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Free At Noon Flashback: Caitlyn Smith gives Starfire a solo makeover

Caitlyn Smith | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Caitlyn Smith released her debut full-length record Starfire last month, but her songs have already been topping the charts for years – sung by the likes of Dolly Parton, Meghan Trainor, James Bay, Lady Antebellum, and so many more. Smith has refocused her songwriting expertise on her own life, crafting vivid, powerful lyrics from the stories and experiences that she’s collected while living and working in Nashville.

For today’s Free At Noon show, Smith’s already intimate tracks were made even more so during the solo performance. Continue reading →

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Tyler The Creator and Vince Staples go big, introspectively, at the Liacouras Center

Tyler The Creator | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Vince Staples and Tyler, The Creator are showing serious growth from the now-disbanded Odd Future crew. With more attention spent on interactive stage settings at the Liacouras Center last week, each artist was able to deliver a more introspective set then we’ve seen from them in the past. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Philly’s Hambone Relay brings sunshine on a cloudy day

Hambone Relay | photos by Ashley Gellman | agellmanphotos.com

“I was you guys every week,” said Rob Tait, now onstage behind the drums instead of part of the Free At Noon crowd gathered in World Cafe Live. Tait was joined by organist Mark Brown and guitarist Luke Ferracone, who together are Hambone Relay.

The Philadelphia-based trio’s modern, jazz-funk-psychedelic grooves in no way matched the gray skies outside. Their dynamic, up-tempo tracks immediately heightened the energy in the room and never let it drop during the set. The trio performed tracks from their 2013 self-titled debut and their 2016 record Free Hugs all the way to their latest release, American Hi-Fi. Continue reading →

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Girlpool’s engaging chemistry does not disappoint at the First Unitarian Church

Girlpool | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

It’s summer in here.” – Harmony Tividad

Ever since the release of Powerplant, people have been raving about the energy and sound of Girlpool full band. After waiting years to see them live, the time for me finally came during a sold out Church show this past Saturday with Palberta and a stripped down Land of Talk. Continue reading →

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First Aid Kit return to Union Transfer with familiar harmonies and newfound fervor

First Aid Kit | Photo by: Ellen Miller | ellencm.com
First Aid Kit | photo by Ellen Miller | ellencm.com

First Aid Kit have a knack for making the kind of sad music that does everything but leave you feeling sad — and they’ve been doing it for ten years. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg took the stage at Union Transfer Saturday night for the first time since 2014, and for the first time as a five-piece band. As the sisters put it, it had been “way too long,” and the sold-out crowd was eager to see what this new era of First Aid Kit would bring. Continue reading →

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Inara George delivers a short set of solo indie-pop confection at Boot and Saddle

Inara George | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Inara George returned to a Philadelphia stage as a solo artist for the first time in over a decade this weekend. In that time, the prolific songwriter has certainly been no stranger to the recording studio, having released three records with each of two other projects, including the one for which she’s perhaps best known, LA-based duo The Bird and the Bee.

Those in attendance at Friday’s show were clearly fans of George’s entire catalog, and she expressed her appreciation for that in expressly acknowledging her other work, as well as those who may have been a fan of her father too: the late Lowell George, one of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and co-founder of legendary ’70s boogie-rock juggernaut Little Feat.

Still, George was intent to focus on her latest solo material that night, as she and her three supporting musicians regaled the rapt Boot-&-Saddle crowd with a short set of solo indie-pop confection pulled with few exceptions from her new record, Dearest Everybody, released only about a week prior. Continue reading →

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Lana Del Rey offers a gloriously moody counterpoint to South Philly revelry at Wells Fargo Center Sunday

Lana Del Rey | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A few minutes after the Eagles clinched their NFC championship victory on Sunday night, Lana Del Rey took the stage at the Wells Fargo Center, just across the sports complex. Someone had tipped her off. “Philadelphia…I hear your team won tonight,” she beamed to jubilant crowd – “so it should be a good night.” And so it was – although, to be sure, the gloriously moody, brooding strains she had in store for us were a far cry from the gleeful mayhem presumably erupting in the parking lots just outside the stadium. Aside from her penchant for Americana and for grand, dramatic pageantry, there probably aren’t all that many similarities between a Lana Del Rey concert and a football game. At least her backup dancers’ velvet minidresses were approximately the right shade of green.

As a committed fan who was blown away by Lana’s debut back in 2012 and has been eagerly anticipating an opportunity to see her live ever since, I still had some major doubts about this concert, particularly related to it being an arena show. For one thing, it’s always been strangely difficult to get a clear sense of her actual popularity. Could she even come close to filling the Wells Fargo? Turns out she did much better than I’d feared: the lower stands, as far as I could see, were relatively well populated all the way around the arena – at least, they didn’t feel embarrassingly empty (as was pretty much the case when I saw Arcade Fire there a few months back.) The GA floor section, however, was at best a quarter filled, which put a slight, odd damper on the energy of the evening. (Not that there’s necessarily a better indoor venue for her to play in town – she would have handily sold out the Fillmore and left many fans wanting – but perhaps the pricing tiers could have been adjusted to help avoid a big empty space in the middle of the room.) Continue reading →