Two to Tango: hackedepicciotto and Eric Hubel

HackdePicciotto | photo by Sylvia Steinhäuser | courtesy of the artist

hackedepicciotto and Eric Hubel may, at first, seem as if they come from two different worlds with wide paths. The married twosome behind hackedepicciotto – Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto – come from the noise and beauty of, respectively, Einstürzende Neubauten and the Love Parade, and together have found an elegant, elegiac center point filed with auto harp and kemençe, for their divergent aesthetics within cool works such as Menetekel and Joy.

When Eric Hubel isn’t busy with his certification from Manhattan’s Dharma Yoga center where he is both teacher and student), the string-focused multi-instrumentalist, composer and performance artist, has worked with the likes of Glenn Branca, Eliot Goldenthal and Hackedepicciotto throughout their recoded catalog. Now, the three are touring as a full-evening of thunder and lightning with Hubel not only opening for Hackedepicciotto, but playing with the ensemble on December 11 at PhilaMOCA.  Continue reading →


John Legend brings Yuletide cheer, camp, and stately soul to The Met Philly

John Legend | photo by Senia Lopez |

John Legend is corrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrny. That’s a compliment when it comes to doing Christmas right. At least in the manner in which he — the one-time University of Pennsylvania student/singer — has this season: giving modern R&B heft, humor and sensuality to a Nat King Cole sense of savoir faire for everything from last week’s NBC TV special, A Legendary Christmas with John and Chrissy (Teigen, his model/actress/author wife), to a holiday album of newly-penned and classic carols with A Legendary Christmas, to this Christmas-themed gig at The Met Philly.

The Tuesday evening concert, in the bitter chill, no less, was part of the opening week of Live Nation and North Broad Street’s newest, most dramatic entrée into the venue scene: an old one, all 110-years and $56 million dollars’ worth of rejuvenated proscenium arches, gold leaf rosettes, mezzanines and large scale stages and sightlines. Continue reading →


WHY? go back in time at Union Transfer


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photos by Kristen Buroojy

The sold out show at Union Transfer on Thursday night may not have been in celebration of The White Album’s 50th anniversary, Daydream Nation’s 30th birthday or Hello Nasty’s 20th. Try telling that to WHY? fans dedicated to bedsit recording artist/producer Yoni Wolf’s  lonely nasal bleats, angst-ridden cat-calls and literary referenced, socially astute songs, all of which found their fullest flower in 2008’s Alopecia – an album whose 10th anniversary was being celebrated that night. As the record that moved Yoni Wolf’s game from solitary to full-band recording (yes, his brother Josiah was always around) and from smallish art rap to somewhat grander chamber hop, the nerdy throng that sang every phrase back to the singer made it clear – Alopecia is their Pet Sounds, their teenage symphony to God, odds and sods.

The most fascinating thing about hearing Alopecia, “back to front,” and “turned to side two,” after “imaging you’re flipping the vinyl” (Wolf’s in-between song patter), was how much bigger Yoni and his WHY? troupe made the once-flowery epic. Continue reading →


WHY?’s Yoni Wolf talks about ten years of Alopecia and why I remind him of his dad

WHY? | photo courtesy of the artist

One year ago, WHY?’s Yoni Wolf — loquacious literary-inspired rapper, producer and instrumentalist, one-time Anticon label owner — returned to the famed home recording of his past with 2017’s Moh Lhean; this, after spending all of his time since 2008 stretching the boundaries of chamber-hop sound and lyricism with that same year’s Alopecia. This modern classic of angsty, alternative hip hop, a nasally intoned effort currently re-released on vinyl (“we can’t keep it in stock, as each pressing runs out quicker than the previous run,” says Wolf), and its tenth anniversary is cause enough for live celebration as WHY? pulls into Union Transfer on November 29. Continue reading →


Two to Tango: The Midnight Hour’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge

The Midnight Hour
The Midnight Hour | photo courtesy of the artist

While T2T is normally reserved for a full-bill’s worth of entertainment, the joining of together legendary rapper/instrumentalist Ali Shaheed Muhammad (best known for his role in A Tribe Called Qwest) and equally audacious producer/player Adrian Younge (collaborator to Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah and Philly’s own William Hart) for The Midnight Hour is worth breaking precedence.

The jazzy, soulful, and freeform orchestration, rhythms, and lyricism of the pair’s recorded output (their eponymous 2018 album, a soundtrack for Netflix’s Luke Cage) certainly does. I caught up with the dynamic duo — together, in separate cribs in Los Angeles — right before they camped out at Johnny Brenda’s for a mid-week jam, November 28. Continue reading →


Draco Rosa’s Latin Lesson: Rock en espanol innovator (and Ricky Martin collaborator) returns with Monte Sagrado

Draco Rosa | photo courtesy of the artist

The only thing that matches the pleasure of speaking with Draco Rosa is listening to him, and his various shades of haunting sound across a three decade spectrum. If you don’t know him from his goth-tinged rock en espanol albums such as 1996’s Vagabundo, 2004’s Mad Love, 2013’s Vidam — or his new, epically psychedelic and metallic Monte Sagrado that brings the American-born, Puerto Rican artist to The Foundry November 28 — you know him from the 1990’s alterna-funk outfit, Maggie’s Dream.

If these passionately aching, and smartly conceptual albums have shamefully alluded you, there are smashes (“Living La Vida Loca,” “Maria,” “She Bangs”), that Rosa has co-written and/or produced for his pal, Ricky Martin, with whom he shared a tenure in the multi-platinum, Latino boy band, Menudo. Along with all that, Rosa is a coffee entrepreneur and farm owner, an activist, a cancer survivor and a cookbook author.

Phoning from Las Vegas rehearsals for last week’s live Latin Grammy Awards, Rosa sounded hale and hearty for a guy who had his second bone marrow transplant and beat cancer’s ass — for the second time in his life — earlier this year. Continue reading →


The Brian Setzer Orchestra’s 15th anniversary Christmas Rocks! tour did just that

The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas show | photo by Andrzej Liguz | courtesy of the artist

Though regarded far-and-wide as the well-coiffed guitarist who ushered in the 1950s-stylized rockabilly revival (with Stray Cats), the big band swing thing (with his self-named Orchestra) and all of its sartorial and tonsorial splendor, Brian Setzer will always be adored by Philly’s old-head punks for his time in Bloodless Pharaohs. At the tail end of the 70s, a pre-Cats Setzer (with his brother Gary) held sway over the Pharaohs, a Talking Heads-y house band, at 21st & South’s Hot Club before turning to rockabilly, heading to the UK (with a crew of locals including then-tour manager-turned-DJ legend, Bobby Startup), and finding fortune and fame.

Knowing that, it was no surprise to see that Setzer’s 15th Anniversary Christmas showcase with a rich 19-piece ensemble at the grand Academy of Music found its crowd with as many families looking for a good, clean night out, as it did many a spikey, grey haired sort. And the fact is, those crowds — and anyone in-between — got a damned good, entertaining time. Continue reading →


Jessie Reyez is ready

Jessie Reyez at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you want to look at a moment of definition in one’s career without DEFINING one’s career, it came for shushing singer and frank-as-fuck songwriter Jessie Reyez during her performance at the Made in America festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. The whole crowd watched and sang along with her every song as she stalked the stage in cut off shorts and a Scarface t-shirt (the movie, not the rapper). Just a few nights earlier, the Canadian-Colombian folk-rap singer had turned in bolt-upright electrifying performances at the VMAs, and on the night previous to MIA landed on Eminem’s surprise album Kamikaze, which features Reyez on two songs: “Good Guy” and “Nice Guy.”

That was but one of Reyez’s perfect storms.

“Oh man, you can say that,” she laughs. “That moment was surreal. Thank God I have a great team that has been working its asses off, because we’re just all moving so fast. Sometimes, you barely get a chance to appreciate what is, you know? It is difficult to stop, and take it in, because everything is ‘go go go.’ No sooner than I get a moment… I’m pulled into the present.” Continue reading →


Pictures of Lily (Allen) at Union Transfer

Lily Allen | Photo by: Ellen Miller for WXPN |
Lily Allen | photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN |

Lily Allen always included a similarly and funny strain in her music, not dissimilar from her father, caustic British comic writer-actor Keith Allen (The Young Ones, The Supergrass, Comic Strip). Yet, because Americans don’t get that snide, sly humor in song is an actual thing unless it’s outlandish, Lily Allen has remained something of a (fabulous) cult figure in the U.S., debuting in 2006 with Alright, Still, and following it with 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You and 2014’s Sheezus. The warm-voiced Allen’s new album, No Shame, should change those fortunes (if she cares) as it invests itself in the nuances of social media takeovers, single motherhood, and a past — even a present — that wasn’t as comedic as we were lead to believe.

“Yeah, I’m a bad mother / I’m a bad wife / You saw it on the socials / You read it online,” sang Allen in her cool, snide fluttering baritone during “Come On Then,” her first song on Tuesday night at Union Transfer, where she played to a fairly packed house. Armed for bear, dressed in pink blooming pants and a long platinum white wig, Allen cut a cocksure jib, as she strode the stage, hands in her big pockets and romping through the spare, atmospheric electro-pop-or-hop of ether the bibbity-bobbity dancehall of “It’s Not Fair” (a catty tune you could imagine Beyonce covering) or the carnal carnival-esque “LDN”, with its leering lyrics of “I wonder what goes on behind doors / A fella looking dapper, but he’s sittin’ with a slapper / Then I see it’s a pimp and his crack whore.” Continue reading →


Two to Tango: Mirah and Sammus

Mirah, Sammus
Mirah | photo by Shervin Lainez | courtesy of the artist // Sammus | photo by Zooloo Brown | courtesy of the artist

Brooklyn-based (but Philadelphia born) Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn would seem radically different from the Ithaca-raised, Philadelphia-based SAMMUS (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) at first, with one playing askew folk pop and the other hip hop. Yet, both women keep their musical and melodic processes raw, and both lyricist/vocalist/rappers are emotive, clever and cutting in a fashion that you may not recognize until after the song or the set is over. The subtle glories of Mirah and SAMMUS sneak up you – as you shall find when the make a tour stop at Johnny Brenda’s tonight.

This interview was conducted late this week, via email, and sadly SAMMUS fell off the email chain, but I think the essence of the “tango” is still shared between these two women. Continue reading →