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Rayland Baxter warms up the World Cafe Live audience

Rayland Baxter | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN | hopehelmuth.com
Rayland Baxter | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN | hopehelmuth.com

The last time we saw Rayland Baxter was on a warm summer night opening up for Grace Potter at The Susquehanna Bank Center.  In contrast to that night, there was still post-blizzard snow dusting the streets last weekend when he appeared at World Cafe Live.

With the air of a folksy troubadour, Baxter and his band played many favorites from his newest album Imaginary Man as well as some songs from his debut Feathers & Fishhooks.  Between songs, Baxter touched on the history of his songwriting routing back to his days in Israel.  Continue reading →

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Low struck reflective chords at Johnny Brenda’s last night

low
Low | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com

Critics may contend that Low frontman Alan Sparhawk was a mid-90’s iconoclast, in a way, having eschewed the predominant contemporary genres of Duluth, Minnesota in favor of the music that Low became known for: a subdued and often dark brand of moody rock and roll. On the other hand, the 90’s outside of Duluth were full of that too, from Tanya Donelly’s somber psychedelic strokes on Belly’s excellent debut record Star to the era’s lo-fi poster kids My Bloody Valentine.

But, forget the 90’s for a minute, because the era isn’t necessarily always relevant in the context of this band. The most distinctive element of Low’s music and stagecraft lie in the signature, often haunting harmonies between Sparhawk and wife Mimi Parker, as she lightly dusts her snares with her trademark percussion brushes. Together with bassist and keyboard player Steve Garrington, Low created a compelling mood at Johnny Brenda’s last night, approved of in tacit head-nods by a legion of devoted fans at the sold out show, the same fans that forgave them for rescheduling a Philly appearance last Fall interrupted by a papal visit, and who turned out in numbers on a rainy Winter night regardless.

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“A Rock Version of Cirque du Soleil”: Muse brings Sunday night madness to Wells Fargo Center

Muse | Photo by Joe del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com
Muse | Photo by Joe del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com

It is to their credit that Muse have been able to build such a massive following in the US. The are a catchier, edgier, cousin of Radiohead, and not the kind of band you typically see filling arenas here. But their live shows are a spectacle, and last night the Wells Fargo Center was no exception.

Playing in the round, their show opened with a note about the the number of people killed by drones. A dozen or so stormtroopers with laser eyes surrounded the stage while the band rose from three stands at separate ends of the arena. Clear spherical drones hovered and pointed spotlights around the crowd as the band launched into “Psycho,” one of their stronger tracks from 2015’s Drones. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Lissie brings the wild west to Philadelphia

Photo by Breanna Keohane
Photo by Breanna Keohane

With acoustic guitar in hand, Lissie walked out on World Cafe Live’s stage earlier today to show Philadelphia a little bit of her midwest roots with a raw folk rock sound.

Alongside electric guitarist Edward Stanton, Lissie kicked off the set with her new song “Hero,” her stripped-down performance showing off a natural vocal talent and intricate lyrics. Debuting another new song “Don’t You Give Up On Me,” Lissie showed the crowd her vulnerable side through a message that focuses on her sense of self and her surroundings. Continue reading →

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Ratatat escape winter storm Jonas inside the Electric Factory

ratatat
Ratatat | photo by Morgan Smith for WXPN | www.phobymo.com

There’s something to be said of a band that can pack a venue despite a blizzard dropping ten tons of unplowed Fuck You on every intersection in the city. This past Sunday night, with our hands thawing and eyes adjusting in the Electric Factory’s vestibule, chattering teeth gave way to clenched jaws as the excitement of seeing just such a band ­as Brooklyn’s Ratatat ­hit.

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Free at Noon Flashback: SIMO warms the crowd at World Cafe Live

SIMO | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN
SIMO | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Nashville-based SIMO braved Philadelphia’s cold weather and snowy forecast to perform XPN’s Free at Noon concert today. The blues rock trio filled World Cafe Live with an energetic crowd ready to hear their improvisational, soulful sound. SIMO has come into Philly just in time to prepare for their upcoming tour and soon-to-be-released album, Let Love Show The Way.

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Hard work pays off, Hardwork Movement packs it in at KFN

Hardwork Movement | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Hardwork Movement | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

“I do not think Kung Fu Necktie knew what they were getting into when they agreed to have us play here,” Jeremy Keys told a packed house at the Fishtown venue on January 7th.

When I say packed, I don’t exaggerate. From the moment you got to the top of the stairs at Hardwork Movement‘s release party, it was wall-to-wall people filling up the bar, into the secondary room (what the heck do we call that…the dance floor? the chillout room? the place with couches?) and on the way to the stage tucked away in the far room. Continue reading →

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A fond farewell (for now) from DRGN King at Bourbon and Branch

DRGN King | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com
DRGN King | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

“It means a lot that you all came out,” Dom Angelella told the crowd at Bourbon and Branch. “Cause this might be the only show we play this year. Okay, I’ll be honest: it’s the only show we’ll play this year. Maybe ever.”

If there was any indecision on the part of the DRGN King frontman on Saturday night, it was clearly a hesitance to call a definitive end to a project that’s evoked so much joy among his friends and fans, longtime followers and newcomers alike. About half the people I chatted with in the audience didn’t seem to even be aware that the band had been talking “hiatus” in their promotion of the show, and though the individual members were all ramping up for a busy year with other pursuits, Angelella still talked about carving out some time to write new material.

But if this was indeed DRGN King’s farewell, it couldn’t have picked a better note to go out on. Continue reading →