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Elizabeth and the Catapult took the performance to the upstairs stage for Free at Noon

Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

Finishing today’s doubleheader Free At Noon performance upstairs, Brooklyn-based Elizabeth and the Catapult enchanted the Philly crowd with a sound reminiscent to Regina Spektor and A Fine Frenzy. Featuring their January release Like It Never Happened, the quartet played a few poetic tunes such as “Sugar Covered Poison” and “Thank You for Nothing.” Listen to the full performance below by clicking on the XPN music player under the photo galley and set list.

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Matt Nathanson makes raising money fun at World Cafe Live Musicians on Call benefit

Matt Nathanson | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com
Matt Nathanson | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com
Singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson captivated a sold out crowd at World Cafe Live last night for WXPN’s Musicians On Call benefit. Since 2004, XPN has partnered with Musicians On Call, working with the national organization as the Philadelphia program that brings musicians to the bedsides of more than 50,000 patients and families throughout the Philadelphia region. The Bedside Performance Program provides weekly performances for patients at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

After an opening set from Philly local artist Chris Kasper, Nathanson – joined by his guitarist Aaron Tap – played a 70 minute set of songs culled mostly from his recent album, Last Of The Great Pretenders, and some of his classic older material including “Car Crash,” and “Come On Get Higher.” Whether backed by a band or in a duo situation like he was last night, Nathanson is a charismatic, entertaining, funny, and extremely personable performer. His fun engagement with the audience is equally compelling as his performances and the audience, packed mostly with fans, hung on to every word of his between song banter as well as the lyrics of the songs they sang along to. Our thanks to Matt and Chris Kasper for being a part of the evening and to the supporters of the Musicians On Call program.

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Sam Roberts Band amped up the Philly crowd at today’s Free at Noon

Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

Canadian singer/songwriter Sam Roberts amped up the Free At Noon crowd today at World Cafe Live. Celebrating the release of Lo-Fantasy earlier this month, the band ran through some new hits like “We’re All In This Together” and “Golden Hour.” Couldn’t make it out to see them today? That’s okay. Catch their follow up performance tonight in the same place. Tickets and information are available here. Can’t make that either? That’s fine too. Simply check out the archived performance, set list, and photos below.

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St. Vincent, Phantogram, Real Estate and more come out to play on tonight’s Indie Rock Hit Parade!

St. Vincent | Photographed for Vogue by Taylor Jewell
St. Vincent | Photographed for Vogue by Taylor Jewell

Tonight on the Indie Rock Hit Parade, we’re all about digging deep. So many newly (and soon to be) released records have hidden gems that were meant to be shared. We’ll hear songs from The Both, The Notwist, Bombay Bicycle Club and a two-song spotlight on the new Phantogram album! Here are a few songs you’ll hear tonight (starting at 10pm!)

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Psych rockers Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad depict “Infinite” with old fuzzy footage

Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad | Photo courtesy of the artist
Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad | Photo courtesy of the artist

Bucks County’s Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad are well aware of their sound and its effect on listeners. It’s well reflected in their hazy new video for “Infinite” with it being somewhat mind trip-inducing and out of focus but enjoyable. Members of Heat Thunder, Happy Dog, and Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome Bells joined to form the band who are working to finish up their new record. Check out the video below and stay tuned to Puck’s website for more information on their March 7th show.

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Ansel Barnum and Jason Hahn record an imaginative On the Hill session

Ansel Barnum | photo courtesy of Kettle Pot Tracks
Ansel Barnum | photo courtesy of Kettle Pot Tracks

Local harmonica player Ansel Barnum and guitar player Jason Hahn took their imaginative instrumental folk to the studios of Kettle Pot Tracks for an On the Hill session.  The Philadelphia Folk Festival alums played five tracks ranging in style from contemplative and slow-burning (“Berkely Springs” and “I Wish I Could Sing…” ) to inspiring and eye-opening (“Surreal Moments”).  In addition to playing in a few local bands, Barnum is a volunteer for Musicians on Call where he plays harmonica for children at St. Christopher’s Hospital in North Philadelphia.  Learn more about Musicians on Call here and listen to the session below, accompanied by a video of the duo performing “Surreal Moments.”

