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The new testament of Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville | photo courtesy of the artist

There is much to unpack when contemplating Aaron Neville, the improvisational, interpretive voice of the angels — to say nothing of the Cajun saints of New Orleans — renowned for his work (and life) with the Neville Brothers, duets with Linda Ronstadt, and a solo catalog that stretches back to 1960’s “Over You” and 1962’s”Tell It Like It Is.” By this point, it is triple (not second) nature to say that the large man with the high lilting voice is a wonder of the world not yet numbered. “I don’t plan what I’m going to sing or think through it too hard,” says Neville from his home in New York City about the level of in-the-moment improvisation that he and his vocals live through. “It just happens…that’s what comes out.”

Yet, for all of his time into the naturalistic art of song, a fleeting few tunes’ lyrics have been penned by Neville himself. Yet, when he did – with the sultry likes of 1989’s “Yellow Moon” – the effects were illuminating, haunting and oddly joyous.

With his muscular, most recent album, Apache, its release on his own Tell It label — and his stripped-down live showcases at ArtsQuest Cente’s Musikfest Café in Bethlehem, PA on Wednesday, and the South Orange Performance Arts Center on Saturday — Neville, at the age of 77, seems more ready than ever to take full control of his destiny. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brian Wilensky’s favorite trash-picked records of 2018

Mystery sidewalk records | photo by Brian Wilensky

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Brian Wilensky has a pile of vinyl LPs practically fall into his lap, so he decides to take a listen.

One man’s trash is another man’s dollar bin. And someone left theirs on my apartment building sidewalk steps. Finding trash or strange items left behind from passersby may not sound abnormal for South Philly, but this box of records was a bit peculiar. Here is my story of a few noteworthy albums I found in a box of trash left on my property.

A little over a month ago I was leaving for work early in the morning when I noticed a brown box on the ledge above the steps that lead to my apartment building’s basement from the sidewalk. It wasn’t one of the dozens (or at least what seems to be) of nearly weekly deliveries dropped by Amazon for one of my neighbors in my building. The flaps of the box were folded shut, but it was clearly already opened and repacked. I checked up and down the block. No one was around. It was raining, so I decided to check it quick and bring it inside.

The box contained a couple boxes of assorted pizza scraps, presumably from a shop nearby, several bags of slimy romaine lettuce hearts and almost 20 vinyl records. I still don’t understand how the box arrived or why it was filled with these things, but I decided it was basically trash…minus the records, of course. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Palm at PhilaMOCA, OhBree at Johnny Brenda’s, Family Volleyball at Ortlieb’s, and more

Palm | Photo courtesy of the artist

Indie four-piece Palm recently debuted their new “candy-coated dissonance” of an EP, titled Shadow Expert. With wonderfully erratic rhythms, these new tunes are a refreshing beauty to behold. And tonight they’ll be bringing this perfect deconstruction of sound to PhilaMOCA. Find more info on the show here, and stream Shadow Expert below. Continue reading →

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Scranton’s Peach Festival announces 2017 lineup including Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket and more

My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | koalafoto.com

The lineup for 2017’s Peach Festival in Scranton was just announced, and we’ve got ourselves a doozy.

Taking place August 10th through the 13th at Montage Mountain, Widespread Panic (who will be performing two sets) are joined by My Morning Jacket, Gov’t Mule & Friends and Joe Bonamassa as headliners, complemented by sets from Umphrey’s McGee, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lettuce featuring Chaka Khan and a whole lot more. This is the jam band festival of the decade, my friends, so do yourself a favor and head up north for a weekend. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Ardmore Music Hall’s Live From The Lot returns with Snarky Puppy and more

Snarky Puppy | photo courtesy of the artist
Snarky Puppy | photo courtesy of the artist

WXPN Welcomes Live From The Lot, May 21-22, featuring headliners Snarky Puppy, The Revivalists, The Greyboy Allstars ft. Karl Denson, Foundation of Funk (members of The Meters and Lettuce), Marco Benevento, Pimps of Joytime, Superhuman Happiness, Swift Technique, the High & Mighty Brass Band, Darla and more bands to be announced. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2015

The albums that moved us in 2015
This is the music that moved us in 2015

It was a year of powerful records. Of loud guitars and brazen beats, of electronic tapestries and vocal abandon. It was a year of personal introspection and rallying cries for social change. It was a year when music felt inextricably tied to the world around us. When it felt more important than it had in a long time. Like we’ve said before, to narrow 12 months of incredible music down to a “top 15 albums of 2015” list is to exclude dozens of other worthy releases. This year, we had 26 writers and photographers cite a collective 82 albums as their favorites – you can view everybody’s top fives here, and I know fully well that had I asked The Key crew to give me top tens, I’d be easily looking at quadruple the titles. But we’ll go deep when our annual Year-End Mania roundup launches tomorrow. Today we take the long view and explore what rose to the surface of consensus in 2015, from the expressive moments of Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom and Jamie xx, to the pop permutations of Carly Rae Jepsen and Grimes , rock and/or roll from Courtney Barnett and Alabama Shakes, Philly representation from The Districts, Waxahatchee and of course, Hop Along‘s incredible breakout LP Painted Shut, which alongside the great Kendrick Lamar rose right to the top of our voting. Let’s recap the year. 
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10 artists playing Firefly you shouldn’t miss

