NonCOMM Recap: Belly keeps the crowd superconnected with old faves and new jams

Belly | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

On the surface, you could say that NonCOMM 2018 closed with a doubleheader Free At Noon concert from two different eras of nostalgia acts — one from the 90s (Belly) and one from the aughts (Editors). Thing is, though, both of these artists came with fresh material in tow, and Belly’s set in particular showed that they are musicians who have not missed a beat in the 23 years since their sophomore album King and this year’s radiant return Dove. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: Angelique Kidjo returns Remain In Light to its roots

Angelique Kidjo | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

Angelique Kidjo first heard the Talking Heads’ album Remain In Light after moving from her home country of Benin to Paris in 1983. The record, made a few years prior in collaboration with producer Brian Eno, found David Byrne and the band wholly embracing the sounds and styles of West African music, with Nigeria’s Fela Kuti being a major inspiration. But the Talking Heads’ idiosyncratic downtown NYC cool was still very much in the mix. As Kidjo recalled of her first experience with the record, “This is African, yet it’s got something that is turning my head upside down.”

Last year, the dynamic singer, songwriter and performer Kidjo began performing the album live in concert at venues like Carnegie Hall, putting her own spin on the Byrne-Eno spin on Afrobeat. The project was so well received, she recorded her own front-to-back version of the album, which is out June 8th on Kravenworks records. And on Thursday night, Kidjo and her four-piece band played many of the record’s songs in a lively close to night three of NonCOMM. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: Sweet Spirit blows the roof off of World Cafe Live


Sweet Spirit | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN |

Sweet Spirit are the powder keg of NonCOMM, just waiting to explode given the opportunity. Thursday night on the upstairs stage at World Cafe Live, the band had their chance. World Cafe host Talia Schlanger introduced the band by asking the crowd to feel their foreheads, received with confusion among the crowd. Schlanger followed it up quickly, saying “I guarantee you it will be dripping by the end.” She wasn’t wrong.

Early on in their set, Sweet Spirit entranced the crowd with the relatively tame 2015 track “Rebel Rebel.” In the back half of the song, bassist Jon Fichter lead the band in a campfire roundabout rendition of the track’s chorus, with the rest of the bandmates huddled around their mics repeating the chorus delayed. The building mash up of vocals launched the band into an explosive finale. Leading into “Baby When I Close My Eyes,” the band kept the tempo high throughout the rest of their set. Continue reading →


NonCOMM recap: No worries for Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Nathaniel Rateliff and the | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

It goes without saying that all of Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats‘ most recent releases have all been radio hits. WXPN sure knows it. Second to last on night three’s downstairs stage, they delivered all new songs for a joyous thirty minute set. Fresh off the hype from their March album Tearing at the Seams, World Cafe’s Talia Schlanger introduced the band by saying that while she doesn’t like to play favorites, she is the most excited for their act. They’re due back in Philadelphia on June 6th to play The Skyline Stage at The Mann Center.

The band – a seven-piece consisting of brass, percussion, and electric string sections – took the stage before Rateliff to lead into “Shoe Boot,” a jumpy, quintessential country rock jam. Rateliff has a lot of layers to his music, and country isn’t the only defining genre. There were elements of a blues ballad in “Babe I Know,” 1960’s swing beats in “Say It Louder,” and a more relaxed indie sound with “Be There,” especially when the band cut out to simply clap out the rhythm for the final verse. Rateliff is a very multidimensional artist, but on top of everything else, he’s fun. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: Hop Along display jaw-dropping range on the PRX stage

Hop Along | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN |

Hometown heroes Hop Along have been doing laps around Philly lately. Since releasing Bark Your Head Off, Dog on April 6 on Saddle Creek, the band played a Free at Noon set that same day, a sold-out surprise show at Johnny Brenda’s the following night, and have returned to the city after the first leg of tour in support of their third LP. The band plays Union Transfer this Saturday, May 19, a gig that’s been sold out for a minute now. Thankfully after the month-long tour, the band was still able to deliver a kick-ass set to the upstairs NonCOMM crowd Thursday night. Lead singer Frances Quinlan noted how nice it was to be back in Philadelphia: “It’s lovely, we just got home from tour yesterday.”

The XPN faves opened with “How Simple,” the lead track on their latest release plus one of our favorite music videos of the year so far. The track’s grooving tempo lead the crowd into an early-set dance party. Among the other four tracks to be performed from Bark Your Head OffDog, “How Simple” displayed the new direction the band took with their fourth album. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: The Record Company get down to business on the NPR Music stage

The Record Company | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

All I can say is lead man Chris Vos from LA’s bluesy rock band The Record Company is an animal. The trio hit the stage and got right to business with no hesitation. The intense energy and enthusiasm from the band’s righteous guitar licks, ferocious drumming, and killer harmonica solos had the crowd go crazy. Not to mention, Vos delivered some ridiculous falsettos that could be heard from the heavens. Bassist Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla kept everything tight as the charismatic frontman was thrashing, giving the crowd some epic guitar solos. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: King Tuff transports crowd to the cosmos with a space horn

King Tuff | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN |

“Anybody know what this is?” asked Kyle Thomas, the colorful frontman of King Tuff, as he raised a peculiar cylinder device in his hand. He looked side to side, faced the crowd, and deadpanned: “It’s called the space horn.”

And with that, the wonderfully strange cosmic flute beamed the last bit of the crowd into Thomas’ zany, trippy, mystical outer space universe as “Neverending Sunshine” began to play. Although, with opening tracks like the saucy video game odyssey, “Raindrop Blue,” the laid-back and sunny daydream, “Thru the Cracks,” and the funky disco jam, “Psycho Star,” the packed upstairs PRX stage audience was already by that point pretty fairly transported to another world. Continue reading →


NonCOMM recap: The Wood Brothers shake the ground for night three

The Wood Brothers | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

Nashville natives The Wood Brothers played an epic folk set to open the downstairs stage of NonCOMM’s night three. This folk powerhouse has just released their sixth studio album, One Drop of Truth, and plans on returning to Philadelphia on August 28th to play at Longwood Gardens.

This band is, in my opinion, the most unique group that has taken the NonCOMM stage, and after watching them jam for thirty minutes, they might be my favorite group of the whole fest. Night three is only just getting started, but they’re going to be a tough act to beat. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: William Prince got real personal to kick off day three

William Prince | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN |

Canadian folk singer-songwriter William Prince sings with his heart, and is not afraid to be vulnerable on stage. To kick off day three of the NonCOMM Convention, the Juno Award winner gave us a performance that hits ya right in the feels. His soulful vocals and storytelling skills made his performance so memorable. His music is inspired by all aspects of his life, and “Breathless” from his most recent album Earthly Days was one of the songs that truly depicted those raw feelings; he dedicated the song to his wife. Towards end his set, Prince sung an unpublished track dedicated to his father, who passed a bit of time ago. It was a soulful tear jerker that left my heart aching. Continue reading →


NonCOMM Recap: Brandi Carlile makes Free at Noon a family affair

Brandi Carlile | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Family, home, love, and forgiveness. These are the virtues interwoven in every powerful note of Brandi Carlile‘s music.

“I feel like it’s important to talk about my family in any format I can,” shared a beaming Carlile midway through her packed Free At Noon performance. Already having left the audience in awe after opening acapella-style with “The Eye” aside integral members, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, as well as shattering hatred with the shining 2018 powerhouse anthem, “The Joke,” — which ushered in a string section and backing band — Carlile took the time to acknowledge her love for her wife of almost six years, Catherine Shepherd, her four-year old daughter, Evangeline, and her new eight-week old daughter, Elijah. Continue reading →