“It’s a really special thing”: Rüfüs Du Sol’s James Hunt talks touring and being an album-band

Rüfüs du Sol | photo by Le Fawnhawk | courtesy of the artist

Australian electronic group Rüfüs Du Sol are no strangers to touring. They’ve been on the road almost constantly since their formation nearly a decade ago. Those years of touring have turned the band, made up of Tyrone Lindqvist, Jon George and James Hunt, into a well-oiled performance machine. They understand how to grab and keep their audiences’ attention, and how to curate an audio-visual journey for them.

On August 6, they will get to showcase their knowledge at Franklin Music Hall. As James Hunt explained to me over the phone, they’ve grown a lot in the three years since their last headlining show in Philly and they’re ready to prove it. Continue reading →


The Week Ahead: Strand of Oaks, Ivy Sole, Mavis Staples, Swearin’ and more

Ivy Sole at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

From alt rock heros to rising stars in hip-hop, a Philly favorite taking over three nights at Boot and Saddle in South Philly, while a soul queen posts up for two nights at World Cafe Live in University City. And the time of year being what it is, there are not one, not two, but three holiday shows on the calendar this week. Here are 16 concerts to see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia.  Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kishi Bashi at the First Unitarian Church, XPN Welcomes Jeff Mangum to The Strand, XPN Welcomes Rufus Wainwright to the McCarter Theater, Cheers Elephant at Johnny Brenda’s

Violinist, singer and composer Kishi Bashi performs at the First Unitarian Church tonight.  Using his violin as a starting point, Bashi creates entirely new universes in his compositions with swirling loop sequences, layered vocals and atmospheric synth backdrops.  In addition to touring and collaborating with of Montreal, Regina Spektor, The Barr Brothers and Sondre Lerche, the Seattle native takes his sonic creations to new heights with occasional solo recordings like 2012’s 151a LP.  Tickets and information for tonight’s all-ages show with Plume Giant can be found here.  Watch Kishi Bashi perform “Manchester” from 151a below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mornin’ Old Sport, Jackson Browne; Rufus Wainwright postponed

If you missed out on scoring tickets to the now sold out Frank Ocean show at Union Transfer, fear not; there are myriad opportunities for you to get your music fix tonight.

Let’s start with Boston country/jazz-types Mornin’ Old Sport, who’ll be shacking up at PhilaMOCA along with a whole slew of good-time folky songsters. Also playing are local acts Liz & the Lost Boys, On the Water, and Joshua Alvarez. Admission is on a $7-10 sliding scale; show starts at 8. Listen to “Katie” from Mornin’ Old Sport’s forthcoming album below.

Singer-songwriter extraordinaire Jackson Browne will be plucking strings and crooning verses at the Academy of Music. Opening up the show is folk-and-fiddle hero Sara Watkins, whose latest album Sun Midnight Sun came out earlier this summer. Tickets are available here starting at $40. Stream “When It Pleases You”– from Sara Watkins’ latest album — below.

Rufus Wainwright and singer-songwriter Josh Ritter were scheduled to appear at the Festival Pier tonight. The show has been postponed, and a new date will be announced soon. Wainwright is touring to promote his latest album, Out Of The Game, out on Decca. Below, watch the video for the title track from Wrainwright’s Out Of The Game, featuring actress Helena Bonham Carter.


35mm of Firefly: Revisiting the Woodlands on film

Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover’s annual Firefly Music Festival is just about the friendliest mega-festival you’ll ever go to.

I say this, worth noting, not having been to Bonnaroo, or Coachella. Nor am I old enough to have experienced the grandaddy of all festivals, Woodstock — though I’m sure there’s a lot fiction and myth and revisionist history surrounding that concert’s supposed transcendence.

Compared to the current circuit of gigs in brutal-summer-sun-on-asphalt settings, however, the ones taking the let’s-cram-everybody-in-a-municipal-park approach, the ones making even the strongest lineup more daunting than it needs to be — Firefly is clearly a festival designed with the fans in mind. This is my third year covering it, and each year, incremental improvements are made, reacting to the previous year’s challenges while keeping an eye towards growth. In 2016, spending a long weekend in the Woodlands amidst a throng of 100,000 fans felt remarkably…comfortable. Water stations were plentiful, opportunities for cooler air and shade were at (most) every turn, music was never far – nor was it in your face either. Getting from the Lawn Stage at the festival’s south gate to the main Firefly Stage on the north side took maybe 20 minutes in the rockiest of conditions; in the past, it required over a half hour  to traverse the festival grounds.

