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The Week Ahead: Sidney Gish, Patti LaBelle, Rosali, Espers, and more

Rosali
Rosali | photo by Constance Mensh | courtesy of the artist

The week starts with blues rock ripper Selwyn Birchwood out in the burbs and wraps up in South Philly with the contemplative singer-songwriting of The Afterglows. In between: classic soul, immersive psych, punk rock and more. Here are 17 concerts to see in and around Philadelphia this week.
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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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Queen Latifah will receive Philadelphia’s Marian Anderson Award this fall

Queen Latifah | via The Boombox

When rapper / actress / activist Queen Latifah burst onto the scene with her debut single “Ladies First,” the impact of the song created a ripple effect that continues to reverberate through the genre today. Backed up by U.K.-born expat Monie Love, “Ladies First” was an opening shot of a hungry young MC and a declaration of sorts.  From her very first introduction to the scene, Latifah set off on a mission to inspire women to assertively step to the forefront in a largely male-dominated culture. Although hip-hop has had a wealth of gifted women MCs that came before her (MC Sha-Rock of the Funky Four +1, Sequence, Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte etc.), Latifah’s sharp technique, regal air and message that focused on black women’s empowerment set her apart from her peers. Songs like “U.N.I.T.Y.”, “Just Another Day” and “Latifah’s Had It Up 2 Here” saw Latifah carving out a distinctive space centered around her blackness, femininity and deep sense of community consciousness. Continue reading →

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“It Was Pretty Much Destined”: Philly powerhouse Lady Alma on her path through music

Lady Alma at Kindred Presents | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Lady Alma was and still is a voice to be reckoned with. The prominent Philadelphia vocalist might have taken a hiatus ten years ago, but is officially back and better than ever.

Last week, Alma sat down at World Cafe Live to discuss why her upcoming concert at The Ardmore Music Hall on August 18 means so much to her.

“It’s really going to be a party,” she said. “I hope that when folks do come, they aren’t coming to just be entertained, but coming to party.”

Alma will be performing along with Brooklyn instrumental group Tortured Soul, and the internationally renowned, Philly-based DJ that helped launch Alma’s professional musical career, King Britt.

“The eighteenth is going to be a magical night because I’m being reunited with my brother King Britt and my brothers Tortured Soul,” Alma said.

King Britt remembers when he first heard Alma sing when he was DJing and Alma and Tanja Dixon were singing over his set without a microphone.

“I could not believe the power of these women.” King Britt recounted. “[I] instantly wanted to record with them, it was such an honor.” 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 →