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

Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

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 →

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Ingrid Michaelson mesmerizes The Fillmore with songs old and new

Ingrid Michaelson | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | <a href=http://michellemontgomeryphotography.com target="_blank">michellemontgomeryphotogrpahy.com</a>
Ingrid Michaelson | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotogrpahy.com

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 →

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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 →

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

Phantogram | photo by Tony Saccenti | via facebook.com/Phantogram

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 →

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Jane’s Addiction preaches to a new generation at The Fillmore

Jane's Addiction | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Jane’s Addiction | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

The lobby area outside the main house doors at the Philly Fillmore last night sounded like someone raided the old 90s mix-tape drawer. The Beasties and Rage, Blind Melon, Harvey Danger, The Cranberries — this DJ knew the audience he was there to warm: the early birds of the throng of 2500 Jane’s Addiction, Dinosaur Jr. and Living Colour fans waiting patiently to sprint to the front row, jockeying for position against the stage before the lights dim. Continue reading →

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Surrealism in Motion: Tunji Ige and Glassface team up again on the new “War” video

Tunji Ige
Tunji Ige | photo courtesy of the artist

As a beatmaker and vocalist / lyricist, Philadelphia’s Tunji Ige is already a master craftsman of vibe. Add to the mix the visual artist Josh Goldenberg, aka Glassface, and it reaches a whole new level. The high-concept video they did for “Ball Is Life,” which you can watch here, needs to win every award it’s eligible for, and Ige discussed that video and his overall connection with Glassface – who he says has been his go-to since he was fifteen – in our recent interview.

Their latest collab, “War,” showed up today via NPR Music’s First Watch, brings the vibrant ocean blue of the album artwork to life. As Ige told NPR’s Kiana Fitzgerald, “The Missed Calls cover was inspired by Magritte and other surrealist artists. My goal with the ‘War’ video was to make an extension of that — a piece of moving surrealist art.” Continue reading →

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Indie rock showman Father John Misty took the Fillmore Stage this weekend

Father John Misty | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN | <a href=http://hopehelmuth.com target="_blank">hopehelmuth.com</a>
Father John Misty | Photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN | hopehelmuth.com

Erotic, comedic and at times even disturbing, we experienced all the feels when Father John Misty stopped by The Fillmore on Saturday night.

FJM (offstage name: Josh Tillman) made his mystical presence known to a screaming crowd as he took the stage. Within minutes he dropped down on his knees, holding a fan’s hand while singing. The crowd soaked in all of his spontaneous behavior. Later in the set he lifted someone’s iPhone to the stage to the excitement of a fan who was recording a video – something he did last time he was in town, at Union Transfer.

The crowd soaked in all this spontaneous (and seemingly spontaneous) behavior, and there were definitely fans that were losing their minds. We even had a fainter in the house. It was made very clear that the audience had a new favorite sex symbol. Continue reading →

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Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals ‘Call It What It Is’ at The Fillmore

ben harper
Ben Harper | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals are back, and they showed Philly just what they are bringing to the table last Sunday when they played at The Fillmore as a stop along their Call It What Is tour.

Kicking off the set with some cowbell and heavy rock and roll guitar in “When Sex Was Dirty,” Harper and the band introduced their newly released album Call It What It Is. The album was released on April 8th, and was the band’s first album back together in eight years. XPN welcomed Harper and the band back on April 1st when they played a Free at Noon show for World Cafe Live at The Queen, but this was Harper’s first time back in Philadelphia proper since his acoustic set at the Merriam Theater in October 2012. Continue reading →

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The Rocket Summer and Farro spark an old flame at The Foundry

20160322_TheRocketSummer_Concert_BK-1

Millennials piled into The Foundry at The Fillmore Tuesday night as indie power pop favorite The Rocket Summer made an appearance in Philadelphia to kick off the Zoetic tour. The solo project of Bryce Avary has been around since ’99, making a sudden comeback with his new album Zoetic. This is The Rocket Summer’s fifth full-length studio album and is the first we’ve heard of since the Christmas album from 2013. Continue reading →

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Lake Street Dive and The Suffers bring down the house at The Fillmore

Lake Street Dive | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Lake Street Dive | Photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

Friday night’s show at The Fillmore was all about tons of dancing and stellar front-women. The sold-out event began with The Suffers, from Houston, Texas, rocking the stage, as lead vocalist Kam Franklin strutted the stage in a green sequined dress. Franklin really warmed the crowd up with her soulful voice, big stage presence, and inspirational story of finding a second career in music. The ten-piece band is touring behind a couple EPs and their self-titled LP, and has gained a strong following for a band whose debut album is only a month old.

By the time Lake Street Dive arrived, the crowd was ready to keep dancing after chugging a few more cocktails at one of the many bars. Singer / frontwoman Rachael Price began their set with a similar enthusiasm as Franklin, as she danced and smiled with each sultry lyric. The band just released their fifth LP, Side Pony, with Nonesuch Records, and with it came a new energy and a clean look; Price donning high heels and a skirt as she stands at center stage. By the middle of the set, Price pulled a scrunchy out of her hair, shot it into the audience and the band went into the title track “Side Pony,” which really got the audience boogying. Continue reading →