Tonight’s Concert Picks: DRGN King at PhilaMOCA, The Great Unknown at Johnny Brenda’s, XPN Welcomes Martin Sexton to The Landis Theater, Nightlands at Arden Gild Hall

Philly’s DRGN King are celebrating the release of Paragraph Nights tonight at PhilaMOCA.  The full-length debut from the psychedelic power pop outfit was released through Bar / None Records on January 22nd and runs the gamut of infectiously good songwriting from the slick “Holy Ghost” to the party-ready “Wild Night.”  More information for the all-ages show with Dangerous Ponies, Walking Shapes and Idle Idols can be found here.  Stream Paragraph Nights here and watch DRGN King’s Dominic Angelella perform a solo, stripped-down version of “Holy Ghost” at Sofar Sounds from last weekend below.

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Download Sounds From the West from local multi-instrumentalist KC Jones (playing Johnny Brenda’s on 2/2)

Drawing influences from Talking Heads, Spiritualized and local 20th century painter Andrew Wyeth, Philly’s KC Jones has created a body of work that continues to reveal its complex nuances many listens in.  2012 saw the release of his Reckless EP, an exploration of drifting, ambient rock with some surprising instrumentation; the title track pairs the slow drawl of a violin and a pizzicato coda with a War on Drugs-esque bass line that Dave Hartley would be proud of.  Throughout the EP, Jones’ vocals recall those of Tim Showalter (Strand of Oaks), with a weary but sturdy grasp on life and all its tribulations.

Moving forward to 2013, KC Jones released the full-length Sounds From the West just last week.  West takes Jones’ sound in a new direction, moving from the electronic pop of lead track “So Sad” to the rock-structured “Hiding Behind Glass.”  Named for Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” West “follows a singular journey through the disconnect of life in a time of social and political strife.”

KC Jones will play Johnny Brenda’s on Saturday, February 2nd with The Great Unknown (celebrating the release of So Strange and Loud) and Ali Wadsworth.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.  Stream “I.O.U.D.” from Sounds From the West below and download the name-your-price album on Bandcamp here.


Download The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 5 (feat. The Spinto Band, Turning Violet Violet, Heyward Howkins + more)

The latest edition of our Key Studio Sessions compilations is out today – now streamable and downloadable from Soundcloud! Dig into the best of what we’ve been doing since May with The Key Studio Sessions Vol. 5, including some sprightly indie pop from The Spinto Band, driving country-folk from Carsie Blanton, funk jams by Swift Technique and hip-hop from Ground Up. Special thanks to guest engineer Jeff White and production assistants Fred Knittel, Madeleine Lesperance, and Dan Malloy as well as photographers Kate Bracaglia, Eric Ashleigh, David Kain, Michael Passanante, Kevin Kennedy, Rachel Barrish and Bryan Shreck for sharing their work. Continue reading →


Photo Recap: 2nd Street Festival with Man Man, The Great Unknown, Lushlife and more

The fourth annual 2nd Street Festival took over a bustling strip of Northern Liberties yesterday afternoon, filling some ten blocks with artists, crafters, local food vendors, and lots of music. Check out the gallery above for a photo recap of the street fair action, along with performances at The Piazza at Schmidts by Lushlife, The Great Unknown and Man Man – who wrapped up their early evening carnivalesque set just before storm clouds descended and the skies opened.


Download Digest: This week’s best free music, incl. Matthew E. White, Family Band, Sun Airway

Photo by Shawn Brackbill

Here at The Key, we toss a fair heaping of free downloads your way, so it’s completely understandable if you miss a few. Here are our top five bits of digital music from the past week:

Richmond, Virginia musician Matthew E. White is releasing his album Big Inner on Hometapes/Spacebomb Records on August 21st, and plays the TLA on Oct. 11 with The Mountain Goats. This week, his song “Big Love” was a My Morning Download, and you can get it below.

On the heels of making an XPoFest splash a couple weeks ago (and tearing up The Barbary last week), Work Drugs released another track for free download from their album Absolute Bearing. Download “The Art of Progress” below – the band says it was “originally written in 1994 as a response to U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signing the Kremlin accords.” You can also watch the music video here; Work Drugs next plays Philadelphia on Aug. 31 at Johnny Brenda’s.

Family Band celebrated the release of its excellent new record Grace and Lies this week by playing the First Unitarian Church’s side chapel, recording a Live at the World Cafe session and appearing live on the air for XPN2’s Folkadelphia. You can download their Folkadelphia performance of “Ride” below.

Northern Liberties’ 2nd Street Festival is going on today, and one of the great Philly bands playing the main stage at the Pizza at Schmidt’s is The Great Unknown, who were spotlighted in last week’s Key Studio Session. Download their performance of “Borrowed and Temporary” below, and catch them this afternoon at 4:15.

