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Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten performs a heartwrenching cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night”

Photo by Dusdin Condre
Photo by Dusdin Condre

Sharon Van Etten recently covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” for The A.V. Club‘s localized cover series (this time New Jersey is the place of interest, which is near and dear to both artists). Van Etten’s rendition sounds like something stripped straight from a heartbreaking scene in a movie; her higher pitch delivery dances upon each piano note with emotional vocal cracks in the same way Springsteen’s signature rasp does in the original. That said, her rendition is inspired and all her own at the same time. Get tickets to Sharon Van Etten’s show at Union Transfer on June 18th here. Watch it below (and try not to sob too hard).

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When Bruce played the Tower Theater in December, 1975

borntorun
Photo via http://brucespringsteen.net/

The stories that have been told over the years about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s early performances in the Philadelphia area are by now, legendary. To fans, Bruce’s early shows at the Main Point (January 1973, February 1974) are stuff that dreams are made of. As amazing as those Main Point shows were, Bruce’s first show ever at the Tower Theater on September 20th, 1974 was a glimpse of the greatness that was actually still to come. In his review of the show, Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Bill Mandel wrote: “Bruce Springsteen and his band produce what is, to my mind, the best rock and roll available today. Period.”

Photo via http://brucebase.wikispaces.com/
Photo via http://brucebase.wikispaces.com/

Springsteen again played two shows at the Tower in November 1974, but fans would have to wait 13 months to see him again in Philly. On December 27, 28, 30 and 31, 1975, Bruce and the band took over the Tower for four absolutely stunning shows. It had been a little more than two years since Bruce released The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, and nine months before the release of Born To Run, even though songs like the title track, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “She’s The One,” “Jungleland,” and “Backstreets” had become set list staples. Some recordings of those shows have been around for years, however one of the most notable bootleg is the Last Tango In Philly that you can listen to below.

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Listen to John Francis’ Veteran’s Day cover of “Born in the U.S.A.”

Photo by Alan Messer
Francis recording his cover of “Born in the U.S.A.” | Photo by Alan Messer

Philadelphia-bred singer-songwriter John Francis has long been an advocate for social justice. Themes of disenfranchisement cropped up across his 2010 album Better Angels, from racial segregation to class stratification (get a refresher course in his Key Studio Session here). More recently, he threw the City of Love Festival to support local hunger charities and launched a PledgeMusic campaign, which seeks to both fund his next album and support the international poverty organization One. So when Francis chooses to cover a Bruce Springsteen song for Veteran’s Day, you know there’s more to it than just playing an iconic song by an iconic artist.

“Born in the U.S.A.” is one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock history; lyrically, the song tells a harrowing tale of the troubles faced by a Vietnam vet upon returning home, but it’s commonly used as a yay-America anthem at sporting events, 4th of July celebrations and even political campaigns. Which completely misses the point, and Springsteen’s original demo (recorded in the style of Nebraska and available on the Tracks box set) makes it much more evident. Francis’ own version takes a similar approach with strings and light acoustic instrumentation.

“I’m releasing the song today, Veteran’s Day, and working with veteran’s agencies locally and nationally to get the song out there,” Francis said via email. “It’s an attempt to bring exposure and shed light on the dire plight of many of our returning veteran’s, and our society’s pervasive blindness toward the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals.”

The songs was recorded in Creative Workshop Studio in Nashville and produced by Ken Coomer (original Wilco drummer, Uncle Tupelo), with Kenny Vaughan on guitar (Lucinda Williams, Ray Lamontagne) and Dave Roe on bass (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp). Listen to the track below.

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Philly wins advance screening of Springsteen & I 7/21 (find out how you can attend!)

Springsteen & I

At the beginning of this month, a Lucky Towns competition launched to see which cities across the globe could win the most votes to get an advanced screening of the new Boss documentary, Springsteen & I. The only two cities to win first place were Philadelphia and Barcelona. This Sunday, July 21st, the movie will be screening at the Ritz Landmark Five Theater at 10:30 a.m, celebrating 4 decades of Bruce Springsteen’s fruitful career.

The film focuses not only on the Boss and his life, but emphasizes on the fans that have made his name legendary by incorporating tons of personal video clips. To enter the competition to attend the screening, email your full name and “Philadelphia Lucky Towns” in the title to competitions@springsteenandi.com. Names will be chosen at random, and winners will receive two tickets for admission to the movie. For more information, check out the film’s website, and watch the trailer below.

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Ten stories from The Key that got you excited in 2012

The Menzingers (Photo by Madeleine Lesperance)

The amount of news that surfaces in a 24 hour period is astronomical anymore; multiplied by 365, that’s an onslaught of information we present you with during the calendar year. But some items always rise above the fold and prove to be something bigger. Here are the ten stories from The Key that drew your collective attention (and eyeballs) in 2012. Continue reading →

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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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Interview: Solving rock and roll puzzles with Debbie Gold of Rediscover Jigsaw Puzzles

With so much of our life’s activities spent playing virtual games, it’s refreshing to know that gaming still exists in real time and real life. This is where XPN member and business woman Debbie Gold comes in. Gold is the founder and owner of Gold Standard Games, a company that released the highly successful Grateful Deadopoly in 2009. Following up on Deadopoly, Gold just launched Rediscover Puzzles, the first volume in a series of classic album cover jigsaw puzzles. That’s right: good old fashioned, old school jigsaw puzzles; and these are cool. The concept is simple: take both sides of an iconic album cover and turn them into high quality, double sided, 300 piece, 16″ X 16″ sized puzzles. For the first volume, Gold nailed some pretty heavy classics including David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Late For The Sky by Jackson Browne, the Grateful Dead’s Aoxomoxoa, At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love, Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones.

Gold is an uber music fan who has been in music business for many years. She produced Bob Dylan’s 1992 album Good As I Been To You and has worked closely with the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen. Born in Mt. Airy, she spent her young teen years in Wyncote and went to Cheltenham High School. Two years into college, her life took a quick turn into the deep ends of rock and roll and the music business. The Key caught up with Gold via e-mail. Continue reading →