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Chick Corea, Bela Fleck go back to nature at Longwood Gardens

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones | photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

It doesn’t get much better than Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA when it comes to idyllic surroundings  — so it’s no wonder that the Chick Corea Elektric Band and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones chose to play in a secret garden of sorts to the sounds of summer.

The sold out performance opened with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones as the frontman magically emerged from the shrubs lining the sides of the stage strumming the song, “Big Country”, a personal favorite since I first heard on the 1998 album Left of Cool.

Their sophisticated sound mixes bluegrass, jazz, rock, classical, funk, world elements and who knows what else into an eclectic yet highly accessible musical assortment. There’s never a shortage of extremely high-level musicianship. The current lineup – which is also the band’s original lineup – consists of Howard Levy on harmonica and piano, Future Man on percussion and drumitar (a novel electronic instrument of his own invention), Victor Wooten (Future Man’s brother) on bass, and Béla Fleck on banjo. Continue reading →

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Love Rules: John Legend plays an empowering set at BB&T Pavilion

John Legend | photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

In 1995, John Stephens — aka John Legend — stepped onto the campus at the University of Pennsylvania as a senior in high school. Now, 22 years later, he brings to the Philadelphia region the gift of music therapy. With his soulful and soothing voice, his wise and calm manner of speaking to his audience, his graceful and easy stage presence, and his thoughtful and emotional songs, he delivered an uplifting and memorable show at BB&T Pavilion Monday night that elevated the live experience to new heights. Continue reading →

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The xx and Sampha dazzle the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage

The xx | photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

Summer musical performances in West Fairmount Park is always a holistic experience – the skyline, landscape, stars, and grooves.  That rang true Wednesday as the Skyline Stage at the Mann kicked off their summer season.  Introduced in the summer of 2012, the Skyline Stage gives the Mann an opportunity to expand its concert offerings with a more intimate experience.  An experience necessary for the stellar bill of Sampha and The xx.

Sampha opened the show just as the sun started to sink in the sky behind backlit trees.  Leading with “Timmy’s Prayer,” a ballad co-written by Kanye West which fully displays how Sampha’s voice hits you on a more spiritual level.  His vocal delivery from start to finish was strong and emotive.  His falsetto, seemingly more delicate than most, rarely came close to its breaking point no matter how high he pushed it. Continue reading →

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Tycho chill out with Epoch and visuals at the Electric Factory

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Tycho | photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

Music’s purpose is to express and modulate emotions. We use it to soothe, psych up, woo, enrage, sadden and cheer each other, or ourselves. It’s a gift that we share.

For Scott Hansen, a San Francisco based artist and musician, he started to share his gift in 2001 through the form of a once small project called Tycho. Fast forward fifteen years and his musical expression turned into the Grammy-nominated album, Epoch, released in 2016. Whether it’s through the outlet of his visual work under ISO50 or the audible landscape of Tycho, Hansen has carefully led the growth of a bedroom side project into a fully live band that not only captures their audience’s attention, but also their imagination.

It’s no surprise as to why Epoch was nominated. With its electronic beauty, the album glides from dreamland to nostalgia while keeping a progressive beat to carry the listener along its journey. An ambient music that for me, evokes strong visual representations, and this is where Hansen’s ability to conjure images of peaceful and serene atmospheres, not only in his musical endeavors, but in the visual work surrounding the musical performance is what truly sets Tycho apart.

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Duran Duran balances the new and the classic at BB&T Pavillion

Duran Duran | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN
Duran Duran | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

Generation X was out in full force on Thursday night for Duran Duran‘s gig at BB&T Pavilion. Though the band is now 35 years into its recording career, most fans came to hear the old hits — and the band did a masterful job of mixing things up a bit with both old and new rooted in their signature synthpop sound. The female-voiced roar that went up as they hit the stage was deafening, and the dance party that would ensue was even more epic as thousands re-lived memories from the 80’s and 90’s. The 18-song set only included five tracks from Paper Gods, their latest release and first in five years, filling the rest of the list with a majority of their hits from over the years. Continue reading →

