Watch The Districts’ full set from Best Kept Secret festival

The Districts | Photo by Pooneh Ghana | courtesy of the artist

Hometown rockers The Districts found themselves in Europe earlier this summer, traveling from England to Denmark in June, with stops in Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands along the way. It was on June 8th in the Netherlands The Districts performed at Best Kept Secret festival. Thanks to the festival, their full set is now up on YouTube to stream.

During their set, the band played five songs off their 2017 LP, Popular Manipulations, which recently celebrated its first birthday on August 11th. According to an Instagram post from the band, the boys are back in the studio gearing up for their fourth LP. While their Best Kept Secret set didn’t contain any new songs, be on the lookout for new material teased out by the band in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. The band closed out their set with a career-spanning best-of run, from 2012’s “Funeral Beds” into 2018’s “Nighttime Girls,” and finally ripping through set-closing staple “Young Blood,” in all of its glorious 10 minutes. Continue reading →


Battle of Who Has The Best Instruments: Cake, Ben Folds, and Tall Heights face off at The Mann

Cake | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN |

Last night, Ben Folds and Cake brought their double headlining tour to the Mann Center, the two alt-rock legends rocking the house with their idiosyncratic brands. One might be able to draw all sorts of comparisons and reasons as to why a co-headlining tour between these artists works so well, but I personally am willing to bet it began as a competition as to who could bring the best instruments. Folds’ lineup consisted of piano, of course, but also featuring opener Tall Heights as a backing band, who played on guitar, cello, cocktail drums, and adding a bass harmonica in lieu of an electric bass. Cake, not to be outdone, included an act of  bass, drums, and guitar, with trumpet, melodica, and vibraslap, among several other percussion instruments. The two iconic groups were matched in wit and in talent, and their use of audience participation almost hypnotic. Continue reading →


Radiohead reign over the Wells Fargo Center

Radiohead | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

Confession time: I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when revisiting Radiohead in a live setting for the first time in a decade. Sure, I knew objectively that I would be witnessing a technically proficient and dynamic performance, rich with songs from one of the strongest catalogs in modern rock history. I also knew that I would be ensconced in the enthusiastic energy of the crowd who filled in before, full of fans that no doubt pored over the relatively restrained material that the band has released over the last ten years with the same piety they devoted to the more conventionally accessible albums that preceded it. However, I didn’t know what or how I would feel, personally, when the lights went down on Tuesday night and that opening twinkle of “Daydreaming” filled the still air of the venue. In an instant, it was like no time had passed. For the two hours and change that followed, it was like time ceased to exist altogether. Along with the rest of the rapt audience, I was treated to a transfixing, transcendent night of music—the first of two in Philly that closed out the band’s tour for 2016’s elegant A Moon Shaped Pool—that simultaneously felt like catching up with an old friend and discovering a new favorite artist all over again. Continue reading →


Tinariwen explores open spaces for a captivated TLA crowd

Tinariwen | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

Tinariwen needs no opening act; the group had the audience captivated all on their own for over an hour and a half this weekend at The Theater of Living Arts. They’ve been described as a electric guitar orchestra or desert blues, and likened to the music of Malian folk/blues musician Ali Farka Toure. None of these comparisons do the band justice.

Tinariwen, which means either “open spaces,” “empty places,” or just “deserts,” depending on who translates your Tamasheq, mixes the traditional sounds of the Tuareg culture with blues/rock electric guitars, hypnotic percussion, and poetic vocals that are usually sung in a call and response form that emphasizes their meaning. Continue reading →


Alex Cameron reveals layers upon layers of character and style in his Underground Arts set

Alex Cameron | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

I had no idea what to expect from an Alex Cameron live show. His Forced Witness one of my favorite albums of 2017, a catchy-as-hell collection of retro-pop perfection that weaves its way in before revealing its dark and sleazy lyrical content. And then there are layers beneath those layers. I was told is was a persona, something very different from the Sydney-based Cameron’s earlier musical career in a relatively straightforward electronic act called Seekae.

If it’s a persona, he wears it well. Claiming to portray the character of a failed straight white guy, a collective of real people and real stories, Cameron shuffles around the stage exuding confidence and blaring out lines like “yeah she’s seen me naked, she knows I’m packing heat” in the most harmless of ways.  Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Josh Ritter serenades the River Stage with sunset jams Sunday evening

Josh Ritter | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

To close another wonderful weekend at the XPoNential Music Festival, longtime station favorite Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band took the stage, sun setting on the Philadelphia skyline in the distance. The colors of the sky progressed through the sunset gradient, from pinks, yellows, and oranges of the early sunset to the purples and blues of nightfall – the perfect backdrop for Ritter’s festival-closing performance. Time can easily escape the crowd during moments like this, lost in the music during the famed golden hour. Ritter’s well timed 18-track set was the perfect compliment to close out the weekend at Wiggins Park. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: JD McPherson gets rowdy with the Marina Stage crowd

J.D. McPherson | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

Straight out of Oklahoma, JP McPherson brought the sweet sounds of classic rock n’ roll to the Marina Stage.

Starting with the infectious rockabilly groove of “Crying’s Just a Thing That You Do”, you immediately know J.D. was getting the crowd warming up and ready to twist some hips. Following was the 50s-style rocker “Fire Bug”, and this gem got the crowd jitterbuggin’. Throughout the performance, the band kept everything smooth and running perfectly without missing one beat especially during the boogie-inducing track “North Side Gal.” Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: The Blind Boys of Alabama connect to Gospel roots on the River Stage

Blind Boys of Alabama | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

“Sit back, relax, take your shoes off if you want to, and listen to The Blind Boys of Alabama,” founding member Jimmy Carter said to greet the crowd. Instead of noting what visually impaired people cannot do, The Blind Boys of Alabama promote what they can do, and this particular group sure can sing Gospel music.

Second track “God Knows Everything” highlighted this sentiment, and it was during this song I overheard a crowd member say “you gotta go to Church one way or another.” Sunday evening on the River Stage, the Blind Boys’ angelic riffs and choir style chorus brought the crowd to church. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Hiss Golden Messenger’s southern folk takes root on the Marina Stage

Hiss Golden Messenger | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

Nursing a fresh sunburn and dodging the inflated beach ball being tossed around the crowd, I wove my way toward the Marina Stage. MC Taylor and the accompanying four-piece band of Hiss Golden Messenger dared the audience to match the energy of last night’s set in Newport, where the band was joined by singer Mavis Staples. “I could’ve died after that particular performance…It’s the third day of this festival, nothing matters anymore. This time tomorrow I’ll be in a hammock with my kids,” Taylor said.

What the blues-rock band lacked in dance moves (especially considering that they directly followed that wild Tank and the Bangas set), they made up for in power, giving a vivacious performance that left them toweling the sweat from their faces. Continue reading →