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35mm of Firefly: Revisiting the Woodlands on film

Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover’s annual Firefly Music Festival is just about the friendliest mega-festival you’ll ever go to.

I say this, worth noting, not having been to Bonnaroo, or Coachella. Nor am I old enough to have experienced the grandaddy of all festivals, Woodstock — though I’m sure there’s a lot fiction and myth and revisionist history surrounding that concert’s supposed transcendence.

Compared to the current circuit of gigs in brutal-summer-sun-on-asphalt settings, however, the ones taking the let’s-cram-everybody-in-a-municipal-park approach, the ones making even the strongest lineup more daunting than it needs to be — Firefly is clearly a festival designed with the fans in mind. This is my third year covering it, and each year, incremental improvements are made, reacting to the previous year’s challenges while keeping an eye towards growth. In 2016, spending a long weekend in the Woodlands amidst a throng of 100,000 fans felt remarkably…comfortable. Water stations were plentiful, opportunities for cooler air and shade were at (most) every turn, music was never far – nor was it in your face either. Getting from the Lawn Stage at the festival’s south gate to the main Firefly Stage on the north side took maybe 20 minutes in the rockiest of conditions; in the past, it required over a half hour  to traverse the festival grounds.

In any number of ways — the forest setting and ubiquity of nature surrounding the show, the super upbeat signage, the way corporate branding was (for the most part) downplayed — Firefly shared experiential commonalities with homespun, hyper-local hippie-oriented musical gatherings dotting the map. The differences being, of course, the colossal pop stars (The 1975, Mumford and Sons, Ludacris, CHVRCHES) and soon-to-be pop stars (Pell, Kaneholler, Quilt, Son Little, Civil Twilight) filling out the lineup. This is, after all, an event where music industry mechanizations move the gears. It’s just refreshing to see that this can be done while still providing a positive experience for the fans.

For this year’s Firefly, I documented it with a mix of digital photography and a roll of 35 mm film on a Canon AE-1. The film is back just recently from the lab, and today I present its highlights to you, with some running commentary. See my digital pictures from Friday here, from Saturday here and Sunday over here. Continue reading →

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Defending folk’s good name, Kevin Morby pulls out the stops at Boot and Saddle

Kevin Morby| Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Kevin Morby| Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Six months ago, a friend of mine suggested I check out a guy named Kevin Morby. “Sounds like Bob Dylan,” I remember thinking to myself. Since then, I’ve seen Morby and his band three times, each show more rockin’ than the last. His Monday night set at Boot and Saddle was different for a couple reasons; it was my first time seeing him both outside of a festival setting, as well as my first time seeing him following the release of his 3rd LP, Singing Saw, this past April.

Monday night’s set brought with it a few more firsts. Morby played—for the first time ever, he told us—a 30 second-long song he wrote about Philly street names to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Blues Run The Game” (“Meet me down at Broad,” he sang). It was also my first time hearing a new Morby tune called “Tiny Fires,” which sounded more like early Wilco than Dylan.

But what’s best about a Kevin Morby show is not the new, but the old (or rather, the sounds old); mellower tracks like “Miles, Miles, Miles,” “Parade,” and “Black Flowers” (which, along with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place To Fall,” he played solo) would feel right at home at The Gaslight Café (of Greenwich Village). CBGB might be a better fit for tunes like “I Have Been to the Mountain” and “The Ballad of Arlo Jones,” on which guitarist Meg Duffy (whose solo on “Destroyer,” may I add, lead me believe that she is some sort of real-life guitar goddess) dug in and let loose. Continue reading →

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Thrice prove they’re not to be forgotten at The Fillmore

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Thrice | photo by Matthew Shaver | http://www.brightloud.com/

Thrice is a rock band with a curse, one that began at a tumultuous time for rock music. The early 00s were ripe lands for something new, and the emo laden seeds of the mid to late 90s were the ones that sprouted. There were a lot of different names for the genre, but the one that landed hardest was “screamo” and due to the tag, mixed with the evolving digital press landscapes, Thrice is a band cursed to a certain place and time.

