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Todd Rundgren spills his guts, tiny chapter by tiny chapter, in The Individualist

Todd Rundgren | photo by Lynn Goldsmith | via Relix

Todd Rundgren has made and maintained a career– to say nothing of a long-devoted fan base, no-matter what — based on shock and awe. Whether it is his wont for moving quickly through musical genres (when harmony-drenched blue eyed soul smash singles would have sufficed), or pushing political and religious stances, the Upper Darby-born Rundgren’s principle element is surprise (and fear, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical …).

Writing and releasing an autobiographical book, The Individualist: Digressions, Dreams & Dissertations, is yet another revelation as Rundgren has been fairly tight-lipped about his personal life, until now. If you expect gossip, stay clear. If you’re looking for frank, adventurous self-centric writing in bites sized doses, welcome.

To go with a new book, Rundgren is doing double-duty in each city he visits, with portions of his show dedicated to live music, and other portions dedicated to reading from The Individualist, a page related A/V show, and a Q&A segment. Rundgren appears at The Fillmore, May 1 and 2. Continue reading →

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Ahead Of Their Time: The 40-year journey of inspiring Detroit rockers Death

Death | photo by Samdarko Eltosam | via facebook.com/deathworldwide

As an Afropunk, interviewing an all-Black punk band called Death might be the most existential thing I could possibly do on a Tuesday afternoon in 2019, but five minutes into the discussion, this writer also realized another thing was true: it was one of the most revealing.

Death’s start began in 1971, when three Detroit brothers — guitarist David, bassist Bobby, and drummer Dannis Hackney — turned on their instruments in a room in their parents’ modest home and got to channeling the raucous sounds of The MC5, the grandiose rock of local upstart Bob Seger, and The Who, much to the chagrin of their slightly more buttoned up neighbors. Despite their reverence to the most obvious, looming musical influence of the city at the time, Motown, and in a move especially treacherous for Black musicians, the brothers instead decided to play music that wasn’t going to get them booked at any R&B studio sessions: rock n roll. Continue reading →

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Two To Tango: &More’s Donn T and Chill Moody

&More | photo by Dejanaya Spicer | courtesy of the artist

Two members of Philly hip hop royalty such as songstress Donn T and rapper Chill Moody would usually be found headlining their own shows and making their own records. Yet, for 2018 and 2019 — and beyond, in accordance with their wishes in this interview — the regal twosome will be known as  &More. The pair’s poignant, passionate debut is Ethel Bobcat, and that release’s celebration / live reveal is April 26 at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →

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Resistance and Resilience: Taina Asili on merging music and activism

Taina Asili and band | photo by Kiki Vassilakis Photography | kikivassilakis.com | via facebook.com/tainaasilimusic

Tonight, Philly welcomes back Taina Asili, a musician, activist, and documentarian whose group will be rocking the Rotunda with their highly spiritual, amalgamated blend of merengue, cumbia, reggae and DIY punk.

It’s an amazing mix of styles fully realized on the new album they’ll be celebrating, Resiliencia. Support for the band will be provided by the equally eclectic Afro-latin future fusion band Interminable. We sat down and chatted with Asili about power of music, culture and spirit. Continue reading →

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How Laser Background’s Andy Molholt and Ava Luna’s Julian Fader rose to the summer camp songwriting challenge of Coughy

Coughy | photo by Natalie Piserchio | courtesy of the artist | nataliepiserchio.com

With great summer camp memories come great friendships. With highly efficient recording sessions come infectious albums. Combine the summer camp memories with the recording sessions in two vastly different settings; now pour over the friendship and you have Coughy’s debut album, Ocean Hug.

The twenty-song effort comes from Andy Molholt and Julian Fader, of Laser Background and Ava Luna fame, respectively, while spending the summer of 2016 together at Buck’s Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp in New Milford, Connecticut. While counseling and teaching classes on songwriting to kids aged anywhere from eight to eighteen, the two managed to find time for some late-night recording sessions in the studio at the camp. It wasn’t until they started playing together that they decided to make all their songs as close as possible to being only one minute long. Continue reading →

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There’s Rakim. And then there is every other rapper.

Rakim | photo courtesy of the artist

If William Michael Griffin Jr. — better known in the music world as hip-hop icon Rakim — had only made golden age rap anthems as Eric B. & Rakim such as 1987’s “Paid in Full” and 1988’s “Follow the Leader,” he would still be regarded as a hip hop avatar of free rhythmic flow and studied lyricism. Masculine without macho braggadocio, confident and spellbinding without over-talking, Rakim made, and makes, slow but forceful word jazz with a writerly éclat.

