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Free At Noon Flashback: The Stray Birds share a special set to celebrate the release of Magic Fire

The Stray Birds | Photo by Kimberly Ilkowski for WXPN | ilkowski.com
The Stray Birds | Photo by Kimberly Ilkowski for WXPN | ilkowski.com

Early on in The Stray Birds‘ Free At Noon set Friday, Oliver Craven took a moment to instruct the audience. “We were told to avoid dead air,” he said. “So keep clapping.” It was a playful moment during a special set for the trio-turned-quartet from Lancaster. Friday marks the release of their newest album Magic Fire, produced by the legendary Larry Campbell, and as Maya de Vitry added after Craven’s remark, the band was having so much fun finally playing some new songs. Continue reading →

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Mick Jenkins, back with a new single, will “Spread Love” at The Foundry in October

Mick Jenkins | Photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN | brightloud.com
Mick Jenkins | Photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN | brightloud.com

Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins unloaded a ton of new info on us this week. For starters, he’ll be swinging by The Foundry at The Fillmore on Saturday, October 15th for a Red Bull Sound Select show with support from St. Louis rapper Smino. It’s just one date on his A Quest For Love tour that will hit 12 cities this fall. Plus, the cross-country journey is paired with the release of Jenkins’ latest, The Healing Component, due out September 23rd via his own label, Free Nation. Wednesday, we got the first taste of the project with lead single “Spread Love.” Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Earth, Wind and Fire at The Borgata, Broken Beak at PhilaMOCA, The Youngers at Sellersville Theater, and more

Earth Wind and Fire | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Earth Wind and Fire | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Funky soul legends Earth, Wind and Fire take up a two night residency at The Borgata hotel and casino in Atlantic City tonight and tomorrow evening. As a band that has been writing, recording and touring since 1971, it’s no surprise their career spans genres, lineups and generations of fans. Bringing all their very best to the stage once more, this is your chance to see one of the greats live. Tickets and more information can be found on the XPN Concert Calendar. Watch the music video for the 1981 hit “Let’s Groove” below. Continue reading →

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Catch PHL Songwriter’s Project winners this Saturday at the Oval

Adam Web | photo via adamwebmusic.com

For the past 11 years, the non-profit Philadelphia Songwriter’s Project has held a songwriting competition. Just a small handful of winners are selected from a field of 200 and embark on a summer tour across the region. This Saturday, August 20th, the tour will make a stop at The Oval on the Ben Franklin Parkway for a free show from 12 to 6 p.m. Acoustic artist Adam Web will headline, with the other sets coming from funk-popster Quincy Mumford, singer-songwriter Bernard Sarkissian, local teenage blues band Time Gap, and Latin band De Tierra Caliente. Below you’ll find a sampling of some of their tunes. Head here if you need any more information. Continue reading →

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14 must-see performances at the Philadelphia Folk Festival

River Whyless | Photo courtesy of the artist
River Whyless | Photo courtesy of the artist

The 55th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival kicks off tonight, and over the next four days, it will explore the many definitions of folk music in the verdant fields of Schwenksville. You’ll hear heritage songsmiths like Peter Yarrow and Iris Dement as well as contemporary torch-bearers like Anderson East and The Lone Bellow, artists that draw on traditions from cajun (The Pine Leaf Boys) to French-Acadian (Vishti). With local troubadour and story-slinger Wesley Stace overseeing the proceedings along with longtime MC Gene Shay, the Festival boasts one of its strongest lineups in years, and we’re super excited to immerse ourselves in its world. We already gave you an overview of the incredible roster of regional performers on the festival; here are 14 more performers that we’re not planning on missing, and you should do the same. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Queen of Jeans at Spruce Street Harbor Park, A Day Without Love + Liz De Lise at W/N W/N, The Menzingers at The Electric Factory and more…

Queen of Jeans
Queen of Jeans | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

It’s time for the next installment of the Spruce Street Harbor Park Waterfront Sessions, and Queen of Jeans will be the headliners this time around. Last we checked in with the local favs, they were wowing us at XPN Fest. And below, you’ll find a recording of “Moody” they shot with local video crew Out of Town Films — a song we dove into on our Time Capsule series. Grubby Little Hands will also be performing tonight, and more info can be found here. Continue reading →

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Steve Gunn is playing a solo set at Lansdowne Theater; listen to his World Cafe session

steve gunn
Steve Gunn | photo by Constance Mensh | courtesy of Matador Records

In his recent interview on World Cafe with David Dye, psych-folk guitar maestro Steve Gunn reminisces at length about growing up in the Philadelphia region, getting his musical start locally in the same circles as Kurt Vile, and how – even though he’s lived in New York for close to a decade – the Delaware Valley will always be home to him.

