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The dreamy chaos and nervous energy of Philadelphia’s The Ire

The Ire | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philadelphia’s The Ire is a more than a goth-punk band, they’re the embodiment of a city that feels immersive, both in the music and art scene as in daily life. Philly is a city filled with the dreamy chaos of refinery explosions and alternative pride marches, and somehow The Ire has managed to channel this kind of stuff into an EP and accompanying live performance truly representative of that lived-in, on-the-brink nervous energy. Continue reading →

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Exploring Sound: Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees on the elegant blend of jazz, folk, pop and rock on their debut album

Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees | photo by Gregg Meyer | courtesy of the artist

On August 9th, Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees will put out their self-titled debut LP, an intriguing mix of instrumental jazz, alternative and chamber pop. The self-described “folk-jazz” quartet includes all Pennsylvanian musicians – Lorenz leading on electric guitar, Jacqui Armbruster on vocals and viola, Justin Sekelewski on bass, Zach Martin on drums – and their work on this album shows that they have developed wonderfully peculiar tastes and ambitions as a group.

Along with some touching original songs by Armbruster, the band approaches hit songs from several different eras in pop radio on their debut release. Paul McCartney, Wilco, The Magnetic Fields and Corinne Bailey Rae are all in the mix. Lorenz has pointed to Paul Motian, Sonic Youth and Sonny Sharrock as other inspirations for the group’s experiments – they also recorded a cover of Sharrock’s composition “Blind Willie”. The musicians bring traditional jazz aplomb and an intrepid sense of musicianship to each of their efforts on the new album, and the results prove both accessible and surprising.

Earlier this summer, I spoke with Mike Lorenz about how the band came together to construct their debut album. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Continue reading →

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How Brielle became Philly’s flute bae

Brielle | photo by Artistic Ross | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia is the home of many soulful songbirds, but one songbird from West Philly decided to add that soul into her flute. Singer / flautist Brielle is that song bird. Projects like The Rough BreakupFlight and her recent album IKYDGAF (I Know Y’all Don’t Give a Fuck) show how she’s been able to gain the ears of listeners from Philadelphia all the way to Los Angeles creating melodies by combining her passionate voice with the soothing sounds of her flute for the past nine years. As she gets ready to perform at an open mic event The Juice Jam Friday night at 10 p.m., I got a chance to sit and talk to Brielle and reminisce about the journey that her flute and voice have taken her. Continue reading →

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Mir Fontane got a story to tell

Mir Fontane | photo by Angel Rodriguez | courtesy of artist

Hot 97 personality Ebro once tweeted that an MC must be able to move the crowd, have the ability to not just rhyme but to play with words, show different rhyme patterns and cadences with his style and be able to tell a cohesive story. The fourth criteria is something the New Jersey MC, Mir Fontane, has studied since he became interested in making music.

From his first project He So Crazy to the recent release of his brand new album Who’s Watching The Kids 2, his ability to tell stories about his hometown of Camden is what has allowed him to catch ears as well as rock any crowd that’s in front of him. The art of storytelling is what got songs like “Steph Curry” Wanni Wag” &and “Space Jam” to all have over 100k plays on SoundCloud, to win a Philly Hip Hop Award in 2016 for Tri-State Artists of the Year, to gain attention from 300 Music Ent. and to acquire 10 million streams on Apple Music as an independent artist.

I recently got the chance to talk to Mir Fontane about his journey as a storyteller as he prepares to rock another crowd at the TLA this Thursday with assistance from fellow Camden MC Franky Hill. Continue reading →

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Kristin Hersh comes in colors

Kristin Hersh | photo by Peter Mellekas | courtesy of the artist

Kristin Hersh has never looked at melody and text in quite the same way you do. Perhaps that stems from the differences in her personality, her PTSD, or the synesthesia that allows her to shift sensation from one part of her being to another part.

Perhaps, Hersh — who has split her time and energy among solo projects, her band 50 Foot Wave, authoring books such as her 2010 memoir, Rat Girl, and her legendary alt-trio Throwing Muses — is simply a colorfully clever and poignantly unique artist, radical and dedicated enough so to make each project definitive and different from the last, yet one without question as to who has authored it.

Currently touring on the strength of her noisy new tenth studio solo album, Possible Dust Clouds, she’ll appear at Boot & Saddle on June 24 to show off her colorful catalog. Continue reading →

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Growing Up Folk: Michael Braunfeld on the road from Spring Gulch to Driver

Michael Braunfeld | photo courtesy of the artist

This weekend, Spring Gulch Folk Festival enters its 33rd year of kicking off the summer festival season for the singer-songwriter community, and one artist in particular is taking the stage in a sort of homecoming.

Tomorrow, Michael Braunfeld will perform Spring Gulch with his band The Boneyard Hounds. He’s intimately involved in the event — his family has been going for three decades, his father Andy is a former MC, and he and his dad have been booking and managing the event for the past 18 years.

Braunfeld, 44, made his live debut at the festival in 1990 at age 15, and recorded his debut album the following year at age 16. He spent the 90s and very early thousands as a touring artist in the folk circuit, releasing live albums and paying gigs around the country. After taking a decade-plus break, he re-emerged on the scene at the 50th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival (another event he grew up at) and this year released his first studio album since the 90s, Driver. It’s a stirring selection of contemplative roots and Americana songwriting, some of a more of a delicate John Prine style of observational folk, some (like the powerful “Washed Away” and the rousing “Breathe”) of anthemic, Springsteen-esque quality.

We caught up with Braunfeld over the phone to talk about growing up a folkie, running Spring Gulch, taking time off, and the statements he wanted to make upon his return.  Continue reading →

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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 →

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Meet Jacqueline Constance: The dope songbird from Philly

Jacqueline Constance | photo by Deuce Pearsall | courtesy of artist

The city of Philadelphia is filled with so many musical talents that can simply be described as dope. It’s amazing to watch these artists of different genres find creative was to capture the struggle of their beloved, edgy, blue-collar city with music. Take for instance soul singer Jacqueline Constance,  a Mt. Airy songbird who has been making a name for herself in the City of Brotherly with her voice for the past seven years.

Trained in classical music during her time time at CAPA, Jacqueline Constance used those vocal skills to create soul music and with her debut album The Jacqueline Constance Show. In the time since, with the assistance of her looper, and other bits of electronic music technology, the soulful songstress found a way to expand her sound and keep her name known in the local music scene of her city. Recently we were able to sit down with Jacqueline and talk about her beginnings as a singer, how she got into looping and the moves she has planned for the future. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Sofia Verbilla of Harmony Woods

Sofia Verbilla of Harmony Woods | photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN

Candid and genuine, Harmony Woods’ singer and songwriter Sofia Verbilla will openly cop to how much time she’s spent reflecting on her own talents, impugning her own songwriting skills, wondering if she’s got what it takes to overcome at turns significant self-doubt and claim confidence in her own creations.

It’s a tenuous tightrope she seems to have found some familiar comfort in walking, as the Philly rocker capably straddles the stark contrasts of both her self-effacing and introspective and hot-pink-haired ass-kicking-frontwoman personas, at once conflicting and complementary, while she negotiates an earned place for herself and the HamWoo crew to stand out among Philly’s basement DIY rock-and-rollers.

They’ll be back onstage in Philly on May 30th, opening for Slingshot Dakota at Everybody Hits. Continue reading →

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Ahead Of Their Time: The 40-year journey of inspiring Detroit rockers Death

Death | photo by Samdarko Eltosam | via facebook.com/deathworldwide

As an Afropunk, interviewing an all-Black punk band called Death might be the most existential thing I could possibly do on a Tuesday afternoon in 2019, but five minutes into the discussion, this writer also realized another thing was true: it was one of the most revealing.

Death’s start began in 1971, when three Detroit brothers — guitarist David, bassist Bobby, and drummer Dannis Hackney — turned on their instruments in a room in their parents’ modest home and got to channeling the raucous sounds of The MC5, the grandiose rock of local upstart Bob Seger, and The Who, much to the chagrin of their slightly more buttoned up neighbors. Despite their reverence to the most obvious, looming musical influence of the city at the time, Motown, and in a move especially treacherous for Black musicians, the brothers instead decided to play music that wasn’t going to get them booked at any R&B studio sessions: rock n roll. Continue reading →