24 Hours of Christmas Music: DJs Jon Solomon and Robert Drake share their experience with holiday marathons

Marathon Holiday DJs Jon Solomon of WPRB (left) and Robert Drake of WXPN | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |
Marathon Holiday DJs Jon Solomon of WPRB (left) and Robert Drake of WXPN | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |

Holiday music is everywhere this time of year. It blares through every store in the mall and every car radio stuck in that 9 to 5 bumper-to-bumper, all in hopes of keeping the mood cheery and festive. But where does that cheer go when the same songs play in an incessant loop to the point where insanity may very well ensue? Simply turn the dial to either 103.3 or 88.5, where two marathon DJs that will be taking over the airwaves for 24 non-stop hours on Christmas Eve.

Jon Solomon and Robert Drake have been doing it for years and it seems there is no end in sight. Solomon, a radio personality for Princeton’s student-run station WPRB, began his holiday marathon twenty-six years ago when he was fifteen years old and hasn’t missed a year since. This year, he even upped the ante to a 25-hour special.

Inspired by Solomon, Robert Drake began his 12-hour holiday show at WXPN 22 years ago, and it eventually turned into a 24-hour marathon. The Key got the chance to speak with both of the DJs about the perks of the marathons, their favorite non-traditional holiday tunes, their shared love for the Dr. Who Christmas special and just how they manage to make it through all those hours without a nap. Continue reading →


Exploring the legacy of South Philly’s Boot & Saddle

A photo of the new Boot & Saddle, provided by R5 Productions
A photo of the new Boot & Saddle, provided by R5 Productions

For nearly 20 years now, Boot & Saddle—the abandoned country-western bar on Broad Street at Ellsworth—has remained vacant, its iconic boot sign the sole reminder of a once vibrant past. This Monday, however, all that will change. The venue will reopen, thanks to nightlife guru Avram Hornik (Four Corners Management), who together with FCM’s Mark Fichera, R5 Productions’ Sean Agnew, and The Bowery Presents, will transform the shuttered eyesore into a thriving concert venue, complete with a 60-seat bar and 150-person capacity performance space.

New places to catch shows are always exciting—yet in the case of B&S, what’s even more exciting is continuing the space’s long musical history, which will pick up after a 17-year hiatus. In celebration of Boot & Saddle’s new chapter, we hunted down patrons and employees of the old Boot—to talk line-dancing, brews, and their favorite memories from back in the day.

“My memories of The Boot (as many people called it) are a bit fuzzy,” says Robert Drake, WXPN DJ and longtime supporter of the local scene. “I would make it a stop every New Year’s Day as part of my stroll up Broad Street during the Mummers Parade—it was PACKED but friendly, with lots of regulars.”

“My first time there was 1980—and I would go every New Year’s Day until the bar closed up,” he continues. “I remember the only draft beer they had was ‘Miller Draft—in bottles’ … which is exactly what the bartender would say to anyone who dared ask.”

The bar was owned by Pete DelBorrello, a Navy man and well-respected South Phladelphian, who also owned several other businesses on the block, including a check cashing spot and a Laundromat. “Pete and his family were really good people—respected by the neighborhood,” says Drake. “I remember there being TONS of Navy memorabilia throughout the bar—which led to the bar being a spot for sailors who docked in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.”

The iconic boot sign out front

Military personnel were regularly on hand at The Boot, yet there was also a contingent of locals, who came for the cheap drinks and vibes. Frank Blank Moriarty, of famed punk band Informed Sources, remembers a younger group gracing the Boot as well:

“What would strike you was the diversity of the crowd,” he says. “One segment of the younger element was people into bands like The Blasters, Jason and the Scorchers, X, Lone Justice, and other roots- and country influenced music being produced at the time. The other segment consisted of homesick young members of the military. Surprisingly, I don’t ever recall there being a fight—I remember more of a ‘live and let live’ vibe,” he says. Continue reading →


5 songs we hope Peter Murphy plays on Thursday night at the Trocadero

Peter Murphy at the Granada Theatre via

This Thurday night, May 9th, WXPN’s Land of The Lost, hosted by Robert Drake, Welcomes Peter Murphy to the Troacdero. Murphy is performing all material from Bauhaus, the influential goth-rock band. We asked Drake, who spins new wave and Rock of the 80’s on his monthly Land Of The Lost, to choose 5 songs we hope Murphy plays on Thursday night. Watch them below. Go here for tickets to the show.

