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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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Singer-songwriter Lucy Stone on recording, collaborating and the Philly scene (playing North Star Bar tonight)

Lucy Stone is a 20-year-old Drexel Music Industry program sophomore who has recorded with Rusted Root, opened for Dirty Projectors and played with numerous Philadelphia area bands since she was 14 years old. Now she and her band are opening for Gold Motel tonight at the North Star Bar where they will be selling a limited number of copies of their new EP, Small Treasures. We recently talked to the local songstress to get the details on how she got into playing music, what is was like cutting her teeth in the Philly music scene as a teenager, her various musical collaborations, recording the new EP, what to expect from her band’s show tonight, and what’s next for Lucy Stone. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Gold Motel, Laser Background, Mindy Smith, and the Rebirith Brass Band

While you get psyched for the XPoNential Fest this weekend, check out some of these awesome shows happening tonight:

A hot new band from Chicago who call themselves Gold Motel have been playing together for three years creating vivacious indie pop sounds perfect for your summer playlist. Tonight they play at North Star Bar along with local singer/songwriter Lucy Stone, as well as Tailain Rayne and Dark Black. Tickets to this all ages show are $10, doors open at 7pm. Listen to Gold Motel’s song “Leave You in Love” below.

The new dream pop project from Andy Molholt, Laser Background, is having its self-titled EP release party at Kung Fu Necktie tonight. Laser Background takes pieces from zooming laser sound effects to jazzy percussion to vocal tracks resembling Echo & The Bunnymen. Watch his video for “Weird Conscience” below. Supporting acts tonight include Arrah & The Ferns and Circadian Rhythms. This 21+ show is only $5 and starts at 8pm. Go here to get your tickets.

Over at World Cafe Live at the Queen, WXPN welcomes Grammy award winning brothers from New Orleans, the Rebirth Brass Band. The heavy funk group has also just announced that they will be going on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers starting in November. You can purchase tickets to their show in Wilmington tonight here.

At World Cafe Live Upstairs, singer/songwriter Mindy Smith‘s Closer Tour stops by, with an opening set from Rosi Golan. The show begins at 8pm, tickets are $18 in advanced and $20 day of show.

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The Key’s 12 Days Of Christmas: Talain Rayne’s “Wake Up, December” (featuring Tirzah Lemmens)

Talain RayneDelicate to the point of being dangerously fragile, Talain Rayne’s “Wake Up, December” could very well be the Tiny Tim of Christmas tunes. It’s good-natured and optimistic, but the undercurrent of sadness that flows through the first couple of minutes makes you wonder what kind of immediate future—if any—lies in wait for a song that has seemingly struggled to get as far as it has already. Thankfully, around the 2:15 mark, Talain puts to rest any concerns of The Ghost Of Christmas Future showing listeners a vision of a tiny piano sitting in a dark corner all by its lonesome. The music swells, the the vocal melodies go into overdrive, the drums kick in—and, suddenly, Talain’s Tiny Tim has more energy than Mary Lou Retton backflipping across the stage in Scrooged.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: Talain Rayne’s “Dear Sister, Your Brother”

Talain RayneLike your piano-driven pop infused with a tinge of sadness, but wrapped in the cozy warm blanket of boy/girl vocal harmonies and hummable melodies? Talain Rayne‘s “Dear Sister, Your Brother” (featuring Meg Lynch) sounds so upbeat, you’d probably never realize the poor guy is really crying on the inside. (Unless, of course, the Phoenixville, PA-based singer-songwriter straight-up told you his music is “influenced by nostalgia and his closest relationships,” contains lyrical content that “tugs on listeners’ hearts,” and that he “doesn’t hold back personal family struggles”—all of which he specifically mentions on his website.) Hey, Talain—cheer up, buddy! We can’t give you the kind of comforting reassurance you’re looking for in lyrics such as, “Please say everything is OK/tell me we can go play/like we did when we were younger”—but we can say that you write a pretty good pop song (which you can listen to here).

Every weekday at 1 p.m., Helen Leicht highlights a new song by a local artist during her XPN Middays program (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.). Tune in (or listen online) to hear today’s pick of the day, as well as plenty of other songs from the many musicians Philadelphia has to offer.