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Celebrate and support badass music ladies at Pussy Claps Back event

Jacqueline Constance | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about two things: ice cream and badass women being awesome and making changes in the music world. So when I see events like Pussy Claps Back: Celebrating Philadelphia Femmes in the Arts, I get pretty pumped.

The killer event will take place at Johnny Brenda’s this Thursday, March 16th, with all door sales benefitting Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA and Girls Rock Philly. Throughout the night, there will be DJ sets featuring Natasha Diggs (of Soul in the Horn,) The Akasha, Baby dot com, and Aura (of Sofistafunk.) Also performing are artists Coco Mamba, Jacqueline Constance, and Queen Jo. Continue reading →

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Community and Eclecticism: Philly gig promoters All Mutable on making an inclusive, daring scene

Chicago-based footwork dance originator RP Boo plays an All Mutable show on March 4th | photo via facebook.com/Arpebu.Inc

As improbable a feat as this may seem, the still wet from the womb music promotions collective All Mutable has burned itself into the psyche of the Philly music scene with their daring vision of community and eclecticism. Even more improbable, they’ve managed to become one of the few promoters who force me– your friendly, neighborhood musical curmudgeon– to instantly smash “going” on all of the squad’s Facebook solicits even when I’m wildly unfamiliar with the bands they’re offering. Theirs is the ability to cultivate a strange, impossible oasis of color and sound within a sometimes diversity-barren landscape of independent DIY music.

While the group were all friends and music collaborators in various bands first– Jazz Adam from New York City, Nicki Duval from Connecticut, and Robin Meeker-Cummings from West Philadelphia (born and raised, naturally)– it is together with All Mutable that their true talents have reach an apex. While their roots are in experimental and noise music (and that aesthetic still rings true even as they expand), they’ve hosted raging punk noise outfits like Pinkwash, edgy afro-accoustic post-punk like Daphne, and minimalist drum and noise outfits like NAH under their umbrella and miraculously they’ve avoided any cross-genre clashing, eschewing the 10th grade mix CD model and have taken an approach that speaks more to the deliberate nature of their intention: freeing up class modalities and pushing forward with a futurist vision that is inclusive and liberating.

We sat down with the All Mutable squad for insight into their process, the origins of their name, and the future of DIY indie music Philadelphia and beyond. Continue reading →

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Sounds of Psychedelphia, Part One: The spark of the 60s and 70s

The Nazz, photographed for the cover of their 1968 single “Open My Eyes”

Sounds of Psychedelphia is a three-part series exploring the history of psychedelic rock in Philadelphia. this month, we begin by studying the scene’s origins in the late 60s and early 70s.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychedelic rock explosion of the late ’60 was not confined to the major west coast cities San Francisco and Los Angeles. Virtually no American city went untouched by the musical and social revolution that blossomed out of California. During this time, a number of rich and diverse psychedelic rock scenes cropped up in cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit — and in even smaller markets such as Orlando and Seattle. The teenaged garage bands of the early to mid 60s were growing up, some were going off to college, many were experimenting with new drugs and new sounds.

Fast forward to 1972, Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman collaborated with Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye to create Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968. The first compilation of its kind, Nuggets paved the way for an entire subculture of dedicated music fans, would-be scholars and rare record collectors who would spend the next four decades uncovering countless relics of the psychedelic era from cities throughout the country and around the world. It is through the work of these collectors and archivists that we have come to a clear understanding that the psychedelic rock explosion not only impacted the U.S. but was a truly global cultural explosion scenes popping up in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia, each taking their cue from the bands in the states.

Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia’s psychedelic rock scene was particularly strong during this time. With a long history as an established music industry town, and a healthy amount of local bands as well as venues that paired local artists with touring national acts of the time, Philadelphia’s scene flourished. In the decades following the 1960s, the psychedelic aesthetic has survived on in rock’s lexicon. In many ways, the spirit of the musical experiments of the 60s continues today and the city still hosts a diverse cadre of bands playing sounds that influenced by the 60s psych rock explosion. In this series we will focus on on three periods in which Philadelphia’s psych-rock scene was particularly strong: The initial 60s spark, the “Psychedelphia” scene of 1990s and rounding it out by taking a look at how the city’s scene has developed from the 2000s until today. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Porchfest returns to West Philly this June

Porchfest
Porchfest organizers Owen Lyman-Schmidt, Ross Hoffman and Abe Taber in West Philadelphia | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Get your porches ready, people, because Porchfest is making a grand return to West Philly this summer on Saturday, June 3rd.

