Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: AdHoc

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Amelia Pitcherella)

amelia pitcherella
Photograph by Aubrey Richey

Over the past few years, I’ve run into the name Amelia Pitcherella dozens of times. At some point in 2015, it was a name that started appearing with greater velocity, at greater volume. Whether it was in bylines, comments left on mutual friends’ social media accounts, or just heard in passing, it became abundantly clear that we existed in the same niche corner of our own little musical world. We now write together at AdHoc and Pitcherella continues to freelance for publications like Impose. Lately, she’s also been creating some very striking music as Most Selfless Cheerleader, embracing an uncanny intimacy that will likely pay dividends as the project moves forward. I’m very excited to be welcoming her to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series and very pleased to see she’s turned her attention to one of last year’s finest records: All Dogs’ Kicking Every Day. Read about what the record meant to her below and remember to hold onto the records you love.

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Kicking Every Day

I was on a Megabus when an editor sent me the advance of All Dogs’ debut LP. On the cusp of a breakup, I hadn’t talked to my partner in a week and I had gone to my hometown of Philadelphia to see some friends because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was on my way back to Manhattan and feeling particularly unanchored. During my visit I had had trouble talking to people. I felt absent from myself.

My body responded to the record before I had the chance to process it intellectually. By the seventh track I was choking back tears. A few lines on “Leading Me Back to You” chilled me: “I can try not to think about you / but when I’m in my room / you are the light coming through the window / whether or not I want you to.” It wasn’t that they were particularly complex, just that they described honestly exactly what I’d been feeling, the pathetic omnipresence of a person who had made their complete physical exit from my life.

It was the simple candor of the lines that made them so affecting. And then Maryn Jones’ rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” in the outro shocked me, wrenched me apart—it was like hearing that song for the first time. Jones’ voice on those lines is desperate and yet there’s this strain of pure unmistakable power in it. I watched the turnpike and started crying. Not a conservative cry—it was a full-blown, snotty bawl.

I was feeling totally humiliated by my own involuntary display, and then “Skin” came on. The lyrics are brash: “Don’t you ever say that I’m wrong ’cause I won’t take it / I will find a way to justify my pain.” Jones is self-deprecating, and she’s also aggressively unapologetic. She turns frustration into pure power. I sat on the bus and calmed myself with the thought that my crying a moment ago was all right, it was justified, and even if it wasn’t, I didn’t need justification. I was going through a lot. It was OK.

A week later, in July, I moved to Philly for the remainder of the summer. I was jobless but rent was absurdly cheap and I resolved to only write and make music for my two months there before finishing up my last semester of school. I was fighting depression and coping with the new loss of someone I’d spent close to two years with, and I figured this would be the last opportunity I had to get a feel for a place without having to worry too much about making ends meet. I was fortunate. That summer was a terrific fever dream. Every morning following my breakup, up until my last day in Philadelphia, I woke up with a new song in my head. When I tell people this, even I can’t wrap my head around it, but strange things happen when you’re left to yourself for weeks on end.

I got into the habit of going to shows and dance parties alone, and I met dozens of people who would come to influence me in the span of a few weeks. I was listening to my friends’ bands on rotation. The summer of 2015 was definitively the first time in my life that I felt like I belonged somewhere. As is the case anywhere, there are issues with the Philly music scene—still in large part a boys’ club, cliquey, no shortage of apologists—but it’s also growing into something really special. There are people who are working so hard to make Philadelphia shows and venues inclusive. Until this point, for whatever reason most of my friends making music happened to be men, and I was so pleased to see that finally change.

I went to All Dogs’ show at PhilaMOCA in August, where they were playing with The Sidekicks and Lithuania (who had just released one of my favorite albums of the year, Hardcore Friends), and talked with Nick and Maryn beforehand for a feature for Impose. I think for some time I had convinced myself that all the people doing good work lived on some other plane, as socially accessible as they may have still been to me. I’d only been interviewing for eight months or so, and each time I interviewed an artist up until then I’d been completely knotted up. But talking to the two of them, I felt comfortable interviewing for what might have been the first time. I was so appreciative of their total warmth and openness.

When they took the stage, they were electric. It was one of the most moving performances I’ve seen—maybe in part because Amanda, Jesse, Maryn, and Nick all have rather understated stage presences. They’re not there to create any kind of spectacle, but it’s so evident that they all care deeply for each other and for the music they’re making. I got chills during “Say”, when Maryn sang tenderly, “When you are not around / I am not alone.” Watching All Dogs play on my own that night, I realized—or, maybe more aptly, I decided—that this was why I had thrown myself into working in music. I wanted to write about moments like this, when an act has the power to completely overwhelm; and I wanted to write about people who weren’t men making music. All Dogs made me want to do music more than I wanted to do anything else.

