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NonCOMM Recap: Editors use sheer energy to keep the crowd on its feet in the final stretch

Editors | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

By day four of NonCOMM, it’s not surprising that some of the crowd was beginning to feel a little weary. Some were already on planes or trains, heading back to their everyday lives, but plenty others stuck around, coffees and/or beers in hand, to catch the final two acts of this year’s convention.

After a perfect warmup set by Belly, British rockers Editors had the honor of closing out the party on the NPR Music stage. And party they did. Before the band came onstage, I overheard someone behind me in the audience say “Are you ready to rock?” I thought to myself, “Haven’t we been rocking all week?” But Editors, with their charismatic charm and songs that filled the room to the brim, seemed to almost redefine what it means to rock. Continue reading →

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Cayetana’s Augusta Koch and Three Man Cannon’s Matt Schimelfenig team up as Gladie, debut with Everyone Is Talking But You

Gladie | photo by Adam Peditto | via gladie.bandcamp.com

Over the last several months, Cayetana’s Augusta Koch has been quietly playing new material in solo shows around town, trading her usual electric guitar for an acoustic one and letting her distinct voice fill smaller, quieter spaces. Now, we know where those songs were going — not to Cayetana (who released their last album just a year ago), but to a new project entirely. Gladie makes its debut with a full band EP, Everyone is Talking But You, out now, and a celebratory Philly show next week.

Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Starcrawler takes the crowd from shock to smiles and back

Starcrawler | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

I think it’s safe to say that Starcrawler isn’t your typical band to appear at a public radio event. No delicate and polished tunes here, folks. And I’m not sure that anyone in the audience of music people and dedicated radio listeners was ready for what Starcrawler would bring to the stage.

But shock quickly turned to smiles as the LA four-piece, fronted by Arrow de Wilde, shook things up this second day of NonCOMM. The band just released its self-titled debut album, and brought a steady selection of its fierce and driven — and loud — punk tunes. De Wilde and crew made full use of the small upstairs stage, pushing the limits of mic and guitar cords and pushing the audience out of their comfort zone and into a way better zone. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Ricky Hell & The Voidboys jam econo on the PRX stage

Ricky Hell and the Voidboys | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Indoor sunglasses on a rainy day. Leather and leopard print. Screeching clarinet. These are just a few of the things Ricky Hell & The Voidboys brought to the stage tonight to kick off night 2 of NonCOMM.

As it turned out, that was exactly what was needed to lift the crowd’s spirits after the hours-long lull following today’s Free at Noon sets. The band’s name may be a riff on 70’s punk legends Richard Hell & The Voidoids, but Ricky and crew are shaping up to be pretty iconic in their own right. Though they formed just last year, the Cleveland band has already perfected their brand of high-powered, offbeat, energetic “gutter pop.”

Ricky Hell & The Voidboys released a self-titled album in March, and they brought several of its 13 short, punchy songs to World Cafe Life tonight for what may be the only set in NonCOMM history to run under schedule. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Courtney Barnett gives the Free At Noon crowd a taste of what’s to come

Courtney Barnett | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Australian singer, songwriter and all around force of nature Courtney Barnett will release her highly anticipated new record Tell Me How You Really Feel this Friday, and she’ll headline Union Transfer tonight, but before all that, she stopped by NonCOMM to give us a preview of what’s to come.

Barnett’s appearance this afternoon was a long time coming for many in the audience — she was in Philadelphia last fall touring behind her collaborative project with Kurt Vile, and again to play guitar in her partner Jen Cloher’s band, but this is the first time we’ve seen her play solo material since the last album cycle (which included an appearance at #XPNFest 2015). For both die-hard Barnett fans and those of us who have been waiting for ages to see her (uh, me), today’s incredibly dynamic performance met, exceeded, and blew away any and all expectations.

