[road to sxsw] Spooked out in Philly and Fredericksburg with Quilt, Weyes Blood, Mike Bruno, and more

Weyes Blood at Dreamcastle in Philadelphia on 3/4/12, playing with Quilt.

"Pennsylvania is noticeably spooky,” said Natalie Mering, a/k/a WEYES BLOOD, late on Friday night, in the dark kitchen of Dreamcastle, a house that hosts basement shows in South Philly.

Her observation spoke to the dark, psyched-out sonics looming through all four sets at Dreamcastle that night; the show was the second stop on QUILT’s tour to South by Southwest.

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The line-up, curated by Quilt drummer John Andrews, also featured Philly-via-New Brunswick, NJ psych folk by MIKE BRUNO and the long-haired multi-instrumentalists that comprise his Black Magic Family Band, plus Virginia transplant DANIEL BACHMAN's mesmerizing acoustic guitar jams.

Daniel Bachman played Dreamcastle's red living room.

Between songs, Dreamcastle resident Mike Bruno even creeped around with a bright orange plastic jack-o-lantern to collect donations for touring bands, rounding out the Halloween-in-March vibes.


Mering, who played a rare full-band Weyes Blood set backed by five friends (she typically plays solo) has pulled influences from Philly’s creepy architecture and Victorian houses for her various releases, including an album on LA’s Not Not Fun and a 7-inch on UK label Smoker’s Gifts.

“Popular bands that come from here tend to have spooky vibes,” she said, citing Man Man, Tickly Feather, and more.

It was a foretelling conversation, for sure, considering not only the night's line-up, but also our next night’s stop in Fredericksburg, VA. In Frederisckburg -- a town with a history of being kinda creepy -- we stayed with Daniel Bachman’s mom, who read our tarot cards and told us local ghost stories. (According to one, an old Fredericksburg woman used to drive around town every day searching for a house she saw in a recurring dream. She finally found it one day, knocked on the door, and the family living there was so freaked out over the resemblances between this crazy woman knocking on their door and a ghost that creeped around their house every night, that they sold her the place.)

If you're feeling these spooky sentiments, stream some jams by Weyes Blood above and below, then read/listen on for a quick Q&A with the Philly songstress. More photos from Philly and Fredericksburg, and a video from Mike Bruno's set below, too.

What brings you to Dreamcastle? I’ve never played here before actually, this is new. I haven’t lived in Philly for a few years. I just moved back. I had lived here for four years and I used to play a lot of shows.

Are there a lot of spaces like this in Philly? Totally, there’s a lot of house shows. For sure. Sometimes even more than proper venue shows. There’s a house called the Big Pink that’s pretty old school. There are always new spaces . . . A lot of places I play now are art galleries. The Danger Danger art gallery started as a house in West Philly. Most things that happen for a while usually run their course and then burn out.

Yeah I guess that happens everywhere. Its just like that in Boston too . . . Where are you living now? Now I live in Doylestown. North of Bucks County.

What’s that like? That has a little record store and some remnants of culture. It’s the last stop on the train so it’s far enough way where nothing really exciting is going on. But close enough to get cool stuff every once in a while. The Winery out there does cool shows. I just opened for Thurston Moore there.

How was that?
It was pretty wild. A lot of people from my high school who I hadn’t seen in years came.

That’s awesome. Did you get to say hi to Thurston Moore? Totally. Yeah I knew Thurston and I actually asked him to play that show.

I know you have that LP out Not Not Fun. Do you have any other releases? How long have you been playing music for? I’ve been playing music for like six, seven years. I have an LP on NNF, I have 7-inch on Smoker’s Gifts, this UK label. A CD-R I self-released. I had a couple weird tapes and one-offs from when I first started. But for the most part I really only have a couple of proper releases. I just came out with a split with the band Angels in America. They’re a really cool New York City band.

How has living in Pennsylvania, in Doylestown influenced the content of your music? Or the way you approach making music?  Pennsylvania is a really special place. Especially because the part I grew up around had a really great college radio station called WPRB in Princeton. That radio station had a huge influence on me. And the record store in my town was pretty cool. Usually the towns that had record stores along the main line, which is the line of suburbs that runs through Philadelphia, would have a couple of really interesting bands. I just took the train from town to town until I finally started taking the train all the way from my town to the city and seeing proper shows. It’s a really good place where you can fan out into the suburbs, where there’s some decent stuff going on. Allentown has a really cool music scene . .  . Pennsylvania’s almost like Ohio in sometimes. Kind of like a Midwestern cultural sprawl. With a metropolitan Jersey influence.

One more thing about Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is noticeably spooky. I was really influenced by the architecture. The Victorian houses and stuff. I noticed really popular bands that come from here tend to have spooky vibes.

Yeah, I think that came through in this show, especially in Mike Bruno and the Black Magic Family Band’s set. I think this city kind of calls for it. There’s a lot of strange energy and creepy old architecture. It could be cursed. They built the city hall statue with William Penn [at the top] and there used to be a law that you couldn’t build any building higher than him. And they broke that law . . . The Eagles haven’t won a Superbowl since . . . William Penn could be reaping havoc.

Who are some other musicians from Philly who reflect that sound? Man Man, Make A Rising . . . Tickly Feather. Kurt Vile, though I guess he’s not particularly spooky, just other-worldly, maybe. Helena Espvall, the cellist from Espers, she plays a lot of crazy cello with a lot of great people. Mary Lattimore, she plays the harp with Thurston Moore’s band.

Philly from the Dreamcastle roof, the morning after the show.

We stopped at a skate park in Philly before heading to Fredericksburg. #SkateOrDie y'all.

Tarot card reading in Fredericksburg

Quilt with the Bachman's in their backyard.

We stopped at a Fredericksburg Battlefield on our way out of VA.

Meade's Pyramind, a Civil War monument at the Fredericksburg Battlefields, is thought to have been constructed in 1897 as a marker to signal battlefields to riders of the railroad.

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