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Free at Noon Flashback: The Cactus Blossoms flaunt a fuller folk-rock sound at World Cafe Live

Cactus Blossoms | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

If you were looking for a folk fix this fine Friday afternoon, World Cafe Live was the place to be. Minneapolis crooners The Cactus Blossoms made a brief stop in town to serenade a packed house at today’s Free at Noon, and brought a taste of their new album Easy Way, which is out March 1, with them.

Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey fill their songs with the kind of harmonies only siblings have — whether it’s genetic or just the product of a lifetime of practice, it’s earned them countless Everly Brothers comparisons, awestruck audiences, and even an appearance in the Twin Peaks reboot. Supported today by a dynamic backing band, The Cactus Blossoms brought plenty of the lilting country songs they’ve become known for, but also showed a fuller, more rock-influenced side to their sound which it seems like we’ll be hearing more of on the new album, which according to Rolling Stone is a reflection on “love, joy and the need to connect.” Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Amy Helm brings love and rock to World Cafe Live

Amy Helm | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Singer-songwriter Amy Helm is on tour with her new album, This Too Shall Light, an vibrant tribute to love, family, and the power of the human soul. Helm is the daughter of beloved drummer Levon Helm from The Band, and the legacy of father-daughter songwriting comes through in this album. With Helm on voice and mandolin, Mark Marshall on guitar, Adam Minkoff on piano and bass, and Tony Mason on drums, the quartet embraced their space at the Free at Noon concert and maximized their folk rock sound. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Haerts trades flashy synths for stripped-back simplicity

Haerts | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

New York-via-Germany indie pop duo Haerts made their way down to Philadelphia today with none of their trademark synths in tow. Instead, they treated today’s Free at Noon crowd to what they described as a “very stripped down” performance, trading flashier sounds for simple acoustic guitar and piano. It was both a look back at the band’s roots as a singer-songwriter duo, and a heartfelt exploration at the emotions at the center of their new album. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Phosphorescent lives up to their name at World Cafe Live

Phosphorescent at WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Merriam Webster dictionary defines phosphorescence as “luminescence that is caused by the absorption of radiations (such as light or electrons) and continues for a noticeable time after these radiations have stopped.” Minus the more science-y parts of that, one can only assume that Phosphorescent is going for a similar vibe with their music. Though the hazy glow that envelops the band during their live set is technically thanks to the lighting crew, their soft and airy songs are lush and drawn-out, winding on and on in a way that breathes life into their mouthful of a name. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Shy Boys introduce Kansas City indie pop to World Cafe Live

Shy Boys performing at World Cafe Live for WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert | photo by Rich McKie

Shy Boys may be from out of town — Kansas City, Missouri, to be exact — but their two-day stint in Philadelphia has had them feeling right at home. After the band’s show at PhilaMOCA last night, they were gearing up for today’s Free at Noon performance with a hearty breakfast when frontman Collin Rausch noticed that the restaurant was playing XPN over the speakers. It got even more surreal for the band when they heard a promo for own show today, making them feel like they weren’t too far away from home after all. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Artist-to-watch Ruston Kelly soars in his Free at Noon debut

Ruston Kelly | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Ruston Kelly came onstage for today’s Free at Noon with the demeanor of a road-weary troubadour who thought it felt more like 9 a.m. than noon, but it didn’t take long for the musician to reveal the powerhouse energy that takes his songs from sleepy, whispered country tunes to soaring belted-out ballads in the span of seconds. The Nashville-based singer songwriter is touring behind his debut album Dying Star and is just in the beginning stages of becoming a familiar name in country music, but with his refreshing, raw sound that’s nothing like what you’d hear on mainstream country radio, he’s well on his way to becoming a champion of country fans who don’t necessarily want to hear about beer and pickup trucks in every song. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Bottle Rockets wakes up the midday crowd at World Cafe Live

The Bottle Rockets | photo by Taylor Johnson

Long-running St. Louis band The Bottle Rockets brought a dose of their high-energy country rock to World Cafe Live today for a Free at Noon performance ahead of their show tonight at Milkboy. Touring behind their newly released album Bit Logic, The Bottle Rockets came prepared with a fresh-sounding selection of new songs that blend fiery rock and folksy drawl to wake up the midday crowd. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The War and Treaty warm up the World Cafe Live crowd

The War and Treaty | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

XPN’s August Artist to Watch, The War and Treaty, returned to World Cafe Live this afternoon for a special Free at Noon performance in between two local shows opening for the Indigo Girls. The Michigan-based duo of Michael Trotter and Tanya Blount Trotter have become a rising act in the soul/Americana world this year, and recently released their debut album, Healing Tide.

The singers started off today’s set with the album’s opening track, “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow,” and although they perform it a cappella, it’s anything but sparse. Both members of The War and Treaty have powerhouse voices that they use to their fullest potential in the band’s evocative songs, which genre-wise run the gamut from gospel to R&B to blues to folk. A third musician joined The War and Treaty onstage for the rest of their set, playing guitar and upright bass, but most of the focus stayed on the husband-and-wife Trotter duo, who share vocal duties while Michael plays keys and Tanya adds occasional tambourine. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Secret American brings Warmth and Shelter to World Cafe Live

Secret American | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

There’s nothing like a noontime dance party to really wake you up. Philly native Derek Krzywicki is the eccentric frontman behind Secret American, a band with a self-described “East Coast heart” and “West Coast vibe,” and for today’s Free at Noon he came prepared with a six-piece backing band, quirky choreography, and plenty of upbeat energy to accompany his sunny pop songs.

Though he now lives in California, Krzywicki seemed more than eager to return to his Philadelphia roots this afternoon, and he’ll do so again tonight when Secret American plays Philly Music Fest, a hometown celebration of the city’s music scene. Today’s prelude to tonight’s main event gave the crowd a brief but spirited look into what the band has been up to since releasing their debut album, Warmth & Shelter, this spring. Continue reading →