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Mitski Ascends: The reigning queen of indie rock owns the Union Transfer stage

Mitski | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Forget everything you thought you knew about a Mitski concert.

The basement show power trio with the frontwoman rocking a hot pink bass? The expanded band that brought songs from Puberty 2 to life on an arena show with Lorde? The occasional solo sets that are moving in the best way? All things of the past.

For the opening night of tour in support of this year’s outstanding Be The Cowboy, Mitski Miyawaki showed a packed Union Transfer that — much in the same way the record is a next-level move in terms of taking her already deeply affecting songwriting to new heights — her stage show was now bigger, bolder, and more of a vehicle for the best kind of catharsis.

With her four-piece band handling practically all the instrumental duties, Mitski stayed in the front of the stage, using her freed up limbs to spend the entire set gesturing, twisting her body, leaping on the floor, moving to the music in powerful and gripping ways. It reminded me of Klaus Nomi, it reminded me of St. Vincent. It showed that, as much as words and sounds are powerful vehicles for conveying meaning and emotion, so too is movement. Continue reading →

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And now, eight minutes of Bad Brains playing City Gardens in 1991

Bad Brains in Trenton | still from video

Is there a venue in South Jersey more legendary than City Gardens? Is there a band in punk more fraught with turmoil than Bad Brains?

Here’s a snippet of a night on October 20th, 1991, when the energies of the Trenton club and the energies of the D.C. icons converged. Of course, it’s the third or fourth make of the Bad Brains lineup…so their energies are probably not the same as they were in the “Banned in D.C.” years. Core members Dr. Know on guitar and Darryl Jennifer on bass are rocking their distinctive interplay throughout, but if you’re looking at that grainy VHS transfer footage and thinking “Hmmmm, I don’t remember H.R. being that ripped,” your eyes are not playing tricks on you.

This concert took place after the second time the legendary and controversial vocalist departed the band along with his brother, drummer Earl Hudson — supposedly, the reason had to do with disagreements over whether Bad Brains should lean more to their punk side, or their dub/reggae side. This short-lived version of the band features Mackie Jayson on drums and Chuck Mosely on vocals, and if you’re picking up a LA style alternative funk rock groove going on with these performances, your ears are not playing tricks on you. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Bottle Rockets wakes up the midday crowd at World Cafe Live

The Bottle Rockets | photo by Taylor Johnson

Long-running St. Louis band The Bottle Rockets brought a dose of their high-energy country rock to World Cafe Live today for a Free at Noon performance ahead of their show tonight at Milkboy. Touring behind their newly released album Bit Logic, The Bottle Rockets came prepared with a fresh-sounding selection of new songs that blend fiery rock and folksy drawl to wake up the midday crowd. Continue reading →

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Lighten Up, Buttercup, because Hippo Campus blew away Union Transfer last night

Hippo Campus | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

Last night, Minnesota indie rockers Hippo Campus joined the crowd at Union Transfer to celebrate the release of their newest LP, Bambi. They brought to the stage their instantly recognizable bubbly, ethereal, and smooth-yet-edgy sound to the stage, and then amplified it times ten. Singer Jake Luppen dove right into the new stuff, opening the show with the relaxed and pulsing track “Bambi,” followed by “Honestly,” and then the off-kilter, electro-rock “Doubt.” What a way to kick things off, honestly. These guys are loads of fun, and the set was atmospheric and loud and both gentle and aggressive when the tracks called for a change of pace. Ever appreciative of the crowd, as most bands who roll through Philly are, both Luppen and guitarist Nathan Stocker thanked us several times just for being there. Continue reading →

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Philly indie rock four-piece Readership channels the 80s underground on Hackbreaker

Readership | via Bandcamp

Local indie four-piece Readership are big fans of the 80s college rock era; any listen to their back catalog would have hinted this. For their new EP Hackbreaker, out November 2nd, they bring that loving homage to the forefront.

Two short and fun tracks from the EP are streaming at Readership’s Bandcamp right now. There’s “Meet Me At The Mall,” a B-52s via Mission of Burma jam that is markedly different from “Let’s Go To The Mall” (shoutouts How I Met Your Mother fans) in terms of its musical influence, but with lyrical references to food courts and Radio Shack, the spirit of 80s suburban commerce is there. “My Sitcom With Keven James” is a but more Athens, Georgia derived — not explicitly R.E.M., nor Camper Van, but somewhere between those two worlds over the course of a boot stomping minute 39. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Empress Of will bring Us to Boot and Saddle in February

Empress Of
Empress Of | photo by Adam Elramly | courtesy of the artist

Brooklyn-via-LA singer and songwriter Lorely Rodriguez, better known as the electronic pop artist Empress Of, released her excellent new record Us today. It’s her second full-length release, and sees her emphasizing the “pop” end of “electropop” more than we’ve heard in the past, particularly on the incredibly catchy, multi-lingual single “When I’m With Him.”

You can spend 32 minutes with Us right here, and if you dig what you hear, get ready for a night at Boot and Saddle this winter, since Empress Of plays the South Philly venue on February 20th, the third night of her just-announced tour.
Continue reading →

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Watch Rosali strip down Trouble Anyway for her Celler Session at City Winery NYC

Rosali
Rosali at City Winery | still from video

During her late summer solo tour, Philly singer-songwriter Rosali taped a Cellar Sessions set at NYC venue City Winery. Backed by colorfully illuminated wine barrels, she plays four songs from her standout 2018 record Trouble Anyway — “If I Was Your Heart,” “Dead And Gone,” “Silver Eyes,” and “I Wanna Know.”   Continue reading →

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Junglepussy, Queen Jo and Rayana Jay play a commanding, empowering set at The Foundry

Junglepussy | photo by Lissa Alicia for WXPN

When one consumes a curated collection of art, regardless of the medium, there is more often than not a blatant artist statement or verbal declaration of intent. On rare occasions, one may come across an assemblage so carefully put together that even the slightest explanation would do it absolutely no justice. This was the case at The Foundry’s Wednesday night show that included Queen Jo, Rayana Jay, and headling act Junglepussy. Three women at the mic, backed by two women at the DJ decks, delivered seemingly endless prideful, raunchy and unapologetic lyrics for an empowering set that commanded the audience to take charge of their sexuality, identities, lives. Continue reading →

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Kali Uchis turns Isolation into community at the TLA

Kali Uchis | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren | koofibi.com

Kali Uchis blessed the TLA this week on the last leg of her tour. The 24 year old Colombian-American singer is coming off of a great few years of releases and collaborations. Her 2017 included features with Gorillaz, Tyler the Creator, Miguel, Bootsy Collins, and Daniel Caesar, with a Grammy nomination for her performance and co-writing of “Get You.” This year saw the release of her debut studio album Isolation and the In Your Dreams Tour with Gabriel Garzon-Montano, which came to the TLA on Monday night. Continue reading →

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The Bigness returns with endearingly sentimental video for “The Rest of the Sky”

The Bigness
The Bigness | courtesy of the artist

The Bigness has remained relatively under the radar for the last year, and now we know why. The band has released a single from their third upcoming album What We Make, “The Rest of the Sky,” a track that wires itself into your brain with a catchy hook and bopping rhythms. Contrasting the upbeat instrumentals, the lyrics describe the frustration of feeling trapped in a mundane routine, the restrictions of a pattern that drains creative energy and passion. Continue reading →