Future Perfect: Future Islands Break It Down at the Fillmore

Future Islands | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

This kinda thing doesn’t happen by accident. A band like Baltimore’s Future Islands doesn’t go from under-the-radar to overnight sensation without putting in the legwork. And while frontman Samuel T. Herring does put in a lot of literal leg-work with his wild dance maneuvers on stage, the band’s path to the huge stage at the Fillmore on Monday evening took more than a fair share of emotional lifting, as well. New release The Far Field (out last month on 4AD) plays out less as a breakup record than a forlorn catalog of Herring’s sins.

With a bombastic legacy of hits and smashing live performances to live up to, a down note might not have been what newcoming and long-lived fans were looking for. But seeing is, as they say, believing. For many, the infamous 2014 Letterman performance remains both introduction and centerpiece of the Future Islands brand. But three years removed, many now know the band — and the bombastic frontman — as something more three-dimensional than simply a great showman. While the dance moves perpetually continue to impress, they seem a little bit less pronounced than the twin sold-out shows I saw at Union Transfer in early 2015. Continue reading →


On the Water’s Baptism EP takes a blusier approach to basement folk

On the Water | via
On the Water | via

Theatrical folk group On the Water welcomed in the new year with the release of their latest EP, Baptism. The West Philadelphia troupe of varying sizes and instruments recorded the four-song set at Sex Dungeon Studios in Philly, and is the band’s first release since their March 2013 album False Starts. On the Water’s freak-folk style has garnered attention in the West Philly basement scene with their accordion and banjo-led sea shantys. But one of the first differences on Baptism compared to past releases is a lack of their tumultuously folk-influenced instruments. There isn’t a single song featuring an accordion, banjo, or mandolin on Baptism. Lead vocalist and lyricist Fletcher Van Vliet appears to have taken a bluesier approach to this latest release. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Delorean and City Rain at Morgan’s Pier, Douglas Thomas at The Fire, Evening River Band at Kung Fu Necktie

Photo by Nacho Vidal via

Spanish dance group Delorean plays a free show at Morgan’s Pier tonight. Last year, the group released its second album, Apar, produced in the band’s private studio in El Poblenou. The title is a Basque term that means to froth or foam. The sounds in the album, a very minimum instrumentation and vocals, has a feeling of being destroyed yet remaining strong. The band released a playlist of some of the fantastic remixes they’ve done this year, as well as a warped video for “Unhold” featuring Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. They will be joined by Philly’s City Rain, who were featured on the Key’s Unlocked Series. Similar to Delorean, City Rain recorded its newest album High School Dance near a family shore house. Catch both bands for their free show at Morgan’s Pier. Get more details at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Districts at A.K.A. Music, On The Water at PhilaMOCA, Cheerleader at Kung Fu Necktie

Photo by Eric Ashleigh
Photo by Eric Ashleigh

Central PA natives The Districts will celebrate the release of their first EP on Fat Possum Records tonight with a free show at AKA Music in Old City. The Americana-rock band is about to head out on a winter tour with White Denim, with a South By Southwest appearance and spring shows on the horizon. Pre-order the EP here, and watch the band’s HotBox session performance of “Radiator” below.

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Photos: The 5th annual 2nd Street Fest takes over Northern Liberties (ft. The Low Anthem, Denison Witmer, On The Water and more)

West Philadelphia Orchestra's set continues offstage and in the middle of the Piazza crowd | Photo by John Vettese
West Philadelphia Orchestra wraps up their set in the middle of the Piazza crowd | Photo by John Vettese

The fifth annual 2nd Street Fest brought a bustling crowd and wide assortment of food vendors, community organizations and local musicians to Northern Liberties on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Among those performing at the Fairmount and Germantown stages at either end of the mega-block party were Chambersburg indie-punk outfit The Shackletons, Americana ghouls The Bailey Hounds, singer-songwriter Denison Witmer and aggro-folk crew On the Water.

In the Piazza at Schmidt’s, West Philadelphia Orchestra stole the show playing a long set of eastern-European infused brass band dance jams; when they were notified that their time onstage was over, they marched off, still playing, and wrapped up their performance in the midst of a frenzied crowd. Electro-poppers Vacationer turned in an impressive performance as well, and the big stage show wrapped up with The Low Anthem‘s first post-hiatus Philadelphia performance, though the festival continued out on the street till 10, and into the wee hours at the North Bowl afterparty. Check out photos in the gallery below.


