The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s songs that defined 2017

Hurray for the Riff Raff | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Maureen Walsh reflects on songs that echoed the complicated feelings of the year.

Last year, I was hoping that 2017 would be a time for healing. Welp, that didn’t go as planned. This year, we learned a lot hard truths. Some of these truths made a lot of us anxious and angry. Artists were anxious and angry too and used their art to reach out to us so we could all feel together. Continue reading →


Listen to Questlove chat with Philly music icon James Mtume in his Questlove Supreme podcast

A post shared by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

For the last year, Roots drummer and musical history buff, Questlove, has been presenting his podcast Questlove Supreme on Pandora. The weekly show features musical legends telling their stories about the industry and creative process. For the past two weeks, QLS has featured South Philadelphia-born multi-instrumentalist and producer James Mtume.

Two episodes are not nearly enough to cover his eventful life and career but the Questlove Supreme team do their best to get it all in. Philly native Mtume was first known for being Miles Davis’ percussionist during his more experimental years in the mid-70s. He then began working with fellow Davis sideman Reggie Lucas on more conventional music and the two wrote “The Closer I Get To You,” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Despite doubts by Flack’s label, the song was not only included on her 1977 album Blue Lights in the Basement, but it became a huge hit single. Continue reading →


Easygoing Vibes, Explosive Force: The War on Drugs makes a powerful homecoming at The Dell for a good cause

The War on Drugs | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

When it was announced that Connor Barwin’s fourth annual Make The World Better Foundation fundraising concert was being held at the Dell Music Center and that The War On Drugs would headline, questions arose. For some, the question was “What the heck is The Dell?” and for those familiar with the city-run venue in Fairmount, the question was “Why The Dell?” The answer to the latter is that the venue is looking to throw in an occasional rock or country band to their normal summer mix of funk, R&B and soul music. Based on the crowd who entered The Dell “ooh”ing “ahh”ing, the venue most likely will not have trouble filling seats for these outlier acts. Continue reading →


Paul Williams, The Devil and Rock and Roll: Phantom of the Paradise comes to World Cafe Live

The Phantom of the Paradise | via Amazon

In a world where Paul Williams is the devil and the world is ruled by his music, Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise exists. Remembered by many as a schlocky, lesser-known De Palma work, Phantom is a film about artistic compromise and music as a commodity where style goes before substance. You’ll have a chance to see it on the big screen April 15th at World Cafe Live with a special DJ set from XPN’s Robert Drake. Continue reading →


This Is Not a Rickroll: Five songs to get you excited for Rick Astley’s Electric Factory gig

Rick Astley, circa 1987

This Saturday, UK crooner Rick Astley will bring his classic 80’s pop stylings to the Electric Factory. At the time of his rise, many saw his songs as bubblegum fluff, another product of the Stock / Aitken / Waterman production team that also worked with Bananarama and Kylie Minogue. And true, all three acts suffered from stylistic similarities of some form or another during their time with SAW. However, like Kylie, Mr. Astley has got the goods and is the real deal.

Many of the kids out there reading this might know him best as the reason “Rickrolling” is a thing. “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and its resurgence in popularity has been very very good to Rick. He has a sense of humor about it and even personally Rickrolled a Macy’s Day Parade performance in 2008. But there’s more to this artist than a meme.

His voice sounds better than ever and his new album, 50, is a collection of gospel pop tunes that should bring comfort and positivity in these troubling times. Don’t think though that Rick Astley has gotten self-righteous and ultra serious, though. He also plays in a cover band with his mates and the catalogue includes The Sex Pistols and The Smiths. Recent YouTube tour clips show that this Saturday’s show is going to be a lot of fun.

Here is a list of five songs I’m really hoping he sings on Saturday. The Rickrolling is cute and all, but let’s get down to business. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s best music videos of 2016

David Bowie’s Blackstar | still from video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, contributing writer Maureen Walsh recaps five of the year’s best music videos.

While the music video is no longer a requirement in order for audiences to discover an artist’s work, it is still a viable way for them to give us a visual representation of a mood, a way to supplement the song they have created, and also a way to promote their art.

Since not everyone is creating videos, those that do normally do so because they have a great idea for one. 2016 brought us videos that were weighty and visually striking. Water and rebirth were the theme of the vast majority of videos I picked on my list. 2016 was a bummer of a year for many, let’s hope the waters of healing reinvigorate us for 2017. Continue reading →


Watch Oasis play the first-ever show at the CoreStates Center 20 years ago today

Oasis at Wells Fargo Center | still from video
Oasis at Wells Fargo Center | still from video

In the 90’s, The Spectrum gave way to a bigger and better (?) South Philly arena initially known as the CoreStates Center. This name lasted two years before it became the more Philly-centric First Union Center (“Yo, FU, get it?”) and is now the Wells Fargo Center.

Its first proper concert, held 20 years ago today, was a lineup of Manic Street Preachers, Screaming Trees, and a band “breaking the States” called Oasis. I did not attend this show; had I gone, my obsession with Oasis probably would have been much more short-lived. I was intensely into Oasis; Liam Gallagher seemed like the best guy ever. I owned all of the important bootlegs, books, singles, and t-shirts. I belonged to the newsgroups, message boards, got mad at anyone who “slagged off” the Gallagher brothers. The whole lot, mate. Needless to say, when I read this review from Tom Moon in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it was upsetting to me. Moon mocked Liam being frustrated with having a sore throat — sore throats suck, what did this music critic know of such things? Liam’s attitude was Oasis, maan!

A few years after this, I did see Oasis at the First Union Center and Liam pretty much pulled the same nonsense. Continue reading →


John Carpenter brings horror scores to life at The Keswick

John Carpenter | photo by Kevin Thomas | courtesy of the artist | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
John Carpenter | photo by Kevin Thomas | courtesy of the artist |

Going into Saturday night’s John Carpenter show at the Keswick Theater, I had no idea what to expect. Would he stop the show to check on the latest on the NBA’s Summer League? Would he need to leave to chase Pokemon? Based on his reputation via the internet, anything was possible.

However, once the lights dimmed and the band came out, it was clear that he and his band were there to take John Carpenter film fans on a trip down memory lane. A shot of Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin came up on the screen and the crowd went wild as the main theme from the Escape From New York score was performed. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s top five life-affirming songs of 2015

Kendrick Lamar in the "Alright" video
Kendrick Lamar in the “Alright” video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2015 incredible. Today, Key contributor Maureen Walsh shares the year’s most life-affirming songs.

2015 has been the year of battling injustices, terrorism, and Trump.  Sometimes you need someone to sing you a song that will get you through the insanity.  Luckily, a group of artists delivered. Continue reading →


AlunaGeorge brings powerful pop to a Monday night dance party at Union Transfer

AlunaGeorge | Photo by Doug Interrante
AlunaGeorge | Photo by Doug Interrante

I had the pleasure of seeing AlunaGeorge at Liverpool Sound City fest two years ago after a long day of travel and music. That night, despite my exhaustion, they blew me away with their sound that reminded me of my favorite acts growing up: Lisa Lisa, Cover Girls, Good Girls, etc. along with a fun stage show. Monday night at Underground Arts was even better than that night at The Garage. Continue reading →