Two to Tango: Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero

Rodrigo Y Gabriela | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

By this point in their long career as Mexico City’s primary musical export — nearly 20 years of a guitar-based fusion of flamenco, folk, doom metal and jazz — Rodrigo y Gabriela’s lives and sounds are thoroughly intertwined. Especially when you consider that Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero have been friends since their teens, long before forming their duo (though certainly practicing together, collaborating and admiring each other’s skillsets).

Their just-released album, Mettavolution, is as dramatic as any in their catalogue and their upcoming shows in Philly – at World Café Live’s NonComm and Franklin Music Hall, both May 17 – will show just how far their friendship has taken them. Our Two to Tango helped take them back to their youth, as well as peer into their future – all with a lot of laughter. Continue reading →


Ahmet Zappa on Frank and fatherhood

Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd | still from video
Frank Zappa | still from video

What could have been a convivial conversation about re-packaged reissues such as the recently-released Zappa in New York and the minutiae of hologram tours such as the upcoming Bizarre World of Frank Zappa live showcase (May 2, Collingswood’s Scottish Rite Auditorium), wasn’t. That’s because it was Frank’s youngest son and estate conservator Ahmet Zappa and I discussing invention (beyond the Mothers), probability, fatherhood and loss (Zappa’s dad died in 1993, I lost my father at Halloween 2018) in a conversation that wound up with tears and the promise of hugging out such emotion at this week’s concert. Continue reading →


Todd Rundgren spills his guts, tiny chapter by tiny chapter, in The Individualist

Todd Rundgren | photo by Lynn Goldsmith | via Relix

Todd Rundgren has made and maintained a career– to say nothing of a long-devoted fan base, no-matter what — based on shock and awe. Whether it is his wont for moving quickly through musical genres (when harmony-drenched blue eyed soul smash singles would have sufficed), or pushing political and religious stances, the Upper Darby-born Rundgren’s principle element is surprise (and fear, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical …).

Writing and releasing an autobiographical book, The Individualist: Digressions, Dreams & Dissertations, is yet another revelation as Rundgren has been fairly tight-lipped about his personal life, until now. If you expect gossip, stay clear. If you’re looking for frank, adventurous self-centric writing in bites sized doses, welcome.

To go with a new book, Rundgren is doing double-duty in each city he visits, with portions of his show dedicated to live music, and other portions dedicated to reading from The Individualist, a page related A/V show, and a Q&A segment. Rundgren appears at The Fillmore, May 1 and 2. Continue reading →


A convenience of marriage: Nels Cline + Yuka C. Honda’s CUP

CUP’s Yuka Honda and Nels Cline | via Ars Nova Workshop

Guitarist Nels Cline and multi-instrumentalist Yuka C. Honda would be (and have been) fascinating as interview subjects without having to join forces. The former was an established guitarist in the avant-garde world before he joined Wilco in 2004; the latter is best known as co-founder and producer of art-pop outfit Cibo Matto, though she has a robust resume of production, collaboration, and multimedia work.

Cline and Honda’s new pairing as CUP, however, doubles the fun and requires the married duo to give their first-ever joint interview for one of its earliest conjoined shows – April 26 at RUBA, a gig that doubles as the record release celebration for Desertion Trio, the experimental jam outfit led by Cline’s friend, Philly guitarist Nick Millevoi. Continue reading →


Two To Tango: &More’s Donn T and Chill Moody

&More | photo by Dejanaya Spicer | courtesy of the artist

Two members of Philly hip hop royalty such as songstress Donn T and rapper Chill Moody would usually be found headlining their own shows and making their own records. Yet, for 2018 and 2019 — and beyond, in accordance with their wishes in this interview — the regal twosome will be known as  &More. The pair’s poignant, passionate debut is Ethel Bobcat, and that release’s celebration / live reveal is April 26 at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →


Philadelphia pianist and composer Orrin Evans gets loose and tight at the same time

Orrin Evans | via

Just days after Orrin Evans concluded his most recent European tour with The Bad Plus — the math-jazz trio whose membership he’s long befriended, then joined, in 2017 — the Philadelphia-based pianist was home, out-and-about, and driving to a solo gig with his own trio in Chicago. One would expect nothing less from the athletic, yet delicately nuanced and intricately introspective player and composer whose self-named outfit (to say nothing of additional Evans bands such as Tarbaby and Captain Black Big Band) fill his mind and schedule when he’s not Bad Plus-ing. Having just hit his actual birthday the day we spoke, Evans reflected on all that he has on his plate ahead of a week-long gig playing with Steve Wilson and Wilsonian’s Grain at famed NYC club Village Vanguard, then European dates next month.  Continue reading →


