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Inside Out: Spoon works it for Stroudsburg fans and Philly travelers at Sherman Theater

Spoon | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Whatever Philly did to piss Spoon off must surely have been grievous. Apart from two festival appearances (including this past summer’s killer Saturday-night set at the XPoNential Music Festival), the band hasn’t headlined a proper show here since their stop at the Mann Center, touring behind 2010’s Transference, some seven years ago. During their last tour in 2015, they played some 36 U.S. dates in support of They Want My Soul, one of which should have been but wasn’t at Union Transfer. Was it something we said?

“How many people drove up from Philly tonight?.” Britt Daniel asked the Sherman Theater on Sunday, semi-rhetorically. “Most of us?,” I kinda mumbled, looking around with a shrug. (Disclaimer: No disrespect intended to a healthy crowd of Stroudsburg’s school-night rockers.) Continue reading →

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An Elegant Uproar: The National goes all in at the Kimmel Center

The National | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Seven records and almost two decades in, you can’t even begin to accuse The National of phoning it in. While I initially mistook a lower-intensity set for a band beginning to show its age, an unusually lucid Matt Berninger was just slyly taking his sweet old time to hit a crowded Kimmel Center where it counts — and on a Monday evening, no less. Opening with deep cut “Karen,” from 2006’s Alligator was a surefire way to get the crowd of loyalists interested, but the song lacks the hallmark intensity of the band’s many unintentional anthems. It was only after “Nobody Else Will Be There,” from 2017’s just-released Sleep Well Beast, led into “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness,” that the intensity was ratcheted up a couple of notches. The rest of the evening toed the fine line that the band always has between subtlety and quiet uproar. Continue reading →

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PHOTOS: Kamasi Washington and Sun Ra Arkestra at Union Transfer

Kamasi Washington | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Union Transfer was packed to the rafters Saturday night when West Coast jazz visionary Kamasi Washington headlined with his octet. Touring in support of this year’s EP Harmony of Difference, Washington got to share the stage with the Sun Ra Arkestra, the storied Philly ensemble carrying the legacy of an artist pivotal to Washington’s own musical development. Check out a gallery of photo from the show below, and read more about Washington in this interview with The Key’s Alex Smith.   Continue reading →

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St. Vincent took the Electric Factory on a rapturous, emotional ride

St. Vincent | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

As if we needed further evidence that Annie Clark can successfully pursue pretty much whatever she wants to do creatively, the mastermind behind St. Vincent held the Electric Factory in rapt attention for two hours last night with a one-woman show. It was just her voice, her guitar and various elements of her creative vision adorning the stage. We saw Clark as a writer and filmmaker, as a design visionary with a flair for non-sequitur fashion; the performance showcased, obviously, her remarkable range on the guitar, and her physical expressiveness in the realm of theatrical gesture and (at points) dance. And it showcased her compelling songwriting, which reaches new emotional depths on the harrowing beauty of MASSEDUCTION, her 2017 album that got a front to back performance.

Since initial images and video clips of the Fear the Future tour began trickling out on social media a month or so ago, the production has been met with some degree of uncertainty. Where’s the band? Wouldn’t it get boring with nothing but Clark and a minimal stage setup? Isn’t this just St. Vincent karaoke? These are all things I heard people say, either online or in person, leading up to the gig. And even taking into account the degree of chauvinism evident in those slags — would you be saying this stuff if Bon Iver decided to rip it to tracks, brah? — the unconventional setup nonetheless meant ticketholders were taking a bit of a leap of faith with this show. In my estimation, they were well rewarded. Continue reading →

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mewithoutYou celebrate the 15th Birthday of A->B Life with sold out TLA gig

MewithoutYou | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

 

Fresh off the heels of a full US tour, mewithoutYou returned home to Philadelphia Sunday night with a sold out show at The TLA. Fans packed the venue to celebrate the band’s return, but also the fifteen year anniversary of their first full length album, [A -> B] Life — which they played in full. The performance was truly a celebration of the band’s work, both old and new. Continue reading →

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Circa Survive delivers hypnotic hometown performance at Electric Factory

Circa Survive | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

There’s nothing I love more than a Circa Survive hometown show. There are very few bands who are received as well by Philly modern rock fans as Circa; frontman Anthony Green has this overwhelmingly magnetic ability to unify a crowd with two words, “Let’s dance.” This was my fourth show seeing Green, and he’s still my favorite performer of all time for this reason. There are few shows where I catch myself standing still and just smiling, in awe of the people on stage, and so deeply appreciative that I am here, but Circa is the exception. It’s one of those indescribable feelings, but no matter how they do it, I hope they never stop. Continue reading →

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Ron Gallo scares me (in a good way) at the First Unitarian Church

Ron Gallo | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Did you know that every single time Gene Simmons says that rock is dead, a new great rock and roll album is born? Seriously. It’s an actual fact. Or at least I think. Anway, one of the latest people to disprove Simmons — whose idea of rock and roll is to dress up in gothic clown costumes, blast pyrotechnics and sell action figures to distract from the mediocre-ness of his band’s music — is Philly’s own Ron Gallo.

Gallo, who sadly left us for Nashville about two years ago, came back to the city that loves him most (no offense, Nashville, but it’s true) last night to showcase the latest iteration of his ever-evolving style. No longer was he “Americana Ron” or “Roots Rock Ron.” This time around he was “Rock and Roll Ron,” with some other stuff mixed in as well. Continue reading →

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Dessa plays to the fans at a sold-out World Cafe Live

Dessa | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

I had a chance to speak to Dessa before her show at World Cafe Live on Thursday night, and in my moment of terrible small talk, I mentioned how uncomfortable I sometimes feel at venues like the upstairs. It is a stage that is barely elevated, with direct crowd access, and I know I’m blocking people (I’m 6’2”). I always try to be mindful of that, and move off to the side/back after a song or two, to get out of the way.  Color me surprised when Dessa stopped the show, after the first song, and, in a moment of professional courtesy, invited me to the stage to capture a photo of her in front of the crowd.  It was a small moment, but a gesture that meant a lot to me, as a photographer that has dedicated 10 years and thousands of shows to this, but more importantly, as a fan. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Dhani Harrison’s guitar doesn’t weep, it wails

Dhani Harrison | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

A slice (of a slice) of Beatlemania descended upon 31st and Walnut on this pleasantly frigid Friday as the crowd that had lined the street shed their layers and traded in coffees for beers, fortunate to be among the few to have secured a spot at a show that had sold out days before. Nothing less could be expected for Dhani Harrison, and this boundless enthusiasm never wavered during his Free At Noon set – the applause heard after each song was near equivalent to what another band might expect to earn after their final bows. Continue reading →