I had been thinking a lot that summer about Leslie Jamison’s essay “The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”, in which she notes that people are too often revolted by displays of pain by women. By no fault of our own it too often comes off as a show, and we ourselves can come to doubt our own experiences. But Jamison ultimately believes it is crucial, or at the very least possible, to bear witness to pain and growing “a larger self around that pain—a self that grows larger than its scars without disowning them, that is neither wound-dwelling nor jaded, that is actually healing.”

All Dogs’ music strikes me as realizing that larger self. It doesn’t shy away from pathos—but the pure strength in it makes it bigger than the pain it addresses. After having listened to Kicking Every Day dozens of times over, I was confident now that it was possible to give the pain I was undergoing a place in my music and in my writing without bathing in it or stamping it out. Jones had mastered this.

When Stevie Nicks wrote the line, “You will never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you,” I wonder if some kind of doubt cropped up in her head. Did she question whether others would take her seriously? Regardless, she went ahead and wrote it anyway, and Jones took it 40 years later and made it her own, and her rendition gave me access to my own feelings, validated them. I’m endlessly grateful.

-Amelia Pitcherella

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 7

PWR BTTM I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

The preceding galleries can be accessed via these links:

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 4
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5
2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 6

Potty Mouth

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 5

Johanna Warren I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

CMJ: Day 5 (Pictorial Review)

Perfect Pussy XIV

More than 100 photos into the pictorial review of this site’s CMJ coverage, this fourth gallery of photos covers the festival’s fifth day. As always, the videos from the fifth day have been compiled here and the official review can be read here. The full gallery has been moved to flickr and can be accessed by following this link.

 

 

Watch This: Vol. 100

Over the past 100 weeks, this site’s dedicated itself to a variety of pursuits but the defining one seems to be the only recurring series that operates on a regular basis: Watch This. Ever since the first installment, this series has featured the very best live performance captures. Utilizing a wealth of resources that range from band’s personal accounts to radio stations that host high-quality session captures, like KEXP in Seattle or 3voor12 in the Netherlands.

Very rarely has that gaze turned inward, despite producing over 300 live videos in the past four months. With this series now at a landmark number and all of the CMJ reviews accounted for, it seemed appropriate to bypass the outside sources to focus exclusively on the crop of videos that was taken over the past week. Approximately 50 bands, 90 videos, and 100 songs, these clips will be presented in groupings according to which day they were filmed. A few slip out of focus, some start a little late, and some cut off just before their ending, and a few bands are missing due to unfortunate and/or unforeseen circumstance (a dead battery, lighting, and a maxed out sd card were the three most prominent issues) but as a whole, it’s a comprehensive look at the kinds of performances the festival has to offer. So, as always, sit back, relax, ignore any worries, adjust the volume, focus up, and Watch This.

1. CMJ: Day 2

To make things just a touch easier, each of these introductory segments will simply be a very brief recap including a link to the respective day’s official review and the list of artists that appear in the video. Having spent the first official day of CMJ preparing for the rest of the week, the timeline’s off by a day but had this been the first official day, the festival would have kicked off with a band. Splitting time between The Cake Shop and Santos Party House, I managed to get videos of performances from the following artists: Worriers, Hooton Tennis Club, Car Seat Headrest, Seratones, Nico Yaryan, Yung, Shopping, Protomartyr, Downtown Boys, Perfect Pussy, and Dilly Dally. The official review of the day’s events can be found here.

2. CMJ: Day 3

Things kept moving along quickly on the second day, which included a long stretch at an early show over at Rough Trade before taking a brief pause to organize that show’s footage and prepare for the late show at Aviv. Between the two venues, the lineup was characteristically stacked and led to videos of performances from Shopping, Ezra Furman, Georgia, John Grant, What Moon Things, Mumblr, Meat Wave, Painted Zeros, Turn To Crime, and Yvette. The official review of the day’s shows can be found here.

3. CMJ: Day 4 

The festival’s exhausting nature started to creeping in on the third consecutive day of showgoing, though the deliriousness will always be worth the effort in the case of celebrating things like Exploding In Sound (who themselves were celebrating their fourth anniversary), Big Ups (who were celebrating their fifth year as a band), and Double Double Whammy. Once again splitting time between two venues– Palisades and The Silent Barn– I managed to get footage of performances from Leapling, Swings, Mal Devisa (backed by Swings), Dirty Dishes, Kal Marks, Washer, Stove, Palm, Greys, The Spirit of the Beehive, Big Ups, Palehound, Downies, Eskimeaux, and LVL UP. The official review of those events can be read here.

