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Free At Noon Flashback: Caitlyn Smith gives Starfire a solo makeover

Caitlyn Smith | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Caitlyn Smith released her debut full-length record Starfire last month, but her songs have already been topping the charts for years – sung by the likes of Dolly Parton, Meghan Trainor, James Bay, Lady Antebellum, and so many more. Smith has refocused her songwriting expertise on her own life, crafting vivid, powerful lyrics from the stories and experiences that she’s collected while living and working in Nashville.

For today’s Free At Noon show, Smith’s already intimate tracks were made even more so during the solo performance. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: The James Hunter Six performs from new record, Whatever It Takes

James Hunter Six | photos by Ashley Gellman | agellmanphotos.com

Following jazz-funk trio Hambone Relay’s set, today’s Free At Noon doubleheader continued with blues and soul outfit the James Hunter Six. The afternoon performance kicks off the English group’s US tour in support of their brand new record, Whatever It Takes.

James Hunter’s gritty, soulful voice continuously and effortlessly moved between commanding the crowd’s attention and serving as an instrument itself, thrown around in incredible range and style that was difficult to mimic when he led a call-and-answer bit during the last song. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Philly’s Hambone Relay brings sunshine on a cloudy day

Hambone Relay | photos by Ashley Gellman | agellmanphotos.com

“I was you guys every week,” said Rob Tait, now onstage behind the drums instead of part of the Free At Noon crowd gathered in World Cafe Live. Tait was joined by organist Mark Brown and guitarist Luke Ferracone, who together are Hambone Relay.

The Philadelphia-based trio’s modern, jazz-funk-psychedelic grooves in no way matched the gray skies outside. Their dynamic, up-tempo tracks immediately heightened the energy in the room and never let it drop during the set. The trio performed tracks from their 2013 self-titled debut and their 2016 record Free Hugs all the way to their latest release, American Hi-Fi. Continue reading →

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Philly saxophonist Steve Davit of Marian Hill steps out on his debut single “Forward”

Steve Davit | Courtesy of the artist

“Imagine Kamasi Washington met Snarky Puppy at a party, got drunk and recorded some funky jams. Then I came along and chopped it all up.” Saxophonist Steve Davit emailed us this description of his debut single as a solo artist, released today, and it holds up. “Forward” is a guaranteed mood-boosting and body-warming sonic gift wrapped up and delivered in three minutes of groovy beats and smooth sax. Continue reading →

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Steady Hands speaks from the heart in newest Shaking Through feature

 

Steady Hands | photo via Facebook

Steady Hands meets Shaking Through…there’s a fantastic pun in there somewhere. On November 15th, Weathervane Music released the latest installment of their extremely excellent “Shaking Through” documentary series that dives deep into the the makings of a record and the humans behind it. Up this time is Steady Hands, the project of Modern Baseball’s Sean Huber that is rounded out with Andrew Kirnan, George Legatos, William Lindsay, Evan Moorehead, and Richard Straub, all familiar faces from around the Philly scene. It’s Huber’s project, but it’s one he wanted to share with his friends. “From the beginning, I just wanted to be more of a collective than anything. I’ve always wanted the energy of everyone just collaborating, enjoying what they’re doing.”

The episode follows the making of Steady Hands’ track “Magazines” at Miner Street Recordings, where Huber worked as video editor and recorded his first Steady Hands songs when they were just a small side project as a favor from producer Brian McTear. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Dhani Harrison’s guitar doesn’t weep, it wails

Dhani Harrison | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

A slice (of a slice) of Beatlemania descended upon 31st and Walnut on this pleasantly frigid Friday as the crowd that had lined the street shed their layers and traded in coffees for beers, fortunate to be among the few to have secured a spot at a show that had sold out days before. Nothing less could be expected for Dhani Harrison, and this boundless enthusiasm never wavered during his Free At Noon set – the applause heard after each song was near equivalent to what another band might expect to earn after their final bows. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Nick Hakim, soul machine, introduces himself to World Cafe Live

Nick Hakim | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Sensual funkiness: a combination of words I’d never expect to throw together but that fully encapsulates the sound of Nick Hakim and his four-piece backing band during today’s Free At Noon performance. The New York-based artist released his debut full-length Green Twins in May and wrapped up a US headlining tour in Seattle on Tuesday, and beginning next week he can be found opening for Fleet Foxes during the European leg of their Crack-Up tour. Continue reading →

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Lady Alma, Jacqueline Constance, Killiam Shakespeare and more to rock a Hurricane Relief Fundraiser at Johnny Brenda’s

Lady Alma performing at Back To Basics | Photo by John Vettese

The power of music to bring people together for hope and healing in the face of utter devastation is tried and true, and following the series of hurricanes that have ravaged the south and left entire populations without power, food, shelter, or near enough resources to sustain and recover, focused help is needed just as much as hope and healing.

On October 21st, Flygirrl and Walking Bear will present The Healing at Johnny Brenda’s. This fundraising event will feature live music and spoken word performances from an incredible spectrum of local performers — from Philly neo-soul icon Lady Alma to contemporary sound-sculptor Jacqueline Constance, dynamic hop-hop duo Killiam Shakespeare and more — and 100% of the proceeds will benefit The Family Resource Center in St. Thomas, USVI through their “Adopt A Family” program. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Rostam delivers expansive experience with Half-Light

Rostam | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Rostam Batmanglij released his debut LP Half-Light on September 15th, and to say that it was a long time coming is a definite understatement. It was six years ago this month that Rostam’s first solo track – and now Half-Light track – “Wood” was released on Soundcloud, as his band Vampire Weekend recorded their chart-topping Modern Vampires of the City. 

The years since have seen Rostam leave Vampire Weekend in 2016 to pursue solo work, produce tracks on a number of records for genre-spanning artists from Solange to Carly Rae Jepson to Hamilton Leithauser, and all the while steadily release singles that would eventually become his solo debut.

Half-Light is fifteen tracks of mystical, musical magic, and at today’s Free At Noon show Rostam performed seven of them (plus a bonus Vampire Weekend cover). Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Josh Ritter celebrates his new Gathering at World Cafe Live

Josh Ritter | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Friday was a big day for Josh Ritter: it marked the official release of his ninth studio album Gathering following 2015’s excellent Sermon on the Rocks, and he and the Royal City Band were able to bring their foot-stomping, fast-talking tunes to World Cafe Live before flying to Minneapolis to kick off the record’s tour.

The singer-songwriter has long been a favorite of XPN and its members, and the crowd that had been steadily lining up outside quickly filled the venue to capacity in anticipation of his triumphant return. As one of the audience observed, “Nothing like Josh Ritter to get the people out of the woodwork.” Continue reading →