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Belle and Sebastian and Andrew Bird delight generations of fans at Mann Center

Belle and Sebastian | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

“Young and hip and beautiful, that’s what we used to be,” Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch laughed. He was referencing the opening set by Porches, now almost three hours ago at the Mann Center, but spun it into self-depricating self-reflection in the middle of a lively and high-energy set.

It was a night full of many instruments, and attendees got their money’s worth with hours of music during sets by Porches, Andrew Bird and a delightful selection of songs by Belle and Sebastian. After Porches played some of their synthpop jams, including a very deadpan version of “Car,” Andrew Bird took the stage with his band. Continue reading →

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It’s springtime in Fishtown as The Decemberists hold court at The Fillmore

The Decemberists | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
The Decemberists | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

A packed crowd at The Fillmore stalked the stage, awaiting Colin Meloy and the rest of The Decemberists’ circus-like performance, full of tongue twisted lyrics and fantasy. Touring on their What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World LP from 2015, old fans were shouting for earlier favorites like “Red Right Ankle” and “The Chimbley Sweep.” After opening with a passionate “Crane Wife” parts 1, 2, and 3, everyone was at ease. Continue reading →

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Church of Psychedelic Soul: Jim James makes The Fillmore Eternally Even

Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

It was a packed house last night for My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James at The Fillmore Philadelphia. Touring on his new album, Eternally Even, he played many of his inherently spiritual, yet psychedelic, songs accompanied by his unmistakable voice.

James played a 90-minute set plus a 30-minute encore, whipping his hair around during all guitar solos, donned in a suit and sunglasses, as always. The light show accompanying the band had the color spectrum of a Phish show, but with the nuance of a contemporary art installation. It really felt like some millennial-filled church, with all eyes drawn to the worshiped James, as soft lights flickered like stars of the lid. Continue reading →

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Reliving the magic with Brian Wilson at the Tower Theater

Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

If you close your eyes, it sounds just like it’s 1967 in Santa Monica. Or Pacific Beach or Carmel-by-the-Sea; whichever California beach town you prefer. But when you look around The Tower Theater on this particular fall night in Upper Darby, the room is filled with Beach Boys fans who have certainly been singing along to these surf rock songs for decades. There are also 11 people on stage, instead of the original five, but still creating that same magical, harmonic sound.

Brian Wilson is seated front and center at his piano, like he’s done for weeks as he’s traveled around the country for the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds tour. Al Jardine, former Beach Boy, is next to him on guitar. The crowd stands and cheers as the band comes out, and they open with “California Girls.” Every song ends in a standing ovation, even gooey ballads like “In My Room” and “Surfer Girl.” Continue reading →

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Lake Street Dive and The Suffers bring down the house at The Fillmore

Lake Street Dive | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Lake Street Dive | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

Friday night’s show at The Fillmore was all about tons of dancing and stellar front-women. The sold-out event began with The Suffers, from Houston, Texas, rocking the stage, as lead vocalist Kam Franklin strutted the stage in a green sequined dress. Franklin really warmed the crowd up with her soulful voice, big stage presence, and inspirational story of finding a second career in music. The ten-piece band is touring behind a couple EPs and their self-titled LP, and has gained a strong following for a band whose debut album is only a month old.

By the time Lake Street Dive arrived, the crowd was ready to keep dancing after chugging a few more cocktails at one of the many bars. Singer / frontwoman Rachael Price began their set with a similar enthusiasm as Franklin, as she danced and smiled with each sultry lyric. The band just released their fifth LP, Side Pony, with Nonesuch Records, and with it came a new energy and a clean look; Price donning high heels and a skirt as she stands at center stage. By the middle of the set, Price pulled a scrunchy out of her hair, shot it into the audience and the band went into the title track “Side Pony,” which really got the audience boogying. Continue reading →

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Tones of Nostalgia and Newfound Self-Discovery: Graham Nash holds court at World Cafe Live

Graham Nash | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Graham Nash | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

Everyone knew Graham Nash would sell out World Café Live, even with another sold out performance at Free at Noon the following day and a second headlining show the following night. Nash’s sweet tenor voice alone could have kept the room warm for an evening in February, but rounds of drinks and a candlelit stage added to the ambiance.

Nash took the stage with guitarist Shane Fontayne just at 8 on Thursday, colorful tapestries covering the unused instruments. Playing old favorites, accompanied by lighthearted stories, the crowd didn’t need to warm up to Nash. It was a familiar setting, fans of many decades that had without a doubt stood at CSNY concerts years ago. Now they were just sitting, instead, with craft beer and waitresses. Continue reading →

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The Fillmore Philly opens in style with Hall & Oates and a hit-packed set

The Fillmore Philly | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com
The Fillmore Philly | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

“We’re in Fishtown, right?” Daryl Hall asked the crowd at the opening night of The Fillmore Philly. “I used to be scared to come up here.”

Many concertgoers, clad in suit jackets and pumps, arrived to the venue wet after having parked their cars beneath I-95. Warm, colorful and even swanky, The Fillmore felt like walking into a high-end club after trekking through the pothole-filled streets of Fishtown on the first night of October. Continue reading →

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Revolution In The Shadows: Desaparecidos took on Union Transfer

Desaperacidos | Photo by Kate McCann | flickr.com/photos/126156760@N07
Desaperacidos | Photo by Kate McCann | flickr.com/photos/126156760@N07

It was obvious most of last night’s crowd at Union Transfer came to see Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, and not post-hardcore screams from the performer, but the audience lit up for Desaparecidos anyway. Landon Hedges took center stage, in an attempt to take Oberst out of the spotlight, despite his lead vocals on most of the songs off of Payola, their new LP. Even after 13-years passing since Read Music/Speak Spanish, fans still new every word to scream along with Oberst and Hedges and were happy to sing along with new songs “The Left is Right” and “Radicalized.” Continue reading →

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Scenes and stories from the 56th annual Newport Folk Festival

An all-star tribute to Bob Dylan featuring Dawes, Robyn Hitchcock, Gillian Welch, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more | Photo by Kate McCann
An all-star tribute to Bob Dylan going electric featuring Dawes, Robyn Hitchcock, Gillian Welch, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more | Photo by Kate McCann | flickr.com/photos/126156760@N07

There is a certain energy in Newport, Rhode Island the day before the folk festival begins. Maybe it’s because venues and movie theaters hold pre-fest shows to welcome everyone into town, or because you’ll see Deer Tick wandering the streets after midnight in pirate costumes. But this year it was the anticipation surrounding the newly added “unannounced” guests of the weekend.

“I saw Bono earlier!” “It’s definitely CSNY.” “Man, I don’t know, I think I heard Dawes was playing XPNFest this year instead.” The rumors began Friday morning, and didn’t cease until the minute the show ended Sunday night when over 40 people were all on stage singing “Rainy Day Woman,” paying homage to Dylan’s 1965 infamous set at the NFF. Continue reading →

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Ariel Pink sparkled at Union Transfer

Ariel Pink
Ariel Pink | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

If the first things you noticed about Ariel Pink were his royal blue-spiked heels, you were about to get doused in glitter. The rest of Union Transfer probably saw his messy bun, bouncing as he walked, as they watched from a distance. “We are Ariel Pink, and this is White Freckles,” he said as a frantic guitar began. Immediately there was glitter. A mosh pit of fans psyched off his new release, pom pom, began jumping and tossing entire jugs of glitter over the crowd.

Continue reading →