Cass McCombs predicts apocalypse in new single

Cass McCombs | photo by Silva Grav | courtesy of the artist

Cass McCombs has announced a new album, Tip of the Sphere, out February 8th. “Sleeping Volcanoes” is the first single off McCombs’ ninth album, a murky folk-rock tune powered by bluesy roadhouse guitar and Lou Reed-inspired vocals. The lyrics are tinged with nihilism, the repeated phrase, “Help me, Armageddon,” suggesting apocalypse–which, if you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the last few years, doesn’t feel that far off. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Brother Ali at Union Transfer, Zammuto at Boot & Saddle, and Cass McCombs at Underground Arts


Tonight, Brother Ali will be playing Union Transfer. Starting his career in 2000 with the release of his album Rites of Passage, Brother Ali  has worked with artists like Immortal Technique, Brand Nubian, and Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. His most recent release, a DVD/EP called The Truth is Here takes a more pragmatic faculty of hip-hop, opting out of subject matter like material wealth and various activities in the club and instead choosing to tackle political and societal issues. As he says, he used an atmosphere that “makes us think we’re in different worlds because of race, religion, class, sex, etc.” and “tried to make something that shows how alike we really are”. The show will feature Bambu and DJ Last Word. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


The prolific Cass McCombs brings New Age urban country to Boot and Saddle tonight


Singer/songwriter Cass McCombs obviously has no fear of glutting the marketplace. The nomadic troubadour released two albums in 2011, and his latest, Big Wheel and Others, contains 85 minutes of music spread over two discs. So he’ll have plenty of material to choose from when he plays Boot & Saddle tonight. And much of it is strong – where his previous records have veered between the sublime and the throwaway, Big Wheel strikes a more even balance, maintaining a consistent mood of wry mysticism throughout its sprawling length.

The western-themed bar in South Philly is an apt venue for McCombs, whose self-anti-mythologizing seems to place him in a New Age urban wild west. The songs on Big Wheel and Others triangulate the yearning country ballads of Jimmy Webb, the slide guitar spiritualism of George Harrison, and the ironic-or-not Americana of Will Oldham. Both the title and the prevalent themes of wandering the open road lends the album the feel of a post-modern big-rig compilation, one of those trucker tapes that used to sell on convenience store counters for long-haul drivers in need of distraction. McCombs wraps his observations from the byways in guru-like aphorisms that never quite reveal how deeply his tongue is buried into his cheek.


Weekend Picks: Both Gomez and Obits cancelled, but at least Cass McCombs and Lower Dens are still playing

Obits (one of the bands you WON'T be seeing tonight)

Rick Froberg: The singer/guitarist of the legendary math-rock band Drive Like Jehu (as well as that band’s more straightfoward-rocking followup, Hot Snakes), cover-art designer for bands such as Rocket From The Crypt, and all-around musical badass. He’s also a guy you’re NOT going to see at Johnny Brenda’s tonight—because his latest band, Obits, had to cancel its show. (Which we were really, REALLY looking forward to after it was first announced.) To add insult to injury, Gomez just announced that it will be canceling the rest of its current tour due to singer Ben Ottewell’s vocal loss, according to The Swollen Fox. (The band is playing its scheduled Free At Noon show at World Cafe Live today, but will not be performing tonight at TLA.) We suppose you could see Taking Back Sunday at Tower Theatre, or try to find a ticket to the sold-out Bouncing Souls show at First Unitarian Church. Then again, you could just stay at home and watch a bunch of live Gomez and Obits videos.

Also playing: Taking Back Sunday + Thursday, Colour Revolt, We Are The In Crowd at Tower Theatre (7 p.m., $34.50); The Bouncing Souls + Tim Barry, Gods And Queens at First Unitarian Church (7:30 p.m., all ages, SOLD OUT)

The Philly-via-South-Jersey quartet Arches—who recently recorded a Key Studio Session with us—will be celebrating the vinyl release of their full-length debut Wide Awake at Johnny Brenda’s. (The show is presented by our friends over at YVYNYL.) Arches performs with Holy Spirits, White Laces, and Gracie at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.

