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The Key Studio Sessions: PhillyBloco

When we were going over the setlist for their Key Studio Session, PhillyBloco leader Michael Stevens pointed out that none of the songs from the set were their own; “We’re strictly a cover band,” he told me, but just looking around the room, I knew that this was a dramatic understatement.

For the past six years, the 20-piece ensemble modeled after the bloco Brazilian-dance tradition has been rallying audiences at venues from the TLA to World Cafe Live, getting a tremendous rep particularly for their annual New Year’s Eve throwdown at the latter venue. The band takes songs originally performed by some familiar names (Galactic, James Brown) along with lesser known artists from around the world (Jorge Ben Jor, Clara Nunes) and spins them in their own arrangements that blend samba, funk and rock sounds. When I say “lesser known,” though, I (unfortunately) mean lesser known to North American ears. But that’s part of the band’s mission, as our Sameer Rao pointed out in his New Year’s profile interview with Stevens and the band:

For the probable majority of their audiences, PhillyBloco might be their first exposure to this rich musical tradition. They needn’t be concerned, since samba’s percussive base sits comfortably alongside the reggae, New Orleans second line, and funk that PhillyBloco also incorporates into their music. They’ll recognize songs from folks like James Brown, and hopefully this unique spin will get them interested in digging further into something unfamiliar.

Call them musical ambassadors. Or just call them an incredibly tight band. As you can see from the photos in the gallery above, their numbers are huge, but they were remarkably efficient. Along with their regular sound engineer Craig Kaufmann, who did a remarkable job mixing this session, the band settled in our studio and plowed through a feisty set with ease and energy. The songs you hear below, in their original format, were done by (in order) Daniela Mercury, Galactic, Nunes, Jor and Skank, and PhillyBloco has more jams just like them in their repertoire. Listen to the set. Turn up your headphones. Dance around your desk if it suits ya. And consider taking in the full-on PhillyBloco experience at one of their upcoming gigs: Ardmore Music Hall this Friday the 13th of June, or over at World Cafe Live on the 9th of August.

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Listen to Philly hip-hop duo Wiggz and Wooten’s “Until Nightfall”, see them at World Cafe Live on 7/6

Photo via Broad Street Music Group

On July 6th, Philadelphia-based rappers Wiggz and Wooten will headline a show titled “Local Love” at World Cafe Live.  The show will double as a release party for their new single “Until Nightfall”, as well as a debut for their new Local Love music campaign.  Wiggz and Wooten are part of a production company called HomeGrownPhilly, whose goal is to expose local artists to the Philly community.  “Local Love” will feature other performances by Scott C, Pike Blvd, Aries, DayDreamGang, Cain Kerner, Pauly Dinero, Jay Levita and Trel Mack.  The show will be a great opportunity to support the Philly hip-hop scene and discover upcoming artists.  Tickets are $10. Watch “Until Nightfall” below”

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Meshell Ndegeocello brings her intimate new album Comet, Come to Me to World Cafe Live tonight

Meshell-Ndegeocello
Photo via http://innocentwords.com

Meshell Ndegeocello’s 11th album Comet, Come to Me is a gentle and beautifully-crafted effort from the influential Grammy-nominated vocalist.  Though the backdrop of many songs on the album are filled with breezy reggae rhythms, Comet, Come to Me also relies on jazz, hip-hop and even some Spanish guitar to keep you on your toes.  After you are drawn in by the soft melodies accompanied by cool drum beats and guitar riffs, you start to focus on what Ndegeocello is actually saying in each song.  She has a straightforward, blunt way about describing relationships that she is able to convey so plainly yet so accurately.  We hear it in songs like “Folie a Deux” when she sings “Call me hateful and cold, I just don’t love you no more” and in “Tom” how she opens with “There’s nothing between us but the feeling of nothing.”  The fact that these songs are not loud exclamatory ballads, but quiet unhurried intimate stories give the album a powerful and emotional quality that delve deep into the processes of human decisions.

Ndegecello is an inspiring artist because you can feel the curiosity she has about the world in all aspects of who she is.  When she was 17, she changed her last name to Ndegecello which means “free like a bird” in Swahili.  Through her music, we learn about her love and respect for all things, even her Twitter bio reads “A world made of love..”

XPN will welcome Ndegecello to World Cafe Live on Friday, June 6th to celebrate the release of Comet, Come to Me. You can find tickets and info for the show here and can listen to “Tom” below.

