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Reliving the magic with Brian Wilson at the Tower Theater

Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

If you close your eyes, it sounds just like it’s 1967 in Santa Monica. Or Pacific Beach or Carmel-by-the-Sea; whichever California beach town you prefer. But when you look around The Tower Theater on this particular fall night in Upper Darby, the room is filled with Beach Boys fans who have certainly been singing along to these surf rock songs for decades. There are also 11 people on stage, instead of the original five, but still creating that same magical, harmonic sound.

Brian Wilson is seated front and center at his piano, like he’s done for weeks as he’s traveled around the country for the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds tour. Al Jardine, former Beach Boy, is next to him on guitar. The crowd stands and cheers as the band comes out, and they open with “California Girls.” Every song ends in a standing ovation, even gooey ballads like “In My Room” and “Surfer Girl.” Continue reading →

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Fresh Air will open its archives for an interactive tour at WHYY HQ

Terry Gross and President Barack Obama | via NPR.org

ICYMI, earlier this week President Obama awarded an Arts & Humanities Medal to Terry Gross, host of WHYY’s venerable Fresh Air program. Gross has been at the helm of the beloved radio interview show for over 40 years, sharing stories from folks like fellow medal winner Mel Brooks, comedian Robin Williams, legendary musician Allen Toussaint and so many more. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Bilal at Johnny Brenda’s, Lushlife at Boot and Saddle, Lotus at The Mann Center and more

bilal
Bilal | Photo by Kawai Matthews

Soul / funk / rock artist and Philadelphia native Bilal headlines a show at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown tonight. In the past, he has worked with big names like Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Kimbra just to name a few. His last solo release was In Another Life, released last year. Opening up for Bilal will be the fellow Philadelphian Ursula Rucker. She is a poet, activist, and recording artist who has been performing for over seventeen years. This show featuring some of Philly’s finest is not to be missed. Tickets and more information about the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Check out the video for “Money Over Love” below. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam shake the rafters “A 1000 Times” over

Hamilton and Rostam | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
Hamilton and Rostam | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

When I first heard that Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij were putting out an album together, I was as excited as I was apprehensive. It sounded great on paper, of course, but rarely do collaborations like this go over as well as they’re theoretically supposed to. With The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend in their respective back catalogs, the duo had a lot to live up to, but this afternoon, they did just that with an exhilarating, eight-song set at WXPN’s Free at Noon concert. Continue reading →

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Desire Lines: Brit rock icons Lush played a riveting reunion set at Union Transfer

Lush | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Lush | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

A line of fans of all ages trailed down Spring Garden Street last night, all the way around the corner at 11th and halfway down to Callowhill, waiting for Union Transfer’s doors to open for the return of British rock faves Lush.

Their anticipation was twenty years in the making for this reunion, another in a recent wave of local appearances from ‘90s dreampop bands. Just last month, in another 20th anniversary reunion tour, record label 4AD compatriots Belly played the same beloved Philly venue, which celebrates its 5th anniversary this week. And in December, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips of Luna and Galaxie 500 will play a Velvets tribute show, headlined by Yo La Tengo.

Each of these events is a highlight in its own right, and Lush’s stood out as special for all of the adoration. Continue reading →

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Philly’s Dear Friend will celebrate their new album at Ortlieb’s on Saturday

Dear Friend | via Bandcamp

Saturday night in Northern Liberties, Philly indie four-piece Dear Friend celebrates its album release at Ortlieb’s. The self-titled album is the band’s first record since 2014, and in the time since, the band has been an active part of the Philly music scene, playing gigs at Philly venues like Boot and Saddle, MilkBoy and Bourbon and Branch. Music from the new album hasn’t made its way online yet, but in the meantime, check out the audio from the band’s 2014 release (also self-titled). Saturday’s show is 21+, tickets start at $10 and can be found here. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Peter, Bjorn and John at The Trocadero, Anais Mitchell at Tin Angel, Puff Daddy at Wells Fargo Center

Peter, Bjorn and John | photo courtesy of the artist

Swedish pop is arguably some of the best pop there is, as Peter, Bjorn and John has handily proven time and again. From their infectious and ubiquitous hit “Young Folks,” all the way up to the new Breaking Point LP, the long running trio are masters of their craft. Tonight they headline The Trocadero. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch the music video for “Dominos.”
Continue reading →

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Rock The Nation: The legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry lights up World Cafe Live

Lee "Scratch" Perry | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | <a href=http://www.deltufophotography.com/ target="_blank">deltufophotography.com</a>
Lee “Scratch” Perry | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com

I didn’t know what to expect from this one. I was aware of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s music, a melange of dub/reggae and electronics that he largely invented over a number of decades. That he is a Grammy winner and is listed by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 greatest artists (of any genre) of all time. I was also aware that the man is 80. But I was not expecting this.

It was a strong, diverse crowd at World Cafe, mostly younger people up front. Perry’s backing band Subatomic Sound System played a 40 minute into set, which was excellent set the stage nicely. Legendary percussionist Larry McDonald was standout, especially considering he is also in his late 70s- he alone was worth the price of admission. When Lee finally came out it was to a roar from the crowd- even at 80 the man was instantly spritely and was festooned in a colorful getup that was part reggae, part crazy homeless guy. His microphone was embedded in a beer can, and his clothing/ hat/ suitcase and shoes all had various random trinkets attached to them. Continue reading →

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Ra Ra Riot shows The Fillmore that less is more

Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href=https://brotherlylost.com/ target="_blank">brotherlylost.com</a>
Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com

With so few members and such a bold sound, Ra Ra Riot once again proves that less is more. The Syracuse natives performed this past Friday at The Fillmore, opening for Young The Giant for the Home of the Strange Tour.

The six-piece ensemble opened with fan favorite “Too Too Fast” from their first album, The Rhumb Line; its combination of synth-heavy dance breaks and dramatic lighting teased glimpses of the band while directing the crowds’ focus on the sound. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Kristin Hersh will play Tin Angel this December

Kristin Hersh | via facebook.com/strangeangels

Acclaimed author, singer, songwriter and indie rocker Kristin Hersh is going on a fall tour in support of her latest album / book, Wyatt at the Coyote Palace. [UPDATE: Listen to a song from it here.] The month-long run brings the frontwoman of Throwing Muses and 50 Ft. Wave to the Tin Angel in Philadelphia on Thursday, December 15th. Tickets for the 21+ show are $20 and go on sale Friday, September 23rd at 10 a.m. via the venue’s website. Continue reading →