Julien Baker and friends create a contemplative community at Union Transfer

Julien Baker | Photo by: Ellen Miller |
Julien Baker | Photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN |

There’s a word that’s often used to describe Julien Baker‘s music: devastating. I think I’ve seen it in almost every review and feature surrounding the release of Baker’s new album Turn Out the Lights; I think I’ve even used it myself. And it’s true, listening to Baker’s songs sometimes verges on painful — but in the most achingly beautiful way. From the Tennessee songwriter’s 2015 debut Sprained Ankle to the just-released Turn Out the Lights, Baker’s music is quiet but powerful, sparse but resonant, and sad in a way that makes it just about impossible to stop listening.

The heart-aching melancholy of Julien Baker may beg a quiet solo listen to her recordings (especially when unpacking the rich layers of the new album), but in a live setting, any sense of despondence that may accompany Baker’s music dissipates, replaced by an overwhelming sense of community. The persistent feeling of “we’re all sharing this special moment together” remained constant throughout Julien Baker’s headlining show at Union Transfer last night, and was shared not just by the audience but by all three sets of performers onstage. Continue reading →


Just Announced: Julien Baker to perform at Union Transfer with Half Waif in October

julien baker
Julien Baker | photo by Jake Cunningham | courtesy of the artist

The first time I heard Julien Baker was just about a year ago, and by a happy chance it was at the perfect combination of a live show in a small venue when she toured with British dark folk trio Daughter last summer – I’ve been a fan ever since. The Memphis singer-songwriter brings her voice and guitar on stage and leaves her entire soul, baring all and sparing nothing throughout the set that is both so wrenchingly personal and relatable at the same time. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mitski at Union Transfer, Cayetana at Skid Row Garage & more

Mitski | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist
Mitski | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

Indie rock goddess Mitski returns to Philadelphia tonight in another round of touring to support her latest album Puberty 2The singer-songwriter has made her way through several local venues from our own World Cafe to First Unitarian Church to PhilaMOCA and more, and this time around she has graduated to headlining Union Transfer. Mitski’s cutting lyrics and powerful voice driven by electric guitar makes for an intimate live performance in both the quiet moments and in the loud no matter the size of the venue. The night will also be a hometown show for Philly-based opener Half Waif who will be on the road with Mitski for the duration of the tour. For more information on the sold out show, click here. Continue reading →


Required Reading: Half Waif’s Nandi Rose Plunkett on being “the girl in the band”

Nandi Plunkett | photo by Tonje Thilesen via

If you haven’t noticed by now, we at The Key are big fans of Pinegrove and Half Waif, two New Jersey bands that share a common denominator in Nandi Rose Plunkett. Both groups find Plunkett as the sole woman, one in a keyboards-backing vocals situation and the other as the founding, writing, and recording frontwoman. In other words, she is a musical force to be reckoned with.

Why, then, in 2017 – especially in an industry that theoretically draws the creatives, the open minds, the dreamers – do we find Plunkett responding to slews of misogynist aggressions against her being simply because that being is female? After originally posting last month on Twitter in response to comments on her part in Pinegrove, Nandi Plunkett has penned an extraordinarily eloquent, insightful, and sharp long-form piece published by Esquire on what it means to be “the girl in the band,” what it feels like to be a woman constantly silenced and disregarded and dismissed as a girl, as a girlfriend, as a pretty face but nothing more. Continue reading →


The Key Presents: Half Waif

Half Waif | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

The weather’s bad, but it holds. Between setting up and short takes while the rain isn’t too hard, Nandi Plunkett throws an industrial trash bag over her keyboard as a makeshift cover, but even the intermittent April showers can’t get her spirits down too much. Resiliency is a big theme of Half Waif‘s music, and in Plunkett’s life, as well. Between passing clouds, Nandi and guitarist Adan Carlo play completely new arrangements of two Half Waif tracks from the recently released form/a EP. In the secluded side yard of the MAAS Building, the intimate strength of Half Waif springs to resounding life. This is The Key Presents: Half Waif. Continue reading →


Half Waif stands at a crossroads on “Frost Burn”

Half Waif | photo by Landon Speers | via the artist's Facebook page
Half Waif | photo by Landon Speers | via the artist’s Facebook page

Recently, a lot of us got to know Nandi Rose Plunkett as the keyboardist for  alt-country rockers Pinegrove, but she’s been recording and performing as Half Waif for years. Her new EP form/a drops later this month, so if keyboard-driven indie pop is your thing, keep your eyes (ears?) peeled. We already got a sense of what it might sound like in danceable first single “Severed Logic”, and now, we’re getting a second preview with “Frost Burn,” which you can stream below. Continue reading →