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City Rain will perform at World Cafe Live for the CW Henry Elementary School benefit concert on 5/24

City Rain's Ben Runyan performs with CW Henry music teacher Nikki Trisdorfer at Underground Arts
City Rain’s Ben Runyan performs with CW Henry music teacher Nikki Trisdorfer at Underground Arts

Recently CW Henry Elementary School in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia was broken into and computers, iPads and music room equipment were stolen.

As the school begins the recovery and replacement process, parents and local musicians are stepping up to “pay it forward” on Saturday, May 24th from 4pm – 6pm at World Cafe Live upstairs.

I spoke with Paula Hanson, a parent of CW Henry first-grader Phoebe and an audio engineer who has worked with Rob Zombie, Stevie Nicks, kd lang and Korn.  Along with her husband Ringo, Paula is trying to raise funds to buy new equipment for the school.

Helen Leicht: I’m sorry to hear that there was a burglary at C W Henry Elementary school.

Paula Hanson: Yes, we had several iMacs the kids use, as well as a teacher’s MacBook and the flat screen TV in the music room the kids use to watch performances and whatnot on.  Probably the most crushing was the theft of the iPads the autistic kids use as part of their immersion into the classroom.  They really loved those and they were a great help.

HL: You have organized a fund raiser concert for CW Henry Elementary School.  Can you tell me about the school and what grades and children have been affected by this theft?

PH: CW Henry is a neighborhood public K-8 in West Mt Airy.  It’s a wonderful neighborhood.  There’s a bit of a misconception that because we’re located in an affluent hood that we do better than other Philly schools.  However we’re subject to the same budget as everyone else, and nearly half our kids come in from other parts of Philly.  The parents and teachers work really hard to supplement all the budget woes.

Some of the gear that was stolen was donated in the first place.  The whole school is taught music by Ms Paulino Trisdorfer, who runs an astoundingly good music program, so the theft of her computers affects everyone.  The two first grade classrooms had everything electronic taken, so we had to drag up an eMac from the basement so they had at least one for their centers.  And the iPads that the two classes use, but especially the four kids in each room in our Autistic Support Program were really left hanging.

#CWHenryOptimist from Paula Hanson on Vimeo.

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Today’s Concert Picks: MØ at Johnny Brenda’s, Eternal Summers at Underground Arts, Stone Jack Jones at World Cafe Live

MØ | photo courtesy of the artist
MØ | photo courtesy of the artist

Danish musician  will perform at Johnny Brenda’s tonight with Erik Hassle.  Currently touring the U.S. for the first time in support of her debut LP No Mythologies to Follow, Karen Marie Ørsted has been making quick work of moving to the forefront of the electronic-pop dance scene.  She released her first singles in 2012 and has since worked with Avicii while topping the line-ups at festivals across the globe.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.  Check out “I Don’t Wanna Dance” below.

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Non-COMM Recap: Hurray for the Riff Raff brings southern folk fun to the downstairs stage

Hurray for the Riff Raff | Photo by Cameron Pollack
Hurray for the Riff Raff | Photo by Cameron Pollack

New Orleans-based roots group Hurray for the Riff Raff showed off their winning blend of southern folk, bluegrass and rock and roll on the last night of NonCOMM. Frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra started the show out with a solo performance of “The New SF Bay Blues” and brought the full band up for a lively set punctuated by their single “I Know It’s Wrong (But That’s Allright)” and wrapping with the clever number called “Fiddlesticks.” Most of the band exited so fiddle player Yosi Pearlstein could play center stage while Segarra sang and tapped the neck of the fiddle with two small sticks; it created an very unique melodic / percussive effect that brought the performance to a short and sweet close. Check out photos from the set below and listen to the performance in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player).

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Non-COMM Recap: Strand of Oaks slayed with their set on the NPR Music stage

Strand of Oaks | Photo by Cameron Pollack
Strand of Oaks | Photo by Cameron Pollack

Philadelphia’s Strand of Oaks kicked off the final night of Non-COMM with a powerful performance on the NPR Music Stage. They showcased four tracks from their forthcoming HEAL, including the winning single “Goshen 97″ and the smouldering epic “J.M.”, a tribute to the late Jason Molina where frontman Tim Showalter positively shredded on his guitar, Crazy Horse style. Check out photos below and listen to the set in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player). HEAL comes out on Dead Oceans Records on June 24th.

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