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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Middle Kids at Johnny Brenda’s, Queue at World Cafe Live, John Popper at the Sellersville Theater

Middle Kids | photo via middlekids.bandcamp.com

Sydney, Australia’s Middle Kids are in the midst of a lengthy tour over here in the States, and tonight they bring their eclectic folk-tinged indie rock to Johnny Brenda’s. The band first made a splash last year with the release of their first two singles, and now they have a self-titled debut EP. If you still need to be convinced of how good the band is, just know that Elton John is a fanBel Heir opens tonight’s show; find tickets and more information on the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch Middle Kids’ World Cafe session from last year’s Sense Of Place: Sydney. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Queue at Steel City Coffee, Hezekiah Jones at The Ardmore Music Hall, and Dead Milkmen at Clark Park

Queue | photo by Rebecca Aronow | via artist’s Facebook page

We were introduced to these then-Philly scene newcomers last year. Since then, five-piece outfit Queue has been making the moves. Recently, they debuted a live wire single, “Frontier.” It’s an an electric, gauzy track that doesn’t let up in energy. Listen below, and then check out the band live at Steel City Coffee tonight; info on tickets can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Meet Queue: a new five-piece spinning effortless dream pop melodies

Queue | Photo by Tina Letter
Queue | Photo by Tina Letter

“Falling Into Skies,” the debut single from Philly scene newcomers Queue, is like waking up. First, your pupils contract, adjusting to the light. Then your surroundings slowly come into focus, but you’re still groggy.

Queue perfectly captures this feeling of early-morning haze. Singer Olivia Price’s voice is thick and smooth, lethargically holding on to syllables at the ends of phrases. Even the drums have a muted quality to them.

The five-piece is split between D.C. and Philly, but you wouldn’t know it from how cohesive “Falling Into Skies” sounds. Although three-fifths of Queue currently works in corporate, nine-to-five jobs, the goal is to one day all live in the same city and focus on the band. It’s still early, but after listening to “Falling Into Skies,” that proposition doesn’t sound all too unreasonable. In the month since its release, the track has received over 5,000 listens on Soundcloud and has been picked up by radio stations in both the U.K. and France. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Sea Offs

Need a solid argument for turning up early to a long day of music? Two words: Sea Offs.

The dream-pop four-piece is one of the opening acts on the Saturday lineup of next weekend’s Philly Music Fest at World Cafe Live — they play 3:10 p.m. on the upstairs stage — and their lucid, moving arrangements of intertwining electric guitars and emphatic drums are an invigorating entry point into the event’s eclectic bill of regional artists.

Sea Offs hail from Central Pennsylvania, in the most literal sense — songwriters and guitarists Olivia Price and Rashmit Arora met at State College, in the dead center of the state, and began writing and recording music in 2015 around the PSU / Happy Valley region. It’s a good place for creative companionship as well as creative isolation — the people who are indifferent about Nittany Lions football tend to stick together, but are nevertheless mutually distant from bigger creative hubs like Buffalo, NYC or Philly. Sea Offs’ debut single, “Colliding,” was a drifting and folky piece in the Nick Drake / Innocence Mission zone, a sound that bloomed into last year’s Sea the Blind EP, where ambient atmospheres were gradually worked into their palette.

And then, there was this year’s rhetorically-titled What’s The Point?, an immersive record and one of my favorites to catch my ear during the year-long Items Tagged Philadelphia project. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Just Announced: The Spinto Band to headline the Ninth Annual 2nd Street Festival

The Spinto Band | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

On Sunday, August 6th, Wilmington indie pop outfit The Spinto Band will perform as the headlining act at the 9th annual 2nd Street Festival. The festival takes place between Germantown and Green Streets on 2nd. The all-day event is free and open to families and attendees of all ages, and will feature over 250 vendors that celebrate the community and culture of Northern Liberties.