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Photos: Kings of Leon brought rock city to the Wells Fargo Center

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Kings of Leon | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Tennessee rockers Kings of Leon returned to Philadelphia, playing a monster 27-song set at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night. On tour in support of their sixth album, Mechanical Bull, the Nashville band of brothers showcased music from across their catalog for an amped-up crowd. Check out a gallery of photos from the show below, and read the setlist after the jump.

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Local electronic music pioneer Andrew Rudin revisits his groundbreaking early work tonight at The Rotunda

Andrew Rudin | Photo courtesy of the artist
Andrew Rudin | Photo courtesy of the artist
In 1967, Nonesuch Records released Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon, which was immediately recognized as a landmark work of the nascent electronic music movement. Unexpectedly, it also became a hit.

The album was created using a synthesizer built by pioneering instrument maker Donald Buchla, so Nonesuch turned to his leading peer, Robert Moog, in search of a follow-up. Moog referred the label to a young Philadelphia composer named Andrew Rudin, who had been instrumental in bringing Moog to the University of Pennsylvania. Rudin used the commission to create Tragoedia, a four-movement piece inspired by the four fundamental emotional processes of Greek tragedy.

The 1969 album met with critical acclaim (High Fidelity Magazine’s Alfred Frankenstein proclaimed, “In Andrew Rudin’s hands the electronic idiom finally comes of age”) but soon was lost in relative obscurity as the art form rapidly and bountifully evolved. Tonight at the Rotunda, Bowerbird will present “Meeting Moog,” a concert portrait of Rudin’s early electronic music featuring Tragoedia with a live video accompaniment by Rudin’s former student Peter Price. The program will also include two earlier works, Il Giuoco (1966) and Paideia (1967), both of which are accompanied by films created by the composer.

When Rudin arrived at the University of Pennsylvania to study with composer George Rochberg, he had no intention of working with synthesizers. “I didn’t even know that they existed,” recalls Rudin, now 74. “In those days, when one heard the word synthesizer it meant only one thing: the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer, which was a giant contraption that ran on hundreds or thousands of vacuum tubes and within an hour’s work you’d have to find what tube had burnt out and replace it. It also operated on punch paper tape like a player piano, which would get snarled and the three hours that you spent making four seconds’ worth of music would be trashed.”

A few years earlier, however, a childhood friend of Rudin’s had become a member of the ground-breaking Alwin Nikolais Dance Company, which purchased one of Moog’s earliest synths. After Nikolais demonstrated the instrument to Rudin, the composer persuaded Moog to build one of his first large-scale studios in the basement of the Annenberg School of Communications.

“Bob Moog was a typical science nerd type,” Rudin says with a laugh. “He came down to Penn with a synthesizer in a cardboard box underneath a Greyhound Bus. But the wonderful thing about working with him was that he was kind of a frustrated musician himself, so you didn’t have to be some sort of engineering genius. He wanted to make things easily available to the musician. I feel really lucky that I was in the right place at the right time and happened to meet him at the beginning of it all.”

Born in Newgulf, Texas, a small town south of Houston, Rudin (pronounced “roo-DEEN”) began composing small classical pieces and music for theater productions while in high school. He then studied at the University of Texas at Austin before heading east in the summer of 1960. At Penn he studied under a number of renowned teachers, including, briefly, Karlheinz Stockhausen and George Crumb. The pieces he created on Moog’s newly-installed synthesizer became his first mature works. “I was fascinated with it because it was the latest, most avant-garde thing to do at the time,” he says. “I was absolutely convinced that once they had the equipment, I would work with it and make something. When you’re 26 you think you can do anything.”

That includes writing music for an almost wholly unprecedented new instrument that makes bizarre electronic noises. “The first thing is that writing doesn’t apply,” Rudin says. “What was fascinating to me was that I could work directly in the sound. It was much more like sculpting than it was like writing. I would simply find a sound by fiddling around with the instrument and coming across a sound that appealed to me. It was like someone gave you a trumpet and you thought, ‘I’ll try to play something legato, and I’ll try to play something high, and I’ll try to play something fast and jittery with it.’ Then I would edit the tapes, like working in film where you shoot a lot of footage and see what you can cut together out of it.”