Porchfest organizer, Owen Lyman-Schmidt, first learned about the event concept when he accidentally took part in one in Massachusetts (for the full back story, click here.) After experiencing the incredible and lively community atmosphere, Lyman-Schmidt and his co-organizers knew they had to bring Porchfest to Philly.

As predicted, West Philly’s diverse, culture-rich neighborhoods provided the perfect landscape for Porchfest to thrive–and helped make 2016’s inaugural event a success.  With one year under wraps, this second installment of Porchfest is sure to be bigger and even more jam-packed (pun most definitely intended.) Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Bahamadia

Bahamadia | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Bahamadia | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

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.

Philly’s contributions to hip hop stretch back to the roots of the form, but few artists manage to become icons of the elements of style and with an impact and influence as far-reaching as our own Bahamadia.

Having gotten her start as a DJ in the 80s, Bahamadia had the opportunity to hone her craft right in the cultural crucible of a small Southwest-Philly-based production studio — an unassuming outfit that helped train and produce the likes of KRS-One and Boyz II Men. By 1993, Bahamadia debuted her unique brand of steady, potent cadence with her first hit single, “Funk Vibe,” and with championship from Gang Starr and The Roots crew moved on more hit records, and collaborations with the likes of Talib Kweli, Morcheeba, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.

Here, Bahamadia talks candidly about the early days in the gauntlet of underground performances, and about grateful and proud she is to be a Philly artist. She’s paying it back to her community, too, working now with disenfranchised kids from her neighborhood.

And as an artist who describes herself as “built to do what I do,” Bahamadia is still touring, still working on new music, still entertaining all the requests from fans for deliveries of her catalog of hits. “They always wanna hear it that traditional way,” she marveled, with a chuckle, “they don’t wanna hear you remixin’, they wanna hear it just like the record every night.” She observes of her fans, “people process and interpret things way different than you do! You just give your interpretation for how you internalize and express things, but somebody writes a lyric, and your supporters will come up to you like ‘yo! When you said that it touched my soul!,’ and that gives me more insight! And then I think too as you grow as an artist and as an individual, the lyrics mean something totally different than they did when you first created them.”

“It’s the illest thing, but that happens a lot.” She adds, “It’s cool, ‘cause it keeps the conversation going.”

Continue reading →

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Jam to Soft Idiot’s genre-mashing track, “Love Like”

Soft Idiot | via softidiot.bandcamp.com

Philly four-piece Soft Idiot released a teaser for their new album, stillborn, and let me tell ya, I’m hooked. The impeccably-named band’s teaser includes two tracks, including “Brother Part I” and “Love Like.”

The latter is the newest release from the album, and is an amalgamation of all kinds of awesome.  I love when songs surprise me, and oh boy did this song surprise me. The track begins in folk punk, singer-songwriter fashion, but then quickly builds into a wopping smorgasbord of different genres. A sweet banjo riff incites a bluegrass feel, only then to be matched by the addition of some psych synth. Then, about half-way through, searing amps and layers of guttural shouts take over, which abruptly fade into a spooky 80s synth send off.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: that’s a lot of different things going on right there. But trust me, all of this actually works together so well. It makes you question why punk-folk-screamo-Americana-synth isn’t already an established genre.  By the end of the song, you’ll be left blinking “what kind of strange beauty did I just stumble upon?” And you will never see the world the same again. Continue reading →

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Dare to be Different: The importance of Philly’s WDRE, 20 years later

WDRE staff and fans, circa 1997 | stills from video by Andrea Corbi Fein
WDRE staff and fans, circa 1997 | stills from video by Andrea Corbi Fein

Preston Elliot had starry-eyed expectations as he drove to Philadelphia in 1995. He was on his way to a new gig as afternoon host at an alternative rock radio station, a format he was very excited to transition into; it was also his first radio job in a major market after several years of hosting top 40 in St. Louis. Visions of an immaculate production studio with big, shiny, state-of-the-art equipment and all the comforts of a big city kept him excited on the 18-hour trip.

