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Listen to Connor Barwin talk about The War on Drugs and his Make The World Better Foundation on XPN Local

connor barwin
Connor Barwin at a MTWB concert | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

On Thursday, September 21st, the fourth annual Make The World Better Benefit Concert comes to The Dell Music Center, headlined by Philly psych rock heroes The War on Drugs playing their first hometown show in two and a half years.

On this segment from the WXPN Local Show this week, former Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin — currently outside linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams — gave us a call to talk about the organization, its mission and vision, and how excited he is about The War on Drugs and their new album A Deeper Understanding. Listen to the segment below; tickets are still available for the concert, more information can be found  here. Continue reading →

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Today in Radio History: Listen to the legendary WIBG’s final broadcast sign off


If you grew up during the glorious days of AM radio in Philly in the 50s and 60s, there were four AM radio stations that you probably listened to for music. For R&B and soul music, you could listen to the incredible WDAS and WHAT. For rock and pop, one option was Famous 56, WFIL. The other was “Wibbage,” WIBG, located at 990 on the AM dial.

These two pop radio behemoths ruled the airwaves during the Sixties. Both stations were very personality-driven, with larger-than-life DJs who played the Top 40 smash hits of the moment, and depending on your favorite boss jock, you were either glued to 560 or 990 AM.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the final hour of WIBG, hosted by two of the greatest DJs ever – Hy Lit and Joe Niagara – who signed off for the last time on September 10, 1977. Continue reading →

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Yalla Habibi! Philadelphia’s first ever Middle Eastern punk festival, YallaPunk, starts tonight

Puzzlehead
Vancouver’s Puzzlehead plays The Barbary during YallaPunk | photo courtesy of the artist

“YallaPunk is a direct response to negative depictions of populations of Middle Eastern and North African descent in mainstream media. This event is meant to highlight creative accomplishments of MENA individuals and serve as a safe space forum for discourse about social issues. The idea is to celebrate music, art, film and other cultural artifacts created by this particular population in an intersectional and inclusive space free from sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and bigotry.” – From YallaPunk.com

Even though this is the inaugural YallaPunk, the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) punk festival happening this weekend at various venues including Johnny Brenda’s and The Barbary, its roots stretch back more than 16 years to Blacksburg, Virginia. Festival organizer Rana Fayez grew up there, a young Arab-American immigrant trying to adjust to a new country. She had been in the United States for just a year when September 11th happened and everything changed.

After a particularly bad altercation with some older classmates who accused her of being complicit with the attacks, “… I thought ever since that people think I’m violent now, people think I’m not a good person. I felt very separated from my peers. I felt very isolated.” She soon found a home in her local punk scene. As she explained, “[Punk] gave me the guts to say: ‘I am who I want to be, not who you tell me to be.’”

Punk wasn’t just loud, angry music and a feeling of rebellion, though that was all very important. According to Fayez, “It was liberating. It was free. Punk rock shows were a sanctuary for me because I could exist [there] and a lot of my friends really accepted me.” Continue reading →

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Four Questions with Jarrett Zerrer of Nuono Vintage, Northwest Philly’s latest haven for vinyl and a lot more

Nuono Vintage warehouse | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

When we first met Philly’s Jarrett Zerrer, he was playing guitar in Philly-based electro-rock bands like Dokument and City Rain. These days, he’s put the axe down and picked up a knack for all things vintage — clothes, books, and especially classic vinyl. Working with family members, Zerrer co-operates Nuono Vintage, an online retailer based in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy neighborhood, in the cavernous back room of the Sedgwick Theater.

If this was 1921, that room would be filled with velvety seats and an audience watching a vaudeville production — it’s where the Sedgwick’s original stage sat, and a massive decorative skylight and ornate architectural trim still line the roof. Today, though, it’s six-foot-high stacks of boxes, lined in a maze-like array that looks befuddling to me as a visitor, but which makes perfect sense to Zerrer.

Nuono Vintage has been in this space for a little bit over a year, buying collections (and taking donations) as well as making sales via online avenues, promoting on social media — they’ve got a great Instagram — and occasionally venturing out into the real world, like they will this weekend for a sidewalk sale on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. We paid a visit to Nuono Vintage to see what treasures lied within and get Zerrer’s story on unearthing the past. Continue reading →

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West Philly’s new Common Beat Music is ready for business

Carlo Frese and Keri Girmindl of Common Beat Music | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

Last August 19th, Carlo Frese’s up-and-coming electronics and instrument repair workshop burned down in a house fire. He lost all of his guitars and amps, everything he was working on, even his tools. Nobody was hurt, but so much was destroyed. Today, almost exactly a year later, Frese and his partner Keri Girmindl are celebrating the opening of Common Beat Music, their store and repair shop at 49th and Baltimore Avenue.

Very much a catch-all music store, Common Beat will sell records, stereo equipment, instruments, and musical gear, as well as t-shirts and other related ephemera. The repair side of things will be just as wide in scope, Frese told The Key: “I’ll work on whatever. If it plugs in the wall and makes a noise, I’ve worked on it.” That assertive, no BS attitude informs a lot of the philosophy Frese and Girmindl have when it comes to running the shop, which is housed in the former location of Marvelous Music. That business closed in mid-July after 14 years first on 40th St. and then on Baltimore. Continue reading →

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Thousands of dollars of gear stolen from Tutlie’s rehearsal space

Blonde Premier with Les Paul body, stolen from Tutlie. Photo from facebook.

Usually, when Philadelphia’s Tutlie shows up on The Key, you can expect to read about the indie folk-pop group’s impressive harmonies, their ethereal sweeping soundscapes, new music and shows, the like. That’s enjoyable reading and writing, good news about good people in good bands. Yesterday, though, Tutlie posted on their Facebook page that they came back to their rehearsal space to find that thousands of dollars worth of gear had been stolen. A loss of this magnitude is a major setback for any band, and especially for a young independent band such as Tutlie. Continue reading →

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Introducing the Inaugural Gene Shay Folk DJ Scholarship

Gene Shay, retired host of The Folk Show

Two years after his final show with WXPN ended, folk music legend Gene Shay’s long and storied career as one of Philadelphia’s legendary radio personalities and the “Dean of Folk DJs”, continues to support the next generation of radio and folk industry broadcasters through his legacy. After the outpouring of camaraderie around the on-air tribute to Gene Shay on his last broadcast show on WXPN on February 1, 2015, Rich Warren (WFMT Radio / Chicago) and John Platt (WFUV / NYC) suggested the spirit be kept alive. In 2016 they met with Biff Kennedy (Charterhouse Music Group / Philadelphia, PA) and came up with a way to do just that – and have now presented the inaugural Gene Shay Folk DJ Scholarship, which will provide financial support for one new folk DJ to attend the Folk Alliance International Conference and more, every year. Continue reading →

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Required Reading: Half Waif’s Nandi Rose Plunkett on being “the girl in the band”

Nandi Plunkett | photo by Tonje Thilesen via https://www.facebook.com/HalfWaif/

If you haven’t noticed by now, we at The Key are big fans of Pinegrove and Half Waif, two New Jersey bands that share a common denominator in Nandi Rose Plunkett. Both groups find Plunkett as the sole woman, one in a keyboards-backing vocals situation and the other as the founding, writing, and recording frontwoman. In other words, she is a musical force to be reckoned with.

Why, then, in 2017 – especially in an industry that theoretically draws the creatives, the open minds, the dreamers – do we find Plunkett responding to slews of misogynist aggressions against her being simply because that being is female? After originally posting last month on Twitter in response to comments on her part in Pinegrove, Nandi Plunkett has penned an extraordinarily eloquent, insightful, and sharp long-form piece published by Esquire on what it means to be “the girl in the band,” what it feels like to be a woman constantly silenced and disregarded and dismissed as a girl, as a girlfriend, as a pretty face but nothing more. Continue reading →