Philadelphia is blowing up NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest and it’s amazing

Levee Drivers' Tiny Desk submission | photo by Bob Sweeney
Levee Drivers’ Tiny Desk submission | photo by Bob Sweeney

For those of you who don’t know about NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, you may want to head over to their site and root through their enormous and equally impressive archive. Their 15-minute videos feature live performances from artists of all genres held in the quaint offices of NPR at All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s desk.

Ranging from big names like Adele and Alt-J to up-and-coming artists such as Angel Olsen and Rubblebucket, viewers are able to watch the artists perform in the intimate setting, giving the performances a stripped-down, no B.S. vibe. While these videos are ultra fun to watch (perhaps continuously, one after another…), NPR kept things interesting this winter by kicking off a contest to feature a new artist in their series.

Based entirely off of video submissions from all over the United States, an artist will be chosen to perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. as well as snag a slot in the big Lagunitas Couchtrippin’ showcase in Austin, Texas. Philadelphia, brimming with the amazing musical talent that it is, seems to have jumped at this opportunity. Continue reading →


Lovers League invites you to embrace your inner “Cowboy” (playing Connie’s Ric Rac on 10/26)

lovers leagueLovers League, formed by Philadelphia-bred singer/songwriters Dani Mari (Lockets) and Reverend TJ McGlinchey, has released its new single “Cowboy”. The track highlights Mari and McGlinchey’s catchy harmonies backed by a bluesy bass line and folksy guitar work embodying the best of both singers’ vibes. The band will host a single release party to share more new music on October 26th at Connie’s Ric Rac.


Stream and download “Mirrors,” a new song from Dani Mari (playing the Philadelphia Folk Festival on 8/16)


This past spring, the Philadelphia Folksong Society held a talent show of sorts, inviting local musicians to compete for an opening slot at this month’s Philadelphia Folk Festival.  Singer-songwriter Dani Mari came out on top, her shining acoustic folk / pop songs earning her a set on Friday, August 16th’s Lobby Stage.  Following March’s “Only” single (and several single releases from her dream-pop duo project Lockets) Dani Mari has shared a new collaborative single called “Mirrors.”  Appearing on the track alongside Mari are local artists Griz, Reverend TJ McGlinchey, Christopher Davis-Shannon and Chris Miller.  Stream and download the track below.  Tickets and information for the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival can be found here.  Dani Mari will also be performing at the Brandywine Folk Fest and Musikfest.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Arrah and the Ferns at PhilaMOCA, White Laces at Kung Fu Necktie, Dani Mari at Philadelphia Folk Festival Co-Op Showcase, Baroness at Union Transfer

FernsArrah and the Ferns play PhilaMOCA tonight.  The concert will act as both the band’s album release show for Make Your Mind as well as its final show before going on hiatus.  Formed in 2005 in Muncie, Indiana, the country / indie rock band has been a staple of the local show circuit for the last few years after settling down in Philadelphia in 2010.  They stopped by for a Key Studio Video Session last year – check it out below.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show with  Pretty & Nice, Andrew Cedermark and Jackie Paper can be found here.

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Today’s Concert Picks: Work Drugs, City Rain, and Cold Fronts at Johnny Brenda’s, Kite Party at Goldilocks Gallery, and Johnny Miles at FDR Park

Photo by Sarah Fry |

It’s Friday and what better way to kick off the weekend than with some good old-fashioned live music. First off, local bands Work Drugs, City Rain, and Cold Fronts are sharing a bill at Johnny Brenda’s for a night of indie vibes. The doors for the 21+ show open at 8 p.m. and the bands start at 9:15 p.m. Tickets are available for $10 in advance here. Listen to Work Drugs’ song “Pluto” in the player below.

Philly alt rock band Kite Party is playing an all ages show at Goldilocks Gallery tonight with punk band Captain We’re Sinking! and support by Luther and Cayetano. The show starts at 9 p.m. and admission is $5. Visit the event page here. Below, listen to Kite Party’s album “Baseball Season.”

Finally, if you’re looking for some free outdoor music, check out Johnny Miles and Ben Arnold playing at FDR Park tonight. The show is part of the FDR Park Summer Concert Series and also features performances by hosts Dani Mari and Reverend T.J. McGlinchey. Check out an interview the Key did with Dani Mari and Reverend T.J. McGlinchey about the FDR Park Summer Concert Series here.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Cheers Elephant at Johnny Brenda’s, The 9 Songwriters Series at Milkboy, and Sonni Shine & the Underwater Sounds at The Blockley

Philly indie favorites Cheers Elephant with be rocking out at Johnny Brenda’s tonight with local surf rock quartet The Great White Caps and Virginia indie band The Trillions. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9:15 p.m. Tickets for the 21+ event are available for $10 here. Check out the sweet music video for Cheers Elephant’s song “Doin’ It, Right” below.

