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The Electric Factory is the 16th best venue in the U.S., according to Consequence of Sound

The Electric Factory
The Districts on stage at The Electric Factory | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

After culling opinions from readers and artists, music blog Consequence of Sound today published its list of the 100 greatest venues in the United States – and Philly made the cut in a few ways.

The First Unitarian Church came in at #63, and Union Transfer made it to #34 – both venues cited in CoS’s poll of musicians earlier in the week. But coming in all the way up at #16 in the list is Callowhill’s long standing, 3000-cap Electric Factory – which is notably celebrating its 20th anniversary season this year. Continue reading →

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The War On Drugs’ Charlie Hall talks cocktails with Philly food and drink expert Drew Lazor

Charlie Hall | Photo by Dylan and Jeni | via Punch

The War On Drugs took over the world two years ago with their insanely great Lost In The Dream record and a lengthy tour, but they’ve been relatively quiet recently (minus the also insanely great Grateful Dead cover that was released last month.) During his own personal downtime, TWOD drummer Charlie Hall sat down with Punch‘s Drew Lazor to talk about booze, touring, music, and more booze. Continue reading →

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Inspired by Prince: Philly artist Dewey Saunders’ striking new visual tribute

Illustration by Dewey Saunders |
Prince | illustration by Dewey Saunders | courtesy of the artist

You may have seen his work on music blogs and websites, posters for concerts, and yes, that’s his design work on the recent album cover for one of the best albums of 2016 so far, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu. Dewey Saunders is a Philadelphia based visual artist and designer, who also – under the name Dewey Decibel – is a rapper. Continue reading →

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Listen to Bob Marley perform live at The Tower Theater way back in April of 1976

April is an unpredictable time of year – one that can bring sunshine and pastoral days as readily as storms and flooding. And sometimes, per the late great Prince, snow. As I write this, I look outside the WXPN office window and the skyline is grey and filled with drizzling clouds, and I wish in the back of my mind that the climate wasn’t such a bummer today. Thank goodness for music; particularly summer-y music; particularly Bob MarleyContinue reading →

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Five Philly bands that made Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. want to make music

Into It. Over It.
Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. | photo by Cameron Witting | courtesy of the artist

Over the past several years, Chicago indie rocker Evan Weiss has made a solid name for himself with the emo-tinged outfit Into It. Over It. The band tours relentlessly – a current run of dates is under way in support of Standards, its excellent third LP – and it has amassed a devoted fan base across the country and internationally. But before he planted roots in the midwest, Weiss grew up locally, finding inspiration in the regional music community from his Cherry Hill, NJ vantage point and playing in The Progress.

This Sunday night, II.OI. returns to Weiss’ old stomping grounds to headline the famed TLA on South Street with The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, The Sidekicks and Pinegrove. Ahead of the show, I asked Weiss to reflect on the music from the Philly region that inspired him. Here’s what he had to say. Continue reading →

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Questlove on Prince: Remembering a Legend and his Influence

Questlove | Photo by John Vettese
Questlove | Photo by John Vettese

Over the years, Questlove has often been outspoken and vocal of his love for Prince. Thoughout Mo’ Meta Blues, his biography that was released in 2013, The Roots’ drummer told various stories about His Royal Badness, from hiding his copies of Controversy and 1999 under his bed from his father, to watching him roller skate around a party at his house on Valentine’s Day. That’s why, after the news of Prince’s unexpected death, these stories became all the more heartfelt. Continue reading →

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Talking Miles Ahead with Philly jazzman Josh Lawrence

Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead | photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead | photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The idea of Don Cheadle playing Miles Davis has been floating around for at least a decade, ever since the legendary trumpeter’s son, Erin Davis, and nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr., proposed the idea while inducting Davis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. The notion finally came to big-screen fruition this year as Miles Ahead, in a form different than anyone might have expected (it opens at the Ritz Five on tonight).

