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Free at Noon Flashback: Fans sing along with Philly musician Kenn Kweder

Kenn Kweder
Kenn Kweder | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Philadelphia local Kenn Kweder brought highenergy and an entertaining show to World Cafe Live for today’s Free at Noon concert. Backed by the band The Hipster Mind Tricks, Kweder performed a set for fans to dance and sing to.

The Upper Darby-native is no stranger to WXPN, having been a figure in the Philadelphia music scene since the 70’s, which brought out fans new and old to the Free at Noon scene. Kweder just recently was just featured in a documentary about his career and old group Kenn Kweder and The Secret Kidds. Continue reading →

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Pearl Jam powers through an epic night at the Wells Fargo Center

Pearl Jam | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | <a href=http://www.hellerhound.com/ target="_blank">hellerhound.com</a>
Pearl Jam | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

It could be argued — say if rock critic and punk purist Greil Marcus were your arts and culture professor — that a gaudy spectacle like last night’s Pearl Jam show at Wells Fargo Center wouldn’t hold much genuine value, for all its pomp, its loathsome corporate sponsorship and overpriced domestic beer, in contrast for example with the intimacy and palpable hunger of a younger band playing a smaller space (which, in Philly, would have a much better tap selection too).

Of course, Pearl Jam were that younger band at one point, sweating all over those smaller rooms through loosely hanging, open-fronted plaid, stomping those stages in scuffed black Doc Marten’s boots. In July of 1991, touring in support of their anthemic debut record Ten, they played to a modest audience at South Street’s JC Dobbs, a local premiere that Eddie Vedder likes to frequently evoke with Philly crowds. And less than a year later, the band played The Trocadero, just a few months before setting a new record for album sales with 1992’s Vs.

Pearl Jam | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | <a href=http://www.hellerhound.com/ target="_blank">hellerhound.com</a>
Pearl Jam | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

The next time Pearl Jam would return to the Philly area would be six years later, following a notable battle with Ticketmaster, waged and lost, that saw their noble-minded boycott of Philly venues in favor of Jones Beach in New York and Meriweather Post Pavilion down by DC. By then, the band was a heavyweight festival headliner, playing almost exclusively at blockbuster concert venues.

Still, despite prime Vitalogy-era Pearl Jam having gone MIA at Philly venues, Vedder noted early on in their nearly three-hour set last night that the band’s played Philly a total of some twenty-two times, at a rate that almost works out to once a year since their inception two-and-a-half decades ago. They seem to have a special affinity for the city, an ongoing mutual love-affair highlighted by four consecutive and largely sold-out marathon shows in October 2009 to close down the Spectrum, in celebration of the building’s 40-year lifetime before it was demolished a year later.

The reception last night at Wells Fargo certainly served as testimony to that relationship. Continue reading →

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Watch The Bul Bey throw down in a high-energy set for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Road Show

The Bul Bey performs at World Cafe Live for NPR Music's Tiny Desk Road Show | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | <a href=http://racheldelsordophotography.com target="_blank">racheldelsordophotography.com</a>
The Bul Bey performs at World Cafe Live for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Road Show | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Philly rapper The Bul Bey had a busy couple days last week. After kicking off the Beyond the Bars benefit concert at World Cafe Live, Bey returned to the venue’s upstairs stage on Tuesday April 19th to throw down at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Road Show.

Bob Boilen and his team brought their popular video contest on the road this spring, and threw a party for a sold-out crowd upstairs at World Cafe Live that featured three standouts from the crop of 131 Philly submissions. Bey took the stage in the middle and immediately got the crowd moving with a high-energy performance backed by DJ John Morrison (a contributor to The Key), delving into his 2015 project Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies and telling the stories behind them. Continue reading →

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Watch singer-songwriter Joy Ike serenade the NPR Music Tiny Desk Road Show

Joy Ike performs at World Cafe Live for NPR Music's Tiny Desk Road Show | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | <a href=http://racheldelsordophotography.com target="_blank">racheldelsordophotography.com</a>
Joy Ike performs at World Cafe Live for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Road Show | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Back on Tuesday the 19th of April, Bob Boilen and his team at NPR Music made a visit to Philadelphia for the first stop of their Tiny Desk Contest Road Show. The popular video / performance series opened itself up to submissions from across the country this winter, drawing in 131 entries from the Philadelphia music community.

