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The Key Studio Sessions: Radiator Hospital

Five years ago, Sam Cook-Parrot moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to West Philadelphia with some guitars, some songs and a healthy Bandcamp back-catalog. His project, Radiator Hospital, pretty much became an instant hit around the scene, whether he was performing solo in the basement of Nacho House (where I first encountered him, opening for Ted Leo) or turning it up full-band style at Golden Tea.

Having trusted friends for collaborators helped. Sam knew drummer Jeff Bolt from back home, and the two relocated to Philly around the same time. They joke that they picked up Cleveland bassist Jon Rybicki along the way, while New Yorker Cynthia Schemmer joined on lead guitar after meeting Sam amid her own move to Philly. The chemistry was undeniable, the enthusiasm was contagious and the appeal was clear: this band had rip-roaring punk rock energy, classic pop songwriting motifs and themes — their honest, vulnerable songs tend to dissect love and yearning over hooky melodies — and a totally earnest, engaging delivery. Or, as their very on-point Facebook bio distills it: “We are a rock band of rockers who love to rock. We also can be just one person who is much quieter but still loves to rock.” Right on.
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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Lost In The Neighborhood: Rediscovering the millennium-era rock of Philly’s Ruby Keeler

Ruby Keeler | photo by Eric Wareheim | via rubykeeler.bandcamp.com

At the dawn of the millennium, it was clear that mainstream rock was in a state of crisis. Southern-flavored hip hop had emerged as a cultural movement while Lou Pearlman-constructed boy bands like N’SYNC & Backstreet Boys ruled the charts with an iron fist and frosted tips. The few guitar bands making waves on radio were of the post-grunge variety and the less we say about that regrettable stylistic aberration known as rap rock, the better. To put it simply, if a guitar band blew up and achieved any degree of success during this period, they probably sucked. On the underground side of the coin, things were a bit more complicated. Many bands in smaller markets throughout the country were still traveling out from the comfort of their local scenes, touring around the country and wrestling with the musical innovations and cultural shifts that were laid out in the wake of the 90s Grunge and Indie Rock explosion.

Philly based quartet Ruby Keeler was one such band. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Zeek Burse

We first met charismatic Philly crooner Zeek Burse a couple years back when he lent his vocal talents to a Key Studio Session by transglobal house music outfit Worldtown Soundsystem. That crew, as we observed at the time, very much operates like a family, and Burse carries the same spirit over to his own ensemble — a seven-piece rock band that brings a bounty of energy to its monthly engagements at South Philly rhythm and blues institution Warmdaddy’s, as well as to Zeek’s 2017 record XXII…and this week’s Key Studio Session.

Burse is a engaging performer, a dynamic singer and a gifted interpreter of songs; a recent gig saw him tackling songs by Prince (his self-professed number-one influence), Gnarls Barley and Imagine Dragons. Those Warmdaddy’s shows mix in a fair amount of covers, but his own material is impeccably strong. XXII is funky and fun, filled with hooks, grooves, and unexpected sonic turns — there’s room to dance and room to meditate.

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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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XPN MusicNotes: Watch more tributes to Tom Petty with covers by The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cage the Elephant

Tom Petty | Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

“It was just like somebody stabbed you in the heart when you heard that Tom Petty died” – Brandon Flowers of The Killers

Over the weekend, several bands paid tribute to the late Tom Petty with covers of some of his classics performed by The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Cage the Elephant. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Bahamadia

You can’t talk about Philly hip-hop in the 90s without talking about the queen: the most awesome Bahamadia, who first stepped to the mic in ’93 and has been active at it in some form ever since.
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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Free At Noon Flashback: Rostam delivers expansive experience with Half-Light

Rostam | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Rostam Batmanglij released his debut LP Half-Light on September 15th, and to say that it was a long time coming is a definite understatement. It was six years ago this month that Rostam’s first solo track – and now Half-Light track – “Wood” was released on Soundcloud, as his band Vampire Weekend recorded their chart-topping Modern Vampires of the City. 

The years since have seen Rostam leave Vampire Weekend in 2016 to pursue solo work, produce tracks on a number of records for genre-spanning artists from Solange to Carly Rae Jepson to Hamilton Leithauser, and all the while steadily release singles that would eventually become his solo debut.

Half-Light is fifteen tracks of mystical, musical magic, and at today’s Free At Noon show Rostam performed seven of them (plus a bonus Vampire Weekend cover). Continue reading →

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Listen to The Weather Station’s new self-titled record ahead of their Boot & Saddle show

the weather station
The Weather Station | photo by Yuula Benivolski | courtesy of the artist

Toronto singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman’s newest self-titled release with her band The Weather Station takes a change of pace when compared to previous outings. The lyrics give the word “thoughtful” a whole new meaning. While it’s no question that Lindeman is truly a gifted songwriter, the themes of The Weather Station come across in such a realistic and understandable way because her word choices are so relatable. The every-day situations she writes about are so simple and elegant and not overthought at all, something that most musicians struggle with. Continue reading →