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Strand of Oaks rise with new material, message at Arden Gild Hall

Strand of Oaks | photo by Joe del Tufo | www.moonloopphoto.com
Strand of Oaks | photo by Joe del Tufo | www.moonloopphoto.com

Well Philly, you are in for a treat. But it happened in Delaware first.

The debut of Strand of Oaks‘ new material from the forthcoming Hard Love album happened in a barn in Delaware in front of a crowd that ranged in age from 10 to 70. “This music is for everyone who needs it right now,” frontman Timothy Showalter mentioned before the show. “As much as Heal was pointing inward, Hard Love [points straight out]. It’s an important time for that, we’re not playing around anymore.”

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The Dudes Abide: The Districts shine at Johnny Brenda’s residency

The Districts | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
The Districts | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Well, well, well. If the gosh darn boys aren’t back in town. After what felt like almost whole year, our hometown heroes The Districts returned to a Philadelphia stage for three proper headlining shows at Johnny Brenda’s. And while 2016 wasn’t necessarily a quiet year for them — touring with both Modest Mouse and Dr. Dog is nothing to sneeze at — it definitely felt like a bit of a building year for a band that otherwise seems to have unlimited amounts of energy. It makes sense, with hints of LP3 trickling out at shows, and word coming that the band spent almost a month in LA over the summer, demoing and recording new material. But as summer faded, and the memories of The Districts’ slamming XPNFest set weren’t keeping my heart as warm as they once had, this three-night stand at JB’s came just in the nick of time. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Pretenders bring peace, love, and rock n’ roll to the World Cafe Live stage

The Pretenders | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
The Pretenders | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

The Pretenders made the Free at Noon stage their second home, blazing through a set filled with some old and new tunes, all in the name of the band’s comeback release Alone. After keeping quiet for a good couple years (last releasing a record in 2008), these English/American legends blessed the world with the recent release of their new full-length and announcement of an extensive tour with the one and only Stevie Nicks. Lucky for us, World Cafe Live got a sneak preview of what’s to come for the legendary group.

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Marillion make a statement with new LP F.E.A.R. at the Keswick Theater

marillion
Marillion | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | moonloopphotography.com

It’s hard to know where to begin reviewing a Marillion show. With over 35 years as progressive rock icons, their live history is overwhelming and complex. Even more so with the release of F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone and Run), their astounding new album that recently debuted #4 in the UK charts, an unprecedented act for an artist this deep into their career. But F.E.A.R. is not just any album, it is perhaps the best album they have written since Steve Hogarth took over as vocalist for Fish in 1989. At once an indictment of Brexit, Greed, Trump and the other powers that press down on us, it is also a much more personal look into the mirror of anxiety and disconnection. It is has teeth and is unflinching, musically and lyrically. For me F.E.A.R. is hands down the best album of 2016 which is nothing short of shocking – the equivalent of The Who suddenly releasing an album as good as Quadrophenia in 2016.

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Check out photos of Cream rocking The Spectrum, November 1, 1968

Cream at The Spectrum | photo by William Kates courtesy of the artist
Cream at The Spectrum | photo by William Kates courtesy of the artist

We’ve talked a lot about the sheer volume of rock and roll history contained in storied South Philly arena The Spectrum, from its opening day in 1967 to its final concert in 2009.

Today marks an anniversary on the earlier side of things: on November 1st, 1968, Cream — the o.g. blues rock power trio from London consisting of of singer-guitarist Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce — played its final Philadelphia concert at The Spectrum.

The concert was remembered in the book Strange Brew: Eric Clapton And The British Blues Boom 1965-1970: 

Although the tour has more downs than ups, Clapton will have strong memories of tonight’s gig when talking to Phil Sutcliffe nearly 40 years later. “I remember one show at the Philadelphia Spectrum…and I was playing the Gibson Firebird…and it was one of our greatest gigs ever. I was flying; no confusion, no indecision about when to stop, start, come in, go out; I wasn’t tired, I seemed to get more elevated through the evening, one of my greatest gigs ever.” The view is seconded by Jack Bruce, who later tells Tony Bacon: “The Spectrum is one of the very best gigs in America, if not the best. Philadelphia is a great rock music town. I’ve played that a few times, and it’s always been great. A rocking gig; great audience.”

Local photographer and rock enthusiast William Kates was there, and posted this incredible reminiscence of the show a few years back (in conjunction with WXPN’s Most Memorable Musical Moments countdown). Continue reading →

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Spooky Scary: Celebrating Hurry-ween at PhilaMOCA

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

Something wicked good this way comes. With autumn magic in the crisp evening air, the mood on Friday at PhilaMOCA was just right for a stacked bill of four Philly bands to transform into haunted visages of their former selves and take the stage by force. Put on by your friends and mine, the breezy power-poppers in Hurry presented the Hurry Halloween Spectacular — a veritable Hurry-ween. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Lydia Loveless rocks out, gets introspective at World Cafe Live

Lydia Loveless | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
Lydia Loveless | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

Owning the stage with her confident twang, Ohio’s Lydia Loveless showed World Cafe Live her ear-pleasing blend of country, alt-rock and pop with a half-hour set that went by way to quickly. Busting out a majority of her 2016 release Real, Loveless is a true artist’s artist, focusing on nothing but her vision.

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When I’m (not) Small: Phantogram stretches out at Fillmore Philadelphia

Phantogram | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Phantogram | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Phantogram in their own element. Sure, they kill wherever they take the stage. But if that stage is at a festival like Firefly or Roots Picnic, or an industry gathering like SXSW, there’s an element of the audience being there for the hang moreso than the bands. And there’s an element of the band subsequently reeling their performance in for maximum impact. At Monday night’s Fillmore Philadelphia show, there was none of that — Phantogram was as loud and epic and arty as they wanted to be. Continue reading →

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Load-In to Load-Out: Behind the scenes of Birdie Busch’s Philly Opry at Johnny Brenda’s

Birdie Busch’s Philly Opry | Photo by: Ellen Miller | www.ellencm.com
Birdie Busch’s Philly Opry | Photo by: Ellen Miller | www.ellencm.com

On a Saturday evening in early October, Fishtown institution Johnny Brenda‘s is bustling with hungry and thirsty customers, out for a fun night. Patrons are enjoying drinks and conversation, challenging friends and strangers to numerous games of pool. While everyone is chatting away downstairs, Emily “Birdie” Busch spends the afternoon and evening transforming the upstairs venue space in preparation for her big show later that night. Continue reading →

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Youth No More: Local Natives Come Out Larger-than Life at Electric Factory

Local Natives | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Local Natives | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

What does it even mean to be an indie darling in the year 2016? It feels like just yesterday that I was back in college, jamming Gorilla Manor and then eventually Hummingbird any chance I had to on my school’s radio station, convincing all my friends to take a chance on this indie thing. Seeing Local Natives absolutely crushing the stage at Electric Factory on Wednesday night was both a startling reminder that those days are gone, and a celebratory revel in what it means to have achieved “indie” success in the modern era. Continue reading →