Archive for the ‘WXPN 88.5 FM–Philadelphia, PA’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MAGGIE ROGERS-Tiny Desk Concert #641 (August 7, 2017).

I had been hearing Maggie Rogers’ name on WXPN and have liked “Alaska” which they’ve been playing.  But I didn’t know much else about her.

But reading the blurb reminded me of where I had initially heard of her:

Maggie Rogers became a viral star on the strength of a video in which Pharrell Williams raves about a demo of what’s become her signature song, “Alaska.” Since then, Rogers has signed a label deal, toured extensively and released a sweetly approachable, inventively arranged EP called Now That The Light Is Fading.

For her Tiny Desk debut, Rogers performed all three of the EP’s best-known songs, opening with the recent singles “On + Off” and “Dog Years,” the latter of which she calls “a song for all the pups.” Then, after dismissing her band, she treated us to a few warm words about public radio before introducing “Alaska.”

Maggie has an interesting voice that sounds similar to someone (it’ll come to me), but with a slight country twang.  It seems like she could easily fall into the country umbrella but her songwriting goes in a slightly different direction.  (I’m also astonished that she looks to be about 18).

She plays three songs (there are 5 on her EP),

“On+Off” starts with a piano intro and Maggie singing. When the middle section kicks in and she plays guitar there a much louder sound. It’s quite catchy.  I really like the delivery of the “Ooohs” that she adds.  There’s something about the way she does it that sounds very cool.

“Dog Years” is a slower, slightly more country-sounding song, but again the “ooohs” won me over.  This time the ooohs are harmonized by her band and it sounds even better.  She also demonstrated some wonderful high notes.

Her band leaves for the final song which she starts by telling everyone that “public radio has been a part of her musical discovery–since she used an NPR compilation to DJ her middle school recess.”  She’s very sweet.

Th final song is “Alaska” which she says is a song about coming back into your body.  It has a really pretty chorus–once again, her voice soaring to lovely high notes.  I prefer the recorded version to this solo version, but she sounds great by herself as well.

[READ: June 27, 2017] “Crossing the River No Name”

I was a little concerned about this story because it was set in Khost, Afghanistan and I thought it was going to be an intense war story–and war stories, like sports stories, pretty much end one of two ways.

So it begins on a rainy night in March 2009.  The narrator and his patrol are sent to interrupt a group of Taliban.  They reached a river and Hal, the leader, called on the best swimmers to swim across and set up the guide rope.  They made it across and secured the line.  The rest of the patrol got across but when it was the narrator and Hals’ turn they hit trouble.

Hal was afraid of the water.  He’d joined the Navy to get over that fear and it worked.  Most of the time.  He knew of one other example when Hal had had a brief freak out.  But this was the second one.  The river grew darker and they were pulled under. (more…)

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giant-daysSOUNDTRACK: NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS-Tiny Desk Concert #488 (November 17, 2015).

nateNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats get a ton of airplay on WXPN–perhaps a bit too much airplay.  And yet I can’t deny the supreme catchiness of his music which owes a lot to Van Morrison’s brand of soul music.

Rateliff was (and perhaps still is) a folk singer.  But in 2015, he released this album with the band The Night Sweats and has had huge success with this more rocking soulfulness.

“I Need Never Get Old” sounds so much like a Van Morrison song that it’s hard to deny how catchy it is (especially the chorus).  “Look It Here” has a similar vibe with the kind of loudly mumbled vocals that sit nicely with backing vocals and horns.  The middle of the song picks up in intensity and changes the overall tone in a good way that segues nicely back into the main melody.

“I’ve Been Failing You” features more piano up front.  It’s a little more bluesy than soulful so I like it a bit less.  Although the backing vocals in the quiet section (Don’t you weep and don’t you worry) are very cool.

Typically a band does three songs, but Bob walks up and shakes his hand and asks if he wants to do another.  Nathaniel asks, do another or do that one over?  But Bob says, no another song if they want to.

The band agrees they can’t really do “Shake,” so instead they play “Mellow Out.”  Rateliff says, “Same key different song.”  And everyone laughs until he realized, “wait it’s actually a different key.  What do I know?”

“Mellow Out” which opens with some very Van Morrison “do do do dos.”   It sounds very much like the other songs–catchy and swinging with horns in all the right places.  When the song ends Bob says it sounded great and someone comments that they had an extra late night last night before the audio turns off.