Performing in trio form, Barnett and band delivered a fast-paced and powerful eight-song set to the midday crowd, alternating between the forthcoming record’s singles, brand new soon-to-be-released songs and some older favorites off 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett is a musician so essential to XPN listeners that sometimes it’s easy to forget she came from all the way across the world to perform here; when the band opened with Tell Me How You Really Feel track “City Looks Pretty,” it seemed that Barnett could easily have been singing about Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Rayland Baxter rocks a warm and sunny sampling of Wide Awake

Rayland Baxter | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Rayland Baxter doesn’t give himself enough credit. In between songs during the Nashville songwriter’s set at NonCOMM tonight, Baxter said to the audience, “Just in case anyone was wondering, I have no clue what I’m doing up here.” But on the NPR Music stage with the big crowd and the bright lights, that statement couldn’t have seemed farther from the truth.

Baxter filled the room with a half hour of laid-back surf-rock-meets-alt-country tunes; a warm and sunny sampling from Baxter’s forthcoming record Wide Awake, which will be released July 13. The set kicked off with a brand new song, “Amelia Baker,” which Baxter said he and the band had never played live before, and followed it with another new one — “Strange American Dream.” Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Mitski turns up the volume on the NPR Music stage

Mitski | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.comMitski | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

“Hi. My name’s Mitski. It’s spelled M-I-T-S-K-I, if you want to google me.” That’s how the inimitable Mitski opened her set tonight at NonComm, but it quickly became clear that most of the audience knew exactly who she was. And as NPR’s Bob Boilen pointed out when he introduced the set, even if you’ve never seen Mitski before, she is the kind of performer who will immediately grab your attention and never let go.

When Mitski’s name first appeared on this year’s NonComm lineup, I was a bit perplexed. She hadn’t released new music since Puberty 2 (a Key top album of 2016), but the mystery was solved with the announcement of her forthcoming record Be The Cowboy, out August 17. Mitski released the new album’s first single “Geyser” and its video earlier this week.

Though “Geyser” wasn’t a part of tonight’s set, Mitski treated us to selections of her previous work, including Bury Me at Makeout Creek standouts “Francis Forever” and “Townie.” Several songs off Puberty 2 were also in the mix; notably “Thursday Girl” and that album’s lead single and emotional whirlwind “Your Best American Girl,” a song so poignant that I’m not kidding when I say I studied it in a college literary theory class. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Iron & Wine will headline The Keswick Theatre this fall

Iron and Wine | photo by Josh Wool | via facebook.com/ironandwine

Iron & Wine, the long-running project of singer/songwriter Sam Beam, has just announced an extensive fall tour that will bring them our way this fall, with a stop at the Keswick Theatre on November 8. Last year, Iron & Wine released Beast Epic, which saw the band return to its earlier, folkier sound. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: First Aid Kit return to Philly to headline The Fillmore

First Aid Kit | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

It’s only been a few months since we last saw First Aid Kit, but the indie folk favorites are already plotting their return. The sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg released their latest album Ruins earlier this year, and have just announced that their tour behind the new record will extend into the fall, with a Philly stop on September 8. Continue reading →

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Meek Mill speaks out on criminal justice reform at the National Constitution Center

Meek Mill
Meek Mill | still from video

It’s only been a matter of days since he was released from prison, but Philly rapper Meek Mill is already turning his hard-fought legal battle into a movement for criminal justice reform. Meek Mill was serving time in a Chester state correctional facility before his two- to four-year sentence for a probation violation was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on April 24. Meek was sentenced by Judge Genece Brinkley, the same judge who convicted him on questionable charges 10 years ago and also allegedly asked the rapper ad his then-girlfriend to record a personalized Boyz II Men cover for her to avoid further legal trouble.

Meek Mill’s imprisonment was widely protested in Philadelphia since his sentencing last November, with rallies outside City Hall, signs emblazoned with #FreeMeekMill and #Justice4Meek, and “Stand With Meek Mill” buses and billboards around town. A few weeks ago, Meek released a video for “1942 Flows,” which contains footage from local protests.

On Thursday, Meek Mill appeared at the National Constitution Center with state lawmakers and Governor Tom Wolf to push for criminal justice reform. Continue reading →