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Free At Noon Flashback: Shy Boys introduce Kansas City indie pop to World Cafe Live

Shy Boys performing at World Cafe Live for WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert | photo by Rich McKie

Shy Boys may be from out of town — Kansas City, Missouri, to be exact — but their two-day stint in Philadelphia has had them feeling right at home. After the band’s show at PhilaMOCA last night, they were gearing up for today’s Free at Noon performance with a hearty breakfast when frontman Collin Rausch noticed that the restaurant was playing XPN over the speakers. It got even more surreal for the band when they heard a promo for own show today, making them feel like they weren’t too far away from home after all. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Bahamas floats and shines through World Cafe Live

Bahamas | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

It’s nearly ninety degrees and sunny today in Philadelphia, and it feels as if summer is here to stay — ignoring the clear dad joke that all but writes itself, the sunshine and hazy heat perfectly embodied the feeling of Bahamas‘ sound during their Free At Noon show at World Cafe Live.

Bahamas’ Alfie Jurvanen began the performance on the tip of his toes, floating along with the light, breezy, rhythmically meditative and lyrically reflective set. Much of the set featured tracks from Earthtones, Bahamas’ fourth full-length record released earlier this year. Beginning with the simple, introspective “No Wrong,” Jurvanen showcased the album’s multifaceted sounds as he moved through the upbeat ‘No Expectations” and the funky “Opening Act.” Continue reading →

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Laughter to Tears: Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy show a range of emotions at World Cafe Live

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A country song began to play. Like the very commodified, mainstream country radio kind of song. The kind of breezy, late summer day, wind-blowing-through-your-hair-as-you-drive-your-pickup-truck kind of country song.

I heard the phrase “parked out by the lake” more than a few times, but didn’t think much of the glossy genre’s fairly standard fare. The question of why Phoebe Bridgers chose this track in particular to walk onto stage to though — that nagged at my noggin. I mean, there are so many options, Pheebs. Poised at the mic, she even began to sing along a bit. Well, dang, I thought; attributing definite deeper layers I just didn’t pick up on as the reasoning. I mean, it must be a meaningful tune for such a prolific songwriter to single out.

Ha. What I learned later is that the song in question — the very aptly-titled “Parked Out by the Lake” — is actually a parody. “I’m parked out by the lake,” the very real and actual bluegrass / gospel artist, Dustin Christensen, begins in that perfectly gritty and melodic rasp, as his very not real alter-ego, Dean Summerwind. “Eighty miles from Sante Fe,”he continues. “And I’m sitting here just parked out by the lake. If you’re wondering where I parked, I’m out parked by the lake. It’s the lake that’s eighty miles from Sante Fe.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Perfection. Semi-akin to Bo Burnham’s iconic parody, “Pandering,” the song is a joke. And it’s exactly this kind of wry and multi-dimensional, mildly cynical but completely truthful melding that so perfectly encapsulates both of the artists who graced the stage at World Cafe Live this past Wednesday. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Caitlyn Smith gives Starfire a solo makeover

Caitlyn Smith | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Caitlyn Smith released her debut full-length record Starfire last month, but her songs have already been topping the charts for years – sung by the likes of Dolly Parton, Meghan Trainor, James Bay, Lady Antebellum, and so many more. Smith has refocused her songwriting expertise on her own life, crafting vivid, powerful lyrics from the stories and experiences that she’s collected while living and working in Nashville.

For today’s Free At Noon show, Smith’s already intimate tracks were made even more so during the solo performance. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: The James Hunter Six performs from new record, Whatever It Takes

James Hunter Six | photos by Ashley Gellman | agellmanphotos.com

Following jazz-funk trio Hambone Relay’s set, today’s Free At Noon doubleheader continued with blues and soul outfit the James Hunter Six. The afternoon performance kicks off the English group’s US tour in support of their brand new record, Whatever It Takes.

James Hunter’s gritty, soulful voice continuously and effortlessly moved between commanding the crowd’s attention and serving as an instrument itself, thrown around in incredible range and style that was difficult to mimic when he led a call-and-answer bit during the last song. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Philly’s Hambone Relay brings sunshine on a cloudy day

Hambone Relay | photos by Ashley Gellman | agellmanphotos.com

“I was you guys every week,” said Rob Tait, now onstage behind the drums instead of part of the Free At Noon crowd gathered in World Cafe Live. Tait was joined by organist Mark Brown and guitarist Luke Ferracone, who together are Hambone Relay.

The Philadelphia-based trio’s modern, jazz-funk-psychedelic grooves in no way matched the gray skies outside. Their dynamic, up-tempo tracks immediately heightened the energy in the room and never let it drop during the set. The trio performed tracks from their 2013 self-titled debut and their 2016 record Free Hugs all the way to their latest release, American Hi-Fi. Continue reading →

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Soccer Mommy shows she’s not “Your Dog” in kickass, self-assured single

Soccer Mommy | photo via artist’s Facebook

Nashville-bred NYU student Sophie Allison has been releasing “chill but kinda sad” lo-fi tunes on Bandcamp for years now under the moniker Soccer Mommy. Less than a year after the release of her debut full length Collection, Soccer Mommy’s biting new track,”Your Dog,” not only anticipates the upcoming album, Clean — out on March 2nd via Fat Possum Records — but also hints at a more expansive, no-nonsense direction.

Remastering some tracks from earlier EPs, last year’s Collection flowed in the same kind of hopelessly heartsick blue vein of Soccer Mommy’s bedroom-recorded tracks, where Allison oft dreamt up stories of falling in love with perfect strangers and far-away crushes. All of which, I adore, as there’s nothing wrong with vulnerability and hopeless romanticism standing there right alongside the strength and independence of a badass lady.

Embracing the latter characteristics on the for young hearts EP-featured “bloody honey,” and Collection’s shining anthem, “Out Worn,” these songs glimpsed at someone who didn’t just sulk in sadness when wronged, but fought back with knock-out self-assuredness. With the release of “Your Dog,” though, we find that these tracks had offered just a teeny, tiny sliver of the kick-assery that Allison can dish out. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Shamir at the First Unitarian Church, Work Drugs at Boot & Saddle, Leif Vollebekk at World Cafe Live, and many, many more

Shamir | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Recent Philly-via-Vegas transplant Shamir closes out a busy year of touring with a hometown show at the Church tonight, following the release of their new album Revelations last month. Shamir’s vibrant and introspective pop songs touch on everything from queer identity to being a millennial, all with a blunt and witty honesty. Read The Key’s interview with Shamir here, watch the video for “90’s Kids” below and find more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Weather Station at Boot & Saddle, Emily Haines at Union Transfer, Loudon Wainwright III at World Cafe Live, and more

the weather station
The Weather Station | photo by Yuula Benivolski | courtesy of the artist

After releasing a self-titled album earlier this fall, The Weather Station bring their folk-rooted tunes to Boot & Saddle tonight. The project of Toronto-based songwriter Tamara Lindeman, The Weather Station is known for its energetic and forthright yet soft and delicate sounds. The latest release, the project’s fourth LP, is perhaps its boldest yet — though Lindeman refers to it as a “rock and roll” record, it still maintains its laid-back folk vibes. James Elkington also plays tonight’s show. Listen to “Thirty” below and find tickets and more information on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →