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The High Key Portrait Series: Nikki Jean

Nikki Jean | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Nikki Jean | 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.

Few young artists will have the thrill of being asked by one of the Roots Crew to play in his band, only to find herself a short time later singing her songs on a national platform, touring with Kanye and Rihanna, and composing with the likes of Motown’s Lamont Dozier, Carole King, and The Bard himself.

Nikki Jean has had the sort of musical career that might be considered by most counts the stuff of fairy tale. She’s worked with everyone from Dice Raw to Dylan, and although her discography may be short, the collaborations read like a Who’s Who of rock and rap icons. And although her gorgeous voice may be the first thing you notice about her music, her skill and talent as a songwriter shine no less brightly on her work to date, from her acclaimed 2011 debut Pennies In A Jar to the dark comedy of 2014’s “Take You Out.”

Although she’s since relocated to LA, Nikki reports in from sunny Southern California for a short-and-sweet Q&A to spotlight her memories of her time in Philly, featuring this set of photos that were shot back when Philly was home. Continue reading →

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Duran Duran balances the new and the classic at BB&T Pavillion

Duran Duran | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN
Duran Duran | Photo by Doug Interrante for WXPN

Generation X was out in full force on Thursday night for Duran Duran‘s gig at BB&T Pavilion. Though the band is now 35 years into its recording career, most fans came to hear the old hits — and the band did a masterful job of mixing things up a bit with both old and new rooted in their signature synthpop sound. The female-voiced roar that went up as they hit the stage was deafening, and the dance party that would ensue was even more epic as thousands re-lived memories from the 80’s and 90’s. The 18-song set only included five tracks from Paper Gods, their latest release and first in five years, filling the rest of the list with a majority of their hits from over the years. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The Marcus King Band was lit

Marcus King Band | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Marcus King Band | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

A man with a braided goatee was howling his brains out. He had no shirt, no shoes, and thanks to The Marcus King Band, the man had not a care in the world. For more than half an hour, he played air guitar left-handed (How skilled). He screamed, jumped and bounced around to the wildly entertaining jam session put on by the South Carolina native and his band. As the gentleman next to me perfectly pointed out, “He [was] the happiest guy here.” Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: No amount of rain can stop the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Preservation Hall Jazz Band | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Preservation Hall Jazz Band | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

You probably were looking to read this recap yesterday. I wanted to stay dry at the festival. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band would have loved to have been able to finish their set at the River Stage. Well, thanks to circumstances out of our control, none of those things were possible.

When the New Orleans jazz legends took to the River Stage on Saturday, it seemed like disaster was going to be avoided. Clouds were grey, but nowhere near apocalyptic. The light rain that was falling was a cooling drizzle, not an inundating monsoon. But I can’t stress enough that this was only what it seemed like — because an apocalyptic monsoon was exactly what was just moments away. Continue reading →

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Purest Moods: Brand New & Modest Mouse at the Mann

Brand New | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | jeremy-zim.com
Brand New | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | jeremy-zim.com

 

If you would have told me five years ago that Modest Mouse and Brand New would not only tour together in 2016, but co-headline, I would have shrugged said “Eh, I’d probably go see Modest Mouse.” Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t get into Brand New in my formative years, so Modest Mouse became the impetus for me making the pilgrimage out to the Mann Center Saturday night to see the most head-scratching double-header of 2016 summer touring season. While Modest Mouse’s brand of post-shoegaze certainly isn’t anything close to what I’d call “lighthearted,” it’s a far cry from the wallowing, starkly emotional crushers from Long Island’s Brand New. While a lineup like that might provoke confusion, it doesn’t trip on it’s way to the bank — the Mann’s entire 14,000 capacity was entirely sold out mere days after tickets were on sale. The tour proved a big truth: While either band would likely struggle to sell out the amphitheater, the sum is greater than it’s constituent parts. The same could be said about each band’s distinctly divergent career. Continue reading →

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Hardwork Movement lights up Spruce Street Harbor Park with an energized set

Hardwork Movement| Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com
Hardwork Movement| Photo By Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

