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David Byrne will bring his “most ambitious show since Stop Making Sense” to Hershey and Wilkes-Barre

David Byrne | photo by Eric Ashleigh for WXPN

When David Byrne last played Philadelphia, it was at the Tower Theater during his collaboration with St. Vincent, Love This Giant — where the stage was wide open and filled up with horn players, various guitarists and a keyboard station up on risers. Byrne found the setup freeing and inspiring, and is patterning his 2018 run off of it.

As he posted in an announcement on his Facebook page earlier today, Bryne developed an even more open design for his current run of shows, which will include material from a new album he’s releasing in 2018. Working with Clair Brothers in Lancaster County, Byrne developed a setup that made the stage a completely blank canvas, free of risers and drum platforms, free of monitor wedges and hovering stage-hands.

“I’d experienced a taste of this on the tour I did with St. Vincent, where all the brass players were mobile,” Byrne wrote. “With everyone mobile, I realized the stage could be completely clear. If we could have the monitors in our ears, the amps off-stage and the lights up high, then we had the possibility of a completely empty space.” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Young Statues

South Jersey indie rock four piece Young Statues became something of a surprise hit about six years ago.

Led by songwriter Carmen Cirignano, the band started super casually; just a writing and recording project with friends at Haddon Heights hub Gradwell House Recording. Those sessions became their self titled debut, which was picked up by Boston label Run for Cover Records, and Young Statues was off to the races touring with Saves the Day and The Early November.

The band’s sound, undeniably indebted to Death Cab and The Promise Ring, played well with those crowds, but their tastes went beyond the emo canon. Their 2014 sophomore LP The Flatlands are Your Friend, explored darker and moodier sounds and textures, and a covers EP showcased a collective fondness for Billy Bragg, The Magnetic Fields and Ryan Adams. And then life came calling. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Five holiday soul classics from the York Street Hustle

York Street Hustle | photo by Seeetpea Shots Photography | courtesy of the artist | sweetpeashots.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. But sometimes we get a little seasonal, and as it gears up for its final show of 2017, Philly’s York Street Hustle weighed in on its favorite sounds of the holidays.

Philadelphia ten-piece York Street Hustle always brings the party, whether they’re celebrating R&B, soul and Motown hits from the stage of World Cafe Live and Underground Arts, or they’re celebrating with stringed lights and tinsel at their annual holiday spectacular.

With this year’s show set to take place at Union Transfer tomorrow night, December 8th, we asked York Street’s Imani Roach to share the band’s five favorite holiday jams. Read on below, and get tickets and more information on tomorrow’s show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Discoveries of 2017

Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. To kick off the series, Key editor John Vettese recaps six of his favorite Philadelphia music discoveries from the past 12 months.

Earlier today, I was listening to a conversation with Johnny Brenda’s talent buyer Chris Ward on the 25 O’Clock podcast, and he made a very interesting point. The bumper crop of musical talent in Philadelphia, or what is often perceived as such, is no sudden phenomenon. It’s not as though, pre-2006, the city was in some dire straits or a lesser creative state, and has subsequently grown and evolved to the present-day bursting of the proverbial seams.

The truth is that amazing music — rap music, rock music, pop music, soul music — has always existed in the 215; in many cases (the Gamble & Huff era), it’s downright thrived. But as Ward pointed out, a more recent confluence of factors and persons and places and institutions over the past decade (like him and JBs, I might add, or like our friends at The Deli and Jump, or like countless others) have helped amplify the scene tremendously.

Every year around this time, as we launch into The Key’s annual year-in-review extravaganza, I begin by sitting down and reflecting on the new artists and new-to-me artists who, over the past twelve months, have knocked me sideways. There have always be artists like this, whether or not the outside world is paying attention. And there always will be; even if, at some point, the zeitgeist declares Philly to be “over,” if you look and listen, you’ll find them continually creating, somehow, somewhere.

