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It’s been so long since Jack White came to Philly, we went to Maryland to see Jack White. And it was outstanding.

Jack White | Photo by Chris SIkich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Jack White | Photo by Chris SIkich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Pardon me if I was not sweating by the end of Jack White’s rip-roaring 105-minute set on Sunday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland; it was a nippy 55 degrees by show’s end. The nearly sold-out crowd was certainly in a heated frenzy from start to finish as White orchestrated a set that spanned his two solo albums, The White Stripes, Dead Weather and The Raconteurs.

Notorious for moody and eccentric behavior, White seemed nothing but pleased to be playing on a Sunday night. From the first notes of the show-opening White Stripes’ song “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” onward, the crowd was on its feet. Lit exclusively by blue lights, White, with a new hairdo that appeared inspired by Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, did what he does best: paint an aural landscape of sublime rock ’n’ roll with his guitar brilliance and bluesy vocals. Continue reading →

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Singular songwriter Chris Isaak takes to the Keswick stage

Chris Isaak | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Chris Isaak | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Whether you hear Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” for the first time or the 50th, it is still unlike any song from 1989 or 2014. And to see Isaak performing this and any of the dozens of songs he has created or covered is a must-see. I finally caught him on Friday at the Keswick and was as ecstatic with the show as the rest of the nearly sold-out crowd. Continue reading →

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Twang and Rock in Rittenhouse: Katie Frank, Divers, DJ Lisa Love play Philly Weekly’s Concerts in the Park

Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

On Wednesday night Rittenhouse Square played host to the first of two Concerts in the Park sponsored by Philadelphia Weekly. The 24th year of this concert series kicked off with three woman-fronted acts: DJ Lisa Love, Folk Fest-bound band Katie Frank & The Pheremones and Divers. It was a diverse mix of musical interests on display, from the Americana and roots of Frank to the indie rock of Divers, with some classic hip-hop thrown in from Love. Continue reading →

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Tori Amos dazzles Verizon Hall with a career-spanning set

Tori Amos
Tori Amos | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

On Sunday night, Tori Amos took Broad Street by storm. At the nearly sold-out Verizon Hall, Amos, armed only with her Bosendorfer piano, a keyboard and an organ, unlocked her musical treasure-trove for a stirring 20-song set.

Theoretically touring behind her 2014 album Unrepentant Geraldines (she only played two tracks from the album), Amos dug deep into her catalog and her diverse musical interests. Continue reading →

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The Rosebuds played a vibrant set to a packed Boot and Saddle

The Rosebuds | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
The Rosebuds | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

We all have bands we love that we wish would make it big. Among mine are The Rosebuds. They certainly have found success, as Merge signed them back in 2003 and they have worked with big-name collaborators like Justin Vernon. The well-attended Boot & Saddle show on Thursday night showed a demand for their indie-pop aesthetics. But at the end of the day they should at the very least entertain a full house at Union Transfer. Why? Harmonies, percussion, keys and strings floating between early ‘60s rock, Hall and Oates and the dance floor make them a unique, creative force that exists in a class of its own.

Ivan Howard, with his newsboy cap and rich vocals, and Kelly Crisp, front-and-center on keyboards with sweet harmonies at the ready, were a joy to watch. The one-time married couple are completely in-synch musically, leading The Rosebuds current line-up. Among the mix were drummer Rob Lackey, guitarist Brian Weeks and bassist and back-up vocalist Mark Paulson. Continue reading →

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Lera Lynn and The Wallace Brothers Band bring Eagleview two sides of Americana

Lera Lynn | Photo by  Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Lera Lynn | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

On Tuesday a sublime summer night was the backdrop in Eagleview Town Center in Exton, PA for a double-header free concert of Lera Lynn and The Wallace Brothers Band. Both artists pulled from the roots music / singer-songwriter tradition, but with two distinctive takes on it.

First up was the alt-country Lynn. Touring behind her new release of The Avenues, Lynn and guitarist/producer Joshua Grange stung the night with notes of rock and Americana. Continue reading →

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Aaron and the Spell closed out Pastorius Park’s summer concert series with Philly soul

Aaron and the Spell | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Aaron and the Spell | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

This past Wednesday, Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill hosted their final outdoor concert of the summer featuring Aaron & The Spell. With gorgeous weather as the backdrop for their twilight concert, Aaron Brown and his seven bandmates spun a soulful 90-minute set that wandered the realms of rock, R&B and folk to the delight of the hometown crowd. Continue reading →

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The Flatmates, Literature and more showcase past and present indiepop styles at Connie’s Ric Rac

The Flatmates | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
The Flatmates | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

On Thursday, Connie’s Ric Rac played host to a quartet of time-traveling indie pop acts. Bringing the past to the present was the recently resurrected 1980s U.K. band The Flatmates. Playing music inspired by the sound fashions of the time, whether it be the dreamy (Tender Vision), jangle-pop (Expert Alterations) or a toned-down Cure (Literature), the rest of the lineup were appropriate complements.

With two original members in tow — Martin Whitehead on guitar and Rocker on keyboards — The Flatmates played classics like “Shimmer” alongside songs from an upcoming release and a cover of Prince’s “When You Were Mine.” With new vocalist Lisa Bouvier leading the charge, the songs were quite infectious and had the compact crowd shaking their hips. Despite playing the second-to-last set of the night, they were certainly the highlight.

But each of the other bands had their shining moments, with Philly bands Tender Vision and Literature bookending the night. The reliably elusive Adrianne Gold, formerly of Catnaps, fronted Tender Vision with her catchy hooks. The six-piece may not always have been tight, but their potential was palpable. Baltimore-based Expert Alterations rocked well, while Literature turned the lights down and got the crowd to dance into early Friday morning.

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Melding Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and 1950s rock, Keren Ann dazzles at World Cafe Live

Keran Ann | photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Keran Ann | photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Keren Ann is a singular musical presence. On Saturday, she played a solo set upstairs at World Café Live to a crowd that treated each hushed tune with reverence. Melding Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and 1950s rock into a contemporary context, Keren Ann played a sublime 75-minute set.

Switching back and forth from an acoustic and an electric guitar, Keren Ann proved to be a doyenne of dynamics. Her words would linger in between her picking as nary an audience member could be heard; it was as if her words stuck to the air in the room. The only thing to bring you back to Earth from such songs as “Not Going Anywhere” was the applause or the boisterous noises coming from downstairs. Keren Ann deftly played off of the gathering below, spinning a tale throughout the evening about a wedding with arguments about the catering, dueling mothers-in-law and a stoned cousin.

Remarking on the rarity of her solo shows, Keren Ann expressed how in such situations it’s best to play them totally stripped-down, without loops. She excelled with this, whether playing to Americans’ fondness for French tunes (like “Que n’ai-je?”) or the stellar opening track to her most recent album 101 (“My Name is Trouble”). With knowing smiles, guitar flourishes and a finely tuned voice, Keren Ann was done, like a dream on a warm Philly night.

Bonzie, aka Nina Ferraro, opened. Playing Philadelphia for the first time, she showed off some raw rock talent in a solo form.

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A casual night of rock and conversation as Ted Leo and Aimee Mann’s The Both headline Union Transfer

The Both | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
The Both | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

When Aimee Mann and Ted Leo took the stage Saturday night at Union Transfer as The Both, they started chatting away. Their banter throughout the night ranged from Quaker meetinghouses to Jeb Bush to Paul Stanley of Kiss. They actually had to stop themselves so they could start playing music. This familiarity, paired with their vast live experience, put them at ease with a crowd and made for a glorious night of music. Playing all 11 songs from their self-titled debut plus selections from their respective catalogs, Mann and Leo were a true delight.

Though coming from seemingly different musical spheres, Mann and Leo paired nicely. Switching off lead vocal duties, with Leo leading on songs like opener “Gambler” and Mann beginning “You Can’t Help Me Now,” they expertly interwove their voices. Their spacing on stage, with the great divide between them filled by drummer Matt Mayhall, allowed for frequent encounters in the middle, more in line with a guitar-and-bass handshake than punk jamming. But that makes sense, as Leo’s harder sensibilities are more muted with The Both.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Mann and Leo showered love on Philly itself. Before “Save Me,” Mann regaled the crowd with the odd tale of playing the song during the Liberty Medal ceremony for Hilary Clinton at the National Constitution Center last year. And they seemed very happy to remember opening Boot & Saddle and filming part of the video for the catchy “Milwaukee” there. And before they broke into the tune, they even riffed on a Philadelphia-centric rewrite.

Two other highlights were of differing calibers. There was the humor in someone calling for the Leo song “Bottled in Cork” and Mann and Leo deliberately misunderstanding the request. They first claimed to hear the call for actor Bud Cort, but that devolved to the more playful “Butt Court.” (And, for the record, when they did play “Bottled in Cork,” it rocked.) The encore kicked off with another grand gesture as The Both launched into “Voices Carry,” the 1985 ‘Til Tuesday tune that was Mann’s first major success. In introducing the song, she shared her excitement for Leo’s falsetto. It certainly worked as the penultimate song before their wonderful Thin Lizzy cover, “Honesty Is No Excuse.”

Nick Diamonds and Evan Gordon of Islands opened with a bizarre set of songs by Islands, The Beatles, Wilco and Sinead O’Connor. The Both will return to Philadelphia for a Free at Noon concert at World Café Live on Thursday, May 15.

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