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All My Friends Are Onstage: Lil Uzi Vert’s hip-hop hit parade brings Pharrell, Nicki Minaj and more to the Liacouras Center

Lil Uzi Vert | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Let’s not sell Lil Uzi Vert short. The Grammy-nominated Philadelphia rapper is a commanding, dynamic performer with incredible charisma, athletic stamina and a daredevil’s drive to completely obliterate the boundary between artist and audience. It was what grabbed us here at The Key when we first encountered him, jumping offstage and climbing on top of food vending trucks at the Roots Picnic, finishing his set perched on high, dancing for an energized audience below.

This was the Lil Uzi that took the stage last night to a sold-out crowd at Temple’s Liacouras Center for his year-end throwdown, A Very Uzi Christmas. The basketball arena was decked out in tune with the rapper’s goth-inspired aesthetic — open caskets on either side of the stage pumping pulsing light and dry ice outward, two LED boards in the shape of inverted crosses — and as Uzi leapt from the upper deck to the front row to the bumping bass of “444+222” from this year’s Luv Is Rage 2, sashaying between pyrotechnic plumes, it was pretty clear: this show could have been Uzi and Uzi alone, and it would have been an incredible night.

But that’s not how it went down. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Downtown Boys at Underground Arts, Grandchildren youth music benefit at Boot & Saddle, Bishop Briggs at The Fillmore, and more

downtown boys
Downtown Boys | photo courtesy of the band

 

Led by feminist activist and vocalist Emma Goldman, Downtown Boys is a hard-hitting punk-rock group hailing from Providence, Rhode Island. The group controls the stage tonight at Underground Arts for the next stop on tour in support of its 2017 record Cost of Living, released this summer on Sub Pop. Listen to it below and check out the show by picking up tickets here. Continue reading →

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Step Into the Light: The ascent of Bishop Briggs

Firefly 2017 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

 

It was only two years ago that Sarah Grace McLaughlin — the Scotland-born, nomadically-raised modern rock singer and songwriter better known as Bishop Briggs — was living in Los Angeles, hustling for gigs at any venue that’d give her a space to play.  And then “River” happened.

Released in January of 2016, the earworm single was an instantly captivating blend of sinister, simmering electronic rock, with an undercurrent of retro soul and R&B, tied together by a powerful vocal delivery from the then-23 year old Bishop. The single crawled its way up the modern rock charts and got something of a second life this past summer, when her self-titled debut EP was released on Island Records. Her set at the main stage of Dover, Delaware’s Firefly Festival this summer was gripping on a sweltering June afternoon; her pop-up performance in the shade of the festival’s Treehouse stage was even better.

This fall, Bishop returned with her latest single, “Dream,” a hugely uplifting gospel anthem with a lyrical dark side; it’s been slaying on her fall tour. This Thursday night, Bishop plays the main stage of The Fillmore, opening up for Bleachers, but when I caught up with her via phone, she was pulling in to Toronto’s almost-certainly haunted Massey Hall, getting ready to open for Alt-J. “It’s been insane, it’s a dream come true,” an effusively positive Bishop says at the top of our chat. “I love Alt-J so much, I love seeing them every single night. They’re unwaveringly good and consistent.”

Our conversation from there touched on collaboration, knowing one’s limitations, the slow-and-steady release strategy, and the influence of place on the creative mind.
Continue reading →

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Tremellow’s new track “Look Up” is a folky, outerspace sonic adventure

Tremellow | photo via artist’s Bandcamp

When Keith Abrams isn’t rocking out as frontman for Pine Barons, or helping to produce other legendary albums (i.e. The Districts Popular Manipulations,) he gets strange and experimentally lo-fi as his side-project, Tremellow. From all the recent and much deserved hooplah of Pine Barons’ and The Districts’ new releases, it’s crazy that Abrams has time to let alone breathe. But here he is, releasing a new Tremellow track — which is unsurprisingly a total jam. Continue reading →

