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Free at Noon Flashback: Neko Case enchants the midday crowd at World Cafe Live

Neko Case | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | senialopez.photography

Singer-songwriter Neko Case is known as much for her work with The New Pornographers as she is for her seven solo albums, and today enchanted a packed house at World Cafe Live upstairs for the Free at Noon concert. Backed by a six-piece band, Neko wielded a Fender Jaguar, her coppery hair veiling her face. “Easy with the cameras…If you film me I’ll forget the words,” she warned. Beyond the firm request for no cameras, the she kept the stage banter to a minimum, moving fluidly through the set.

The band opened with “Man,” a tambourine-heavy song with country vibes that sneers with attitude, the perfect pick to get the crowd stomping. “Hell-On,” the title track of Neko’s latest album, is eerie and echoing. The lyrics weave a mystical setting as if plucked from the pages of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. “Halls of Sarah” is a wistful call in the dark, with wispy, layered vocals. “She didn’t ask to be your remake or your muse / We’re parasites inside her blues,” Neko sang, her voice toying with language, twisting vowels, sweet but never fragile. The set picked up speed toward the end, “Last Lion of Albion” the seam-splitting finale with heavy drum rolls and clanging cowbell.

Neko Case will play Festival Pier tonight, info and tickets hereContinue reading →

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Firefly On The Fly: Sunday sundown with Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Lord Huron, Kamasi Washington, Warren G and more

Kendrick Lamar | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

We rolled back into Philadelphia last night around 1 a.m., sweaty and exhausted from the final and hottest day of the 2018 Firefly Music Festival. It started with hip-hop — classic West Coast g-funk originator Warren G , whose signature jams “Regulate” and “Summertime in the LBC” played perfectly in the early afternoon — and ended with hip-hop — the Pulitzer Prize winning Kendrick Lamar, whose set was gripping and participatory, if a bit phoned-in (he twice told the crowd “This is my first time here in Delaware,” despite playing Firefly previously in 2013). Continue reading →

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Firefly On The Fly: Saturday shines with The Killers, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Lucy Dacus, Alex Lahey and more

The Killers | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Saturday is always the longest haul of Firefly weekend, and we took in a huge range of music today. Pop rock four-piece The Aces started us off on the Lawn Stage, with Philly singer-songwriter Ben O’Neill not far behind in the coffeehouse. A doubleheader of Australian rock featuring Middle Kids and Alex Lahey lifted up our afternoon.

Philly rockers Foxtrot and the Get Down performed a rare acoustic set, something they should get in the habit of doing — these songs sound like they were written to be performed in this intimate, elegant way. Continue reading →

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The Wonder Years played two packed houses at The Fillmore Philly with Tigers Jaw, Tiny Moving Parts and Worriers

The Wonder Years | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Last weekend, Philly modern rock heroes The Wonder Years brought their tremendous new record Sister Cities home for two nights and two packed houses at The Fillmore Philadelphia. Joining them on the bill were Scranton indie pop band Tigers Jaw, as well as punk outfits Tiny Moving Parts and Worriers. Check out photos from the tremendous lineup below, care of Ashley Gellman.
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Listen Harder: U2 continues to challenge itself and its fans at Wells Fargo Center

U2 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Having witnessed every show U2 has put on within Philadelphia’s city limits (including its earliest, Bijou Café, excluding last year’s Joshua Tree anniversary), one had to resist easy comparison between gigs. Favorite-song-filled set lists or tours on the heels of albums preferred have weight, and there’s always a question of youth’s vigor: can the quartet who all but defined passion and consciousness at its start continue the journey with energy and originality? And could they do it without Bono overselling its point with hashtag shout outs, app plugs or societal rants that don’t come through the PA?

The answers regarding Wednesday’s U2 eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour 2018 stop at Wells Fargo Center was, yes, and no. Continue reading →

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Kendrick Lamar continues to kill it in Camden

•champion• #topdawgentertainment #kungfukenny #dna #legend #damn

A post shared by Shubh Bhambri (@shubh_bhambri) on

Pulitzer Kenny.

