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Reliving the magic with Brian Wilson at the Tower Theater

Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
Brian Wilson | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

If you close your eyes, it sounds just like it’s 1967 in Santa Monica. Or Pacific Beach or Carmel-by-the-Sea; whichever California beach town you prefer. But when you look around The Tower Theater on this particular fall night in Upper Darby, the room is filled with Beach Boys fans who have certainly been singing along to these surf rock songs for decades. There are also 11 people on stage, instead of the original five, but still creating that same magical, harmonic sound.

Brian Wilson is seated front and center at his piano, like he’s done for weeks as he’s traveled around the country for the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds tour. Al Jardine, former Beach Boy, is next to him on guitar. The crowd stands and cheers as the band comes out, and they open with “California Girls.” Every song ends in a standing ovation, even gooey ballads like “In My Room” and “Surfer Girl.” Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam shake the rafters “A 1000 Times” over

Hamilton and Rostam | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
Hamilton and Rostam | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

When I first heard that Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij were putting out an album together, I was as excited as I was apprehensive. It sounded great on paper, of course, but rarely do collaborations like this go over as well as they’re theoretically supposed to. With The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend in their respective back catalogs, the duo had a lot to live up to, but this afternoon, they did just that with an exhilarating, eight-song set at WXPN’s Free at Noon concert. Continue reading →

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Rock The Nation: The legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry lights up World Cafe Live

Lee "Scratch" Perry | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | <a href=http://www.deltufophotography.com/ target="_blank">deltufophotography.com</a>
Lee “Scratch” Perry | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com

I didn’t know what to expect from this one. I was aware of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s music, a melange of dub/reggae and electronics that he largely invented over a number of decades. That he is a Grammy winner and is listed by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 greatest artists (of any genre) of all time. I was also aware that the man is 80. But I was not expecting this.

It was a strong, diverse crowd at World Cafe, mostly younger people up front. Perry’s backing band Subatomic Sound System played a 40 minute into set, which was excellent set the stage nicely. Legendary percussionist Larry McDonald was standout, especially considering he is also in his late 70s- he alone was worth the price of admission. When Lee finally came out it was to a roar from the crowd- even at 80 the man was instantly spritely and was festooned in a colorful getup that was part reggae, part crazy homeless guy. His microphone was embedded in a beer can, and his clothing/ hat/ suitcase and shoes all had various random trinkets attached to them. Continue reading →

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Ra Ra Riot shows The Fillmore that less is more

Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | <a href=https://brotherlylost.com/ target="_blank">brotherlylost.com</a>
Ra Ra Riot | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com

With so few members and such a bold sound, Ra Ra Riot once again proves that less is more. The Syracuse natives performed this past Friday at The Fillmore, opening for Young The Giant for the Home of the Strange Tour.

The six-piece ensemble opened with fan favorite “Too Too Fast” from their first album, The Rhumb Line; its combination of synth-heavy dance breaks and dramatic lighting teased glimpses of the band while directing the crowds’ focus on the sound. Continue reading →

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Review and photo recap: All systems were go-go at Analog-A-Go-Go

Talib Kweli | Photo by Joe del Tufo | Moonloop Photography
Talib Kweli | Photo by Joe del Tufo | Moonloop Photography

Dogfish Head’s Analog-A Go-Go music fest took things to a new level in its sixth year, moving the event to Bellevue State Park in Wilmington, DE and taking over the park in with its unique combination of live music, craft beer, vinyl and art. A diverse offering of local and national acts was a bold move for a festival in its first large effort- with headliners Built To Spill (a Dogfish favorite) supported by Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Taleb Kweli, Hop Along, Beach Slang and Fiancé.  Continue reading →

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The Lumineers light up the Mann Center, front to back


The Lumineers | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com

The background music faded away and The Mann Center went dark as the crew tore down the black curtain, revealing The Lumineers’ brilliant stage set up for the night. The crowd exploded into cheers and applauds as the Colorado folk rock favories ran onto stage and kicked off their set with “Sleep on the Floor,” going right into “Ophelia,” the first single from their new Cleopatra and a fan favorite. It was the kickoff night of The Lumineers’ North American tour, and it sounded wonderful. Continue reading →

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Spirit in the Night: Bruce Springsteen takes on Citizens Bank Park for night two

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com

Philly has always been close to Bruce Springsteen’s heart. It was one of the cities that first supported him when he was a young performer, and that has enjoyed his return countless times. In fact, it was early support and interviews by WXPN’s David Dye (himself a young man at WMMR at the time) that helped bring interest in Bruce to the area. Last night at Citizen’s Bank Park, the same venue where just two nights ago he broke his US set length by playing a 34 song set that lasted an astounding 4 hours and 3 minutes. For a performer in his late 60s, over 5 decades into live performance, this is unprecedented. Continue reading →

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Made In America Day Two: Chance the Rapper, Coldplay, Gary Clark Jr. and more

Chance to Rapper at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Chance to Rapper at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

The day was warm and dry and the Parkway was stacked with fierce performances for the second day of the fifth annual Made in America festival.

Opening with Playboi Carti, closing with Coldplay, featuring standout sets from Chance the Rapper, carnivalesque indie rockers  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, guitar god Gary Clark Jr., hip-hop sensation Desiigner, punk rock troubadours Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, hardcore heroes Touche Amore and so much more — not to mention celebs in the audience from Jay Z and Beyonce to former president Bill Clinton — it was a day to remember and then some.

Check out photos below, check out our gallery from day one, and look for a full review of the festival later in the week. Continue reading →

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Ms. Lauryn Hill spans genres and cultures for a fired-up Diaspora Calling show at The Mann

Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Eighteen years almost to the day after the release of her landmark solo album, Ms. Lauryn Hill played to a fired-up crowd of fans at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in West Philly. Her multi-platinum albums, both solo and with Fugees, still stand as hip hop and neo-soul titans, an achievement certainly worth an evening of anniversary acknowledgement.

Saturday’s show in Philly was the opening night of Hill’s MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! Concert Series, touted as an ensemble event celebrating the artistic and cultural legacy of African disapora.
Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: A Philadelphia lunch break with Butch Walker

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Butch Walker | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com

Georgia native rocker Butch Walker joined the XPN community today, putting on a wonderful Free at Noon show from start to finish. He was joined Suzanne Santo of Honey Honey who sings the harmony vocals on his songs. Walker kicked off his set with the title track off his new album, Stay Gold, which just dropped today on Dangerbird Records. “I’m really proud of this record, even though it doesn’t look like it,” Walker told the crowd before playing “Stay Gold”. Later on in his set, he went on to tell us again just how proud he truly is of this new album. Continue reading →