Professional secret: Writing show previews are much easier when there’s a ton of great artists in one place, which I admit is one of the reasons I’m stoked about the Kensington Picnic. The other, less selfish reason is that Saturday afternoon finds a bunch of the city’s illest talent gathered in one place. In an outdoor lot behind Liberty Vintage Motorcycles, you can see the genre-free instrumental prowess of Blues Control, the vintage garage kick of Birds of Maya, two experimental/psych duos in Chris Forsyth/Steve Gunn and Mary Lattimore/Jeff Ziegler, acclaimed singer-songwriter Meg Baird, young fingerpicking extraordinaire Daniel Bachman, and Watery Love, who Siltblog calls “Philadelphia’s best band at the moment,” and says sounds like “the gear shaft of a Kensington garbage truck,” which to me just sounds like fancy talk for kickass. It’s all good, all free, and goes from 2pm until whenever the sun goes down. The Lot behind Liberty Vintage Motorcycles, Frankford Ave. near E. Susquehanna Ave., 2pm, Free, All Ages (Illustration by Jason Killinger) - Adam Downer
More shows to hit this weekend…
Johnny Brenda’s (1201 N. Frankford Ave.) FRI Arrah and the Ferns, Former Belle, SAT Oldermost, D. Ryan Belski, Cape Wrath
Kung Fu Necktie (1250 N. Front St.) FRI Rumpelstiltskin Grinder, Vektor, Hessian, SAT Heyward Howkins, Resistor
PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th St.) FRI Salvation, SUN Liz and the Lost Boys, 2nd Opinion
Milkboy Philly (1100 Chestnut St.) FRI Ditto Demi, Kensington Sound House, Boog, SAT Johnny Action Figure, Young Summers
The Fire (412 W. Girard Ave.) FRI (All Ages) Ripping X-Ray, (Late) Store Cats, Christian Bitto Band, Orbit to Leslie, Fast Car, SAT King Slugger, Sinking Ocean Gods, Vitamin Cheese, SUN Horace Mann, Betty Iron Thumbs
M Room (15 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Rodent Lord, Dead People Screaming, SAT The Scovilles, The GTVs
World Café Live (3025 Walnut St.) FRI The Cold Roses, SAT (Early) Girls Rock Philly Showcase
For those who decide whether to come or go based on the first forty seconds of an album, Restorations’ LP2 is practically tailor-made for snap judgments. After a chiming, anthemic guitar opening, the band already known for fist-raising jams lets all hell break loose with “D,” their most unrestrained opener yet. The drum kit-mauling, earth-shaking bass lines and ascendant guitar riffs can only be described as complete sensory overload, and make it clear that the following eleven songs are going to be fueled by pure viscera. If your preferences run towards structure over huge sound, this release may leave you cold; LP2’s predominant means of exploring the band’s wealth of ideas are stadium-sized instrumentation and endless waves of atmospherics, as well as a dose of ennui.
This is a murkier, more inward-looking Restorations than we’re used to. Everything that was there before, musically, is blown sky-high this time around. They’ve managed to pack ideas into every iota of the song list, aided by Jon Low’s miles-deep production; the density of the music itself is offset by an album-long meditation on place, belonging, and the ramifications of leaving the familiar behind, which makes the outsized sound that much more of an interesting direction. Juxtaposing the existential discomfort with more sophisticated, complex forays into Restorations’ sonic wheelhouse.
The spiraling guitars, one of the album’s specially prominent features, are everywhere, serving various purposes in each song. “Kind of Comfort”’s jittery glam rock aspirations accompany lyrics of searching and wanderlust. Even the more downbeat cuts (“In Perpetuity Through The Universe,” “New Old”) are propelled beyond their subject matter by the songs’ barely-concealed restless energy. At its more pensive moments, like the folk-inflected “Civil Inattention,” there is a restless undercurrent of texture and volatility that never quite lets up.
Album closer “Adventure Tortoise” is all monster buildup laced with extraterrestrial effects, kicking off into a sort of requiem for the band’s neighborhood. “I’d really like to stay to help this place,” growls Jon Loudon through his teeth, but the allure of letting it all go is too strong to resist. The longing for a place “where nobody knows your name” isn’t quite all-consuming enough to inspire real action, but it is definitely the new paradigm Loudon means.
It takes guts to pull off a release that feels ten minutes long but contains more emotional and musical texture than most records. Restorations cover a whole lot of ground on LP2, and for the most part, pull off their ambitions. A bit too sanguine for shoegaze, and maybe too heady for punk, Restorations’ second full-length album brings an intriguing palette of aspirations to their open road-ready sound, prepared to try anything and everything. - Alyssa Greenberg