Tonight’s Concert Picks: Guards open for Ra Ra Riot at Union Transfer, Katie Frank at Tin Angel, Joe D’Amico at Kung Fu Necktie, Femi Kuti at World Cafe Live

Photo by Olivia Malone

As if Ra Ra Riot isn’t already a solid reason to head to Union Transfer tonight, Richie Follin gives you another in a word: Guards. The younger brother of Cults’ Madeline Follin, Richie is equally talented and just as interested in the retro-pop sound that made his sister’s band so critically successful. Listening to Richie’s Guards EP from 2009 and the singles from his upcoming debut album, In Guards We Trust, it’s not surprising that Richie has played guitar for Cults when the duo toured. His music is distinct from his sister’s band, though, especially on the new album, even if his hair cut is …exactly like hers. Catch his polished, dark-tinged pop project when he opens for Ra Ra Riot. Tickets and information for the all ages show are available here. Below, watch Follin’s band in their new music video for the track “Silver Lining,” via

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The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia: “Lucy Stone” by Katie Ellen

katie ellen
Katie Ellen | photo courtesy of the artist

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, The Key is recapping 14 songs that scream “love” just as strongly as they scream “Philly.” The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia continues with “Lucy Stone” from Katie Ellen’s 2017 album Cowgirl Blues.

Though she was born 200 years ago, it’s still possible to find heaps of inspiration in a historical figure like Lucy Stone. The 19th century activist was among the early feminists, fighting first for the abolition of slavery and later for women’s rights and suffrage. She was also one of the first high-profile women to keep her last name when she married — a bold move in 1855. In Lucy Stone’s story, Katie Ellen found the name for a song, and it’s the modern day feminist anthem we didn’t know we needed.

With “Lucy Stone,” songwriter Anika Pyle digs into the sexist social expectations that have stuck around even as times have changed. Even with a society that’s moved further toward equality, there’s a gray area when it comes to personal relationships — plenty of people are happy to conform to patriarchal social norms without question, but what are the folks who view marriage as a “social economic prison” to do? As Katie Ellen reveals, traditional parameters are not so easily shed. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force play a commanding, socially conscious set

Femi Kuti and the Positive Force | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Thunderous baselines and massive percussion work flooded the River Stage at the beginning of Femi Kuti‘s set. Five members took to the stage to start, then grew to 12 before Kuti himself stepped up to helm the Hammond keyboard, joining in on the tremendous instrumental intro.

The eldest son of famed Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti played a role in each section of his backing band, the Positive Force, joining backup vocalists to sing and dance, donning the sax to join in the brass section, and playing the Hammond. Kuti would bounce around the stage frantically, spinning in a dizzying manner while singing “Nothing to Show For It,” and pointing and commanding the band throughout the set. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Katie Ellen at PhilaMOCA, Chill Moody at Boot and Saddle (benefit for Beyond the Bars), The Cactus Blossoms at Johnny Brenda’s

Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |
Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

The official release of Katie Ellen‘s debut LP Cowgirl Blues is tomorrow, but you can hear it live a night early at the band’s record release show tonight at PhilaMOCA. The new project of Anika Pyle, former frontwoman of punk outfit Chumped, Katie Ellen is her platform for anthemic, cathartic, feminist “sparkle pop twang punk fuzz core” jams. Listen to leading single “Sad Girls Club” below and check out the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and more information. Continue reading →


Music Auxiliary Support: Listen to Kristen and Paige of Cherry-Veen Zine guest DJ on XPN Local

Paige Walter and Kristen Levine of Cherry-Veen Zine at WXPN | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A few years ago, Kristen Levine watched The Punk Singer, the 2013 documentary on Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and the riot grrrl movement she helped propel from the Pacific Northwest scene to the national spotlight. It wasn’t just a movement about music, though. It was about art, it was about feminism, it was about independence and DIY — doing things by yourself, for yourself, and answering to no one.

Levine was inspired, and channeled that energy into Cherry-Veen Zine, a Philly music scene chapbook she began publishing in the spirit of the zine-makers she saw in The Punk Singer. Fleshed out with the work of graphic designer Laura Cherry, an initial run of six limited-edition issues popped up at places around Philly throughout 2016 — Milkcrate, Johnny Brenda’s, Steep & Grind, and Rocket Cat (RIP) — with lots of social media activity like gig photos and playlists filling the space between one print edition and the next.

