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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


Free at Noon Flashback: Mt. Joy brings a dose of folk rock charm to World Cafe Live

Mt. Joy performs live at World Cafe Live for WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert | Photo by Rich McKie / WXPN

Mt. Joy has quickly become a favorite among the XPN universe this year — after being featured as January’s Artist to Watch, the band released their debut album and soon returned to play NonComm and this year’s XPoNential festival. Tonight they’re back in town for a proper headlining gig, and this afternoon they treated us to a preview in the form of an energy-filled Free at Noon performance.

But if you think the up-and-coming band is getting sick of Philly by now, that’s not the case. Every visit back to the city is a homecoming for the band, whose members are originally from the area. (They draw the name Mt. Joy not from the Lancaster Co. borough, but from the mountain in Valley Forge.) And Philly’s certainly not getting sick of them, if today’s enthusiastic audience was any indication. Also, they have a song about painting a school bus green and tailgating at Eagles games, so if that doesn’t earn them Philadelphians’ love and admiration I’m not sure what would. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Richard Thompson stuns a packed house

Richard Thompson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

“For those of you listening on radio we have a room full of people here,” mused Richard Thompson at today’s Free at Noon, waiting only until the packed house finished their cheers to add, “a room full of people skiving off work!” Nobody can say Thompson doesn’t have a keen sense of humor, even if his songs are usually more likely to inspire tears than laughter. It’s a testament to his mastery as a performer that despite the emotional weight of his eight-song set, Thompson kept the Free at Noon crowd lively and captivated with his charming stage presence and unparalleled musicianship. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Fantastic Negrito speaks out and rocks out at World Cafe Live

Fantastic Negrito | photo by Senia Lopez |

For most listeners, their introduction to Fantastic Negrito was likely his Tiny Desk Contest-winning performance of “Lost In A Crowd,” delivered compellingly from behind a workbench in front of some Bay Area freight elevator.

The version of the band that appeared onstage at World Cafe Live today was much more sophisticated in terms of fidelity, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz’s endledd charisma. He belted out vocals with bravado over songs that ranged from raw blues to gospel rock and more, and his banter was that of a pure showman.

“I only met my daddy two times in my life,” he said at the first break in the set. “The first time, he said ‘I’m not your daddy.’ The second time, he said ‘son, whatever you do in your life, stay out of Philadelphia. Why? It’s the women. They’re scary.'” A bit scripted in an insert-city-name-here way, but it made for a lively intro the blues ripper “Scary Woman.” Later in the set, Dphrepaulezz went off-book to talk about issues surrounding the state of the nation; the number one question he gets asked on tour, he says, is “What’s going on in America?” Continue reading →


Free At Noon Flashback: DeVotchKa celebrates This Night Falls Forever for the World Cafe Live crowd

DeVotchKa | photo by Senia Lopez |

“Thanks for joining us on this auspicious occasion,” Nick Urata told the World Cafe Live crowd today. “It’s the first day of our new album. Thanks for sharing it with us.”

The leader of DeVotchKa then launched into “Angels,” a driving rocker from their new record This Night Falls Forever; it’s their first in seven years, it’s out today on Concord Records, and the band spent half their Free at Noon set today showcasing it, while the other half revisited music from its last effort, 2011’s elegant 100 Lovers. Continue reading →


Free At Noon Flashback: Muscle Tough brings the futuristic funk to World Cafe Live

Muscle Tough | photo by Senia Lopez |

Philly instrumental improv trio Muscle Tough spent the afternoon downstairs at World Cafe Live to share what was possibly the most interesting Free At Noon concert I’ve seen in a while. I went in not knowing what to expect, and left having witnessed psychedelic robo funk, super heavy guitar and drum battles, and even jokey synchronized dance moves from guitarist Ross Bellenoit and bassist Jonathan Coleman. It was entertaining all across the board, and cheers of “When I say Muscle, you say Tough!” were prevalent throughout the entire forty-five minute set, just to remind the crowd that they were awesome. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Petal inspires the crowd to live your “life more authentically”

Petal | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

In between shows in Asbury Park last night and New York tonight, Petal found time to make a quick trip down to Philly to play today’s Free at Noon, and despite the hectic scheduling, it was evident by the look on Kiley Lotz’s face when she walked onstage that there was nowhere else the Scranton-based artist would rather be this afternoon.

The short break from their co-headlining tour with Camp Cope, which included two sold-out PhilaMOCA shows a month ago, allowed Petal to bring their new album Magic Gone back to town to further celebrate the excellent release. Whether audience members were familiar with the band prior to today’s show or not, Lotz and company seemed to win the crowd over with their warm and welcoming presence before they even played their first song. Continue reading →