What better way to solidify that bond than a benefit gig in his actual hometown of Lansdowne – the most awesome DelCo borough just beyond West Philly – to support the restoration of the Historic Lansdowne Theater?
Continue reading →

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Celebrate 10 years of Johnny Brenda’s with Bardo Pond, Birds of Maya, Hurry, Frances Quinlan from Hop Along and more

Hop Along | Photo by John Vettese
Hop Along onstage at Johnny Brenda’s | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

There are definitely times when I love being wrong about things. Like the first time I went to Johnny Brenda’s: in fall of 2006, right after I first began as a volunteer with WXPN. It was a Silversun Pickups show, if you can believe that – Viva Voce opened. The Fishtown pub had recently re-invented itself as a 200-cap venue and, waiting for the show to start, I went to the bar to order a beer.

This was coming off of a half dozen years of living and breathing The Khyber, mind you, so I asked for a Yeungling. “We don’t have Yeungling,” the bartender sniffed. “Um, okay, PBR?” The bartender silently pointed to a chalkboard listing the all-local craft beer venue, which I simply could not wrap my brain around. No PBR? No Yeungling? I grabbed the cheapest thing (something called Kenzinger) and went back to my friends. “Dude, no Yeungling,” I said. “This place is gonna FAIL.”

Oh, young John, you had so much to learn.

Not only did JBs not fail – and thank the gods for that – it’s thrived for the past decade at the corner of Frankford and Girard, weathering rough years in the national music industry and seismic ripples in the local concertgoing landscape. It withstood the opening of the much-heralded and exactly-the-same-size’d Boot and Saddle; both clubs do their respective things in tandem with reliably strong calendars. It’s been dogged by the change in Fishtown and persists in the face of broverflow – though, seriously, if you’re grabbing food after 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, prepare yourself a very different world than it was at the start.

Most importantly, Johnny Brenda’s has been a welcoming home for the Philadelphia music community – the “made it” stage that upstart bands of all stripes aspire to, from Meg Baird to The Bul Bey to Abi Reimold and more. It’s the scene of secret celebrations for big hometown names like The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile; it’s held memorable New Years’ Eve throwdowns with A Sunny Day in Glasgow and Hop Along. And appropriately, to mark its 10 years on the Philly scene, it’s celebrating with two nights of all local music. Continue reading →

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All This and More: A radiant Belly reigns supreme at Union Transfer

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

When a band frames a show as “An Evening With…,” the connotation is that this is a special event, a unique and refined occasion for the learned and erudite spectator. It can be construed as a veiled euphemism for “we’re all a little older now.”

As further evidence of the ‘90s revival that Gen X-ers are all enjoying lately, alt-rock darlings Belly have reunited for the first time since disbanding two decades ago. A new record — their third — is due out soon, and they closed the first leg of their reunion tour Sunday night at Union Transfer with “An Evening With Belly.” A special occasion for fans who are a little older now, it was.

Belly didn’t seem to want to let those older fans forget that, either, with lively stage banter throughout their two-hour set about parenthood and bathroom breaks at intermissions, advice on stretching before moshing to avoid sprains, and an interactive conversation about the prescription drugs that have long since replaced the recreational ones. (Cracking a joke about inhalers, bassist Gail Greenwood got a section of the crowd to chant “albuterol!”) Continue reading →

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Vita and The Woolf, Hemming bring it all home to Spruce Street Harbor Park

Vita and the Woolf | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Vita and the Woolf | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Throughout the whole summer, Spruce Street Harbor Park has been holding their “Waterfront Sessions,” where they invite Philly’s best and brightest musicians to grace kicked-back audiences to an evening of delight and thoughtful music. The riverside grotto consisting of hammocks and hanging fluorescent lights features several attractions for all ages to enjoy, from pop-up beer gardens for the grown-ups to plenty of wide open areas for the kids to run around and catch a couple dozen Magikarps (I have to admit that I got a couple for myself as well.)

It’s an interesting change up to see these bands play in front of smiling children playing giant chess rather than in a packed basement or a dimly-lit bar. Last week’s crowd got an extra treat as both Vita and the Woolf and Hemming‘s show on the waterfront went on after being rescheduled from a couple weeks ago due to the rain.

Vita and the Woolf started off the evening with their first Philly show since returning from tour the night before, so the band was in fine form. Vocalist Jen Pague thanked everybody for coming before starting off their set with “Brett,” the first single from their upcoming album, Tunnels. The band, now joined by new guitar player Dane Galloway along with drummer Adam Shumski, continued with tracks from their previous record, Fang Song, such as the bombastic “Mary” and the driving “Diamond Halls.” Continue reading →