But early 2017, however, the independent publishing grind had taken a toll on Levine, and she left Philly to spend a year in York, Pennsylvania. When she returned last year, she met Paige Walter — a Pittsburgh transplant with a background in education and journalism — and Cherry-Veen Zine was re-invigorated.

Last weekend, Issue 9 hit the streets, and on Tuesday night, Levine and Walter appeared on the WXPN Local show for a guest DJ set spotlighting their favorite Philadelphia artists — corey flood to Barney Cortez, Blushed to Pine Barons — and talk about their mission. Continue reading →


Revisit XPNFest 2018 with a 48-song VuHaus video playlist

Blind Boys of Alabama | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

The annual XPoNential Music Festival is the pinnacle of summer, drawing crowds of passionate music lovers and diehard festival goers. This year’s lineup was impressively diverse, including prominent, well-known artists, from Margo Price, Mondo Cozmo and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real to newly emerging bands like Harmony Woods, Bermuda Triangle and The National Reserve. Continue reading →


We’re All In This Together: Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff play an empowering set at Union Transfer

Waxahatchee | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN |

Co-headlining shows can be a tricky business. For the audience, it adds an air of mystery and unpredictability — who will go on first? How long will each set be? A good deal of planning has to go into it on the artists’ end, too — how do they settle it? Perhaps a coin toss?

For Waxahatchee and Hurray for the Riff Raff, though, none of these questions seemed to be an issue. Some quick sleuthing seems to indicate that the two headliners, currently on tour together, have been alternating the order they play each night. That way everything’s perfectly fair and amicable — as the stage backdrop that framed the powerhouse acts read, “We’re All in This Together.”

This worked out just fine for last night’s Union Transfer audience, who was equally excited to welcome back hometown hero Waxahatchee and XPN Fest alum Hurray for the Riff Raff. Continue reading →


Finding Philly in Austin: Catching up with nine local artists at SXSW

The Districts | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN |

South by Southwest: the festival to end all festivals. That time of the year when the entire world takes over the city of Austin for a week of networking, tacos, and lanyard tans. But somewhere amidst the corporate clutter, in between the long lines outside sponsored showcases and under the litter of promotional flyers strewn across the main drag of Austin’s 6th street by week’s end, is that which makes SXSW so strange and wonderful: the thousands of independent artists who chose to play more sets in just a few days than certain artists play in a year, compensated by the choice between $250 and a wristband, and the vague promise of discovery.

This year, I decided that I, myself, would participate in the SXSW hustle, running around the streets of Austin to the sound of a hundred bands at once, camera and notebook in hand (which is nothing, really, compared to the gear most musicians were toting) to catch up with nine of Philadelphia’s own artists showcasing at this year’s festival. Below, read excerpts from our conversations, and see photos from their live sets. Continue reading →


Now Hear This: New songs by Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzalez, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Austra and more

Gabriel Garzón-Montano
Gabriel Garzón-Montano | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration. Here are his picks for February, 2017.

Happy new(-ish) year!  January tends to be a slow time for new music, as release schedules (and concert calendars) gradually shift back into gear following a generally-observed hibernation around the holidays.  That felt especially true this year, with no major releases dominating the musical conversation the way, for instance, Bowie did in 2016.  (I guess we also had a few other things to pay attention to.)  But there were still a handful of gems to sift through, all well as some promising signs for what’s to come later in the Spring.  The selections below includes a pair of pre-release teasers from disgruntled old geezers, sterling examples of several different strains of soul music, a smattering of political content – sorry, you can’t escape it here either – and the first great pop banger of 2017.

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“The Music With Which You Want to Go Down Swinging”: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979 rock a pre-Election Night crowd at The Fillmore

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN |
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN |

‘Twas the night before Election, and at the front of the house, a Canadian was declaring, “You’re gonna remember tonight.  And it won’t have a damn thing to do with us.”  Sebastien Grainger, one-half of Ontario-based duo Death From Above 1979, was only one-half correct in that sentiment.

As most of Philadelphia’s music-loving population were gathered just a few blocks south to witness Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi help Hillary Clinton in her final push toward a presidency that would not come to be, the rest of us assembled at The Fillmore to exorcise our anxiety over the coming days with the formidable double-headliner of Death From Above 1979 and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  While we may have been teetering on the edge of doom – moreso than we even realized – we were surrounded by the music with which you would want to go down swinging. Continue reading →