Travel through time with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (kicking off this Thursday, 3/28)

PIFAThe Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts gets underway this Thursday, March 28th and will run through April 27th.  With homebase returning to The Kimmel Center and a new theme of time travel this year, the month-long event will use performances, lectures and exihibitions to explore past moments in history including the discovery of America, the lunar landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Below, check out a few musical highlights that you won’t want to miss, including a selection of free concerts happening in the Kimmel Center’s “Time Travel Plaza” (where you will also find a spiraling time machine).

Last Call at the Downbeat (4/5-4/13, Red Room at the Society Hill Playhouse):  Learn about Philadelphia’s jazz scene in the forties with this staged retrospective of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.  Watch a short video about the play from show producers Jazz Bridge below.

Prima! Rufus! Judy! (4/21, Verizon Hall): Rufus Wainwright reprises Judy Garland’s return to the stage with selections from her 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.  The evening will begin with excerpts from Wainwright’s own opera Prima Donna.  Watch Wainwright perform “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Eric Slick at PhilaMOCA, Philly Plays Beck’s Song Reader at World Cafe Live, Elk Rhythms at the North Star Bar

The Key kicks off its month of curating Tuesday Tune-Out at PhilaMOCA with a special solo performance by local multi-instrumentalist Eric Slick.  Best known as the drummer for Dr. Dog and Norwegian Arms, Slick will be improvising a set to his new short film Primal Essence, filmed specifically for this event.  Opening up the night will be short sets by Jonathan Pfeffer (Capillary Action) and Michael Johnson (Ape School).  Admission is a suggested $5 donation at the door; more information can be found here.  Below, watch Slick show off his drumming skills in a Madoff Productions promo video.

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Photo Recap: Andrew Lipke and Gillian Grassie at The Tin Angel

As a precursor to the holiday weekend (and a sly tip-of-the-hat to the apocalypse buzz), Philly singer-songwriter Andrew Lipke – whose 2011 LP The Plague was a cycle of songs set in the endtimes – played The Tin Angel on Friday, December 21. He was joined by singer-songwriter-harpist Gillian Grassie. Each artist played a set, then the two dueted on a medley of seasonal selections, including “Last Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad.” Check out photos of the performance in the gallery above.


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Chris Sikich’s top five concert photos of 2012

For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, contributing photographer Chris Sikich recounts his five favorite concert images from the year.

The following represent my five favorite concert photos I took this year.

1.Wild Flag, Tuesday, April 3, 2012, Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA

Very little in contemporary rock is closer to perfection than bringing together Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Janet Weiss, and Rebecca Cole in one space. The aural ecstasy that is a Wild Flag concert oozes forth from this shot: Brownstein’s leg-kick, Timony’s guitar crouch, Cole as keyboard-extraordinaire, and Weiss at one with drumming.

Photo by Chris Sikich

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Download a new track from Andrew Lipke called “Ascetic Blues” (playing The Tin Angel on 12/21)

Following up his Siddiqah EP from May, local singer-songwriter Andrew Lipke has shared a new song with us called “Ascetic Blues.”  The track comes as a preview of Lipke’s next full-length Songs from Siddhartha (with an expected release in the spring) and showcases Lipke’s knack for creating orchestral rock pieces that still feel intimate.  “Ascetic Blues” is available as a free download on Lipke’s Soundcloud and Bandcamp through the end of the year.  He’ll be performing at The Tin Angel this Friday, December 21st for the Winter Solstice Concert with Gillian Grassie; tickets and information are available here.  Stream the new song below.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Boom Room Studio’s first anniversary party, Zammuto at Johnny Brenda’s, Cheers Elephant and more at Maysie’s Farm Fest, Gotye at The Tower Theatre, Melody Gardot at The Merriam Theatre

Photo by Theresa McCullough |

To celebrate its one-year anniversary, Fishtown recording studio Boom Room has booked a monster of a show.  Headlined by hip hop group Camp Lo, The W.E. featuring R&B singer Jaguar Wright, psych-jazz trio Grimace Federation and Kuf Knotz, the event will have an outdoor stage, an indoor dance party and an after party.  Complementary food and beverages will be provided by Vitamin Water, Pabst Blue Ribbon and the Local 215 food truck so really, you have no excuse to not dance your feet off.  Tickets are $30 and can be purchased here for the 21+ party, which kicks off at 1:00 p.m.  Below, watch a promo video for Boom Room Studios.

