The clouds had settled on stage and flowers were in place: Kevin Morby was back for his first show in Philly since 2017. Touring in support of his acclaimed album Oh My God, Morby and his powerful backing band ran through a Sunday night set touching on all five of his neo-folk rock albums for a modest, yet enthusiastic Union Transfer crowd. Continue reading →
Last February I was introduced to experimental pop trio Arc Iris when they opened up for New Zealand singer Kimbra at Union Transfer. I was incredibly interested in not only their sound but the visual elements they brought to the stage: backlit wings worn by singer Jocie Adams, pig-masked mascots dancing on stage during their final number.
Now on tour for their new album Icon of Ego, Arc Iris co-headlined a show last weekend with instrumental local band Square Peg Round Hole at MilkBoy. When talking to some fans in the crowd, there was mentioning about seeing Arc Iris perform in a such an intimate venue. By the end of the night everyone knew that a smaller stage did not hinder their grand performance in the slightest. Continue reading →
Sam Beam is one of those rare talents who sounds better live than recorded, and whose songs have the ability to move a theater full of people to tears. Known professionally as Iron & Wine, Beam’s music has been a staple in folk, indie, and singer-songwriter for over 15 years. His shows go on your bucket list. His use of imaginative, cryptic, and personal lyrics coupled with intricate fingerpicking and meaningful percussion makes his sound immediately recognizable. His modest and gentle demeanor onstage add to the unsuspecting wealth of talent beneath the surface.
Coming off the release of 2018’s Weed Garden, I expected this tour to be a celebration of a new chapter in his discography. Instead, Beam handpicked his favorite songs off of nearly all of his albums. It was just a celebration of Iron & Wine, and seeing as this was my first time at one of his concerts, it was perfect. Continue reading →
Héloïse Letissier is a star. That may not be news to you if you’ve been following her work as Christine and the Queens since her 2014 debut Chaleur Humaine, or even its English 2015 translation simply titled Christine and the Queens. It might not even be a surprise if you’re just getting acquainted with her via this year’s commanding, life-affirming sophomore album Chris. There is a difference, however, between recognizing stardom and witnessing stardom, in real time, on stage. Letissier’s performance at Union Transfer last Friday was a showcase of stardom at its best. Equal parts vivacious, vulnerable, and virtuosic, it saw the radiant French popstart bring the kind of spectacle usually reserved for big arenas and amphitheaters to an indie club without losing any of its grandeur. Continue reading →
Proud Philadelphians Foxtrot & the Get Down premiered new songs off a forthcoming EP to the most excitable crowd I’ve ever seen at Johnny Brenda’s. The band, who have just been signed to Soundly Music, have definitely earned their place as one of our hometown’s most recognizable local acts. Just this past summer they played several sets at Dover, Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival and made their national TV debut on Fox’s The Q, and they don’t have any plans to slow down.
Foxtrot also shared last night’s lineup with longtime friend and fellow Philly native artist Brianna Judge. Fun fact: singer and guitarist Colin Budny told me that he and Brianna played their first ever shows together back in 2012 down the street at the local bar Kostas – though then called The M Room.
The setlist for the night included old favorites like “Shine,” a newer bluesey track called “Down & Out” (which also features a brand new music video that you can watch below), a brand new week-old tribute to the 27 club called “Legends Never Die,” and a sneak peak of a single dropping this Friday called “Battered & Blue,” which will be featured on their forthcoming EP under Sony. Continue reading →
“I CAN SWIM! I CAN’T SWIM! I CAN SWIM! I CAN’T SWIM!”
As he barked the chorus aloud, The Jesus Lizard grinding through a scorching rendition of “Seasick” to the delight of the evening’s attendants at the Union Transfer, vocalist David Yow was the body-surfing engine that could. A stage tech feeding the cord for his microphone into the crowd, Yow was passed along as far as he could go before making his journey back to the rest of his band. That night, it wasn’t the first time Yow found himself writhing atop a sea of roaming hands. It certainly wasn’t the last.
Saturday, September 8th, The Jesus Lizard, one of the most notorious rock bands of the 1990s, performed for a sold-out audience, tearing through reaction-inducing selections from their catalogue to grateful applause or enthusiastic physicality. The third night in a series of shows spurned by an invitation to this year’s Riot Fest, the band’s distinct mix of hostility and coarseness as intact as it ever was, the noise was terrific, the playing was solid, and the theater at hand was captivating to say the least. Continue reading →
On paper, the second day of this year’s Made In America festival was the stronger lineup — it had Kendrick, Nicki, Pusha, Miguel, and those were just the top-billed names. The way it played out was a bit different, with equipment malfunctions (and wardrobe malfunctions) scattered across the day. It felt at a point like we were alternating between artists who had their act incredibly together, and those who did not, and though it was a mixed bag, it was a lot of fun to sort through. Here’s what we heard and saw. Continue reading →
Last night, Ben Folds and Cake brought their double headlining tour to the Mann Center, the two alt-rock legends rocking the house with their idiosyncratic brands. One might be able to draw all sorts of comparisons and reasons as to why a co-headlining tour between these artists works so well, but I personally am willing to bet it began as a competition as to who could bring the best instruments. Folds’ lineup consisted of piano, of course, but also featuring opener Tall Heights as a backing band, who played on guitar, cello, cocktail drums, and adding a bass harmonica in lieu of an electric bass. Cake, not to be outdone, included an act of bass, drums, and guitar, with trumpet, melodica, and vibraslap, among several other percussion instruments. The two iconic groups were matched in wit and in talent, and their use of audience participation almost hypnotic. Continue reading →
If you see me photographing a concert, you most likely will see me with one of WXPN’s digital cameras in hand. But depending on the gig, and depending on my mood, if you look closely you might spot something else; an old Pentax 35mm, or a Yashica twin-lens 120 camera. Or a Holga if I’m feeling particularly daring.
I went to school for photography when shooting on film was still the dominant thing — it was on its way out, for sure, but it was still being taught — and my initial outlook on how to shoot photos was shaped by the process of taking 24 or 36 frames and not knowing for anywhere from a few hours to a few days what any of them look like.
Lately, it’s been a fun way for me to document the music festivals I cover here at The Key — the sun-speckled Roots Picnic, or the earthy-toned Firefly Festival. Obviously I shoot digital in tandem, which allows me to gather as many images as I need and have as much control over all the parameters that go into those images; basically it guarantees me something serviceable (and immediate) for our web and social media coverage.
But there’s something to be said for surrendering much of that control to limitations and chance; taking photos as scenes unfold to you, to taking just one or two shots per scene (because you only have so much film), to refrain from getting caught up in fussy details and seeing what turns out. This year at the XPoNential Music Festival, I brought two cameras with me — a Ricoh SLR, an Argus rangefinder — and shot a roll of color film and a roll of black and white. Here’s what happened. Continue reading →