Three of the standout submissions from Philly – as chosen by WXPN, NPR Music and Lagunitas – performed for a sold-out crowd at World Cafe Live upstairs on the 19th, beginning with singer-songwriter Joy Ike. Accompanied on percussion by her sister Peace – yes, their names are actually Peace and Joy – the duo played moving and catchy, piano-driven pop songs. Moments of the set recalled Fiona Apple and Leonard Cohen, and the mood ranged from contemplative to celebratory. Continue reading →

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Gogo Penguin bring electro-jazz to World Cafe Live

gogo penguin
Gogo Penguin | photo by Matthew Shaver | http://www.brightloud.com/

I’m a list fan.  Top 10 lists, bottom 10 lists, doesn’t matter.  When it comes to music, outside of the annual, quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly, and Bey-weekly lists, my favorite is the Mercury Prize shortlist.  It’s a prestigious list that celebrates British and Irish musicians, and it is the place where I discovered a little trio called Gogo Penguin.

When I first saw the name, the immediate thought that popped in to my head was “quirky indie rock band.”  A tried and true formula for success.  I quickly discovered that I was deliciously incorrect.  Gogo Penguin is, at their heart, a jazz band. 

Continue reading →

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Polica reclaims Union Transfer with its new United Crushers

Polica | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN
Polica | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

I’ll never forget my first time…the 2012 Non-COMMvention. Non-COMM is the annual gathering of non-commercial triple-A stations, held every may at World Cafe Live.  From the first row, my eyes immediately locked on a seductive, yet graceful Channy Leaneagh.  It was a new sound, a new experience, and I was hooked from the start. 

The band Leaneagh fronts – Minneapolis electronic rock outfit Polica –  took the stage on Monday night to a rolling bass that reverberated throughout Union Transfer.  As the building shook, the mood for their signature interplay between drums and bass began to pull the audience deeper into their sound – much like my first time experiencing them.  In support of their third album, United Crushers, Leaneagh opened the set with the album’s first three tracks in sequential order.  “Summer Please,” “Lime Habit.” and “Someway” all showcase the bands wonderful maturation through richer, more textured sounds – very much a departure from the rawness that was their first album, Give Up the Ghost, in 2012. Continue reading →

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Indie rock showman Father John Misty took the Fillmore Stage this weekend

Father John Misty | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN | <a href=http://hopehelmuth.com target="_blank">hopehelmuth.com</a>
Father John Misty | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN | hopehelmuth.com

Erotic, comedic and at times even disturbing, we experienced all the feels when Father John Misty stopped by The Fillmore on Saturday night.

FJM (offstage name: Josh Tillman) made his mystical presence known to a screaming crowd as he took the stage. Within minutes he dropped down on his knees, holding a fan’s hand while singing. The crowd soaked in all of his spontaneous behavior. Later in the set he lifted someone’s iPhone to the stage to the excitement of a fan who was recording a video – something he did last time he was in town, at Union Transfer.

The crowd soaked in all this spontaneous (and seemingly spontaneous) behavior, and there were definitely fans that were losing their minds. We even had a fainter in the house. It was made very clear that the audience had a new favorite sex symbol. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Boogarins bring psychedelic rock to World Cafe Live

Boogarins | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN
Boogarins | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Brazilian rock outfit Boogarins kicked off the Friday afternoon by bringing their psychedelic rock sound into World Cafe Live for this week’s Free at Noon concert. The band made an appearance in Philadelphia not too long ago during their tour with Andrew Bird, and they decided to make one more stop before heading up to Brooklyn. Their tour is in support of their second and most recent album Manual, which was released back in October 2015. Continue reading →

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Beyond the Bars: The Districts, Queen of Jeans and more rip it up for a good cause

The Districts | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
The Districts | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

I could sit here and regale you with stories and stats about the Prison-Industrial Complex all day, but is that going to do anything? Even for the most #woke among us, it’s hard to know where to start to deal with something as massively unassailable as a for-profit prison system that funnels young lives straight into jails. But—much like music—it’s best to start with stories. Sunday night at World Cafe Live, Philly organization Beyond the Bars hit home with a massive benefit show incorporating both to strike back.

By going into prisons and teaching music to incarcerated youth, Beyond the Bars staff and volunteers are able to bring hope and respite to members of society that most people have already written off as a loss. “Even though they’re in prison, they’re still people, man. Just people,” said Bars staff member Christopher Thornton. Continue reading →

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“My F’in Night at the Opera”: Iggy Pop channels the spirit of ’77 at the Academy of Music

Iggy Pop | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Iggy Pop | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

This story begins on March 19, 1977. It’s the day after the release of Iggy Pop‘s solo debut, The Idiot, and he’s performing at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia with his collaborator and producer, David Bowie. Also in attendance is my concert connoisseur / photographer mother, Nancy. She has brought her camera, hoping to catch photos of Bowie but unwittingly bearing witness to a musical partnership that would connect Iggy Pop to another musical brethren decades later.

Fast forward forty years – I’m standing in front of the Academy of Music, waiting for my turn to photograph Iggy Pop. Continue reading →