And then he got to WDRE.

The station was coming out of a bumpy three years at 103.9 FM on the Philadelphia airwaves, mixing various degrees of local hosting with a simulcast from a parent station in Long Island. It had recently re-established itself with an all-local airstaff broadcasting out of a studio in a Jenkintown office park. A studio that, to put it mildly, was rough around the edges.

“I walked in, and Bret Hamilton was on the air,” remembers Elliot . “He saw the look on my face, we exchanged pleasantries. And then he said ‘Yeah, I thought the same thing when I first stepped in here as well.’ He could read my mind.”

The host microphone was held onto the stand with bumper stickers; the wall was soundproofed with blue foam. The booth was small; Elliot, who now has a much more spacious studio co-hosting the Preston & Steve morning show on WMMR, likens it to a tiny closet. In short, DRE was kind of a dump.

“But it ended up being really really fun,” Elliot remembers. “It was kitschy, it was cool, it had attitude.” And that fit perfectly with the station’s voice in the regional radio landscape. “How ratty that studio was gave us as jocks this feeling of edginess, of not being polished by any means at all.”
Continue reading →

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Shelf Life, free cake for every creature, Chef Kiss, and more on comp benefitting American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Shelf Life at Key Fest | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Shelf Life at Key Fest | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

What’s better than amazing indie artists coming together to contribute songs about self care and then donating the proceeds to charity? I’ll tell you: nothing. Nothing is better. And Sleeper Records, a new West Philly-based record label, just made that happen. The compilation is called Six Weeks of Winter and its basically a lo-fi indie lover’s dream wrapped up in one pretty package. Continue reading →

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Farewell to a Listening Room: Reflections on the closing of Old City’s Tin Angel

Kristen Hersh at the Tin Angel | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Kristen Hersh at the Tin Angel | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Back in early December, I saw something at Old City’s famed Tin Angel that I hadn’t seen in forever: a line. A queue of people running down the staircase, out the door, stretching up 2nd Street, waiting in earnest for a performance by alternative-era singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh.

Certainly the 150-capacity room drew packed crowds countless times over the years, but something felt different this night. It was a sold-out show heading into a long string of sold-out show as the venue calendar wound down, this weekend presenting its final concert after more than two decades in business. Tonight, The Hillbenders take the stage in a show curated by the Philadelphia Folksong Society, and it’s the last gig you’ll be able to buy tickets for at the door; tomorrow’s show with Steve Forbert and Saturday’s double-header with Ben Vaughn have long been sold out. And after that, the Tin Angel belongs to the ages. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Dominic Angelella

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

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.

There’s a bit of a music scene in-joke that circulates about Philadelphia psych-rock cult faves Lilys; so many people have contributed to that band in its 25-year existence that founder and songwriter Kurt Heasley probably couldn’t tell you all of them. Dominic Angelella has experienced sort of the opposite situation in his career; he’s founded, jammed with, recorded and parted ways with so many bands since coming to Philadelphia from Baltimore in 2005, there will probably never be a true and complete chronology of them all.

We’re pretty sure Angelella has never been in Lilys, for what it’s worth. But looking just his higher-profile projects: there was the long running DRGN King, which disbanded last year after two great records on Bar-None; there’s Lithuania, his longer-running punk duo with Eric Slick of Dr. Dog; there’s mewithoutYou, with whom he is currently a touring bassist; there’s Hop Along, where he was an early touring guitarist. And, of course, there’s Dominic.

That’s his first name, true, and it’s also the name of his first truly solo project, which releases its debut LP Goodnight, Doggies. this Friday on Lame-O Records. Back in the fall, The Key brought you the news of his new album alongside a wide-ranging conversation with his onetime bandmate / current roommate, Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan, where the two unpacked Dom’s musical journey. This week, we specifically talk Philly for his High Key Portrait Series spotlight. This interview took place in early 2016, and he shares favorite faces and favorite places in the city — and is our first interviewee to give a diplomatic answer about Philly beer! This Friday, February 3rd, Angelella headlines Johnny Brenda’s (his fav venue) to celebrate the release of Goonight, Doggies. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →