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Metric brings The Art Of Doubt, as well as Zoe and July Talk, to a Fillmore Philly V-Day party

Metric | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.comJuly Talk | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

A triple bill featuring Metric, Zoé, and July Talk brought a fantastic show to The Fillmore on Valentine’s Day. Pairing up two Canadian bands with one band from Mexico, it was a showcase of popular rock sounds of our North American neighbors, with each bringing a distinct style and energy to the stage. Continue reading →

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Encounters at the Mothership brings generations of experimental music makers under one West Philly roof

Encounters at the Mothership | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

If you’ve seen the flier for Encounters at the Mothership pinned to a corkboard in your local coffee shop, you’ve probably stared in awe at the wildly ambitious line up of four nights of noise, jazz and experimental music assembled by klezmer and jazz trombonist and curator Dan Blacksberg.  You’d also noticed something a little more alarming: the venue. Known as the Mothership, the venue resides in the same space that housed the former Eris Temple, and while being a staple of the Philadelphia underground music scene, it isn’t the most accessible. Known for raucous punk and experimental shows, Mothership has recently sought to expand the depths of its programming. Five minutes into Blackberg’s collaboration Out of Heaven on day one of Encounters, it became apparent that expansion would be the recurring theme of the four night affair.

Under the wintry backdrop of 52nd Street’s gated storefronts, Chinese takeout spots, and fading neon lights, musicians as eclectic as pedal steel artist Susan Alcorn and legendary Arkestra bandleader Marshall Allen descended the steps (and then ascended them again — Mothership is basically a magically converted row home with just, like, the weirdest set of rickety stairs to enter) to sonically entrance us. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Cactus Blossoms flaunt a fuller folk-rock sound at World Cafe Live

Cactus Blossoms | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

If you were looking for a folk fix this fine Friday afternoon, World Cafe Live was the place to be. Minneapolis crooners The Cactus Blossoms made a brief stop in town to serenade a packed house at today’s Free at Noon, and brought a taste of their new album Easy Way, which is out March 1, with them.

Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey fill their songs with the kind of harmonies only siblings have — whether it’s genetic or just the product of a lifetime of practice, it’s earned them countless Everly Brothers comparisons, awestruck audiences, and even an appearance in the Twin Peaks reboot. Supported today by a dynamic backing band, The Cactus Blossoms brought plenty of the lilting country songs they’ve become known for, but also showed a fuller, more rock-influenced side to their sound which it seems like we’ll be hearing more of on the new album, which according to Rolling Stone is a reflection on “love, joy and the need to connect.” Continue reading →

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Sharon Van Etten stuns a sold-out Union Transfer, covers Sinead O’Connor on night two of tour

Sharon Van Etten | photo by Rachel Barrish for WXPN

Sharon Van Etten‘s new album Remind Me Tomorrow is a different direction for the singer-songwriter: futuristic and spacey synths colliding with her one-of-a-kind voice and old-school style. Her stop in Philly at Union Transfer explored all of this. Van Etten’s set on Thursday felt like a new awakening for the artist, who had taken a long break from touring after her previous album, Are We There. The energy from the stage was palpable, and the crowd was electrified by the band’s performance and Van Etten’s gripping presence. With it being only night two of eighteen, there are still kinks to be worked out, but they were far outweighed by the sheer star power Van Etten brings to her live show. Continue reading →

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Kacey Musgraves brings love, smoothness, and even an engagement to The Fillmore

Kacey Musgraves | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN | brightloud.com

Having witnessed the magic of East Texan singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves on an earlier turn through Philly country (the Trocadero, 2015), there were certain elements of her live showcase that I was prepared for when she hit the stage at the Fillmore for a waaaay sold out gig on Friday night. That she would be sassy and foul mouthed. That her well-dressed band would hit any joint passed up to the stage from the audience. That she would chattily interact with the audience. That there would be hats, and not all of them cowboy. That she and her ensemble would spend lots of time backlit and in the dark so to create an air of mystery that has little to do with her forthright songwriting skills and salted caramel vocals.

Touring then after the release of the sugar honky tonk modern classic, Pageant Material, required all toes and several fingers tucked into the tones of traditional country, skiffle rhythm and rockabilly to go with her sophisti-cosmopolitan take on C&W pop.

What a difference, however, several years, emotional and aesthetic growth and maturation, marriage, a shimmering new Golden Hour, and Grammy noms for Album of the Year make. The Musgraves & Co. that took that Fillmore stage on Friday night were a smoother, shinier lot with far fewer detours like the raw “Family Is Family,” the acoustic fairy tale “Merry Go ‘Round,” and the tender lyrical pragmatism of “We get bored, so we get married / Just like dust, we settle in this town.”

What was the order of the night — played to a super hyped-crowd, several ‘rainbow yeehah’ fans up front, and even a marriage proposal in VIP (congrats Navy serviceman Daniel Caton and Avery Davis) — was a set of love and like songs that was gentler, smoother, sleeker and even in tone. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Ali Awan and his band raise the roof at World Cafe Live

Ali Awan | photo by Meghan Weale for WXPN | behance.net/meghanweale

“Everybody at the station is jumping up and down for this week’s guest,” said XPN’s Helen Leicht at the top of this week’s Free at Noon concert, and she’s not kidding. Ali Awan is the rare artist that practically the entire staff is rallying around, from Mike Vasilikos giving him his radio debut last March, to Kristen Kurtis naming his album one of her most anticipated of 2019, to his recent ripper of a Key Studio Session.

Awan started the show the same way he started that session: with “Magic Wheel,” a dreamy midtempo tune built around lead guitar harmonies between Awan and guitarist Kirby Sybert. From here, the set launched immediately into the roof-raising “Poison and Potion,” followed by the vibey “Citadel Blues,” Awan’s debut single that came out just over a year ago. Continue reading →

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Arc Iris, Square Peg Round Hole light up MilkBoy

Arc Iris | photo by Senia Lopez | senialopez.photography

Last February I was introduced to experimental pop trio Arc Iris when they opened up for New Zealand singer Kimbra at Union Transfer. I was incredibly interested in not only their sound but the visual elements they brought to the stage: backlit wings worn by singer Jocie Adams, pig-masked mascots dancing on stage during their final number.

Now on tour for their new album Icon of Ego, Arc Iris co-headlined a show last weekend with instrumental local band Square Peg Round Hole at MilkBoy. When talking to some fans in the crowd, there was mentioning about seeing Arc Iris perform in a such an intimate venue. By the end of the night everyone knew that a smaller stage did not hinder their grand performance in the slightest.  Continue reading →

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The Revivalists are a knockout alongside American Authors at The Met

The Revivalists | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

New Orleans natives The Revivalists played hit after hit for all their Philly friends at the still-new Metropolitan Opera House Saturday night. Supported by Boston’s American Authors, known for their hit “Best Day Of My Life” a couple years back, both bands brought a mostly seated crowd to their feet for the whole night. Featuring a cover of The Killers’ iconic “Mr. Brightside” and several just-released tracks, American Authors continuously thanked The Revivalists for including them on this tour after they played a show together early last year. The catchy pop-rock songs and engaging frontman made for the perfect opener. Continue reading →