Based on time playing saxophone (he’s a Coltrane fan), there is often that sheets-of-sound approach that Trane made his spiritual / ritual trademark on Impulse! recordings of the 1960s: something more chilled, stoic and stately than early rap’s frenetic attack mode. The same thing is true of Rakim’s solo output: 1997’s The 18th Letter, 1999’s The Master, 2009’s The Seventh Seal. And it’s a feel that will surely follow into his live work with the Orleans parish funk jazz ensemble The Soul Rebels and their joint program at Ardmore Music Hall on March 28.

We caught up with Rakim late one night in Brooklyn, busy working on a new book for Harper Collins (which he couldn’t discuss), and planning upcoming recorded material. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: King Britt

King Britt | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in recurring installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

A year after graduating from Central High School, King Britt was working at a new Tower Records location on South Street, having been hired for his judicious taste in music imports. At just 19 years old in 1987, having been brought up on all kinds of music and connected to the arts community in Philly, King was uniquely positioned to make moves, and to update dance music and electronica just at a time when the music industry stood ready to be transformed by the impending advent of digital technology.

At this interview at XPN studios, King reflected on his early hustle, and on those days in the late ‘80s and the first years of the ‘90s — a time of mixtapes and cassingles, hip-house and trip-hop. Few would be able to tell the story more capably or warmly than the Philly-born music producer, as he entreats us to fond memories of his days recording Sylk 130 records at Larry Gold’s studio, of the record label he co-founded with then-fellow-Temple-U student Josh Wink, of his collaborations with Bahamadia, and Ursula Rucker, and to musings about what, in his opinion, we all lost when Napster was unleashed (hint: it may not be what you think!). Continue reading →

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Passing by with Christinna O

Christinna O | photo by Shabnam Ferdows | courtesy of the artist

 

Two years ago, Miami native Christinna O made her way to Philadelphia, not only to attend Temple University, but make a name for herself in the music scene. The alternative R&B singer was already a skilled wordsmith, and it probably helped when she joined Temple’s poetry team Babel and competed in the NAACP’s National Poetry Slam. But more recently, it seems that Christinna O seems ready to get people clapping for her singing instead of just snapping their fingers for her poetic lines.

The end of last year, she released the first single for upcoming EP Girl In Passing, “Shelter”, and has recently released the second single “Lay It Down.” While Christinna O prepares for the arrival of her second EP, we were able to sit down with her to talk about her early beginnings and what her listeners can expect from Girl In Passing. Continue reading →

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Two To Tango: Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale and Meow Meow

Meow Meow and Thomas Lauderdale | photo via World Cafe Live

Before collaborating on an inter-twisting new album, Hotel Amour, and intertwining set lists the likes of which bring them to World Café Live on March 26, Pink Martini leader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale played accompanist and bestest bud to the toast of the Australian cabaret scene, Melissa Madden Gray, otherwise known as Meow Meow.

For the last 15 years, when Lauderdale wasn’t busy touring the land or hitting recording studios for Pink Martini’s space-age bachelor pad lounge orchestrations, he was tinkling the ivories for the kittenish chanteuse. Now fully united and integrated, the pair discussed their origin story from two parts of the globe during one conversation, with Lauderdale in his home of Portland and Meow calling from London.

Continue reading →

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Birdie Busch composes music for artwork at the PMA in a Women’s History Month performance

Birdie Busch | photo by Nikolai Fox | courtesy of the artist

March is Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate exceptional women in art and music than Philly’s own Birdie Busch performing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? As a part of the PMA’s Friday Night series, Birdie has written eight original songs inspired by women’s art and seven others for her own project centered around goddess archetypes. The performance will take place in the PMA’s Great Stair Hall and Birdie will be accompanied by four other musicians: Todd Erk on upright bass, Carl Cheeseman on guitar and banjo, Gretchen Lohse on violin and vocals, Thomas Hughes on keys. Projections of art works from the museum collection will accompany the musical performance as well as original visual art by Busch of goddess archetypes.  As a whole, it will celebrate art makers across the centuries and demonstrate what we can learn from our history of remembered — and forgotten — women’s art.

Busch is a staple of the Philadelphia community with a resume as impressive as her open heart and vibrant artistic spirit. She is a musician, writer, photographer, and visual artist whose work embraces the multitudes of our world. She follows her own guiding light when it comes to creating work, and this collaboration with the PMA is no exception. In speaking with The Key, Busch shared that she had already begun a project of songs and paintings that explored goddess archetypes when she was contacted by the PMA. Working with Cat Ricketts, the Coordinator of Evening Programs at the PMA, Busch developed a “super project” that combined her work with goddess archetypes and the PMA’s collection of women’s art.

“It’s been very cool to have those running in tandem,” Busch says, “Originally I thought they would be split, one set of this and one set of that. But now, by studying so much of the background of these women whose pieces I picked from the PMA collection and the female Greek archetypes, it all seems fluid. There’s so many things I wouldn’t have thought of without the combination.” Continue reading →