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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Bedouine at Johnny Brenda’s, Mitch Esparza at Random Tea Room, Shilpa Ray at Kung Fu Necktie, and more

Bedouine | photo by Polly Antonia Barrowman | courtesy of the artist

Bedouine, the nomadic solo project of L.A.-via-Syria artist Azniv Korkejian, headlines Johnny Brenda’s tonight with support from Domino Kirke and the fresh-off-of-tour Rosali. Known for 60’s- and 70’s-inspired folk tunes, Bedouine released a debut self-titled album this past summer. Find tickets and more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs from Andy Jenkins, Gang Gang Dance, Gorillaz, Arp, LUMP, Wilder Maker, and more

Orquesta Akokán | via orquestaakokan.bandcamp.com

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Aw yeah, summer. The entropy, the lethargy, the visceral extremes.  Now, summer makes all sorts of things weird anyway, but I feel like summertime in music-land has gotten especially wonky in recent years. Basically, my take is that the focus on large-scale music festivals which has ballooned over the past decade or so has taken a palpable bite out of non-festival-centric touring itineraries, and thus summer concert calendars, and even, indirectly, album release schedules. (Aside from the overwhelming hype cavalcade of Drake, Jay-Zeyonce and Kanye and Co. all dropping within a matter of weeks, the last few weeks have felt a bit thin for noteworthy new releases, and the rest of July and August, peering ahead, are looking even sparser.) Maybe I’d be less sore about all this if I felt closer to the target audience for either Firefly or Made in America, but as it stands those festivals’ biggest impact on me, personally, has been (presumably) shutting Philly out of proper local headline dates for the makers of some of my favorite music of the year: Janelle Monáe, for instance, and Amen Dunes.

Still, there’s plenty that’s worth seeing, concert-wise, in the coming weeks – it just feels like (even) more of an unpredictable hodge-podge than usual. Some of it is coming in the form of smaller, locally-targeted festivals: there’s XPN’s own XPoNential Festival, of course, and the decidedly weirder and more DIY All Mutable Summer Jam which is running the same weekend (July 27th-28th); I’m also pretty hyped about the free, Latin Roots-affiliated Nuevofest which is coming up this Sunday (read on for more about that.)

Anyhow, this being summertime, what do you say we all take a trip? Just a little musical vacation around the globe and beyond, to points both familiar and strange; real, imaginary and somewhere in between. I can’t say that it will all be straightforward or entirely uncomplicated – what is nowadays, after all – but I do promise we’ll have some fun along the way. And it’ll feel oh so nice to arrive back home at the end.

Continue reading →

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We’re All In This Together: Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff play an empowering set at Union Transfer

Waxahatchee | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Co-headlining shows can be a tricky business. For the audience, it adds an air of mystery and unpredictability — who will go on first? How long will each set be? A good deal of planning has to go into it on the artists’ end, too — how do they settle it? Perhaps a coin toss?

For Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff, though, none of these questions seemed to be an issue. Some quick sleuthing seems to indicate that the two headliners, currently on tour together, have been alternating the order they play each night. That way everything’s perfectly fair and amicable — as the stage backdrop that framed the powerhouse acts read, “We’re All in This Together.”

This worked out just fine for last night’s Union Transfer audience, who was equally excited to welcome back hometown hero Waxahatchee and XPN Fest alum Hurray for the Riff Raff. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Saba, RJD2, Lotus, Franz Ferdinand, Hurray for the Riff Raff and more

Hurray for the Riff Raff | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

We are here once again with your guide to Philly concerts for the coming week, and as always, your choices are many. Start out tonight with local folks Petunia opening the gig at Johnny Brenda’s, and maybe hustle across town after their set to catch the end of Jukebox The Ghost. Do not miss Saba’s first-ever performance of songs from his new CARE FOR ME project at The Foundry tomorrow. And keep the energy going across the week, ending up at Union Transfer next Monday for the terrific triple-bill of Waxahatchee, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Bedouine. Read on for more about the week ahead: 21 shows to see in Philadelphia this week.  Continue reading →

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Kendrick Lamar, SZA and cohorts from the Top Dawg Entertainment roster bring their summer jam to BB&T

Kendrick Lamar and SZA at Coachella | photo by Emma McIntyre | Getty Images

Tour announcement season is officially upon us! With a handful of star-studded spring/summer lineups already announced (Waxahatchee / Hurray For The Riff Raff / Bedouine at Union Transfer on 4/16; Japanese Breakfast / LVL UP / Radiator Hospital at Union Transfer on 6/3; Dr. Dog / (Sandy) Alex G at The Festival Pier on 6/23), it’s only fitting that one of the best modern day Hip-Hop labels announces the tour of the summer.