4. CMJ: Day 5

Easily the most exhausting of the five day stretch, the fifth official day of the festival found me completely ignoring food in favor of sprinting a mile to catch one of my favorite acts four times over. While a fraction of the day was spent running to and from an official CMJ showcase and the AdHoc Carwash (which was detached from the festival completely but boasted one of the week’s strongest lineups), the effort proved to be worthwhile, as a large collection of bands delivered knockout sets and everything culminated in a triumphant moment for one of my closest friends. In all the back-and-forth, I was still able to manage to capture performances from the following artists: Protomartyr, Potty Mouth, Pity Sex, Dilly Dally, LVL UP, Porches., Perfect Pussy, Meat Wave, Mothers, and Cloud Castle Lake. The review of that day of relative mania can be read here.

5. CMJ: Day 6

Despite the festival’s posted end date being the October 17, this collaborative showcase a day later between Father/Daughter and Miscreant was still billed as a part of the festival and felt like an appropriate epilogue; a summation of what’d come before and a fitting end-cap for a very strong run. Confined to just one venue, the sleep deprivation caused me to miss the first trio of acts (and quietly curse myself out for doing so in the process) but still show up in time for the final 10. On the final day of reckoning, I captured videos of performances from the following artists: i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, fern mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, Sports, and PWR BTTM. The official review of the festival’s final event can be read here.

CMJ: Day 5 Review

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Going to an afterparty running on minimal sleep was probably not the best idea and staying out until six in the morning was probably an even worse one but music festivals are a good excuse to get together with groups of friends that stretch across the country. I don’t know how I managed to only miss one band I’d planned on seeing to start my last official day of CMJ but I’m thankful I woke up in time to catch the last half of Sheer Mag’s set at AdHoc’s Carwash, which wasn’t a part of CMJ but was one of the best showcases of the week.

Of course, showing up to Sheer Mag that late meant being relegated to the back of the crowd, so I allowed myself to gain a modicum of composure and catch at least a little breath after jogging a full mile to make sure I didn’t miss their set completely. My effort was rewarded with an energetic, shambolic closing run that saw the band affirming themselves as one of DIY punk’s top-tier live acts. Protomartyr, playing on yet another bill with Perfect Pussy this year, brought their usual Very Serious stoicism to the table and handled themselves as capably as ever.

Potty Mouth, a band I’ve been trying to see for several years, took the stage after Protomartyr and immediately launched into a memorable set that showcased their infectious basement pop and surging confidence. Their latest EP, Cherry Picking, is a career highlight and enhances their more sugary sensibilities to striking effect. There’s a palpable love that the band brings to their live show, slipping through the cracks and presenting itself in an assortment of irrepressible smiles. If the crowd reaction of the crowd during an inspired cover of “No One Else” was any indication, the crowd fed off the band’s high spirits and channeled them into some of their own.

Up next was Pity Sex, who were playing new material– all of which sounded like career-best work the band– ahead of their forthcoming release. The band’s always had serviceable pop sensibilities but they’ve been expanded and maximized in thrilling new ways on their most recent material while still managing to retain their heavy, wall-of-sound shoegaze influence. As much as Pity Sex were hitting all the right notes and giving the audience a great show, I’d seen them before and after what Dilly Dally pulled off on the second night of CMJ, I made a split-second decision and sprinted a mile to catch all of Dilly Dally‘s set at Baby’s All Right as part of BrooklynVegan’s CMJ showcase.

Dilly Dally, once again, lunged fearlessly into a breathtaking set that covered both a large section of Sore, one of this year’s best albums, and their early singles. Only this time, the band had the benefit of Baby’s iconic LED backdrop, which aided the noir-ish moodiness of their grunge-leaning basement punk to a sublime perfection. Every member of Dilly Dally’s stage presence makes them come across like a loose cannon but guitarist/vocalist Katie Monks is particularly unhinged, wielding an outsize persona with a disarming amount of control in a way that marries something decidedly scrappy with a sense of spellbinding grace.

It’s an extraordinarily difficult line to walk and the band all but runs the tightrope with a disconcerting ease. The band managed to elicit several chills throughout their set but perhaps the fiercest bouts came during their jaw-dropping Drake cover, which proved to be a highlight yet again. Gnarled and unbelievably heavy, it’s a complete curveball but it fits in seamlessly with the band’s aesthetic making it a dangerous addition to the arsenal of weapons at their disposal. Once again, they closed with the gorgeous “Desire“, leaving yet another audience stunned in their wake.