The Spinto Band’s fun, uptempo tracks sonically realize the perfect summer night, and they are coming in hot off the 10-year anniversary reissue of their record Nice and Nicely Donereleased last month on Bar/None Records and including 12 previously unheard bonus tracks and their mega-hit “Oh Mandy.” The band just headlined Boot and Saddle in South Philly to celebrate the anniversary. Continue reading →

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Five reasons to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch at The Forrest Theater this week

Hedwig | via kimmelcenter.org

Waiting in the queue in front of Walnut Street’s Forrest Theater last night, it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to like the performance inside. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, after all, my favorite piece of modern musical theater. John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s glam-tinged songs are energized and anthemic, while the story — about the misadventures of a transgender rocker from East Berlin trying to find her place in the world — is funny, heartbreaking, poignant and endlessly compelling.

But even adjusting my reaction for bias and predisposition, I walked away from opening night last night seriously bowled away. This show was capital-W wow seriously really good. Continue reading →

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Farewell to a Listening Room: Reflections on the closing of Old City’s Tin Angel

Kristen Hersh at the Tin Angel | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Kristen Hersh at the Tin Angel | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Back in early December, I saw something at Old City’s famed Tin Angel that I hadn’t seen in forever: a line. A queue of people running down the staircase, out the door, stretching up 2nd Street, waiting in earnest for a performance by alternative-era singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh.

Certainly the 150-capacity room drew packed crowds countless times over the years, but something felt different this night. It was a sold-out show heading into a long string of sold-out show as the venue calendar wound down, this weekend presenting its final concert after more than two decades in business. Tonight, The Hillbenders take the stage in a show curated by the Philadelphia Folksong Society, and it’s the last gig you’ll be able to buy tickets for at the door; tomorrow’s show with Steve Forbert and Saturday’s double-header with Ben Vaughn have long been sold out. And after that, the Tin Angel belongs to the ages. Continue reading →

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Folkadelphia Session: Lac La Belle

Lac La Belle | photo by Joel Williams | courtesy of the artist
Lac La Belle | photo by Joel Williams | courtesy of the artist

Second to the music, which draws and binds us together, is our shared history with the musicians, which seems to deepen with time. It’s an amazing privilege with Folkadelphia to queue up tracks for a radio show, scroll down the playlist, and think to myself “it was great helping so-and-so out with their last two shows in Philly” and “oh man, I can’t wait for us to premiere such-and-such’s in-studio session that we recorded three months ago, what a blast!” In this folksy music world of ours, when we’re drawn together, we tend to stick together. Then, as albums are released, music is shared, tour dates are booked, on the Folkadelphia side of things, we feel such tremendous pride in hearing and seeing artists evolve and that we possibly lent the smallest little help along the way here in Philadelphia.
Continue reading →

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Ben Hughes voices the struggles of the common man on this month’s album release

Ben Hughes | Photo via benhughes.bandcamp.com
Ben Hughes | Photo via benhughes.bandcamp.com

New Jersey singer-songwriter Ben Hughes just released the next installment in his epic musical project. At the beginning of this year, Hughes decided that he would release one solo album per month, made up of previously unreleased recordings spanning 2005 to 2012. He reached the halfway point of his project with last month’s release, At the End of My Life. To kick off the next half of the project, he decided to switch gears his month and record an idea that’s been in his head for years. Continue reading →

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Download The Gallerist’s “lost” Key Studio Session, see them tomorrow at Kung Fu Necktie

The Gallerist in the studio at WXPN | Photo by John Vettese
The Gallerist in the studio at WXPN | Photo by John Vettese

A couple years back, a new band called The Gallerist jumped out from the Philadelphia singer-songwriter scene and grabbed our attention with their plaintive, emotion-laden debut A Falling Waltz. The songwriting vehicle of Mike Collins was rounded out as a solid three-piece with John Holback on drums and Kai Carter on bass.

We caught a couple impressive live sets from them: at a SoFAR Philly show in 2012, opening for Laura Marling in 2013. And when the band released its follow-up EP, Twine, last year, we knew we had to get the band in the studio for a Key Session. Except, unfortunately, the timing was not quite right. Continue reading →