Dubbed TDE: The Championship Tour, the label’s all-star lineup enlists Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, SiR, Lance Skiiiwalker, and stops in Philly on Friday, June 8th at BB&T Pavilion. Continue reading →

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Meet the #NPRSlingshot class of 2018

L-R, Top To Bottom: Air Credits, Bedouine, Brent Cowles, George Li, Gracie and Rachel, Haley Heynderickx, Hello June, Hembree, The Hogan Brothers, Jade Bird, Knox Fortune, Lawrence Rothman, Liz Brasher, McKinley Dixon, Mt. Joy, Phoebe Bridgers, The Shacks, Sidney Gish, Thunderpussy, WebsterX – The #NPRSlingshot Class of 2018 | via NPR Music

After an introductory year introducing Big Thief, Jamila Woods, and Lo Moon to listeners across the country, public radio’s emerging artist spotlight Slingshot returns for a second year — and a seven-fold increase in artists.

Some of the class of 2018 will be familiar to savvy listeners of XPN — like Bedouine, who recently appeared on World Cafe, or Phoebe Bridgers, who was an XPN Artist to Watch (and who appeared onstage with Conor Oberst at XPNFest). Many of them will be new — and that’s the whole point of Slingshot. Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs by Kelela, Parquet Courts, Fever Ray, Alvarius B., Special Request, Circuit Des Yeux and more

Fever Ray | via facebook.com/FeverRay

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Much as I may pride myself on keeping my ears as wide open and omnivorous as possible, I’m often struck, as the time of reckoning draws nigh, that so much of the music that really affects me from any given year tends to fall into a few relatively narrow categories.  Looking back on the 2017 releases that I’ve spent the most time with and returned to most consistently, most of them can be sorted into two general buckets: emotionally resonant electronic pop made by (relatively young) women – Lorde, MUNA, Sylvan Esso, Kelly Lee Owens – or wordy, wide-ranging critical statements made by opinionated and perhaps over-analytical old (or at least aging) men: Randy Newman, Jens Lekman, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields.

Is there a throughline there?  I tend to think of it in terms of personality: if there’s one thing most likely to pique my interest in a new artist, or keep me engaged with a familiar one, it’s in their music’s ability to serve as a tool for human expression, straightforward or otherwise; a means of telegraphing a vivid and recognizable individual identity – whether that individual be a quote-unquote “real person,” a constructed persona or, as it surely is in the vast majority of cases, some ambiguous, unparseable intertwining of the two.  Perhaps that quality is more readily apparent in the second group of aforementioned artists.  It’s not that those verbose songmen are single-mindedly preoccupied with age and mortality – though it’s clearly on their minds (see: Newman’s heartwrenching “Lost Without You”; Murphy’s “tonite”; Lekman’s bouncy but pensive “Wedding in Finistère”; the entire conceit of Merritt’s 50 Song Memoir) but it certainly informs their outlook, helping to distill a clarity of perspective (and tendency toward warts-and-all honesty) translating into albums that function as poignant, if sometimes roundabout self-portraits.   Continue reading →

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(Sandy) Alex G announces new headlining tour dates and an opening spot with Fleet Foxes

(Sandy) Alex G | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist
Alex G | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist

On July 17th, the Fleet Foxes Instagram account posted an announcement that they had added several artists to their upcoming US tour(Sandy) Alex G in the Northeast, Natalie Prass in the Northwest, Bedouine in the Southwest, and Nap Eyes in the Midwest in addition to the already-billed Animal Collective and Beach House.

For a good 24 hours, information on this news was nowhere else to be found, save the account (likely run by frontman Robin Pecknold) answering direct fan inquiries in the comments section. Either way, I naively thought that it was safe to assume the addition of Philly’s own Alex G to the upcoming July 31st show at The Mann Center was a given, as he had no other scheduled shows that day and Philadelphia is a Northeast location. Continue reading →