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The dreamy chaos and nervous energy of Philadelphia’s The Ire

The Ire | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philadelphia’s The Ire is a more than a goth-punk band, they’re the embodiment of a city that feels immersive, both in the music and art scene as in daily life. Philly is a city filled with the dreamy chaos of refinery explosions and alternative pride marches, and somehow The Ire has managed to channel this kind of stuff into an EP and accompanying live performance truly representative of that lived-in, on-the-brink nervous energy. Continue reading →

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Exploring Sound: Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees on the elegant blend of jazz, folk, pop and rock on their debut album

Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees | photo by Gregg Meyer | courtesy of the artist

On August 9th, Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees will put out their self-titled debut LP, an intriguing mix of instrumental jazz, alternative and chamber pop. The self-described “folk-jazz” quartet includes all Pennsylvanian musicians – Lorenz leading on electric guitar, Jacqui Armbruster on vocals and viola, Justin Sekelewski on bass, Zach Martin on drums – and their work on this album shows that they have developed wonderfully peculiar tastes and ambitions as a group.

Along with some touching original songs by Armbruster, the band approaches hit songs from several different eras in pop radio on their debut release. Paul McCartney, Wilco, The Magnetic Fields and Corinne Bailey Rae are all in the mix. Lorenz has pointed to Paul Motian, Sonic Youth and Sonny Sharrock as other inspirations for the group’s experiments – they also recorded a cover of Sharrock’s composition “Blind Willie”. The musicians bring traditional jazz aplomb and an intrepid sense of musicianship to each of their efforts on the new album, and the results prove both accessible and surprising.

Earlier this summer, I spoke with Mike Lorenz about how the band came together to construct their debut album. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Continue reading →

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Kristin Hersh comes in colors

Kristin Hersh | photo by Peter Mellekas | courtesy of the artist

Kristin Hersh has never looked at melody and text in quite the same way you do. Perhaps that stems from the differences in her personality, her PTSD, or the synesthesia that allows her to shift sensation from one part of her being to another part.

Perhaps, Hersh — who has split her time and energy among solo projects, her band 50 Foot Wave, authoring books such as her 2010 memoir, Rat Girl, and her legendary alt-trio Throwing Muses — is simply a colorfully clever and poignantly unique artist, radical and dedicated enough so to make each project definitive and different from the last, yet one without question as to who has authored it.

Currently touring on the strength of her noisy new tenth studio solo album, Possible Dust Clouds, she’ll appear at Boot & Saddle on June 24 to show off her colorful catalog. Continue reading →

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Building Confidence: Cub Sport on where they are and where they’re going

Cub Sport | photo by Joe Agius | courtesy of the artist

“Unwinding Myself”, the opening track of Cub Sport‘s eponymous third album, signals that the record that follows is a different beast from its predecessors. Where This Is Our Vice focused on depression and BATS chronicled Tim Nelson’s experience with coming out, Cub Sport is marked by self love and acceptance. The album, released in January, comes after Australia finally legalized same-sex marriage, allowing Nelson and bandmate Sam Netterfield to wed last August. Bursting with catchy hooks, addicting synths, and beautiful lyrics, the album is both a personal and musical triumph.

The Brisbane band is currently on a North American tour in support of the album. They will play The Foundry on on Tuesday. Before their show in Montreal this past Friday I got the chance to catch up with Nelson over the phone. Conversation ranged from fans’ responses to the album, where he sees the band going next, and being serenaded by Solange.  Continue reading →

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Growing Up Folk: Michael Braunfeld on the road from Spring Gulch to Driver

Michael Braunfeld | photo courtesy of the artist

This weekend, Spring Gulch Folk Festival enters its 33rd year of kicking off the summer festival season for the singer-songwriter community, and one artist in particular is taking the stage in a sort of homecoming.

Tomorrow, Michael Braunfeld will perform Spring Gulch with his band The Boneyard Hounds. He’s intimately involved in the event — his family has been going for three decades, his father Andy is a former MC, and he and his dad have been booking and managing the event for the past 18 years.

Braunfeld, 44, made his live debut at the festival in 1990 at age 15, and recorded his debut album the following year at age 16. He spent the 90s and very early thousands as a touring artist in the folk circuit, releasing live albums and paying gigs around the country. After taking a decade-plus break, he re-emerged on the scene at the 50th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival (another event he grew up at) and this year released his first studio album since the 90s, Driver. It’s a stirring selection of contemplative roots and Americana songwriting, some of a more of a delicate John Prine style of observational folk, some (like the powerful “Washed Away” and the rousing “Breathe”) of anthemic, Springsteen-esque quality.

We caught up with Braunfeld over the phone to talk about growing up a folkie, running Spring Gulch, taking time off, and the statements he wanted to make upon his return.  Continue reading →

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Two to Tango: Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero

Rodrigo Y Gabriela | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

By this point in their long career as Mexico City’s primary musical export — nearly 20 years of a guitar-based fusion of flamenco, folk, doom metal and jazz — Rodrigo y Gabriela’s lives and sounds are thoroughly intertwined. Especially when you consider that Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero have been friends since their teens, long before forming their duo (though certainly practicing together, collaborating and admiring each other’s skillsets).

Their just-released album, Mettavolution, is as dramatic as any in their catalogue and their upcoming shows in Philly – at World Café Live’s NonComm and Franklin Music Hall, both May 17 – will show just how far their friendship has taken them. Our Two to Tango helped take them back to their youth, as well as peer into their future – all with a lot of laughter. Continue reading →

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Meet Jacqueline Constance: The dope songbird from Philly

Jacqueline Constance | photo by Deuce Pearsall | courtesy of artist

The city of Philadelphia is filled with so many musical talents that can simply be described as dope. It’s amazing to watch these artists of different genres find creative was to capture the struggle of their beloved, edgy, blue-collar city with music. Take for instance soul singer Jacqueline Constance,  a Mt. Airy songbird who has been making a name for herself in the City of Brotherly with her voice for the past seven years.

Trained in classical music during her time time at CAPA, Jacqueline Constance used those vocal skills to create soul music and with her debut album The Jacqueline Constance Show. In the time since, with the assistance of her looper, and other bits of electronic music technology, the soulful songstress found a way to expand her sound and keep her name known in the local music scene of her city. Recently we were able to sit down with Jacqueline and talk about her beginnings as a singer, how she got into looping and the moves she has planned for the future. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Sofia Verbilla of Harmony Woods

Sofia Verbilla of Harmony Woods | photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN

Candid and genuine, Harmony Woods’ singer and songwriter Sofia Verbilla will openly cop to how much time she’s spent reflecting on her own talents, impugning her own songwriting skills, wondering if she’s got what it takes to overcome at turns significant self-doubt and claim confidence in her own creations.

It’s a tenuous tightrope she seems to have found some familiar comfort in walking, as the Philly rocker capably straddles the stark contrasts of both her self-effacing and introspective and hot-pink-haired ass-kicking-frontwoman personas, at once conflicting and complementary, while she negotiates an earned place for herself and the HamWoo crew to stand out among Philly’s basement DIY rock-and-rollers.

They’ll be back onstage in Philly on May 30th, opening for Slingshot Dakota at Everybody Hits. Continue reading →

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Ahmet Zappa on Frank and fatherhood

Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd | still from video
Frank Zappa | still from video

What could have been a convivial conversation about re-packaged reissues such as the recently-released Zappa in New York and the minutiae of hologram tours such as the upcoming Bizarre World of Frank Zappa live showcase (May 2, Collingswood’s Scottish Rite Auditorium), wasn’t. That’s because it was Frank’s youngest son and estate conservator Ahmet Zappa and I discussing invention (beyond the Mothers), probability, fatherhood and loss (Zappa’s dad died in 1993, I lost my father at Halloween 2018) in a conversation that wound up with tears and the promise of hugging out such emotion at this week’s concert. Continue reading →

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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 →