British musical exports tend not to make the same impressions as American ones. For as long as the cross-Atlantic musical conversation has involved mutual influence and spawned massive crossover successes (Radiohead, Coldplay, The Strokes, the Dandy Warhols, etc.), there have been artists on both sides whose fame has been largely confined to one side or another.
Elbow (sometimes stylized “elbow”) have spent much of their seventeen-year career in the same category as acts like Kate Bush and the Stone Roses – critically acclaimed on both sides of the pond, but only truly popular in the UK. Chalk it up to whatever you want – the thick Manchester accents, the sometimes-twee references to localities that escape even the staunchest Anglophiles – but they never quite hit here. Their last Philly gig, at 2011’s POPPED! Festival, was met mainly with stares and boredom by an audience rabidly awaiting Cage the Elephant.
Now, this epically-oriented quintet looks to be reversing their fortunes with this year’s The Takeoff and Landing of Everything (Fiction/Concord). Released in mid-March and immediately entering #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart, the band’s sixth full-length album marks their evolution from prog-inspired alt-rockers (in the vein of contemporaries and supporters like Radiohead and Coldplay) to anthem-churning arena act. The album’s lead-off single, “New York Morning”, illuminates their capacity for shimmering beauty on a broad scale (as well as its applicability for an increasingly-rabid American market). With tonight’s gig at the Electric Factory (one of the few stops on their North American tour to still not sell out), they just might prove themselves capable of finally bridging the cross-pond gap.
Elbow plays the Electric Factory tonight with opener John Grant. Click here to purchase tickets and find more information.
Donald Glover is a man of many traits; an actor, a comedian, a writer, but this night he was his musical moniker, Childish Gambino. The Electric Factory was packed with eager fans anticipating what was sure to be an epic performance. The background was lit with a twitter feed where fans could type in anything and it would pop up on screen which ensued hilarity and a lot of sexual innuendos.
With no opening act, only a DJ that played 90′s hip hop singles like “Hot in Herre” and “MotownPhilly”, the crowd was getting antsy. Especially when there was a dropped phone call over the loud speakers that beeped for a few minutes before Gambino finally entered the stage.
Ok, so I haven’t really been to many hip hop shows, with the exception of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the Roots Picnic last year. So in my head all I picture is the main rapper and DJ in the background. That was not the case here, the stage was packed with instrumentalists from a keyboardist, two guitarists, a DJ, a drummer, and probably a few others. Not to mention his posse of folks just chillin’ in the back on couches. The backgrounds were stellar, they included a house with windows , crazy blue and white surging lightning bolts, and an outdoor bonfire.
Gambino gave a strong performance and commanded the audience with rap ballads and power chords featuring thoughtful lyrics about racism, politics, family, and love.
He belted out tunes from his latest LP, Because the Internet as well as a few numbers from his previous, Camp and ended the night with a special freestyle with fellow artist, Steve G Lover.
Since their official debut in 2011, Grouplove have made themselves pretty hard to resist with upbeat poppy anthems that they’ll recreate live tonight at the Electric Factory. Their new album Spreading Rumours arrived late last year led by hit single “Ways to Go”. Watch them play “I’m With You” below and get tickets here.
Flogging Molly have been making celtic punk cool for nearly 15 years and tonight they’re taking the Electric Factory stage on their annual Green 17 Tour. For the 10th year in a row, the LA natives will play a bunch of shows as a countdown to St. Patty’s Day. The band hasn’t made much noise musically since their last album Speed of Darkness hit shelves in 2011, but it left fans wanting more from the seven-piece ensemble. Get tickets here and watch “Drunken Lullabies” below.
With 20 years in the industry under his belt, singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson released his eighth album Last of the Great Pretenders last summer via Vanguard Records. After scoring a platinum hit with 2007′s succulent pop ballad “Come On Get Higher” (and playing the XPoNential Music Festival in 2008), Nathanson’s fanbase expanded greatly. Tonight, the Massachusetts native takes to the World Cafe Live stage for a show benefiting WXPN’s Musicians On Call initiative that brings musicians to the bedsides of hospital patients. Watch “Kinks Shirt” below and get tickets here.
