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Made In America day one is a soggy spectacle with J. Cole, Solange, Marian Hill, Migos and more

J. Cole | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com

Okay, yes — it was wet. It was muddy at parts. But though yesterday’s climate conditions during Made In America were less than ideal for a celebratory end-of-summer music festival, as Minneapolis rapper Lizzo pointed out during her early afternoon set, there was no room for us to grumble.

“We have a bit of a rain thing going on,” Lizzo said. “But this doesn’t compare to what’s going on in Houston. I’m from Houston originally, I have friends and family who lost everything.”

She encouraged the crowd to donate to relief efforts, and to do so at at the local level as directly as possible. Then she launched into a knockout performance of “Water Me,” a song she said she felt uncertain about playing in the wake of Harvey — “I’m done with water” — but one her Houston loved ones encouraged her to embrace, saying it uplifts them.

So, let’s not dramatize yesterday’s weather. It was soggy, it was a slog to get from point A to point B (but it usually is during MIA, honestly). But the show went on. Continue reading →

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Heavyhitters Jay Z and J. Cole join Solange, Sampha, Lizzo and more at Made In America 2017

Photo by John Vettese

Christmas comes only once a year? False. See: Made in America announcement day. Philadelphia’s Labor Day party is back for another round, and with the announcement of this year’s lineup, we imagine the entire city is excited.

Headlining performances from Jay Z (obviously), J.Cole and The Chainsmokers top of the list of 50+ artists, with featured performances from Run The Jewels, Solange, Lizzo, SamphaMigos, and a heck of a lot more. The local scene is also well represented, as PNB RockBeach Slang, Mannequin Pussy and Queen of Jeans nab some earlier spots.

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The 10th annual Roots Picnic features Pharrell, Solange, Noname, Michael Kiwanuka and more

Pharrell Williams | Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The annual Roots Picnic has been setting up shop along Penn’s Landing for a solid ten years now, and to celebrate the decade mile-marker, the lineup just announced by Black Thought, Questlove and company is indeed a massive throwdown, set to touch down at The Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing on Saturday, June 3rd.

For starters, the coveted headlining slot — a classic artist performing a set with The Roots as their backing band — goes to suave hitmaker Pharrell. Dude has no shortage of jams to incorporate, from his production days in The Neptunes and bandleading days in N.E.R.D., to chart-toping collabs with Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”) and solo jams that’ll have the entire family clapping along (“Happy”).

Also towards the top of the bill is Solange, making her second Roots Picnic appearance; she first played in 2013, with the fantastic True EP recently under her belt, and this year she has the massively acclaimed A Seat At The Table — our number two album of 2016Lil Wayne also tops the bill, and will no doubt throw down in a massive way. Continue reading →

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New Music Show Preview with Solange, Darlingside & more!

Darlingside
Darlingside | Photo by Robb Stey | courtesy of the artist | robbstey.com

With the Fall Fund Drive behind us (and a BIG thank you to all our new members!) we turn our attention to all the NEW music that’s come in over the last week. Included in the stacks is a new song from David Gray, something new from Dirty Projectors AND a former member of the Dirty Projectors.  Plus, we’ll hear what Nada Surf sounds like backed by an orchestra and dig into the new Phish record too.  Here are a few more things we’ve got planned for you tonight at 8 o’clock on XPN …

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Macklemore, Solange, Glasper highlights at 6th Annual Roots Picnic

?uestlove | Photo by John Vettese
?uestlove | Photo by John Vettese

The 6th annual Roots Picnic brought its trademark mix of sounds and styles to the Festival Pier on a sunny Saturday this weekend. And though the results were also somewhat mixed, the show had more high points than not.

The standout set of the day came from independent rapper / viral sensation Macklemore, who took the stage at the peak of the afternoon’s 90-degree heat. The crowd was at capacity, water was at a premium, and yet it was impossible not to groove to the dude’s lively and charismatic stage show. He was funny (quipping that he and DJ Ryan Lewis “just flew in from Egypt. Or maybe Seattle…” and snatching a fur vest from the crowd for his signature song “Thrift Shop”), he was poignant (introducing “Same Love” with remarks about marriage equality) and most importantly, he was entertaining.

Earlier in the day, fantastic performances were also turned in by pop singer Solange – sister to Beyonce Knowles, who was lively, stylish, and rocked a great cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” – and Robert Glasper – who embarked on a wild space-jazz jam to a modest crowd as attendees were just beginning to filter in.

The pier’s tent stage housed more of the hard-hitting hip-hop and DJ names on the bill. Philly’s Lushlife played a tremendous set early on. I feel like, for whatever reason, I always wind up seeing the producer / MC (offstage name: Raj Halder) on lineups where he’s playing to indifferent, aloof indie audiences, so it was a treat seeing him rock a packed room of rap fans who were vibing off his delivery, waving their hands and pumping their fists. You could tell Haldar was feeding off their enthusiasm – he fell to his knees atop a stage monitor during a closing performance of “Big Sur” and sounded like he was beginning to lose his voice. I’m sure it was worth it.

