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The High Key Portrait Series: Steve Gunn

Steve Gunn | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

In June of last year, Philly-turned-Brooklyn rocker Steve Gunn released a dazzling collection of anthems for the modern American road-warrior. Eyes On The Lines is the sort of record that has the potential to become a local classic, the kind of music conducive to a little reflection and meditation on a sprawling state highway, a soundtrack to stumbling on interesting places even in what you may have used to think of as flyover country.

Originally from the suburbs west of Philly, Gunn graduated from Temple U and moved to Northern Liberties, as sort of a happy accident for him, back in the days just before it became the focus of developers, or a trendy place to move and invest in property. It was where Gunn got serious, as he describes it, about his focus on writing and recording music, where the prolific artist got started on what’s now a back catalog of over a dozen albums; among other topics, he talks  in this interview about the era of Philly indie rock in the time of the late Jack Rose.

The native son returns next Saturday, for a homecoming set at the World Cafe’s Philly Music and Arts Fest. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: King Britt at RiverRink, Steve Gunn at Parks on Tap, Taj Mahal at Philadelphia Folk Fest

King Britt | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Earlier this summer, DJ King Britt rocked some serious roller skate jams during his opening weekend set at Spruce Street Harbor Park — so it’s only fitting that he DJs another engagement tonight a half mile or so north, at the Blue Cross RiverRink, where people will literally be able to roller skate to jams from Michael Jackson and Soul II Soul. Details on the free event can be found here. Continue reading →

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Philly Music Fest launches with Abi Reimold, Kississippi, Strand of Oaks, Steve Gunn and more this fall at World Cafe Live

Strand of Oaks | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

The idea is simple, really: two nights, two stages, only Philly bands. That’s what’s in store when Philly Music Fest touches down at World Cafe Live on Friday, September 22nd and Saturday, September 23rd.

The biggest name on the first-year festival is Strand of Oaks, who will headline Saturday night on the heels of their XPoNential Music Festival slot, alongside Steve Gunn and Shannen Moser. Friday night’s bill is capped by Abi Reimold, who we hear is working on a follow up to last year’s excellent Wriggling LP, and Kississippi, who are readying their first full-length as well. Continue reading →

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Steve Gunn contributes to Our First 100 Days with track, “Shrunken Heads”

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Steve Gunn | photo by Constance Mensh | courtesy of Matador Records

We’re almost at the 100th day Donald Trump’s presidency, but there are still a few artists making their voice heard before the Our First 100 Days project is complete. Rounding out the remaining contributions includes Lansdowne native, Steve Gunn, who is slotted as number ninety-one in the lineup for this Secretly Group-produced compilation. Continue reading →

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Steve Gunn takes on the Smiths for Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions

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Steve Gunn | photo by Constance Mensh | courtesy of Matador Records

Lansdowne native / Brooklyn resident Steve Gunn is the latest artist to take on Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions, a cover series that has seen some pretty eclectic combinations. For his part, Gunn selected two Smiths tracks: “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” from Louder Than Bombs and “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” from the self-titled debut.

Continue reading →

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Steve Gunn teases acoustic tour with another beautiful live session

Steve Gunn | photo by John William Moloney | courtesy of the artist
Steve Gunn | photo by John William Moloney | courtesy of the artist

If there’s one thing I know about Steve Gunn, it’s that his capacity for performing in beautifully shot live sessions is boundless. A few months ago, NPR shared a trio of solo, acoustic renditions of tracks from Eyes On The Lines as part of their Field Recordings series, and now, The Bluegrass situation is following suit with a Downtown Los Angeles performance of “Full Moon Tide.” Stream the session below. Continue reading →

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Meg Baird hops on board the Lee Ranaldo / Steve Gunn acoustic tour

Meg Baird | courtesy of the artist
Meg Baird | courtesy of the artist

San Francisco by way of Philadelphia songwriter Meg Baird is hopping on the already stacked co-headlining tour of Lee Ranaldo and Steve Gunn this January. Aside from her solo career, Baird is also known a lead vocalist in psychedelic folk rock band Espers. Her latest solo effort, Don’t Weigh Down the Light, was released last summer. For tickets and more information on her PhilaMOCA set, head over to XPN’s Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Steve Gunn and Lee Ranaldo’s joint solo tour comes to PhilaMOCA

GunnLeeTour

Guitar maestros Steve Gunn and Lee Ranaldo are hitting the road together for a short run of intimate, solo gigs. The tour will begin this January in Somerville, Massachusetts and end right here in Philadelphia with a January 21st PhilaMOCA date.

Lee Ranaldo is best known for being a co-founder of legendary noise rock group Sonic Youth. He’s also an accomplished visual artist, and in 2014, he released his latest solo record with backing band The Dust, Acoustic Dust. Continue reading →

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Steve Gunn wanders down abandoned train tracks in new NPR Field Recording

Steve Gunn | still from video
Steve Gunn | still from video

This past June, Steve Gunn released Eyes On The Lines, an album featuring frequent references to travel and lonesomeness. In his new Field Recording with NPR, Gunn performs stripped-down selections from that album on top of abandoned train tracks in Queens. It’s intimate and serene, and you’d be hard-pressed to think of a more on-the-nose space for these songs to exist.The often electrified folk rock explorations on Eyes On The Lines are thrown out here in favor of simple acoustic guitar and vocals, illuminating the gorgeous finger-picked melodies at the core of these songs. Continue reading →

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Cinema and Community: Steve Gunn talks playing solo to benefit the Lansdowne Theater

steve gunn
Steve Gunn | photo by Constance Mensh | courtesy of Matador Records

When psych rock guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn was growing up in Delaware County, the Lansdowne Theater was something of an anchor. It’s where he went to the movies as a child. Down the street is the telephone company where his mother worked for 40 years. Across the way is Todero’s Music, where he took guitar lessons.

“The theater closed in ’87, and it’s right on Lansdowne Ave, which is really the main thoroughfare of the town,” remembers Gun. “So when the 90s came around, things seemed a bit more muted, a lot of the older businesses started leaving. And things kind of changed.”

Lansdowne Theater | photo via lansdownetheater.org

At the time it was shuttered, the Lansdowne Theater had been operating for 60 years — a classic, single-screen movie house with brightly colored seats and ceilings and ornate architectural flourishes. The sort that thrived all across the country in the earlier part of the 20th century. The sort that then began universally disappearing and falling into disrepair with the advent of the multiplex age.

The catalyst in this particular theater’s demise was actually an electrical fire in a neighboring businesses that spread up the block — it happened during a screening of Beverly Hills Cop II, and the 100 patrons had to be evacuated — but repairing and reopening the space at that time was not an option. That same year, it received a designation on the national register of historic places, but sat dormant until about 2007, when a local nonprofit began raising money for the restoration. When Gunn caught wind of the project, he says he was super excited.

One of his best friends from childhood, visual artist Anthony Campuzano, helped connect him with the group campaigning for the restoration — Campuzano’s father is the mayor of Lansdowne — and through them, he coordinated a photo shoot for his most recent LP Eyes on the Lines inside the old theater. He also organized a benefit gig, and this Saturday night, Gunn will perform a solo set in the lobby, with proceeds benefiting the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation. Continue reading →