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“A Modern New Wave Fantasy”: Supergroup DREAMCAR make their Philadelphia debut at the TLA

Dreamcar | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Is there anything trickier in music than the formation of a supergroup?  Usage of that term alone feels gratuitous.  Last year’s unveiling of the concept behind DREAMCAR, the creative union between AFI frontman Davey Havok and No Doubt members Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young, arrived in particularly tabloidian fashion – reports were quick to assume No Doubt had replaced their iconic frontwoman Gwen Stefani and – GASP! – Stefani herself went on television to share she wasn’t aware until she read about it on the interwebs.  But on the heels of the May 12 release of its self-titled debut, DREAMCAR is quickly proving itself a horse of a different color, and it’s far better than you would expect. Continue reading →

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“The Music With Which You Want to Go Down Swinging”: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979 rock a pre-Election Night crowd at The Fillmore

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

‘Twas the night before Election, and at the front of the house, a Canadian was declaring, “You’re gonna remember tonight.  And it won’t have a damn thing to do with us.”  Sebastien Grainger, one-half of Ontario-based duo Death From Above 1979, was only one-half correct in that sentiment.

As most of Philadelphia’s music-loving population were gathered just a few blocks south to witness Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi help Hillary Clinton in her final push toward a presidency that would not come to be, the rest of us assembled at The Fillmore to exorcise our anxiety over the coming days with the formidable double-headliner of Death From Above 1979 and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  While we may have been teetering on the edge of doom – moreso than we even realized – we were surrounded by the music with which you would want to go down swinging. Continue reading →

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25 Years Was Worth It: Temple of the Dog plays its first official show at the Tower Theater

Temple of the Dog | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Temple of the Dog | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

It was a show 25 years in the making, and there was only one city strong enough to play host.  “Philadelphia, this is the first Temple of the Dog show!” frontman Chris Cornell howled as he took the stage before a sold out crowd on Friday night – the first of a two-night run at the Tower Theater kicking off Temple of the Dog’s limited-date 25th Anniversary Tour.  “And we did that on purpose, just so you know,” he continued as the band spread its arms wide with the flourishing opening chords of “Say Hello 2 Heaven”. Continue reading →

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From Superhuman to Simply Human: Anthony Green brings his Pixie Queen to Union Transfer

Anthony Green | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Anthony Green | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
There’s no sensation in the world quite like the first breath of fresh air taken once you step out from a sweaty concert hall after a great show.  Especially on crisp Autumn nights, it feels like awakening from a dream.  Last Saturday night was particularly surreal as I took that step out of Union Transfer with the refrain “This feels like a nightmare!” repeating in my head.  As fellow concert-goers weaved around me, they echoed the same melody.  “THIS FEELS LIKE A NIGHTMARE!” they would exclaim randomly, practically skipping to their cars or awaiting cabs.  Such is the strange frenzy that can only be stirred by Anthony Green.

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Steven Tyler goes “Out On A Limb” at Tower Theater

Steven Tyler | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Steven Tyler | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

In case you haven’t heard, Steven Tyler has gone country.  After a year of teasing it, the Aerosmith frontman released his first solo country album, the T Bone Burnett-produced We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, in May of this year.  With an Aerosmith “Farewell Tour” looming in the not too distant future, Steven Tyler is officially on his own and “Out On A Limb”, literally, as he makes his way through a 19-city tour of small venues across the United States, stopping before a sold out crowd in Philadelphia at the Tower Theater on Wednesday night. Continue reading →

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A punk rocker with a blueswoman’s soul, Juliette Lewis rages at Union Transfer

Juliette Lewis | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Juliette Lewis | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

The transition from actor to musician is a precarious one.  Anyone who remembers Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time” or more recently, Scarlett Johannson’s Anywhere I Lay My Head, accepts this as fact.  While there are plenty of arguable exceptions to the rule, in a culture where celebrity equals royalty, music remains the one sacred territory in which a Hollywood connection doesn’t automatically earn credibility.

So skeptical but curious was the mood as a modest crowd peppered the floor of Union Transfer on Monday night in anticipation of Juliette Lewis’ appearance.  The actress, best known for her roles in Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, is back in town for her first U.S. tour since the 2009 dissolution of her band, The Licks.  The Licks reunited in 2015 and interest in Lewis as a musician renewed this year with the release of the Michael Rapaport-directed short form documentary Hard Lovin’ Woman.

The film, which takes its name from a track off Lewis’ 2009 Omar Rodriguez-Lopez-produced full-length solo debut Terra Incognita, allows a glimpse into Lewis’ life as she all but abandons a 20 year-long career in acting to pursue a raw passion for rock & roll and independently release her own music.  It presents a compelling case for why you should make it a point to see a Juliette Lewis show at least once in your life.  Still, in the moments leading up to Lewis’ call time upon Union Transfer’s stage, a small handful of hardcore fans patiently hugged the edge of the stage while the loudest voices in the room preoccupied themselves with discussing the specifics of her curriculum vitae. Continue reading →

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Gwen Stefani brings Truth to BB&T Pavilion

Gwen Stefani @ BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ
Gwen Stefani | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

There are a handful of adolescence-defining songs for which I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard them.  No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” is one of those songs.  I have vivid memories of sitting by myself in the family room of my childhood home, watching MTV’s Alternative Nation at midnight and seeing that music video for the first time.  There was No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani, a doe-eyed and pouty-lipped atomic force of energy shining like a beacon at the end of the tunnel that was my grunge-filled childhood.  Not too long after, I caught No Doubt at the Electric Factory and in turn, Stefani became the first female musician I ever saw perform live.  All I remember is trying really hard not to cry.  Back then I was far too young to understand those emotions or why they were happening, but it certainly wasn’t the last time I’d experience them in a concert setting.

Spring forward nearly two decades and I’m seeing Gwen Stefani again during her This Is What The Truth Feels Like tour.  In support of the album of the same name – her first in ten years – last Tuesday’s stop in Camden, NJ was only the fourth of a 27-city solo trek which was plagued before it even began by embarrassingly low ticket sales as critics continue to dismiss Stefani’s third solo effort as a mere vehicle to promote her new role as judge on NBC’s The Voice.  And so, baffling was the choice, once the house lights were cut, to greet the audience not with the guiltily pleasurable “Hollaback Girl”, the undeniably infectious “The Sweet Escape” or hell, even the current saccharine single “Make Me Like You,” but with a video clip of Stefani explaining how she believed she was finished with music a long time ago.

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Civil Twilight unites The Foundry with Story of an Immigrant

Civil Twilight @ The Foundry, 6.30.16
Civil Twilight @ The Foundry, 6.30.16 | Photo by Wendy McCardle

 

There aren’t many bands I can claim this kind of bragging right to, but if I may be so bold, allow me to declare myself as one of the first Philadelphian fans of South African rock band Civil Twilight.  You see, it was back in 2008 when two friends of mine, Audrey and Liza, caught the band at Virginia Commonwealth University.  The show, originally scheduled outdoors, was already poorly promoted and dampened further by rain, which forced the band to relocate to a room on campus that also happened to be serving free pizza.  Story has it that the band played to a crowd of no more than five while students wandered in, grabbed a free slice and promptly left.

As for Audrey and Liza, they were more enticed by the delicious deep dish of Civil Twilight’s music.  Hooked, in fact, and very soon thereafter I was gifted with a copy of Human, the band’s first, independently-released album which was re-released in 2010 as their debut with Wind-Up Records.  I still remember the immediate goosebumps that registered upon first listen of the album’s ambitious opener “Anybody Out There”.  It’s pure chills when that bass meets the gently building, U2-esque guitar melody, which hits its zenith following the pre-chorus refrain of, “I wanna hear that sound slow me down”. Continue reading →

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Roots Picnic was bigger and better than ever at Festival Pier

roots picnic
Ibeyi @ The 9th Annual Roots Picnic | photo by Wendy McCardle

It’s hard to believe another Roots Picnic has come and gone. The feeling is particularly bittersweet this year, in post-Nutter Philadelphia, knowing that The Roots won’t be back next month, as they have for the past eight years, to headline the Welcome America Festival. But the Philly crew-turned-America’s house band certainly made the most of their annual homecoming. Here are some highlights of the day.

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“My F’in Night at the Opera”: Iggy Pop channels the spirit of ’77 at the Academy of Music

Iggy Pop | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Iggy Pop | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

This story begins on March 19, 1977. It’s the day after the release of Iggy Pop‘s solo debut, The Idiot, and he’s performing at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia with his collaborator and producer, David Bowie. Also in attendance is my concert connoisseur / photographer mother, Nancy. She has brought her camera, hoping to catch photos of Bowie but unwittingly bearing witness to a musical partnership that would connect Iggy Pop to another musical brethren decades later.

Fast forward forty years – I’m standing in front of the Academy of Music, waiting for my turn to photograph Iggy Pop. Continue reading →