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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 →

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Years & Years and Troye Sivan: Queer pop turns a corner

Years and Years | photo by Ed Cooke | courtesy of the artist

If queer pop with subtle, social message points about the ups and downs of the movement for LGBTQ equality and a sense of lyrical sexual freedom had banner years, they would be 2015 and 2018. Those are the years that Australia’s Troye Sivan and England’s Years & Years (and its frontperson, Olly Alexander) first made themselves known in larger, broader ways.

With both starting their careers as actors (Sivan continuously, in this year’s Boy Erased), each explored the melodic ends of ambient dance-pop since their start: Sivan with 2015’s Blue Neighbourhood and 2018’s Bloom, Years & Years with 2015’s Communion, and 2018’s Palo Santo. Further connecting the two is each act’s upcoming tour schedule. While Sivan headlines The Tower tonight, Years & Years play Theatre of Living Arts, October 10. Continue reading →

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Hozier is theatrical, yet intimate at a soul-filled Fillmore set

Hozier | Photo by: Ellen Miller for WXPN | ellencm.com
Hozier | photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN | ellencm.com

Did you know that Andrew Hozier-Byrne – Ireland’s Hozier – is 6.5 inches tall? I didn’t, despite having witnessed him in concert since he started touring the states in 2014 with his fluid, stately baritone voice and his spiritual / sensual lyrical éclat fully intact for a newbie. Hozier’s towering stature was an essential element of his sold out live showcase at The Fillmore on Wednesday night for a first local tour stop after disappearing for three years to woodshed and write songs. As he stood at the lip of the stage, his wild Adam Driver hair and lanky elongated frame seemed to extend its self over the crowd like Ichabod Crane’s spirit attached to a cherry picker crane. Continue reading →

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Welcome to the Machine: Soft Machine find a contemporary feel ahead of their TLA gig

Soft Machine
Soft Machine | photo by Geoff Dennison | courtesy of the artist

You can’t truly discuss ‘progressive rock’ in Britain unless you discuss Soft Machine. And you can’t really celebrate its currency until you hear its new album, Hidden Details, and see them in action at Theatre of Living Arts on October 7.

Born of the same Canterbury scene that gave rise to the dark earthen folk rock of Fairport Convention, and nicking its name from a William S. Burroughs title, Soft Machine commenced in 1966, with Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals), Kevin Ayers (bass, guitar, vocals), Daevid Allen (guitar) and Mike Ratledge (organ), and immediately formed its fusion jazz mad vibe, while making its most eccentric players stars. Well, minor stars – this was the avant-garde, mind you, and while Allen and Ayers have passed away, it is not as if Wyatt gets mentioned in the same breath as those who followed: say, Peter Gabriel, or Jon Anderson (though one-time Soft Machine guitarist Andy Summers did gain traction and cash as a member of The Police).

“Technically I have been in soft Machine for 43 years,” said guitarist John Etheridge. “But you must remember that between 1980 – except for 1 week at Ronnie Scotts in 1984 – until 2004, the band was effectively moribund, though not dead.” Continue reading →

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Rust sleeps as Neil Young plays (mostly) pretty songs at The Tower

Neil Young | photo by Dan Drufovka | courtesy of Live Nation

You know how you have instincts about things, and you’re pushed to trust them above all reason?

I had a feeling about that pump organ of Neil Young’s, the one he brings on stage when he performs as a solo act; that he would save its… hmm…pumping for the second of two sold out Tower Theatre shows. And from what I heard from my many-beer-drinking neighbors seated in my row at the Tower last night — the second of his two-night stand — I was correct In my choosing. “Brother, you got the pump,” the one gentleman yelled.

I did. I did indeed. Continue reading →

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Eddie Bruce’s Latin Casino

Latin Casino | photo courtesy of Eddie Bruce

Though once located at 1309 Walnut Street, the Latin Casino – Cherry Hill’s “Showplace of the Stars” – opened its gilded doors and glittering drapes in 1960 to ring-a-ding entertainment options from Frank Sinatra to Donna Summer. For practically the next two decades, it hosted every swinging, crooning, joking, era-appropriate act you could think (Ella Fitzgerald, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers), until it closed in 1978. Yes, its shuttering was partially due to Atlantic City’s new-found wealth of casino stages, but the Latin was probably a victim of its time, what with disco and new wave music having the flash that a Lanie Kazan and a Rusty Warren once had to fill up the Latin.

I spent much more time at what the Latin became – Emerald City – than what it had been, yet, fondly remember my mom and dad taking me to the N.J. supper club to see New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt, Sinatra and (wow, if memory isn’t failing me), Ray Charles; all of which looked like the illustrious nightclub scene in “Goodfellas” where Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco come sweeping into the Copa and into the waiting arms of mob goobahs and Jerry Vale. It was beautiful.