Continue reading →

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Listen to Johnny Brenda’s talent buyer Chris Ward on the 25 O’ Clock Podcast

Chris Ward at Johnny Brenda's | photo by Scott Troyan for WXPN | scotttroyan.com
Chris Ward at Johnny Brenda’s | photo by Scott Troyan for WXPN | scotttroyan.com

From drumming Pattern is Movement across four albums and several U.S. tours to holding down the fort at Fishtown live music institution Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia’s Chris Ward is one of the most seasoned players currently active in Philly music.

Over the past two weeks, Ward checked in with Dan Drago of Philly’s 25 O’Clock Podcast for a two-parter episode touching on all aspects of his involvement in the scene.

Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks releasing a collection of demos called Harder Love in January; listen to “Passing Out”

Strand of Oaks’ Harder Love | via Bandcamp

A good argument for arriving early to Strand of Oaks‘ three-night stand at Boot & Saddle this weekend: main man Tim Showalter will be selling limited edition vinyl copies of Harder Love — yes, you read that correctly, HardER. This is a new collection demos from the 2016 studio sessions for this year’s Hard Love.

The album comes out January 19th on Dead Oceans Records, and is limited to 500 copies. Continue reading →

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It’s Time I Got Back: Watch Weezer play the Electric Factory in December of 1996

Weezer | still from video

Whether you’re a 90s alt-rock fan in general or a Weezer fanatic in specific, here’s a Philly show you probably wish you’d gone to. December 5th, 1996 — a headlining set from Rivers Cuomo and company at the Electric Factory, featuring an intensely awesome setlist.

Opinion on the quality of Weezer’s musical output in the time since this gig is fiercely divided — personally, I can hang with them through about 2008’s Red Album, which is really only the midway point of their discography. Others think anything post-reunion (2001’s Green Album was technically their “comeback” after a five-year hiatus, remember?) makes for horrendous listening; others still will tell you that 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End and this year’s Pacific Daydream are valiant efforts by artists who don’t want to be pigeonholed by nostalgia for their early work.

But just like I don’t see anybody rushing to the defense of last year’s super creepy single “Thank God For Girls,” I also don’t see many people disputing the take that the band’s self-titled debut (“The Blue Album”) and its followup Pinkerton are the two strongest works in the Weezer canon. And so, back to that setlist for this Electric Factory show — it features every single god-dang song from Pinkerton (even the acoustic “Butterfly,” what the hell?) as well as seven of Blue’s ten songs (absent are “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” “Holiday” and “Only in Dreams”) and a soundtrack selection, “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly,” from the high school comedy Angus. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: And so it goes, some things are meant to be

Overwinter | photo by facebook.com/overwinterpa

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Oh my. Has it really been… *gulp* …43 days since our last edition of Items Tagged Philadelphia? Kindly disregard the word “weekly” in that intro blurb up there, and trust me when I say that I never stopped listening to all the amazing Philadelphia music making its way on to Bandcamp this autumn, even if I fell short on time to tell y’all about it.

Hopefully today’s installment, which rounds up some 24 releases that I dug in recent weeks, will make up for it. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ryan Tennis

Somewhere, somehow, Ryan Tennis is probably playing music right now. The Philly singer-songwriter has logged quite a few frequent flyer miles this year, between his summer tour in Colombia and the autumn European run he just completed with percussionist Joseph Keim. Both excursions mixed up busking shows and venue performances, and we caught up with Tennis and his band in the between-time this fall when he and his full band were home in Philly. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key Studio Sessions: Killiam Shakespeare

Over the past few years, Philadelphia’s Killiam Shakespeare has become known for its nimble incorporation of sick beats and space age instrumental sprawl with skilled under-the-radar rappers and singers from all around the Philly scene. In that context, this five-piece sounds like a production unit cranking out some seriously left-of-center beats and backings for the next generation of local hip-hop and R&B (not to mention legends — they had a Freeway collab on last year’s Killiam Season1). But take away the voices, and just listen to the music — like we hear in this week’s Key Studio Session — and it becomes something else altogether.   Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head