Saturday night the Electric Factory shook with a satisfied rumble that only the sublime brew of funk and soul can provide. Headliners Galactic rolled into town to lay down their NOLA-born jams and their fans were out in force, but one would be hard-pressed to say the show hadn’t already been stolen by opener Charles Bradley, the Screaming Eagle of Soul, the Black Rose, the Doctor of Love. With his signature wail and phenomenal moves, sporting not one but two sequins-encrusted outfits, Bradley gave what many would call the performance of a lifetime, but which for him is probably just another night on the town.
Only Dr. Dog could play for a sold-out crowd of 3500 fans and make it feel as cozy as a living room show. Kicking off a two-night stand at the Electric Factory last night, the band blew through a 23-song set showcasing its fine new outing B-Room - the band’s eighth – while also skipping across what bassist Toby Leaman called “the proverbial vaults.” Moreover, there was a comfort level in the air that usually dissipates for artists the larger the venues get and the longer they perform. But for these Philly rock and roll stalwarts, the hometown show still feels like home.
There were the Philly friends they brought onstage – Rob Berliner of Hoots and Hellmouth, who sat in on keys for “Love,” and an unidentified woman who strummed the acoustic guitar part on their cover of “Heart it Races” by Architecture in Helsinki (a cover that, impressively, has surpassed the original in recognizablility). Leaman sent “Nellie” out to his wife Sarah and their baby daughter, before joking that he’d also like to dedicate “Shadow People” to “my beautiful baby Scott McMicken. Look at him, he’s walking now! It’s amazing.” Scott responded by hobbling around his mic, toddler style, before kicking into the song’s instantly recognizable opening chords and opening up a sea of voices.
That’s the other thing – the singalong / clapalong rapport these guys Dr. Dog has developed over time. Fans might not necessarily think about it while listening to the albums, but they somewhere subconsciously know all the words to “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” or “Ain’t It Strange” or “The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer,” and quite likely sang themselves hoarse last night. At least I did anyway.
While the set wasn’t without imperfections – a guitar lead that went awry in “Oh No,” scattered vocal pitchiness on “Love” – those imperfections just reinforced that Dr. Dog is a real and approachable band of everyday people, in addition to being a band with an outstanding live energy.
“Too Weak To Ramble,” Leaman’s solo acoustic sad-man ballad on B-Room, was fleshed out into a soulful full-band gospel jam.
There was an instrumental number mid-set that might be the deepest of deep jams for these guys, or it might be a cover; it sounded like Stan Getz. They also dusted off their debut Toothbrush EP for an outstanding “Jealous Man.” (UPDATE: per Eric Slick and commenters below and on Facebook, the instrumental was also from Toothbrush. It’s called “Say Ahhh.” And I still say sounded like Stan Getz. -JV)
A great McMicken quote after the rousing “don’t give it up” coda of “My Friend” – “Every band should build a part into a song where they rock super hard on an E chord. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Per Instagram’s geotag, some dude in the crowd got butt naked for reasons unclear.
Leaman dove into the crowd at the end of the main set, hugged fans and raced along the barricade hi-fiving those in the front row – again, making the Electric Factory feel like a house party. Dr. Dog returns to its stage tonight for a second sold out show.
Lancaster County wavemakers The Districts played a very well-received opening set, hitting on their just-released self-titled EP (out on Fat Possum on Tuesday) as well as a few other scattered cuts – some new, some old. “Funeral Beds” sounded remarkable, the closing “Young Blood” – the epic number that wrapped up their XPoNential Music Festival set – was raging, and the guys seemed very much at home on the Electric Factory stage. Hopefully it won’t be too long till we see them there again.
Central Pennsylvania-bred rockers The Districts are in the middle of a pretty awesome week. On Tuesday, their self-titled EP came out on Fat Possum Records, and they played a pizza-fueled release party at A.K.A. Music in Old City Philadelphia. Tonight, they play their biggest Philly show to date, opening for Dr. Dog at the Electric Factory.