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Photo Recap: Andrew Lipke and The Azrael Quartet at Christ Church in Riverton, N.J.

On Saturday night Andrew Lipke played an intimate show at Christ Church in Riverton, N.J. with his string section, The Azreal Quartet. They played selections from Lipke’s 2011 album The Plague, as well as his current EP Siddiqah. Check out a photo recap of the evening in the gallery above.


Photo Recap: Saturday at Philadelphia Folk Festival with Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Philly Local Showcase and more

Saturday was a huge day at the 51st Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, kicking off with a WXPN Philly Local Showcase, continuing through a Steve Earle / Lucinda Williams collaboration and peaking with a rousing set by Little Feat. Check out a photo recap in the gallery above.


XPN Philly Local at the Philly Folk Fest: Helen Leicht on her camp stage picks

Aaron Brown of Aaron and the Spell

Every year, the Saturday concerts at Philadelphia Folk Fest get moving with Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Showcase on the festival’s Camp Stage. This year’s lineup spans styles from soul to chamber rock, kicking off with Aaron and the Spell at 11:00, continuing with Carsie Blanton at 11:45, Harper Blynn at 12:30 and Andrew Lipke at 1:15. Today, Helen gives us a look at the homegrown talent she has in store.

Aaron and the Spell is the impressive acoustic soul project of Harrisburg’s Aaron Brown, an emerging songwriter who in the past has dabbled in punk rock and (in high school) jazz music. His songs are neither punk nor jazz and that’s totally fine, since his singing voice is warm and welcoming, styled after Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. “As soon as I heard him sing, I said ‘wow!’” says Helen. “At our Philly Local showcase, I try to feature different styles of music, and he’s a great representation of soul music, the soul sound of Philly. Plus, his cover of ‘Purple Rain’ blew me away. When I heard him do it, I said ‘seriously, this guy is for real.’” Aaron and the Spell will be featured in tomorrow’s Key Studio Session, and you’ll be able to hear the tracks debut on tonight on the Philly Local Hour on 88.5 FM. Below, check out a recording of Brown singing “God Bless America” at Citizens’ Bank Park for a Phillies game.

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Meet the hosts of the FDR Park Summer Concert Series, Dani Mari and Reverend TJ McGlinchey

UPDATE: The show has been postponed due to the potential rain, rescheduled date TBA.

Poster designed by Ryan Psota

Local singer-songwriters Dani Mari and Reverend TJ McGlinchey have teamed up to host a monthly concert series in a popular South Philly park this summer. The FDR Park Summer Series kicked off on June 8th with performances by Griz and Kevin Killen, as well as sets from the hosts. The next concert in the series is this Friday featuring Toy Soldiers and Thom McCarthy. I sat down with Dani Mari and Reverend TJ McGlinchey to chat about the FDR Park Summer Series, what they’ve been up to, their new band, Lovers League, and the pair recorded a couple of acoustic songs for us.

McGlinchey and Mari first met about seven years ago through the local open mic scene and  reconnected in 2010 when Mari was the featured artist for Hezekiah Jones‘ open mic at JD Mc Gillicuddy’s in Ardmore. Since then, the pair have collaborated on recordings and performances: McGlinchey had Mari open for his CD release show at World Cafe Live in January. Now, in addition to hosting the FDR Park Summer Series, they are getting ready to record an album for their band, Lovers League.

Mari explains how the FDR Park Summer Series came about when she met Greg Jacovini, a member of the FDR Park Board. “He mentioned that they’re looking to have more live music there. I told him I had hosted a couple of festivals on the roof of Whole Foods a couple years ago. We were talking about it back and forth and finally decided to move forward and try to put something together for the summer.” They decided to put on a show once a month in the park. Mari contacted McGlinchey to co-host the concert series with her and he brought in his connections.

“Both my brothers are audio engineers,” he explained. “So it was easy to get sound. My little brother is doing the sound for it and bringing the PA. And just hanging out in the Philly scene I got to know some of the better musicians and had some connections to use there to get some good headliners.”

When asked about the vibe they were going for, McGlinchey laughed and responded, “Not heavy metal.” Continue reading →