My freshman year of high school, I joined the track and field team and met two men: Dwight Dunston and Keenan Willis. They had both graduated years earlier, and were returning to their old school to coach the track team. I learned they were rappers, and the following year, they laid down some bars while I played piano at what essentially equated to a school open-mic (video evidence of this exists here). You may know Dunston and Willis as Sterling Duns and Rick Banks, two emcees in Hardwork Movement, a name I’m willing to wager will someday be called the most important within Philly’s independent hip-hop scene. Continue reading →

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Paul McCartney played a 36-song setlist at Citizens Bank Park last night and it was glorious

Paul McCartney | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Paul McCartney | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Talk about giving people what they want. Paul McCartney had Citizens’ Bank Park under his spell for three hours and a 36-song setlist last night. It featured elections from his vast catalog of solo material: “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Temporary Secretary,” to his Kayne collab “FourFiveSeconds”. There were Wings jams, “Hi Hi Hi” to “Live And Let Die.” There were Beatles deep cuts (“I’ve Got A Feeling,” “Here, There and Everywhere”) and mega-hits (you know which ones those are). Dude even busted out a Quarrymen jam, “In Spite of All the Danger.” Continue reading →

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Nothing brings “Tired Of Tomorrow” home with a special record release show

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Nothing | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN | sydneyschaeferphotos.com

Back in May, the Philly boys in Nothing announced a 30+ day long tour with Culture Abuse and WRONG in support of their second and most recent album, Tired Of Tomorrow. However, the last four days of this tour were something special. Although WRONG wasn’t able to join, Nothing did a small four day run with Culture Abuse, Citizen, and Mary Lattimore and Jeff Ziegler at the end of their tour. On Friday night, July 8th, this tour made its way to Philly, which was definitely monumental for these dudes considering it was the band’s official record release show for Tired Of Tomorrow in their hometown. Continue reading →

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Weezer brings 20 years worth of summertime jams to BB&T

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

Summer is officially here, which for avid concert-goers means it’s time for festivals, block parties, and mega-tours. This year, Weezer set the summer tone with Panic! at the Disco and Andrew McMahon, the lead singer of Jack’s Mannequin.

Headlining the sold out concert at the BB&T Pavilion, Weezer put on a show with full energy and visual creativity. Whether it was the bucket hats or the beach bungalow drummer, Patrick Wilson, played atop of, each song incorporated something to remind you what the season is all about. Everything from confetti and streamers filling the air to an old video of Venice Beach displayed behind the band screamed “summer in California.” Continue reading →

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Phish plays to the Phaithful with a crowd-pleasing setlist at the Mann

phish
Phish | photo by Doug Interrante

Written with my friend and seasoned Phish fan Pat James

Tuesday night’s Phish performance at the Mann Music Center was not only highly anticipated by the throngs of Delaware Valley Phaithful, but also viewed with cautious optimism, as an ominous forecast threatened to pour heavy rains and storms on the thousands of lawn and terrace attendees. Those present at the Mann shows a couple years ago will recall a similar event, where all those on the lawn were directed back to their vehicles until the storm had passed over. Perhaps coincidentally, the Mann Center remained out of the storm’s path, and the good times only rolled on from there. Sensing the anxiety from the unpleasant forecast, Phish provided its fans with an absolute treat in the first set, with many familiar favorites mixed in with covers, rarities and brand spanking new material.

A tight and energetic “Wilson” opened up the first set (with a brief “Character Zero” tease in the warm-up moments). Trey Anastasio seemed loose from the onset, with some nimble guitar fills during the Gamehendge classic. Next up was Son Seals cover “Funky Bitch,” which continued the great energy from the first song. This Mike Gordon-sung tune had the band in sync early and in my opinion portended well for the rest of the evening (a personal favorite). “No Men In No Man’s Land” is a funkified fan-favorite and provided the framework for the foursome’s first jam of the night. Keyboardist Page McConnell explored both his keyboard and organ set-up and Anastasio led a melodic and thoughtfully composed guitar solo. At the conclusion of this song, Trey addressed the Mann crowd and commented on how much the band enjoys playing under the impressive wood canopy (sure beats the E-Centre — and no I’m not giving credence to whatever bank has the current naming rights to the Camden amphitheater). Continue reading →