The Districts bring Popular Manipulations home to Philly and a wild Union Transfer crowd

The Districts | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

“We all almost went to college,” Rob Grote of The Districts told a sold-out Union Transfer on Friday night. “We talked about how this album is like a college degree. Hopefully we learned something, right?”

The band was headlining in support of their third record, Popular Manipulations, which came out on Friday. The record already sounds huge, but performed live it’s even more so, particularly the thundering “Violet” and the quiet-to-scream progression of “Ordinary Day.” The crowd was revved up and spent much of the night off the floor, stage diving and crowd surfing. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Gordi bridges heady synth-rock and anthemic pop at World Cafe Live

Gordi | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

After playing a Thursday night gig at Johnny Brenda’s and before heading down I-95 to play D.C.’s Songbyrd Music House, singer-songwriter Sophie Payten — known onstage as Gordi — stoped by World Cafe Live for a Free at Noon concert performance.

Sonically, the Sydney, Australia singer and songwriter manages to exist in numerous stylistic zones simultaneously. After opening on the majestic “Myriad,” a simmering spacey synth-driven track, the mood shifted with “All The Light,” a poppy, Paula Cole-ish number peppered with samples. After that taste of her forthcoming Reservoir LP, out August 25th, Gordi dove back to her Clever Disguise EP for “Wanting,” her acoustic guitar strums providing an organic counterpoint to the drumpad rhythm. Continue reading →


Neurosis and Converge brought a metal masterclass to Union Transfer

Neurosis | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

30 years in to the career, Neurosis has lost none of their edge. They have the swagger and confidence of people who have been in the game for as long as they have, but their stage presence is void of pretension. While many credit them as one of the forefathers of what could simply be called “post-metal” they make no claim to any throne other than the one of being able to reign down hell with the urgency of molasses pouring from a jar — which is as fine a description as any of their Union Transfer gig on Monday night. Continue reading →


Free At Noon Flashback: Jade Jackson performs her first (ever) encore

Jade Jackson | Photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

Jade Jackson makes me want to invest in a good pair of cowboy boots and try (for the umpteenth time) to get into country music. The singer-songwriter from California brought her twangy, rocking tunes to World Cafe for XPN’s Free At Noon series today, and from her command of the stage and strong presence I never would have guessed that this was a performer on just her first national tour. Continue reading →


Belle and Sebastian and Andrew Bird delight generations of fans at Mann Center

Belle and Sebastian | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

“Young and hip and beautiful, that’s what we used to be,” Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch laughed. He was referencing the opening set by Porches, now almost three hours ago at the Mann Center, but spun it into self-depricating self-reflection in the middle of a lively and high-energy set.

It was a night full of many instruments, and attendees got their money’s worth with hours of music during sets by Porches, Andrew Bird and a delightful selection of songs by Belle and Sebastian. After Porches played some of their synthpop jams, including a very deadpan version of “Car,” Andrew Bird took the stage with his band. Continue reading →


PHOTOS: Jamila Woods and TheMIND at Johnny Brenda’s

Jamila Woods | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Chicago singer, songwriter and poet Jamila Woods took the stage to a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s crowd last Wednesday night. Woods was on tour in support of her acclaimed 2016 LP HEAVN, and brought with her fellow Chi-towners theMIND, a production and multiinstrumental duo. Philly’s DJ Aura spun in between sets, and you can check out scenes from the evening care of photographer Koof Ibi Umoren. Continue reading →


25 Random Points from this year’s XPoNential Music Festival

XPoNential Music Festival | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

There are a lot of die-hards every year at XPoNential, but this year, one face in the crowd definitely stood out to those of us working backstage. Reuben Frank, who many of you might know from his reporting on the Philadelphia Eagles for Comcast SportsNet and WIP, as well as occasionally writing about music in Magnet Magacine. One of his claims to fame is his 25 Random Points column on CSN Philly, and we asked him to reprise that here on The Key, collecting things he heard and saw and thought about during #XPNFest. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Drive By Truckers’ charged-up set rides the River Stage into the sunset

Drive By Truckers | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Roots-tinged Athens, Georgia rock outfit Drive By Truckers released American Band last year, an album with a strident political and social consciousness that many in the music world aligned strongly to the heated election year. While the connection was undeniably there, those who have been paying attention to DBT for a minute know that the stories of the marginalized working class, the people left behind in the race for wealth and power, have been a lyrical concern of Patterson Hood and his bandmates across their nearly two-decade career.

Their charged XPNFest set yesterday was a reminder of this; two songs into their set, the band ripped into “Puttin’ People On The Moon,” and though its lyrics outlining economic depression, unaffordable medical care, and shaky jobs at Wal Mart ring true today, the song actually dates back thirteen years to 2004’s The Dirty South. 
Continue reading →