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Listen to Sara Watkins’ new Young In All the Wrong Ways via NPR Music

sara watkins
Sara Watkins | photo by Maarten deBoer

With her new Young In All the Wrong Ways LP, Sara Watkins steps firmly out of the bluegrass frame and continues on a path of personal and musical evolution that sees the Nickel Creek co-founder declaring the strength of her own person. The album, which comes out Friday, July 1st via New West Records, is up on NPR Music’s First Listen for a week of advance streaming.

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Grand Slam Trio honor swing bandleaders with new CD, release show at Fergie’s

grand slam trio
Trio bassist Joe Plowman | photo by Lisa Schaffer | courtesy of the artist

With their debut album finally ready for release, the Grand Slam Trio will share their love of swing-era masters at Fergie’s Pub on Friday, July 1st. The CD pulls songs from the catalogs of great players like Leroy “Slam” Stewart and Benny Goodman, to which Trio members Joe Plowman, Ryan McNeely and Austin Wagner added their own studied flair.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Rosali at Ortlieb’s, Modern Baseball at The Fillmore, Good Girl at The Trocadero

rosali middleman
Rosali Middleman | photo by Alyssa Maloof Photography | courtesy of the artist

With the release of her debut LP Out of Love just last month, Rosali is in Philly tonight for a hometown record release show at Ortlieb’s. The folk singer songwriter premiered her music video for the track “Black As Ashes” with us earlier this month and you can check out the kaleidoscopic world she creates below. Check out the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and more information on this show. Continue reading →

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Missed Gallant at Firefly? Catch him around town this summer

gallant
Gallant | photo courtesy of the artist

Los Angeles R&B artist Gallant wowed the Firefly crowed in Delaware last week, performing two sets of songs from his breakthrough Ology LP. But if you missed out on the three-day gathering (or if you just want more Gallant in your summer) you’re in luck – he’ll be in town a few more times before we say goodbye to hot days and music festivals.

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Watch Mason Porter celebrate Dylan Day via VuHaus

dylan day
Mason Porter | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN

Last month XPN celebrated Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday with a full day of special programming and a midweek Free at Noon concert featuring Mason Porter. The local musician gathered up his band and performed a full set of Dylan material at World Cafe Life, hitting classics like “Just Like a Woman” and “Like a Rolling Stone” while throwing in a quick nod to the birthday boy with “Happy Birthday.” Our friends at VuHaus were on hand to capture the whole performance, which is now available for streaming. Check it out below and revisit more Dylan Day tributes here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Paul Simon at The Mann Center, Sonia as Ryan at Tin Angel, Hailey Wojcik at Bourbon and Branch

Paul Simon | Photo by Myrna Suarez
Paul Simon | Photo by Myrna Suarez

Paul Simon will bring his new album Stranger To Stranger to Fairmount Park tonight as XPN welcomes the legendary musician to The Mann. The June 3rd release is Simon’s 13th studio album. Below you can find “Wristband,” the second track of Stranger To Stranger. For tickets and more information on tonight’s show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Mitski mesmerizes before second sold out show

Mitski | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN
Mitski | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN

Not only does 24-year-old singer / songwriter / bass player Mitski Miyawaki know how to pack a room — what with a sold out show last night at Boot and Saddle and another tonight at PhilaMOCA — but within that crowded atmosphere, there’s a very intimate quality to her performances. Mitski’s gripping eight-song set at World Cafe Live’s Free At Noon today was both sonically and visually stimulating. Observing Miyawaki’s quiet yet unmistakable confidence on stage, a fan smiling and singing along parallel to another overcome with emotion, and watching those discover Mitski’s music for the first time; each group brought an inherently interesting dynamic to the show that truly made it a spectacle. Continue reading →

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35mm of Firefly: Revisiting the Woodlands on film

Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover’s annual Firefly Music Festival is just about the friendliest mega-festival you’ll ever go to.

I say this, worth noting, not having been to Bonnaroo, or Coachella. Nor am I old enough to have experienced the grandaddy of all festivals, Woodstock — though I’m sure there’s a lot fiction and myth and revisionist history surrounding that concert’s supposed transcendence.

Compared to the current circuit of gigs in brutal-summer-sun-on-asphalt settings, however, the ones taking the let’s-cram-everybody-in-a-municipal-park approach, the ones making even the strongest lineup more daunting than it needs to be — Firefly is clearly a festival designed with the fans in mind. This is my third year covering it, and each year, incremental improvements are made, reacting to the previous year’s challenges while keeping an eye towards growth. In 2016, spending a long weekend in the Woodlands amidst a throng of 100,000 fans felt remarkably…comfortable. Water stations were plentiful, opportunities for cooler air and shade were at (most) every turn, music was never far – nor was it in your face either. Getting from the Lawn Stage at the festival’s south gate to the main Firefly Stage on the north side took maybe 20 minutes in the rockiest of conditions; in the past, it required over a half hour  to traverse the festival grounds.

In any number of ways — the forest setting and ubiquity of nature surrounding the show, the super upbeat signage, the way corporate branding was (for the most part) downplayed — Firefly shared experiential commonalities with homespun, hyper-local hippie-oriented musical gatherings dotting the map. The differences being, of course, the colossal pop stars (The 1975, Mumford and Sons, Ludacris, CHVRCHES) and soon-to-be pop stars (Pell, Kaneholler, Quilt, Son Little, Civil Twilight) filling out the lineup. This is, after all, an event where music industry mechanizations move the gears. It’s just refreshing to see that this can be done while still providing a positive experience for the fans.

For this year’s Firefly, I documented it with a mix of digital photography and a roll of 35 mm film on a Canon AE-1. The film is back just recently from the lab, and today I present its highlights to you, with some running commentary. See my digital pictures from Friday here, from Saturday here and Sunday over here. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ani DiFranco at World Cafe Live at the Queen, Creepoid at The Fillmore, Dave Matthews Band at BB&T Pavilion and more…

Ani DeFranco | photo by Charles Waldorf
Ani DeFranco | photo by Charles Waldorf

She’s done it all over the course of here career, and now Ani DiFranco brings her massive catalog (over 20 albums) to World Cafe Live in Wilmington. Rooted in folk, DiFranco has gone from jazz to funk to spoken word to even some electronic stuff over the decades. Her most recent release is 2014’s Allergic to Water. The XPN Concert Calendar has you covered with tickets and more info on the show, at which Chasity Brown will play in support. We have you covered with a little Ani DiFranco sampling — listen to “Woe Be Gone” below. Continue reading →

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Japanese Breakfast evoke the supernatural in “Jane Cum” video, land a deal with Dead Oceans

Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast | photo by Morgan Smith | phobymo.com | courtesy of the artist

Japanese Breakfast’s debut full-length Psychopomp quickly became one of our favorite albums of the year so far. Lending its name from Greek mythology, (a psychopomp guides souls to the place of the dead) the LP touches on issues of loss, death and healing following vocalist and guitarist Michelle Zauner’s mother’s death.

The result is something sonically special, peculiar in its honesty, with pain often disguised under layers of pop-friendly melodies. In her new music video for “Jane Cum,” Zauner walks away from the upbeat, candid night out portrayed in her “In Heaven” music video out last month.

The “Jane Cum” video is exceptionally pieced together, playing more like a short suspense film with a killer soundtrack. The dreary backdrop and forest imagery combined with the black-rimmed hats and supernatural undertones made for a Twin Peaks x American Horror Story: Coven mashup that was enthralling to watch unfold. Continue reading →