Watch Damon Albarn play “Mr. Tembo” at the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase, listen to his entire set

Damon Albarn isn’t one to do things the same way twice. He explored a broad spectrum of styles under the Brit rock umbrella with Blur, switched gears to nightclub dance pop with Gorillaz, soundtracky soundscapes with The Good, The Bad and The Queen, and even dabbled in operas (Monkey, Dr. Dee). The man is nothing if not eclectic and his latest album Everyday Robots, out April 28th, and it finds him in more introspective, chamber-balladeer mode.

Yesterday at the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase, Albarn showed off a set of selections from the new album (along with a revisit of “El Manana” from Gorillaz’ 2004 album Demon Days) with five backing musicians plus a string quartet and the seven-voices-strong Deric Lewis and the Austin Choir Band. The singers especially shone through on “Mr. Tembo,” a jaunty selection from the new album which Albarn said was the story of a baby elephant in Tanzania whose mother was killed by poachers.

Watch a video of “Mr. Tembo” below and listen to Albarn’s entire set here (via the WXPN media player). After the jump, check out another video of the Choir on “Heavy Seas of Love.”

Continue reading →


Watch The Hold Steady perform “The Ambassador” at the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase, listen to the entire set

Yesterday The Hold Steady played a set for the Public Radio Rocks showcase at SXSW.  The XPN favorites will release their sixth studio record Teeth Dreams on March 25th.  Check out a video of the band performing “The Ambassador” below and listen back to their full set here.


SXSW Dispatch: Public Radio Rocks showcase with Damon Albarn, Lucius, Temples and more

Damon Albarn | Photo by Laura Fedele |
Damon Albarn | Photo by Laura Fedele |

Wow, what a whirlwind of an afternoon! We just wrapped up with the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase starring Damon Albarn, Lucius, The Hold Steady, Phantogram, Jeremy Messersmith and Temples – curated in collaboration with WFUV in New York, KUTX in Austin, KXT in Dallas, The Current in Minneapolis and WXPN in Philly. Over the next several days, we’ll bring you video and full-set audio recaps of each artist’s set. For now, peruse the gallery below for an overview of the show.


SXSW Dispatch: World Cafe’s breakfast showcase with Wye Oak, Phox and more

Wye Oak | Photo by John Vettese
Wye Oak | Photo by John Vettese
Our Thursday started rather early as we settled into the KUTX stage at Austin’s Four Seasons for a live broadcast of World Cafe sessions by Kins, Phox, Bright Light Social Hour and Wye Oak. Check out a gallery of photos from the showcase below, and tune in to Friday’s World Cafe to hear a playback of the sessions.


SXSW Dispatch: Staying put and slamming around to Against Me!, The Front Bottoms and Placeholder at Brooklyn Vegan’s showcase

Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese
Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese

Part of the appeal of the annual South By Southwest festival is no doubt wandering from venue to venue in downtown Austin, catching bits of sets by dozens of new bands, seeing where the music and the crowd may lead you.

But there’s something to be said for finding a venue – or party, or showcase, or whatever – with a lineup that’s solid through and through, and just parking yourself there for the night. For me, Brooklyn Vegan’s show at the Red 7 Patio last night was just that. The headlining set by Florida’s Against Me! would have been enough to draw me in – their new rager Transgender Dysphoria Blues is already one of the year’s best, and they were at the top of my bands-to-see list – but they shared the bill with a enticing set of their (mostly) punk scene peers, from Lancaster screamers Placeholder to Jersey popsters The Front Bottoms. And, for the most part, all the acts delivered.

California comedian / musical Harvey Sid Fisher got the night to a light start with a set that was briefly fun and mercifully brief. His shtick is pretty one-note – he’s old, and he’s raunchy, and he sings about raunchy old guy things, and yeah. It’s the kind of humor that wears thin quickly, and while he had the modest crowd chuckling at first (many were still queued up in the alley behind the venue), he wrapped it up as their attention began to wane.

Placeholder | Photo by John Vettese
Placeholder | Photo by John Vettese

In contrast, Placeholder followed with a full-throttle set that was too brief. These guys might not have the most accessible sound (if you’ve got an aversion to growly vocals, they aren’t for you) but their energy and chemistry are undeniable, and captivating to watch. Frontman Brandon Gepfer is a very physical performer, flinging himself around the stage, into the speakers and his bandmates who reciprocated right back. He told the crowd that they’re used to playing “basements with like ten people,” so this was the biggest gathering they’d played for on tour. Would have been awesome had they played for a little longer, though, since the patio was just filling up when they left the stage, setting the room up for Gainesville’s Frameworks and their melodic spin on late 90s hardcore (a la At The Drive-In, Boy Sets Fire).

Cheap Girls from Lansing, Michigan was the only real disappointing set of the night – their songs are tremendously hooky power pop earworms akin to early Replacements jams, but their stage presence is nil; singer Ian Graham stands at the mic with his eyes closed, Adam Aymor riffs on guitar with his head buried in his hair, and the crowd predictably bobs their heads while checking Twitter on their phones.

The Front Bottoms, on the other hand, are pure interaction – sing/screamalongs, hi-fives, someone buying singer-guitarist Brian Sella a Guinness and daring him to chug it. The audience packed in towards the front of the stage, and became a mass of pushing, shoving, smiling bodies by the time “Twin-Size Mattress” rolled around Amusing aside: a dude in the crowd who books shows in Orlando talked before their set about how he’d never seen or heard of them, but everybody told him they were great. I concurred, and he countered “But they’re acoustic, though?” “Well, he plays an acoustic guitar,” I explained. “But they’re pretty badass.” “Um, I’ll take your word for it,” he replied.

I guess “badass” is relative, considering he might have been there to see brutal hardcore outfit Touche Amore, who absolutely pummeled the stage with their performance that followed – think the physicality of Placeholder, amped up about five times. Think of the sense of tension and catharsis of Converge, Paint it Black or Pissed Jeans. Again, not a sound for everybody, but holy cow what a spectacle to watch.

Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese

Wrapping the night around 1 a.m. was Against Me!, playing an hour-plus set highlighting the new LP and digging back through the band’s catalog for sure-fire crowd-pleasers like the title track of 2007’s New Wave and the singalong “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” from 2010’s White Crosses. The crowd that had begun to dwindle slightly – it was a super chilly night for an outdoor show – but the people who stayed were massive enthusiasts on par with the devotion The Front Bottoms and Touche Amore saw, slamming and swaying and screaming along.

Since singer-guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, the band kind of went into reset mode: as she said in Spin interview back in January, the path to the new album almost destroyed Against Me!, but with the enlistment of new players and perhaps her tightest collection of songs – the album is simultaneously anthemic, provocative, insightful and massively catchy – the band persevered. The patio was a smaller space than Against Me! has probably performed at in a long while, but if the reception the band saw – and the energy it brought to the stage – is any indication, it will prove to be a rare occurrence. Check out photo highlights and a full-show gallery below. Continue reading →


Not going to SXSW? Don’t worry. WXPN is bringing SXSW to you.

Lucius - Photo by Peter Larson
Lucius | Photo by Peter Larson

This week is the SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas – something you pretty much can’t miss if you frequent the music blogosphere. But if you’re staying home in Philly and find yourself scrolling through photos and tweets about amazing concerts you can’t go to, don’t get too bummed about it: WXPN is broadcasting sets by Lucius, Damon Albarn, The Hold Steady, Wye Oak and more live from SXSW on Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, David Dye will be recording and broadcasting four live Cafe sessions from the Four Seasons hotel in Austin as part of the KUTX Morning Show. On Friday, David will co-host the Public Radio Rocks the SXSW Day Stage showcase from the Austin Convention Center with four other public radio stations including WFUV (New York), The Current (Minneapolis), KUTX (Austin), and KXT (Dallas).

