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From the contemplative to confrontational, Juliana Hatfield and Laura Stevenson played an inspired show at Boot and Saddle

Juliana Hatfield | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Juliana Hatfield | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

New York songwriter Laura Stevenson stood in front of a sold-out Boot and Saddle Monday night, offering up a set of contemplative, upbeat song which, she explained with a smile, were about clinical depression and spending too much time worrying about death. The soul-baring singer has a voice that reminds you at turns of Feist or Jewel. But better than that: her work avoids stumbling into the conventional pitfalls of tropey, trite pop-folk; normally she plays with a loud rock band; she took it solo acoustic tonight, commanding the full attention of a room filling quickly and quietly with Juliana Hatfield fans. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Downtown Boys at Everybody Hits, Laura Stevenson at Boot and Saddle, Strange Parts at Bourbon and Branch and more

downtown boys
Downtown Boys | photo courtesy of the band

Providence revolutionary rockers Downtown Boys have been making a lot of noise on the underground level the past few years, and with a new deal on Sub Pop Records, this punk five-piece is poised to fight the good fight at a much bigger level. The band just released its latest single, “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)” — which it told NPR was “a declaration of one’s ability to decolonize one’s mind, and the importance of fearlessly unlearning the ways white supremacy conditions people to think and exist.” Listen below, wait with baited breath (like us) to get word on Downtown Boys’ upcoming Sub Pop LP (no details are available yet), and check the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and information on the band’s headlining show tonight at Everybody Hits.
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Laura Stevenson talks cover songs, creative streaks, constant touring and making a live record for Planned Parenthood

Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist

Laura Stevenson has been quite busy. Over the past year and a half, the punk scene songwriter fave released her excellent fourth LP, Cocksure, via Don Giovanni Records and went on several back-to-back-to-back laps touring the U.S. and abroad in support of it. She hit the festival circuit last summer, released a live album this winter, and appeared on the Don’t Stop Now covers compilation to benefit the ACLU. Somewhere along the way, she found a minute to marry her bass player, Mike Campbell.

Live At the Vera Club came out in December, with 100% of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood. It captures a night at the storied club and community creative space in Groningen, situated in the North of the Netherlands. The crowd was small, Stevenson recalls in the album notes, and she couldn’t speak Dutch, so she wasn’t as chatty as usual, but the show rules — the band sounds tremendous, from the uppers like “Torch Song” and “Runner” to the slow burn of “Out With a Whimper” and “Renee,” and a delightful cover of “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements.

Stevenson and her band — Campbell, Alex Billig on accordion and keys, John Burdick on guitar, and Sammi Niss on drums – just headed out on an east coast tour that brings them to Boot and Saddle Thursday. When I caught up with Stevenson via phone from the Hudson Valley home she’s lived in for the past few years, she had just gotten back from a solo tour of Australia with the frontpersons of various down-under DIY acts: Iona Cairns of Shit Present, Lucy Wilson of The Sugarcanes and Wil Wagner of Smith Street Band. We began by discussing this photo of them cuddling a chill koala named Waffles at the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Savages at Union Transfer, The Felice Brothers at Ardmore Music Hall, Laura Stevenson at Boot & Saddle

Savages
Savages | Photo by Dustin Cohen, courtesy of the artist

Post-punk outfit Savages headline Union Transfer tonight. The London-based band released its second LP Adore Life in January, stopping by The Late Show with Steven Colbert earlier this week to perform album single “Adore.” Check out the video below and pick up tickets for the all-ages show here.

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Studies in Contrast: Matt Pond PA and Laura Stevenson don’t back down at The Foundry

Matt Pond PA | Photo by Matthew Shaver | brightloud.com
Matt Pond PA | Photo by Matthew Shaver | brightloud.com

There was always an interesting contrast in singer and songwriter Matt Pond when he lived in Philadelphia. Under the nom-de-stage matt pond PA, he spent the late 90s and early aughts making albums and EPs of touching, beautifully-orchestrated songs awash in cello and meditative acoustic guitar. But he also came up during the Guided by Voices heyday when crowds at Philly clubs were largely indie-bros who binge-drank and talked loudly over everybody, even the people they were ostensibly there to see. Pond had no patience for that shit, and rightfully so. And over time, the guy who wrote these sensitive, personal songs developed a local rep for being something of an angry and aggressive crank – when, really, he was just dishing back the attitude the crowd was giving him.

Those who were there at the time know how the story proceeded. Pond eventually amassed a local fan base that came for him, not for the scene, but he nonetheless left Philly for New York where his career blossomed in ways none of us expected. He got songs placed in TV and film, developed a strong national profile and released Several Arrows Later, a timeless work that is remarkably uncynical and sentimental, considering that it came from somebody who was at that point nearly a decade into a career on the brutal chew-em-up-spit-em-out indie circuit. He remains a prolific writer and recorder, and after a solo LP – The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand – he revived the “PA” moniker for a run celebrating the 10th anniversary of Emblems, followed up by this year’s State of Gold.

It’s a beautiful record as only Pond can deliver, and his gig at The Foundry in support of it a couple weeks back – rumored to be the final matt pond PA tour – was equal parts moving and rousing. “So Much Trouble” and “Halloween” were immediate winners off the top, and “Love To Get Used” brought the main set to a tremendous close. The proceedings were also, Pond being Pond, a little cantankerous.  Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Laura Stevenson at The Fillmore, Family Vacation at Boot and Saddle, Hiss Golden Messenger at Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center

Laura Stevenson | Photo courtesy of the artist.
Laura Stevenson | Photo courtesy of the artist.

Long Island singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson released her fourth studio album, Cocksure, last month via Don Giovani Records. Tonight her tour in support of Matt Pond PA hits the Foundry at the Fillmore. Her set tonight is sure to feature some new songs off of Cocksure, as well as some of her classics from earlier records like 2013’s Wheel. Get tickets and show info at the XPN Concert Calendar, and check out Laura’s brand new music video for “Jellyfish.” Continue reading →

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Getting cocky with Laura Stevenson

Laura Stevenson | Photo by Christopher Hainey | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | Photo by Christopher Hainey | courtesy of the artist
Earlier this fall, Laura Stevenson released her fantastic, fourth solo album Cocksure through Don Giovanni Records. Punkier, perkier, and poppier than anything she’s ever done, it marks both a natural progression from and stark contrast to her previous efforts. In preparation for her upcoming stop at The Foundry at The Fillmore to debut the album live, I caught up with Stevenson to discuss the making of the record, how to stay sane on the road, and her memorable first experience playing in Philly… Continue reading →

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Listen to Laura Stevenson’s dark and catchy “Jellyfish”

Laura Stevenson | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Laura Stevenson | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Laura Stevenson sure has a way with words. Her latest single “Jellyfish” opens with the harsh line “I’m fucking hideous and spiteful when left to my own devices”, and yet still remains deliciously poetic. The song is brimming with self-inflicted venom and heavy choruses that beg to be hummed incessantly. Stevenson, although considered a member of the punk community, churns out upbeat and melodic tunes, despite her knack for dark lyrical content. “Jellyfish” premiered this week over at Noisey, where blogger Dan Ozzi called it “next-level self-loathing.” Listen to the song below; Stevenson’s third full length album, Cocksure, is slated for an October 30th release via Don Giovanni Records, and you can pre-order it here. She plays the Foundry at the Fillmore Philly on Wednesday, November 18th with Matt Pond PA. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →