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Free at Noon Flashback: The National Reserve brings the heat to World Cafe Live

The National Reserve | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

On Friday afternoon, Brooklyn rockers The National Reserve brought a high energy set to World Cafe Live, filled with solos on the drums, keys, and guitars. The band opened on some older cuts, dropped a cover of Ronnie Lane’s “Roll on Babe,” slowed it down with “Don’t be Unkind” from their new full-length project Motel La Grange, which was released Friday. Continue reading →

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#XPNFest announces more artists, incl. Natalie Prass and The National Reserve

Natalie Prass | photo by Tonje Thilesen // Fantastic Negrito // The National Reserve | photo by Michael Cooper // Forth Wanderers | photo by Julia Leiby // all photos courtesy of the artists

77 more days, 11 weeks left, a little over two months to go – however you want to say it, you better believe XPNFest is coming up quickly! Kicking off on Friday, July 27 across the river in Wiggins Park, NJ, the annual festival is returning for its 25th rendition. Today, we’re pleased to announce four more artists set to appear at the fest.

Joining the Wiggins Park crowd on Friday is Brooklyn’s The National Reserve, who just wrapped up a Free at Noon set earlier this afternoon. The Brooklynites show off their bluesy brand of Americana rock on their latest album, Motel La Grange, which just so happens to be out today. Give the album a spin if you missed the band’s set, or relisten to some of the tracks the band played earlier on air. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: The National Reserve get things going with southern rock jams

The National Reserve | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

It’s about 90 degrees in Philadelphia this evening and while it’s not too humid outside, the upstairs room at World Cafe Live is feeling a little sticky. It kind of sets the scene for The National Reserve though, a band from Brooklyn that opened the 17th annual NonCOMMvention with a set of bluesy rock ‘n’ roll straight from the steamy streets of the South.

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Listen to The National play Sleep Well Beast in its entirety at Union Transfer for NPR Music

The National | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

This Friday, The National releases its seventh album, Sleep Well Beast, a torrent of atmospheric soundscaping, propulsive rhythm and existential lyrical ennui from frontman Matt Berninger, who breaks down the dissolution of a relationship over a dozen tracks.

It’s a powerful set of songs, arguably their best work since 2007’s Boxer, and the band performed it live last night in its entirety at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer for NPR Music’s First Listen Live series.
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XPN MusicNotes: Watch Jimmy Fallon & Chris Martin sing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and 25 more songs added to Library of Congress’ National Registry

Tonight! @fallontonight

A photo posted by Coldplay (@coldplay) on

Late night host Jimmy Fallon unleashed his best David Bowie impression earlier this week as he sang Bowie’s classic “Life on Mars?” accompanied by Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano. Watch. Continue reading →

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56 scenes from the 56th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival

Philadelphia Folk Festival | photo by Lisa Schaffer | SkylerBug.com

Music, art, creativity and community — this is the stuff that’s in the air at the annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, from the mainstage headliners to the sidestage workshops to the famed Dulcimer Grove and the bustling campground scene. This year, the festival was packed with sounds and songs from big names Graham NashOld Crow Medicine Show, and Taj Mahal; local favorites Black Horse MotelLadybird, No Good Sister, and The End of America; and Helen Leicht’s annual XPN Local Showcase featuring Jesse Hale Moore, Greg Sover Band, and Vita and the Woolf.

And then, of course, there are the pick-up players at colorfully constructed campsites, the folks strumming acoustic guitars while lounging in hammocks, the budding artists making sketchbook illustrations and watercolors of the action. Philly photographer Lisa Schaffer has been a Folk Fest fixture for as long as we’ve known her, and this year she presents us with the sights she saw; 56 images for the 56th Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival.  Continue reading →

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Wowzers! Check out the 2017 NON-COMMvention performance lineup

Photo by John Vettese

WXPN’s NON-COMMvention, the station’s annual music-industry centered conference, announced their nightly performance roster for their 17th iteration. Apart from becoming a hub for the industries’ best, the conference always brings some damn good performers. Brace yourselves: This three-day event is jam-packed with performances from The Pixies, Blondie, Real Estate, Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Districts, and a whole lot more.

