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Free at Noon Flashback: Basia Bulat enchants a loving World Cafe Live crowd

Basia Bulat | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com
Basia Bulat | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

For XPN’s second Free at Noon of the year, esteemed Canadian songwriter Basia Bulat came to town, promoting her upcoming Jim James-produced album Good Advice, which comes out in just under a month on Secret City Records.

Preceding this, I had heard tell from several colleagues that Bulat was a force to be reckoned with, and as such I walked into the room at World Cafe with markedly high expectations. At the start of the set, she met them with ease, and by the end, she had well exceeded them. Her sound was beautifully simple; comprised of guitar, keys/synth, bass, and drums. However, with these tools she managed to contrast her sound magnificently. Continue reading →

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Foals engage in “not recommended behavior”, conquer Union Transfer

Foals | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollackphotography.com
Foals | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollackphotography.com

I’ve given the title “best show of 2015” in my head to four shows so far this year, each one being eclipsed by the subsequent. In what will hopefully be the last of such eclipsings this year, Foals played the best set of music I’ve seen this year, and definitely one of the best I’ve ever seen.

I walked into the room at Union Transfer a bit concerned; compared to what I had heard the crowd at Terminal 5 was like the night prior, the room seemed alarmingly empty, especially for a sold out show. I had heard tell of frontman Yannis Philippakis’ on-stage / off-balcony antics, and was a little concerned at the feasibility of some of his reported stunts. Those fears were quickly dispelled as the crowd filled between set changes. The show started with “Snake Oil”, a jam whose choruses and breakdowns harken back to their Krautrock influences, and immediately got the crowd banging heads. Already, Yannis was breaking a sweat, bouncing all over the stage, accenting his guitar playing complete with a dizzying amount of spinning. Continue reading →

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Welcome Home: The Wonder Years tear the roof off The Electric Factory

The Wonder Years | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollackphotography.com
The Wonder Years | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollackphotography.com

“Philadelphia, it’s so fucking good to be home.”

The feeling – expressed from the stage by The Wonder Years‘ frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell – came for me in waves, each more forceful than the last. I was returning to shoot at one of my favorite venues, wearied from a long semester, a considerable lack of sleep, and most recently the wonderful, unpredictable mess of Philadelphia pre-Thanksgiving traffic. Continue reading →

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The Suffers bring the house down at Union Transfer

The Suffers | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com
The Suffers | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com

People can have any number of reasons for listening to music; some bands you can only listen to when you’re sad, others when you’re happy or confident, some only in the morning when you’re just waking up, and others still when you’re out with friends. Above all of these categories and others, there exists a category of band that transcends time and place; a band that, when listened to, can’t help but force genuine smiles on their listeners. The Suffers are one such band.

The ten-piece Gulf Coast soul band dropped by Union Transfer on Sunday night, and effectively burned the house down. The set opened with their EP’s opening track “Make Some Room,” where lead vocalist Kam Franklin seized every opportunity to make the evening into a truly feel-good experience, telling the audience that the lyric “Do you want a sandwich? I’ll make one for you,” is not simply a lyric; in Houston, where Franklin is from, it’s a showing of love, and definitely something worth cheering for. Continue reading →

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Imagine Dragons make an explosive return to Wells Fargo Center

Imagine Dragons | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com
Imagine Dragons | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com

What an experience this night was. Pouring rain, deafening music, tons of fog, and even more lasers.

Imagine Dragons is a rock band, pure and simple, and their songwriting and anthemic choruses have shot them to the kingdom of Top 40 and the tip top of the Billboard 200 with seemingly immense ease. Rock they do; lead vocalist Dan Reynold’s energy was constant and extremely high throughout his entire set, through the most elated and moody of songs. However, at times the band did seem like it would more be aptly named “Dan Reynolds” and friends; there were several points where Dan was the only one lit on stage, even though Wayne Sermon, Daniel Platzman, and Ben McKee were carrying considerable amounts of weight also, providing vocal harmonies too high for most men their age to reach and guitar/bass battles aplenty.

The night was chock full of highlights, as you’d expect at a concert of this enormity. Continue reading →

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Confidence and Soul: Ibeyi brings their commanding show to World Cafe Live

Ibeyi | Photo by Cameron Pollack | http://cameronpollack.500px.com/
Ibeyi | Photo by Cameron Pollack | http://cameronpollack.500px.com/

I have seen no duo in my admittedly brief history of concert going more commanding of a crowd, more loving of groove, and with more infectious, intricate songwriting than Ibeyi. Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi ooze confidence and soul, constantly singing and smiling through the set, at each other and at the audience. Continue reading →

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Alvvays entrances the crowd and spurs a moshpit at Union Transfer

Alvvays @ Union Transfer, Philadelphia. Photo by Cameron Pollack
Alvvays @ Union Transfer, Philadelphia. Photo by Cameron Pollack

Whenever I walk into a venue, I look around and try to guess the median age of the crowd. Sometimes it’s for kicks, but sometimes it’s very telling about what the nature of the concert will be. I’ve walked into enough shows with the crowd brimming with high-school age teenagers to know that, should the crowd be of this age, the show will involve the bulk of the audience bobbing their heads and pretending to know the words. Alvvays at Union Transfer was very much an exception. Continue reading →

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Recap: The Tallest Man on Earth brings his full band to Philly at NonCOMM

The Tallest Man on Earth | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com
The Tallest Man on Earth | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com

I could go on for hours about everything The Tallest Man On Earth has done for me individually. Almost every long road trip I’ve been on since 2010 has featured at least one of his albums; The Wild Hunt I can say for certain has been spun at least 75 times by myself alone, and Shallow Grave is certainly up there in my personal rotation as well. When I realized I was going to get to hear a new album and one of the first live performances with a full band all in one week, I (admittedly) temporarily lost the ability to function.

The album itself stays true to where The Tallest Man came from; the album has no shortage of stretches with only him and his guitar, letting his lyrics and his capo-ed, unorthodoxly-tuned guitar do the talking. Continue reading →

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Recap: Heartless Bastards previews Restless Ones at NonCOMM

Heartless Bastards | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com
Heartless Bastards | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com

Cincinnati garage rock quintet Heartless Bastards closed out the festivities at the NPR Music Stage at NonCOMM. The group came on with a rocking set in support of their upcoming release Restless Ones, out this coming June on Partisan Records. Lead vocalist Erika Wennerstrom’s pipes were in top form throughout the set, and Jesse Ebaugh’s stage presence and Mark Nathan’s memorable guitar solos across various tracks made the set memorable for everyone downstairs at World Cafe Live. Gates of Dawn was a crowd favorite, and the fans and NonCOMM attendees left downstairs for the night feeling satisfied with one of XPN’s longtime favorites. Check out a gallery below and listen back to the concert archive!  Continue reading →