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Travel through time with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (kicking off this Thursday, 3/28)

PIFAThe Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts gets underway this Thursday, March 28th and will run through April 27th.  With homebase returning to The Kimmel Center and a new theme of time travel this year, the month-long event will use performances, lectures and exihibitions to explore past moments in history including the discovery of America, the lunar landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Below, check out a few musical highlights that you won’t want to miss, including a selection of free concerts happening in the Kimmel Center’s “Time Travel Plaza” (where you will also find a spiraling time machine).

Last Call at the Downbeat (4/5-4/13, Red Room at the Society Hill Playhouse):  Learn about Philadelphia’s jazz scene in the forties with this staged retrospective of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.  Watch a short video about the play from show producers Jazz Bridge below.

Prima! Rufus! Judy! (4/21, Verizon Hall): Rufus Wainwright reprises Judy Garland’s return to the stage with selections from her 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.  The evening will begin with excerpts from Wainwright’s own opera Prima Donna.  Watch Wainwright perform “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” below.

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Listen to Robert Drake’s Q’zine interview with filmmaker John Waters

With John Waters bringing his Christmas-themed one-man-show to Philadelphia next Thursday, November 29, DJ Robert Drake caught up with the cult favorite filmmaker in an interview for Q’Zine, XPN’s weekly queer arts and culture showcase. The touring show has received critical acclaim for the way it lampoons the holiday season with adult humor, “putting the X in Xmas” as they like to say. But Drake’s interview reveals that Waters is, on another lever, a sincere, non-ironic fan of the holiday season (in all its tacky glory). Listen to the interview here (via the WXPN media player). Waters appears at The Trocadero on Thursday, November 29; you can find tickets and more information here. (Also of note – Waters’ 1988 classic Hairspray screens at The Troc’s Movie Monday showcase on November 26.)


Watch the making-of video for John Flynn’s “Christmas Balls” (from XPN’s 12 Days Of Local Christmas)

From Flynn’s YouTube channel:

Singer-songwriter John Flynn’s new holiday single, Christmas Balls, is a comical cautionary tale about the perils of combining egg nog with small caliber weapons. This affectionately told true story about an inebriated dad who is forced to redecorate the family Christmas tree after using it for target practice with his son’s new BB gun has been a staple of Flynn’s live holiday performances for years! Now almost as a public service message in this time of “making rather merry” Christmas Balls is available to adorn the yuletide airwaves, and for download through all fine digital outlets. (iTunes, Amazon, etc.)

Christmas Balls was produced by Harvey (formerly known to Philadelphians as “Harvey in the Morning”) along with WXPN’s Robert Drake. It features Flynn backed by “a rollicking little band, some sleigh bells and a flash-mob of friends, family and Philadelphia celebrities” (WXPN’s Kathy O’Connell; Fox 29’s Sue Serio; WMGK’s Debbi Calton; the Phillies’ own John Brazer and Tom Burgoyne — a.k.a. the Phillie Phanatic; WIP’s Joe Conklin and many others!


WXPN’s Robert Drake reviews Action Reaction at The Trocadero Balcony Bar

Get the whole review from Drake’s website.

I went to show support for some unique local performers including Kiss Kiss Kill; Void Vision and the rare appearance from Action Reaction.

I first met Simone and Evan (Action Reaction) a few years ago – when they independently attended Sex Dwarf. Their love for New Wave music (especially the early New Romantic sub-genre), as well as their passion for fashion really made them stand out above the crowd and I quickly knew that they were unique.

Over the years, I’ve watched them nurture their talents and was totally psyched to learn that they were going to take their creativity to the stage for a rare live performance.

Watching them set up for their set was entertaining in itself; a series of handmade stands and signs, along with a sea of cables and keyboards … anticipation was in the air!