35mm of Firefly: Revisiting the Woodlands on film

Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover’s annual Firefly Music Festival is just about the friendliest mega-festival you’ll ever go to.

I say this, worth noting, not having been to Bonnaroo, or Coachella. Nor am I old enough to have experienced the grandaddy of all festivals, Woodstock — though I’m sure there’s a lot fiction and myth and revisionist history surrounding that concert’s supposed transcendence.

Compared to the current circuit of gigs in brutal-summer-sun-on-asphalt settings, however, the ones taking the let’s-cram-everybody-in-a-municipal-park approach, the ones making even the strongest lineup more daunting than it needs to be — Firefly is clearly a festival designed with the fans in mind. This is my third year covering it, and each year, incremental improvements are made, reacting to the previous year’s challenges while keeping an eye towards growth. In 2016, spending a long weekend in the Woodlands amidst a throng of 100,000 fans felt remarkably…comfortable. Water stations were plentiful, opportunities for cooler air and shade were at (most) every turn, music was never far – nor was it in your face either. Getting from the Lawn Stage at the festival’s south gate to the main Firefly Stage on the north side took maybe 20 minutes in the rockiest of conditions; in the past, it required over a half hour  to traverse the festival grounds.

In any number of ways — the forest setting and ubiquity of nature surrounding the show, the super upbeat signage, the way corporate branding was (for the most part) downplayed — Firefly shared experiential commonalities with homespun, hyper-local hippie-oriented musical gatherings dotting the map. The differences being, of course, the colossal pop stars (The 1975, Mumford and Sons, Ludacris, CHVRCHES) and soon-to-be pop stars (Pell, Kaneholler, Quilt, Son Little, Civil Twilight) filling out the lineup. This is, after all, an event where music industry mechanizations move the gears. It’s just refreshing to see that this can be done while still providing a positive experience for the fans.

For this year’s Firefly, I documented it with a mix of digital photography and a roll of 35 mm film on a Canon AE-1. The film is back just recently from the lab, and today I present its highlights to you, with some running commentary. See my digital pictures from Friday here, from Saturday here and Sunday over here. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Liz De Lise

Philly singer-guitarist Liz de Lise writes arresting songs rooted in observational honesty – whatever tone they happen to take. When we first met her early this winter, the music was jazzy folk-pop, and reminded us of 70s Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro records. The project at hand was a series of monthly DIY videos completed across the course of 2015, preceded by 2014’s To & Fro – an acoustic collection based on stories the songwriter gathered from homeless youth she encountered in Portland, Oregon.

In the time since, de Lise has developed her sound into something more cerebral – yet no less catchy. As we hear in this Key Studio Session, she has two chief collaborators: Mark Watter on bass and vocals (you might know him from Rosu Lup, Caroline Reese + the Drifting Fifth, and his own band Howlish), and a tight network of effects pedals and loopers, which she works with skill and finesse (I guess that’s more of a tool than a collaborator, but you get the picture). The set swallows you in sound, with layers of vocal rounds floating alongside askew lead guitar reminiscent of St. Vincent’s Annie Clark. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head

Listen to The Avett Brothers’ new album True Sadness

The Avett Brothers | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN |
The Avett Brothers | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN |

Folk scene favorites turn rock stars The Avett Brothers are back this summer with a long-awaited new album called True Sadness. As we heard when they previewed the album at a knockout Mann Center show last month, the new album is a heartfelt mix of revved-up pop tunes and sentimental ballads with exquisite production by Rick Rubin.

The album is out this Friday on American recordings – and you can get an advance listen to the entire thing care of NPR Music’s First Listen. Continue reading →


Watch Lil Uzi Vert climb from the Roots Picnic stage to a rooftop to the XXL Freshmen Cover

Lil Uzi Vert at Roots Picnic 2016 | via Okayplayer

Lil Uzi Vert is a name that’s been on the lips of hip-hop prognosticators for the past year and change. His rabid fans and the hype they create has led to more than a few “next big thing” proclamations, and one look at his performance from Roots Picnic shows you just why. The 21-year-old, who hails from the Francisville section of Philly, was in the midst of his song “WDYW” – a hammering rager with a clubby beat – when he decided to take shit, literally, to the next level.

