faith. And "Kevin's Cancer"-written for an afflicted fan-hits upon a moment of WHY?-style clarity: "I know with no uncertainty, that I'm uncertain and I don't know."

Still, we are fairly certain that "Paper Hearts" is something extra special. Offering but a single two-and-a-half minute verse, the song is gorgeously detailed and surprisingly uncoded, unspooling as it goes a gut-wrenching end to an important relationship, and shining harsh light on a narrator who often likes to hide his truths in acts of on-album villainy. ("Bitter Thoughts," featuring Liz Wolf, being a perfect example.) So when Mumps, etc. ends one track later, with Yoni promising providence over his own death while pizzicato strings brighten the closing corners, we understand both the sad futility and the unabashed hope wrapped up in that statement. And, along with the taut arrangements and imaginative musicianship, it's that skewed but forever winking eye on the human condition that keeps us wrapped up in WHY?
Astronautalis
Astronautalis
Once you find out that Astronautalis was born to a Texas train man with a nose crooked from bar fights and a pretty Kentucky girl who ran away from home at 17 to become a photographer, it becomes clear that he didn't stumble into the life of a drifter, he was born into it. With a poet uncle who lived off horse betting and hitchhiking, grandfathers who were spies, sailors, and test pilots, and over 500,000 miles of touring under his own belt, you have to wonder where the tales in Astronautalis' music end and the life of Andy Bothwell begins. Currently settled (for now) in Minneapolis, by way of Seattle, by way of Dallas by way of Jacksonville Beach, FL; Bothwell has spent almost every waking moment of the last 7 years, on the road, playing shows, earning scars, collecting/giving tattoos, grinding out a cult like fan base, and living up to his proud, storied, and whiskey soaked blood line.

Having started in music over 15 years ago as a battle rapper, Astronautalis' roots are planted firmly in hip-hop. However, the sounds and styles on his albums are an animal not so easily caged, and his latest release, "This Is Our Science" is no exception to that tradition of wild genre bending. Like previous records Bothwell uses that limitless approach to aid in his vivid storytelling, but where "This is Our Science" takes a turn from tradition, is in the subject matter itself. While previous records read like historical fiction, documenting the lives of the bygone, the footnotes, and the forgotten, "This is Our Science" is pure autobiography. While there are flash references to scientists from the Age of Enlightenment and old dead French mountaineers, these ghosts serve merely as parallels, rest stops in the story of the last 7 years of Bothwell's romance with the road.

To help shape this memoir, Bothwell called in help from the cadre of musical friends he has made in his travels across 4 continents, and created a sound as diverse as the cast that behind it. Once again under the guidance of Grammy nominated producer John Congleton (Modest Mouse, Bill Callahan, St. Vincent), "This is Our Science" finds rock darlings like Tegan Quin (Tegan & Sara), Radical Face, (Electric President), members of Midlake & The Riverboat Gamblers all waltzing in time to the work of P.O.S. (Rhymesayers), Alias (Anticon/Sage Francis), Cecil Otter (Wugazi), Lazerbeak (Doomtree), and more of indie hip-hop's finest. The resulting album is the full realization of everything Bothwell has been chasing after for 7 years. Neither a rap record, nor a rock record, it is a work that finally captures the vein popping intensity and high melodrama of his famous live shows. All the while, maintaining the steadfast literary tradition and masterful storytelling of his previous studio albums.

From the pounding drums and thick synths of the record's opener, "The River, The Woods", the roots in rap are clear. But, that foundation quickly crumbles as the choir swells on the dark electronic gospel of the title track, "This is Our Science". After the banging funeral dirge of "Thomas Jefferson" (featuring Doomtree rapper Sims), the record blazes into the thick of Bothwell's vagabond life with heart breaking road ballad of "Measure the Globe". While songs like undeniably catchy, "Contrails" (featuring Tegan Quin) and the epic rock anthem, "Secrets On Our Lips" carry an astounding pop sensibility, there is something unnerving behind those big choruses and driving drums. In fact, there is something hiding behind every corner of this record, and much like the road Astronautalis traveled to make it, there is no map, no guide book, no way to prepare yourself, all you can do is press on forward and see what is waiting for you just around the bend.
Dream Tiger
Dream Tiger
A DANCER TURNED PHOTOGRAPHER TURNED MUSICIAN. DREAM TIGER IS A JOURNEY TAKEN ON DARK NIGHTS AND IN DARK CLUBS. YOU MIGHT BE WATCHING A FILM AND DREAM TIGER WILL BE IN IT. CREEPING INTO THE BACKGROUND WITH THE FAINT SOUND OF HOWLING WOLVES AND THEN, SUDDENLY, CRASHING THROUGH THE SPEAKERS WITH A WONDEROUS DRUM FILLED CLIMAX. ♥

Featuring Liz and Josiah of WHY?.
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123