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“Jacked Up, Ready to Kick Butt”: Peter Matthew Bauer talks about his first solo outing, Liberation!

Peter Matthew Bauer | Photo by Eric Schuman
Peter Matthew Bauer in WXPN Studios | Photo by Eric Schuman

Peter Matthew Bauer thinks a lot about music in terms of his health. Coming off a ten-year stint making music with his lifelong best friends in The Walkmen, he candidly admits that a creative relationship that lasts that long isn’t always the best for the creators’ psyches.

“In a band, you think you’re expressing yourself in a way,” he says. “And you kind of are for a while, you create this group and it’s exciting. Then after a certain point you’re convincing yourself that some organ part is like an artistic expression…I think even Hamilton [Leithauser, singer of The Walkmen] probably felt that way at times. Being in a group for that long is not a healthy dynamic.”

Today, Bauer releases Liberation! on Mexican Summer Records, and he deems it a headphone freakout, a sonic assemblage put together over hurried months of recording and reworking over the course of 2013 – something that, in a way, can also be mentally unhealthy. But right now, he’s okay with that.

Last year The Walkmen announced its indefinite hiatus and the Mount Airy-based Bauer was faced with a decision – was he going to make music for the rest of his life?

“I gave myself two months to write four or five good songs,” he says. “I decided ‘you’ve got to have a song with words and singing, you’ve got to learn how to sing and why to sing, you’ve got to create something that has a reason to exist’. And if I didn’t have that, I was going to do something else.”

Liberation! doesn’t miss a beat, revisiting the lo-fi sonic grit of The Walkmen’s early work but incorporating unique textural elements – field recordings from foreign lands, loosely South Asian guitar patterns – as well as references to places around the globe in lyrics and titles (“I Was Born in an Ashram,” “Latin American Ficciones”). The base beneath these exploratory notes is driving guitar rock beat on by booming, urgent rhythms – a sonic snapshot of a longtime band player at the moment he confidently breaks out on his own.

Tonight, Bauer celebrates the release of Liberation! by headlining Johnny Brenda’s; we caught up with him when he stopped by WXPN before leaving for tour to chat about his artistic evolution. Continue reading →

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The Key’s guide to your Record Store Day shopping spree

Siren
Siren Records | photo by Liora Arianna | via facebook.com/SirenRecordsDoylestown

It’s the time of year to trade in all those hard earned dollars for some new vinyl – as if you didn’t do that all year long already.

And if you don’t, Record Store Day – this Saturday, April 19th – is a good a day as any to start. While the debate continues as to whether or not the “holiday” has outgrown its original goal of celebrating independent record stores across the country, and turned more towards larger labels reissuing classics to cash in, that’s not to say you shouldn’t take advantage of what’s been released and take advantage of any potential deals.

When heading out this Saturday, be ready for something unavoidable – crowds. Blair Elliot, owner of Doylestown’s Siren Records, says that RSD has blown up a little more every year to the point of bringing more people through his shop’s doors than the Christmas shopping season. His store will have most of the RSD-exclusive releases. And if you check the RSD website; that’s quite a formidable list; must be a big investment for an independent store.

“We hope it’s big this year because it’s costing us a lot,” Elliot says laughing. “I don’t think it’s a risk, but you just need to make sure you sell enough of what you get.”

OurGriffins
Our Griffins will play an instore set at Siren Records in Doylestown

Siren Records will also be hosting Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band and Our Griffins for an in-store performance starting at 6 p.m. Forsyth and company will be releasing, Solar Live 11.15.13, a recording of the band’s November show at the Rotunda.

The show happening at Siren is just one of many in-store shows this year. Northern Liberties’ Creep Records is treating RSD as a “grand re-opening” as they expand into a neighboring store in the Piazza at Schmidt’s (shoppers will be able to enter from a new door on the inside of the Piazza). They plan to mark their stock down ten percent and expect to have all the RSD-exclusive releases. Goddamnit, Ex Friends, Good Graces and Families will be playing their in-store show starting around 4 p.m. Continue reading →

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“The Night R.E.M. Became My Favorite Band”: Reflections on the Monster tour’s three-night stand at The Spectrum

R.E.M. at The Spectrum | still from video

Athens, Georgia rockers R.E.M. were at a crossroads in 1995.

