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“It Was Pretty Much Destined”: Philly powerhouse Lady Alma on her path through music

Lady Alma at Kindred Presents | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Lady Alma was and still is a voice to be reckoned with. The prominent Philadelphia vocalist might have taken a hiatus ten years ago, but is officially back and better than ever.

Last week, Alma sat down at World Cafe Live to discuss why her upcoming concert at The Ardmore Music Hall on August 18 means so much to her.

“It’s really going to be a party,” she said. “I hope that when folks do come, they aren’t coming to just be entertained, but coming to party.”

Alma will be performing along with Brooklyn instrumental group Tortured Soul, and the internationally renowned, Philly-based DJ that helped launch Alma’s professional musical career, King Britt.

“The eighteenth is going to be a magical night because I’m being reunited with my brother King Britt and my brothers Tortured Soul,” Alma said.

King Britt remembers when he first heard Alma sing when he was DJing and Alma and Tanja Dixon were singing over his set without a microphone.

“I could not believe the power of these women.” King Britt recounted. “[I] instantly wanted to record with them, it was such an honor.” Continue reading →

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Philly rocks with DJ Lean Wit It

DJ Lean Wit It
DJ Lean Wit It | photo by Sannii Crespina-Flores | courtesy of the artist

The blue collar energy that Philadelphia provides builds character for its local artists. It takes a certain type of talent and dedication to win the attention and the heart of Broad Street but once it’s captured, it strengthens your confidence to shine outside of your of city.

That’s something DJ Lean Wit It has learned throughout his years behind the turntables. Whether was on Temple University’s campus, a Heineken Green Room event or even a local bar, the North Philly DJ has spent years perfecting his craft to capture the attention of not only his hometown, but in other cities and countries as well. And as DJ Lean Wit It prepares for a really huge set for the upcoming No Place Like Home event at The Fillmore on Saturday, August 18th — not to mention his warm-up gig at Spruce Street Harbor Park this Thursday — I was able to sit with him to talk about his early stages as a DJ and how a Philadelphia crowd separates itself from any other crowd in the world. Continue reading →

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“It Takes An Entire Community”: Talking to the artists and organizers of the Shut Down Berks benefit concert

Hardwork Movement at the Shut Down Berks benefit | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

Last weekend, Hardwork Movement and Frances Quinlan from Hop Along played a special all-ages matinee at Boot & Saddle on South Broad to benefit the Shut Down Berks Campaign, a coalition of groups fighting the incarceration of immigrant families at the Berks County Family Detention Center. Equal parts political rally and concert – Hardwork Movement repeatedly reminded the sold-out crowd that, “They work for us and not the other way around!” – the show raised more than $1200 for the organization. The whole event was organized by Katy Otto (Callowhill, Trophy Wife) in conjunction with Jasmine Rivera from Shut Down Berks. We spoke with the two of them as well as the musicians who played. Continue reading →

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Two to Tango: Algiers’ Franklin James Fisher and Lower Interiors’ Maggie Brannon

Algiers | photo by Joe Dilworth | courtesy of the artist // Lower Interiors | photo by Maggie Brannon | courtesy of the artist

The sonic experimentalists of Algiers and Lower Interiors have different axes to grind when it comes to the music they make, they melodies they parse, and the rhythms that allow each to steer their own individual lyrical ship. For Algiers and its leader/lyricist Franklin James Fisher, there is a sense of holy rolling soul and cranky gospel tones. For Lower Interiors’ Maggie Brannon, there is a steelier, sinister, yet more playful sound to be found in her work.

This Friday June 29th, Algiers and Lower Interiors will come head-to-head (after coming face-to-face for the first time mere days previous) at West Philly’s The SoundHole to test the limits of their Dada-ist sensibilities. We caught up to both Fisher (with the rest of Algiers) and Brannon (all by her lonesome) driving separately into Nashville for the first gig of their co-joined tour dates. Continue reading →

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Tending soil with serpentwithfeet

serpentwithfeet
serpentwithfeet | photo by Ash Kingston | courtesy of the artist

Experimental pop-star serpentwithfeet is an artist who knows how to power clash, both sonically and emotionally. His music is at once vulnerable and volcanic as influences from the baroque to the Björk collide with each other. On stage, his presence is imposing yet inviting. His debut full length soil, out now on Secretly Canadian and Tri Angle Records, finds him wearing these occasionally messy dualities like finely tailored couture as he sings about the comforts and complexities of queer love. It’s somehow more expansive than his 2016 EP Blisters and more incisive.

He’ll be realizing these narratives on stage at Johnny Brenda’s in Philly next week. It’ll be a semi-homecoming for serpentwithfeet (born Josiah Wise), as he attended The University of the Arts in Philadelphia before ultimately moving to New York. To prepare for his return, I had the chance to chat him up about what motivates his creative output, how and when to exorcise one’s inner should, and what parts of Philly he always remembers to visit when he’s back in town… Continue reading →

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Oh, Harry: The multifaceted Harry Connick Jr. talks about jazz, the Big Easy, and all things music

Harry Connick Jr.
Harry Connick Jr. | photo courtesy of the artist

There will always be two Harry Connick Jr.’s. There is the one who, since the 2000s, has made himself well-known and beloved in sit-coms (the first go-round of Will & Grace), children’s film fare (A Dolphin’s Tale), as judge and foil to J-Lo (American Idol), and as a talk show host (Harry).

