Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ani DiFranco at the Keswick Theatre, Manchester Orchestra at The Fillmore, The Bad Plus at Ardmore Music Hall

Ani DiFranco | Photo by Joe Del Tufo |

Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ani DiFranco makes a stop at the Keswick Theatre tonight following the release of her recent 20th studio album, Binary. After spending much of 2016 encouraging audiences to vote on her “Vote Dammit!” tour, DiFranco continues her political message with Binary — “As an artist, I like to be out in the world, and what initially compelled me was to try to push society to a better place,” DiFranco says of the album. Spoken word artist and poet Andrea Gibson will also perform. Watch DiFranco’s video for “Binary” below, and find tickets and more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Tigers Jaw and Foxing to support Manchester Orchestra in October

tigers jaw
Tigers Jaw | photo by Jimmy Fontaine | courtesy of the artist

If you were already super pumped for the Manchester Orchestra show this fall after catching its Free At Noon Concert, then you might want to sit down for this news. Not only will the Atlanta five-piece’s soaring sounds echo through The Fillmore in October, but they’ll be joined by Scranton duo, Tigers Jaw, and St. Louis post-rock outfit, Foxing. Holy emotional angst-fest. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Manchester Orchestra captivates in soaring, momentous volumes

Manchester Orchestra | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

If there’s one thing that Manchester Orchestra showed the packed Free at Noon crowd today, it’s that they have an insane superpower to effortlessly travel through moments of stripped, aching softness to hard-hitting, soaring volumes of power.

Being that it’s been ten years since their debut album, I’m Like I’m a Virgin Losing a Child, Manchester Orchestra’s sound has understandably morphed and grown along with them over time. Playing a few new tracks from their upcoming album, A Black Mile To The Surface, the Atlanta five-piece demonstrated a shift from heavy guitar jam builds to a more atmospheric kind of grandness. Continue reading →


Folkadelphia Session: Manchester Orchestra

Over four to five albums, Manchester Orchestra, led by Andy Hull, has continued to hone their sound and vision, existing somewhere between indie rock experimentation, arena rock magnitude, and the catharsis-laden chorus chanting of alternative rock. I hate to boil any artistic group’s output into such easy genre boxes, but it does help us as a reference point for the band’s latest two albums Cope and Hope, both released in 2014. I wrote over “four to five albums” because Cope and Hope are essentially two takes at the same set of songs, albeit coming at them from different directions. Cope is a “turn the knob to 11” type deal – anxious verses leading to big payoff choruses, unrelenting power, and lots of muted guitar strumming. Hope amplifies the emotion and moodiness at the cost of overall loudness and force. Hope is the twilight to Cope‘s daylight – dark, transient, and elusive. Hope is not quite a “stripped down” album, an afterthought appendix to Cope; Hope can stand on its own and it certainly showcases the range that Manchester Orchestra is capable of achieving. Listening back-to-back, it’s a real trip to hear what the band was thinking of bringing out to the forefront in the reinterpreted version. It’s great to hear that even at the larger rock-and-roll scale that Manchester Orchestra is at these days, they are still enthusiastic about experimenting with their own sound.
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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Purling Hiss at Arden Gild Hall, Yo La Tengo at The Trocadero, Manchester Orchestra at Temple Performing Arts Center and more…

Purling Hiss
Purling Hiss | photo by Aaron Biscoe

Purling Hiss head down to Delaware’s Arden Gild Hall tonight with Thunderhawk and St James & The Apostles. The local rockers released Weirdon earlier this year, their second effort for Drag City.  Hiss frontman Mike Polizze spoke with The Key last week in the inaugural “Gearadelphia” feature, discussing his live gear set-up, his ambitious dream studio and the times when things go wrong on stage.  Read the full interview here and pick up tickets for tonight’s show here. Continue reading →


Manchester Orchestra, Balance and Composure and Kevin Devine leave The TLA speechless

Manchester Orchestra | Photo by Allison Newbold |
Manchester Orchestra | Photo by Allison Newbold |

Last month Atlanta-based indie rock band Manchester Orchestra released their fourth studio album, Cope, via Favorite Gentlemen, the band’s own independent label. To support their new record, the band has been on an extensive spring tour of the US and Canada with Doylestown’s Balance and Composure as well as Kevin Devine (who’s also in Bad Books, band with Manchester’s frontman Andy Hull).

The tour sold out two nights at the Theater of the Living Arts well in advance, and as soon as the doors opened on night two, the crowd rushed inside and two the front. Devine appeared on stage first, dancing and clapping his hands, getting the crowd pumped to songs such as “Cotton Crush” and “I Could Be With Anyone”. Throughout his set, Devine jumped up, down and across the stage, always rushing back to the microphone to make sure he didn’t miss a lyric. He closed his set with “Brother’s Blood,” performed full band, leaving the crowd in awe.

Next to take the stage was melodic indie-rock band Balance and Composure, on tour in support of their second LP The Things We Think We’re Missing, which was released last year via No Sleep Records. Opening their set with “Quake” off of their first LP, Separation, Balance made a perfect entrance. A majority of the set drew from their newest record including singles “Reflection” and “Tiny Raindrop.”  On stage, the band used fog machines which might have made it difficult to see the band members, but it did enhance their set aesthetically. Closing with two new songs, Balance and Composure played a powerful set championing their latest material.

Manchester Orchestra opening their headlining set with the acoustic track “Deer”, the first song off of their LP, Simple Math, and the crowd was instantly covered with goose bumps. Playing a different set than the night before, the band played an interesting array of songs, including a Bad Books song with Kevin Devine. Promoting their new record, Cope, Manchester Orchestra performed “Top Notch,” as well as album title track, which the crowd enjoyed (based off of the crowd surfing and the mosh pit). The set closed with slower songs “Virgin” and the title track from Simple Math (which they did not play the night before). After their set, the crowd cheering “one more song” for several minutes chanting for an encore that never came – the sound engineer announced after fifteen minutes that the show was over and asked the crowd to leave. Even so, Manchester Orchestra played a tremendous set that left me and the audience speechless.


Collaboration and camaraderie with Bad Books and The Front Bottoms at World Cafe Live (photos, review, video)

For three bands some critics might consider to have a cult following, Bad Books, The Front Bottoms and Weatherbox certainly seemed like superstars as they played to a sold-out crowd last night at World Café Live.

Fans got to the venue ere there and stayed late. California rockers Weatherbox opened the show, followed by eclectic indie group The Front Bottoms. Formerly a two-piece, they stormed the stage with their new full-band line-up, and had most of the crowd screaming along to hits like “The Beers,” “Flashlight” and “Swimming Pool” word for word.

The full-band approach freed explosive drummer Mat Uychich from vocal responsibilities, allowing him to wow locals with what he does best. The Jersey band also played a new song “Twin-sized Mattress,” which started out eerily but showed off the band’s new dynamic with prominent electric guitar licks and solos. Continue reading →