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Firefly Sunday recap: Mumford and Sons, Earth Wind and Fire, Ludacris, Grouplove + more

Mumford and Sons | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Mumford and Sons | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The fifth annual Firefly Music Festival came to a close yesterday with a day of beautiful weather and stellar performances, from a high-energy set from Ludacris at half past noon to the astonishing headlining performance from Mumford and Sons. In between were knockout sets from Earth Wind and Fire, Grouplove, The 1975, Elle King and more. The Key’s editor John Vettese was there all weekend. Check out some of his photos from Sunday below, and see a Saturday recap here and a Friday recap here. Continue reading →

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Thy Friends Profanely Rage: mewithoutYou celebrates the long homecoming at Underground Arts

mewithoutYou | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
mewithoutYou | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Thursday marked one year of mewithoutYou’s most recent record, Pale Horses, and what a year it’s been. When I interviewed frontman and songwriter Aaron Weiss last year before the record’s release, I distinctly remember him saying “Every time we finish one, I’m so grateful and I tell myself ‘never put yourself through that again.’” If there was ever a year that he would choose to lay it all down, this would have been it. Continue reading →

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Slingshot Dakota returns home for a record release party at the Blast Furnace Room

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Slingshot Dakota | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com

Lehigh Valley power couple Carly Comando and Tom Patterson – better known as Slingshot Dakota – played a record release show for their newest album Break at the Fowler Blast Furnace Room at the SteelStacks last Friday June, 10, in Bethlehem, the band’s hometown. Slingshot was joined by two other Lehigh Valley bands, VoirVoir and Summer Scouts. Carly and Tom will be hitting the road again next month with Dikembe, stopping in Philly along the way to play PhilaMOCA on July 21 with special guests JANK. You won’t wanna miss this show, or Slingshot Dakota’s Break. Check out a gallery from the release party below. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Birdie Busch

Birdie Busch | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com
Birdie Busch | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

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.

Birdie Busch’s new record Thunder Bridge is beautiful, meditative, with an attention to production details and sonic textures that would make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Jeff Tweedy envious. Recorded in Germantown, Busch’s sixth LP sees the introduction of longtime friend Jaron Olevsky as keyboardist, as well as co-producer along with her partner, bassist Todd Erk. It’s a pensive, reflective collection of eight tracks that might remind you of Lucinda, Feist, or the moods of Beth Orton, and you’ll be comforted to know that Busch is a local Philly girl too.

What’s more, on June 18th, the Philly songstress will host a record release party at Boot & Saddle in celebration of the new work (get tickets and more info here). She’ll also be around town with a handful of show dates this summer, and come Fall, Johnny Brenda’s will host her seventh annual Philly Opry, a night of music cultivated by Busch, and conceived to mix-and-match local and traveling acts.

In her interview with us, Busch related her eclectic influences, her love for the city and its arts community. She speaks thoughtfully, poised with deliberation and without calculation, and throughout shares her contagious outlook of renewal and rejuvenation, whether it’s with reference to her relationship with live performance or just walking or biking the city’s streets and neighborhoods. Continue reading →

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Sixteen Years Later and Worth the Wait: At The Drive In show The Fillmore how it’s done

atdi-5

For many people in last night’s sold-out crowd at The Fillmore, June 13th was a day they had been waiting sixteen years for. It had been that long since At The Drive In played a show in Philadelphia; many fans didn’t even get to see them before they broke up.

Back in January, the band announced its reunion and a full North American tour, with a handful of dates across the world. All original members were in tow last night – except guitarist Jim Ward, who was replaced shortly before the start of the tour with Sparta guitarist Keeley Davis.

At The Drive In is arguably one of most influential punk bands of all time. They have paved the way for hundreds of bands over the years. Last night at The Fillmore, they showed just how it’s done. Continue reading →

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Royce da 5’9″ is worth the wait at Underground Arts

royce
Royce | photo by Matthew Shaver | www.brightloud.com

We all know the saying “Good things come to those who wait.” Royce da 5’9 is definitely one of those good things. The modern hip-hop landscape doesn’t have much room in the spotlight for an old school, battle-rap MC, so having one of the best around show up is cause for celebration in the indie circles.

So, we waited.

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Intimate Communion: The Tallest Man on Earth astounds at the TLA

The Tallest Man on Earth | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
The Tallest Man on Earth | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

“I think the first time I played here in Philadelphia — that was in 2008, opening for Bon Iver at the Trocadero — I was only this tall,” joked Kristian Matsson halfway through his set, motioning his hand at waist height. “Everyone was chattering on as they do during my set, but afterwards you were all so kind. You’re always so kind.” Matsson — known to most as The Tallest Man on Earth —has likely not grown physically all that much in the intervening eight years, the Swedish folkster’s musical career has certainly grown to towering proportions. Continue reading →