Philadelphia-based cabaret artist Eddie Bruce has many of the same memories, so much so that he, and event co-producer Bruce Klauber, created Eddie Bruce Remembering the Latin Casino. The show premiered at World Cafe Live in January, and returns this fall with a preview showcase Monday, October 1, and the gig itself on Sunday, Oct. 14 at the Mandell Theater with a 17-piece band, and singer Paula Johns doing her own Ella Fitzgerald routine. Continue reading →

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Neil Young has secrets, and at least two of them will be at the Tower Sept 30 and Oct 1

Neil Young | photo by Chris Sikich for WXPN | www.sikichphotography.com

Neil Young is good at keeping secrets. Do you know if he’s really married to Daryl Hannah? I don’t. Do you know if he’s ever releasing those self-recorded Crazy Horse albums or that cartoon “Trans” film, he mentioned a while back? Doesn’t he have several clandestine albums in the works? Probably. Continue reading →

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Drake, Migos and Meek Mill rock the first “Aubrey & The Three Migos” tour date at Wells Fargo Center

Drake | Photo by Jesse Faatz/Wells Fargo Center

Never underestimate the power of a hit. Or 180+ of them, the number of songs that Drake has placed across several smash single forums in his decade working the ropes of the recording biz. For when Drizzy and Atlanta’s Quavo, Offset and Takeoff‎ sold out the first of two shows for its “Aubrey & The Three Migos” showcase at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, there was little for the pairing to do, but perform its wealth of best-known songs. The fact that Philly’s own Meek Mill, Drake’s longtime nemesis, joined the party at the end of Drizzy’s set just made the night that much greater.

Continue reading →

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Donny McCaslin and Jason Lindner: The boys of Blackstar go beyond Bowie with Blow and The Buffering Cocoon

Donny McCaslin | photo by Jimmy Fontaine | courtesy of the artist

Tony Visconti and David Bowie walk into a bar. That sounds like the beginning of a joke.

Yet, that very real visit from the pair – in the spring of 2014, into 55 Bar, a longtime West Village jazz joint – is how the relationship between the Bowie-Visconti team, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and his band of renown (drummer Mark Guiliana, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre) began.

Their collaborative work on Bowie’s 2016 Blackstar would have been the stuff of legend even if the British experimentalist had not have died immediately following the album’s release. Blackstar was dark, spacious, free jazz-inspired electronic rock reminiscent of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy and its mad Manhattan follow-up (Low, HeroesLodger, Scary Monsters), yet, boldly new, inventive, genre-less, and often in tune with what McCaslin, Lindner and Co. recorded and performed before that auspicious meeting.

Which brings us exactly to where McCaslin and Lindner are now, with the former’s soon-released new album, Blow, his tour kick-off tomorrow night at Union Stage in D.C., and the newly-rescheduled show at The Foundry of The Fillmore Philly on January 12th, as well as the latter’s first album since Blackstar, The Buffering Cocoon, recorded with his Now Vs Now trio and out September 14. Continue reading →

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Music Of The Fringe: The many sounds of Fringe Fest 2018

Bearded Ladies Cabaret will bring Do You Want A Cookie? to Fringe 2018 | courtesy of FringeArts

When Fringe Arts’ President, Producing Director and Founder Nick Stuccio talks about the sound of his 2018 Fringe Festival of performance artists, avant-garde theater practitioners and free-flying musicians on various stages throughout the city, the first thing he equates it with is the fest’s dedication to experimental dance, “the heartbeat of movement, its emotional core,” he notes. As a one-time dancer from the Pennsylvania Ballet and one of the co-founders of the Shut Up & Dance charity, Stuccio will always unite music and dance as an essential part of his DNA – sonorous or not-so-sonorous sound as a trigger for motion and emotion. Beyond having a shady mix of sounds, both era appropriate and modern, accompany the likes of choreographer Trajal Harrell’s “Caen Amour” and its present day realness of black and LGBTQ issues toward the hoochie-coochie, music is an invaluable singular arc of the Fringe.

Starting September 6, running until September 20 (with a food-driven Fringe charitable finale, Feastival, occurring Sept. 27 at FringeArts HQ on Columbus Boulevard), the Fringe Festival is, as always, divided into two groups: “FringeArts Curated” pieces of epically devised work from around the globe and around the block, and “Independently Produced” host of smaller, but no less crucial work.
A list of both divisions is here with addresses and tickets available next to each production. Here are several elemental necessary moments of music and mood within the Fringe 2018.

Continue reading →