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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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Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, Erykah Badu and more will play The Dell this summer

Patti LaBelle | Photo via facebook.com/PattiLaBelle
Patti LaBelle | Photo via facebook.com/PattiLaBelle

One of the great secrets of Philly live music, The Dell kicks off its summer season this week with a headlining performance by Philadelphia R&B / soul / gospel icon Patti LaBelle. The summer continues with a performance by renowned local dance troupe PhilaDanco on July 17th, a July 23rd show starring R&B / pop star Toni Braxton and 90s hitmaking machine Babyface (who played a tremendous set at The Dell last summer), the return of neo-soul innovator Erykah Badu on August 13th, and much more.

An open-air amphitheater nestled in the Strawberry Mansion hills, the city-run Dell has been around since 1935, but in recent years has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance in programming and prominence, with a focus on R&B, soul, funk and jazz. It’s something of a cousin to West Philly’s Mann Center – the venues were both, at one point in the 70s, both named Robin Hood Dell, and both hold over 5,000 seats in their shed – but where the Mann feels secluded in the serene forests of Fairmount Park, The Dell and its adjacent neighborhood are interconnected.

When I caught Babyface and Robert Glasper in a sold-out show at the venue last summer, you could spot members of the local community who couldn’t snag tickets setting up lawn chairs along Ridge Avenue, or bringing a cooler of dogs and burgers over to the park to grill while listening to the show waft up from down the way. Whether by design or by circumstance, concerts at The Dell aren’t just for ticketholders, they’re for everybody, and that’s a wonderful thing. Check out the summer schedule below. Continue reading →

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Listen to a Philly-style Broad Street Run playlist

clockwise from left: Hardwork Movement | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN // Marian Hill | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN // The Roots | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Hop Along | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN // King Britt | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Dr. Dog | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

On Sunday May 6th, thousands will gather at Broad and Olney and run 10 miles south to the Naval Yard for the 39th annual Broad Street Run.

Many of us runners have been to this rodeo several times, and while no race is the same, I find I have “beats” I follow during the course. First, Olney to the Temple University (around Broad and Cecil B Moore) is when I get warmed up, get used to the runners around me (and sometimes discover with horror that they are not prepared at all). Next, I move on to the more serious stretch, now that I’ve sprinted past the people who took the “fun” part of this a little too much to heart. This lasts until about Broad and Race. Then it’s bottleneck time around City Hall, where the phones come out for selfies with the skyline and where most family members stand to find their loved ones and shout their names repeatedly. I always use this time to slow down and go with it. Sometimes I’ll even spot a celebrity or two along this stretch.

Next up is the second set of “let’s get serious” running as I make my way through South Philly, read the hilarious signs people have held up for motivation and head towards that last stretch, under the tunnel, and through the Yard.

I know it’s not regulation, but I listen to music while running. Since I’m not an elite runner by any means, I need something to help soundtrack my epic journey through the city. This year, I’ve come up with a playlist that’s about 100 minutes long that encapsulates each part of the Broad Street Run. And, of course, it’s all Philly artists, from Vicki Sue Robinson to The Roots, Hurry to Meek Miil, Japanese Breakfast to Patti LaBelle, The War on Drugs to King Britt. Listen below, and use it for training, for race day, or simply for a good sampling of the sounds of Philly. Continue reading →

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Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jill Scott and more feature in Philadelphia Music Walk Of Fame Class of 2017

Sister Rosetta Tharpe | Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Music Alliance

The Philadelphia Music Alliance has announced this year’s inductees for the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame, and 2017 is all about soul. From Jill Scott to McFadden & Whitehead to Sister Sledge, the honorees come from different decades and genres but all have made significant contributions in music and Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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Why Philly pianist George Burton waited 15 years to make his debut

George Burton | photo by Zoran Jelenic | courtesy of the artist
George Burton | photo by Zoran Jelenic | courtesy of the artist

George Burton’s résumé is indisputably impressive: he’s worked with jazz notables including Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Wallace Roney, and James Carter; accompanied pop artists including Meshell Ndegeocello and Patti LaBelle; he’s been the pianist for Odean Pope’s Saxophone Choir and the Sun Ra Arkestra and soloed with the Philly Pops and in Leslie Burrs’ opera “Vanqui.”

One thing the Philly native hadn’t done until now is record an album under his own name. That’s usually the first order of business for a musician leaving college for the competitive jazz scene, hoping to establish their reputation or least create a handy calling card to help land gigs. Since leaving Temple University in 2000, though, Burton has never lacked for work. Whether through the connections he made in the hothouse Ortlieb’s environment of the late ‘90s, where he was a regular, or simply through his own hard-won reputation for invention and adaptability, he simply hasn’t felt the need to record for recording’s sake. Continue reading →