Free at Noon Flashback: The Aces’ pure, infectious pop tunes filled World Cafe Live

The Aces | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Halfway through The Aces‘ set this afternoon, frontwoman Cristal Ramirez looked out into the audience and asked a question you don’t hear often at Free at Noon: “How many of you are supposed to be in school right now?” An impressive number of hands shot up in the air. The Aces may not have been surprised that a lot of young folks showed up to see them play, but they did seem a bit taken aback by the size of the crowd, given that it was a Friday at noon, and all. Continue reading →


Jazz-tinged singer-songwriter Taylor Kelly embraces messy breakups on “JWYTK”

Taylor Kelly | photo by Brian Bruno | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia singer-songwriter Taylor Kelly has returned a stunning new single, “JWTYK,” that speaks to the pain and possibility of breakup. Kelly was highlighted by The Key in 2017 in “Items Tagged Philadelphia,” a series in which we shout out the best Bandcamp new releases that are tagged #philadelphia. Her new single is as strong (or stronger) than her previous releases and establishes Kelly as a brassy, mystical, soulful force to be reckoned with in the Philly music scene.

Kelly is originally from Rochester, NY but her sound is rooted in glamorous jazz club scene of New York City, Chicago, or Philadelphia. “JWTYK” — or “Just Want You To Know,” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing — tells the story of a relationship that has reached its end. Without shying away from the pain of a romantic ending, Kelly spins a tune that is both honest and optimistic about the process of moving from one chapter of life to another. Her voice echoes that of Eryn Allen Kane, Lianne La Havas, or the indomitable Cecile McLorin Salvant, while her songwriting is all her own. Continue reading →


Bucolic has a peaceful easy feeling on “Light Traces”

Bucolic | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

It’s hard to listen to singer-songwriter Seth Carpenter’s Bucolic project without stopping to wonder why he chose that name. With soft, shimmery instrumentals and a heavily filtered vocal, the South Jersey native creates dreamlike soundscapes that fit into the idyllic, nature-filled setting the word bucolic evokes. Continue reading →


The Skeleton Key: From a J Dilla tribute to rock n’ rollers galore to so much jazz, we’re looking for love in all the right places this month

Writhing Squares | photo via

January might be the traditional time to make resolutions and talk about how we can go about bettering ourselves or whatever it is you’re trying to do with your life but let’s be honest: February is when stuff starts to get real. I can’t help you stop smoking or go to the gym more often, but if you’re resolved to go to more shows I’ve definitely got you covered.

This month is incredibly jam-packed with all manner of events, from avant garde jazz to wild metal to a stacked J Dilla tribute. And that’s all just in the next week! Have you ever just contemplated how lucky we are to be living in one of the best cities in the world? I have. That’s why I do this column. So let’s get started! Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Dylan Eddinger’s top places to grab a pre-show snack

Love City Brewing | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Dylan Eddinger shares his favorite spots to grab food before a gig.

When you head out to the city for a great gig, there are usually two things on your mind. One is evaluating just how awesome the show is going to be, and two is wondering what you’re going to do to satisfy your hunger before standing through a two-hour concert. To help out with that second question, here are some of my favorite places to get a pre-concert snack. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Koof Ibi Umoren’s top places for a Philly introvert to enjoy live music

This photo of Tyler The Creator was snapped just in front of the soundboard, a prime spot for introverts to enjoy a gig | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

There are a lot of misconceptions linking introversion to aloofness, misanthropy, or shyness. The truth is, a lot of introverts socialize very easily but just prefer not to. It’s kind of like a battery meter. If extroverts are energized by constant personal interactions, introvert are drained by it and require solitude and introspection in order to recharge. That’s not to say they don’t enjoy social situations. They enjoy going to shows but can find small talk and crowded spaces uncomfortable. For that reason, I’m reluctant to share my top places for Philly introverts to enjoy live music. Continue reading →


Masie Blu embraces change on visual album Transform

Masie Blu | still from video

Philly artist Masie Blu has released a visual album of her latest project, Transform. The theme is self-evident: embracing change to evolve into a better version of yourself. The visuals provide a stunning accompaniment to each song, the singer appearing in pop-color outfits in the woods, on the beach at night, at a party surrounded by friends. Continue reading →


Tinariwen explores open spaces for a captivated TLA crowd

Tinariwen | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

Tinariwen needs no opening act; the group had the audience captivated all on their own for over an hour and a half this weekend at The Theater of Living Arts. They’ve been described as a electric guitar orchestra or desert blues, and likened to the music of Malian folk/blues musician Ali Farka Toure. None of these comparisons do the band justice.

Tinariwen, which means either “open spaces,” “empty places,” or just “deserts,” depending on who translates your Tamasheq, mixes the traditional sounds of the Tuareg culture with blues/rock electric guitars, hypnotic percussion, and poetic vocals that are usually sung in a call and response form that emphasizes their meaning. Continue reading →


Empath embraces experimental chance on their new 7″ Environments

Empath | via

DIY-scene queer punk faves Empath recently released a two-track single Environments on local label Get Better Records, with a music video to go with the opening song. “Polyfoam” finds the band dancing in a basement, awash in saturated, saccharine and surreal hues of pink, orange and yellow.

The new 7″ is inspired by the field recordings of American photographer Irv Teibel created in the 1960’s and 70’s, as the songs “dissolve into experimental sound.” The tracks are a far cry from Empath’s last album, Liberating Guilt And Fear, released via Get Better Records, a distorted paroxysm of noise pop. They’ve traded furious kitchen-pot-banging for something gentler and meditative. Continue reading →


#XPNFest set times announced, single day tickets available, Katie Frank replaces Forth Wanderers

photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

The 2018 edition of the XPoNential Music Festival is right around the proverbial bend, and this morning we’ve got a few items of interest for all you music lovers converging on the Camden Waterfront in a couple weeks.

First, the set times have been announced — and while XPNFest, for the most part, does not make you choose between competing sets like so many other summer festivals might, it’s still a helpful detail to plan out your weekend. You can peruse the rundown of who’s playing when at the XPNFest Website, or in the handy dandy graphic at the bottom of this post. Continue reading →