The other Connick Jr. is a consummate musician, arranger, orchestrator and vocalist whose love and encyclopedic knowledge of Tin Pan Alley standards and the New Orleans music of his past and present make him a treasure still, even if you’ve paying more attention to the mass mediated Harry. The second, better one will play at the Mann Center on June 16 – celebrating New Orleans’ 300th birthday – for his first area live appearance in well over a decade. The second, better one is who The Key spoke with, exclusively, about music. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Suzann Christine

Suzann Christine | 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 biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Suzann Christine has earned a place for herself as an estimable Philly R&B artist, no small feat in a city whose arts and culture is defined largely by its legacy of contributions to R&B, hip-hop and soul music. A longtime student of that heritage, the singer and songwriter has been named “Philly’s Best R&B Artist,” shared stages with the likes of Wale, Musiq Soulchild and Frankie Beverly, and played to a packed Franklin Parkway when Pope Francis visited in 2015.

Recently, Suzann published a new project called Cup of Love, which is now available on all digital media outlets, along with her new hit song “Save Me.” In April, she released a collaboration with Dejure Hest, called “Don’t Rush it,” along with a new music video for the track.

Suzann works hard to give back to her community too. For the past eight years, she’s been diligently developing SCH Creative & Performing Art, Inc., a non-profit organization that she founded and incorporated, where her “Fly Star” program was conceived as a way to help build self-confidence and self-esteem in middle and high school kids in Philly who were interested becoming professional musical artists. And this Thursday, June 7th, Christine performs at 2018 Redemption Week, a community concert and candlelight vigil to support One Day At A Time, a service organization helping low-income and homeless Philadelphians affected by HIV/AIDS. More information on that event can be found here. Continue reading →

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IamBNJMIIN is your new favorite recording engineer

iamBNJMIIN
iamBNJMIIN | photo by Joseph V. Labolito for Temple University | photo used with permission

From TyDolla$ign to Jazmine Sullivan, Benjamin Thomas’s portfolio as a music engineer spans to some of the biggest names in the industry, and he is only twenty two years old.

Whether working on location at Studio Breed in Philadelphia, or in his own home studio, Thomas — iamBNJMIIN in his credits — is the type who gives his all to the music he mixes.

“You can work smarter and harder, but if you choose to just work smarter; I’m just going to outwork you.” Thomas says.

Thomas is a Harlem native, and moved to Philadelphia when he was in early teen years. This was around the time when he was also introduced to music. “A lot of people would say ‘Yeah,  I remember this song when I was five,’” he says. “And I don’t, but my mom liked CDs a lot.”

Instead of listening, he would take his mother’s CD collection, and use it for room decoration.

Thomas admits that Rock Band and Guitar Hero are really the two things that introduced him to music as a child. After learning to master those video games, Thomas began playing bass in the sixth grade, but didn’t learn about engineering until later when one of his junior high teachers introduced him to it as a hobby.

“I got thrown into the fire in 8th grade when I was told to run this twelve microphone setup,” Thomas recalls. From there, the music hustle never stopped even as Thomas began his college career in Finance. Continue reading →

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Break Free Fest Spotlight: Rare Form

Rare Form | via rareformhc.bandcamp.com

After a successful inaugural year, Philadelphia’s Break Free Fest returns to The Rotunda this weekend for two days, bringing POC and other marginalized voices in the punk scene together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Rare Form / Philadelphia, PA
rareformhc.bandcamp.com

For the final preview of this weekend’s Break Free Fest, we spoke with Kayla Bastos, singer of Philadelphia hardcore band Rare Form who will be playing their final show at The Rotunda on Sunday.

Despite only being around for a couple years, the band managed to accomplish a lot. From touring the West Coast to opening up for a bunch of legendary acts including Madball to putting out a fantastic album to … having their song “Not Ur Baby” covered by Radigals, a feminist hardcore band from Singapore? Yup, that happened, and it’s amazing.

So watch that video, listen to the Rare Form album (it’s short and sweet and will take about 10 minutes), read this interview, and get yourself pumped for Break Free Fest! Continue reading →

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Todd Rundgren’s Shifting Utopias

Todd Rundgren's Utopia Group | photo by Danny O'connor | courtesy of the artist
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia Group | photo by Danny O’connor | courtesy of the artist

The last time audiences caught a Todd Rundgren (and there are many to choose from), they were treated to a sound more in league with his sumptuous, blue-eyed soul past (such as 1972’s epic Something/Anything), teamed with the often caustic lyricism of, say, 2004’s Liars, the result of which was 2017’s White Knight, and its singularly humorous Trump-bashing “Tin Foil Hat.”

Now, in 2018, Rundgren is returning to an occasionally more peaceful (or existentially humanist) set of lyrics and a Technicolor progressive rock-ist sound with his ensemble Utopia, a box set of collected works and a tour that brings him home to Upper Darby and the Tower Theater on May 5.

“When I first formed Utopia in the 70s, a lot of it had to do with the fact that as a songwriter working primarily at that time on the piano, that I had put aside the guitar,” said the man whose 60s instrumental roots were in the bluesy Woody’s Truck Stop and the psychedelic The Nazz. “I started getting the feeling after Something/Anything, that I was losing my chops. I hadn’t created the opportunity as a songwriter or producer for the sort-of guitar playing I wanted to do.” Continue reading →