The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. The Districts, Mavis Staples, Birdie Busch and more)


Miles Davis would have celebrated his 87th birthday on Sunday.  Check out some live footage of the legendary trumpet player’s 1970 show at the old Electric Factory [link]

Diplo curated a summer playlist featuring James Blake, Daft Punk, Laura Mvula and more for Vulture [link]

XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week is Mavis Staples‘ cover of the Funkadelic track “Can You Get to That” [link]

Singer-songwriter / fiddler Sara Watkins recorded a session for Folkadelphia [link]

Birdie Busch will be releasing her recent PledgeMusic-funded album on vinyl and donating proceeds to the IHM Literacy Center in West Philadelphia [link]

Dock Street Beer Run announces the line-up for their June 9th 5k / music festival event, including On the Water, Norwegian Arms and Post Sun Times [link]

Sonja Sofia is profiled in the latest installment of Kettle Pot Tracks’ On the Hill series [link]

Local power rockers Lantern unveiled a new song called “Evil Eye” and the cover art for their upcoming LP Rock ‘N’ Roll Rorschach [link]

Watch a video of The Districts performing at The Porch at 30th Street Station yesterday for XPN’s Philly Local Busker series [link]

Folk duo Arborea shared a new video for their song “Pale Horse Phantasm”; they’ll be at the Highwire Gallery on June 9th for a Folkadelphia Presents show [link]

The Photon Band is back with a new album and a show at Johnny Brenda’s on July 6th [link]

Newish Philly outfit Divers were the subject of this week’s Key Studio Session [link]


On the Water, Norwegian Arms and more performing at Dock Street Beer Run on 6/9

When the worlds of long-distance running, live music and beer enthusiasts collide, Dock Street Brewing Company is there. The West Philly brew pub and pizza-eatery has for the past several years thrown a 5K run and music festival at its Baltimore Avenue HQ during Beer Week, and this year’s lineup is as enticing as its famed Man Full of Trouble porter.

Music begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday the 9th of June on an outdoor stage across from Cedar Park. The lineup so far featured pirate folkies On the Water and global visionaries Norwegian Arms, West Philly via North Jersey dub stars Post Sun Times and a group called Bomple, about which the internet seems to know not much.

As for the athletic element – the run is returning to the “scavenger hunt” approach of its inaugural year where “a 3 to 4 mile scenic adventure run through University City / West Philly” features a handful of stops where runners need to find beer-related clues and collect tokens that are turned in at the finish line. Prizes are awarded to top finishers by gender and overall, but the key point: It’s a fun run. So the dude or lady who’s stressing out over their pace while frantically checking splits on their wristwatch might feel a bit out of place.

Participants also receive two beer vouchers (one at the start, another upon completion), a t-shirt and some other goodies. Registration is $20 in advance via the Dock Street website and more information can be found at the run’s Facebook event page. Below, check out a montage of last year’s event, plus a 30-second clip of Hoots and Hellmouth wrapping up the day of music. Note the sun glare – it was 95 degrees out that day. Dock Street (somehow) promises its runners more cooperative weather this year.


The Week’s Best MP3 Downloads, incl. Cayetana, Mariah Welch, Ecomog

CayetanaIndie punk trio Cayetana stopped by for this week’s Key Studio Session, recording four tracks and proving just why they were picked up by Tiny Engines Records so quickly.  With insightful lyrics and tight playing, Cayetana are quickly becoming a favorite among local music fans.  Stream and download “South Philly” below and revisit their full session here.  They’ll join Bad Braids at Little Berlin for a Ladyfest benefit show on April 20th; more information can be found here.

Continue reading →


Folkadelphia Session: On The Water (celebrating the release of their record ‘False Starts’ on Friday)

Photo by James Clark Conner
Photo by James Clark Conner

I would like to take this opportunity to formally nominate On The Water to become the house band for every West Philly basement. If you haven’t yet had the chance to experience these musical ne’er-do-wells in the underbelly of a row house or warehouse, crammed inside with a ton of other sweaty, excited human beings, clutching a can in one hand and your fist in the other, well, you’ve been missing out. That all can change when On The Water, led by Fletcher VanVliet and featuring a variably sized collective of musical cohorts and companions on your various stringed, percussive, and amplified instruments, celebrates the release of their brand new, barely broken in record False Starts at Beaumont Wherehouse on this coming Friday, April 12th.

In fact, a West Philly basement might be the perfect modern equivalent to a pirate’s galley. Maritime terminology notwithstanding, On The Water craft the same kind of raucously muscular songs and chants that could easily translate to the theme music for the oarsmen on the deck of a ship (or perhaps as the last sounds a traitorous soul hears as he is committed to walk the plank). Both have a primal energy that demands attention, participation, and respect – and perfection and gloss be damned! That’s what makes False Starts and this Folkadelphia Session so great and fun to listen to – it’s raw and real.

On The Water (operating as a six piece band) recorded these songs, both new and old, at the XPN Performance Studio on February 26th, 2013 before embarking on tour. They return to officially release their new album False Starts on Friday, April 12th at Beaumont Wherehouse.