Tonight’s Concert Picks: OutBeat Festival w/ Fred Hersch Trio at Philadelphia Museum of Art, Lily Allen at Electric Factory, and How to Dress Well at District N9NE and more

Fred Hersch Trip (
Fred Hersch | Photo by Vincent Soyez via

Tonight, Fred Hersch Trio will be performing at the OutBeat Jazz Festival at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The composer and jazz pianist has garnered attention since the late 1970’s, working as a side man with popular jazz artists such as Stan Getz and Janis Siegel and gained notoriety as he continued to compose and produce new music, for which he has been recognized as a five-time Grammy nominee including this year’s Best Jazz Solo nomination for his latest album Free Flying. Watch him perform his beautiful piece “The Song Is You” at the Saint-Emilion Jazz Festival in 2013 below and for more event information, have a look at the XPN Concert Calendar. The OutBeat festival – the nation’s first LGBT jazz festival – continues all weekend at various venues in Philadelphia, get more information here. Continue reading →


Watch Ali Wadsworth belt out “Still Not Over You” in Penn Museum

AliPhilly roots scene vocal powerhouse Ali Wadsworth recently performed a soul-stirring new song, “Still Not Over You,” inside the echoey, stone-wall confines of The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. Aside from a few crypts of mummies that have been dead for eons, Wadsworth’s crowd was local videographer Mike Gallagher, who captured her performance with guitar accompanist Joe Bisirri in illuminating HD. The song was written by fellow Philadelphian Adrien Reju for the new album Wadsworth is recording with local producer Bill Moriarty at Waking Studios (other folks who wrote songs for the album include Sean Hoots of Hoots and Hellmouth and Chris Kasper). Check the video out in the player below.


Just Announced: Signals Midwest will tour with Great Cynics and highlight a show of heavy-hitters at Everybody Hits in May

Signals Midwest | via
Signals Midwest | via

Although lead singer Maxwell Stern has spend some time lately recording and releasing his new solo record, his band Signals Midwest are back for more, announcing a tour with Great Cynics that stops at Everybody Hits on May 18th, adding Thin Lips and Museum Mouth on as support. Tickets are available now, and can be found with more information on our XPN Concert Calendar. Below, check out a string of videos highlighting the bands performing.
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From jazz to punk to traditional Middle Eastern / North African music, Nadah El Shazly showcases shape-shifting sounds at Vox tonight

Nadah El Shazly | courtesy of the artist

The bio for Egyptian musician Nadah El Shazly, playing tonight at Vox Populi, references American horror punk progenitors The Misfits, the traditional Arab melody sytem the maqam, African jazz, and Alan Bishop of the pioneering experimental rock band Sun City Girls. On paper that seems like an intriguing but possibly overwhelming mouthful, but when you listen to Ahwar, El Shazly’s debut album, it all very much falls into place. Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: Smash the decks, smash the system

Sieve | photo by Tiny Haddad | courtesy of the artist

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. Periodically, we’ll check in to present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

I’m coming off of a month of more DJing-in-public gigs than I ever expected to have in my life, and I’ve reached the conclusion that I have a lot of work to do towards becoming a better DJ.

I’m not particularly showoffy about it. I don’t beat match, I don’t do mash mixes. The closest I get to clever during my sets is when I line up two songs that echo one another — like Friday night before Dr. Dog’s Free At Midnight concert when I played TV On the Radio’s “Golden Age” into Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something.” And even then, I’ll only do something like that maybe once per song pairing, because I hear Prince’s “Kiss” out of Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel” one more time, it won’t be a pretty sight. (Yes, yes, Prince worked with Janelle, the songs are similar, WE GET IT ALREADY!! Next, please.)

