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Love of My Life: The 8th Annual Roots Picnic celebrates a generation of innovative music

The Roots | Photo by John Vettese
The Roots | Photo by John Vettese

Every year, the Roots Picnic inches closer to Philly musical utopia. The pre-summer day fest is curated by local hip-hop heroes The Roots, the self-proclaimed hardest working band in America. True to their own innovative and barrier-breaking approach, the lineup is always a unique, eclectic and interesting trip. The setting and its vibe has historically been a bit rockier, beset by exponentially swelling crowds and typically sweltering heat beating down on the minimally shaded asphalt of Festival Pier.

But the eighth annual installment of the Picnic yesterday, while not perfect, was a tremendously positive event, with major improvements in the layout and organization of the festival and a trimming of the musical fat (for the most part). Continue reading →

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Other than The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky, 5 Artists to Catch at The Roots Picnic this Weekend

 

Donn T | Photo via Facebook.com/pages/Donn-T/105596011218?fref=photo
Donn T | Photo via Facebook.com/pages/Donn-T/105596011218?fref=photo

The 8th annual Roots Picnic is headed to Festival Pier this Saturday, May 30. Major names are set to perform at the all-day festival (The Weeknd and Phantogram, anyone?), but the lesser known artists will undeniably rock Penn’s Landing just as hard. The Questlove-curated lineup includes longtime Philly favorites and emerging young artists. Here are five not to miss. Continue reading →

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Double Decker Music Series returns on May 31 with Christopher Sean Powell and The Sun Flights

Gretchen Lohse | Photo via bowerbird.org/newsite/events/doubledecker/
Gretchen Lohse | Photo by Scott Troyan | via bowerbird.org

The beloved Double Decker Music Series, “an intimate mobile concert experience,” is returning on May 31 with Christopher Sean Powell and The Sun Flights on board.

You may have your favorite live-music venue in the city, but there’s debatably nothing like watching multitalented Philly musicians perform while basking in the changing scenery and afterglow of Philly.  Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Robert DeLong at Boot and Saddle, Fhloston Paradigm at Johnny Brenda’s

Robert DeLonge | Photo by John Vettese
Robert DeLonge | Photo by John Vettese

Pacific Northwestern EDM favorite Robert DeLong makes a return to Philly tonight at Boot and Saddle. Crafting a variety of alluring beats and textures, DeLong also makes an engaging frontman. He’s not the sort of DJ to holler at you between bass drops from behind an LED wall, he steps to the front of the stage, works the crowd with a quirky, Spike Jonze-ish persona, and pulls a few unique tricks from up his sleeve – like using old video game controllers to modify and modulate his songs. Tickets and information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Electronic Weekend: WKDU’s Electronic Music Marathon begins Friday

King Britt | Photo by Inna Spivakova | innaspivakova.com
King Britt | Photo by Inna Spivakova | innaspivakova.com

After a seven-year break from the event, Drexel’s student-run WKDU radio will be hosting its 11th Electronic Music Marathon starting this Friday, October 10th and ending on Monday, October 13th. DJ’s have the opportunity to donate for a one hour time slot, which will benefit Musicopia and Village of Arts and Humanities, both local non-profits emphasizing arts education in Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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King Britt, Dozia, Questlove and the Back2Basics family had a high-energy reunion at Hard Rock

DJ  PHSH, King Britt and Questlove | Photo by John Vettese
DJ PHSH, King Britt and Questlove | Photo by John Vettese

The first time I heard King Britt was over the sound system of the HMV on Walnut Street back in 2001. I knew of him via City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly stories about Back2Basics, the party he and DJ Dozia threw at Silk City (which I was never cool enough to attend). The song coming from the speakers was “Happiness” featuring Lady Alma, and it blew me away. I immediately walked over to the Dance section, found the album under his moniker of Sylk-130 titled Re-Members Only” and skimmed the track list and collaborators: Alison Moyet, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kathy Sledge, Grover Washington Jr.

It was a love letter to sitting at home on a Saturday night and listening to stations like Power 99 who, back in the 80’s, would play everything from quiet storm to rap to Madonna. It’s an album that still is miles beyond most in capturing that time for listeners who missed out.