As anticipation for their new record Soft Fall builds, Sun Airway released a mixtape on Wednesday that blends Bartok, Boards of Canada and The Chemical Brothers.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: 2nd Street Festival, Steve Kimock w/ Bernie Worrell at WCL, and New Edition w/ Salt-n-Pepa and El Debarge at The Mann

The Fourth Annual Second Street Festival kicks off today in Northern Liberties. The section between Germantown and Green Street will be closed off from noon to 10 p.m. for a free concert, festivities and fun. There will be musical acts on four different stages, sponsor tables, vendors selling food, drinks, jewelry, clothes, and other goodies. At 3 p.m. there will also be a pie eating contest at the Germantown stage. I might very well be entering, so that will be quite a sight to see.

Some of the featured performers for this year include headliner Man Man, as well as Blayer Point Dujour and the Rockers Galore, The Spinning Leaves, The Great Unknown, Lushlife, and many more.

If you’re planning on not staying too late in Northern Liberties, head over to World Cafe Live to see Steve Kimock‘s Summer Tour. Kimock is known for his improvisational stylings ranging from jazz to world fusion to funk and anything that inspires him at the time. He will be performing tonight along with Bernie Worrell. The show starts at 8 p.m., tickets are $20-30. Below watch a short video preview of the tour.

Blast to the past! Look back to 1995 when wearing plaid outfits was hip and boy bands were popular. Some of the all stars of decade will be featured in Party in Fairmount Park, including New Edition, Salt-n-Pepa, and El Debarge. Tickets to the show at The Mann Center range from $39.75-125; doors open at 6 p.m.


The Key Studio Sessions: The Great Unknown

When it comes to cosmopolitan country music, The Great Unknown are a reliable local source, making mellow moves these past few years to Jordan “Tuck” Burger’s emphatic midtempo drumbeats and ringing out the three-part harmonies with lead singer and songwriter Todd Henkin at the center. The Philly four-piece’s new album, So Strange and Loud, blows its sound open into something more lush and expansive, big on the crescendos and shout-out-loud refrains. Before, they might have been Philly’s answer to The Band (for those who didn’t already consider Dr. Dog such); now, they could be (dare I say it?) our own Dawes. Their Key Studio Session, recorded in the round last week, kept things relative downtempo and contemplative, in classic Great Unknown style, but just you wait till they open for Man Man at the 2nd Street Festival this Sunday; Henkin promises electric guitars, organs, amps and a whole lot of energy.


2nd Street Festival announces its 2012 lineup (includes Man Man, The Great Unknown, Blayer Pointdujour )

The annual 2nd Street Festival returns to Northern Liberties on August 5th, bringing with it a hefty and eclectic lineup ranging from Man Man‘s freaky art-rock to Blayer PointduJour and the Rockers Galore‘s body-moving kompa, and The Great Unknown‘s classic Americana.

The music portion of the day-long festival – which will also showcase local arts, crafts, and food vendors – takes place on the stage of the Piazza at Schmidt‘s, and is presented in conjunction with the Philadelphia Folksong Society. The initial lineup announced today includes:

Man Man
The Great Unknown
The Spinning Leaves
Blayer Pointdujour & The Rockers Galore
Chris Kasper
The Kalob Griffin Band
The Doublewides
KC Jones
Norman Taylor
Mikey Jr.
DJ Matt Beck

Watch our Key Studio Video session with Blayer PointduJour and the Rockers Galore below.

Key Studio Sessions #2 – Blayer PointduJour & Rockers Galore from WXPN FM on Vimeo.


Listen: The Great Unknown release a new album, So Strange And Loud

The Great Unknown have released a new album, So Strange And Loud. You can listen to and buy the album here. The band rips a page or two from the classic Americana songwriting books of The Band, Dawes, The Avett Brothers and Wilco, yet the members of The Great Unknown put their own warm and unique spin on it. Here’s what they have to say about it:

Last winter we recorded So Strange and Loud in a beautiful circular three story cabin in the woods of Mystic, Connecticut.

In true DIY form, we turned the cabin into our studio using only an old 8 track reel to reel, a handful of well placed microphones, & an infinitely patient engineer.

The character of the location and the time we spent living together is all reflected in these songs.

This is the album that we’ve been working towards for the last five years and are proud to now share it with you.


Northern Liberties Winter Music Festival coming to The Fire in February

Photo of Adrien Reju by Shervin Lainez

XPN Welcomes this year’s Northern Liberties Winter Music Festival, February 14th through the 19th at The Fire in Northern Liberties. The festival begins with an evening of duets from locals including the musical pairings of Adirien Reju with Chris Kasper, Denison Witmer with Lauryn Peacock, and three other musical couplings. Additional bands playing throughout the festival include Arrah And The Ferns, Band Name, Conversations With Enemies, Ron Gallo, The Great Unknown, and more. A complete lineup schedule and ticket information is here. Below, sample some tunes from a few of the performing acts.

Arrah and the Ferns – Wake Up by Arrah and the Ferns