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Firefly on the Fly, Day Four: The Shins, Phantogram, Muse, Hamilton Leithauser, Hardwork Movement, Busta Rhymes and more

The Shins at Firefly 2016 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Our ears are still ringing from this weekend’s tremendously fun excursion at Firefly 2017. A review is coming later this week, but for today, we bring you photos from our final day in the Woodlands of Dover, Delaware…from Busta Rhymes kicking off the day to Philly faves Hardwork Movement in the campground, Hamilton Leithauser soldiering through string breakage on the main stage and Bishop Briggs playing a dynamic set on the festival’s Treehouse stage, dueling stints from top-form indie rockers The Shins and the always-compelling electro rock royalty Phantogram, and an over-the-top energized closing set from Muse. Continue reading →

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Firefly Guide 2017: 20 artists to discover in the Woodlands this week

Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

As any committed concert-goer will tell you, the best music you’ll find at summer festivals is often the stuff you come across far from the maddening crowd. Sets stumbled upon by chance when you’re looking for a spot to stretch out in the shade; artists you’ve never heard of who bowl you over as you’re waiting to catch one of the headliners; a DJ playing on a campground stage in the middle of the night or a band in the same spot come early afternoon.

Delaware’s annual Firefly Music Festival kicks off this Thursday afternoon; as we have said in the past, it is one of the most positive festivalgoing experiences of its scale. The headliners are massive, but quality; the crowds are packed, but comfortable; you’re essentially holed up in a ginormous camp-out for the weekend, but it doesn’t feel like you’re being gouged for cash. It’s a fan-friendly experience, and that extends to the fans who are down for discovering new music, seeing new performers for the first time.

Continue reading →

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The Key’s ultimate guide to North American summer music festivals – Part Two!

via facebook.com/kopeckymusic
via facebook.com/kopeckymusic

It’s late June, and you know what that means: we’re about halfway through festival season. We’re sure you got fired up at Firefly, danced at Governor’s Ball and shook your knees at Shaky Knees already, but here at The Key, we’re just getting started. We still have some pretty big name festivals to get through, including Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and of course XPN’s own XPoNential Festival (woot woot!). Now that Made In America has finally released its lineup, we can finally get on with part two of our list!

To recap from part one of our Ultimate Guide to North American Summer Music Festivals, our list is comprised of the biggest festivals still to come this summer with important details for each one, including which Philly bands are playing which festival, other notable bands playing, and any other additional festival facts you might want to know. On with the list! Continue reading →

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Six shows to see in June including Alvvays, Tigers Jaw and more

Alvvays | Photo via whenthegramophonerings.com/2015/01/28/live-review-alvvays-think-tank-newcastle/
Alvvays | Photo via whenthegramophonerings.com/2015/01/28/live-review-alvvays-think-tank-newcastle/

Memorial Day Weekend is best known as the unofficial start of the summer season. As it has come and went, the holiday weekend has also marked the start of the concert season as well. With that start, we have highlighted some awesome bands that are worth seeing throughout the month of June. Here are six of the best shows happening in Philly in June, beginning tonight at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →

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The Key’s ultimate guide to 2015 North American summer music festivals – Part One!

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

In the past several years, destination festivals have changed the live music landscape in the U.S. and Canada. The core summer music festivals always used to be ones with the seemingly made-up words – Lollapalooza, Bonaroo and Coachella – but in the past five years alone, great new gatherings like Firefly, Hangout Fest, Made in America, Governor’s Ball, and Shaky Knees have sprung up. As a result, the festival scene is getting harder to keep track of, which if you think about it, is a pretty great problem to have.

To help you keep tabs on all the major music festivals going on this summer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest ones, which Philly bands are playing which, other notable bands, and any other additional festival facts you might want to know. Stay tuned for a second list to be released during the second half of summer, which will include late summer festivals like Made in America, Osheaga, and Bumbershoot. On to the list! Continue reading →