Mott the Hoople ’74 packs the Keswick Theatre for what could be THE show to beat in 2019

Mott The Hoople | photo by Emily De Hart for WXPN |

The theatrical, glam-era savoir faire that Mott the Hoople and its singing songwriter Ian Hunter brought to its even its roughest, rocking material has never been given its proper due. Hunter’s grand Spector-ian sweep, filled with honking sax, dramatically tinkling piano and a wall of chugging guitars — often told in his sandpapery croon as long stories, as if a mini-musical — predated Springsteen’s Born to Run moment by years. Everyone from the New York Dolls to Low Cut Connie have benefitted from Mott’s magic.

Now 79, accompanied by two of his latter day original Hooples (pianist Morgan Fisher, guitarist Ariel Bender) and his usual gutsy Rant Band, Hunter’s sweat-inducing suites and dramaturgical rockers packed the Keswick Theatre on Monday night. Continue reading →


Beastie Boys Story is long, funny, and poignant, but still…

photo by Casey Landman

Did you ever have mixed feelings about a show as you were watching it, but couldn’t leave because much of it is your story?  Or the story of your friends from the 70s through the 90s, and is poignant, and often hilarious…and there’s this curiosity as to how this thing plays out despite occasional long dull lulls, unrehearsed awkwardness and frustrating hints that somebody wants to break out in song? Or rap? And of course you adore the performers on stage for the art they made and they men they became? And then Jonah Hill and Tim Meadows — the latter playing Bob Dylan at a party — stopped by?

Welcome to my review of Beastie Boys Story on Friday night at the Tower. As directed and filmed by their old pal and “Sabotage” director Spike Jonze for an unspecified film project, the Upper Darby gig always moved and felt like more of a soft opening for the upcoming Brooklyn shows — all developed, in part, as an audio/visual accompaniment to their autobiographical best seller Beastie Boys Book. Then again, as recounted toward Show’s finale by a now-grey-haired Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, he and Michael “Mike D” Diamond had not been on stage together as Beasties since “the last gig” at Bonnaroo, before the death of their beloved friend, band starter and force-for-good, Adam “MCA” Yauch seven years ago. Continue reading →


Uptown, Everything’s Alright: Philadelphia’s legendary home to live R&B is looking to make a comeback

Uptown Theater | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Though born in the genteel era of the Great Depression, 2240 N Broad Street’s art deco Uptown Theater came to life and prominence in the latter 50s and through the 1970s as THE haven for raw R&B and sweet soul not named The Apollo.

Designed by architect Louis Magaziner as a metallic jewel box theater with a wide stage and stained glass amenities, and opened on February 16, 1929, the one-time movie and vaudeville palace became a valued commodity of the neighborhood’s then-growing African-American community under the ownership of Sam Steifel (he also owned Baltimore’s Royal and DC’s Howard Theaters), no to mention the management of Sid Booker, and the producing, promoting and booking of Georgie Woods from WDAS AM.

“Georgie was The Uptown,” said his longtime friend and fellow on-air jock / live show producer Jerry Blavatt. “If you were a great soul and R&B star — Smokey, Ray, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder the Four Tops — you played The Uptown while the labels made the most of your time in Philly by getting you on every radio station and television show. And why not? That venue was like a palace. Gorgeous.” Continue reading →


There’s Rakim. And then there is every other rapper.

Rakim | photo courtesy of the artist

If William Michael Griffin Jr. — better known in the music world as hip-hop icon Rakim — had only made golden age rap anthems as Eric B. & Rakim such as 1987’s “Paid in Full” and 1988’s “Follow the Leader,” he would still be regarded as a hip hop avatar of free rhythmic flow and studied lyricism. Masculine without macho braggadocio, confident and spellbinding without over-talking, Rakim made, and makes, slow but forceful word jazz with a writerly éclat.

Based on time playing saxophone (he’s a Coltrane fan), there is often that sheets-of-sound approach that Trane made his spiritual / ritual trademark on Impulse! recordings of the 1960s: something more chilled, stoic and stately than early rap’s frenetic attack mode. The same thing is true of Rakim’s solo output: 1997’s The 18th Letter, 1999’s The Master, 2009’s The Seventh Seal. And it’s a feel that will surely follow into his live work with the Orleans parish funk jazz ensemble The Soul Rebels and their joint program at Ardmore Music Hall on March 28.

We caught up with Rakim late one night in Brooklyn, busy working on a new book for Harper Collins (which he couldn’t discuss), and planning upcoming recorded material. Continue reading →