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Free at Noon Flashback: Ruen Brothers debuts All My Shades of Blue at World Cafe Live

Ruen Brothers | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

The weekend kicked off with a Free At Noon set from The Ruen Brothers, siblings Henry and Rupert Stansall out of Scunthorpe, England. The brothers wore matching bolo ties over button up shirts, crossing midwestern cowboy with 60’s greaser. Their music is nostalgic rockabilly, twanging with grit. The brothers shared a mic, trading harmonies with faces at kissing distance. Colin, who Henry dubbed their “third brother from Detroit,” played drums, pausing between songs to adjust his black plastic eyeglasses. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Greg Sover is charismatic and commanding at World Cafe Live

Greg Sover | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

Today’s Free at Noon thundered in with the powerful music of the blues/rock Greg Sover Band. Taking to the stage donning his signature steampunk jacket and flashing a charismatic smile, Sover shook any lingering lethargy from those in the audience in a contagious, energetic performance with his band. The crowd swayed and rocked while shifting psychedelic patterns were projected overhead. The magnetic Sover established an immediate rapport with the crowd, joking in between songs and taking a moment to thank WXPN’s Helen Leicht for spinning their tracks since the beginning. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The National Reserve brings the heat to World Cafe Live

The National Reserve | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

On Friday afternoon, Brooklyn rockers The National Reserve brought a high energy set to World Cafe Live, filled with solos on the drums, keys, and guitars. The band opened on some older cuts, dropped a cover of Ronnie Lane’s “Roll on Babe,” slowed it down with “Don’t be Unkind” from their new full-length project Motel La Grange, which was released Friday. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Bahamas floats and shines through World Cafe Live

Bahamas | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

It’s nearly ninety degrees and sunny today in Philadelphia, and it feels as if summer is here to stay — ignoring the clear dad joke that all but writes itself, the sunshine and hazy heat perfectly embodied the feeling of Bahamas‘ sound during their Free At Noon show at World Cafe Live.

Bahamas’ Alfie Jurvanen began the performance on the tip of his toes, floating along with the light, breezy, rhythmically meditative and lyrically reflective set. Much of the set featured tracks from Earthtones, Bahamas’ fourth full-length record released earlier this year. Beginning with the simple, introspective “No Wrong,” Jurvanen showcased the album’s multifaceted sounds as he moved through the upbeat ‘No Expectations” and the funky “Opening Act.” Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Shacks put us in a Haze on this beautiful afternoon

The Shacks | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

New York indie band The Shacks stopped by for WXPN’s Free At Noon concert today, and their performance was mesmerizing. Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed when I was walking in, was 19-year-old lead singer Shannon Wise’s voice. I stopped midway through the entrance and actually blocked everyone behind me from getting in. Instantly, I was sent into a dream-like state where I felt like I was floating on a cloud with the sun softly hitting my face. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Hop Along powers through an record-release day teaser of Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Hop Along | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

It seems like Hop Along is the busiest band in the world these days. They’ve been steadily rolling out singles from their new album Bark Your Head Off, Dog since January, and today that new record is finally out. Lucky for us, ahead of their quickly sold-out record release show tomorrow night, the band found time to stop by World Cafe Live for the second act of today’s Free at Noon doubleheader.

Hop Along has been a favorite of the Philly scene for quite some time — as vocalist/guitarist Frances Quinlan pointed out, she’s been playing under some variation of the band’s name for about 13 years. “That’s as old as an eighth grader,” Quinlan said, adding that Hop Along is having a much better eighth grade year than she did.

And after today’s show, we can certainly confirm that. This was Hop Along’s first hometown show since their appearance at last year’s XPN Fest, and the first time we’ve heard songs from the incredible new record live. It was also their first time performing as a five-piece — the band recently added Thin Lips’ Chrissy Tashjian as their touring guitarist/keyboardist.

All of that made for quite a gripping performance. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Caroline Rose packs a short set full of offbeat energy

Caroline Rose | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Caroline Rose has just a few favorite songs — her own songs, that is. During her Free at Noon performance today, the NYC-based songwriter enthusiastically introduced more than one of her tunes as her “favorite” — and with an enthralling performance like Rose’s, it’s hard to disagree.

Rose’s set may have been on the shorter side to allow time for the doubleheader, but she packed it full of infectious energy and her signature offbeat touches — from the fake flowers (and…vegetables?) decorating the stage to her beloved stuff cat Chelsea perched on the keyboard, which was labeled Key Bore-d. But Rose’s set was anything but boring. Rather, the band was so upbeat that you could hardly tell it was their third Philly show in 24 hours — they played Johnny Brenda’s last night and an in-store at Main Street Music before that, and somehow they have to get to their Connecticut show tonight. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Nightmares on Wax bring living room jams to their midday set

Nightmares on Wax | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Friday afternoon, the downstairs space at World Cafe Live was transformed from its normal stage setup to what appeared to be a halfway cleared out living room. Where a kitchen table may have been before, a massive drum kit took its place. Pioneer CDJ’s and a mixer occupy every square inch of a coffee table placed in front of a leather couch. It’s on the couch we find George Evelyn perched, captaining the CDJ’s, an additional sequencer on his lap, and a MacBook Pro precariously perched atop an amp. With the hard hitting bass, it’s beyond me how the computer didn’t rattle it’s way off the amp.

Evelyn is the man behind the project Nightmares on Wax, originally a duo founded in 1989 in Leeds, England. Nightmares on Wax blends a plethora of genres, sourcing from both sides of the Atlantic and everything in between. With influences ranging from hip-hop, soul, and funk, to dub and reggae, house via Detroit and techno by way of Berlin, the sound that emerges is a beautifully mixed electronic blend, with nods to each element appearing throughout the midday set. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: L.A. troubadour Jonathan Wilson sets the mood with twists and turns

Jonathan Wilson | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Eclectic singer-songwriter and producer Jonathan Wilson‘s new album Rare Birds is an ambitious undertaking. At 13 tracks strong, many of which lie in the six- to eight-minute range, it was impossible for Wilson to bring all of his new tunes to the World Cafe Live stage for Free at Noon this afternoon, but with the way Wilson and his band filled the room with their soaring sound, you almost wouldn’t have known that what we heard today was only a small sampling of the musician’s catalogue. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Caitlyn Smith gives Starfire a solo makeover

Caitlyn Smith | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Caitlyn Smith released her debut full-length record Starfire last month, but her songs have already been topping the charts for years – sung by the likes of Dolly Parton, Meghan Trainor, James Bay, Lady Antebellum, and so many more. Smith has refocused her songwriting expertise on her own life, crafting vivid, powerful lyrics from the stories and experiences that she’s collected while living and working in Nashville.

For today’s Free At Noon show, Smith’s already intimate tracks were made even more so during the solo performance. Continue reading →