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Keeping rock n’ roll alive with The Strypes at Union Transfer

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The Strypes | Photo by Cameron Pollack

Since their inception, people have told me time and time again that rock ’n roll is in no way dead, and The Strypes were the principal thing keeping it alive.

Saying I was skeptical doesn’t cut it; I was in no way convinced that an Irish four piece consisting of guys the exact same age as me could save rock n’ roll in the way people told me they were. This past Wednesday, I got to see for myself, and I can safely report that rock is in no way dead, and The Strypes are why. Continue reading →

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SOJA takes over World Cafe Live for Free at Noon

SOJA | Photo by Cameron Pollack
SOJA | Photo by Cameron Pollack

Reggae/Dub kings SOJA took over World Cafe for an incredible display of lyricism and musicianship. SOJA’s music stays true to their traditional form on their latest LP, Amid The Noise And Haste, an album chock full of social commentary, reggae melodies, and incredible guest artists, including Collie Buddz and Damian Marley among others. Continue reading →

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Listen to JD McPherson make a rollicking Musikfest pit stop at today’s Free At Noon

JD McPherson
JD McPherson | Photo by Cameron Pollack

Rockabilly hero JD McPherson stopped by World Cafe Live on his way to Musikfest this evening out in central Pennsylvania. McPherson rocked the lunch hour with a set chock-full of 12-bar blues, organ and piano solos, and danceable tunes. “Country Boy,” the second song in the lineup, slowed things down with hard-swinging minor blues driven by Jimmy Sutton’s bass playing. “I Can’t Complain” and “Wolf Teeth” both had the entire crowd dancing and swinging along to his powerful, Buddy Holly influenced style. Continue reading →

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John Legend headlined The Mann Center in peak form

John Legend | Photo by Cameron Pollack
John Legend | Photo by Cameron Pollack

There is not a shred of doubt in my mind: John Legend, formerly John Stephens, is 100% deserving of the name he now calls his own. His career now spans fifteen years, five of which have been unsigned. His climb to a record deal featured collaborations with Lauryn Hill on her track “Everything Is Everything” during college, backing vocals on Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name” in 2003, and an eventual meet-up and collaboration with Kanye West throughout the early 2000’s. His career has never stopped climbing since, churning out Grammy award winning, chart-topping tunes with every album release.

Legend’s “homecoming” show to The Mann on Saturday showcased Legend at the peak of his popularity and his songwriting ability. Continue reading →

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Listen back to round two with Trigger Hippy at Free At Noon

Trigger Hippy | Photo by Cameron Pollack
Trigger Hippy | Photo by Cameron Pollack

Nashville supergroup and #XPNfest veterans Trigger Hippy stopped in at World Cafe for a fantastic Free at Noon today, showcasing the rock and roll garnered from singer Joan Osborne’s songwriting career and from Stever Gorman’s and Jackie Greene’s experience with The Black Crowes. The set featured excellent harmonies between Osborne and Greene as well as frequent guitar solo battles between Greene and guitarist Tom Bukovac. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Jimmer Podrasky performed a career spanning set upstairs

Jimmer Podrasky | photo by Cameron Pollock
Jimmer Podrasky | photo by Cameron Pollack

At a recent Free at Noon performance, Jimmer Podrasky put on an excellent showcase of unplugged music upstairs.  Formerly of the critically acclaimed rock group The Rave-Ups, Podrasky came to World Cafe Live in support of a new solo album called The Would-Be Plans, his first in nearly 25 years. Continue reading →

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RX Bandits, The Dear Hunter and From Indian Lakes put on killer triple bill at Union Transfer

Photo by Cameron Pollock
Photo by Cameron Pollock

Part of why I sought out a position as a writer and photographer at XPN is so I could constantly be exposed to new artists and new musical directions. I’ve found so far that my favorite method of discovery since hopping onboard XPN’s contributor list is by discovering bands at concerts. I’ve learned of myriad artists in this manner, including Strand of Oaks, Parquet Courts, and The 1975. On a warm summer night at Union Transfer, I had the pleasure of discovering and subsequently falling in love with three mind-blowingly fantastic acts: From Indian Lakes, The Dear Hunter, and Rx Bandits.

Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Trampled By Turtles bring Wild Animals to World Cafe Live

Trampled By Turtles | photo by Cameron Pollock
Trampled By Turtles | photo by Cameron Pollack

Trampled By Turtles treated attendees to an impeccable display of folk at a recent Free at Noon appearance, featuring frequent violin solos, four part harmonies, and stomp box and tambourine percussion.

The band stopped in Philly for the first of two times as part of the US leg of their tour, and they will return to Philly’s Union Transfer on the 10th of September. Hot off the release of their latest album, Wild Animals, they arrived at World Cafe to showcase the same infectious folk that kept them in the top 10 of Billboard’s Bluegrass chart for an entire year. Continue reading →

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Confessions of a first time Phish concert goer

Photo by Cameron Pollack
Photo by Cameron Pollack

I had heard talk about the insanity of Phish shows since I first began attending concerts. Phish had always been described to me as the best jam band experience since the Grateful Dead, and when I found out that it was going to rain on the first of two sold out Mann Center shows, I knew I was in for a truly unique and memorable first jam band experience.

Parking for the show opened at 9 AM, and by the time I arrived at the Mann, there were tailgaters as far as the eye could see, from the entrance to the picnic areas half a mile away. The night for me began as normal: file in with all the other photographers, socialize for a bit, head to the photo pit. The combination and temperature of the under-cover part of The Mann were unbearable to me, but it didn’t phase the Phish phans for one second, as they passed around and shared water entirely liberally with their fellow concert-goers. One by one as time went on, gargantuan beach balls blew up and made their way all the way down from the lawn to the pit and then back up again. After the beach balls came balloons, glow sticks, and light up balls flying all across the audience.

After about twenty minutes, a booming voice erupted over the monitors, warning terrace and lawn ticket holders that a storm involving hail, powerful gusts of wind, and frequent lightning strikes was converging on The Mann, and the voice advised the ticket holders return to their cars until further notice. However, given that they were at a Phish concert, the phans erupted in cheers at the news of bad weather, entirely ignored the voice over the monitors, and quickly returned to their jovial glow stick throwing state. About ten minutes later, the voice came on again, warning that the storm would arrive in fifteen minutes and it would take approximately that long for phans to get to their cars. Once more, no one seemed to budge. Fifteen minutes later, myself and the other photographers felt mist descending on the pit. Seconds after, we heard screams, and we turned around to find the lawn almost vacant as nearly every phan scattered to find the closest available source of cover, aside from the few ingenious souls who brought bathing suits, ponchos and towels to the gig. After about five minutes of waiting out the storm, the unthinkable happened: The Mann’s main power suddenly shut off, and fourteen thousand people who were previously very happy suddenly were not. We waited for about ten minutes with no update from Phish’s Twitter or Facebook, backup power came back on and cheers erupted from the phans under cover. After more beach ball tossing, the lawn crowd was finally cleared to return and the show got underway around 9:10 PM. After an experience like this, I realized how special the Phish experience was, especially to the phans. At any other outdoor show, fans might have been deterred by the idea of rain or worse. But the Phish phans prevailed through every single obstacle, as nothing was going to drive them away from another night with their jam band heroes.

The actual Phish experience was a similar vein of incredible; from the very first downbeat of the upbeat “Axilla”, every phan was moving and grooving, from the pit to the lawn. The members of Phish themselves weren’t entirely memorable in regard to their stage presence, but that isn’t why people go to Phish shows. Phish’s true strength lies in improvisation and hours upon hours of incessant feel-good grooves. People largely don’t attend Phish shows to idolize band members or sing along to hit choruses; they come to jam, to dance, to be with other phans, and to simply enjoy life. In this regard, Phish undoubtedly delivered, bringing over three hours of pure danceable jams to a loving audience which lapped every jam up. As I explored the crowd after my fifteen minutes in the pit, I found crowds of people mobbing the orchestra aisles dancing as if nothing in the world mattered. I climbed the stairs to the lawn and found many people dancing on the hills by themselves who claimed to have been dancing the entire night, some even before the show started. The crowd, even at the furthest point from the stage, cheered at the end of every guitar and organ solo, and the rowdiness in the pit escalated consistently from the beginning to the end of each set. Jams like the 25:58 long “Fuego” (title track of their new album) and “Walls Of The Cave” were enjoyed unanimously, and highlights for me included “555″ and “Tweezer”.

I expected to have an incredible (but traditional) concert experience from seeing Phish live. Instead, I got a peek into one of the most spectacular feats of jam music I have witnessed, and into the lives of some of the most dedicated, loving fans of any band I’ve ever seen. Below the gallery, check out the set list.

Set list, July 8th – The Mann Center

Axilla
Gumbo
Taste
555
Tube
Halfway to the Moon
Camel Walk
Sparkle
Halley’s Comet
It’s Ice
Ocelot
Walls of the Cave

Set 2:
46 Days
Fuego
The Line
Backwards Down the Number Line
Tweezer
Ghost
2001: A Space Odyssey (Deodato cover)
Harry Hood
Tweezer Reprise

Encore:
Possum