Zella Day | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com
Zella Day | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com

The Firefly Music Festival starts this Thursday and goes through Sunday. Over 100 bands spread out on six stages will seek love and admiration from audiences crammed into Dover, Delaware. We’re psyched for the headliners – Sir Paul McCartney, The Killers, Morrissey, The Killers, and Snoop (as long as he brings the hits and stays clear of that new album). We’re equally excited to see Run The Jewels, Hozier, DJ Mustard, Sylvan Esso, Citizen Cope, and Spoon. The bill is stacked with the requisite one hit alt-rock newbies (um…) that the crowds likely won’t pay attention to until the band plays “the hit.” But below the headliners and mid-level artists playing, there’s a lot of gems.

Here are ten artists playing Firefly that you shouldn’t miss. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Jukebox the Ghost at Union Transfer, Chris Kasper at Johnny Brenda’s and Lili Anel at Melodies Cafe

Photo via Jukebox the Ghost Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jukeboxtheghost)
Photo via facebook.com/jukeboxtheghost
Indie rock trio Jukebox the Ghost will play Union Transfer this evening. The group appeared at our Free at Noon concert a few months back and brought the house down. With an ongoing flow of witty banter and high-energy performances, Jukebox the Ghost has quickly become a band known for a kickass live concert. They have recently released their self-titled album last week and are offering an opportunity to meet and greet with them. Tonight’s show is bound to be filled with indie pop fun and hilarious chatter from the musicians themselves. For more information on tonight’s show, check out the XPN Concert Calendar. Watch their video for “The Great Unknown” below.

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Unlocked: Psychic Teens raid the fridge in the video for “Bug”

Photo by John Berry
Photo by John Berry

Fifty-seven seconds into Psychic Teens’ video for “Bug,” guitarist Larry Ragone is standing between his bandmates in a bedroom, dressed in a bug costume with outstretched arms and a facial expression that says: “how do you like me now?” And really, that’s probably the attitude every bug has when they’re in your bedroom.

That quick shot is one of few in the three-minute video, directed by Oren Camera Hechtman and John Rowe, that Ragone and the other Teens are straight-faced aside from when shown playing along to the music. Laughs have to be extra hard to hold back while wearing a bug suit like those. Besides, It’s a pretty silly video. It also acts as a look into the personalities of these three guys. They clearly aren’t too worried about their image and how they’re perceived in this one, despite their music often peering into the dark side. The tongue-in-cheek moments of the band chomping away at lettuce as bugs do and blocking the path to the trash can, as bugs tend to do, are meant to be accompanied by a laugh. Or are they meant to thought-provoking? What if the scene of the bug-Teens scattering into corners of the room is symbolism for an opportunity presenting itself and unless you’re big enough to rise to the occasion and face it– unlike a bug– you’ll never know what good could’ve come from it?

I choose the former. This video is purely entertainment. It’s literal, funny and easy on the eyes because, come on, that’s a pretty nice kitchen.

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Unlocked: Meet Carlin Brown, Philly’s punk-drumming foodie (recipes included!)

When Carlin Brown isn’t making sweet beats behind the drum kit of Philly punk band Restorations, he’s making sweet eats inside the kitchen of some of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars.

Currently a cook at The Industry Bar, Brown’s restaurant resume is almost as long the list of serious bands he’s played in. He said these two jobs are also surprisingly quite similar.

“Being in a kitchen, you’re trapped in this weird, strange little environment with this one group of people, and you can only rely on this one group of people. These are the only people you have to do this job with you, so you just figure out strengths and weaknesses and go ‘OK, we’re going to make this work.’ We’re going to figure this out,” Brown said. “The band stuff translates just as well. In music and in food, in the same way, sometimes egos get out of check. You’ll have these [musicians] that think they deserve things and that sort of thing. The same thing with chefs. Every now and then, you’ll see a chef get out of line. He’s drinking too much or doing this sort of thing, and everything fails eventually because they don’t care about what the original purpose was in the first place, which was making good music or food. You’re supposed to take care of your friends and make something good happen.”

Today’s post details Brown’s experiences from working in some of the top-rated bars and restaurants in the city, along with a few of his favorite recipes. Brown figures that many musicians in Philly have also picked up the same trade due to flexibility with taking time off to tour.

“When you’re in Philadelphia, if you walk into a kitchen and the people who are working in the kitchen don’t have tattoos, the food is probably going to suck,” he said.

Continue reading →