They also appeared live on the WXPN airwaves this week, performing two songs acoustic on the Leicht Lunch and chatting with host Helen Leicht about their plans now that their music is out in the world in a bigger way than ever before. Watch a video of the guys playing “Rocking Chair” in the XPN studios below, and listen to the entire interview in the Soundcloud player below. And get more information on the show tonight at the WXPN concert calendar.
Pixies ruled Philadelphia on Friday, selling out both a rare acoustic performance at World Café Live’s Free at Noon and their nighttime Electric Factory show. By the time the band took the stage for their evening reign at 9:45, the crowd was warmed up from the freezing outside after putting their hands together and moshing to Los Angeles-based garage punks Fidlar.
When the revolutionary alt-rockers from Boston unleashed the first chords of “Bone Machine” that gave way to the surging “Debaser,” the night was set for some grand rock memories.
Lead singer and guitarist Black Francis, alongside guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and touring bassist Paz Lenchantin, belted out a nearly 30-song set that covered the expanse of their career. It would be tough to not satisfy most fans with the selection from such classics as “Where is My Mind” and “Wave of Mutilation” as well as their recent works, as represented by songs like “Bagboy” and “Magdalena.”
Backed by an impressive lighting arrangement that involved light reflecting off surfaces in the ceiling and their backdrop of stacks of glass boxes, they were dramatically lit for much of the performance. And the sound was glorious.
It was a stellar set that ultimately, unfortunately, left some wanting. The band said nary a word to an adoring audience that sang along and even crowd-surfed. And after what seemed to be a joyous end to “Nimrod’s Son,” with Santiago having great fun with his guitar and even exchanging his hat with a smiling Lenchantin, the band did not return — despite playing an encore at every other show on the tour, the crowd loudly clapping and calling for more, and the stage seemingly set for a return.
Certainly ruling the soundwaves is hard work and not always satisfying for all. But even though the abrupt ending left a sour taste for some at the end of the night, the rare delicacy of Pixies’ ferocious sound is destined to bring fans back as long as the band deigns to tour.
For more than 25 years, Pixies have remained an influential yet enigmatic force on the underground scene, their taut guitar lines and harsh melodies, interspersed with moments of real sweetness, an inspiration for acts as varied as Nirvana and U2. Their impressive catalogue runs the gamut from wispy post-punk haunters (the ghostly “Where Is My Mind”) to face-melting ragers (the screeching “Rock Music”) to surprisingly breezy pop songs (the near-perfect “Here Comes Your Man”)—all accentuated by front man Black Francis’s distinctive and aggressive vocals.
The past decade has certainly been a turbulent one for the band, who reformed in 2003 after a 10 year hiatus, and spent the next few years playing a string of reunion shows before surprising fans with an unannounced EP, EP1, in September 2013. The release came shortly after the news that bassist and longtime member Kim Deal, whose floaty back-up vocals and killer bass chops added both balls AND corporeality, had quit. The band is now touring with bassist Paz Lenchantin, whose resume includes A Perfect Circle, The Entrance Band, and Zwan. They’ve also released anotherEP, EP2, featuring four new, hard-hitting rockers.
The Pixies will stop by the Electric Factory on Friday, January 24 (tickets and info at the WXPN Concert Calendar) and will warm up for the show with an appearance at XPN’s Free at Noon concert series (RSVP hereUPDATE: sold out). In anticipation of their show, I rung up guitarist Joey Santiago, whose wily, unpredictable guitar lines are an integral part of the Pixies sound, to talk fans, blackout curtains, and why Kim will always be the darling of the Pixies. Read on!
The Key: You guys just released a new EP. What has the response been like so far?
Joey Santiago: It’s been received very positively, particularly the song “Blue Eyed Hexe” (although I particularly like “Magdalena”). The one “criticism” I’ve heard is that maybe it sounds like AC/DC. To which I say…and what is the problem with that? (laughs)
TK: Do you think people’s reactions are swayed as a result of your decision to release it suddenly, without fanfare?
JS: No, not at all—this is the second time we just dropped the bomb on people. It’s been positive. It’s a surprise, but in this day and age, you can surprise people because everything is digital. I think people appreciate the surprise. I think the days of telling people when you’re going to release a record are over.