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Foggy Notions: Philly artist Sonia Petruse on honoring Ryan Adams in drag

Sonia as Ryan | Photo by Laura Stock | courtesy of the artist
Sonia as Ryan | Photo by Laura Storck | courtesy of the artist

Sonia Petruse remembers exactly where she was the first time she listened to Ryan Adams. Like really, really listened to him.

She was familiar with the album 2001 Gold, of course, and its ubiquitous hit “New York, New York.” She remembered the song being paraded around patriotically in the months after 9-11, and hearing stories about how the songwriter wasn’t keen about its point being misconstrued.

But it was 2004 when the music really kicked in. She was 18, driving around her hometown of Leighton, Pennsylvania with a motley group of teenagers. They were in a small car, an old two-door BMW, and it was crammed to the gills. She sat on a friend’s lap. People were stoned. And “Dear Chicago” from the Demolition album came on the car stereo. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Preview: Meet Rosemary FiKi, the force of nature kicking off the show on Friday

Rosemary FiKi
Rosemary FiKi | photo by John Vettese

Need a compelling argument to get to XPNFest early this year? Two words: Rosemary Fiki.

The Philadelphia singer / songwriter / rock and roller / entertainer caught our ear this past year based on an eclectic assortment of streaming songs on her Soundcloud page. One moment, it was a vibrant nightclub bump with soaring diva vocals, another moment there was an acoustic guitar strumming and FiKi’s plaintive vocals doing a sensitive Feist / Laura Nyro kind of thing.

These days, she’s straddling both of those worlds; as we saw when FiKi recorded a Key Studio Session last fall, she’s currently backed by a high-energy three-piece band, freeing her to dance at the mic, shake her tambourine and work the crowd with relentless energy. That’s on prominent display in the fired-up “Come To Me,” which you can watch a video of below, and the endlessly catchy “Ooh” — but FiKi and the band also delve into a more nuanced side of things with ballads like “The Great Unknown,” and the groovy askew rhythms of “Pro.” Chatting with her over email, it sounds like her music is about to explore another direction still after XPoNential.

For now, read on below to get to know Rosemary FiKi — and make sure you arrive at Wiggins Park tomorrow in plenty of time to catch her 4 p.m. set. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Preview: Veteran sidewoman Eliza Hardy Jones takes center stage

Eliza Hardy Jones
Eliza Hardy Jones | Photo by Ryan Collerd | ryancollerd.com | courtesy of the artist

Eliza Hardy Jones is a seasoned side-woman. She plays keys and sings in the Grace Potter band, Strand Of Oaks and Nightlands, she’s one-half of the founding partnership in Buried Beds. She excels in maintaining a stage presence that adds to live experience, begs the audience to turn their glances to her.

“Part of your job as a side person is to be a part of the performance,” she says. “You can’t stand there like a sad lump, like you’re bored. You have to be engaged to the music because that helps other people be engaged with the music.”

Hardy Jones has performed twice at XPoNential Music Festival before – once with Grace Potter and the other with Strand Of Oaks. This year she’ll perform, on the River Stage at Wiggins Park at at noon on Sunday, July 24, for the first time as herself. As a frontwoman. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Preview: Billy Hector brings his blues rock from the beach to Wiggins Park

Billy Hector | Photo courtesy of artist
Billy Hector | Photo courtesy of artist

You can take the man out of the shore but you can’t take the shore out of the man. Blues rock vocalist and guitarist Billy Hector has earned himself a rightful place as one of the Jersey shore’s musical legends, playing up and down the state for nearly four decades and counting. From opening shows for Buddy Guy and running in the same circles as Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Hector is as vivacious as ever and ready to take on one of his most exciting gigs to date — the band is packing their things and trading coastlines for skylines to perform at this weekend’s XPoNential Music Festival. Hector and his band, composed of drummer Sim Cain and bassist Winston Roye, have a set of big proportions planned, with an even bigger point to prove. Continue reading →

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Time Capsule: Kurt Vile on channeling blue-collar blues into “Space Forklift”

Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In Time Capsule, we ask artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

It’s not news that Kurt Vile used to drive a forklift for a living; a lot of his work is influenced by a blue-collar attitude — from folky fingerpicking to his gravely voice and lyrics. In this city, to gain any respect, you better have worked a dead-end job shoveling shit, fixing radiators, or some day in, day out task that propels you to dream of something better — and deserve it when you get it.

Kurt spent two years handling a mini tractor, rising its giant prongs up and down, over and over, 9 to 5, between lunch and dinner. He lived in Boston at the time. Then, he quit and moved home.

Which is how “Space Forklift” came about. Continue reading →

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Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Queen of Jeans

Queen of Jeans | courtesy of the artist | photo by Bob Sweeney
Queen of Jeans | courtesy of the artist | photo by Bob Sweeney

South Philly in the summer doesn’t get enough credit. Sure, we don’t have the natural shade, or farmers markets, or outdoor screenings of other neighborhoods—but we have something else. There’s a certain summer vibe that seems to seep into the air when you cross Washington Ave; a sense of solidarity that’s palpable, as you sit on your stoop, air-conditioning units humming above. A few houses down, someone’s selling clothes and cookwear on the sidewalk; a block away the ice cream truck—not Mister Softee, but the South Philly ice cream truck that plays “Fur Elise”—is meandering toward you, offering temporary relief from the pounding sun.

I’ve lived in South Philly for 3 years now; Philly rock band Queen of Jeans live here as well (in fact singer/guitarists Miriam Devora and Matheson Glass are practically my neighbors). Their name, Queen of Jeans, is both a re-appropriation of, and commentary on, the iconic (if misogynist) “King of Jeans” sign that hung on East Passyunk Ave. at 13th Street for 21 years, before being removed in 2015.  It’s a sweet name for a (mostly) girl band from South Philly, but it’s also more—as if adopting the name, the band acknowledge the sign’s legacy, while at the same time offering their own (non-misogynist) alternative. Also it’s pretty funny. Continue reading →

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Lucy Dacus talks Richmond, Tiny Desk concerts, and autobiographies ahead of her Johnny Brenda’s gig on Tuesday

Lucy Dacus | photo by Dusdin Condren | courtesy of the artist
Lucy Dacus | photo by Dusdin Condren | courtesy of the artist

She may just have turned 21, but Lucy Dacus sings with the honesty of someone way beyond her years. Her debut album, No Burden, was just reissued by legendary indie Matador Records and was met with critical acclaim by everybody from TIME Magazine to NPR’s Bob Boilen. No Burden is a collection of lovelorn rock songs ornamented with Lucy’s drifting alto and honest, passionate lyrics, whether it be driving (“Strange Torpedo”) or heartbreaking (“Trust”).

Her band, made up of Oberlin music alum Jacob Blizard on guitar, Miles Huffman on drums, and Bobby King on drums, bring Lucy and her unorthodox guitar playing from a singer with a song to sing to full-on emotional catharsis. Lucy plays Johnny Brenda’s this Tuesday, July 19th, with Philly indie-rockers RFA. I spoke with Lucy on the phone about two weeks ago, where we discussed everything from her hometown of Richmond to her inspirations behind No Burden to what she has coming up in the future.  Continue reading →

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XPNFest Preview: A beer with Ben Arnold at Dawson Street Pub

Ben Arnold | Photo by Matt Montella for WXPN
Ben Arnold | Photo by Matt Montella for WXPN

“I’ve learned that if you keep doing it and keep producing quality music, things happen. It’s what I am, it’s what I do.”

Ben Arnold is a lot of things: a singer, a songwriter, both a piano player and a guitar player, a super cool dude. But most of all, he’s a music man. He’s been writing, playing, and performing his whole life, and for most of his life he’s been doing it in and around Philadelphia. Arnold will be playing the XPoNential Festival next month (his 4th time!) and he played at Dawson Street Pub in Manayunk on Thursday, June 28th, which he said was both a “warm up gig” and an opportunity to play in his own neighborhood.

“Some of my family still lives in Western New York, but Philly is my adopted hometown. I love the city. I think it is one of the most culturally vibrant cities on the East coast,” said Arnold when I met with him earlier that day. “I think the music scene is killer, and its growing rapidly. This is where I really say where my family is. My base is here.” 

Arnold has been playing in various bands since he was a kid, when he went to a performing arts high school in Center City. As he has gotten older, his sound has matured with him. His most recent record, Lost Keys, was released earlier this year and features Motown and Stax influenced rhythm and soul. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: goldenSpiral

goldenSpiral | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
goldenSpiral | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Adrian Palashevsky’s been hard at work. Over the past few years, the hip hop producer, multimedia artist and DJ — better known as goldenSpiral — has been fashioning beats, collaborating with his Philly music compatriots, and staying up late.

A taste of the results of all that sweat equity is available this week, with the release of the Dark Matter EP at goldenSpiral’s Bandcamp site, where it will be featured exclusively for two weeks prior to international distribution via Empire and Redeye. Published by Kyle Taylor’s Philly-based blog-turned-label Funkadelphia, the EP is a diverse sampling of the producer’s talents and influences, and features vocals from the ethereal Alicia Talia, and rappers Calvin MC, and Voss, whose standout single “NightVision” will have a music video directed by Pipus The Wise out later this Summer.

In the Fall, goldenSpiral will drop a full-length LP that he considers to be definitive work that he’s excited to share, a magnum opus called Waveformation which will also be published on the Funkadelphia label. The album will boast two music videos including single “Eternal Life (dub),” spotlighting vocals from Philly reggae darling Sonni Shine, in case you’ve missed her (and you should have) since The Underwater Sounds called it quits earlier this year.

In the meantime, Dark Matter is live as of noon on Tuesday, July 12th, and Palashevsky is offering the EP on a name-your-price basis, or for fair trade for just an email address. So all you hip hop/glitch/dub-heads, just click on that link and hit refresh, refresh… Continue reading →

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Keeping the swing alive: Wycliffe Gordon will celebrate big band jazz in Mount Airy

wycliffe gordon
Wycliffe Gordon | photo courtesy of the artist

Duke Ellington wrote “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” in 1931, heralding the dawn of the swing era a few years later. The days of the big band as popular music had long passed by the time Wycliffe Gordon was born in 1967, but the versatile trombonist has spent much of his career revisiting the music of the swing era, both as a former member of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and fronting his own bands, which have recorded tribute albums to Ellington and Gordon’s idol, Louis Armstrong.

On Thursday, Gordon will pay yet another homage to the swing era with two shows at Mt. Airy’s Alma Mater, the second installment in the Modern Renaissance Jazz summer concert series that kicked off last month with James Carter playing boisterous tribute to Philly’s own jazz heritage, and continues in August with Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun.

Continue reading →