When I heard there was going to be a Back2Basics reunion, I was itching to go and finally experience what I never got a chance to back when the event was a regular thing. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: King Britt & Dozia’s Back2Basics at Hard Rock Cafe, Mercury Radio Theater at Ortlieb’s, Roof Doctor at Kung Fu Necktie

Photo via facebook.com/KingBrittFanPage
Photo via facebook.com/KingBrittFanPage

King Britt & Dozia’s Back2Basic’s Reunion takes place tonight at Hard Rock Cafe. A revival of the legendary Philly nightclub night, the event hosts both live musicians as well as DJs, allowing for a genre-bending night of frenzy. Started in 1990, the event hosted names like ?uestlove, James Poyser and more. The man behind the project is Britt, who was also a part of the venerable Digable Planets and other projects. In his interview with the Key’s Sameer Rao, Britt explained the motivation behind the reunion as “We thought it would be good to do this as a reunion, but also as a reminder that this [mixing different genres] is possible”. He then went on to emphasize that the event is “not just partying…it’s existential.”  Check out this video of King Britt and The Back 2 Basics Band perform live at Silk City below. Get more details about the show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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King Britt and co. reign supreme at Friday’s Back2Basics reunion

King Britt
via facebook.com/KingBrittFanPage

Let’s get something out of the way: it’s really easy to make plays on King Britt’s name. The king is back! Long live the king! Even the title of this piece was painstakingly chosen after a lot of agony over what would be slightly witty without being superfluously cheesy (you can argue about whether or not this was successful in the comments).

Still, the man whose official documents read “King James Britt” has left a legacy for which such comical proclamations are actually quite accurate. For over two decades, the 40-something DJ and Philly native has commanded a tiny kingdom of rabid followers through a variety of beloved and critically lauded endeavors. For these fans, which endeavor they care about the most says a tremendous amount about who they are. Perhaps they were drawn to Britt’s multi-year tenure with the bi-costal hip-hop institution Digable Planets, where his genre-mixing aesthetic slant sat effortlessly with the Plantes’ Afro-centric, laid-back brand of quiet innovation.

Some might’ve instead been captivated by Britt’s unquenchable experimental and avant garde tendencies, manifest in numerous groundbreaking and headscratchingly trippy side projects;  these projects have propelled him to a very different kind of recognition, garnering him Pew and NEA grants and putting him on stage at places like TEDxPhilly and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Continue reading →

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Stream King Britt’s new Fhloston Paradigm album, The Phoenix

Photo by John Kaufman
Photo by John Kaufman

Pitchfork Advance is streaming King Britt’s new Fhloston Paradigm album, The Phoenix. Drawing inspiration from his love of science fiction movies like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element (where the name of the project comes from), Sun Ra, funk, and Afrofuturism, Britt has created a soundtrack to an imaginary motion picture, filled with moody, synthesized soundscapes, with contributions by Marlo Reynolds, and vocalists Rachel Claudio, Pia Ercole, and Natasha Kmeto.

Listen to The Phoenix here.

In other King Britt/Fhloston Paradigm news, listen to their contribution to the new Red Hot + Bach album below. Featuring classical vocalist Pia Ercole, they perform “Ave Maria” and was inspired by the late Sixties Moog synth collection of Bach compositions Switched On Bach, by Wendy Carlos.

King Britt performs at Union Transfer on July 12th with Nightmares On Wax and on July 14th at Johnny Brenda’s.

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A tribute to Sun Ra, curated by King Britt and Kate Watson-Wallace featuring Vernon Reid and Tendai Maraire of Shabazz Palaces

A tribute to the jazz musician Sun Ra curated by King Britt and choreographer/visual artist Kate Watson-Wallace will take place at Fringe Arts on Friday, June 6. The event is a live improvisational “re-contextualization” of Sun Ra’s music featuring Tendai Maraire of Shabazz Palaces on percussion, Vernon Reid of Living Color on guitar, King Britt on beats and electronics, Anthony Tidd on bass, vocalist Imani Izuri, and Marlo Reynolds on keyboards. Live video will be provided by Jason Senk and “movement” by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko of Philadiction Movement. The event, says King Britt, is the first of several that “music/multidimensional events” that the Fringe is presenting in its new space.

The jazz musician, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, relocated to the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1968 where he resided until his death in 1993. King Britt came up with the idea of a tribute to Sun Ra since it was close to Sun Ra’s birthday. “I suggested we do a tribute to him by creating a beautiful ensemble of music, video and dance,” Britt told me in an e-mail. “Everyone involved has been touched by Ra and his legacy. Sun Ra always embraced the art of improvisation within a construct of his compositions. He also embraced technology and used it in a way that propelled the music to new places.”

“We felt that everyone involved would be comfortable in this context and non obvious samples and loops, from some of Sun Ra’s improvs, will steer the direction of the journey,” said Britt. “Everyone involved, including video, which will be mixed live, are all very good improvisors and it will be a one time only experience. This is event is important because it will bridge the gap between generations. A lot of the older Sun Ra fans will love to witness a new spin on his legacy and the young fans who have come to know Sonny, through samples, hip hop and alternative music, will get to learn a bit of the history through multidisciplinary lenses.”

Go here for tickets and more information about the show. Below, check out a documentary about Sun Ra by film maker Robert Mugge, A Joyful Noise.