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St. Vincent took the Electric Factory on a rapturous, emotional ride

St. Vincent | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

As if we needed further evidence that Annie Clark can successfully pursue pretty much whatever she wants to do creatively, the mastermind behind St. Vincent held the Electric Factory in rapt attention for two hours last night with a one-woman show. It was just her voice, her guitar and various elements of her creative vision adorning the stage. We saw Clark as a writer and filmmaker, as a design visionary with a flair for non-sequitur fashion; the performance showcased, obviously, her remarkable range on the guitar, and her physical expressiveness in the realm of theatrical gesture and (at points) dance. And it showcased her compelling songwriting, which reaches new emotional depths on the harrowing beauty of MASSEDUCTION, her 2017 album that got a front to back performance.

Since initial images and video clips of the Fear the Future tour began trickling out on social media a month or so ago, the production has been met with some degree of uncertainty. Where’s the band? Wouldn’t it get boring with nothing but Clark and a minimal stage setup? Isn’t this just St. Vincent karaoke? These are all things I heard people say, either online or in person, leading up to the gig. And even taking into account the degree of chauvinism evident in those slags — would you be saying this stuff if Bon Iver decided to rip it to tracks, brah? — the unconventional setup nonetheless meant ticketholders were taking a bit of a leap of faith with this show. In my estimation, they were well rewarded. Continue reading →

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ILL DOOTS to stage multimedia performance as part of Painted Bride arts and advocacy project

ILL DOOTS | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com
ILL DOOTS | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Painted Bride Art Center has been building its BrideNext arts and advocacy project throughout the year, and the initiative will celebrate with a culminating showcase featuring Philly hip-hop collective ILL DOOTS. The double presentation and gallery showcase will take place over two nights later this month, with ILL DOOTS and the other featured artists presenting programming that addresses local issues.

ILL DOOTS will present Existence, Resistance and the Sounds of Surroundings, a multimedia concert on the theme of gentrification that “uses music to amplify the stories, grievances, and desires of the residents neighboring the ever-expanding campus of Temple University,” along with an accompanying installation in the gallery space. Choreographer Belle Alvarez will present Ageless Dream: Historias Nuestras, which comments on the issue of immigration. Alvarez also worked with The Key’s own Jeremy Zimmerman on a series of portraits and interviews that follows the stories of millennial organizers. Continue reading →

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Perseverance, Pride, and Percussion: Remembering the incredible life of Elaine Hoffman Watts

Elaine Hoffman Watts drums at a Curtis Institute of Music holiday party in 1951 | photo courtesy of Mark Rubin

When Elaine Hoffman Watts passed away last month at the age of 85, the celebrated percussionist left behind an exceptionally multifaceted legacy, both in terms of the music she played and her own personal history. Raised in Southwest Philadelphia, Hoffman Watts was klezmer royalty, the next generation in a family whose musical history stretches back to before they arrived in the country from Ukraine. Her father, Jacob Hoffman, was a noted xylophone player and percussionist who was a fixture in Philadelphia music for decades, especially when it came to the klezmer bands that would play at weddings and other occasions in the local Jewish community. It was under his tutelage that she originally learned how to play the drums in the basement of their house at 63rd and Ludlow.

Hoffman Watts quickly became a formidable drummer. She was so talented that she was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music, the first woman allowed into the the percussion department there. When she graduated in 1954 she was soon hired as a timpanist in the New Orleans Symphony. That was the first of countless jobs in orchestras, jazz groups – including sitting in for Duke Ellington and Count Basie! – and many other bands. While she’d occasionally get to play with her father’s band, klezmer gigs were incredibly rare, despite her family history and obvious talents. That’s because the genre was almost entirely closed off to women playing instruments and nobody would give her the time of day. Continue reading →

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Celebrating the​ ​25th​ ​anniversary​ ​of​ ​​Bizarre​ ​Ride​ ​II ​The​ ​Pharcyde​​​ at​ ​Coda

The Pharcyde | photo by Reji B. for WXPN | rejibphotography.com

Every​ ​musician​ ​alive​ ​can​ ​name​ ​at​ ​least​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​albums​ ​that​ ​genuinely​ ​impacted​ ​them, whether​ ​they​ ​were​ ​direct​ ​influences​ ​on​ ​their​ ​own​ ​work​ ​or​ ​just​ ​sources​ ​of​ ​pure​ ​nostalgia;​ ​we​ ​all have​ ​some​ ​of​ ​THOSE​ ​albums.​ ​Some​ ​of​ ​those​ ​albums​ ​that​ ​will​ ​forever​ ​be​ ​dope​ ​to​ ​us,​ ​maybe because​ ​of​ ​the​ ​place​ ​and​ ​time​ ​we​ ​were​ ​in​ ​when​ ​we​ ​first​ ​heard​ ​them,​ ​or​ ​maybe​ ​because​ ​they’re just​ ​THAT​ ​important,​ ​that​ ​seminal,​ ​that​ ​damn​ ​good.​ ​LA-based​ ​hip-hop​ ​legends​ ​The​ ​Pharcyde’s debut​ ​​Bizarre​ ​Ride​ ​II​ ​The​ ​Pharcyde​​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those​ ​albums​ ​for​ ​me.​ ​When​ ​I​ ​heard​ ​that​ ​former members​ ​Fatlip​ ​and​ ​SlimKid3​ ​would​ ​be​ ​performing​ ​the​ ​album​ ​in​ ​full​ ​at​ ​Coda​ ​in​ ​Center​ ​City,​ ​I already​ ​knew​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​go.

