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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Two Piece Fest IX at First Unitarian Church, Ben Arnold at Underground Arts, Winter Doldrums Fest at World Cafe Live and more…

two piece fest
Joint Chiefs of Math | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

The ninth annual Two Piece Fest takes place at the First Unitarian Church today. As we previously reported, the day-long event is “an exercise in mayhem and minimalism that brings the DIY scene together, one duo at a time.” This year’s line-up includes Joint Chiefs of Math, Brown Rainbow, Empty Vessels and a dozen more. Tickets and information for the all-ages show can be found here; listen to Joint Chiefs’ “Get Rich or Try Dyin'” below.

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The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Ben Arnold, The Dans and more…

ben arnold
Ben Arnold | Photo by Alyssa Dempsey for WXPN

This week’s Key Studio Session featured local musician Ben Arnold, who brought his band with him to preview songs from their new record. Lost Keys will be released next week and they’ll be back at XPN for a Free at Noon performance. Sign up for that here, stream “Detroit People” below and get the full session here.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ben Arnold

Veteran Philly singer-songwriter / rock-n-roller Ben Arnold has covered a lot of ground in the two decades he’s been making music. In the mid-90s, he was signed to Ruffhouse / Columbia and released the slacker-pop nugget Almost Speechless – which is a tiny bit ironic since the man is the total opposite of a slacker.

By the early aughties, he had grown into a more nuanced singer-songwriter and received a lot of attention from WXPN for In Case I’m Gone Tomorrow, as well as his acclaimed 4-Way Street supergroup with Jim Boggia, Scott Bricklin and Joseph Parsons. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Locals weigh in on the Greatest Year in Music

Greatest Year

The theme for WXPN’s annual countdown this year is The Greatest Year In Music, and WXPN invites you to vote on what you think was the greatest year (or years) were in music.

Polls for XPN’s Greatest Year in Music close tomorrow – Monday, October 26th – and if you’re still on the fence about what to vote for, read through some cases we gathered from local musicians and writers. Below, check out snippets from Ben Vaughn (1964), Tara Murtha (1989), Aaron Parnell Brown (1971) and more. Then vote for your favorite year in music here and listen back to winners during the Greatest Year In Music countdown starting Monday, November 2nd.

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Free at Noon Flashback: Arkells rocks, charms and teases the Philly crowd

Arkells | Photo by Liz Waldie | lizwaldie.com
Arkells | Photo by Liz Waldie | lizwaldie.com

The Canadian band Arkells kicked off today’s Free at Noon double-header, bringing their indie-pop stylings to the buzzing World Café Live crowd.

On the back of their charismatic lead singer, Max Kerman, Arkells ran quickly through an impressive set of larger-than-life indie pop jams. Kerman built a quick rapport with the audience, joking about everything from ripping off John Lennon — they have a song literally titled “John Lennon” — to the Blue Jays beating the Phillies in the World Series over 20 years ago. Continue reading →

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25 locals (plus!) come together to sing for retiring XPN Folk Show host Gene Shay

ShayFestFaces
Photo by Lisa Schaffer

“Sing For Gene Shay” is a new tribute song to the “Dean of Folk DJs” Gene Shay in honor of his retirement this Sunday, February 1st as the host of WXPN’s Folk Show. Written, recorded and produced under the name of “Friends Of Gene,” 25 local musicians and a team of four producers and engineers came together to pay a loving tribute to Shay, who has been on the air for 50+ years hosting folk music in Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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Huffamoose to reunite for a benefit at Ardmore Music Hall

Huffamoose | Photo courtesy of the band
Huffamoose | Photo courtesy of the band

On Sunday, November 23rd at the Ardmore Music Hall, Huffamoose will reunite, with special guests Jim Boggia, Ben Arnold and The Fractals. 100% of all the ticket sales will benefit Dan’s Voice, a memorial fund for the treatment and research of head and neck cancer. A Chapter of the Board of Associates of Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dan’s Voice was founded in memory of Dan Rich, who lost his voice and his life to laryngeal/esophageal cancer.

Huffamoose – lead singer and guitarist Craig Elkins, guitarist and singer Kevin Hanson, bassist Jim Stager and drummer Erik Johnson – formed in 1992, and were signed to Interscope Records in 1994. The band debuted in 1993 with their self-titled independent release, and had several songs, including “James” and “I Want To Buy You A Ring,” that got a lot of airplay on WXPN. After signing with Interscope, they released their major label debut, We’ve Been Had Again, in June 1997. The band, known for their mix of rock with jazz influences, had rocky times on the label. After relocating to Los Angeles to work with producer Joe Chiccarelli, unhappy with the results, they convinced their A&R representative to let them re-record the album in Ardmore at the now defunct Chill Factor studios. While the making of the record more aptly fit the band’s musical vision, it strained relations with the label even further.

In a June 1997 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Craig Elkins told writer Tom Moon:

“We definitely came to appreciate the uphill battle for an unknown band,” Elkins says. “At any point along the way we could have gone along with some advice we didn’t feel comfortable with. We listened to all the options, but most of the time we ended up sticking to our guns, for better or worse. Having to fight for what you believe in, that helps you grow.”

Members of the band are still active in music. After moving to California, Elkins has enjoyed a solo career. Kevin Hanson formed The Fractals in 2010, teaches guitar at the University of the Arts, and, as an in demand session player, has played on records by The Roots, Jill Scott, Usher, Trey Songz and Jay Z. Johnson and Stager also perform with Hanson in The Fractals.

Below, watch a video of the band perform “Wait,” from an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

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US Rails performs live for On The Hill Session at Kettle Pot Tracks

US Rails @ SalaSon (Cangas do Morrazo)
Photo by Áitor Nova

Beloved local Americana supergroup US Rails, led by multi-instrumentalist Ben Arnold, performed live for the On The Hill Series at Kettle Pot Tracks on site at Steel City Coffee in Phoenixville, Pa.

The folk/rock band – comprised of Arnold, Joseph Parsons, Scott Bricklin, Tom Gilliam, and Matt Muir – play a trio of tracks in a simple and intimate basement venue for the On the Hill series; an appropriate setting for their low-down grass-roots sound. Acoustically driven, the session is a personal look into this seasoned group of players in the local roots scene.

Catch everything from the session here. US Rail’s latest album Heartbreak Superstar is available now via Blue Rose Records. Watch two videos from the On The Hill Session below.

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