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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Josh Pelta-Heller makes sense of 2016 through concert photos

Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, photographer Josh Pelta-Heller shares a collection of photos that highlight this year’s great moments of music in Philadelphia.

“2016 Sucks!”

It’s the generously sanitized version of the by-now-common mantra of many, as we plunge headlong into yet another unseasonably warm holiday season (this past Thursday’s cold snap notwithstanding), as our climate changes viscerally. This December probably won’t step up to break the trend of warmest months on record, but it will bring home a year of painful passings of a seemingly inordinate amount of beloved artists and cultural icons, and one that saw the anomalous rise to power of an unrepentantly solipsistic oligarch in an election that was at best questionably democratic and at worst finds even the sanest among us checking our toilet bowls for Russian spies again like it was 1962. Cue Dylan’s “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” maybe more relevant now than ever, even as we all watch in real time with mouths open as a once-satirical sentiment becomes the unchecked New World Order.

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Folkadelphia Session: MiWi La Lupa


“What are you listening to these days? Any current influences?” were the questions posed yesterday to Conor Oberst, Mr. Bright Eyes himself. during a New York Times Facebook live streaming event. Oberst responds that “he’s really into this guy, MiWi La Lupa, he’s from Buffalo, New York, and he just put out a new record called Beginner’s Guide. I’ve been playing that one a lot lately.” And I thought to myself that between Beginner’s Guide and his other new album from this year Ended Up Making Love, we’ve been listening to MiWi a lot too, and for good reason. In some ways it might be because Ended Up Making Love reminds me of those now classic Saddle Creek Records albums from bands like Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Cursive, Son Ambulance, and others – full of bombast, collaboration, and energy. Those records and now MiWi’s have a true voice and perspective – something to say. It doesn’t hurt that MiWi moved to Omaha (home of Saddle Creek) to work with Conor Oberst alongside long-time Saddle Creek staple Mike Mogis on Ended Up Making Love.
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Suburban Living releases “Lovely Times” off of forthcoming album Almost Paradise

SuburbanLiving_Promo01_EmilyDubin
Suburban Living | Photo by: Emily Dubin

Philadelphia-based band Suburban Living recently released “Lovely Times,” a song that will be featured on their forthcoming album Almost Paradise set to be released October 7. The song is a ballad peppered with yearning for the past, a fitting theme when compared to the album’s title. “Lovely Times” is a dream pop track carried by a consistently slow temple. The vocals and instrumentals are worthy rivals to big time boy band the 1975 circa “Somebody Else.” The four-man group is signed with 6131 Records, and listeners can go out to see the band live at Ortlieb’s in Northern Liberties on September 24. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: G. Love

G. Love | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
G. Love | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

We seem to be enjoying a bit of a 90s renaissance lately. A bill full of 90s headliners sold out The Fillmore in Philadelphia two weeks ago, and last week another Clinton addressed a Philly-hosted national convention. An “I Love The 90’s” Festival featuring Salt-n-Pepa, Vanilla Ice and Color Me Badd hit BB&T last week. The revival is afoot.

Most of Philly’s Gen X-ers will remember that era of the city’s cultural history with a special reverie, and listening to Garrett Dutton reflect on those years in anecdotes is sure to evoke nostalgia for anyone who was there.

In a candid interview held backstage at his Fillmore show earlier this year, the man known as G. Love talks sentimentally about his days tagging walls and playing street corners and cafes, about basketball and the neighborhoods he called home. He recounts first recognizing the potential of integrating elements of blues rock and hip hop to develop his signature sound. He doesn’t pull punches, either, about the frustrations he faced as a recording artist, with open rebuke for the elements of media or local industry that from his perspective offered paltry support.

While Dutton is known best for the hits that drove his early following, his latest records and performances show an artist still evolving. Last October, G. Love and Special Sauce released their latest record Love Saves The Day, a collection of blues rock tracks including collaborations with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Los Lobos vocalist David Hidalgo.

