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The Stray Birds flew home after touring in Ireland and the UK

The Stray Birds / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
The Stray Birds / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

The lights went low, leaving only the glow of handcrafted wooden chandeliers hanging above the back bar. The audience packed into seats starting about two feet away from the stage and ending in the back of the large hall. Spot lights went up on a few mics and strewn string instruments as Maya de Vitry took center stage first, leading the hauntingly aggressive folk ballad “Adelaide.”

Friday evening, Central PA folk phenomenon The Stray Birds came home to Lancaster’s Tellus 360 after ending their UK and Ireland tour. Playing at home for friends and family, the trio shared the stage with Boston-based singer songwriter Deitrich Strause.

Dietrich Strause / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko
Dietrich Strause / Photos by Elizabeth Mazenko

With the room buzzing with chatter and a stage to himself, Strause started the evening with a beautiful acoustic set reminiscent of Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson. One at a time, he invited each of the trio to the stage to sing a duet. Telling the audience that playing with The Stray Birds is like having a little bit of Lancaster with him, Stause invited the three bandmates to the stage to help him sing an homage to Lancaster. This enchanting set is definitely one that you wouldn’t want to miss again. So plan for Strause’s return Lancaster on the 16th alongside David Wax Museum.

After a fifteen minute intermission to climb over people and refresh drinks, The Stray Birds came on with a humble confidence as they dedicated each song to someone or something special in their lives. “I want to send this song out to my dad. He can’t be here because he’s got a gig,” de Vitry states before starting “Harlem.” “That’s the kind of people I come from. My dad’s got a gig and my mom is at home watching basketball,” she chuckles while reassuring the audience that they will see her in Philly.

For a full two hours de Vitry, Oliver Craven, and Charlie Muench took turns sharing center stage and running through a flawless set of organic harmonies and carefully crafted strings. So not to taint the pure beauty, barely anyone wanted to sing along to favorites like “San Antonio Rose,” “Dream In Blue,” and their version of Nanci Griffith’s “I Wish It Would Rain.” Narrating how she seeks out the buildings that were in her textbook and wrote this song after visiting the Lorraine Motel, de Vitry precedes “The Bells” by saying “This song is for Martin Luther King Jr. and the vision that didn’t die when he did.” Finally returning the favor to Strause, the three invited him back on the stage to finish out the exquisitely crafted set.

They Stray Birds released their new EP Echo Sessions this past February and will continue with their American tour through May. Check out the photo gallery below to relive the Lancaster performance.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: OhBree at Kung Fu Necktie, The Stray Birds at World Café Live, Daley at Union Transfer and more

OhBree | Photo by Jake Beadenkopf
OhBree | Photo by Jake Beadenkopf

Yesterday, we premiered their new single “Sweater” and tonight Philly’s OhBree brings their brand of oddball pop to the Kung Fu Necktie stage. There’s much to celebrate as the band’s new LP Death by Broomstick comes out in just a few weeks on April 15th via Lillian Records. Tickets are available at the door before showtime at 8:00pm.

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The Stray Birds take on the United Kingdom during three-week long tour

Photo by Jake Jacobson
Photo by Jake Jacobson

Lancaster folk trio The Stray Birds, who performed at this past summer’s XPoNential Music Festival, are making their way into Europe. The band has taken off on a transatlantic tour to United Kingdom for the past week and are expected to stay until February 16th. The Stray Birds have already started to sell out shows in Glasgow, Scotland and London, England. Check out the band’s performance for Wee Pop Up at the Celtic Connections Festival below.

(Hear More – The Stray Birds release Echo Sessions EP)

(Watch More – The Stray Birds perform “Might Rain” along the Delaware River)

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The Best of Philly Music 2013

Photo by Abi Reimold
Photo by Abi Reimold

In September 2010, we started The Key because we wanted to offer the local music scene another platform to reach more audiences. We also started it because starting in the early aughts we noticed something happening here creatively amongst the local music scene that was hadn’t felt in a while – it was growing creatively and the buzz about how good the local scene was becoming more significant.