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Phish plays to the Phaithful with a crowd-pleasing setlist at the Mann

phish
Phish | photo by Doug Interrante

Written with my friend and seasoned Phish fan Pat James

The second night (June 29th, 2016) of a double header Phish performance at the Mann Music Center was not only highly anticipated by the throngs of Delaware Valley Phaithful, but also viewed with cautious optimism, as an ominous forecast threatened to pour heavy rains and storms on the thousands of lawn and terrace attendees. Those present at the Mann shows a couple years ago will recall a similar event, where all those on the lawn were directed back to their vehicles until the storm had passed over. Perhaps coincidentally, the Mann Center remained out of the storm’s path, and the good times only rolled on from there. Sensing the anxiety from the unpleasant forecast, Phish provided its fans with an absolute treat in the first set, with many familiar favorites mixed in with covers, rarities and brand spanking new material.

A tight and energetic “Wilson” opened up the first set (with a brief “Character Zero” tease in the warm-up moments). Trey Anastasio seemed loose from the onset, with some nimble guitar fills during the Gamehendge classic. Next up was Son Seals cover “Funky Bitch,” which continued the great energy from the first song. This Mike Gordon-sung tune had the band in sync early and in my opinion portended well for the rest of the evening (a personal favorite). “No Men In No Man’s Land” is a funkified fan-favorite and provided the framework for the foursome’s first jam of the night. Keyboardist Page McConnell explored both his keyboard and organ set-up and Anastasio led a melodic and thoughtfully composed guitar solo. At the conclusion of this song, Trey addressed the Mann crowd and commented on how much the band enjoys playing under the impressive wood canopy (sure beats the E-Centre — and no I’m not giving credence to whatever bank has the current naming rights to the Camden amphitheater). Continue reading →

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Dave Matthews Band opens two-night Camden run with hits and rarities

dave matthews band
Dave Matthews Band | photo by Doug Interrante

I was 13 years old when my mother took me to my first Dave Matthews Band show at the First Union Center in Philadelphia on November 30th, 1998. All it took was the opening song, “Last Stop,” and I was hooked. The band’s fusion of jazz, rock and alt-country was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Their music was complex, intense and full of raw emotion.

This year the band embarked on their ‘standard’ summer tour with a little more purpose — celebrating 25 years of masterful musicianship, dynamic jams and a loyal fan base. By the time the two-night stand at the BB&T Pavilion comes to an end, the band will have performed its 55th show in the greater Philadelphia region. Their first show in the area was at 23 East Cabaret (currently the Ardmore Music Hall) in Ardmore, PA on July 30, 1992. Quite a run it’s been for a group of musicians who have stuck together through the best and worst of times.

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Mac De Marco fills the Factory with energy and emotion

Mac De Marco | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN
Mac De Marco | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

For me, live music is always about the experience. Taking music that provides the soundtrack to one’s life and injecting yourself with its rhythms by witnessing it in its truest form. On Thursday night, Mac DeMarco did just that by injecting a sold out crowd at the Electric Factory with pure energy and emotion. 

This was my first time seeing Mac DeMarco live, but I had previously seen footage of his performances (and some brilliant comedic videos) so I was aware that he engages with his audience differently than most. Right from the start, Mac showed a personality that brought his music to a different level. There was an added dimension to the music that was at times playful and goofy, while at others both vulnerable and sincere. His endearing personality spread through the crowd as the night progressed and all that could be felt was positive energy.  Continue reading →

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Polica reclaims Union Transfer with its new United Crushers

Polica | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN
Polica | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

I’ll never forget my first time…the 2012 Non-COMMvention. Non-COMM is the annual gathering of non-commercial triple-A stations, held every may at World Cafe Live.  From the first row, my eyes immediately locked on a seductive, yet graceful Channy Leaneagh.  It was a new sound, a new experience, and I was hooked from the start. 

The band Leaneagh fronts – Minneapolis electronic rock outfit Polica –  took the stage on Monday night to a rolling bass that reverberated throughout Union Transfer.  As the building shook, the mood for their signature interplay between drums and bass began to pull the audience deeper into their sound – much like my first time experiencing them.  In support of their third album, United Crushers, Leaneagh opened the set with the album’s first three tracks in sequential order.  “Summer Please,” “Lime Habit.” and “Someway” all showcase the bands wonderful maturation through richer, more textured sounds – very much a departure from the rawness that was their first album, Give Up the Ghost, in 2012. Continue reading →