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Summer at The Dell brings Erykah Badu, Patti LaBelle, Keith Sweat, Ne-Yo and more to Fairmount Park

roots picnic
Erykah Badu | Photo by John Vettese

The Dell Music Center was made for summer concerts, and this year the open-air venue in Fairmount Park East will host a star-studded lineup of musicians almost every week throughout July and August. Many artists scheduled to perform are Dell veterans, like hometown soul/gospel icon Patti LaBelle and neo-soul queen Erykah Badu. Other familiar acts are also lined up, like 80’s R&B star Keith Sweat, gospel singer Tamela Mann and long-running R&B group Kool & the Gang. Continue reading →

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Why we still love Keith Sweat (playing the Keswick Theatre on Friday, December 7th)

A lot of music fans make fun of the Eighties. There was a lot of awful music during that decade (fill in your favorite bad Eighties song here), yet it did have some musical saving grace – like R&B singer Keith Sweat. This month Sweat celebrates the 25th anniversary of his debut album, Make It Last Forever. It established him as a major R&B star and ushered in the era of “New Jack Swing,” a style of music that became extremely popular in the late 1980’s. A fusion between R&B, hip-hop and dance pop, the person most credited with creating the “sound” of New Jack Swing is the Grammy Award winning producer and musician Teddy Riley. His own bands Guy and BLACKstreet  are both notable on their own merits, and Riley production and co-writing of Sweat’s debut had a significant lasting impact on pop culture. Riley worked with Sweat on his first three albums and the two reunited for Sweat’s 2008 release, Just Me. A recent article in The Atlantic, ‘We Gave R&B A New Lifeline’: How Teddy Riley Invented New Jack Swing’, has a terrific interview with Riley on the making of Sweat’s debut that we highly suggest you read if you’re a fan of this era and style of music. Sweat is still making and performing great soul and R&B music and can still kick it live. He also hosts a syndicated radio show, The Keith Sweat Hotel. Sweat is currently on tour and is playing the Keswick Theatre on Friday, December 7th. Go here for tickets to the show. Below, relive some of those early New Jack Swing classics and remember why this part of the 80’s is one we continue to cherish.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Snowmine and Norwegian Arms at Johnny Brenda’s, Chill Moody at Hard Rock Cafe, Tom Brosseau at Ortlieb’s and more…

Norwegian Arms | Photo by John Vettese
Norwegian Arms | Photo by John Ve

Brooklyn indie pop quintet Snowmine and Philadelphia favorites Norwegian Arms team up for a show at Johnny Brenda’s tonight.  The former are celebrating the release of their new record Dialects, a cinematic and textural experience that the band pulls off exquisitely in a live setting.  Bright alt-folk trio Norwegian Arms released their impressive and immersive Wolf Like a Stray Dog LP in 2012, following it up last year with a 7″ single for “Jitterbug,” which you can listen to below.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show with Dream Safari can be found here.

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Who do Chill Moody, Hank McCoy and Beano love?

(L-R: Hank McCoy, Beano, Chill Moody) Photo by Caitlin Morris
L-R: Hank McCoy, Beano, Chill Moody | Photo by Caitlin Morris | Courtesy of Hank McCoy (originally published in Jump Philly)

If you yearn for the glory days of Eighties New Jack Swing, then look no further than the new album from Philly soul patrol including rapper Chill Moody, producer and songwriter Hank McCoy and R&B singer Beano.

The three have collaborated together over the last several years on a series of Valentine’s Day related releases and they have just released their latest, Who Do You Love…More?. It’s confident, well produced, well sung and well rapped and points to huge potential for this combination.

(Read more – Get to know Philly beatmaker Hank McCoy)

Back to the New Jack Swing thing, this new collection of songs is definitely rooted in the crossover world of R&B, pop and hip-hop. Highlights on the album include “StillYoung,” which nods to Keith Sweat’s “Nothing Lasts Forever, “WhatsForBreakfast,” and the sultry “KelisThing.” McCoy works in some pretty smart samples including the Paul Mauriat version of the Tom Jones classic, “It’s Not Unusual.” If you want to bridge the gap between 80’s New Jackers like Keith Sweat, Guy, Teddy Riley and New Edition and the latest interpretation of R&B and hip-hop, then McCoy, Moody and Beano’s new release is right on time.

