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The Key Presents: Backstage with Brandi Carlile

Brandi
Brandi Carlile | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

It was the 11th hour at the 2016 XPoNential Music Festival, and as Old Crow Medicine Show kicked into “Wagon Wheel,” we headed backstage at the BB&T to meet up with the star of the night — Brandi Carlile. Just before she hit the big stage, she and the Twins (that’s Phil and Tim Hanseroth) sat down for an intimate and jaw-dropping performance of “The Eye.”

It’s a song that Carlile says was a long time coming for her and the Hanseroths, who got together in Seattle “in a time when grunge was at its peak, and it was very uncool to say that you were into three part harmonies.” As Carlile later told her fans at XPNFest, “this song is about how there is no lead singer, there’s only somebody who insists that she is.” Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: Esme Patterson

Esmé Patterson | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Esmé Patterson | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

On a sunny Friday afternoon in May, we found Esme Patterson and her band reclined under the towering railroad trestle that cuts across the 31st Street side of WXPN. They’d driven up from a gig the previous night in D.C., were scheduled to play NonCOMM in a few short hours, and decided to take advantage of the agreeable weather to get some R&R on a blanket of green grass under the expanse of rust-orange steel, a curious intersection of post-industrial urbanism and the more verdant natural world.

Patterson’s music functions in a similar way. Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: The Districts

The Districts | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
The Districts | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

“It’s a long way down from the top to the bottom,” laments Rob Grote in 2014’s “Young Blood.” Perhaps he’s warding against some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Weaving humility into the very fibres of his songwriting, he finds a great strength in weakness. But it’s not as simple as just putting pen to page. Being kind is something that comes second nature to The Districts. Even after releasing a record that garnered praise everywhere from tiny blogs to Rolling Stone, and sharing stages with legends like The (actual) Rolling Stones, they still remain the same sweaty, smiling boys I saw absolutely crushing basement shows, a couple of years back. Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: Saintseneca

Saintseneca's Zac Little | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Saintseneca’s Zac Little | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

“I write all the songs that I want to write,” says Saintseneca‘s Zac Little as we’re walking around on the Reading Viaduct, “so why would I need another band?” While many of his bandmates moonlight in other projects — All Dogs, Yowler, The Sidekicks, to name a few, these are not unknown bands in the slightest — Zac feels fulfilled in one sphere. One whole cloth.

It’s a philosophy that Zac takes into his songwriting, as well. Anything can be profound, everything is valuable in the right light. A question like “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” might seem inane, but in Little’s hands it finds meaning beyond measure. Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: Lithuania

Lithuania | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo racheldelsordophotography.com
Lithuania | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo racheldelsordophotography.com

Rock and roll just feels damn good. Like an ice cold beer on a scorching summer day, it quenches a deep-seated human thirst. Longtime veterans on the Philly rock scene front, both Eric Slick and Dom Angelella know this fact instinctively.

Ten years in the making, their collaborative project Lithuania hits the spot — hard. It’s no-nonsense, no-frills rock and roll for the everyman. Their debut record Hardcore Friends (out last year on Lame-O Records) took a scorched earth policy towards songwriting: Go hard and leave it all on the table. Live, it’s even stronger. After seeing them open up for a Districts/mewithoutYou secret show in late 2014, I knew Lithuania was gonna be the Philly band to beat in the near future. Continue reading →

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The Key Presents: Foxing

Foxing | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Foxing | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Foxing are a force of nature. Anyone who’s seen the St. Louis post-emo six-piece in the past year-and-a-half of relentless touring can attest to that fact. Frontman Conor Murphy brings a fearsome energy to the stage, roaring his unbelievably personal lyrics over an oceanic soundscape spooled out drop by drop, each twinkling guitar note and choir sample weaving together as fluidly and surely as tidal erosion.

The combination of blistering passion and ace talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, with the band being hand-selected to support emo titans Brand New, and later joining Philly friends Modern Baseball and mewithoutYou for tours as well, stealing shows and hearts all the while.

But Foxing is at its best with emotions running high, and this isn’t limited to a room full of screaming, sobbing fans—like the one they tore apart at Union Transfer early in December. Some of Foxing’s most visceral moments come not in the raging choruses of songs like “Rory” and “the Medic,” but in the layered introspection and lightly wafting lyrics from Murphy. Continue reading →