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Load-In to Load-Out: Eliza Hardy Jones celebrates her breakout year at Boot & Saddle

Eliza Hardy Jones | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Eliza Hardy Jones | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

It’s a dark night in a city that knows how to keep it’s secrets. But on one of the first truly bitter days of December, as the wind howls down South Broad, there’s true warmth to be found inside Boot & Saddle. Hometown hero Eliza Hardy Jones is playing the Boot in a celebration of sorts. As the year ends, she’s commemorating the first year of making and playing music under her own name, a project entirely her own. After years as a crucial member of many other cherished Philly projects — you’re thinking of Buried Beds, Strand of Oaks, and Grace Potter’s band — this is her year. Continue reading →

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In Our Darkness, A Light Shines: mewithoutYou Celebrate 10 Years of Brother, Sister

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

For a band that does an awful lot of protesting their own existence, mewithoutYou are doing pretty well for themselves, 15 years in. On Thursday night, they celebrated a record that begins and ends with “I do not exist,” turning 10 years old — no small feat when you think about it. This closed tautology of self-denial bookends indie punk classic Brother, Sister — and has become an anthem for those searching for something beyond the easy answers. While all of mewithoutYou’s work deals heavily in symbolism and clever turns of phrase, the album doubles down on philosophical questions and existential probing. Billed as “The Sun & the Moon Band,” mewithoutYou again shrugged off that troublesome self in order to play in secret at Boot & Saddle, a venue several orders of magnitude more humble than their usual digs for the special occasion. Continue reading →

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Yo La Tengo, Dean & Britta celebrated 50 years of the Velvet Underground at the Gershman Y

yo la tengo
Britta & Dean | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Fifty years after Andy Warhol made Philadelphians uncomfortable with the local debut of his “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” featuring Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, The Gershman Y offered up the very same stage for a commemorative event last Thursday evening. The show was a veritable double-feature, though technically headlined by indie rock vets Yo La Tengo’s full set of Velvets covers, who followed Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips’ live rendition of their score for Warhol’s “screen test” films.

Having been commissioned some seven years ago to compose an original soundtrack for the films, Dean and Britta offered their 13 Most Beautiful — instrumentals and original songs, with some Dylan and Velvets mixed in — all presented against the backdrop of a selection of Warhol’s short black-and-white video portraits of contemporary icons that loomed hauntingly over the stage. Between songs, the two singers narrated with biographical anecdotes of the likes of models Edie Sedgwick and Baby Jane Holzer, Nico and Dennis Hopper, creating four-minute mini-portraits, the ultimate distillation of a prominent ‘60s counterculture. Lou Reed’s own screen test was juxtaposed against a cover of “Not A Young Man Anymore,” — an early Velvets’ song that surfaced only relatively recently — as their frontman Lou Reed’s nursed a glass Coke bottle, his lips curled characteristically, his eyes obscured behind his trademark dark black shades.

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Shearwater highlight Jet Plane and Oxbow during spirited set at Underground Arts

shearwater
Shearwater | photo by Joe del Tufo | www.moonloopphoto.com

“This venue says it’s a place for emerging artists,” Shearwater vocalist Jonathan Meiburg mentioned early in their Underground Arts set last Saturday night. “We’ve been emerging for 15 years.” It was meant as a self-deprecating statement, but the reality is that Meiburg and band have gradually crafted a body of work that at once defies genre and stands as a bold musical statement. The massive guitars over plaintive, shimmering vocals – the mesmerizing journeys from unnamed islands to the shores of a darkening America. It’s all laid out and stripped bare in a lush layered sound that is distinctly Shearwater.

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The High Key Portrait Series: Sadie Dupuis

Sadie Dupuis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Sadie Dupuis | 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.

Philly, meet your new neighbor Sadie Dupuis. Oh sure, you know her best as the frontwoman of Speedy Ortiz, the now-veteran award-winning attention-getting indie-rock darlings of every music writer from Noisey to Pitchfork, who’ve been around the touring block with the likes of Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, and the sisters Deal. You know. NBD.

But what you might not know is that, as mononymous solo artist Sad13 (and yes, that’s “Sad Thirteen”), Dupuis has moved from the heart of New England right to our backyard. With her debut record Slugger racking up the critical acclaim, she’s already on tour, and you can catch her at Girard Avenue’s Everybody Hits tonight.

As she settles into life in Philly, Dupuis compares and contrasts for us her experiences in Philly and Boston and tips you local vegans off to the best tofu hoagie in town. You’re welcome. Continue reading →

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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 →