Speaking of that 90s revival, though, mark your calendars: G. Love plays the Mann with Blues Traveler and The Wallflowers on August 21st. Tickets and more information on that show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Watch G Love perform “Back to Boston” for World Cafe via VuHaus

G. Love in World Cafe Studio | Photos by Rich McKie
G. Love in World Cafe Studio | Photos by Rich McKie

While out on the road in support of their latest effort, Philadelphia-born G Love & Special Sauce stopped by the World Cafe studio to record a live performance and interview with David Dye. Love Saves the Day is the band’s tenth album and follows 2014’s Sugar with a collection of songs that are chock full of guest appearances and classic G Love tales.

VuHaus was on hand to film a few songs during the session, including this clip of “Back to Boston.” Check it out below and tune into G Love’s World Cafe session on Friday, January 15th on 88.5 XPN.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Burgeoning and (much) more at Hollystock, Ezra Furman at MilkBoy, Christine Havrilla at Bryn Mawr Gazebo and more

The Burgeoning
The Burgeoning | photo courtesy of the band

South Jersey’s annual Hollystock Festival kicks off at noon today with modern rock anthems by Andorra, wraps up around 9:45 with Americana rockers Cold Roses, and in between about a bazillion bands play. If you go, definitely keep an eye and an ear out for a dinnertime set by The Burgeoning (pictured) who have a rad Real Estate by way of Bastille sound, and who also rocked an awesome cover of “Message In A Bottle” by The Police when they recorded their Key Studio Session. Download “Beautiful Rampage” from them below (and also check out music by a couple of the other artists on the bill) and get the full lineup and more information on the free event here. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Alex G

It takes a moment to wrap your brain around the sheer volume of music on Alex G‘s Bandcamp page. Five full-lengths, three EPs and four standalone singles, all released in the past five years – most released in the past two – but recorded in fits and starts in various apartment bedrooms and suburban houses, ever since the man behind the project, Alex Giannascoli, was a teenager.

But he’s not just prolific for prolific’s sake; there seems to be a definite method to Alex’s madness, whether you’re talking about his DIY discography or his on-point live band. Instruments are arranged in a minimal but alluring manner – the interplay of chiming guitar lead with the chugging rhythm strums on “Black Hair” is intoxicating; the thumping floor toms on “Soaker” are moving and emotive. Then there are his lyrics, which are just as specific and descriptive as they are loose and mysterious – like “Wicked Boys,” and its mantra-like opening “real men walk / on the outside / and they take it for the team.” Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s Best of Philly Music 2014

Amanda X: Tiff Yoon, Cat Park, Kat Bean | Photo by Peter Murray | petermurrayphotography.com
Amanda X: Tiff Yoon, Cat Park, Kat Bean | Photo by Peter Murray | petermurrayphotography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, XPN Program Director Bruce Warren weighs in on the 2014 Philly music scene.

We thought 2013 was a fantastic year for the Philly music scene, however 2014 proved to be even better. Continue reading →

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G. Love still has that special sauce

Photo by Michelle Carroll Stancil
Photo by Michelle Carroll Stancil

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the major label debut from Philly’s G. Love & Special Sauce. Released in May, 1994, the band’s debut featured the popular songs “Cold Beverage,” “Baby’s Got Sauce,” and established what would become a significant career for G in Philly and worldwide. G. Love (born Garrett Dutton) grew up in Philly and attended Germantown Friends High School. After high school, his move to Boston to do some activist work and play music led to his meeting drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens and bassist Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott. Influenced by Dylan, John Lee Hooker, hip-hop, New Orleans’ legend The Meters, and blues, G and Special Sauce have reunited and are releasing Sugar on April 22nd. The album features guest appearances from Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo, soul/R&B singer/songwriter Marc Broussard, and the legendary vocalist Merry Clayton (best known for her duet with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”). Below, download a six song sampler via Noisetrade. The sampler features three live songs and three new songs from Sugar. The reunited trio are also on a 45 city tour with a stop in Philly at the Festival Pier on Saturday, August 2nd.

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company