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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Tove Lo at Electric Factory, Ben Kessler at World Cafe Live, Kool A.D. at Chameleon Club and more

Tove Lo | via windishagency.com

Pop princess Tove Lo is taking over the Electric Factory for an electric performance (heh, get it?) with Phoebe Ryan. She basically owned the Top 40 charts in 2016 with her collabs with Flum, Nick Jonas, and Coldplay, while even charting with her own sexually-charged single “Talking Body”. The Queen of the Clouds’ gig will be all ages, and more information/tickets can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Business of Art: Meet the two Philadelphians bringing industry smarts to DIY with Lost + Found MGMT

Emily Dubin (left) and Jeremy Berkin of Lost + Found MGMT | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

The Philly scene is Do It Yourself. It’s nitty gritty, get-down-to-business, we-don’t-need-your-stinking-labels. It is “we got this, it’s easy.” And that’s all well and good. The rockstar as self-made, as taking on everything, as complete auteur of their hard-earned art. It’s a nice image, it just isn’t entirely true.

DIY is, at its very core, collaboration. The truth is the “yourself” is really “ourselves.” It is a collective, a big heap of like-minded people not waiting for anyone to do something they know they can do themselves. It is about communication and honesty, about avoiding the pitfalls of mixing business and art, about succeeding together, not in spite of each other. There is no one able to do it all and, more often than not, those who try end up so bogged down they can barely reach above the surface for air, let alone finish their new LP.

In step Emily Dubin and Jeremy Berkin of Lost + Found MGMT. They aren’t here to take control, they aren’t the big, bad, faceless business crushing the true artists, and they are nowhere near outsiders. It doesn’t take long to realize, as I sit across from the two in West Philly’s Green Line Cafe, they are the essence of DIY; here do it with you, not for you. Continue reading →

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Ten ways to celebrate Philly Loves Bowie Week in 2018

David Bowie at Veteran’s Stadium for a pre-show cookout in 1987 | photo by Charles Krupa for the Associated Press | via PhillyVoice

Quick — what cities do you associate with shape-shifting rock icon David Bowie?

London…for sure, it’s where he was born, and where he got his creative start. Berlin…hard to dispute that, it’s where he lived in the late 70s and early 80s, recording his most artistically daring run of albums with Brian Eno.

But the Philadelphia region has just as strong a bond with Bowie. While he was on tour in support of Diamond Dogs, he recorded his July 1974 two-night stand at the Tower Theater, releasing it as the double album David Live. He also worked on his incredibly successful 1975 album Young Americans at Sigma Sound, soaking in the influence of the city’s R&B and soul scenes and and developing a following of “Sigma Kids” — devoted super-fans who hung out in and around the Chinatown studio while Bowie worked inside with Tony Visconti.

In 1987, the North American leg of his ambitious, theatrical Glass Spider stadium tour kicked off with two sold-out nights at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly. In 1996, he gave an intimate (for Bowie) performance at the Electric Factory on the Earthling tour. And since the mid-thousands, an archive of Bowie’s master tapes from the Sigma years has been housed at Drexel University.

In summary, Bowie clearly loved Philadelphia…and Philly Loves Bowie, as evidenced by Philly Loves Bowie Week becoming an officially-proclaimed municipal happening last year on the anniversary of the rocker’s 2016 passing. It returns this year with 20+ events spread all over the city, from happy hours to film screenings to a closing tribute concert at Union Transfer. So put on your red shoes and dance the blues: here are our picks for ten ways to celebrate Philly Loves Bowie Week. Continue reading →

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Listen to the #XPNAtoZ Leftovers Weekend


Last December, XPN spent a few weeks in alphabet city, playing songs from the XPN musical universe from A to Z. Not played were the songs that started with numbers and parentheses, holding them off for the future. The future comes this weekend, starting Friday, April 7th at 7pm with an A to Z Leftovers Weekend. Continue reading →

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Tumors and disco balls: Jens Lekman on growing older, feeling starstruck, “emotional autobiography” and why he wants the Phillies to lose

Jens Lekman | photo by Ellika Henrikson | courtesy of the artist
Jens Lekman | photo by Ellika Henrikson | courtesy of the artist

Jens Lekman, one of our most beloved and singularly charming songwriters, returned last month with his triumphant fourth full-length, Life Will See You Now. It might be the Swede’s most immediately gratifying collection yet, juxtaposing his typically tender and perceptive wit with some of his most exuberant (and danceable) music to date. It’s his first album since 2012’s relatively more subdued and reflective breakup-album-of-sorts, I Know What Love Isn’t, although he hasn’t exactly remained silent during the interim. In 2015 he wrote, recorded and released a new “Postcard” song every week – an effort to shake off writer’s block that paid some handsome dividends – and launched “Ghostwriting,” a project wherein he wrote songs based on other people’s stories. He’s also taken on a sideline as a wedding singer, performing at the nuptials of fans worldwide as way to help keep himself afloat while fulfilling the unwittingly prophetic promise of his 2004 ballad “If You Ever Need a Stranger (to Sing at Your Wedding).”

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16 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2016

DONTOVERLOOK2016The thing about year-end lists, though. Stuff gets left out. Incredible records are forgotten, or simply don’t make the cut when ranking around consensus. Sure, consensus can be a powerful tool in uncovering the things that your trusted sources can agree upon, framing these things as, definitively, “the best.”

But the idea of hierarchy is in itself exclusionary. “Best” does not equal “only.” We brought you our 15 best albums of the year earlier today, but by no means are these the sole albums that are impressive or important or worthy of your ears in 2016. They’re more of a starting point.

In a lot of ways, I’m more excited about this list: 16 albums that you should not overlook in 2016. These are releases that didn’t appear on more than a single list turned in by The Key’s contributing staff – most of them aren’t ranking on year-end lists elsewhere – but they were obviously striking enough to that person that they made their personal cut. So we asked them why.

These are all excellent records. Many of them are very important records, in the same way that Chance and Solange and Tribe and Beyonce are important. And they’re not getting talked about enough, by any stretch. Start listening, start talking. – John Vettese
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Blowdryer cover Devo on new label compilation

This is what it looked like when we played last night! Thanks @pokefan6669

A photo posted by Blowdryer (@blowdryer4u) on

Local power pop / punk trio Blowdryer are featured on a new comp curated by Deli Cat Records with a cover of DEVO’s “The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize.” It’s a retro, fuzzy interpretation of the song that trades the original’s geometric arrangement for distortion and poppy vocals. The Winter Paws collection of “scraps, demos and final cuts,” also features a contribution by Havertown native Emily Yacina (listen to that here).

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Potty Mouth at Everybody Hits, Liz Longley at Burlap & Bean, Patty Griffin at The Grand Opera House and more…

potty mouth
Potty Mouth | Photo by Megan Kelly

Northampton, MA trio Potty Mouth play Everybody Hits tonight with Stove, Mannequin Pussy and Blowdryer. Their self-titled EP was released last August, putting forth a collection of indie pop / seventies punk influenced songs like “Cherry Picking” below. Tickets and information for the all-ages show can be found here.

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In light of Golden Tea House closing, First Unitarian Church shows are (sort of) making a comeback

FIDLAR at First Unitarian Church
FIDLAR at First Unitarian Church

In its nearly three-year existence, the West Philly DIY venue Golden Tea House was able to transform the scene by packing in names, small and big, each week. As someone who just moved to Philly this year for school, the GTH was one of my first house show experiences and allowed me in to their all-ages space with open arms.

The announcement of the GTH closing was something to be expected, yet at the same time caught off-guard due to the number of shows they already had booked. And as a close-knit music scene, we’ve seen in the past week many of Philly’s DIY venues jump into action to pick up the former GTH shows. One of the more unexpected venues to come out of the woodwork is the First Unitarian Church, which is mostly booked by R5 Productions. Continue reading →