Also in the tent,  Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ played a hyper set to a hyper crowd, bouncing between beats and tracks with an almost ADD rhythm. Whatever it lacked in focus, it had in energy. Raucous rapper Trinidad James rocked a riled-up crowd early in the day, while Canadian EDM artist A-Trak closed the tent by spinning a winning set to an audience that was waving cardboard cutouts of his cartooney, pixelated likeness.

Only two acts on the lineup were out-and-out disappointments. The set from blues-rock luminary Gary Clark Jr. was hookless and meandering. After a decent start, it devolved into a show of “hey, look how good I am at guitar,” and you could see its dullness reflected in the crowd’s exhausted faces. Likewise, indie electronic goddess Grimes made a solid effort at showmanship by bounding around the stage and bringing out backup dancers, but the music simply didn’t translate live – its repetitiveness and reliance on echoey effects really showed through. Indie R&B act How To Dress Well and rapper Hitboy also made forgettable appearances.

The Roots themselves capped the night with their trademark good-time, fast-motion set, bouncing seamlessly between something like a half-dozen songs in the first six minutes. It was strikingly similar to the set they play on the Parkway each year for Welcome America Festival; these guys are total pros, down to guitarist “Captain Kirk” Douglas and sousaphonist Tuba Gooding Jr. racing laps around the stage and leaping in time to the beat. But the band had a surprise or two up its many sleeves, like bringing breakout Philly rapper Meek Mill out for a cameo appearance at the end of the night and (more exciting to this reviewer) inviting Marsha Ambrosius of under-appreciated soul combo Floetry out to sing the hook on “You Got Me.”

And this year’s “classic hip-hop” headliner, Naughty By Nature, didn’t disappoint either, rocking their lively 90s radio-rap and marking the 20th birthday of “Hip Hop Hooray” with a sea of waving hands and shouting voices as a cool breeze blew in off the Delaware. Conclusion: even when it fell short, The Roots are masters of the mix – classic and emerging, rap to jazz to electronic and rock, all ages, all energized, all wondering what’s to come next year. See photos from the day after the jump.

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Blood Orange cultivates a conversation about gender, duality, and identity to majestic grooves at The Fillmore

Blood Orange | photo by Natalie Piserchio for WXPN | nataliepiserchio.com

It was almost 7 years ago that Blood Orange played Johnny Brenda’s on a weekday to about 12 people, one of whom was a sweet townie who sat on a barstool two feet from the stage. That night, Dev Hynes, the eclectic singer-songerwriter of Guyanese descent, tore through an emotional, energy packed set for all 12 of us attendees with just his guitar and a laptop, bouncing from stage to crowd, owning the space, inviting us in to share that moment. Thursday’s show at The Fillmore to a packed, swaying, diverse crowd of orange haired punks, Hood By Air wearing queer goths of color, and Fishtown hipsters (amongst others), kept that same energy.

Opening the set with a dreamy rendition of “Charcoal Baby,” the standout track from Blood Orange’s latest album Negro Swan, Hynes and his crew of six backup musicians ignited the crowd and set the tone for the soulful, southern-black-church by way of 1980’s sun and pastel drenched neo-noir that would follow.  It was evident, then, that Hynes had come a long way since his debut album Coastal Grooves, and even further from his days in screamo bands like Test Icicles; the stage was masterfully, purposefully filled with a rhythm section opposite a keyboardist and saxophonist on two (2!) high rises, and an angelic assembly of back-up vocalists. The mood of Negro Swan is airy and precise, allowing for a live translation bursting with nostalgic grooves and strange, spatial chord changes so subtle that they sound massive. Continue reading →

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Did you know Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” video is the product of Philly animator Justin Richburg?

Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” video | still from video

Justin Richburg is the 29-year-old, Philadelphia-based animator behind the video of Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer.” Richburg is credited for the character designs, and collaborated with co-director Ivan Dixon for the animation work. Directed by Donald Glover, the video is coated in the balmy haze of summertime and depicts Childish Gambino strolling down a suburban neighborhood street beneath rosy-tinted skies. There are cameo appearances of hip hop artists and icons such as Drake and Future, Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott, Solange and The Weekend, but the most talked-about scene was that of a crying Kanye West in a Make America Great hat being hugged by Michelle Obama.

Despite his rising fame, Richburg remains draped in privacy and anonymity. In interviews he appears nonchalant and shruggingly perfunctory in responses to questions, never diving too deeply to reveal his own motives. Perhaps the statement on his website captures his attitude best: “What can I say about my art is that it’s inspired by life, the media, New Jack Swing and to kill the game point blank.” Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Raphael Saadiq, Beach House, The Hold Steady, #XPNFest and more

David Byrne | Photo by Jody Rogac

Well, first and foremost, there’s #XPNFest. I mean, duh. Three days, 32 bands, BB&T Pavilion and Wiggins Park, etc. etc. Highlights including David Byrne and The War on Drugs are shouted out below, full details at XPNFest.org. Know what though? This summer in Philly has been the summer of redonkulous concertgoing options, this week is no different, and we here at The Key would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t let you know everything else that’s going on. Read on for our full roundup of picks: 22 concerts to see in and around Philadelphia for the next seven days. Continue reading →