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Free At Noon Flashback: Rostam delivers expansive experience with Half-Light

Rostam | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Rostam Batmanglij released his debut LP Half-Light on September 15th, and to say that it was a long time coming is a definite understatement. It was six years ago this month that Rostam’s first solo track – and now Half-Light track – “Wood” was released on Soundcloud, as his band Vampire Weekend recorded their chart-topping Modern Vampires of the City. 

The years since have seen Rostam leave Vampire Weekend in 2016 to pursue solo work, produce tracks on a number of records for genre-spanning artists from Solange to Carly Rae Jepson to Hamilton Leithauser, and all the while steadily release singles that would eventually become his solo debut.

Half-Light is fifteen tracks of mystical, musical magic, and at today’s Free At Noon show Rostam performed seven of them (plus a bonus Vampire Weekend cover). Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Josh Ritter celebrates his new Gathering at World Cafe Live

Josh Ritter | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Friday was a big day for Josh Ritter: it marked the official release of his ninth studio album Gathering following 2015’s excellent Sermon on the Rocks, and he and the Royal City Band were able to bring their foot-stomping, fast-talking tunes to World Cafe Live before flying to Minneapolis to kick off the record’s tour.

The singer-songwriter has long been a favorite of XPN and its members, and the crowd that had been steadily lining up outside quickly filled the venue to capacity in anticipation of his triumphant return. As one of the audience observed, “Nothing like Josh Ritter to get the people out of the woodwork.” Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Son Little gives the Philly crowd an early taste of New Magic

Son Little | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

A hometown crowd packed World Cafe Live late this morning for a hometown hero of sorts. Son Little, the project of singer and guitarist Aaron Livingston, is a local favorite for Philly audiences, and the artist himself seemed right at home during today’s Free at Noon. After opening the set with a few new songs from his forthcoming album New Magic, Son Little welcomed the crowd, which had lined up outside well before doors opened and flocked closer and closer to the stage as the show went on, clapping and dancing along. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Deadfellow plays the lead in a postmodern rock drama

Deadfellow | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

Deadfellow’s Hayden Sammak is quite a character. Burgundy velvet-jacketed and long-bearded, the Philly local looked every bit the old-fashioned classic rock n roller this Free at Noon as he drawled sweet verses of love and California livin’ while retro, psychadelic sounds bounced about.

But something just didn’t fit with this picture-perfect 60’s throwback. And if you’ve ever read an interview with the Deadfellow frontman, this disconnect makes perfect sense. Because despite the shiny exterior of Deadfellow’s latest album, Mescalifornia: A California Dream, the intent seems to be more sarcastic and critical in nature; where Hammak harps on a present-day shallow culture towards love. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: The Districts redefine “explosive” at World Cafe Live

The Districts | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

I had long resigned myself to the bittersweet fact that since I’ve always been unlucky in catching The Districts live, the first time I’d finally see them would be in some large, sold out venue given the skyrocketing trajectory of their career and fanbase around the world that will only grow once their newest release Popular Manipulations reaches the ears and hearts of the masses.

Fortunately, this was not the case. A week after the crazy sold out Union Transfer record release show (read our review here) found The Districts back in Philadelphia to perform for XPN’s Free At Noon series at the smaller, more intimate World Cafe Live. It appeared that the rareness of this opportunity was not lost on fans, as the line stretched up the stairs and out onto the sidewalk long before doors opened and filled the venue to capacity by the ten-minute mark. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Gordi bridges heady synth-rock and anthemic pop at World Cafe Live

Gordi | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

After playing a Thursday night gig at Johnny Brenda’s and before heading down I-95 to play D.C.’s Songbyrd Music House, singer-songwriter Sophie Payten — known onstage as Gordi — stoped by World Cafe Live for a Free at Noon concert performance.

Sonically, the Sydney, Australia singer and songwriter manages to exist in numerous stylistic zones simultaneously. After opening on the majestic “Myriad,” a simmering spacey synth-driven track, the mood shifted with “All The Light,” a poppy, Paula Cole-ish number peppered with samples. After that taste of her forthcoming Reservoir LP, out August 25th, Gordi dove back to her Clever Disguise EP for “Wanting,” her acoustic guitar strums providing an organic counterpoint to the drumpad rhythm. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Waxahatchee brings Out in the Storm to life

Waxahatchee at WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert on 7/14/17 | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

The relentless summer rain was no deterrent for the crowd that turned up en masse at World Cafe this afternoon, and for good reason: today is all about Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee. Her excellent fourth record Out in the Storm dropped today on Merge Records, the full band performed for WXPN’s Free At Noon, frontwoman Katie Crutchfield will be a guest DJ on John Vettese’s show What’s the Frequency at 7 p.m., and the day caps off when Waxahatchee plays a hometown show at Union Transfer with Cayetana and Snail Mail to begin an extensive US tour.

Fifteen minutes before Free At Noon began, the front row of the World Cafe stage was already claimed and the rest of the crowd was slowly trickling in, shaking off umbrellas and grabbing a drink. Five minutes before, the floor was packed and the anticipation palpable when Waxahatchee made their entrance (featuring #ladysuits) to begin a set that showcased entirely new tracks.

Opening with my personal favorite from the new album, the burning “Recite Remorse,” Crutchfield’s voice echoed around World Cafe to create an ethereal, chills-inducing sound that built to an anthemic conclusion. The catharsis found in the lyrics was tangible, finding release and relief for singer and audience alike. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: A rollercoaster ride with Imelda May

Imelda May – Free At Noon 6/23/17 | Photo by Rich McKie / WXPN

If it’s good enough for Bob Dylan, it’s sure as heck good enough for us. In an interview on his own website, the legendary singer/songwriter listed Imelda May‘s new record in the same breath as Iggy Pop, Valerie June and The Stereophonics – and boy do we understand why.

The Dublin-born singer took us on a musical and emotional roller coaster ride at today’s WXPN Free At Noon Concert at World Cafe Live. Though her complete 7 piece band preceded her stage entrance, May started off her set with “Call Me” – a peaceful song, with only a lightly strummed guitar complimenting her quiet voice. Sitting on a stool under a single spotlight, you could hear a pin drop in the room — perhaps leading many to expect a laid-back show on this rainy Friday afternoon — but Imelda soon showed she had much more up her sleeve. Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Black Tears” by Imelda May featuring Jeff Beck

Imelda May

Irish singer and songwriter Imelda May plays Free At Noon this Friday, June 23rd, before playing a show at Union Transfer on Sunday, June 25th. Or her new album, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood., May has taken on a new musical direction, under the guidance of producer T-Bone Burnett.

She’s traded in her rockabilly musical ways for ballads and sophisticated mid-tempo love songs. Working with a core band that includes drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassists Zach Dawes (The Last Shadow Puppets) and Dennis Crouch, May’s expressive and powerful voice remains center stage. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Sheer Mag’s volume knows no limits

Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

The track names on Sheer Mag‘s compilation album are in all-caps on Bandcamp. The stylization is a fair choice considering it’s hard to remember, at least for me, a time when World Cafe Live has reached the volume the band brought to the venue during Friday’s weekly Free At Noon concert. For 40 minutes, the Philly rockers emitted nonstop, ear-ringing rock n’ roll in its purest form. Continue reading →