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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sun Ra Arkestra at Parks on Tap, Algiers at Johnny Brenda’s

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Space is The Place for the mythical Sun Ra Arkestra, but tonight so is Parks on Tap. The Twilight Music Festival welcomes the eclectic ensemble for a night of futuristic jazz, funk and soul at the free event. Founded and led by Sun Ra until his death in 1993, the group is now led by multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen as they carry on the spirit of Ra. Watch The Arkestra’s Tiny Desk sesssion below. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Worldtown Soundsystem, Bardo Pond, Sun Ra Arkestra and more will play along the Schuylkill this summer for Parks on Tap’s Twilight Music Festival

Worldtown Soundsystem | Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone | courtesy of the artist
Worldtown Soundsystem | Photo by Charles Shan Cerrone | courtesy of the artist

Tis the summer for free shows under the Philadelphia skies. After an exceedingly solid lineup at Spruce Street Harbor Park was announced last week, today we’ve got word of another excellent round of gigs next river over.

As Philly.com’s Dan DeLuca reports, the Parks on Tap folks — the organization responsible for the pop-up beer gardens you saw all over Philly public spaces last summer — are bringing live music to MLK Drive every Sunday this summer for a series they’re calling Twilight Music Festival.

It begins July 9th, with DJ and multi-instrumentalist Taylor McFerrin (son of the famed Bobby) and from there boasts an all-local run of shows including the internationally-infused house jams of Worldtown Soundsystem, the spaced-out soundscapes of Bardo Pond, the boundary-pushing jazz of Sun Ra Arkestra, the earthy psychedelic harmonies of The Dove and the Wolf and more. Continue reading →

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Sun Ra Arkestra, Anthony Braxton and more to play inaugural October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Inspired by jazz great Bill Dixon’s 1964 gathering of a similar name, Ars Nova Workshop and FringeArts have announced a new “deep listening festival” happening this fall called The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music. Scheduled for October 5th through the 8th and based at the riverfront HQ of FringeArts, OctRev revives a pivotal moment in jazz history with a new crop of boundary-pushing artists.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brenda’s, Foals at Electric Factory, Frank Turner at World Cafe Live at The Queen

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

For the second year in a row, the Sun Ra Arkestra will celebrate Halloween at Johnny Brenda’s tonight. Under the leadership of multi-instrumentalist Marshall Allen, the spirit of enigmatic founder Sun Ra lives on through the Arkestra’s galactic funk and soul performance. Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here; watch the band’s Tiny Desk Concert below.

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The High Key Portrait Series: Dave Davis of Sun Ra Arkestra

Dave Davis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Dave Davis | 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.

This Monday, Johnny Brenda’s will host a show that’s become a standing Philly tradition: a spaced-out afrofuturistic psychedelic New-Orleans-style big band-tastic freaky Halloween celebration courtesy the Sun Ra Arkestra. The show is an outright spectacle as they try to find room not only for all the many Arkestra members, on the precious real estate of the Brenda’s stage, but for all the swinging horns as well.

For this installment of High Key we caught up with Dave Davis, who’s blown a trombone with the Arkestra for over twenty years, and who never misses a gig. Davis is decidedly soft-spoken and understated, and as he spins tale after tale about his history and career among Philly arts giants you lean in, and hang on his words. He’s engaging, charming, the personified illustration of the benefits of pursuing your dreams and following your heart, and he has this wide-eyed-kid-from-Kansas exuberance about having lived in and loved Philly that, for him, makes even the advantage of big city public transit something to be excited about without a trace of irony. With a slow, easy smile, Davis manages to share that infectious, refreshing exuberance so relatably, both in his words and in his music.

Philly’s beloved Arkestra suffered the passing of its founder in 1993, but the now 92-year-old maestro and director Marshall Allen hasn’t lost a step yet in keeping up the traditions, from international stages to regularly local engagements all over the city as well, from the Art Museum’s “Art After 5” Program to local jazz festivals to favorite Philly clubs like Brenda’s. Although this holiday’s event at is already sold out, as always, opportunities to catch them live in Philly abound, as the band continue to be as prolific and active on the touring circuit as ever.

To this day, the Arkestra still convenes for rehearsals at Sun Ra’s West Philly home, and when asked about the latest horizons, Davis notes at the wealth of the untapped archives that the band is still combing through and bringing to life. “He has a stack of music that’s never been played,” says Davis of the late composer and bandleader Sun Ra. “He wrote a tune everyday for The Creator. He has a lotta tunes that he recorded on tapes, so we’re constantly playing new Sun Ra music.” Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sun Ra Arkestra at Spruce Street Harbor Park, Honeytiger at Kung Fu Necktie, The Shondes at Johnny Brenda’s

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Philly jazz / space odyssey legends Sun Ra Arkestra play a free show tonight at Spruce Street Harbor Park. If you’ve never experienced this shimmeringly-attired crew’s journey’s into the outer rim, get thee to the river and let this dozen-to-twenty-ish member collective change how you experience music. More information at the XPN Concert CalendarContinue reading →

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Catch Sun Ra Arkestra and many more at Fields Festival in August

Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra Arkestra at Johnny Brendas | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Add another awesome nearby festival to the already long list that’s been assembled so far this summer. Fields Festival, taking place August 19-21 in Darlington, MD’s Camp Ramblewood, is a music and arts fest that is totally DIY and sponsor-free.

Roughly midway between Baltimore and Philadelphia, Fields Fest will showcase loads of experimental music acts, as well as film screenings, art exhibits, comedy acts, dance, and poetry. The festival is occurring for the second time, after the first go-around in 2014 was a success. Continue reading →

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Sun Ra Arkestra transformed Johnny Brenda’s for a Sold Out Halloween show

Josh Pelta-Heller at Johnny Brendas | Photo by: Josh Pelta-Heller
Josh Pelta-Heller at Johnny Brendas | Photo by: Josh Pelta-Heller

“Space is the place” that the Sun Ra Arkestra will take you to, but Johnny Brenda’s was the place that they sold out this Halloween night, as fans leaned in over the balcony, lined the stairway, and pushed up against the walls to be escorted into the unknown by the seminal Philly free jazz collective. Continue reading →

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The Sun Ra Arkestra will be taking over 40th Street this weekend

Philadelphia United Jazz Fest celebrates the scene in Center City
Sun Ra Arkestra | Photo by Matthew Shaver | brightloud.com

The Sun Ra Arkestra is, to put it simply, an experience. A concoction of far too many genres to list, the off-kilter big band will be performing for free as part of the 40th Street Summer Series on the University of Pennsylvania campus at 40th and Walnut. They will be joined by The South Pacific Island Dancers on August 29th to create an event that should not be missed. Music will begin at 6 p.m. and you can find more information here. Continue reading →