The band — Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe — had won international acclaim and mainstream success after a decade-and-a-half upward climb through the independent music scene of the 80s. Propelled by MTV and the burgeoning alternative rock radio format, their albums Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992) generated massive hits like “Losing My Religion” and “Man on the Moon.” But the band also spent those early years of the decade somewhat reclusively, not touring and making only scattered public appearances.

Following the ballad-heavy introspection of Automatic and the psychedelic orchestrations of Time, 1994’s Monster LP —  the band’s ninth — saw it embrace the limelight once again. Widely heralded as R.E.M.’s return to “rock,” or at least rock signifiers like amped-up guitars and blistering drumbeats commingling at a propulsive pace, it added more massive hits to the canon — “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, “Bang and Blame,” “Crush With Eyeliner.”

But when the band prepped for its Monster tour, which launched in early 1995, it was very conscious of its position: these were four guys in their mid-30s who had been playing together for a over third of their lives. They had an audience hungry to see them perform and the wind of several successful releases in their sails, but their lives were also evolving in different directions — families were being started, new cities were being settled down in — and all this amid a turbulent, ever-changing industry.

“I think all of us kind of realize we’re probably never going to be in a position like this again,” Stipe said in the 1995 documentary short Rough Cut. “We’re probably never going to be this popular, and able to do a world tour on this scale. And I’m looking forward to it! I’m going to have a ball.”

This was the R.E.M. that came to Philadelphia for not one, not two, but three headlining nights at The Spectrum in South Philadelphia on October 12th through the 14th of 1995. Continue reading →

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Step up to the plate with The Baseball Project this summer at World Cafe Live

Steve Wynn & Scott McCaughey of The Baseball Project at WXPN | Photo by Eric Schuman

When The Baseball Project‘s Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey paid a visit to the XPN studios last month, they promised they’d be back for a full band show sometime in the not too distant future. Sure enough, a full-band show has just been announced for World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Monday, July 28th. Arriving just a few week’s after the MLB’s own mid-summer classic, The Baseball Project’s starting lineup will include Wynn and McCaughey (also known as founders of The Dream Syndicate and Minus 5, respectively), utility drummer Linda Pitmon (The Miracle 3) and bassist Mike Mills (now a free agent following the 2011 breakup of R.E.M.). The crew just released a stellar new album, 3rd (Yep Roc), whose songs range from the historical (“Pascual On The Perimeter” and “The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads”) to the personal (“Box Scores” and “The Baseball Card Song”). If past Baseball Project shows are any indication, classics from each member’s other bands and some choice covers are sure to be in the mix as well. Tickets will be available here (they go on sale Friday 5/9 at 10a.m.). Stream 3rd below:

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WXPN Welcomes Patty Griffin to World Cafe Live on Sunday, June 8th

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin is playing World Cafe Live on Sunday, June 8th. Tickets go on sale this Friday, March 21st at 10 a.m. In May of 2013, Griffin released both American Kid, and in October, her “lost album,” Silver Bell, after being kept on the shelves for 13 years. Originally recorded in 2000, Silver Bell was intended to be the follow-up to Griffin’s 1998 release Flaming Red and included her “Top of the World” and “Truth #2,” both covered by the Dixie Chicks. Opening the show is Oklahoma singer-songwriter Parker Millsap.

Griffin was recently on World Cafe with David Dye during the Cafe’s Sense of Place: Austin week. During the session, recorded at KUTX in Austin, she performed an unreleased song, “Winter’s Lullabye” that you can watch below. Listen to Griffin’s session here and watch the video below.

World Cafe Sense of Place Austin: Patty Griffin performs “Winter’s Lullaby” from WXPN FM on Vimeo.