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Continuing the Conversation: Responses to the NonCOMM #ShePersisted panel

Photo courtesy of Rita Houston | @ritahoustonwfuv

On the third day of this year’s NonCOMMvention — the annual gathering of public radio programmers and music industry professionals — attendees gathered for something we don’t see often enough in this industry, or any other. For one hour only, attention was directed to four women representatives for a panel discussion titled #ShePersisted — Women Pursuing and Achieving Success in Radio and the Music Industry.

The panel was moderated by The Current’s Lindsay Kimball and was comprised of Jessi Whitten of Colorado Public Radio, Liz Felix of BirdNote Radio and Shannon Kurlander of Terrorbird Media. Discussing a number of topics related to the lack of equal representation in music, they covered as much ground as they could in the time allotted, focusing dually on workplace gender imbalance in the music industry and the unequal ratio of male/female artists we hear on the air.

Only 10.5% of radio programmers are women. There is only one woman General Manager in all of public music radio. Many programmers don’t realize that women are a significant minority of the artists they play on their stations, but when they look at the numbers, they realize how skewed their ratio actually is. These aren’t easy problems to fix, but the panelists attempted to outline tangible and immediate first steps toward change — number one being for programmers to take look at both their playlists and their workplaces to realize. As some noted afterwards, the panel could have benefited from a more intersectional approach, as the inclusion of people of color, nonbinary people and other underrepresented demographics was mentioned only briefly, and these groups were noticeably absent in the audience, as well.

During the following question and answer session, several audience members rose to add their thoughts. Several industry veterans spoke briefly, but each said that they both had so much more they could say, remembering the days when it was even worse but emphasizing how far we still have to go. Younger women in various facets of the industry spoke to the challenges they’ve faced trying to establish their careers and be taken seriously when people assume that they’re the intern or someone’s daughter. It was a productive discussion, but one which many felt was dampened by an uncomfortable moment at the very end. After the last question had been asked, a man in the audience made his way to the microphone to add a comment — which many saw as both unnecessary and an indication that maybe he hadn’t been listening to the panel and its points (like giving women space to have their voices heard) at all.

After the panel, two of my colleagues, photographer Rachel Del Sordo and writer Megan Cooper, and I realized just how many thoughts we had. We were eager to continue our conversation back in the office but thought that instead of just dwelling on our own reactions, we should see what everyone else thought, too. The three of us spent the rest of the evening (in between the fantastic musical performances) tracking down some of the panelists and women who were present in the audience to hear their thoughts, reactions and critiques. Here’s what they said. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Editors use sheer energy to keep the crowd on its feet in the final stretch

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

By day four of NonCOMM, it’s not surprising that some of the crowd was beginning to feel a little weary. Some were already on planes or trains, heading back to their everyday lives, but plenty others stuck around, coffees and/or beers in hand, to catch the final two acts of this year’s convention.

After a perfect warmup set by Belly, British rockers Editors had the honor of closing out the party on the NPR Music stage. And party they did. Before the band came onstage, I overheard someone behind me in the audience say “Are you ready to rock?” I thought to myself, “Haven’t we been rocking all week?” But Editors, with their charismatic charm and songs that filled the room to the brim, seemed to almost redefine what it means to rock. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Belly keeps the crowd superconnected with old faves and new jams

Belly | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

On the surface, you could say that NonCOMM 2018 closed with a doubleheader Free At Noon concert from two different eras of nostalgia acts — one from the 90s (Belly) and one from the aughts (Editors). Thing is, though, both of these artists came with fresh material in tow, and Belly’s set in particular showed that they are musicians who have not missed a beat in the 23 years since their sophomore album King and this year’s radiant return Dove. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Angelique Kidjo returns Remain In Light to its roots

Angelique Kidjo | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

Angelique Kidjo first heard the Talking Heads’ album Remain In Light after moving from her home country of Benin to Paris in 1983. The record, made a few years prior in collaboration with producer Brian Eno, found David Byrne and the band wholly embracing the sounds and styles of West African music, with Nigeria’s Fela Kuti being a major inspiration. But the Talking Heads’ idiosyncratic downtown NYC cool was still very much in the mix. As Kidjo recalled of her first experience with the record, “This is African, yet it’s got something that is turning my head upside down.”

Last year, the dynamic singer, songwriter and performer Kidjo began performing the album live in concert at venues like Carnegie Hall, putting her own spin on the Byrne-Eno spin on Afrobeat. The project was so well received, she recorded her own front-to-back version of the album, which is out June 8th on Kravenworks records. And on Thursday night, Kidjo and her four-piece band played many of the record’s songs in a lively close to night three of NonCOMM. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Sweet Spirit blows the roof off of World Cafe Live

 

Sweet Spirit | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

Sweet Spirit are the powder keg of NonCOMM, just waiting to explode given the opportunity. Thursday night on the upstairs stage at World Cafe Live, the band had their chance. World Cafe host Talia Schlanger introduced the band by asking the crowd to feel their foreheads, received with confusion among the crowd. Schlanger followed it up quickly, saying “I guarantee you it will be dripping by the end.” She wasn’t wrong.