More new bands were starting than ever before, more music was becoming available for fans and more musicians were looking for ways to connect to fans. To me, the last five years of “the scene” reminds me a lot of the Philly music scene in the mid-Eighties to early Nineties when bands like Electric Love Muffin, Three Times Dope, The Wishniaks, Nixon’s Head, the Goats, the Dead Milkmen, Schoolly D, The Low Road, The Hooters, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Tommy Conwell all represented for Philly on both local and international stages. We thought Philly 2012 was a banner year for the local music scene. Guess what? 2013 was even better. Here are some of the best things about the Philly music scene in 2013.

Dr. Dog made their best album yet, B-Room.

Man Man made their best record yet, On Oni Pond.

The Districts signed with Fat Possum. Look for an EP with a couple of old songs and new tunes on January 26th.
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The Stray Birds release Echo Sessions EP

Photo by Doug Seymour
Photo by Doug Seymour

The folk and bluegrass trio The Stray Birds have released Echo Sessions, a new five song EP recorded in early October at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina. Echo Sessions features all covers of songs by Jimmie Rodgers, Townes Van Zandt, Ira & Charlie Louvin, Susanna Clark, and Nanci Griffith. The playing is gorgeous, the harmonies exquisite and the EP was recorded in one session, on one microphone. About the songs, the band writes:

Echo Sessions is dedicated to the people who inspire us to sing our way through life. These songs came into our lives as echoes. Whether through another artist’s recording or someone’s rendition in a kitchen, they made the long journey from their writers’ hearts to ours.

Below, listen to their covers of “Loretta” by Townes Van Zandt, and “I Wish It Would Rain” by Nanci Griffith. Stream the entire EP here. XPN Welcomes the band to Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center in York on Friday, November 29th opening for Hoots & Hellmouth.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Up The Chain at Ardmore Music Hall, Weird Hot at Johnny Brenda’s, August Burns Red at Union Transfer, and more…

UPTHECHAIN-roof-792x528Philly acoustic folk soul project Up The Chain is celebrating the release of their anticipated new album Seeds & Thorns with a party at Ardmore Music Hall tonight. Produced by Bill Moriarty (who has recently worked with The Lawsuits and Toy Soldiers) and inspired by some of front man’s Reed Kendall’s musical heroes, such as Neil Young, Paul Simon, and Amos Lee, the sophomore release is expected to be simply intimate with an energized Americana swing. Check out the details and tickets for tonight’s show here. Get ready for the show by listening to what the whole band has to say about the new release below.

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Richard Thompson, Ursula Rucker, The Lawsuits are Friday’s highlights

Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese
Richard Thompson | Photo by John Vettese

The Friday lineup at the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival was eclectic and exciting, beginning with a cluster of Philadelphia music scene staples and wrapping up with electrifying and impressive performance from folk scene mainstay Richard Thompson.

The Lawsuits kicked off the day on the main stage with an assortment of songs from their forthcoming LP Cool Cool Cool; they were poppy, they were country, they were classic rock, with songwriter Brian Dale Allen Strouse stepping behind the Steinway for a snappy take on “Onion” and singer Vanessa Winters owning “Long Drive Home” with a twangy vocal.

Lancaster trio The Stray Birds performed an assortment of songs from the as-yet-untitled album they just finished recording last week, Marc Silver rocked out some songs from his new story-centered album A Miner’s Tale, andToy Soldiers tore across a lively set of bluesy rockabilly from their forthcoming sophomore LP The Maybe Boys, due out September 10th.

Poet Ursula Rucker’s collaborative set with Philly guitar wizard Tim Motzer was easily the day’s highlight. While she read (and occasionally sang) pieces addressing social justice, racial prejudice,. gender and identity (among other topics), Motzer played a hypnotic guitar backing. Her performance of “Philadelphia Child” was particularly moving, as was the concluding call-and-response of “Super Sista.”

After an enjoyable performance from Philly-area celtic crew Runa, Richard Thompson took the stage to a thinning (but devoted) crowd. Thompson has played the fest several times as a solo artist; this time he was with his electric trio, which began on a jarringly funky note, but quickly settled into a groove that let Thompson’s guitar skills shine through. His nimble guitar shredding was impressive, “Shoot Out The Lights” backed by the band packed a punch that the song lacks when Thompson plays it solo. And his solo stab at “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” while not unexpected, didn’t disappoint either. Check out photos from the day in the gallery below.

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