Ben Howard shows a new side of himself on his new album Noondays Dream after a four year hiatus

Ben Howard
Ben Howard | photo courtesy of the artist

Following his 2014 record, I Forget Where We Were, English folk / rock singer-songwriter Ben Howard released his third full-length album titled Noonday Dream via Island Records. It’s been four years, and the self-produced album was well worth the wait. Of course, nothing could ever beat his past work like his double platinum 2011 record Every Kingdom. However, that is not his intent for Noonday Dream. The album is not meant to mimic that nostalgic sound that got fans hook, but rather to take a step in a new direction. Continue reading →


Just Announced: Leon Bridges will play a second night The Fillmore after selling out first show

Leon Bridges | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN

There’s just something about 26 year-old R&B singer Leon Bridges that makes you go weak, in a good way. That’s probably why his Philly show sold out so quickly, but no worries! Leon Bridges has just added a second show on October 1st at the Fillmore. Now, those who didn’t get a ticket the first time around will be able to experience Bridges’s soulful voice that will have your heart throbbing to every beat. Continue reading →


Less War, More Leisure: Miguel holds court at The Fillmore Philadelphia

Miguel | photo by Lissa Alicia for WXPN

I first saw Miguel Jontel Pimentel at South by Southwest, what feels like a very long six years ago. Back then, he was a promising but relatively conventional second-string R&B hitmaker – though already (unbeknownst to us at the time) in the midst of a metamorphosis that would lead him to the dazzling creative breakthrough of his second album, Kaleidoscope Dream. But even at that early stage, his nascent star power was blinding, and blindingly obvious. Some time later, mostly by happenstance, I caught the livestream of his set at Pitchfork Festival during the summer long hot of 2016 – just about a week after the deaths in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas – and witnessed the singer, dressed in angelic white, seizing an emotionally fraught historic moment and channeling it into an empowering, healing and utterly captivating performance.

Last night’s show at the Fillmore offered neither the thrill of discovery and sense of limitless possibility of that 2012 showcase set, nor the urgent topicality, coherence and moral force of the Pitchfork performance. But it didn’t need them. Even as nothing wilder than a seasoned working entertainer, punching in for another showbiz night, Miguel is among the best in the business. Throughout a generous twenty-plus-song set that drew from each of his four albums – including almost the entirety of his most recent, last year’s War and Leisure – he held the enthusiastic crowd in the palm of his hand all night long. Continue reading →


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 →


It’s springtime in Fishtown as The Decemberists hold court at The Fillmore

The Decemberists | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN
The Decemberists | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN

A packed crowd at The Fillmore stalked the stage, awaiting Colin Meloy and the rest of The Decemberists’ circus-like performance, full of tongue twisted lyrics and fantasy. Touring on their What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World LP from 2015, old fans were shouting for earlier favorites like “Red Right Ankle” and “The Chimbley Sweep.” After opening with a passionate “Crane Wife” parts 1, 2, and 3, everyone was at ease. Continue reading →


Church of Psychedelic Soul: Jim James makes The Fillmore Eternally Even

Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN |
Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN |

It was a packed house last night for My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James at The Fillmore Philadelphia. Touring on his new album, Eternally Even, he played many of his inherently spiritual, yet psychedelic, songs accompanied by his unmistakable voice.

James played a 90-minute set plus a 30-minute encore, whipping his hair around during all guitar solos, donned in a suit and sunglasses, as always. The light show accompanying the band had the color spectrum of a Phish show, but with the nuance of a contemporary art installation. It really felt like some millennial-filled church, with all eyes drawn to the worshiped James, as soft lights flickered like stars of the lid. Continue reading →


Ingrid Michaelson mesmerizes The Fillmore with songs old and new

Ingrid Michaelson | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Ingrid Michaelson | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN |

Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson lit up the stage with a wonderful set playing to a packed crowd at The Fillmore on Monday night as part of her Hell No tour. Touring in support of her recently released LP, It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense, Michaelson and her five-piece band performed a well-rounded set featuring some of her newest music along with a mix of favorites pulled from her previous five albums. The show started with a dramatically dark stage that lit up as Michaelson came on stage and started singing one of her new songs, “Light Me Up.” After a few songs, the band left the stage and Ingrid performed a couple songs solo acoustic with her ukulele. She played an interesting medley combining “Corner of Your Heart” and “How We Love,” followed by a beautiful cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Continue reading →


Interview: Finding universal parallels and Signs of Light with The Head and The Heart’s Jonathan Russell

The Head and The Heart | photo by James Minchin | courtesy of the artist
The Head and The Heart | photo by James Minchin | courtesy of the artist

After a long run of supporting their breakout sophomore album Let’s Be Still, Americana rock luminaries The Head and The Heart needed a breather.

The bandmates had been on the road together practically nonstop for two years; beyond that, they’d been at the grindstone since emerging from the Seattle coffee house community in 2009 with their self-titled Sub Pop Records debut. Stepping back for a year was essential, and some of their experiences in that time off were liberating and joyous – frontman Jonathan Russell embarked on nonprofit work in Haiti, and found himself teaching music alongside Jackson Browne; pianist Kenny Hensley learned to fly planes, and vocalist Charity Rose Thielen wrote songs for Mavis Staples. Other experiences were more serious, and co-frontman Josiah Johnson took a hiatus from the band this spring, announcing that he was battling addiction and needed time to focus on recovery.

At the end of it all is a tremendous new record called Signs of Light. It’s The Head and The Heart’s major label debut, and even though a heavy-hitting producer helped bring it to life — Jay Joyce, whose resume includes Cage the Elephant, Amos Lee and Emmylou Harris — the music within sounds refreshingly true to the band’s life-affiriming spirit, just on a somewhat grander scale. From the out the gate anthems “City of Angels” and “All We Ever Knew,” to the nuanced and reflective “Library Magic” and the deeply personal “Signs of Light,” it’s a striking blend of pop accessibility and emotional connectivity. This Sunday, October 24th, The Head and the Heart’s tour in support of the album comes through Philadelphia at The Fillmore.

Earlier this year, I caught up with Russell via phone to unpack the new record, and our wide-ranging conversation touches on The Head and The Heart’s gradual growth into theater headliners, Russell’s empathetic songwriting tendencies, ideas of collaboration versus autonomy, the absence of their friend Josiah on this run, and how they aim to pay forward the opportunities they had in their career. Read the interview in full below; tickets are still available for Sunday night’s show at The Fillmore, and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Interview: Phantogram’s Josh Carter on making beats, trimming fat and spanning worlds

Phantogram | photo by Tony Saccenti | via

At the 2015 edition of the Roots Picnic, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram told the crowd a story about her band’s first big single. She and longtime creative partner (and childhood friend) Josh Carter were both huge hip-hop fans growing up, and he initially devised the beat for “As Far As I Can See” not as a song of his own, but as a cut to shop around – he hoped it might get picked up by Jay Z, or somebody of that stature. It did not, but that worked out pretty well for Phantogram all the same.

Since the release of 2010’s Eyelid Moves, the New York band has evolved from a brooding duo with a knack for catchy, spectral soundscapes to a hard-hitting electronic rock juggernaut. This fall brings their latest record, Three, which finds Barthel and Carter diving head on into the dark overtones that have always permeated their work, motivated in part by the death of Barthel’s sister, Becky. In a recent interview with Complex Magazine, Barthel summed up a theme of the album as “owning the darkness” – accepting and embracing all elements of yourself, angels and devils alike.

The album features some of the band’s most atmospheric work to date, but also some of its poppiest, like the massive gothic single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.” And hip-hop is still a part of their lives, from Carter’s production work for Stones Throw artist Oh No and ATL hero Big Boi (the latter of whom collabed with the band last year on the Big Grams project) to getting namechecked and rapped over by artists from Vince Staples to Nas and Philly’s S.T.S.

With a headlining tour rolling into The Fillmore on Monday, I caught up with Carter over the phone to talk about the band’s origins, its growth in scope and its ability to fit in just about anywhere. Continue reading →