Below are the lineups and set times for each day.

Thursday – World Cafe/KUTX Four Seasons sessions
8 a.m. – Kins
9 a.m. – Phox
10 a.m. – Bright Light Social Hour
11 a.m. – Wye Oak

Friday – Public Radio Rock the SXSW Day Stage
1 p.m. – Lucius
2 p.m. – The Hold Steady
3 p.m. – Phantogram
4 p.m. – Jeremy Messersmith
5 p.m. – Temples
5:30p.m. – Damon Albarn

In addition, both World Cafe and The Key will be roving about SXSW all weekend; we’ll bring you daily recaps here on The Key, while you can get real-time updates over at World Cafe’s Tumblr page. Below, sample some of the musicians featured during the live broadcasts from SXSW, and check back for our SXSW coverage all week.


The whimsical indie-folk sounds of Phox

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

The Wisconsin seven piece Phox are doing a World Cafe session with David Dye this week as part of the Cafe’s week long Sense of Place Austin series. This week there are featured sessions with singer-songwriters Alejandro Escovedo and Patty Griffin, psychedelic rockers The Black Angels, the indie-folk pop band Wild Child, and more. Other interviews include Spoon drummer and record producer Jim Eno and Richard Swenson, co-founder of SXSW.

Phox are doing a World Cafe session with David Dye this Thursday morning from the Four Seasons in Austin that will be broadcast live on WXPN at 9AM, during XPN’s Morning Show with Michaela Majoun. Phox is fronted by Monica Martin and they play a whimsical mix of indie folk, pop and electronic music. Martin has a dynamic, rich voice and the songs are filled with quirky pop twists, ebullient melodies, punchy horn arrangements and folkie instrumentation. Below, download a 7 song sampler of songs via Noisetrade that Phox recorded in London as part of the iTunes festival in September, 2013. They recently announced they signed with Partisan records and their new full length album is being released in late June.

This Thursday morning, in addition to Phox, David will also be doing interviews with Kins, Wye Oak and Austin’s Bright Light Social Hour. World Cafe’s Sense of Place Austin sessions can be heard here. You can also follow the World Cafe tumblr for all the action. Below, in exchange for your e-mail address, download a live session the band recorded at the iTunes festival in London in September, 2013.


Damon Albarn, Phantogram, Lucius, Temples and more to play WXPN SXSW broadcast

Damon Albarn | Photo by Linda Brownlee
Damon Albarn | Photo by Linda Brownlee

For the second year in a row at next week’s SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas, WXPN along with public radio stations WFUV (New York), The Current (Minneapolis), KUTX (Austin), and KXT (Dallas), will be broadcasting and webcasting live. On Friday, March 14th, starting at 1PM, XPN will broadcast live performances from Temples, Lucius, Phantogram, Jeremy Messersmith, The Hold Steady, and Damon Albarn. The show will be held at the Austin Convention Center at the Radio Day Stage.


Creepoid, The Districts, Rosu Lup among Philly-area bands added to SXSW lineup

Courtesy of the artist
Creepoid is one of the Philly bands with official SXSW showcases | Courtesy of the artist

The third time’s the charm, I suppose. After two rounds of South By Southwest official lineup announcements without many Philly artists in the mix, today a third wave of showcasing artists came out, and the following local (and local-ish) names are on it:

The Districts
Dave Hause
Low Cut Connie
Psychic Teens
Fuel (Harrisburg)
Howe Gelb (PA)
Rivers of Nihil (Reading PA)
Vikesh Kapoor (Lock Haven, PA)
Rosu Lup (Oaklyn NJ)
Jonah Tolchin (Princeton NJ)
Dots Will Echo (Ridgewood DE)
Madi Diaz (Lancaster native, relocated to Los Angeles)

These folks join Philly’s G Love, whose official showcase was announced in the second wave. Also on the bill by way of North Jersey are Nicole Atkins and Brick and Mortar. South By Southwest takes place March 11 to March 16 in Austin, TX.