The Philadelphia Composers Forum premiered Rudin’s first major synthesized composition, Il Giuoco, on a program with pieces by Crumb and Vincent Persichetti. “That first concert absolutely marks the dividing line between my student days and my life as a professional,” Rudin says. “It was a piece that totally represented what I would do and not something obviously influenced by anybody else.” Continue reading →

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Courtney Barnett sold out Union Transfer last night, and is totally the real deal

Courtney Barnett | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Courtney Barnett | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

“This is officially the biggest crowd we’ve played for,” says Australian rocker Courtney Barnett with a grin, last night at Union Transfer. The crowd cheers enthusiastically. The show’s been sold out for weeks, after being moved from the much smaller Boot & Saddle, and those who actually snagged tickets are pumped.

But they’re not the only ones. Barnett too seems excited to play her first Philly show, on her first American tour, and seems to be taking her sudden success in stride. A 25-year-old Melbourne native, who burst into public consciousness last year when her double EP, A Sea of Split Peas, won rave reviews from the blogosphere and airplay on indie radio stations. Barnett went from Melbourne musician with a DIY label and a pair of self-released EPs—to an international “artist to watch,” whose witty lyrics and shaggy guitar lines have won the hearts and ears of thousands of listeners. Last night, Barnett proved the attention is well-warranted, as she crooned and raged through an hour-long set, drawn from A Sea of Split Peas and beyond.

Courtney Barnett | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Courtney Barnett | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Over the past decade or so, I’ve seen many buzz bands play Philly, “killing it” with their energy and passion. But I believe Courtney Barnett is special. Courtney Barnett doesn’t just write heavy, juicy guitar lines that wiggle their way into your brain and reverberate; she doesn’t just write breezy choruses that wash over you like sunlight. She writes songs that actually do these things, for sure…but also more. She writes with a wit that’s completely relatable yet somehow both scrappier and more elegant. She writes about the banal—doing laundry, or going to the grocery store—and she writes about the heartbreaking—broken relationships, aimless lovers who don’t or can’t listen. But mostly, she writes about things that are real—and manages—in the small, personal details—to tap into something universal.

Listening to Courtney Barnett on record, you get the sense that she’d be awesome to hang out with. Seeing her live, you are absolutely sure. To start, she looks like every awesome girl I know in South Philly, clad in black jeans, boots, and a boxy tee—and between sets, she jokes sheepishly about her fly being down (it wasn’t) and hums a few bars of a Triffids song at audience request. But mostly, she remains focused on the tunes, letting the music do the talking.

She kicks off her set with Bowie-inspired rocker “David,” bassist Bones Sloane’s bouncy bass grooves adding forward momentum, before transitioning to “Canned Tomatoes (Whole),” her guitar snarling as she softly croons the lyrics.

Beside and behind her, Sloane and drummer David Mundie (affectionately dubbed “The Courtney Barnetts”) provide tight, lively grooves, backing vocals, and plenty of swagger—especially on tunes like free-spirited anthem “Are You Looking After Yourself.” Singles “Avant Gardener” and “History Eraser” are easy crowd-pleasers, Barnett spitting out lyrics coolly—and “Lance Jr.” elicits some grins with its risqué opening lines. But the evening’s best surprise is a new tune: catchy, with a shuffle beat, and more of her trademark witticisms.

Barnett closes her set with a brief encore, playing another new tune called “Depreston” about the “very boring” town of Preston, Australia. (“If you’ve got a spare half-million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding,” she croons, always penetrating.) This might be her first Philly appearance, but I have a feeling it won’t be her last. Armed with a killer band, a palate of new ideas, and her very Courtney way of doing things…Courtney Barnett has all the goods to make it big.  We’re excited to see what she comes up with next.

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Join Philly’s Come On Homewreckers, Polar Ice Cap and more for a night of fuzzy, grunge-inspired rock at Kung Fu Necktie tomorrow

Photo via facebook.com/comeonhomewreckers
Photo via facebook.com/comeonhomewreckers

No need to sit around on a Saturday night with nothing to jam to. Come on Homewreckers has some grunge-y instrumental bliss for you to indulge in. Or, if you’d prefer something more lyrical and perhaps a little reminiscent of Weezer’s debut (Blue) album from ’94, fear no more – Polar Ice Cap will also be taking the stage. The band released their debut album State Lines last spring. As heard on their 93 EP, alt-rock four-piece Left & Right offer similar vibes in the spirit of the legendary decade. To round out the bill, Rhode Island punk outfit Gym Shorts will also perform in support of their latest self-titled EP. Tickets are $5 at the door. Show time is 8:00 pm.

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