NON-COMM 2017 takes place May 17th through May 19th; check out the full day-by-day lineup below. Tickets to these performances are only open to XPN Members, so head over to the pledge page to become a member and get access to this incredible show — and get acquainted with the artists in the playlist below.

Non-Comm performances will be broadcast live on WXPN with video webcasts on VuHaus.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Church Girls at Ortlieb’s, Caroline Reese at Sellersville Theater, Lee Fields and the Expressions at Union Transfer and more

Church Girls
Church Girls | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

Local indie rockers Church Girls make a stop at Ortlieb’s for a fantastic gig with The National Reserve and Tinnarose. Think if Franke Cosmos decided to expand her haiku-like sound with some dirtier guitars, and you end up with some lovely post-punk. The gig is 21+, and more information/tickets can be found on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs from Ry Cooder, Neko Case, Wajatta, Bernice, Dear Nora, Stephen Malkmus and more

Neko Case
Neko Case | photo courtesy of the artist

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

Happy summer, is it?  I guess I got all the pop out of my system last month, cuz it’s about to get pretty indie in here.  You like indy music, right?  Good, cause I’ve got nothing major planned for this month.  After all, independence day is coming up soon.  In this June installment of Now Hear This, at the halfway point of an already-pretty-excellent year for all kindsa music, we’ll take some stock of the wide, white, anglophone (though in this case, hardly at all male) world of probably the least useful genre descriptor there is.  Then, eventually, we’ll get to some other places – Holland, Africa, outer space, Takoma Park.  We’ll meet some bands named after names, check in with some artists who’ve been around for fifty years, or seventy years, and some who went away for a while and have come back to us.  First, though, let’s hear a heavy hit from one of the least-categorizable heavy-hitters out there… Continue reading →

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When Springsteen Came to Haddonfield: New Jersey photographer Frank Stefanko reflects on working with The Boss

Bruce Springsteen in Haddonfield | photo copyright Frank Stefanko | used with permission

Looking at the cover art, you’d probably guess that the iconic photo of Bruce Springsteen on Darkness on the Edge of Town was shot in his native Asbury Park. Or maybe in nearby Homdel, New Jersey, where he bought a farmhouse to write the album in.

That speaks to how well The Boss and South Jersey photographer Frank Stefanko were simpatico. The front and back cover images for Darkness, with a tousle-haired Bruce standing against venetian blinds and floral wallpaper, gazing in the lens with a mix of world-weary ennui and quiet confidence, were actually shot in Stefanko’s home in Haddonfield, New Jersey, a cozy borough just 25 minutes east of Philadelphia. They were two of the first photographs Stefanko took of Springsteen, from a test shoot that would precede their main portrait sessions. And with The Boss presenting an everyman character in his poise – whether intentional or accidental — the image connected hugely with the songs he was crafting at the time.

As Stefanko told Pitchfork in a 2010 interview, “We were trying to recreate these middle America, working class families; guys that were looking for redemption. It could have been done in the 70s or 50s or even the 40s. The idea was that these people transcended time or space. But we were trying to get something to look like an old Kodacolor snapshot. There were a lot of black and white photographs taken in those sessions too which were very striking in their own right. But the idea of this color photograph that could have been a snapshot in somebody’s drawer worked for the album.”

As it turned out, many famous images of Springsteen were also taken in and around Haddonfield, by Stefanko. The artwork for The River. The cover of his memoir, Born to Run. This fall, Stefanko released his own book, a massive new photo collection called Bruce Springsteen: Further Up The Road. The book chronicles the two Jersey boys’ four decades working together, from the sessions for Darkness and The River through the Nebraska years and up to Springsteen’s tours in 2012 and 2016. It features photos, proof sheets, and lots of lore, and to commemorate the year they began working together, is released in a limited edition of 1,978 copies.

“Bruce was looking for a certain feeling, a certain look,” Stefanko said when I caught up with him via phone last month. “And to my great pleasure, the images I created were the ones that he felt represented the characters he was writing about.” Continue reading →