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Easygoing Vibes, Explosive Force: The War on Drugs makes a powerful homecoming at The Dell for a good cause

The War on Drugs | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

When it was announced that Connor Barwin’s fourth annual Make The World Better Foundation fundraising concert was being held at the Dell Music Center and that The War On Drugs would headline, questions arose. For some, the question was “What the heck is The Dell?” and for those familiar with the city-run venue in Fairmount, the question was “Why The Dell?” The answer to the latter is that the venue is looking to throw in an occasional rock or country band to their normal summer mix of funk, R&B and soul music. Based on the crowd who entered The Dell “ooh”ing “ahh”ing, the venue most likely will not have trouble filling seats for these outlier acts. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: SPORTS

Reasons to love SPORTS: to begin with, their mantra, “friends FIRST, band SECOND.” You can’t miss that contagious camaraderie when seeing them onstage or in the studio — free of ego, free of pretense, free of the B.S. that ultimately divides artists who are motivated by forces other than playing music they love. There’s ample laughter and supportive sentiments from bandmate to bandmate, intermixed with sick riffs and catchy melodies. It’s refreshing to see: despite their tongue-in-cheekily competitive name, SPORTS is just a group of upbeat pals who moved from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio to Philadelphia to write songs and rock shows.
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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key Studio Sessions: Sea Offs

Need a solid argument for turning up early to a long day of music? Two words: Sea Offs.

The dream-pop four-piece is one of the opening acts on the Saturday lineup of next weekend’s Philly Music Fest at World Cafe Live — they play 3:10 p.m. on the upstairs stage — and their lucid, moving arrangements of intertwining electric guitars and emphatic drums are an invigorating entry point into the event’s eclectic bill of regional artists.

Sea Offs hail from Central Pennsylvania, in the most literal sense — songwriters and guitarists Olivia Price and Rashmit Arora met at State College, in the dead center of the state, and began writing and recording music in 2015 around the PSU / Happy Valley region. It’s a good place for creative companionship as well as creative isolation — the people who are indifferent about Nittany Lions football tend to stick together, but are nevertheless mutually distant from bigger creative hubs like Buffalo, NYC or Philly. Sea Offs’ debut single, “Colliding,” was a drifting and folky piece in the Nick Drake / Innocence Mission zone, a sound that bloomed into last year’s Sea the Blind EP, where ambient atmospheres were gradually worked into their palette.

And then, there was this year’s rhetorically-titled What’s The Point?, an immersive record and one of my favorites to catch my ear during the year-long Items Tagged Philadelphia project. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key Studio Sessions: The Bigness

Can we point to The Bigness an example of Philly D.I.Y.? They don’t play emo or punk rock — even though their songs are emotional, and they do rock. Their gigs don’t take place in tallboy-littered basements on the fringes of university campuses — but their sound is so dialed-in, it would feel just as good there as in a club. Hovering in and around their 30s, the bandmates have a solid decade-plus on the average D.I.Y. scene participant — but what is age, anyway, when it comes to art?

Surface similarities may be shaky, true. But as far as their work ethic, their love of hooks and their pure spirit, the common ground is hard to deny: The Bigness makes music by themselves, for themselves, and it’s an inviting and inclusive thing of joy.
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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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XPN MusicNotes: Remembering the life and music of Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart

Grant Hart | via Hüsker Dü’s Facebook

“Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember.” -Bob Mould

Grant Hart — founding member, drummer and singer/songwriter for the influential alt-rock band Hüsker Dü — has died following a battle with kidney cancer at the age of 56. Continue reading →

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Sept 14 in Music History: Genesis make their live debut, Counting Crows release August and Everything After

Counting Crows August and Everything After

1955 – Little Richard enters a New Orleans studio to begin two days of recording. The sessions don’t start well, but they end fantastically. During a break, he and his producer Bumps Blackwell go to the Dew Drop Inn for lunch. Richard starts wildly playing the piano in the bar, singing a loud and lewd version of “Tutti Frutti.” With only fifteen minutes left in the session, Richard records this version of the song with the phrase, “a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom.”

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