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The Key Studio Sessions: Trap Rabbit

A couple years back, renowned jazz trumpeter Christian Scott introduced the concept of “stretch music” in his album of the same name. The idea was one not of total re-invention or boundary-smashing, but rather of taking one’s creative vocabulary and stretching it to include as much style and range as possible, incorporating uncommon influences while remaining true to one’s musical roots.

Philly duo Trap Rabbit could easily qualify as stretch music for the local scene…though they might prefer their own category of “weirdo beat rock.” Indeed, Arjun Dube’s complex drumbeats are prominently present in the band’s work, propping up and goading on Logan Roth’s expressionistic keyboard playing. Continue reading →

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Tormato: Watch prog titans Yes wild out at The Spectrum in June of 1979

Yes at the Spectrum | still from video

When UK progressive / psych rock trailblazers Yes took their ninth album Tormato to the road in 1979, it was the last run of their classic lineup. A year later, founding vocalist Jon Anderson departed the band, along with Rick Wakeman, the keyboard virtuoso whose playing defined the band’s sound in the 1970s. Although Anderson did rejoin the band’s ranks by the “Owner of a Lonely Heart” era, and Wakeman was back on board for a few stints in the 90s, the split at the turn of the 80s marked a dramatic shift in the band’s identity.

This Tormato tour performance, filmed live at The Spectrum on June 20th, 1979, captures the final time the adventurous Yes of its initial incarnation played Philly. Continue reading →

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Lake Street Dive played a free concert at Stroudsburg’s Sherman Theater

Lake Street Dive at the Sherman Theater | photo by William Harris for WXPN | facebook.com/lacertaphoto

Boston folk-pop favorites Lake Street Dive played a free concert to a sold-out crowd at Stroudsburg’s Sherman Theater last night. The concert was put on by WXPN, and featured opening remarks from General Manager Roger LaMay, morning show team Kristen Kurtis and Bob Bumbera, and assistant music director Mike Vasilikos. The band’s set included the upbeat new “Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts,” crowd favorites like “Red Light Kisses” and “Bad Self Portraits,” and covers of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” and Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl.” Check out scenes from the show by photographer William Harris, and give him a follow on Instagram at @lacertaphoto. Continue reading →

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Listen to Mondo Cozmo’s Josh Ostrander in conversation with Helen Leicht on the XPN Midday Show

Helen Leicht and Josh Ostrander of Mondo Cozmo | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Anthemic modern rockers Mondo Cozmo, the project of Southampton’s Josh Ostrander, will return to Philly to night for a headlining gig at The Foundry of The Fillmore Philadelphia, a teaser of their sure-to-be knockout set at the XPoNential Music Festival this summer.

As a warm-up to the show, Ostrander stopped by WXPN studios for an on-air chat with midday host Helen Leicht — whom he says he’s been sending songs to since he was a kid. When he heard that Leicht was enthusiastic about the band’s debut single “Shine” last year, he said “I couldn’t believe you were finally playing my music!” Continue reading →

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Perfect Imperfection: Ten years later, The War On Drugs’ Wagonwheel Blues is the masterful sound of running on instinct

The War on Drugs, circa 2008 | photo by Travis Newman | via theguardian.com

A tape player winds to a start. Five drum machine hi-hat hits tap out, sequentially. Three notes chime on a glockenspiel. Somebody takes a breath.

These are the most surprising things you’ll hear upon listening to The War on Drugs‘ Wagonwheel Blues ten years after its debut — and they all occur in opening moments of “Arms Like Boulders.” The song abruptly adjusts course into the soaring squeal of a harmonica, fervent acoustic guitar strums, and barreling drums as they converge into an anthem of Kerouacian observations and things felt while driving up California’s arterial highway 101. The lyrics are stream-of-consciousness and pretty far out, but we’ll get to that. For now, let’s consider that non-sequitur patchwork of sounds at the top. It is literally only two seconds long, but it speaks volumes about the band that The War on Drugs was ten years ago and the band it is today. Continue reading →

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Firefly On The Fly: Sunday sundown with Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Lord Huron, Kamasi Washington, Warren G and more

Kendrick Lamar | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

We rolled back into Philadelphia last night around 1 a.m., sweaty and exhausted from the final and hottest day of the 2018 Firefly Music Festival. It started with hip-hop — classic West Coast g-funk originator Warren G , whose signature jams “Regulate” and “Summertime in the LBC” played perfectly in the early afternoon — and ended with hip-hop — the Pulitzer Prize winning Kendrick Lamar, whose set was gripping and participatory, if a bit phoned-in (he twice told the crowd “This is my first time here in Delaware,” despite playing Firefly previously in 2013). Continue reading →

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Firefly On The Fly: Saturday shines with The Killers, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Lucy Dacus, Alex Lahey and more

The Killers | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Saturday is always the longest haul of Firefly weekend, and we took in a huge range of music today. Pop rock four-piece The Aces started us off on the Lawn Stage, with Philly singer-songwriter Ben O’Neill not far behind in the coffeehouse. A doubleheader of Australian rock featuring Middle Kids and Alex Lahey lifted up our afternoon.

Philly rockers Foxtrot and the Get Down performed a rare acoustic set, something they should get in the habit of doing — these songs sound like they were written to be performed in this intimate, elegant way. Continue reading →

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#NowPlaying at The Key: Eight must-hear songs by James Blake, Palberta, Mykki Blanco and more

James Blake | photo by Brianna Kehone for WXPN // Palberta | photo courtesy of the artist // Kanye West | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

This week’s song selections from Team Key include music that reminds us of a low-budget indie rom com, possibly one involving robots, a minute-long blast of unconventional energy, a sensitive offering from a complicated and confrontational artist, and more.
Continue reading →