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NonCOMM Recap: King Tuff transports crowd to the cosmos with a space horn

King Tuff | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

“Anybody know what this is?” asked Kyle Thomas, the colorful frontman of King Tuff, as he raised a peculiar cylinder device in his hand. He looked side to side, faced the crowd, and deadpanned: “It’s called the space horn.”

And with that, the wonderfully strange cosmic flute beamed the last bit of the crowd into Thomas’ zany, trippy, mystical outer space universe as “Neverending Sunshine” began to play. Although, with opening tracks like the saucy video game odyssey, “Raindrop Blue,” the laid-back and sunny daydream, “Thru the Cracks,” and the funky disco jam, “Psycho Star,” the packed upstairs PRX stage audience was already by that point pretty fairly transported to another world. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Brandi Carlile makes Free at Noon a family affair

Brandi Carlile | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Family, home, love, and forgiveness. These are the virtues interwoven in every powerful note of Brandi Carlile‘s music.

“I feel like it’s important to talk about my family in any format I can,” shared a beaming Carlile midway through her packed Free At Noon performance. Already having left the audience in awe after opening acapella-style with “The Eye” aside integral members, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, as well as shattering hatred with the shining 2018 powerhouse anthem, “The Joke,” — which ushered in a string section and backing band — Carlile took the time to acknowledge her love for her wife of almost six years, Catherine Shepherd, her four-year old daughter, Evangeline, and her new eight-week old daughter, Elijah. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Natalie Prass breaks out the disco ball in groovy set

Natalie Prass | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

If there’s one thing I learned from Natalie Prass’s NonCOMM set, it’s that she knows how to groove.

Playing new songs off her upcoming album, The Future And The Past, the performance ranged from slower, smoky jazz ballads (“Hot For the Mountain,”) to bluesy disco jams (“Sisters,”) and a funky pop party (“Short Court Style.”) Throughout each, Prass and her snazzy, jazzy band had a blast as they danced and smiled along to the infectious rhythm. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Jacob Banks stares into our souls with eyes shut tight

Jacob Banks | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

Jacob Banks rarely opens his eyes when he sings. He shuts them tight as he stands still; his sneaker-clad right foot poised slightly forward in prime defensive stance, while his sometimes fluid, sometimes erratic hand movements betray a small glimpse into the world he sees behind his eyelids.

That, as well as his booming, gravelly voice, of course. Etched and jagged, with persevering undertones of hope, Banks’ vocals welcome an intense vulnerability where burdens of pain and truth are laid bare — a kind of beautiful transparency that instantly fills you with an understanding that Jacob Banks was meant to be an artist. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM recap: Gang of Youths drive out depression with guitars and a dance party

Gang of Youths | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

“We have one more seven minute depression fest for you,” David Le’aupepe, the Aussie-born lead singer of Gang of Youths, began as he introduced one of the last songs of the night. I thought he was kidding. Depressing? This was the most uplifting stuff I’d heard in a long time.

With a perpetually building beat, shredding guitars, and soaring vocals, Gang of Youths’ music doesn’t let you wallow in your sadness, it summons you to tackle it and turn it into a dance party. Which is exactly what the charismatic frontman demonstrated as he jumped into the crowd and brought the party to the dance floor during song “Let Me Down Easy.” Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Phoebe Bridgers provides an oasis of calm amongst the storm

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Watching Phoebe Bridgers‘ set today was the most delightful form of deva vu. Having the pleasure of seeing her at this exact stage just a few months back, I actually forgot for one moment that I was at NonCOMM. This was not just a set in the schedule of many, it was a Phoebe Bridgers concert.

Though the hustle and bustle of the exciting NonCOMM festivities can sometimes set an overcast of foreboding hurriedness, Bridgers and crew were not the least bit affected. With the clock ticking away on the tight thirty minute schedule, time seemed to slow down as Bridgers allowed the songs to be what they are: slow and building, weary and atmospheric, sad folk ballads. Continue reading →

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Folkadelphia Sessions V shows folk’s many faces with Julie Byrne, Sammus, Harmony Woods, and more

Julie Byrne | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Though the inherent weary restlessness of folk music can never truly be contained, local folk organization, Folkadelphia, has a home here at WXPN on the air and at The Key through Fred Knittel’s studio sessions. This past year hosted a particularly gem-filled handful of folk discoveries, which is documented in the fifth installment of the Folkadelphia Sessions compilation featured below. Continue reading →

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No Thank You shares short gem “Cubic Zirconia” ahead of new album, All It Takes To Ruin It All

No Thank You | photo by Dan Lidon | courtesy of artist

Just one year since No Thank You released their first album as a band, Jump Ship, the Philly punk trio is gearing up to release a new one. Titled All It Takes To Ruin It All, this sophomore record is set for an April 6th release date via Lame-O Records, and you can listen to the first single, “Cubic Zirconia,” below. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Turn back time with The Cactus Blossoms at Johnny Brenda’s this April

The Cactus Blossoms | photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN
The Cactus Blossoms | photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN

Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum crooned their way into our hearts a couple years back at Non-COMM, and now — The Cactus Blossoms being the Southern gentleman that they are — will kindly pay Philly not one, but two return visits via Johnny Brenda’s this April.

Frequently compared to the Everly Brothers due to the uncanny likeness of their harmony-driven, vintage country rock n roll sound, Torrey and Burkham will continue supporting their 2016 debut album You’re Dreaming, which ranges from light and campy feel-good tunes such as “Stoplight Kisses” and “Clown Collector,” to more retro, relaxed tracks “Mississippi” and “Powder Blue.” Continue reading →

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Laughter to Tears: Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy show a range of emotions at World Cafe Live

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A country song began to play. Like the very commodified, mainstream country radio kind of song. The kind of breezy, late summer day, wind-blowing-through-your-hair-as-you-drive-your-pickup-truck kind of country song.

I heard the phrase “parked out by the lake” more than a few times, but didn’t think much of the glossy genre’s fairly standard fare. The question of why Phoebe Bridgers chose this track in particular to walk onto stage to though — that nagged at my noggin. I mean, there are so many options, Pheebs. Poised at the mic, she even began to sing along a bit. Well, dang, I thought; attributing definite deeper layers I just didn’t pick up on as the reasoning. I mean, it must be a meaningful tune for such a prolific songwriter to single out.

Ha. What I learned later is that the song in question — the very aptly-titled “Parked Out by the Lake” — is actually a parody. “I’m parked out by the lake,” the very real and actual bluegrass / gospel artist, Dustin Christensen, begins in that perfectly gritty and melodic rasp, as his very not real alter-ego, Dean Summerwind. “Eighty miles from Sante Fe,”he continues. “And I’m sitting here just parked out by the lake. If you’re wondering where I parked, I’m out parked by the lake. It’s the lake that’s eighty miles from Sante Fe.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Perfection. Semi-akin to Bo Burnham’s iconic parody, “Pandering,” the song is a joke. And it’s exactly this kind of wry and multi-dimensional, mildly cynical but completely truthful melding that so perfectly encapsulates both of the artists who graced the stage at World Cafe Live this past Wednesday. Continue reading →