Started in 2008 by singer/songwriter Justin Trawick, “The 9 Songwriter Series” is a touring show that features a rotation of nine singer/songwriters from various cities and musical backgrounds brought together on one bill. Tonight the Series is coming to MilkBoy Coffee in Ardmore and the line-up features the Series founder Justin Trawick, as well as local artists Dani Mari, Reverend TJ McGlinchey, Jason Ager, and Alexandra Day, as well as
Chris Scanlon, Max Seidman, Sarah Napolitan (of Turnips), and Jon Paul. The show begins at 8 p.m. and admission is $8.

Local reggae act Sonni Shine & the Underwater Sounds are playing tonight at The Blockley, along with Brooklyn-based funk band The Pimps of Joytime. The 21+ show begins at 9 p.m., tickets are $12. Sonni released a new full-length album since she recorded her Key Studio Session. You can listen to it below.


Get to know Lockets (playing Kung Fu Necktie Saturday)

Folk songstress Dani Mari, and former hardcore punk rocker Todd Mendelsohn teamed up a year ago and formed the lo-fi shoegaze project, Lockets. Together, the unlikely duo create hypnotizing dream pop tunes with Mendelsohn playing guitar and synths, and Mari providing the vocals. Lockets just released their first album, Camera Shy, at the end of July and their song “Catch Me” was featured in the movie The Kitchen staring That 70’s Show‘s Laura Prepon. Mari and Mendelsohn were actually headed straight to the movie’s premiere in New York City following their interview with The Key on Tuesday.

The pair met through the Philly open-mic scene where Mendelsohn was playing what Mari calls, “Molly Ringwald soundtrack music” and Mari was playing her solo acoustic material. “I’d see her play and we became friends. Initially, I didn’t think it would be the greatest fit because she was playing folky stuff, but after giving it a shot, after the first time we tried doing some recording in my apartment and working on some songs, I felt like it fit really well.”

Lockets is quite a departure from Mari’s solo material and she describes the difficult transition, saying, “I was so used to picking up my guitar, writing a song, playing it, and then that was it. It was a challenge at first working with Todd, but it ended up being something that helped me grow musically, to be able to find different ways to write, rather than just being in my comfort zone… With a lot of the solo stuff I write, it comes from whatever is going on in my life and sometimes I won’t have any ideas for a new song, whereas, working with Todd, he usually has an idea for the song and has it laid out, and then it’s just kind of me figuring out what fits best with it and what we both like for it.”

The band does not aim to exactly replicate their recordings in their live set. “The record, everyone describes it as being really relaxing, dreamy, and chill,”Mendelsohn says, “and the live band rocks a lot harder, but that’s okay.” Their show Saturday at Kung fu Necktie will be the band’s first headlining show and Mendelsohn created a new visual performance for their entire set. Using his film school background, he edited clips from short films to accompany their music, just as he’s done for the group’s previous music videos.

Lockets’ 21+ show at Kung Fu Necktie Saturday features support by local bands Attic Dancers and Language Problem. The show starts at 7:30PM and tickets are on sale for $10 here. Below, stream Lockets’ album, Camera Shy.


Download Digest: This week’s best free music incl. King Britt, Crash Course in Science, Big K.R.I.T.

Philadelphia's King Britt and his many LPs.


Here at The Key, we toss a fair heaping of free downloads your way, so it’s completely understandable if you miss a few. Here are our top five bits of digital music from the past week:

Iconic Philadelphia DJ King Britt curated the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage’s Noise from the 18th Floor broadcast series. Get a taste with his own composition, “Beyond the Sun,” here.

Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. announced a Sept. 21 appearance at The Blockley. Download a remix of his single “Don’t Miss This Jet” below.

Philly Folk scenesters Dani Mari and Rev. T.J. McGlinchey are curating a concert series at FDR Park. They sat down with The Key’s Lauren Thomas, told her about the event and played her a couple acoustic duets. Download McGlinchey’s “If You See Her” below.

Reunited Philadelphia post-punk / new wave band Crash Course in Science performed at the Vox Populi gallery on Friday night. In advance of the show, they recorded a Key Studio Session that we released on Wednesday; check out the snappy “It Costs to Be Austere” below.

Norwegian songwriter Sondre Lerche announced a tour that brings him to World Cafe Live in September, and the reissue of his first four albums in deluxe editions with unreleased material. Download “Boxing Day,” an outtake from his album Phantom Punch, below:


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 →