On​ ​the​ ​way​ ​to​ ​the​ ​venue,​ ​I​ ​wound​ ​up​ ​randomly​ ​sharing​ ​an​ ​Uber​ ​with​ ​my​ ​friend​ ​Slaughter Rico,​ ​a​ ​Philly​ ​rap​ ​legend.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​performing​ ​in​ ​the​ ​opening​ ​set​ ​alongside​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Sensi Starr​ ​collective,​ ​a​ ​crew​ ​that’s​ ​been​ ​making​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​noise​ ​in​ ​the​ ​tri-state​ ​underground​ ​hip-hop scene.​ ​Luckily,​ ​we​ ​made​ ​it​ ​to​ ​Coda​ ​right​ ​on​ ​time​ ​for​ ​him​ ​to​ ​hop​ ​on​ ​stage​ ​with​ ​his​ ​squad. Continue reading →

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Watch B-Eazyyy take three perspectives on a fateful car ride in “Worth The Gold”

B-Eazyyy | photo courtesy of the artist

You can hear definite growth in Trenton’s B-Eazyyy. Since his last project Ezekiel, it seems as if the young MC has taken a step towards becoming a bolder rapper. After releasing his EP Manifesto a couple months ago, B-Eazyyy is more vulnerable with his rhymes and willing to open up to his listeners about the thoughts and emotions that he’s encountered down.

This growth can be seen in his recent video “Worth The Gold,” where we find B-Eazyyy driving through the city to reach his destination. Continue reading →

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Take a boatride down the Schuylkill in The War On Drugs’ video for “Pain”

The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs | photo by Emmett Malloy | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia space rock faves The War on Drugs release their hotly anticipated fourth LP A Deeper Understanding this Friday, on Atlantic Records — and this morning, we bring you another pre-release taste of the record.

As the melancholic “Pain” plays out in the background, we see Adam Granduciel and his bandmates performing in a cargo barge that cruises down the Schuylkill River, intercut with kids on bikes popping wheelies on the Philly streets. Shot by filmmaker Emmett Malloy in glorious black and white, the video is an elegant and timeless depiction of one of our favorite Philly bands still discovering new angles on their hometown a decade into their career. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Drive By Truckers’ charged-up set rides the River Stage into the sunset

Drive By Truckers | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Roots-tinged Athens, Georgia rock outfit Drive By Truckers released American Band last year, an album with a strident political and social consciousness that many in the music world aligned strongly to the heated election year. While the connection was undeniably there, those who have been paying attention to DBT for a minute know that the stories of the marginalized working class, the people left behind in the race for wealth and power, have been a lyrical concern of Patterson Hood and his bandmates across their nearly two-decade career.

Their charged XPNFest set yesterday was a reminder of this; two songs into their set, the band ripped into “Puttin’ People On The Moon,” and though its lyrics outlining economic depression, unaffordable medical care, and shaky jobs at Wal Mart ring true today, the song actually dates back thirteen years to 2004’s The Dirty South. 
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Brit rock icons Ride bring Weather Diaries to the TLA in a dazzling set

Ride | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

It must be some sort of testimony to a band’s draw when a guy with a Sonic Youth t-shirt is standing in the front row at the TLA the same night Thurston Moore is playing a set at another club across town.

Ride would be the first to profess their debt of gratitude to the 1980s’ noise-rockers. Vocalist Mark Gardener has also be the first to shrug off similar genre labels and pigeonholes, especially the “shoegaze” stuff to which they’ve been inextricably tethered since they debuted with genre-defining Nowhere in 1990, at turns proving both blessing and curse. Reportedly mired in conflict over creative direction, the band failed to mend fences, and with the inherent strains of extensive tours Ride ultimately split just six years later. Continue reading →

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Questlove, Christian McBride and Uri Caine are getting The Philadelphia Experiment back together at Newport Jazz Fest

The Philadelphia Experiment

It’s quite possibly that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson‘s set to see of 2017 won’t be the one he played at the The Roots’ annual summer kick-off party, the Roots Picnic — awesome as that show was.

It’s not one The Roots will play in their hometown of Philadelphia, or on their nationally televised nightly gig on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. No, it’s looking like 2017’s performance-to-see for fans of The Roots and their drummer/leader takes place in a week and a half on the quiet coast of Rhode Island, at the annual Newport Jazz Festival.
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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Harmony Woods at Everybody Hits, Driftwood Soldier at Bond Villain, Ride at TLA and more

Harmony Woods | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Sofia Verbilla is at the songwriting helm of Harmony Woods, a relatively new installment to Philly’s rock scene. They just released their first record, Nothing Special, which, contrary to what its title might suggest, is quite lovely. Verbilla has put together a very genuine, sophisticated set of sometimes folky, sometimes punky songs. In the studio, she is joined by Brendan Lukens on lead guitar, Sophy Kelsall on bass and  Jeremy Berkin on drums; the live lineup varies from gig to gig. The current Harmony Woods configuration is wrapping up its summer tour, and plays a homecoming gig at Everybody Hits tonight. Listen to “Renovations” and check out details on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →