Today’s Free At Noon featured Australian folk rock duo Angus and Julia Stone. The two mosied on stage in front of a bubbly crowd and cut right to the chase, launching into their recent hit “A Heartbreak.” They played with candor, interweaving old gems and new ones alike. The performance featured cameo appearances of covers disguised in the Stones’ sound, including Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” as well as “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. As the set came to it’s close, the two thanked the crowd with sincerity and trickled off stage, but not before Angus coolly gave the crowd a hang-loose shaka shake.
Nashville’s Kopecky Family Band played a solid set at today’s double-header Free At Noon concert with The Stray Birds. All six members of the Nashville band trickled on stage, got into position and launched into their trademark high-energy performance, quickly snatching the attention of the audience. Their energy was infectious as they played, with lead vocalist Kelsey Kopecky urging the crowd to sing along and multi-instrumentalist Markus Midkiff utilizing heavy tom drum hits and rim clicks, crafting a beat you couldn’t help but groove to. Continue reading →
Experimental San Francisco rockers Foxygen showed that they were a force to be reckoned with at today’s Free At Noon show. With a packed house, the group played with seemingly-endless energy throughout their set, featuring backup vocalists performing synchronized dances and lead singer Sam France thrashing about the stage to their loud, soulful sound. Continue reading →
Wisconsin folk outfit Field Report got a warm reception at today’s Free at Noon concert. Performing as a trio on this tour, the band opened with “Decision Day”, a song off their soon-to-be released Marigolden, and a tune hailed by Stereogum for it’s engaging, translucent nature. Continue reading →
Nashville supergroup and #XPNfest veterans Trigger Hippy stopped in at World Cafe for a fantastic Free at Noon today, showcasing the rock and roll garnered from singer Joan Osborne’s songwriting career and from Stever Gorman’s and Jackie Greene’s experience with The Black Crowes. The set featured excellent harmonies between Osborne and Greene as well as frequent guitar solo battles between Greene and guitarist Tom Bukovac. Continue reading →
Trampled By Turtles treated attendees to an impeccable display of folk at a recent Free at Noon appearance, featuring frequent violin solos, four part harmonies, and stomp box and tambourine percussion.
The band stopped in Philly for the first of two times as part of the US leg of their tour, and they will return to Philly’s Union Transfer on the 10th of September. Hot off the release of their latest album, Wild Animals, they arrived at World Cafe to showcase the same infectious folk that kept them in the top 10 of Billboard’s Bluegrass chart for an entire year. Continue reading →
Australian electronica overlord Chet Faker kicked off NonComm Day 3 with an incredible set, filled with loop pedals, synth pads, and drum machines galore. Heavily influenced by jazz greats including Chet Baker, leading to his eventual name change, Chet Faker’s set was filled with jazz-influenced vocals, and syncopated drum beats. A highlight of the set was “Cigarettes and Chocolate,” an instrumental track which starts out with one single voice descending in a major scale, building in minimalist percussion, and eventually becomes driven by syncopated guitar and processed vocals.
Coming up to the NPR stage second on Day 3 of NonComm was former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser, who treated the audience to varied selections from his forthcoming LP Black Hours. Accompanied by a gargantuan band comprised of guitars, bass, mallet percussion and a four-piece string section, Leithauser showcased his songwriting prowess and excellent stage presence and in so doing convinced the audience that even though The Walkmen are no longer together, he has no intention of slowing down.
Suzanne Vega stopped by World Cafe Life for the second time in 2014, following a sold-out Free @ Noon performance at the World Cafe Downstairs stage. Despite it being nearly thirty years since her debut self-titled album dropped in 1985, her performance is just as compelling and entertaining as it was in the late 80’s. Vega’s show was largely stripped down, as she forewent a drummer and bass player, and was only accompanied by Gerry Leonard, a virtuoso guitarist who has played with David Bowie and Rufus Wainwright. She took frequent breaks between songs to explain background for various songs, and was able to seamlessly interact with the audience, many of whom were return concertgoers from Vega’s Free @ Noon performance earlier this year.
Vega blended perfectly a mix of her oldest material from her first two albums, Suzanne Vega and Solitude Standing, and her newest material, including her latest single “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain.” Her lyricism has obviously shifted in tone from her earliest records, even dropping a reference to Macklemore and his hit single “Thrift Shop” during one of the final verses of “Don’t Uncork.” As the night progressed, I grew to like more and more her older material, particularly key tracks from the first two records. Her track “The Queen And The Soldier” has the most homeric quality in its lyrics, and showcases Vega’s compelling lyricism and intricate storytelling. “Left of Center” showed off Gerry Leonard’s guitar prowess, featuring incredible loop pedal aptitude and percussive playing as well. Vega put a haunting twist on her hit track “Luka,” cutting out percussion and singing it a capella as it originally appeared on Solitude Standing, making way for the haunting nature of the track’s lyrics.
Overall, Vega treated me to an extremely enjoyable night of incredible lyricism mixed with shimmering folk and virtuoso guitar talent. My father fell in love with Vega in 1988, and remembers searching the Upper West side of New York City for Tom’s Diner as a college student. More than two decades later, Vega left an equally great impression on me, giving me an incredible appreciation for her infectious songwriting and chord structure and equally astounding lyrical talent.
Joining Vega was Bronx-bred Ari Hest, warming up the audience with a vast repertoire spanning 15 years of warm baritone vocals mixed with hearty, Beatles-influenced guitar folk.
Folk trio Nickel Creek are back in fine form with their new LP A Dotted Line and a spirited live show on display at today’s Free at Noon concert. The band, who plays the Tower Theater tonight (tickets and info at the XPN Concert Calendar), played a well-received set touching on the new album and digging into their back-catalogue for a few selections including the popular single “When In Rome” from 2005’s Why Should the Fire Die. Check out a gallery of photos and listen back to the performance in its entirety below.