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Yeah Yeah Yeahs return in triumphant form to bring the rock to the 215 Block Party

Yeah Yeah Yeahs | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

This past weekend, Chicago brewery Goose Island hosted their traveling Block Party at the Electric Factory. The event included reasonably priced food trucks, $3 Goose Island beers (from the 4.5% ABV variety all the way to their fancier fare upwards to 13% ABV) and oh yeah, music! The lineup was a mix of Philly, Chicago, and the return of New York’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The weather in Philly up until this weekend had been like walking around in a warm bath. While it is nice that the humid icky weather finally broke on Friday, having the 215 Block Party outside on an overcast drizzly evening put a slight damper on what was intended to be an end of summer party.   Continue reading →

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Listen to a Philly-style Broad Street Run playlist

clockwise from left: Hardwork Movement | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN // Marian Hill | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN // The Roots | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Hop Along | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN // King Britt | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Dr. Dog | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

On Sunday May 6th, thousands will gather at Broad and Olney and run 10 miles south to the Naval Yard for the 39th annual Broad Street Run.

Many of us runners have been to this rodeo several times, and while no race is the same, I find I have “beats” I follow during the course. First, Olney to the Temple University (around Broad and Cecil B Moore) is when I get warmed up, get used to the runners around me (and sometimes discover with horror that they are not prepared at all). Next, I move on to the more serious stretch, now that I’ve sprinted past the people who took the “fun” part of this a little too much to heart. This lasts until about Broad and Race. Then it’s bottleneck time around City Hall, where the phones come out for selfies with the skyline and where most family members stand to find their loved ones and shout their names repeatedly. I always use this time to slow down and go with it. Sometimes I’ll even spot a celebrity or two along this stretch.

Next up is the second set of “let’s get serious” running as I make my way through South Philly, read the hilarious signs people have held up for motivation and head towards that last stretch, under the tunnel, and through the Yard.

I know it’s not regulation, but I listen to music while running. Since I’m not an elite runner by any means, I need something to help soundtrack my epic journey through the city. This year, I’ve come up with a playlist that’s about 100 minutes long that encapsulates each part of the Broad Street Run. And, of course, it’s all Philly artists, from Vicki Sue Robinson to The Roots, Hurry to Meek Miil, Japanese Breakfast to Patti LaBelle, The War on Drugs to King Britt. Listen below, and use it for training, for race day, or simply for a good sampling of the sounds of Philly. Continue reading →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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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 →