I am genuinely surprised that they didn’t play “S.O.B.,” their first single (a song used in a Lipton commercial–although not any part that sings “son of a bitch, I might add).  But since I don’t really like that song, I’m glad they played the other ones.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Giant Days Vol. 1

Giant Days was excerpted in the back of a Lumberjanes book and I loved the excerpt–very funny with a great drawing style. Then as I am wont to do, I forgot all about it.  But in the library the other day, the librarian recommended the book and I was delighted to be reminded about it.

This series is set in a British college.  Susan, Esther, and Daisy are roommates.  Susan is the sensible one–a little angry at men and unwilling to take crap from anyone.  Esther is a goth hottie.  She dresses outlandishly and has a (literal?) forcefield of bad luck around her.  And Daisy was home schooled–she is very sweet and rather naive.

I loved right from the start when the three girls head out to campus.  Susan bets Esther that she can’t go three days without some kind of drama happening around her.  But as soon as they get outside, Susan see McGraw.  And she is furious.  McGraw has floppy hair and a big ol’ mustache.  And they launch into each other with cold pleasantries.

When the girls  force Susan to tell the story, there’s a very funny moment when the other two start chanting Flash-Back Flash-Back but we get a brief, intentionally unsatisfying one. (more…)

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1981 SOUNDTRACK: SON LITTLE-Tiny Desk Concert #495 (December 18, 2015).

sonlittleI know of Son Little, although only vaguely.  WXPN has played his song “The River” quite a lot, although I don’t think I’ve heard anything else.

For this Tiny Desk Concert, he’s really stripped down–just his acoustic guitar, a percussionist (Jabari Exum playing a djembe with accoutrements) and a backing vocalist, his sister Megan Livingston.  His playing is even pretty stripped down–his chords are minimal, almost more like accents for most of the songs (although he does play louder from time to time).

As such, this really celebrates his voice which is strong and almost gospel-like.

He plays three songs. “Lay Down,” is a quiet soulful song with perfectly spare accompaniment.  When it ends, everyone seems adorably shy with Little saying, “just mildly awkward enough.”

“Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches” is a bit bigger–Little sings a bit louder and plays louder chords, but it is still quite minimal.

He ends with “The River” which is certainly stripped down from the radio version.  It opens with some claps and he encourages everyone to clap along although “If you’re like clap challenged then maybe… don’t–you know who you are.”  The song has that bluesy rock feel even in this understated form.  And while I like the original better, this is a great version–that quiet clapping and percussion is really nice.

[READ: July 26, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982

So far the 1980s see Schulz settling into a few consistent themes in his strips–regular motifs that he mines over and over again.  Although it’s interesting to see how they have morphed over the decades.

Patty is constantly falling asleep in school (and getting D minuses), Snoopy continues to write funny/bad jokes and gets rejection letters about his books (this is usually pretty funny but it’s also surprising as Snoopy is usually the “successful” one); Snoopy also plays a lawyer a lot in these strips.

1981 begins where 1980 left off with Patty loving the story of Hans Brinker.  1981 also has a lengthy section about Valentines Day (a subject that gets more emphasis in some years than others), although this year Sally is the major protagonist (and her Sweet Babboo her object).  1982 also has a Valentine’s Day with Sally–she gets her hand stuck in the Valentine’s Day cards box.

Schulz used to do bible instruction which is why he quotes it so much.  And he occasionally peppers his strips with religious commentary.  There’s a joke about school prayer–Patty has to go up to the board and when her teacher falls ill she shouts “school prayer works, Marcie.”  There’s an amusing joke that Snoopy used to teach Sunday School at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.

Although the running jokes are funny, I love when he gets a new idea.  Like the a fun twist on the dog ate my homework joke when Snoopy as the WWI pilot steals Sally’s homework claiming it is the enemy’s secret papers and he eats them.

Sometimes Schulz gives a one-off joke that’s just silly and funny like when Woodstock “poofs” a dandelion and it “poofs” him back. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 22-24, 2016] XPN Fest

2016-07-24 15.34.58Even though I go to a lot of shows, I don’t really love Festivals.  I actually enjoy concerts too much to enjoy Festivals.  Which sounds dumb, but I’d rather see a band I like on their own play for a full set than for 30 minutes with a bunch of people who don’t really want to see them.

I’ve been to a few festivals over the years, and I have thought about going to other ones, but since I typically don’t want to spend a few days in the sun (and a few hundred dollars), I don’t go.

