Run The Jewels inspires confidence. They exude it in their records, flaunt it in their interviews, and as they proved last night, on the first night of this tour, they embody it in their live shows too. Killer Mike and El-P, two middle aged rappers at the top of their game, walked out to thunderous applause from a crowd that sold the room out in five minutes, singing along to the chorus of “We Are The Champions.” Their smiles could trick you into thinking, just for a while, that the world isnʼt all that bad. Continue reading →
Chance the Rapper capped off his year, or so we thought, last week, by tearing up Studio 8H; surrounded by artificial snowflakes and some of his best friends he got even the scroogiest of folks into the Christmas spirit after performing “Same Drugs” and “Finish Line/Drown,” and celebrating our last Christmas with Barack Obama.
He decided his year needed a tree-topper however, so he and Jeremih dropped Merry Christmas Lil Mama, a Christmas mixtape dedicated to all the black women back in Chicago; if you need a little hip hop and R&B added to your Christmas playlists, look no further than here. The tape serves dual function; instrumentally, it has the jovial, warmhearted nature of every other Christmas album, but also is grounded in the realities and stressors of the season. You always wind up having to buy a lot of gifts for a lot of people, you always wind up reflecting on the mistakes you made, you long for your loved ones, and especially in 2016’s case, you really just want the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. Continue reading →
Matt Pond PA‘s music was made for the long drive home, for the precious little time spent with family. The music off his new record Winter Lives evokes images of snow-capped pines and valleys dusted in white. His lyricism evokes imagery of a world that, while rife with problems, is still beautiful. His music, especially from this latest record, instills a belief that there is somehow still love out there, a belief, foremost, in people.
That belief shone throughout his Free at Noon set; starting with “In Winter” he made the room warm up with lyrics like “the cold will bring us close”, a welcome sentiment in a time where, frighteningly, everyone feels slightly more distant than usual. “The Glow,” a song written for Pond’s mother, was rife with vibrant guitar, and painted a beautiful picture of a family and all its messy dynamics in the dead of winter. Songs like “So Much Trouble”, “Love To Get Used” and “Halloween” showed Pond’s take on all the vicissitudes of life; humans, as it turns out, are still complicated. Continue reading →
If you love hip-hop, if you love R&B, and if you want to sprinkle some local ﬂair in between, this year’s Made in America festival is for you.
The ﬁrst day of the two-day extravaganza on the Ben Franklin Parkway was packed with huge names; Rihanna closed off the day with a set that was nothing short of legendary, but amazing sets went down right from the beginning of the day all the way to closing; Symone and C-Kan opened up two of the smaller stages with powerhouse vocals and Spanish ﬂows to rival the American ones of Eminem and Kendrick. Continue reading →
I stand now on the precipice of a new decade of my life, its experiences unknown, its joys undiscovered, its sorrows unmeasured. I see a decade quite similar in its turbulence in my rear-view mirror. Throughout the past ten years of my life, I changed in more ways that I could ever care to count, and I greatly appreciate the very few things that, throughout this past decade, remained somewhat constant. Coldplay, as a concept if not as a band, stands among those few. Continue reading →
On Wednesday night, Judah + The Lion turned World Cafe Live into the Electric Factory.
World Café Live, while being the venue I most quickly call home, has become a slight infamous for me; for every high energy show that I’ve seen I’ve seen two with little to none. Prior to seeing Judah + The Lion rip it up at World Café, I hadn’t seen a show comparably high-fenergy since I saw Blackalicious light up that same stage almost three years prior (in one of the ﬁrst concerts I ever photographed).
I knew I was in for some incredible antics going in; I had heard tell of Judah + The Lion’s stage presence before, but I was not prepared for what I was about to witness. Upon arriving at the lip of the stage, I saw that the roadies put out a setlist, that, at ﬁrst glance, looked like total nonsense (attached below). I had thought that this was just going to be a normal indie-folk show, to the tune of a Head & The Heart show, but after seeing songs like “Banksy Luther King Jr”, “!!!!!!!!!!!”, and “He Peed Ants” on the setlist, I knew a few more absurdities would have to follow. Continue reading →
This past summer, I had effectively written off Vance Joy as simply another singer songwriter with a famous falsetto and the propensity to write one, maybe two passable albums. In a world ever-increasingly populated with white, male, 20-something singer songwriters looking to distance themselves from the enormous one-hit-wonder pack and make a lasting impact, ﬁnding a permanent niche is rapidly becoming a taller task. However, nine months later, I’m conﬁdent that, while Vance is certainly still at the beginning of his career, he has found his niche. Throughout his set at the Electric Factory last weel, he proved to be genuine, unendingly humble, and the textbook deﬁnition of “adorkable.” Continue reading →
Coming hot off a World Café session taped that afternoon (be on the lookout!), London-based post-punk band Savages blew the roof off Union Transfer on Thursday night, in support of Adore Life, their sophomore LP. The album, like Savages’ previous longer-form releases, comes with an accompanying manifesto; “It’s about you and me and the others. It’s about the choices we make. It’s about ﬁnding the poetry and avoiding the cliché. It’s about being the solution, not the problem. It’s about showing weakness to be strong. It’s about digging through your dirt to look for diamonds.” Continue reading →
I’ve wanted a butterscotch blonde Telecaster since I was six years old.
The Boss has been spinning in the Pollack household for as long as I can remember; the harmonica intro to “Thunder Road,” the wailing of Clarence Clemons’ saxophone interlude in “Jungleland,” dancing around my room to “Glory Days,” all were irrefutable staples of my childhood.
My introduction to Bruce Springsteen came in 2002, in a post-9/11 era that saw the genesis of his greatest album of the 21st century (so far). I grew addicted to The Rising, and opted to look backward, ﬁnding gems like Nebraska, Born To Run, and The River waiting for me. When I discovered these records, I hadn’t exactly internalized their poetry; it’s hard for a boy of single digit age to internalize anything, let alone the harsh realities of a hum-drum working life, the limitedness of our existence and the stress that comes with wanting to leave the world a better place than we found it. I had the opportunity to see Bruce live once prior, in 2009 during his ﬁnal four-show residency at the Spectrum. The opportunity sadly remained just that, as I was the ﬁrst of my family to fall ill with Swine Flu that fall, and by the evening of the show I was completely incapacitated, leaving my mother to attend without me.
Thus, in a way, covering this show was several kinds of justice: I ﬁnally got to see one of my favorite artists in the world perform live, I proved (mostly to myself) that no disease would stop me from seeing one of my favorite artists in the world perform live, and I got good enough at photography that I was able to photograph one of my favorite artists in the world live.
I know there’s a rule about how you’re not supposed to meet your heroes, and I asked myself several times whether that rule would apply to photographing them as well. Either way, I didn’t particularly care; last night was a victory, and no taboo was going to take that from me. Continue reading →
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 →