Watch Depeche Mode pioneer a guitar-free rock show at The Spectrum in June of 1990

Depeche Mode at The Spectrum in 1990 | still from video

Rockist sorts love to wallow in the gloom-and-doom idea that we’re supposedly existing in some sort of cultural dark age because major concerts no longer feature guitar as the front-and-center primary means of expression. As though artists like CHVRCHES, Bastille, Lorde, and Imagine Dragons are incapable of “rocking” with their pulsing, beat-forward aesthetic. As though super trad acts Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters aren’t still packing arenas, with next-gen modern rock acts like The Wonder Years not too far behind, selling out numerous nights at theater-size spaces.

And most crucially, as though guitar-free rock hasn’t been a thing for going on thirty years at this point. Exhibit A: this vintage VHS bootleg of Depeche Mode performing at The Spectrum in South Philadelphia, recorded on June 14th, 1990. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Dominic Angelella

There was a time that, whenever I’d write about Philly singer-guitarist-multi-instrumentalist Dominic Angelella, I’d begin by launching into a litany of local and national acts he’s been involved with over the past ten or twelve years. I’m not going to do that here — at this point, there are too many of them. And beyond being an exceptionally busy person in the supporting cast of other local and national bands, Angelella is a tremendous songwriter in his own right, and this spring he blessed us with a whole new batch of tunes. Continue reading →


Five things to expect during The Voidz residency at Boot & Saddle this month

The Voidz | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

This month, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes is moonlighting with his other band, The Voidz, in a residency of Monday night gigs at Boot & Saddle in South Philadelphia. Reminiscent of The Strokes’ famed run of weekly shows at The Khyber while they were recording Is This It, it’s a unique instance of a big rock star returning to a smaller room, this time with a band that indulges the weirdest, wildest whims of his songwriting. We attended opening night last Monday, and today we bring you a glimpse of what to expect if you have tickets to any of the remaining shows. Continue reading →


Celebrate Prince’s birthday with this beautiful gospel cover, newly uncovered from 1983

Prince’s Piano & A Microphone 1983 | via Brooklyn Vegan

Today would have been Prince‘s 60th birthday, and to mark the occasion, a new release from his storied archives has been announced. Piano & A Microphone: 1983 is nine solo songs performed by Prince and recorded at his studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

The track list includes renditions of “Purple Rain” and “International Lover,” a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” and a cover of “Mary, Don’t You Weep,” a gospel song with roots dating back before the Civil War that is best known in its 1957 recording by The Swan Silvertones. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: &More

It started as a one-off collaboration. Philly singer-songwriter and author Donn T. was working on a new single called “Clear,” a musical companion to her short story “Time to Soar,” and she needed a rapper to provide a counterpoint to her simmering vocal. Enter Chill Moody, veteran West Philadelphia MC who’s been kicking out some serious jams since 2010. Working together on the cut felt effortless and natural for them — not unexpectedly so, as both artists have spent years cultivating their personal brands, building up their fan bases and running their own record labels. They’re stylistically different, but nevertheless simpatico, and as soon as the track was done, &More was born.   Continue reading →


Listen to Amos Lee’s new single “No More Darkness, No More Light,” watch his interview with XPN’s Helen Leicht

Amos Lee
Amos Lee | photo Brantley Gutierrez | courtesy of the artist

Last month Philadelphia singer-songwriter Amos Lee announced his seventh studio albumMy New Moon, which comes out on August 31st via Dualtone Records. While initial word indicated that the songwriting was going to be lyrically very personal, his first single from the project — premiered today on Billboard — finds Lee turing his gaze to more universal issues and emotions, spurred on by current events.

“No More Darkness, No More Light” bounces and bops to an highlife-inspired arrangement as Lee sings about making one’s way through troubling times in search of a better world. The song was written, and Lee was in the process of recording it, when 17 people were killed in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Lee re-wrote the lyrics overnight

Continue reading →


One Night Down: Dead & Co. in concert at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion

Dead & Co. | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

Last night, Bob Weir, John Mayer and their Dead & Co. companions kicked off a two-night stand at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion. They played two sets covering Grateful Dead classics — from “Jack Straw” to “St. Stephen” to “Ripple” — as well as covers of Georgia Crackers, The Crickets, and Paul Simon.
Continue reading →


Your Roots Picnic set times for 2018 are here!


Get ready for a jam-packed day of music, kicking off at noon with Zahsosaa and going till who knows when as The Roots jam into the night with Dave Chappelle2 ChainzBrandy and more. See you at the #RootsPicnic!


Items Tagged Philadelphia: Coming soon to a basement near you

My Name Is Tom | via

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

Somewhere in the push-pull between blue skies and grey hearts, the thing we like to think of as summertime 2018 is finally, for the most part, here. There will be gigs on porches and gigs in basements, there will be packed nights in clubs and rainy days in fields. And that’s just this weekend! For real though, as our musical agenda starts to fill up here in Philly, heading into the equinox and beyond, let’s not forget about the unknown. The songs and sounds we haven’t heard yet that may occupy a big portion of our listening in the coming months.

Here are six standout Philly releases I found on Bandcamp this month — some are out in full already, some are just teasers for projects that drop in June — and they run the range from blown out head trips for stormy afternoons to sidewalk chalk speckled romance in the form of classic soul connecting with retro-futuristic rock. Dig in below, and always remember to keep extra space on your playlist.  Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: The Retinas

As Philly indie rock trio The Retinas roared from their song “Checked Out” into “Dissatisfaction” in WXPN studios, I turned to my coworker Mike Vasilikos and said “I keep expecting them to launch into a Pixies song.”

That is not, I should note, a diss of any kind. Yes, these Philly gents wear their influences proudly on their sleeve, and yes there was a bit of a “Wave Of Mutilation”-ness to that one-two punch on the opening. But they sound great doing so, and what The Retinas bring to the table is an energy and chemistry that’s simply intoxicating to watch. Continue reading →