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Snap, Crackle, Pop: The music of the Fringe Festival 2017

Close Music for Bodies at Fringe Fest 2017 | photo courtesy of the artist
Close Music for Bodies at Fringe Fest 2017 | photo courtesy of the artist

Tell Nick Stuccio, the president and producing director of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, that for this – his 21st fest – the topic of our discussion is “music” and he all but busts like a hot water pipe. “

Great great idea; no one’s ever focused on the music of the Fringe. Whether separate events, concerts or as part of the productions, music has always been so crucial to the Fringe.”

For Stuccio, the rich wellspring of music that is the soundtrack to the Fringe has always been a most “excellent through line” from show to show. “And there’s a deep, diverse wellspring of music to speak of, most particularly this year,” says Stuccio, remarking on everything from Martha Graham Cracker’s vocal soul Olympics to the accordions pumped by none other than alterna-musician Elvis Perkins who composed for, and collaborates on stage, for Geoff Sobelle’s apt-titled HOME production.

“I’ve been friends with Elvis for years, since high school, and he was really anxious to be part of this production after we talked about it forever,” says Sobelle, stating that the music for HOME, an impressionistic brand of folk, is “exactly the sort-of mash-up for which he’s known.” Continue reading →

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More Than Jake: Jake Clemons goes beyond what you think you know of Fear + Love

Jake Clemons | photo courtesy of the artist

Calling from a solo tour stop in Montreal, saxophonist-singer Jake Clemons offered up a smart and pleasant, conversation and a humble man’s attitude when it came to being a guy you (think) you know from brand-name family ties, literal and figurative. Soft-spoken and easy to laugh, Clemons seemed pleased to open up about the studied songwriting process and the emotional connections to the songs on his new album, Fear + Love, a record he’ll pull form at World Café Live this Wednesday September 13. Continue reading →

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Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing: Somebody Get a Throne

Queens of the Stone Age | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

The glam-sludge-boogie rock of Queens of the Stone Age and its singer-guitarist Josh Homme didn’t need Iggy Pop (their rough collaborator on his Post Pop Depression and its accompanying 2016 tour) to validate their sound or standing. Since leaving the stoner metal Kyuss and releasing its eponymous debut in 1998 (with the epic Rated R and Songs for the Deaf to follow, respectively in 2000 and 2002), Homme’s big swagger has been his signature – a downright brand. Yet, at Thursday night’s celebration of his newest QOTSA album, Villains, at Festival Pier, Homme found nuances on the art of swagger he may not even realized existed before working with Pop.

With a cool evening’s breeze behind them, the black-and-red-clad Queens and its front-man Homme kicked out the glam jams of “My God is the Sun” and the sudsy sludgy “Turnin’ on the Screw” with the menacing finesse of Noel Coward in a leather bar. Continue reading →

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The Laser’s in the Background: Andy Molholt gets down in the Dark Nuclear Bogs

Laser Background | photo courtesy of the artist
Laser Background | courtesy of the artist | Photo by Natalie Piserchio

You could lead with the cliché that Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer Andy Molholt has worn many hats since his time in this city as he’s started The Armchairs and Laser Background, as well as maintaining a position in Northampton, Massachusetts’ Speedy Ortiz as of late. But hat-wearing makes Molholt seem like a dabbler, which he is certainly not; not from the passionately somber and angry lyrics of Laser Background’s newest work, Dark Nuclear Bogs.

Bathed in the grey glow of personal plight its lyrical mindset, but ripe with the gauzy effervescence of neo-psychedelic sound, this– and Moholt – prove just how deeply committed once can be to cause, even if they’re wearing a mini-dress. Before his August 31 release party at Johnny Brenda’s Moholt spoke about kaftans, his father and the mess that is the present day. Continue reading →

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Son Little Plays Ball

Son Little | photo by Marc Lemoine | courtesy of the artist
Son Little | photo by Marc Lemoine | courtesy of the artist

When Son Little sings “I got the blue magic / And I rock you so savage” on his upcoming New Magic album, there’s a grit and a swaggering gamesmanship to his voice that wasn’t apparent in past such as 2014s Things I Forgot EP and his eponymously-titled 2015 album. That strut may not even have been there when Aaron Livingston (Little’s birth name) recorded with The Roots or with RJD2 as Icebird.

Did the multi-hyphenate neo-bluesman and seemingly professional lodger (LA to NYC to Philly to somewhere in New Jersey) get that ‘”oomph” producing an EP for legendary gospel goddess Mavis Staples (Your Good Fortune)? Or writing for electro-R&B saxophonist / DJ GRiZ? Does his newfound love (or display of affection) for baseball have anything to do with this soulful gloat as he’s taken to singing the “Star Spangled Banner” before National League games?

Before Livingston heads into a busy autumn — beginning at this week’s Afropunk festival in Brooklyn, extending to the September 15th New Magic release and a two-night stand at Boot and Saddle at the month’s end — we caught up with him via phone so he could address some of these burning questions. Continue reading →