But the past two years we have seen some great headlining acts at XPN Fest.  And we thought it would be fun to go for the day, bring the kids and just have a fun day outside with music and vendors.  We bought tickets before the lineup was even announced.

WXPN members get half-priced tickets (which is cheaper than some of the regular shows I’ve been to) and kids’ tickets are $15 for the three days.  Perfect.

In the past, I have loved most of the headliners, but this year I didn’t really like any of them. The three day pass includes lawn seats to the headliners, but we wound up not using them at all. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 24, 2016] David Wax Museum

2016-07-24 15.58.23 David Wax Museum was supposed to play on Saturday.  Then it rained.  Really really hard.  For us, as we waited it out under a tent, the momentum was gone.  The kids were wiped out.  They kicked everyone out of the park because of thunder and lightning.  So even when the sun came back out, we decided to go home.

Well, it turned out that David Wax’s show was cancelled, but they were able to stick around until Sunday and the organizers squeezed them in and we got to see them anyhow!

I knew of David Wax Museum from a Tiny Desk and a Newport Folk performance broadcast on NPR a few years ago.  They played really fun, upbeat music (and used a donkey jaw bone as an instrument) and I was really psyched to see them.

Their set started literally just as The Districts finished up, so we had to hustle over.  And we caught them for the middle of their first song “Yes Maria,” a song I know pretty well and a wonderfully upbeat number.

2016-07-24 15.42.42And then they continued to have one of the most fun sets of the weekend.  Their songs have a Mexican flavor (co-lead singer Suz Slezak was wearing a  (very hot looking) poncho foe the set while Wax was wearing a very sharp looking pseudo-mariachi suit.

They talked to the audience a lot. They said they had driven to the show on Friday night from North Dakota (can that be right?).  Since it was the final night of their tour, they were actually kind of happy that the previous night was cancelled and rescheduled.  They only had to drive from the hotel nearby.  Suz said that it was the first show that they were really well rested for.

Their set included a bunch of sing-alongs, big clapping sections and lots of lyrics in Spanish.

Wax primarily plays the jarana, a Mexican instrument similar to a tiny guitar.  Slezak plays keyboards and fiddle as well as singing along.  And she’s the one who plays the quijada, a percussion instrument made from a donkey’s jawbone.  And yes it was great to see it in action.

Sarah told me after the show that it was her favorite set of the weekend.  I was pretty excited to get their latest album and then, to our surprise they cam over to the merch booth (instead of the meet and greet tent) and signed out disc.  I chatted with them a few minutes, and they were super nice.  Suz showed Tabby her necklace which has one of the teeth from the jawbone.  And their adorable daughter was there too.  She’s 2 and it was the first show of theirs that she got to watch (although I think mostly she was just hot).

I’m so glad that they were able to play and, as with The Districts, I’d love to see them in a smaller venue where they get a longer set.

See some colorful photos and stream their set here.


Yes, Maria, Yes

Dark Night of the Heart


Harder Before It Gets Easier

Blood Jump


Don’t Lose Heart

Born With A Broken Heart



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[ATTENDED: July 24, 2016] The Districts

2016-07-24 14.47.59 Despite the heat of Saturday, we were prepared to go back to the Fest on Sunday–with plans to pop into the Aquarium before the show.  I had wanted to see three artists on Sunday, but we only managed two.

I knew The Districts from WXPN , and I’d heard that their shows were a lot of fun.  And that was spot on.

This was the only show we watched at the River Front stage–the larger of the two.  Rather than fight the sun, we hung out on the periphery in the shade and, while we weren’t all that close, we could see the band fine and the sound was outstanding–it was actually a little better off to the side then in the front where it was  little ear-piercing.

Unlike the other bands we saw, The Districts were there to rock out and rock out they did. (more…)

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2016-07-23 13.16.33[ATTENDED: July 23, 2016] Esmé Patterson

I had originally intended to see five bands on Saturday of the Festival.  Because of a number of unexpected hiccups, I wound up seeing only two.  (More about the hiccups on Monday).

Of the five bands, I definitely had a couple that I wanted to see more than others.  And Esmé Patterson was one of them.  I knew her from All Songs Considered, and although I’d only heard one song, I really liked it and was excited to see her rock out.

We arrived in time for her set, put out our gear, and had a great time.

Esmé has a fun stage presence (and is really kind–she was worried about us all burning in the hot sun), she sings wonderfully and her backing band was totally solid. (more…)

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