The Chill Moody x Beano x Hank McCoy Who Do You Love…More? record release show is this Friday evening, February 7th at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Below, listen to “LastNightInTown” from Who Do You Love…More?

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Vijay Iyer delivers a beautiful and bombastic solo set at Annenberg Center

Vijay Iyer | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you’ve dedicated any portion of your life to obsessively writing about rock and pop, you’ve probably arrived at an eventual point where rock and pop alone become…boring. Uninspired. You begin to explore other sounds, to expand your proverbial horizons. Sometimes the process can be gradual, and sometimes the gates can blow wide open.

For me, a major entry point not only into jazz, but the possibilities of what music can sound like using jazz as a baseline, was a hand-me-down vinyl copy of Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, a double LP, 66-minute, entirely improvised concert where the famed pianist for Art Blakey and Miles Davis rocked to and fro across 88 keys, punctuating his playing occasionally with moans and cries, finding himself in moments of cathederal-like reverence, and later cascading into dissonant depths.

Watching award-winning jazz band leader, composer, and scholar Vijay Iyer give a rare solo performance at the Annenberg Center’s Harold Prince Theatre on Saturday night, I was very much reminded of Jarrett, and this album in particular. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Deer Tick, Gospel Roots, Skull Eclipses, Beth Ditto and more

Beth Ditto | photo by Mary McCartney | courtesy of the artist

In like a lion, right? But the Philly concert calendar is like that all the time anyway — though, with another nor’easter poised to hit our region tomorrow, a handful shows in our weekly roundup are question marks. So here are 17 and maybe even 20 concerts you can see locally in the next seven days, from the kickoff of XPN’s Gospel Roots of Rock and Roll series to a set from legendary jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb at South, and beginning tonight with the farewell show from Philly indie rockers Callowhill. Continue reading →

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From Superhuman to Simply Human: Anthony Green brings his Pixie Queen to Union Transfer

Anthony Green | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Anthony Green | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
There’s no sensation in the world quite like the first breath of fresh air taken once you step out from a sweaty concert hall after a great show.  Especially on crisp Autumn nights, it feels like awakening from a dream.  Last Saturday night was particularly surreal as I took that step out of Union Transfer with the refrain “This feels like a nightmare!” repeating in my head.  As fellow concert-goers weaved around me, they echoed the same melody.  “THIS FEELS LIKE A NIGHTMARE!” they would exclaim randomly, practically skipping to their cars or awaiting cabs.  Such is the strange frenzy that can only be stirred by Anthony Green.

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Zilla Rocca shares his Top 5 Overlooked Remixes in Philly Rap Lore

zilla rocca
Zilla Rocca | Photo by Laura Lynn Photography

Local rapper / DJ Zilla Rocca loves remixes. He loves listening to them and he loves creating them. In fact, Zilla flexes his remix skills on his latest project Anything I Touch I Bruise Vol. 2, a 16-track effort of reimagined cuts from Curly Castro, PremRock, and more. Talking about the collection on Facebook, Zilla wrote:

The reason I love remixing songs is because I like the challenge of working within a finite frame in music: “you can ONLY do this at a set tempo with this voice, and these are the sounds that have already been used.” I also love the challenge of trying to wash the original producer! Sometimes I do sometimes I don’t but it’s always an exciting challenge of “Can I even do this better than what’s already been done?

To spread the love, Zilla chose his five favorite Philly-related remixes to share with us; read what he has to say below, and download Anything I Touch I Bruise Vol. 2 for free on Bandcamp.

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Ladies & Gents, here’s your Top 100 songs of the year as voted on by the WXPN listeners.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats | Photo by John Vettese
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats | Photo by John Vettese

WXPN wrapped up its Best of 2015 programming with it annual best songs countdown. The XPN listeners were asked to vote for the best songs of the year, and they crowned “S.O.B.” by Nathaniel Ratefliff & The Night Sweats as the number one song of the year.

Following it was “Ship To Wreck” by Florence & The Machine at number two, “Pedestrian At Best” by Courtney Barnett at number three, Josh Ritter’s spunky “Getting Ready To Get Down” at number four, and “Pretty Pimpin'” by Philly’s Kurt Vile at number five.

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