The account of it by Okayplayer’s Elijah C. Watson is particularly vivid. Continue reading →


New vibes from Philly’s Harrowgrove: listen to “What You Wanted”

Harrowgrove | photo courtesy of the artist

Philly soundscaper and songwriter Harrowgrove grabbed our attention with his debut record last year – he’s a captivating mix of Drake and Trent Reznor, and he’s kind of restless at that. September’s Holy Broken Free Spirit was followed up by a string of noir-ish music videos, and followed again by an EP called The Chandelier In the Room. And now, main man C.J. Davis returns with a standalone jam called “What You Wanted.”  Continue reading →


Watch Philly’s Good Girl totally slay their America’s Got Talent audition with an En Vogue cover

WE GOT 4 YESSES❗️ Thank you @nbcagt ITS OUR TIME lets go #GOODIEGANG ❗️❤️💛💚💙

A photo posted by Good Girl (@wearegoodgirl) on

YAAAS QUEENS, in the parlance of our times. It’s looking like Philly R&B vocal four-piece Good Girl – who we’ve been fans of since hearing the 90s Kinda Love mixtape a while back – might be making its way onto TV screens around the nation this summer, care of NBC pop star radar America’s Got Talent.

The band appeared on the show this week, and auditioned for judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel with a fierce performance of En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go.” Everybody seemed to love it…even Cowell who, in a far cry from his dream-crushing days in American Idol, is all smiles and sunshine.   Continue reading →


Sanity, Nesto the Owner and Tyce join forces on “Into The Future”

Sanity | photo courtesy of the artist

Here’s a cool collab among several local hip-hop scene heads that came across our desk today. For his new single “Into The Future” – which loosely interpolates Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” – Philly MC Sanity taps Tech N9ne alum Nesto The Owner for a verse and Tyce, formerly of R&B buzzmakers MPrynt, to deliver the hook. The song is catchy and thoughtful, and the video is a look at the world through the eyes of a child wandering his neighborhood with headphones on.  Continue reading →


Hardwork Movement is the first signing to Chill Moody’s #nicethingsMUSIC label

Hardwork Movement
Hardwork Movement | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Very exciting news for our favorite nine-piece Philly hip-hop band of the moment: Hardwork Movement is officially the first artists to sign to Chill Moody’s digital label #nicethingsMUSIC. Their single “Take Time” will be available via iTunes tomorrow, and the band plays Spruce Street Harbor Park next Thursday, June 23rd with New Sound Brass; more information on that free show here. Continue reading →


PREMIERE: Jet Set Sail returns with the Core Reduction EP

Jet Set Sail
Jet Set Sail | photo courtesy of the artist

For a while, punk trio Jet Set Sail had a regular presence on the Philly DIY scene; regulars at West Philly’s Golden Tea House might even recall the illustration of bassist Mike Larkey hanging from the balcony, keeping close watch over each show.

But the band has spent the past couple years adult-ing to some degree; their bio on Facebook now cheekily describes them as “2/3 law degree, 1/3 asshole.” But that doesn’t mean the dudes have been dormant, and today we’re happy to bring you a first listen to their latest EP, Core Reduction, which is out tomorrow in a joint release by Broken World Media (home to scene favorites The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die and Rozwell Kid) and Songs From The Road Records (Teen Suicide, Old Gray).

Of the new release, singer-guitarist Matthew Klein tells us the set was recorded at Golden Tea House with help from Travis Arterburn from Clique over an extended period of gestation.  Continue reading →


PREMIERE: Haggert Mctaggert teams up Braden Lawrence of The Districts, Keith Abrams of Pine Barons, debuts with “2nd Door Floor”

Haggert McTaggert | photo courtesy of the artist
Haggert McTaggert | photo courtesy of the artist

It’s one those collaborative outings that just sort of happens when you’re part of a super fertile music community. Haggert Mctaggert brings together Braden Lawrence, drummer for The Districts, and Keith Abrams, singer-guitarist of Pine Barons. Both of those dudes each have another-other band on their plates – Straw Hats for Lawrence, Tremellow for Abrams – but this project has ben an on-again off-again thing for about five years. Today, we bring you their debut single, “2nd Door Floor,” which finds these erstwhile heavy rockers exploring more moody, textural soundscapes in the vein of Elvis Depressedly and Alex G. Continue reading →