In any number of ways — the forest setting and ubiquity of nature surrounding the show, the super upbeat signage, the way corporate branding was (for the most part) downplayed — Firefly shared experiential commonalities with homespun, hyper-local hippie-oriented musical gatherings dotting the map. The differences being, of course, the colossal pop stars (The 1975, Mumford and Sons, Ludacris, CHVRCHES) and soon-to-be pop stars (Pell, Kaneholler, Quilt, Son Little, Civil Twilight) filling out the lineup. This is, after all, an event where music industry mechanizations move the gears. It’s just refreshing to see that this can be done while still providing a positive experience for the fans.

For this year’s Firefly, I documented it with a mix of digital photography and a roll of 35 mm film on a Canon AE-1. The film is back just recently from the lab, and today I present its highlights to you, with some running commentary. See my digital pictures from Friday here, from Saturday here and Sunday over here. Continue reading →


Your Firefly Guide: 20 artists to discover in the Woodlands this week

Photo by Joe Del Tufo |

Tomorrow afternoon, the first carloads of campers will make their way up Delaware’s DuPont Highway for the 2016 edition of the Firefly Music Festival.

Held in the Woodlands of Dover, the festival has skyrocketed since its inaugural outing in 2012, this year featuring seven stages and sure-to-be massive headlining sets from pop/rock megastars Florence and the MachineM83Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon. You’ll also find no shortage of can’t-miss performances on the second tier, this year including sets by emo titans Death Cab for Cutie, LA-based epic poet Vince Staples, Glaswegian electrorock trio CHVRCHES, psychedelic Australian vibe-wranglers Tame Impala and more.

But you’re already familiar with those names, more likely than not. Part of the fun of the whole megafestival experience (unless you truly enjoy roasting in the sun in a jam-packed field of 80,000 for days on end waiting for the big names) is wandering away from the crowd and finding something new, something unexpected, something incredible. In that spirit, The Key staff has surveyed the entire 120+ band lineup and brings you our picks of artists you may not have heard of but who are absolutley worth discovering in the Woodlands this weekend. Read on, and rock out. Continue reading →


The High Key Portrait Series: King Britt

King Britt | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in recurring installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

A year after graduating from Central High School, King Britt was working at a new Tower Records location on South Street, having been hired for his judicious taste in music imports. At just 19 years old in 1987, having been brought up on all kinds of music and connected to the arts community in Philly, King was uniquely positioned to make moves, and to update dance music and electronica just at a time when the music industry stood ready to be transformed by the impending advent of digital technology.

At this interview at XPN studios, King reflected on his early hustle, and on those days in the late ‘80s and the first years of the ‘90s — a time of mixtapes and cassingles, hip-house and trip-hop. Few would be able to tell the story more capably or warmly than the Philly-born music producer, as he entreats us to fond memories of his days recording Sylk 130 records at Larry Gold’s studio, of the record label he co-founded with then-fellow-Temple-U student Josh Wink, of his collaborations with Bahamadia, and Ursula Rucker, and to musings about what, in his opinion, we all lost when Napster was unleashed (hint: it may not be what you think!). Continue reading →


Now Hear This: New songs by Kacey Musgraves, Alexis Taylor, Gwenno, Baloji, Young Fathers, Mount Eerie and more.

Young Fathers
Young Fathers | photo by Julia Noni | courtesy of the artist

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Last month I was seeing double; this month I’m going solo.

I spent a probably unreasonable amount of time in the last couple weeks compiling a list of my personal top 25 albums of the past 25 years – a time period which happens to correspond, more or less, with my lifespan as an active, conscious listener to contemporary music – and then discussing/dissecting said list in detail via Facebook comments, which turned out to be a surprisingly emotional process.  (The whole undertaking was inspired by a prompt commemorating the 25th anniversary of Philly-based staple Magnet Magazine, wherein the list will eventually be published.)

One thing that struck me along the way was how astonishingly many acts from this time-frame – even the earliest years of it – remain (or have again become) relatively musically active.  Now, maybe it’s just a factor of my age, but I don’t really remember the musical landscape of the ‘90s, for instance, being quite so well populated by artists who’d been around since the ’70s.  Of the twenty-five artists who made my list, all but four are either still at it or at it again: two have died (Elliott Smith and Aaliyah; three if you count Stereolab’s Mary Hansen), but only two – Rachel Stevens and Aberfeldy – have, to my knowledge, simply stopped making music.   Continue reading →


Sleepy Hollow’s Greatest Year(s) in Music: 1963


Sleepy Hollow’s Keith Kelleher and Julian Booker continue their profiles of potential “Greatest Years in Music” in conjunction with XPN’s on-going musical conversation. Read their case for 1963 below:

As history would have it, 1963 will forever be remembered as the year The Beatles broke in their native U.K. With their Please Please Me and With the Beatles albums both reaching #1 across the pond, the fab four were now poised to take over North America with the January 1964 release of Meet the Beatles, and of course, their monumental performances on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of that year.

Continue reading →