The Key’s Year-End Mania: Ben Wong’s favorite artist portraits of 2017

You Do You | photo by Ben Wong |

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key photographer Ben Wong revisits some of his favorite artist portraits from the past 12 months.

The artist portrait is an interesting process for both the photographer and the musician(s). It’s one of the few times that there are literally no rules. In many cases the more imperfect the better. It requires trust and creativity for both parties to conceive a vision and tell a story by showing. Philadelphia especially, while rich with talented musicians, is also home to some of the most talented visual artists. We help contribute to the artist’ brand as much as they help build ours. This year I was fortunate enough to work with a variety of different artists and explore my love for portraiture with musicians from all corners of the Philadelphia scene. Continue reading →


Bonobo and a stunning band bring Migration to life at The Electric Factory

Bonobo | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href="" target="_blank"></a>
Bonobo | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

A staple of the UK’s down-tempo electronic music scene, Bonobo (aka Simon Green) hypnotized the Electric Factory on April 29th with smooth melodies and spacey sound bites that put Philly in a never ending daze.

With a work ethic that seems unflinching, the producer/DJ is embarking on a 7-month tour, which started with a soul soothing performance at Coachella a week prior. Appropriately, Bonobo came out to “Migration,” the opening track of his sixth and latest album and title of the tour; a slow building groove that set the tone for a night of exertion and escape. A lot of his atmospheric beats like “Kiara,” “Ten Tigers,” and “Kong” blended together so fluidly leaving no stopping points for the sea of people on the dance floor. Continue reading →


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah unveils The Tourist at Johnny Brenda’s

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

Hometown heroes Clap Your Hands Say Yeah erupted onto the Johnny Brenda’s stage this past Thursday, March 2nd. This was actually the first night of two that the band performed at JBs — the second night being sold out well in advance — and also the first day of their nationwide tour, followed by another four weeks in Europe.

Getting to be the first ones to see a live tour is a big deal for concert-goers, especially when it’s in the city of Philadelphia which remained the stomping grounds for CYHSY for a good portion of their career. Seeing any band perform their first show on tour in comparison to their last is two completely different experiences. Fans get to watch as the band learns to ride a bike again and go through any opening night hiccups as well as experience all the energy and initial excitement to play new material. Continue reading →


Norah Jones brings new songs, eclectic covers and a winning jazz to the Academy of Music

Amazing show. Thanks @norahjones for a great evening and bringing pieces of my childhood back with your music.

A photo posted by Lucas Hippel (@lucas14surf) on

Singer-songwriter Norah Jones brought a gripping performance to the Academy of Music this past Saturday. Currently on her Day Breaks Tour with The Candles as her opener, she premiered an array of songs from much of her new album, Day Breaks, as well as a number of covers that compliment her style and range.

The Academy of Music is the perfect setting for Jones, allowing her jazzy vocal timbre to resonate throughout the floor and top balconies. As she opened her set with her lyrically driven “Sinkin Soon,” she set the tone for a smoky heartfelt evening of jazz and pop. Going right into a sultry “I’ve Got to See You Again,” the band paused and she sang the chorus to the background of just her piano and drums with drummer, Greg Wieczorek. Continue reading →


Fitz and the Tantrums take The Fillmore back to the last days of disco

Fitz and the Tantrums | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Fitz and the Tantrums | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

With kaleidoscopic disco lights and a neon-lit stage setup very reminiscent of the movie Tron, the sound that Fitz and the Tantrums brought to The Fillmore on November 12th was everything but futuristic.

Sticking to a performance of energetic pop funk and jazzy Soul Train vibes, the Los Angeles based band came out to the stage in full dance mode opening with “Get Right Back,” the perfect intro that set the scene for a night of crowd involvement. The chemistry between lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick and singer-percussionist Noelle Scaggs would be intimidating on any dance floor. The two vocalists did not stop moving the entire night, taking frequent pauses from singing to break into choreographed dance numbers while saxophonist, James King and drummer, John Wicks transformed songs like “Complicated” and “L.O.V.” into clap-heavy jam sessions. Continue reading →


Dance, Improv, Nudity, Absurdity: Har Mar Superstar wows Underground Arts

Har Mar Superstar | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Har Mar Superstar | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

With such an intoxicating voice, literally and figuratively, and lyrics to swoon the clothes off of any concert-goer (although it’s usually himself who winds up stripping), Har Mar Superstar brought an unforgettable performance to Philly this past Monday. Making his fourth stop as the headliner of his Best Summer Ever Tour with Texas rock band, Sweet Spirit, he showed Underground Arts his timeless dance moves, hilarious improvisation, and partial nudity. Continue reading →


Seeing a whole new side of Marian Hill at Union Transfer

Marian Hill | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Marian Hill | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

Marian Hill has never had an issue defining their sound and standing out from their peers. The Philadelphia-based duo consisting of vocalist Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd continue to bridge genres with very minimalist electro-pop backdrops, velvety blues vocals, and early R&B influences. Touring with current collaborator and multi-instrumentalist, Steve Davit, the collective graced their home stage this past Friday, October 14th, at Union Transfer to give fans the proper show they’ve been waiting for from the local underdogs. Continue reading →


Glass Animals turned The Fillmore into a psychedelic paradise on their How To Be A Human Being tour

glass animals
Glass Animals | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

From atmospheric electro-blues to charming ambient bongo riffs, psychedelic indie-pop band Glass Animals kept it familiar and unique at The Fillmore this past Monday, September 26th. Currently on their How To Be A Human Being tour, which is also the name of their new album released one month ago, the Oxford-based foursome embraced the ‘hit shuffle’ format, displaying the best of both albums to newcomers as well as fans of their critically-acclaimed first release, Zaba.

Continue reading →


Ra Ra Riot shows The Fillmore that less is more

Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

With so few members and such a bold sound, Ra Ra Riot once again proves that less is more. The Syracuse natives performed this past Friday at The Fillmore, opening for Young The Giant for the Home of the Strange Tour.

The six-piece ensemble opened with fan favorite “Too Too Fast” from their first album, The Rhumb Line; its combination of synth-heavy dance breaks and dramatic lighting teased glimpses of the band while directing the crowds’ focus on the sound. Continue reading →


Weezer brings 20 years worth of summertime jams to BB&T

Weezer | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Weezer | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

Summer is officially here, which for avid concert-goers means it’s time for festivals, block parties, and mega-tours. This year, Weezer set the summer tone with Panic! at the Disco and Andrew McMahon, the lead singer of Jack’s Mannequin.

Headlining the sold out concert at the BB&T Pavilion, Weezer put on a show with full energy and visual creativity. Whether it was the bucket hats or the beach bungalow drummer, Patrick Wilson, played atop of, each song incorporated something to remind you what the season is all about. Everything from confetti and streamers filling the air to an old video of Venice Beach displayed behind the band screamed “summer in California.” Continue reading →