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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 →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Heart Harbor

Kerry Hallett has come a long way since her first-ever open mic at Atlantis: The Lost Bar in 2005. The Philadelphia-based singer, guitarist, songwriter and mastermind behind Heart Harbor has bounced between cities and coasts over the past decade and change, landing on a great batch of songs and the remarkable Tender Trap EP, which came out last autumn.
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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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All This and More: A radiant Belly reigns supreme at Union Transfer

Belly | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Belly | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

When a band frames a show as “An Evening With…,” the connotation is that this is a special event, a unique and refined occasion for the learned and erudite spectator. It can be construed as a veiled euphemism for “we’re all a little older now.”

As further evidence of the ‘90s revival that Gen X-ers are all enjoying lately, alt-rock darlings Belly have reunited for the first time since disbanding two decades ago. A new record — their third — is due out soon, and they closed the first leg of their reunion tour Sunday night at Union Transfer with “An Evening With Belly.” A special occasion for fans who are a little older now, it was.

Belly didn’t seem to want to let those older fans forget that, either, with lively stage banter throughout their two-hour set about parenthood and bathroom breaks at intermissions, advice on stretching before moshing to avoid sprains, and an interactive conversation about the prescription drugs that have long since replaced the recreational ones. (Cracking a joke about inhalers, bassist Gail Greenwood got a section of the crowd to chant “albuterol!”) Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: G. Love

G. Love | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
G. Love | 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.

We seem to be enjoying a bit of a 90s renaissance lately. A bill full of 90s headliners sold out The Fillmore in Philadelphia two weeks ago, and last week another Clinton addressed a Philly-hosted national convention. An “I Love The 90’s” Festival featuring Salt-n-Pepa, Vanilla Ice and Color Me Badd hit BB&T last week. The revival is afoot.

Most of Philly’s Gen X-ers will remember that era of the city’s cultural history with a special reverie, and listening to Garrett Dutton reflect on those years in anecdotes is sure to evoke nostalgia for anyone who was there.

In a candid interview held backstage at his Fillmore show earlier this year, the man known as G. Love talks sentimentally about his days tagging walls and playing street corners and cafes, about basketball and the neighborhoods he called home. He recounts first recognizing the potential of integrating elements of blues rock and hip hop to develop his signature sound. He doesn’t pull punches, either, about the frustrations he faced as a recording artist, with open rebuke for the elements of media or local industry that from his perspective offered paltry support.

While Dutton is known best for the hits that drove his early following, his latest records and performances show an artist still evolving. Last October, G. Love and Special Sauce released their latest record Love Saves The Day, a collection of blues rock tracks including collaborations with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Los Lobos vocalist David Hidalgo.

Speaking of that 90s revival, though, mark your calendars: G. Love plays the Mann with Blues Traveler and The Wallflowers on August 21st. Tickets and more information on that show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Adventure of a Lifetime: Coldplay brings boundless energy and optimism to The Linc

Coldplay | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com
Coldplay | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

I stand now on the precipice of a new decade of my life, its experiences unknown, its joys undiscovered, its sorrows unmeasured. I see a decade quite similar in its turbulence in my rear-view mirror. Throughout the past ten years of my life, I changed in more ways that I could ever care to count, and I greatly appreciate the very few things that, throughout this past decade, remained somewhat constant. Coldplay, as a concept if not as a band, stands among those few. Continue reading →

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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 →