As soon as I’d caught up with Monks for a quick spell, I sprinted the mile back to AdHoc’s Carwash at Hand & Detail in an effort to see all of LVL UP‘s set. Arriving just a song or two into their set, I immediately squared away on the side of the stage and settled in for another powerhouse set from one of the bands that’d helped me get settled into NYC when I moved in June. Mining their discography for a well-rounded selection of songs for their setlist, the songs from Hoodwink’d seemed particularly resonant, with a large bulk of the audience audibly singing along.

Porches., a band that’s amassed a large following over the past few years, followed LVL UP with a set of soft, ’80s-indebted rock songs. It was a set that seemed to act as a bit of a breather after the unrelenting intensity of the opening batch of acts and before the onslaught of the bill’s final two acts: Perfect Pussy and Destruction Unit. I’m not sure I would have ever had moved to New York or even started this site had it not been for the influence of the former act, so seeing them play to an exceptionally responsive crowd was a very heartening moment. Also heartening was hearing the roars of approval that met vocalist Meredith Graves‘ vitriolic attacks against Chris Ott at the start of their set and the possibility of losing funding for Planned Parenthood before another round of the band’s newest song, “The Women”.

After Perfect Pussy whipped the audience into a fervor, Destruction Unit took some time to set up, fell into a haze of feedback, called for the lights to be dimmed to their absolute minimum, and launched into what almost felt like an improvisational set of punishing noise-punk armed with a lot of hardcore influences. Cribbing heavily from their latest release, the band seemed to be pushing themselves and the crowd to the limits with bruising explorations that felt somewhat reminiscent of an exorcism. Ending with a long stretch of heightening feedback, as soon as the standby switches got flipped on their equipment, I was sprinting back to Baby’s All Right to catch another set from Meat Wave.

Arriving at Baby’s All Right as the band was setting up for the second time in 10 hours was a good feeling, even as the exhaustion of the week started to take hold. Meat Wave, as has been noted multiple times before, was a tremendously important band in the early development and direction of this site. As they went off on the Baby’s stage, their audience gradually grew in size and became increasingly vocal throughout, injecting some supplementary adrenaline into what was already a particularly charged set (which always seems to be the case with Meat Wave). “Cosmic Zoo” and a revamped “Brother” were easy highlights and saw the band locked into something that felt close to feral.

For the first time since the Worriers set that kicked the week off, I decided to take a step back and skip a set to have my second meal in 30 hours to ensure I didn’t keel over later on in the night. Two slices of a pizza, a soda, and an inNo Crying In Baseballning of baseball later, I was back at the lip of the Baby’s stage watching Mothers set up, anxious to see if they could match up with their advance buzz. The quartet met expectations and then cleanly surpassed them with a set of intricate, knotty indie pop songs that are equally unpredictable and enticing. Closing with the irresistible “No Crying In Baseball“, the band had all but convinced any skeptic that they were ready for the spotlight.

Once Mothers had unplugged, I was off to The Silent Barn for the secret Honor Press (Meredith Graves’ label) was hosting and got there just in time to catch a set from Aye Nako, who I’d been wanting to see for some time. After catching a few quick words with a delirious-but-composed (and clearly excited) Graves, I squared away in the Barn and was met with a thrilling set from the quartet. Sharp, concise, basement punk played with a snarl, it felt effectively venomous but never aggressively confrontational, making it accessible enough to pull in a fairly large audience.

Afterwards, it was time for what Graves (and, to be totally honest, myself) considered the pièce de résistance: Cloud Castle Lake. The Dublin-based band made their way over to the States for CMJ and used this showcase as their final stop. It wasn’t long before the band settled into its first groove and it was all over from that point forward. No band that week would come even remotely close to matching the layered spell Cloud Castle Lake cast on its small, awed audience.

Every member of the band flashed serious chops on their respective instrument(s) and the band conjured up towering tapestries that were extraordinarily moving, both in a physical and emotional sense. With everyone dancing, swinging their hips, and looking dazed as the band made their way through an endless stretch of intricate passages, I looked down to an overwhelmed Graves, who was seated against the wall, clutching her knees to her chest, and looking out at the band with pride and wonder. As a whole, it felt surprisingly transcendent and occasionally verged on a religious experience. No other band, save for maybe Dilly Dally, gave me as many chills in a single set.

Taking all of that into account, it probably wasn’t surprising when various members of Perfect Pussy seemed to have a little trepidation about following that kind of set. They needn’t have worried too much; the band’s third set of the week was arguably their strongest, an emotionally-fueled tour de force that saw all four present members playing out of their minds. Guitarist Ray McAndrew, for instance, broke strings on two separate guitars before finding some luck with a third. Thrashing their way through a raucous set, to what was easily one of the smallest (and most intensely invested) crowds I’d seen all week, they managed to provide an unforgettable endcap to the day’s incessant tide of truly memorable moments.