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Philly hosts a ton of mainstream live events in June. The Roots Picnic with Dave Chappelle is on the same day as Justin Timberlake’s concert; both U2 and Paul Simon play the Wells Fargo Center on the same weekend; Hall & Oates’ second annual HoagieFest will jam along the waterfront at Festival Pier — and that’s just some of the big-name action.

But there are also plenty of smaller, less-publicized happenings over the next couple weeks. Singer-songwriter Laura Veirs hits town, comedian-storyteller Baseem Youseff comes to the U.S. and Depeche Mode pare down their sound for their most avant-garde work in a decade.


Friday, May 25
Festival Pier, Columbus Blvd. & Spring Garden St.

Few records essay the realistic ups-and-downs of a young man’s fancy like Khalid Robinson’s American Teen. From breakups to blemishes and proud romantic victories to smoking weed, Khalid’s first album contains everything about growing up, wrapped in confessional, cutting-edge soul intertwined with silvery New Wave synths.

Laura Veirs

Saturday, May 26
Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St.

The bespectacled Veirs has been around the block for the better part of two decades, and has managed to maintain a signature weary sophistication while crafting original, irked pop-folk songs. With that style as her spirit guide, her newest album, The Lookout, is a cranky conceptual piece about dear and precious things still held in esteem through rough-and-tumble times.

The Divine Hand Ensemble presents The Music of Frank Zappa

Saturday. May 26
Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), 531 N 12th St.

There aren’t many theremin artists to begin with, let alone sartorially-correct ones who lead their own string bands. Philadelphia’s Mano Divina fits that bill, and his creepily dedicated (or dedicatedly creepy) chamber orchestra, The Divine Hand Ensemble, would follow him to the end of eternity. Knowing how much Divina adores Frank Zappa, this all-FZ set at PhilaMOCA — the only time they’ll do this show, says the theremin-iste — promises to be boldly outrageous and tastefully decadent.

Hand to Hand: A FringeArts Circus Festival

Tuesday, May 29 through Sunday, June 3
FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd.

Philadelphia’s Circadium School of Contemporary Circus and Montreal-based Barcode Circus Company, in tandem with FringeArts, co-host a brand new, multi-day festival of contemporary circus art. Performances include aerials, acrobatics, juggling, and everything in between, inside the venue and out in the Haas Biergarten. Oom pah. There will also be private lessons and workshops galore. Better grab a beer, fast.

Tech N9ne

Thursday, May 31
Theatre of Living Arts, 334 South St.

Long before it was fashionable or sellable, this dreamy-scary electronic rapper and producer was making mirthless futuristic tech-hop.

Black Moth Super Rainbow and Pissed Jeans

Friday, June 1
Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St.

The gloomy avant-garde psychedelic toast of Pennsylvania’s dark woodlands and Allentown’s craggily humorous noise punks find an eerie meeting ground. Here’s hoping for a duet.

Helen Back

Friday, June 1
Connie’s Ric Rac, 1132 S 9th St.

The Italian Market’s House of Tartaglia welcomes the return of local theater actor Jimi Mooney’s post-punk, Siouxise & the Banshees-like musical creation Helen Back (and the Str8 Razors, the all-star backing band of local renown) for his/her first performance in a decade.

Depeche Mode

Sunday, June 3
Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S Broad St.

Not exactly underground, but here’s the deal: Still touring behind 2017’s Spirit, the Basildon, England, trio who all but invented synth pop with a haunted edge, have released their sparsest, most intimate album in a decade. This is interesting to note, primarily, because the raging anthems and swelling guitars prevalent on their last few recordings threatened to make them into U2-lite. Stay weird and small, boys, stay weird and small.

Japanese Breakfast

Sunday, June 3
Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St.

If the Philadelphia underground needed a quiet queen, it would be Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner. After the sprightly synthetic death march of her debut album, Psychopomp, her 2017 sophomore effort, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, goes beyond the atmospheric sound and mournful lyricism of her previous work to welcome big guitars and sunshine.

Baseem Youseff

Wednesday, June 6
Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.

Sometimes called “the Jon Stewart of the Arab World,” from his time as comic host of the popular Middle Eastern faux news show Al-Bernameg, Youssef’s latest one-man-gag-fest, “The Joke is Mightier than the Sword,” draws comparisons between the political climate of the Arab Spring and its wrong or right parallels to Trump’s American politics. Yes, this show is part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), but is worth calling out as a stand-alone event.