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Reliving the magic with Brian Wilson at the Tower Theater

Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

If you close your eyes, it sounds just like it’s 1967 in Santa Monica. Or Pacific Beach or Carmel-by-the-Sea; whichever California beach town you prefer. But when you look around The Tower Theater on this particular fall night in Upper Darby, the room is filled with Beach Boys fans who have certainly been singing along to these surf rock songs for decades. There are also 11 people on stage, instead of the original five, but still creating that same magical, harmonic sound.

Brian Wilson is seated front and center at his piano, like he’s done for weeks as he’s traveled around the country for the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds tour. Al Jardine, former Beach Boy, is next to him on guitar. The crowd stands and cheers as the band comes out, and they open with “California Girls.” Every song ends in a standing ovation, even gooey ballads like “In My Room” and “Surfer Girl.” Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam shake the rafters “A 1000 Times” over

Hamilton and Rostam | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
Hamilton and Rostam | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

When I first heard that Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij were putting out an album together, I was as excited as I was apprehensive. It sounded great on paper, of course, but rarely do collaborations like this go over as well as they’re theoretically supposed to. With The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend in their respective back catalogs, the duo had a lot to live up to, but this afternoon, they did just that with an exhilarating, eight-song set at WXPN’s Free at Noon concert. Continue reading →

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Rock The Nation: The legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry lights up World Cafe Live

Lee "Scratch" Perry | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | <a href=http://www.deltufophotography.com/ target="_blank">deltufophotography.com</a>
Lee “Scratch” Perry | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com

I didn’t know what to expect from this one. I was aware of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s music, a melange of dub/reggae and electronics that he largely invented over a number of decades. That he is a Grammy winner and is listed by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 greatest artists (of any genre) of all time. I was also aware that the man is 80. But I was not expecting this.

It was a strong, diverse crowd at World Cafe, mostly younger people up front. Perry’s backing band Subatomic Sound System played a 40 minute into set, which was excellent set the stage nicely. Legendary percussionist Larry McDonald was standout, especially considering he is also in his late 70s- he alone was worth the price of admission. When Lee finally came out it was to a roar from the crowd- even at 80 the man was instantly spritely and was festooned in a colorful getup that was part reggae, part crazy homeless guy. His microphone was embedded in a beer can, and his clothing/ hat/ suitcase and shoes all had various random trinkets attached to them. Continue reading →

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Ra Ra Riot shows The Fillmore that less is more

Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href=https://brotherlylost.com/ target="_blank">brotherlylost.com</a>
Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com

With so few members and such a bold sound, Ra Ra Riot once again proves that less is more. The Syracuse natives performed this past Friday at The Fillmore, opening for Young The Giant for the Home of the Strange Tour.

The six-piece ensemble opened with fan favorite “Too Too Fast” from their first album, The Rhumb Line; its combination of synth-heavy dance breaks and dramatic lighting teased glimpses of the band while directing the crowds’ focus on the sound. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Bear’s Den Proves Themselves to be an Obvious Standout in Today’s Folk Rock Scene

Bears Den live at Free At Noon | Photo by: Tiana Timmerberg
Bears Den live at Free At Noon | Photo by: Tiana Timmerberg

Based on their super casual demeanor and lead singer Andrew Davie’s repeatedly thanking the crowd for attending- you would never know that UK-based duo Bear’s Den accumulates an impressive 1 million listeners per month on Spotify.

The duo, consisting of Andrew Davie as the lead vocalist/guitarist and the multi-instrumental Kev Jones, was backed by an impressive four man band at today’s Free at Noon concert. The band was promoting their sophomore album Red Earth and Pouring Rain which was released on July 22. With the rise in popularity of folk-rock, it is easy for Americana inspired bands to get overlooked because of the influx of other groups also falling into this genre. Not Bear’s Den, Davies put a truly poetic spin on the typical themes of lost love and navigating adulthood. Lyrics like “There will still be a trace of our love left behind in the dew upon the vine” from Dew on the Vine and “I was too young to understand the flowers slipping from your hands” from their international hit Above the Clouds of Pompeii were enough to catch the ear of any prose enthusiasts in the crowd. Onlookers was mesmerized for the entirety of the thirty-minute set. Not a sound was made anywhere in the room except in between songs at which time the crowd enthusiastically whistled and cheered for the bashful men on stage. Continue reading →

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How I survived my first Made In America festival

Made in America | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Earlier this month, the 2016 Made in America Festival took to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philly for two days; you can see our full photo coverage here and here. Today, our Lissa Alicia comes to us with her full experiential account of the Philly megafestival; highs and lows alike.

This year’s Made In America fest was my very first one, and I was not at all prepared for what was in store for me that weekend. By no means was this my first rodeo (festival). Earlier this year I attended The Roots Picnic. In the past I have hit up both Governors Ball, Mad Decent Block Party, and Afropunk Festivals. Attending those festivals were for pleasure. Although I was looking forward to Made In America, I was work minded since I was covering the show. I am only 25, so I figured moderate energy and a banana for breakfast would get me through day one. I mean I did survive moshing and raving at Mad Decent while nursing a legendary hangover and only existing on half a blueberry muffin. I guess I am too old for all that jazz now. Continue reading →

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Amos Lee brings Spirit home

Amos Lee | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN
Amos Lee | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN

Considering WXPN (as a community and staff) are some of the biggest Amos Lee fans around, to say we were excited to cover this show is beyond an understatement. Lee set out on his fall tour this past Friday in support of his newest album, Spirit. This stellar show made its way back to Lee’s hometown, where he was welcomed by a roaring crowd packed into the Academy of Music ballroom. Continue reading →

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The Lumineers light up the Mann Center, front to back


The Lumineers | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com

The background music faded away and The Mann Center went dark as the crew tore down the black curtain, revealing The Lumineers’ brilliant stage set up for the night. The crowd exploded into cheers and applauds as the Colorado folk rock favories ran onto stage and kicked off their set with “Sleep on the Floor,” going right into “Ophelia,” the first single from their new Cleopatra and a fan favorite. It was the kickoff night of The Lumineers’ North American tour, and it sounded wonderful. Continue reading →

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Spirit in the Night: Bruce Springsteen takes on Citizens Bank Park for night two

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com

Philly has always been close to Bruce Springsteen’s heart. It was one of the cities that first supported him when he was a young performer, and that has enjoyed his return countless times. In fact, it was early support and interviews by WXPN’s David Dye (himself a young man at WMMR at the time) that helped bring interest in Bruce to the area. Last night at Citizen’s Bank Park, the same venue where just two nights ago he broke his US set length by playing a 34 song set that lasted an astounding 4 hours and 3 minutes. For a performer in his late 60s, over 5 decades into live performance, this is unprecedented. Continue reading →

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Made In America Day Two: Chance the Rapper, Coldplay, Gary Clark Jr. and more

Chance to Rapper at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Chance to Rapper at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

The day was warm and dry and the Parkway was stacked with fierce performances for the second day of the fifth annual Made in America festival.

Opening with Playboi Carti, closing with Coldplay, featuring standout sets from Chance the Rapper, carnivalesque indie rockers  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, guitar god Gary Clark Jr., hip-hop sensation Desiigner, punk rock troubadours Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, hardcore heroes Touche Amore and so much more — not to mention celebs in the audience from Jay Z and Beyonce to former president Bill Clinton — it was a day to remember and then some.

Check out photos below, check out our gallery from day one, and look for a full review of the festival later in the week. Continue reading →