Early on in their set, Sweet Spirit entranced the crowd with the relatively tame 2015 track “Rebel Rebel.” In the back half of the song, bassist Jon Fichter lead the band in a campfire roundabout rendition of the track’s chorus, with the rest of the bandmates huddled around their mics repeating the chorus delayed. The building mash up of vocals launched the band into an explosive finale. Leading into “Baby When I Close My Eyes,” the band kept the tempo high throughout the rest of their set. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM recap: No worries for Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Nathaniel Rateliff and the | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

It goes without saying that all of Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats‘ most recent releases have all been radio hits. WXPN sure knows it. Second to last on night three’s downstairs stage, they delivered all new songs for a joyous thirty minute set. Fresh off the hype from their March album Tearing at the Seams, World Cafe’s Talia Schlanger introduced the band by saying that while she doesn’t like to play favorites, she is the most excited for their act. They’re due back in Philadelphia on June 6th to play The Skyline Stage at The Mann Center.

The band – a seven-piece consisting of brass, percussion, and electric string sections – took the stage before Rateliff to lead into “Shoe Boot,” a jumpy, quintessential country rock jam. Rateliff has a lot of layers to his music, and country isn’t the only defining genre. There were elements of a blues ballad in “Babe I Know,” 1960’s swing beats in “Say It Louder,” and a more relaxed indie sound with “Be There,” especially when the band cut out to simply clap out the rhythm for the final verse. Rateliff is a very multidimensional artist, but on top of everything else, he’s fun. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Hop Along display jaw-dropping range on the PRX stage

Hop Along | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

Hometown heroes Hop Along have been doing laps around Philly lately. Since releasing Bark Your Head Off, Dog on April 6 on Saddle Creek, the band played a Free at Noon set that same day, a sold-out surprise show at Johnny Brenda’s the following night, and have returned to the city after the first leg of tour in support of their third LP. The band plays Union Transfer this Saturday, May 19, a gig that’s been sold out for a minute now. Thankfully after the month-long tour, the band was still able to deliver a kick-ass set to the upstairs NonCOMM crowd Thursday night. Lead singer Frances Quinlan noted how nice it was to be back in Philadelphia: “It’s lovely, we just got home from tour yesterday.”

The XPN faves opened with “How Simple,” the lead track on their latest release plus one of our favorite music videos of the year so far. The track’s grooving tempo lead the crowd into an early-set dance party. Among the other four tracks to be performed from Bark Your Head OffDog, “How Simple” displayed the new direction the band took with their fourth album. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: The Record Company get down to business on the NPR Music stage

The Record Company | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

All I can say is lead man Chris Vos from LA’s bluesy rock band The Record Company is an animal. The trio hit the stage and got right to business with no hesitation. The intense energy and enthusiasm from the band’s righteous guitar licks, ferocious drumming, and killer harmonica solos had the crowd go crazy. Not to mention, Vos delivered some ridiculous falsettos that could be heard from the heavens. Bassist Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla kept everything tight as the charismatic frontman was thrashing, giving the crowd some epic guitar solos. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: King Tuff transports crowd to the cosmos with a space horn

King Tuff | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN | www.senialopez.photography

“Anybody know what this is?” asked Kyle Thomas, the colorful frontman of King Tuff, as he raised a peculiar cylinder device in his hand. He looked side to side, faced the crowd, and deadpanned: “It’s called the space horn.”

And with that, the wonderfully strange cosmic flute beamed the last bit of the crowd into Thomas’ zany, trippy, mystical outer space universe as “Neverending Sunshine” began to play. Although, with opening tracks like the saucy video game odyssey, “Raindrop Blue,” the laid-back and sunny daydream, “Thru the Cracks,” and the funky disco jam, “Psycho Star,” the packed upstairs PRX stage audience was already by that point pretty fairly transported to another world. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM recap: The Wood Brothers shake the ground for night three

The Wood Brothers | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddingerphoto.squarespace.com

Nashville natives The Wood Brothers played an epic folk set to open the downstairs stage of NonCOMM’s night three. This folk powerhouse has just released their sixth studio album, One Drop of Truth, and plans on returning to Philadelphia on August 28th to play at Longwood Gardens.

This band is, in my opinion, the most unique group that has taken the NonCOMM stage, and after watching them jam for thirty minutes, they might be my favorite group of the whole fest. Night three is only just getting started, but they’re going to be a tough act to beat. Continue reading →