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Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers were loose, limber, and incisive at Underground Arts

Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | senialopez.photography

Three full-length records, one bestselling memoir, and countless tours interspersed between: the past few years haven’t exactly left Laura Jane Grace with much free time.

The current venture: the tailend of a U.S. tour in support of the Against Me! bandleader’s 2018 solo record, Bought to Rot (released last fall on Bloodshot Records), with her backing band the Devouring Mothers. Friday night’s show at Underground Arts served to highlight Grace’s deft songwriting talents and showcase Bought to Rot’s freewheeling “mixtape” sensibilities onstage. Continue reading →

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Shared Energy: Galantis and their fans give it their all at Franklin Music Hall

Galantis | photo by Emily De Hart for WXPN | dehartvisuals.com

Despite the rainy and dreary night, hundreds of people were welcomed to Franklin Music Hall on Friday with blue fog bellowing from the stage. Considering Galantis had sold out the venue that night, no one wasted any time making their way to the front row immediately as soon as doors opened. Continue reading →

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Cuban funk artist Cimafunk stopped in Philadelphia during his first U.S. tour. Here’s why that’s important.

Erik Alejandro Rodríguez, a Cuban artist who goes by the stage name Cimafunk, performs at Moore College of Art on March 29 | photo by Angela Gervasi for WXPN | angelagervasi.squarespace.com

Erik Iglesias Rodríguez had hardly finished performing when his audience began chanting in Spanish— ¡otra, otra! — demanding an encore.

Rodríguez, better known as Cimafunk, glanced at his band members. The small crowd had already abandoned its seats to dance in front of the tiny stage of Graham Auditorium, a room tucked inside Moore College.

The band launched into one last song, “Alabao.” Like Cimafunk, the word comes from Cuba, where it’s used as a slang expression to convey exasperation or surprise.

And in a sense, Cimafunk’s own story is… surprising. At one point, he was studying medicine in his Pinar del Rio, a province on the west side of the island. Now, his music is blasting in Havana house parties. He’s landed on Billboard’s “Latin artists to watch” list for 2019 and has graced the stage at South by Southwest. Continue reading →

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Beastie Boys Story is long, funny, and poignant, but still…

photo by Casey Landman

Did you ever have mixed feelings about a show as you were watching it, but couldn’t leave because much of it is your story?  Or the story of your friends from the 70s through the 90s, and is poignant, and often hilarious…and there’s this curiosity as to how this thing plays out despite occasional long dull lulls, unrehearsed awkwardness and frustrating hints that somebody wants to break out in song? Or rap? And of course you adore the performers on stage for the art they made and they men they became? And then Jonah Hill and Tim Meadows — the latter playing Bob Dylan at a party — stopped by?

Welcome to my review of Beastie Boys Story on Friday night at the Tower. As directed and filmed by their old pal and “Sabotage” director Spike Jonze for an unspecified film project, the Upper Darby gig always moved and felt like more of a soft opening for the upcoming Brooklyn shows — all developed, in part, as an audio/visual accompaniment to their autobiographical best seller Beastie Boys Book. Then again, as recounted toward Show’s finale by a now-grey-haired Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, he and Michael “Mike D” Diamond had not been on stage together as Beasties since “the last gig” at Bonnaroo, before the death of their beloved friend, band starter and force-for-good, Adam “MCA” Yauch seven years ago. Continue reading →

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The blues lives on through Gary Clark Jr. at the Met

Gary Clark Jr. | photo by Avi Warren | aviwarren.com

Since the blues is one of the most recycled genres in music since the early 20th century, it takes a lot to stick out as a blues-based artist. There’s only so much you can do with a guitar, the pentatonic scale, and a few licks. Or so you think. You see, the key is to explore into the world of intangibles. For instance, BB King played with feel and Albert King played with attitude. Son House played with grandiose, and Robert Johnson? He played with the melancholic-yet-passionate grit that only an oppressed, working class young southern black man from the early 20th century would understand.

Gary Clark Jr. took bits and pieces of all the blues legends before him, studied them, mastered them, then peppered them with elements of hip hop and soul to perfect a fresh take on an old recipe. Clark finds a way to pay homage to the blues greats of the 20th century, but he is careful not to rehash the same old blues tropes or re-create cheap imitations of the real thing. Clark is as authentic a songwriter as there ever was, and he proved it at a marathon two-and-a-half-hour concert at The Met Friday night. Continue reading →

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Lucy Dacus is haunting, yet optimistic at Union Transfer

Lucy Dacus | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

When Lucy Dacus appeared onstage, there was an audible shift in the room, background murmur dying down to a rapt hush. “I’m from Richmond,” she said, introducing the song “Yours & Mine.” “I wrote this in frustration of where I live and to write myself out of the shame of being an American. I think you have to do things that make you active and feel like you’re participating in the good parts of the world.” The lyrics describe the disillusionment of returning home, that feeling of not belonging anymore. Much of her acclaimed album Historian grapples with similarly tough themes, asserting a stony optimism in the face of disaster. This resilient demeanor carried across the breadth of her Thursday night concert in Philadelphia.  Continue reading →

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Hippie Sabotage shows Philly The Beautiful Beyond

Hippie Sabotage | photo by Emily De Hart for WXPN | dehartvisuals.com

We have all had our fair share of hard times. Artists are no different: painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, singers and the like. The only factor separating them from everyone else is how they display their painful experiences. Both Kevin and Jeff Saurer of California EDM act Hippie Sabotage equally carry out this consciousness throughout their digital and in-person presence with no problem. This talented brother duo are well aware of this beautiful process and bring it to life with every step and every word.

This idea of conceptualizing pain has maintained an underlying theme of the duo’s production and lyricism since the very beginning. One of their pioneering releases of 2014, “No Trouble,” briefly touched on the subject: “But the pain feels sick / But I’m on my way / Every time my brain / Trouble seems to weigh me down.” Continue reading →

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Nothing More, Of Mice and Men, Badflower, and Palisades bring a hard rock spectacular to the Fillmore Philadephia

Palisades | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Nothing More came to the Fillmore Philadelphia with three spectacular openers whom all absolutely killed the show. Palisades, a post-hardcore band from Iselin, New Jersey; Badflower, an up and coming Los Angeles band you should tune your ears to; Of Mice And Men, a classic for 90s metal/punk kids. Continue reading →

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The Roots are performing Things Fall Apart at The Roots Picnic this year (plus Raphael Saadiq, Tank & The Bangas, Yasiin Bey, &More, and more)

The Roots @ The 9th Annual Roots Picnic | photo by Wendy McCardle

Beloved Philly hip-hop trailblazers The Roots are moving across town this year. After a decade at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, the annual Questlove-curated Roots Picnic has found a greener and more spacious home in West Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts. As Quest wrote on Instagram, “finally we have GRASS to have a real picnic!”

The festival is set for Saturday, June 1st, and the band is using the occasion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its breakthrough album Things Fall Apart by performing it in full…though, since this is The Roots we’re talking about here, don’t expect a note-for-not recreation. Continue reading →