Basically, my criterion for a DJ set is simple: I play songs that I think are good. That might mean widely accessible, upbeat ones like Arcade Fire’s “Keep The Car Running” and Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing).” Or it might mean songs that totally test the room’s patience, like a seven minute club mix of Madonna’s “Vogue” into a punishing, dissonant take on Puff Daddy’s “Victory,” remixed by Nine Inch Nails. I’ve totally looked up from the decks at moments like this to a sea of perplexed faces. Continue reading →


Maximizing Time: Philly’s Justin Duerr on constant immersion in music, writing and visual art

Justin Duerr performs with Northern Liberties | photo by Yoni Kroll

You might know Justin Duerr from Resurrect Dead, the award-winning documentary he helped make about Toynbee Tiles, the colorful and mysterious messages embedded in roads in Philadelphia, NYC, and elsewhere. You might know him from his bands, including the long-running ‘ghost punk’ outfit Northern Liberties or the acoustic duo Get the Great Cackler he does with his partner Mandy Katz. You might have seen his one-of-a-kind art on a t-shirt or a show flyer or maybe hanging on your friend’s wall. Or you might just have seen Justin intently walking around Philadelphia, tattoos stretching from the side of his head to the tops of his hands – including a portrait of pop singer Cyndi Lauper gracing his left hand – and wondered, “What’s up with that guy?”

Opening Friday at the Magic Gardens on South Street, Time’s Funeral: Drawings and Poems by Justin Duerr is a gallery exhibition including small, stand-alone pieces and huge posters that are part of an on-going storytelling series that Justin has been working on for almost two decades. As an added bonus, he’ll be playing music at the opening night. Continue reading →


Soul Saving: How one man’s obsession with old 45s gave birth to Philly’s Brewerytown Beats

Brewerytown Beats | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN |

When Maxwell Ochester’s neighbor asked the then Mt. Airy teen’s parents if he could borrow him one weekend to work Brooklyn’s Roosevelt Record Swap, he probably didn’t know that he was changing a very small life. But he was. At the time, Max was hooked on records of the standard classic rock fare—Guns n’ Roses and Poison, for example. Hip hop, soul and funk were still a bit foreign to him. Foreigner was less so. But when Max got situated behind the booth at his first NYC swap, he found himself face-to-face with some of hip-hop’s biggest artists of that era.

“It just so happened that one of the first shows we did was this now super famous record show in New York where all the hip-hop artists from the early 90s were getting their samples from. So A Tribe Called Quest and Pete Rock & CL Smooth would all buy albums to sample for their records. So that’s how I got into it but I also got hooked right then. I was like, Oh my god, Q-tip is buying a record from me,” he remembers.

Today, that kid is 39 and he owns Brewerytown Beats, arguably the best record shop in the city of Philadelphia. And he wouldn’t have what he has, which includes approximately 20,0000 records and a coveted role as A&R and co-distributor for Jamie/Guyden Records, if it wasn’t for his experience at the swaps. “Watching Q-tip and Pete Rock and all these guys that I looked up to and the stuff that they would buy, I would really pay attention,” he says. “I used to watch what they would buy and then I’d listen to their music and try to dissect and find what kind of samples they were using for their music—and that’s how I got into it.” Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: In like a lion

Black Urn | photo by JjCa | via

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Honestly, I love the unpredictability of it all.

“It all” referring to this somewhat bonkers listening-and-writing project, of course. But also the past several days and the way music has found its way into them. A hard drive meltdown caused one performance on a jam-packed Friday to reboot 30 seconds in, the fleet-footed band somehow not missing a beat and rebounding even stronger than they started. On Saturday, a blank canvas event space (called, uh, The Event Space) hosted a varied roster made up of nimble-fingered instrumentals, soaring if somewhat bombastic pop-rock, charming metropolitan folk and one disastrously cornball crew that couldn’t even save its set with the the playing-off-mic-mid-crowd trick. With every high, there’s gotta be a low, though, and that latter band-that-shan’t-be-named definitely owned that low point at a gig that also reached close to the weekend’s heights. Continue reading →


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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