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Free At Noon Flashback: Mwesno & the Shakes bring the festival vibe to World Cafe Live

On August 16th, 1969, Woodstock didn’t start its second day of music until 12:33 p.m.  Little did they know that 50 years later, this would allow WXPN just enough time to fit in it’s usual Free At Noon Concert before flipping back to #XPNstock – a broadcast of the entire Woodstock festival, as it happened, 50 years on. Fans listening in early couldn’t have been more satisfied, as XPN booked the perfect band to kick off the day.

Led by Michael Mwenso, Mwesno & the Shakes, a troupe of global artists, brought the festival vibe to World Cafe Live. A set of 3 horns along with two hype men (one on keys and another on stand up bass) start the show, getting the crowd in motion even before Mwesno, accompanied by two singers, joined them on stage. It was quickly apparent that this would be one hell of a set, mixing various styles of Jazz, blues and world music to an all-out party. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Pure Bathing Culture showcase new sounds and old at World Cafe Live

Pure Bathing Culture | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

Portland, Oregon’s Pure Bathing Culture came by World Cafe Live to deliver a fantastic set of new and old tunes from their expansive discography, which dates back to 2012.

Pure Bathing Culture is Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman, who first met in 2011 in New Jersey. The two began writing together, moved to Portland, and began seriously pursuing their new musical adventure. Their sound can be described as 80’s-influenced synth pop, with a clear modern presence. After being dropped from their previous label, the duo took some time to figure out their situation before jumping back in, with many songs from their new record already written. Finding new ground, the group is finally back with Night Pass, their newest project released in April. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: JD Simo brings down the house

JD Simo | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

Blues rocker JD Simo came by WXPN’s Free at Noon to deliver an insanely loud and proud blues performance. Fresh off the release of his new solo record Off At 11, Simo played hits from that as well as older cuts.

JD Simo is the frontman of Nashville blues-rock band Simo, formed in 2010. They’ve performed at notable festivals like Bonnaroo, Warren Hayne’s Christmas Jam and Mountain Jam in their time as a band. JD has since started a solo career, touring with Tommy Emmanuel. Simo is now joined by the band’s original drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Andraleia Buch.

The trio showed insanely good chemistry on stage as they rocked out to Simo’s crunchy blues riffs like those heard in “Temptation” off of Off At 11, turning the six-minute tune into a 10+ minute jam session. That was the case for many of the other songs as well, as JD joked – “we never know how long are sets are going to be.” A nice surprise, Simo performed an upcoming single titled “All I Got Is You,” another blues-rock tune that featured fast changing time signatures. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Rod Melancon Makes His Philadelphia Debut at World Cafe Live

Rod Melancon | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

Rod Melancon opened XPN’s Free at Noon double-header performing before, J.D. Simo. He sang tunes from his newest album, Pinkville, which was released in early April. With a name like Pinkville, you might think Melancon’s music verged on country pop, but that is far from the case.

Pinkville is not the kind of country, blues you can kick back and mindlessly listen to. Each song tells a story, and never a pretty one. Melancon opened his performance with title-track, a song that’s more like a story put to music than a song in the traditional sense of the word. Through the lyrics, Rod Melancon explains a scene that he repeatedly passed driving to his family’s crawfish pond in Gueydan, Louisiana. Every time they drove, he saw a man pacing in front of a faded grey house wearing nothing but long johns and a pair of combat boots. One day he worked up the courage, and his dad explains that the man was a Vietnam Vet that was scared by his experiences. He says, “His boots were on American soil, but his mind was far off in the burning villages of Pinkville.” Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Craig Finn brings his new story-filled album to the World Cafe Live stage

Craig Finn | photo by Makena Duffy for WXPN

Earlier today, singer-songwriter and storyteller Craig Finn arrived at World Cafe Live to perform a few songs from his newest solo album I Need A New War. According to Finn, the album dedicated to our world’s fast-changing times, and tells many stories about his previous 19 years spent living in New York. The frontman of rock faves The Hold Steady, Finn has been embarking on his solo endeavor for a few years now, with this album being his fourth. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: JR JR strips their set down for World Cafe Live

JR JR | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

After Paul Keen of Pawnshop Roses graced the stage for today’s Free At Noon, indie pop group JR JR followed up with a set that, to everyone’s surprised, wound up being semi-acoustic. Down a drummer, the band’s Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein played stripped-down arrangements of songs from their newest album Invocations / Conversations, as well as some older cuts and a cover. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Starcrawler hit hard at World Cafe Live

Starcrawler | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

LA hard rock band Starcrawler visited World Cafe for today’s Free at Noon and delivered a punchy set of new and old material. The young outfit, which includes frontwoman Arrow de Wilde, guitarist Henri Cash, bassist Tim Franco and drummer Austin Smith, formed in 2015 and released their self-titled debut on Rough Trade Records in 2018. Earlier this year, they released the singles “She Gets Around” and “Pet Sematary” (a Ramones cover), both of which they performed today.

The Free at Noon set found Starcrawler at their most theatrical — after three band members had already entered and set up their instruments, de Wilde stumbled onto the stage in a daze, wearing a tattered white dress covered in smudges and bloodstains. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Amy Ray and her band offer a delightful start to the holiday weekend

Amy Ray and XPN go way back. She has appeared at World Cafe Live and on World Cafe the show countless times, both as one half of Indigo Girls and as a solo artist. She will play World Cafe Live again tonight and XPoNential fest in July. Before all that though, she and her band treated us to a fantastic Free at Noon set. It was a great way to roll into the long weekend.

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Claypool Lennon Delirium provides escape and innovation to World Cafe Live audience

The Claypool Lennon Delirium | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN\

For today’s Free at Noon concert, the downstairs of World Cafe Live was packed with audience members eagerly awaiting The Claypool Lennon Delirium. The band is a project of music greats Les Claypool and Sean Lennon. Claypool is best known for his role as founder, bassist, and vocalist of Primus, while Lennon is the son of Beatles legend John Lennon and a multi-instrumentalist in his own right. Lennon has bounced around the world of underground and indie rock and produced a few solo albums, including Into the Sun (1998) and Friendly Fire (2006). According to Rolling Stone, Delirium was born from Claypool and Lennon’s mutual desire to “sit in a room and make space sounds again.” Continue reading →