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Your set times for Philly Music Fest have arrived

The Districts | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philly Music Fest returns this year, providing a snapshot of artists currently staking their claim in the Philly music scene. Kicking off on Thursday with a punk rager at Johnny Brenda’s, closing Sunday with a jazz showcase at MilkBoy, and centered by two eclectic nights at World Cafe Live, the festival rounds up 25 artists at three venues, with hotly anticipated performances by Soul Glo, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, Hardwork Movement, Ruby the Hatchet, Palm, The Districts and more.  Continue reading →

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Local artists inspire Philadelphia’s youth at Aspiring Young Artists

Aspiring Young Artist | photo by Richard Sanders | courtesy of Aspiring Young Artists

The city of Philadelphia has a very incredibly vibrant music scene and a rich music history that spans genres. But imagine if those two intangible things could become more of a direct resource for the adolescents of the city who are in school and have a passion for creating music. That’s where Aspiring Young Artists steps in.

While most schools can only advocate for more funding so they don’t have to make really hard choices, like cutting out art programs because of lack of funds, AYA cuts out the middle man and connects North Philadelphia students from schools like Youth Build Philadelphia, Kensington CAPA and Olney Charter High School with local artists who teach them how to compose their own music and expose them to the beautiful things that are happening in their hometown’s music scene.

Recently I was able to sit with AYA’s founder Ricky Strickler about how the music programs and the local artists that lead them have made an impact on its students. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Queen of Jeans, The Diplomats, Drive-By Truckers, Lorde and more

Queen of Jeans | photo by Jessica Lim | courtesy of the artist
Queen of Jeans | photo by Jessica Lim | courtesy of the artist

Your choices are many; your excuses are few. Here are 25 concerts you could see in Philadelphia this week; enough for you to catch one per day, or for the more enterprising of you Key readers, several per day. Starting with folksinger Sam Amidon, and going up to arena pop rocker Lorde, here are our picks for the week ahead. Continue reading →

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Jasmine Cassell flexes her songwriting skills on S7VEN EP

Jasmine Cassell | via facebook.com/jasminecassellmusic

New Jersey singer songwriter Jasmine Cassell focuses on love for her recent EP S7VEN. Different types of love; self love, the love of God, romantic love. The lyrical theme, mixed with superb instrumental arrangements, made this project a standout debut.

I had heard Jasmine Cassell perform “Let Me In” live, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear some layered 80s synths — a signature style of producer Lee “LeBeet” Clarke, who has also worked with Kate Faust and Kingsley Ibeneche. That sound could have easily been a very cheesy move, but it works so well for the song and compliments the melody really well. The melody is catchy, and the way the chorus comes in makes this perfect for an impromptu car karaoke session. The lyrics echo Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” sentiment with lyrics like “You’ve got a lot of baggage, girl. / Let me in so I can trash it, girl.” Continue reading →

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Five artists to see at O:O Our Black Arts Festival this weekend

Kingsley Ibeneche | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

O:O Our Black Arts Festival is this weekend, February 9th and 10th, at Circle of Hope in South Philadelphia. The two-day festival welcomes people of all ages, shapes, colors, genders, and orientations. There will be visual work, poetry, and performances from various artists, which you can read more about below.  Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Koof Ibi Umoren’s favorite non-traditional venues of 2017

Under the Greys Ferry Bridge | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key photographer Koof Ibi Umoren (who plays trumpet with West Philadelphia Orchestra, Little Strike and a host of others) shares Philly’s best non-traditional venues to perform at in 2017.

Traditional music venues need musicians and beer in order to successful. This year has proven that musicians need beer, but not necessarily the traditional music venues. A musician can spend a lot of time performing in Philadelphia without setting foot on a traditional stage. If you’re smart and you chose an acoustic instrument in elementary school, and didn’t give it up for a cooler electronic instrument in college, then the world is literally your stage This year I’ve had the pleasure of playing and attending shows at some very interesting Philadelphia “venues,” and here’s a recap of some of my favorites. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Discoveries of 2017

Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. To kick off the series, Key editor John Vettese recaps six of his favorite Philadelphia music discoveries from the past 12 months.

Earlier today, I was listening to a conversation with Johnny Brenda’s talent buyer Chris Ward on the 25 O’Clock podcast, and he made a very interesting point. The bumper crop of musical talent in Philadelphia, or what is often perceived as such, is no sudden phenomenon. It’s not as though, pre-2006, the city was in some dire straits or a lesser creative state, and has subsequently grown and evolved to the present-day bursting of the proverbial seams.

The truth is that amazing music — rap music, rock music, pop music, soul music — has always existed in the 215; in many cases (the Gamble & Huff era), it’s downright thrived. But as Ward pointed out, a more recent confluence of factors and persons and places and institutions over the past decade (like him and JBs, I might add, or like our friends at The Deli and Jump, or like countless others) have helped amplify the scene tremendously.

Every year around this time, as we launch into The Key’s annual year-in-review extravaganza, I begin by sitting down and reflecting on the new artists and new-to-me artists who, over the past twelve months, have knocked me sideways. There have always been artists like this in Philly, whether or not the outside world is paying attention. And there always will be; even if, at some point, the zeitgeist declares Philly to be “over,” if you look and listen, you’ll find them continually creating, somehow, somewhere.

Continue reading →

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Grandchildren and Vessna Scheff benefit shows to support Big Picture Alliance and Aspiring Young Artists

Grandchildren | photo courtesy of the artist
Grandchildren | photo courtesy of the artist

Grandchildren‘s Aleks Martray has teamed up with fellow Philly musician Vessna Scheff to put together a short series of benefit shows. In a fundraising effort for local youth film and music programs, the two artists have assembled a variety of local musicians to perform at Boot & Saddle on November 16. The second show, November 17 at Warehouse on Watts, will feature youth films and musical performances. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Against Me! at Union Transfer, Dar Williams at Arden Gild Hall, Moses Sumney at First Unitarian Church, and more

Against Me! | photo via facebook.com/AgainstMe

Against Me! released their latest LP Shape Shift With Me a year ago, and tonight their tour makes a stop at Union Transfer with support from Bleached and The Dirty Nil. The gritty folk-punk band are known for emotional, personal tunes penned by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace; their last two albums reflect on her experiences navigating relationships and life as a transgender woman. Listen below, and find tickets and more information on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →