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XPN Fest Recap: Gregory Alan Isakov creates an atmosphere around captivated audience

Gregory Alan Isakov | photo by Makena Duffy for WXPN

Gregory Alan Isakov and his band didn’t just play their songs at XPN Fest; they created an atmosphere with their music — an entire feeling that grew stronger the closer you came to the Marina Stage. Standing right up front, it was as if I was in the center of their world, and I think the rest of the devoted GAI fans surrounding me felt the same. Continue reading →

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Gregory Alan Isakov’s vintage “Southern Star” video is understated drama at its peak

Gregory Alan Isakov | Photo by Blue Gabor Caleel

Singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov has seen a lot of recent success with his latest album, Evening Machine, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Folk and Americana charts. As he heads out on tour in support of it, he released a new music video for one of the songs off of the album.

Shot in widescreen with a vintage style title sequence and a grainy filter, “Southern Star” is set in a glamorous Boston estate with grand staircases, elaborate wall molding, and a massive chandelier. Looking quite out of place, Isakov strums his guitar wearing a brimmed hat, a t-shirt, and jeans. He sings into a nearby mic accompanied by band members playing their respective instruments. At one point, his percussionist is seen vigorously hitting the drums alone at the center of the staircase. “Southern Star” is understated drama at its peak. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Beach House at The Trocadero, Gregory Alan Isakov at Johnny Brenda’s

Beach House

Sure, Beach House‘s Teen Dream is—like the band’s previous efforts—an excellent atmospheric album to play in the background while sitting around your living room and having a discussion about how, like, you’re totally over bands that make atmospheric background music. But how does it hold up in a live setting, where—instead of lounging around on your comfy couch and only kind-of listening to the band’s lo-fi dream-pop—you’re expected to stand on your own two feet and pay close attention for the full duration of the performance? The jury is still out. By many accounts, Teen Dream is the Baltimore duo’s most dynamic and engaging album to date, a critical success that has earned the band not only a larger fan base, but the predictable backlash. Of course, “dynamic” and “engaging” are pretty subjective terms, especially when applied to a band like Beach House. If you haven’t already purchased a ticket to tonight’s show at The Trocadero, however, you won’t have to bother deciding whether or not to see the live show for yourself—it’s sold out. Beach House performs with Papercuts at 8:30 p.m. at The Trocadero; tickets to the all-ages show are SOLD OUT.

Also playing: Gregory Alan Isakov performs with Emily Arin at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $12.

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And now, your full #XPNFest lineup: Elvis Costello, Blondie, Guster, J.S. Ondara, Lucy Dacus, and much more

clockwise from left: Elvis Costello, Guster, J.S. Ondara, Lucy Dacus, Blondie | photos courtesy of the artists

“When is the XPoNential lineup coming?” seems to be the question of the year over here at XPN HQ, and today we finally have a good answer for you: the full lineup is here. Right now.

We got a teaser of the 2019 XPoNential Music Festival presented by Subaru last week when we announced our Friday night headlinersHozier and Japanese Breakfast — along with the Wiggins Park lineup for that day, from Foxtrot and the Get Down to Dawes.

Today, the full lineup is here, capped by a headlining double-header on Saturday, July 27th with Elvis Costello & The Imposters and Blondie at BB&T Pavilion. Sunday’s concert will take place entirely at Wiggins Park, and will feature festival-closing sets from Kathleen Edwards, Guster, and The Amy Ray Band. Continue reading →

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The Show Goes On: Escape the Pope weekend crowds with these awesome gigs just outside of Philly

Dr. Dog | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com
Dr. Dog | Photo by Cameron Pollack | cameronpollack.500px.com

Yesterday we gave those of you spending pope weekend in Philly some tips on what is going on and how exactly you should get there. But many are probably wary of what will be one of the most crowded weekends in the city’s history – and thankfully, there’s plenty of live music a short roadtrip away. Today, we bring you a roundup of concerts that are worth venturing outside of Popeville to catch. Continue reading →

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Firefly Music Festival Day One: Courtney Barnett, Amos Lee, Local Natives, Phosphorescent and more

Courtney Barnett | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Courtney Barnett | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

The 3rd annual Firefly Music Festival is taking place this weekend at Dover, Delaware and we are there to capture all four days of live music. Last night, the festival opened with performances from Amos Lee, Local Natives, Courtney Barnett, Phosphorescent, Parade of Lights and more.

Amos Lee | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Amos Lee | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

Phosophorescent | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Phosphorescent | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tuf | joedeltufo.com
Continue reading →

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“It’s a big sky right now and I’m really happy”: Josh Ritter talks about the road since The Beast In Its Tracks

Josh Ritter | Photo via facebook.com/joshrittermusic
Josh Ritter | Photo via facebook.com/joshrittermusic

Just about a year ago, Josh Ritter released a moving collection of songs called The Beast in its Tracks. It was notably the first time that this favorite of the singer-songwriter scene wrote from a true first-person perspective, collecting a range of thoughts and emotions in the wake of his 2011 divorce and channeling them into songs that were remarkably stirring, beautiful and – on standout track “Joy to You Baby” – even optimistic. The album went on to receive widespread critical acclaim, and Ritter toured in support of it both with his five-piece Royal City Band and by himself.

On Thursday night, he splits the difference, playing at The Keswick Theatre in Glenside acoustically, accompanied by musical collaborators Zack Hickman and Josh Kaufman. It won’t be a full-on rock set, allowing Ritter to touch on the more nuanced moments of his catalog, but he won’t be by himself either, allowing the set to be built around a dynamic rise-and-fall. “It’s something I’ve been jonesing for,” he told me when I caught up with him via phone enroute to a show in Louisville earlier this week. We talked about the differences between playing with a band and playing solo, the unexpected success of Beast and what to do when your opening act gives you an axe.

The Key: Does the opportunity to do solo or more intimate shows like this become more of a rare thing for you the longer you’re a performing musician?

Josh Ritter: I would hope not! I started playing solo, for many years. When I write, I write solo. And there’s so much about that part of it that I find to be the foundational aspect of my songs. I really believe that songs, to be lasting, should be able to played by anybody. It shouldn’t require virtuosic talent and instrumentation – and that’s good for me because I’m no virtuoso when it comes to playing guitar! [laughs] And then I also believe that a song should only need to be delivered by a single voice. I really like the idea of a strand of melody going around in my head and the words kind of dovetailing that. I live for those moments, and I believe in a show those can be really important. You don’t need to have anything else to reach an audience then just voice and guitar or voice and some instrument. You can always add on [in the studio], and that’s great. But it’s best to remind yourself every so often that you can do it on your own.


“There’s a real tangible flow of energy between the performer and the audience.” Josh Ritter on stage at The Fillmore in San Francisco | Photo by Brian Stowell | Photo via facebook.com/joshrittermusic

TK: Yeah, and chasing that a little bit further, can you compare and contrast playing with your full band to playing a more scaled-down version of it like you’re doing on this tour, or even straight up playing solo? What do you like about playing with the guys ,what do you like about playing alone?

JR: Well it all basically comes down to – without sounding too much like a hippie – is there’s a real tangible flow of energy between the performer and the audience. I think when you’re performing, that is a strand or a power that you don’t want to sever or dilute any. When you’re playing on your own it’s just you and the audience and that’s a really incredible thing. With a band, that gets trickier. You’re sharing your energy with the band the band is focusing its energy through you and it can be an ecstatic experience, but it can also be something you can all too easily fold yourself into and get lost in the energy of the band and pay less attention to what’s going on between you and the audience. Continue reading →

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OutKast, Foo Fighters, Jack Johnson, Arctic Monkeys top Firefly 2014 lineup

OutKast
OutKast | Photo courtesy of the artist via outkast.com

The third edition of Dover, Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival announced its initial lineup today with reunited Southern rap groundbreakers OutKast leading the weekend’s headliners along with alt-rock heroes Foo Fighters and mellow singer-songwriter-surfer Jack Johnson.

Also on tap are veteran brit-rockers Arctic Monkeys, Newark-based electro-pop duo Mean Lady and Wilmington folkies New Sweden, soulful Philly singer-songwriter Amos Lee, folkies The Lumineers – making up for their cancelled appearance on 2013’s Firefly lineup – orchestral Americana Iron and Wine, as well as Band of Horses, Jake Bugg, Tegan and Sara, Chance the Rapper, Sleigh Bells and more.

The festival takes place from June 19th to June 22nd at The Woodlands, an expanse of field and forest alongside the Dover International Speedway. The grounds have been expanded this year to accommodate an anticipated 80,000 attendees, and the addition of a larger stage called The Forest Stage, and a smaller one The Big Break stage, a showcase for unsigned musicians (read more). Check out the full lineup of 100+ bands after the jump. Continue reading →