Doubling as director, Cheadle deviated from the standard biopic format to create a heist-movie fantasia with Miles at its center,aiming for the spirit rather than the factual reality of its subject. I wondered how the film might look to someone directly influenced by Miles’ music, so I invited trumpeter Josh Lawrence, co-founder of the Fresh Cut Orchestra and host of the Thursday night jazz series at Jose Garces’ Volver Restaurant, to attend a screening with me and discuss the film afterward.  Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Pablo Batista

Pablo Batista | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | <A href=http://www.hellerhound.com/ target="_blank">hellerhound.com</a>
Pablo Batista | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Pablo Batista is the sort of venerable veteran of Philadelphia arts and culture with whom you’d want to sit for hours, as he recounts his storied career as an internationally-renowned Latin music percussionist. Despite enjoying success and acclaim the world over alongside famous artists like Alicia Keys, Gladys Knight, Regina Belle and Phyllis Hyman, among other jazz and R&B greats, to hear him tell it, Batista’s narrative seemed most radiant with hints of pride and reverie when he reviewed his leaner days, playing smaller Philly clubs, and being mentored by the late great Grover Washington, Jr.

Now over 50 and having played since age 9, Batista has been afflicted with retinitis pigmentosa for some thirty years, a degenerative eye condition that’s rendered the drummer legally blind, having by now claimed some 95% of his vision. Not only hasn’t it slowed him down, it doesn’t even seem to have affected his outlook or enthusiasm, as he spoke at length about his college days, or his time playing the Bethlehem and Philly club circuits, the giant jazz festivals of the ‘80s and ‘90s, or his gigs with George Howard or Jeffrey Osborne. On the contrary, the only time Batista even brought up his ailment was when asked about how he managed to get around town.

Despite this significant personal obstacle, Batista’s primary frustrations, when reflecting on his rich career as a Philadelphia artist and instructor, have to do with the support and promotion of that community for which he clearly holds a profound love. In this interview he’s upfront and candid about why.

Batista’s colorful career as a percussionist is at its best a triumph of spirit and hard work, two main ingredients that seemed to have factored into his success much more so than the luck of being in the right place at the right time. Still, his story has elements of fairy tale too: read below as he reminisces about his first gig in Philly, playing with George Howard at the legendary Uptown Theater. Continue reading →

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Watch the late great Phife Dawg freestyle with The Roots in 1995

Phife Dawg with The Roots | still from video
Phife Dawg with The Roots | still from video

The hip-hop world was stunned today when news broke that Malik Isaac Taylor, AKA Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, passed away this morning from complications related to diabetes. He was 45 years old.

For those unfamiliar with Phife, Tribe and their significance, this heartfelt obit over at Okayplayer will get you up to speed. In short: Phife and his mates (MCs Q-Tip and Jarobi, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad)  sprung up from roots in the New York scene before breaking beyond the hip-hop world to reach the mainstream “alternative rock,” Lollapalooza-era crowd. But they were arguably one of the first artists to do this without going totally pop, or crossover.

The aesthetic of their earliest releases was loudly and proudly Afrocentric, the music was rooted in b-boy culture’s fierce beats, sharp cuts, pointed rhymes, and crate-digging samples of jazz (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on “Excursions”) and rock (Lou Reed on “Can I Kick It”). Their sound evolved on subsequent releases, but on their own terms, adopting a soulful groove and an occasionally electronic sheen. But it never sounded like anything but Tribe; the trio retired for the first time in 1998 without having released a bad album.

I was thinking just the other day about hip-hop records that have carried the vast significance – both musically, socially and culturally – as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, and I’d say Tribe’s definitive 1993 album Midnight Marauders is high up there. (UPDATE: Upon hearing the news, Kendrick got an arena full of 18,000 fans in Australia to chant “Phife Dawg” – see it via Okayplayer.) For many listeners (like myself) that record was their gateway to hip-hop, and lyrically it waxed poetic on issues of race and society as much as it brought the party. And the jams – oh my god (yes oh my god) the jams. Continue reading →

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Rosu Lup and friends knocked an LP release show out of the park

rosu lup
Rosu Lup | photo by Matthew Shaver | www.brightloud.com

(Full disclosure of the writer: Since discovering Rosu Lup a bit more than a year ago, I have become friends with a few of the members, and contributed the biography to their website)

The past few weeks have been a stark reminder that the largest portion of the creative landscape are not the millionaires or even thousand-aires I sometimes get to cover. Many of them are working class, as blue collar as the city they call home. Philadelphia has been an explosion of working class musical talent is the scant 5 years that I’ve lived and loved here. For Rosu Lup, that has culminated in a breezy album called Is Anything Real.

They sure know how to throw a hell of a party to celebrate.

Continue reading →