Also playing: Lingerie Party + Wyldlife, Snakes Say Hisss, El Malito at The Trocadero (11 p.m., 21+, $10); The Bouncing Souls + Blanks 77, The Scandals at First Unitarian Church (7:30 p.m., all ages, SOLD OUT); The City Music Project + Lady, Swift Technique at World Cafe Live (9 p.m., $13)

Ever since his debut EP Not The Way was released in 2002, Cass McCombs has been attracting praise from critics and audiences alike, as well as forcing them to note the effect his music has on their selves. His enigmatic properties have taken him far; he has performed and/or toured with notable names such as Andrew Bird, Modest Mouse, Beach House, The Decemberists, Arcade Fire, and The Shins. His fifth and most recent LP, WIT’S END, was released on April 26th to further critical acclaim. Joining him and his band on Sunday will be Lower Dens, a Baltimore-based new-wave/drone-pop group featuring the vocals of Jana Hunter (Phosphorescent, CocoRosie). Cass McCombs Band performs with Lower Dens at Johnny Brenda’s at 9 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.); tickets to the 21+ show are $12 in advance and $13 at the door. —Claire Fishkow

Also playing: Kim Lenz And The Jaguars + Delco Nightingale, Dixy Blood at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $10); Stephen Marley + Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, John Brown’s Body at The Blockely (7 p.m., $25-$27); Rupa And The April Fishes + Blue Hippopotamus, April Mae And The June Bugs at North Star Bar (8 p.m., 21+, $10)


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Dark Blue at Johnny Brenda’s, Blondie at Tropicana, Leana Song at The Fire and more

Dark Blue | photo courtesy of the artist
Dark Blue | photo courtesy of the artist

Three Philly punk scene vets will take over Johnny Brenda’s tonight bringing a mix of 80s oi! and Britpop. Made up of John Sharkey III, Andrew Mackie Nelson and Mike Sneeringer, Dark Blue is a relatively new to Philly, but it has quickly been making a name for itself. Tickets and info on tonight’s show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar; listen to its single “Subterranean Man” below.

Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Lee Fields & The Expressions at Union Transfer, Washed Out at the Electric Factory, Bilal at The Blockley and more

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo via

Union Transfer welcomes North Carolina soul singer Lee Fields to its stage tonight. Over his impressive 43-year career, Fields has released multiple albums and inspired generations of R&B singers. His most recent effort Faithful Man was released last year via Truth and Soul Records. Fields recorded the album with the label’s house band The Expressions who also accompany his live sets. Get tickets to the show here and watch his video for “You’re The Kind Of Girl” below.

Continue reading →


This Weekend’s Concert Picks: Ben Smith at Milkboy, City Rain at North Star Bar

Ben Smith

Ben Smith, leader of the West Chester-based chamber-rock group Missing Palmer West, was the subject of our November Key Studio Video Session. For the session, Smith brought in a string trio and drummer to perform the highlights off his debut solo album Crooked Earth, which was digitally released in the fall. Tonight, Smith celebrates the official release of the album. Two of the tracks from his session are below; you can listen to his full Key Studio Session and watch the video interview here.

Smith Ben Smith performs with Joe D’Amico at 8 p.m. at Milkboy Ardmore; tickets to the all-ages show are $8–$10.

Also Playing: Anthony Green + The Dear Hunter at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $17–18); “Matthew Gallagher Photography Exhibit” featuring Nothing + Creepoid at The Level Room (7 p.m., 21+, $8); Akron/Family + Bad Weather California, Dangerous Ponies at The Blockley (9 p.m., 21+, $10–$13); Archives Of Oblivion + North Lawrence Midnight Singers, Andrew Gray at Milkboy Philly (10 p.m., 21+, $8–$10); Steve Goldberg And The Arch Enemies + Catnaps, Pete From Creeping Weeds at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $8);

Photo by Sarah Fry /

Last month, XPN2’s John Vettese brought the Philly electropop duo City Rain into the WXPN studios for one of our Key Studio Sessions, which we posted last week. After spending some time with the pair in the studio, Vettese wrote: “Ben Runyan and Jarrett Zerrer are serious balls of creative energy – and when they recorded their Key Studio Session last month, it became clear that the music they make suits them perfectly. ‘Creepin’’ phases up and down in Depeche Mode vibeyness, and then Runyan takes a 180-degree turn and vocally flips out on ‘Watch Out’ and ‘Don’t Stay Inside.’ He’s got an intense delivery, and actually loses his breath at one point, but what are you going to when you’ve got beats copped from Moby’s “Body Rock” goading you on?” You can listen to two of those tracks below; the rest are available here.

City Rain performs with Tygerstripe, Bad News Bears, and Mean at 9 p.m. at North Star Bar; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.

Also Playing: Man Man + Deathfix, NAH at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $15–$17); Wildlife + Adam And Dave’s Bloodline, Satellite Hearts at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $8); Sun Ra Arkestra + West Philadelphia Orchestra, Impressionist at The Blockley (9 p.m., 21+, $13–$15)

Twin Sister + Ava Luna at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, $10–$12); Cass McCombs / Frank Fairfield at Kung Fu Necktie (8:30 p.m., 21+, SOLD OUT); Ports Of Call + Low Roar, Soporus (8:30 p.m., 21+, $8)