Delaware’s Jea Street Jr. bridges art and activism at Firefly

Jea Street Jr. | photo by Joe del Tufo for WXPN

As the sole Delaware-based band at Firefly, Jea Street Jr. had a lot on his shoulders kicking off the festival from the South Hub as the rain subsided on Friday. Street and his all-star band did not disappoint. With a set billed as Artivism, with activism and social justice embedded in most of the lyrical content, Street connected well with a crowd that grew with each song. Continue reading →


Alex Cameron reveals layers upon layers of character and style in his Underground Arts set

Alex Cameron | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

I had no idea what to expect from an Alex Cameron live show. His Forced Witness one of my favorite albums of 2017, a catchy-as-hell collection of retro-pop perfection that weaves its way in before revealing its dark and sleazy lyrical content. And then there are layers beneath those layers. I was told is was a persona, something very different from the Sydney-based Cameron’s earlier musical career in a relatively straightforward electronic act called Seekae.

If it’s a persona, he wears it well. Claiming to portray the character of a failed straight white guy, a collective of real people and real stories, Cameron shuffles around the stage exuding confidence and blaring out lines like “yeah she’s seen me naked, she knows I’m packing heat” in the most harmless of ways.  Continue reading →


A secret gig at Cousin Danny’s in West Philly shows that Shame is the real deal

Shame | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

It was a Monday night in late November at the Arden Gild Hall when I experienced Shame for the first time. They were the middle band between Grace Vonderkuhn and Ought, and they stepped out into the half-full barn and said “OK, we can do this,” and proceeded to burn the place down for 45 minutes. I’d never seen anything like it, a mix of Joy Division and the Sex Pistols.

The London-based band’s debut Songs of Praise was released in January and, while it is the strongest release I’ve heard in 2018, it still does little to catch the ferocity of their live shows. Vocalist Charlie Steen is a revelation — very shy in public and possessed by something both spiritual and visceral on stage. He is not the stereotypical angry punk rock singer, he seems to channel something that transcends emotion, a wake-up call to monotony. Continue reading →


The Afghan Whigs mesmerize at Union Transfer

The Afghan Whigs | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

The Afghan Whigs are one of the best live rock bands ever, period. And they’ve always had an interesting relationship with Philadelphia. From their epic 3+ hour shows that went deep into the night at the TLA in the 90s, through a period where they intentionally passed over the city (citing relationship issues with the venues), the connection with the fans here has never waned. An Afghan Whigs show is never predictable, from vocalist Greg Dulli’s banter, through the weaving of classic songs into Whigs hits and back again. Hundreds were present at the Union Transfer Tuesday night to hang on every word, and sing every lyric. Continue reading →


Iron Maiden unites generations of metal fans for its first Philly gig in two decades

Iron Maiden | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

It is astounding to me that Iron Maiden’s last Philly performance was over 20 years ago, at the Electric Factory during the brief and forgettable tenure of singer Blaze Bayley. Like a mythical beast forcing its way through the gates of our city, Iron Maiden arrived last night, tour buses strong, laying out a stage built like a multilevel Mayan temple. True to their historic setlist approach, the band pulled strongly from 2015’s return to form, Book of Souls, performing six tracks including a massive rendition of the nearly 15-minute “The Red and the Black.” It was three songs into their set before they unleashed “Wrathchild,” fully engaging the very sold out 20,000 fans in the Wells Fargo center. A quick look through the crowd showed an incredible age range, from children clearly not even ten, the many in their 60s donning countless variations of black Eddie (the band’s mascot) t-shirts. Continue reading →


Midnight Oil turns in an energized set at The Keswick

Midnight Oil | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

Playing their first Philly area show in well over a decade, Midnight Oil sounded more like a band in their prime than one into their fifth decade as performers. It was clear when they opened with their 1990 hit “King of the Mountain” that this was going to be a special night. The capacity Keswick crowd never once sat through the two-hour set, enjoying a journey through the band’s 41 year catalog. Oils’ frontman Peter Garrett oozes stage presence, gesturing and pacing, eyes piercing into the crowd as he conjures their participation. Continue reading →


Sting enthralls an intimate Fillmore crowd with a career-spanning set


Sting | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | <a href="" target="_blank"></a>
Sting | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

Kudos to whoever was able to convince Sting to play The Fillmore in Philly, what a great booking. Packed with a crowd of just over 2000 enthusiastic fans, I expected the smaller show to be driven by new material by Sting’s recent 57th & 9th release from last year, or something more experimental. He clearly had other plans. Sting came out promptly at 8 p.m., and sat down for a solo acoustic version of “Heading South on the Great North Road.” He then left the stage for a brief warmup set from his backing band the Last Bandoleros as well as his son Joe Sumner. It has something of an old R&B feel to it with the young band just getting the crowd ready. Continue reading →


Lisa Hannigan weaves a strong, soaring setlist at Underground Arts

Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

It’s been an interesting journey for Lisa Hannigan. Known first 15 years ago as the backing vocalist whose soaring duets helped launch Damien Rice to fame, she’s since outpaced him with three solo releases. I’d always considered her work with Rice her strongest and, though each solo release would have a gem or two, I typically found her voice to be stronger than her songwriting. But I had never seen her live.

Her recent tour concluded in Philadelphia, something she mentioned being really grateful for, as the city has been a great beacon of listening for her over the years. And a very full Underground Arts transformed into a listening room. Pulling mainly from her most recent and best work, At Swim, Hannigan wove a setlist that served to feature the band as much as her soaring, elemental vocals. Continue reading →


Bell X1, Vita and the Woolf make a stunning duo at Boot & Saddle

Bell X1 | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

The Bell X1 / Vita and the Woolf tour swung through Philly last night, with Vita getting a strong showing from a hometown crowd in the packed Boot & Saddle. Vita and the Woolf played a strong and especially 80s-infused set, with vocalist Jennifer Pague showing her goth side. They played a strong selection from their excellent forthcoming album Tunnels, due in April. “Brett,” “Qiet,” “Super Ranger” and Mary “have” become live staples, and got the loudest response from the crowd. I could overhear Bell X1 fans comment positively after the Vita set. Big things for this band in 2017, and I look forward to seeing them at Firefly Festival in June. Continue reading →