These words were the first to emblazon the massive screen behind Kendrick Lamar as he kicked off his headlining set at BB&T Pavilion last Friday. This screen, towering atop another that doubled as a platform where he prowled throughout a ferocious rendition of opening salvo “DNA,” both reminded everyone of Lamar’s most historic artistic achievement to date and provided as succinct a description of the night as any Tweet or blurb.

Sure, Lamar’s set was but the last in an electrifying evening of music dubbed the “TDE Championship Tour,” featuring an Avengers-worthy roster of Lamar and label mates from Ab-Soul to Schoolboy Q. But make no mistake. From doctored banners listing each of his albums’ accolades, to a stage set up of checkered flags and a customized Formula 1 race car, to that screen, this evening was ultimately a victory lap for a modern rap legend at the top of both his game and the world. Continue reading →

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Five things to expect during The Voidz residency at Boot & Saddle this month

The Voidz | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

This month, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes is moonlighting with his other band, The Voidz, in a residency of Monday night gigs at Boot & Saddle in South Philadelphia. Reminiscent of The Strokes’ famed run of weekly shows at The Khyber while they were recording Is This It, it’s a unique instance of a big rock star returning to a smaller room, this time with a band that indulges the weirdest, wildest whims of his songwriting. We attended opening night last Monday, and today we bring you a glimpse of what to expect if you have tickets to any of the remaining shows. Continue reading →

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Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats sells out the Mann Center and keeps the crowd on its toes

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

Let me make this totally clear: I don’t like country music. At all. You’ll never find me at a country show. I won’t sing along with it on the radio. Like ever. But I love Nathaniel Rateliff. I still can’t figure out why he’s the exception to my very unbreakable rule, but he is, and we’re going with it.

Last night, Rateliff was joined by The Head And The Heart at The Mann’s Skyline Stage, and if you missed out, then I am very, very sorry. These two bands pair so well together, and the indie folk sound that The Head And The Heart has easily mastered was the perfect thing to sit back and relax to while the sun set over the Philly skyline. They played pretty much all of the crowd favorites, and I was especially happy to hear “Rivers And Roads,” “All We Ever Knew,” and “Lost in My Mind.” I’m really thrilled that they accompanied Rateliff on this tour, because they’ve been on my bucket list for a little while now. The stunning vocal harmonies and hybrid folky rhythms add a modern take to traditional country music, and I loved every second of it. They were really the ideal opener.

Now let’s figure out why everybody’s loving Nathaniel Rateliff right now. Continue reading →

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The Longshot brings Billie Joe Armstrong back to the basement in a sweaty, glorious First Unitarian gig

The Longshot | still from video

It’s sort of surreal to see Billie Joe Armstrong play in the Church basement. Not that he hasn’t played venues like this while Green Day was starting out, but to see the guy who’s sold out countless arenas and festival grounds play on top of the alphabet carpet in front of a couple hundred people is still odd. What’s even more odd is not hearing Green Day songs.

Armstrong announced his new project The Longshot and its debut album Love is For Losers as a bit of a surprise, with no one really knowing whether it was a solo effort, a project with his sons or with new band members. The retro-garage rock sound he had been toying with since Green Day’s 2012 lukewarm-at-best trilogy of albums Uno, Dos, and Tre (and even dating back to their not-so-secret side project Foxboro Hottubs), finally felt a bit at home with this new project.

It gave Armstrong an opportunity to add some kitsch and playfulness without the constant looming shadow of lofty expectations and Green Day fans waiting to tell him why he’s not punk anymore.

And playing a string of shows at tiny venues seemed to give Armstrong a chance to go back to his youth without any feeling of forced nostalgia. He was really having fun, and he really seemed happy. In the wood-paneled sauna conditions of the Church, Armstrong proclaimed that it was “one of the coolest venues” he’s ever played in his life.

“This place is a church, a gospel choir upstairs, and now a punk rock show. Let’s go to punk rock church.” Continue reading →