Wednesday, October 7, 2015

POSTED: Saturday, October 3, 2015, 11:14 AM
Kraftwerk at the Electric Factory. (Dan DeLuca)

When conventional stage patter is all but verboten and the pioneering German krautrock - or if you prefer, motorik - band principally responsible for bringing electronic music to the masses in the 1970s plays an exceedingly rare show in the City of Brotherly Love, how do it members find a way to wordlessly say: "Hello Philadelphia! How you doin'?"
Well, if you're Kraftwerk, the Teutonic quartet who played a sold out concert at the Electric Factory on Friday night that was the band's first area appearance since they performed at Emerald City in Cherry Hill in 1981, you cleverly do it with retro-futuristic 3-D animation.

During "Spacelab," a song that the four man band of co-founder Ralf Hutter and fellow programmers Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Falk Grieffen performed from the 1978 album Die Mensch-Maschine - that's The Man-Machine to you - the Jetsons-like video projections showed a UFO floating through the heavens. Its GPS locator, showed it to be flying directly above Philadelphia, and when it mind blowingly came in for a landing, its destination was the Electric Factory, where the marquee listed Kraftwerk as the headlining attraction.   

The sci-fi cool and forward motion rhythms of "Spacelab" were representative of a seamless, two-hour rapturously received show. The geeked out intergenerational audience happily donned old fashioned cardboard glasses to gain a multi-dimensional perspective on the emotionless, proudly robotic performers. Kraftwerk specialize in songs about travel ("Trans Europe Express," "Tour de France" and "Autobahn," with a video that could have doubled as an ad for under-fire German automaker Volkswagen), while exploring ways humans have been transformed by technology of their own creation.

POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2015, 1:16 PM
Filed Under: Pope
Pope Francis arrives on his Popemobile in St. Peter's Square for his weekly audience on October 22, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Is this whole American tour by Pope Francis just a publcity set up for the launch of the People's Pope's career as a real rock star?

On the eve of the Holy Father's arrival in Philadelphia, it was announced on Friday that on November 27, Francis will release Wake Up!, a collection of 11 hymns drawn from the sacred music tradition reimagined by modern musicians and overlayed with excerpts from the Francis' speeches.

The Vatican sanctioned release is produced by Don Giulio Nerona and features the multi-lingual pontiff dropping knowledge in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English. Among the papal collaborators is Tony Pagliuca, formerly of Italian prog-rock band Le Orme. He told Rolling Stone: "When Don Giulio Neroni asked me to collaborate on this CD, I immediately accepted with enthusiasm. Putting my music in the service of the words and the voice of Pope Francis has been a fantastic experience and a very interesting artistic challenge."

POSTED: Saturday, September 19, 2015, 11:05 AM
Pope Francis and Patti Smith hanging out at the Vatican in 2013. (Associated Press)

Thomas Carlyle said it, I didn't: "Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine."

With the infinite in mind, here's a Spotify playlist to mark Pope Francis' coming ivist to Philadelphia, starting off with Papal favorite Patti Smith and ending with Jewish Jesus lover Norman Greenbaum, making room for the Louvin Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Richard Wagner and many others in between. 

An annotated version of this list can be found in my In The Mix column in the Sunday Inquirer. That's here.  Since that story went to press I've further fiddled with the list to provide you, dear listener, with bonus tracks, including Sonic Youth's "Catholic Block," Juanes' "A Dios Le Pido," and, at the suggestion of Andrew Ervin, Elbow's "Audience With the Pope" adding extra value. Check it out below.

POSTED: Tuesday, September 8, 2015, 12:15 PM
Urge Overkill.

The lucky 13th edition of The Dan and Dan Music Podcast is up and running, and this time Dan Reed of WXPN and I talk to Grammy winner Phil Nicolo, the esteemed and engaging music producer, engineer and mixer who operates out of Studio 4 in Conshohocken. His long list of credits, some of which are in conjunction with his brother Joe - collectively, they're known as the Butcher Bros. - includes everyone from Lauryn Hill to Bob Dylan to Yoko Ono to Urge Overkill to Billy Joel to Kriss Kross to Taj Mahal to Sting to Beanie Sigel .... well you get the idea.

In addition to talking Phil, who's also an adjunct professor at Temple University, Dan and I also talk about the Straight Outta Compton movie, Neil Young's Pono, the greatest album segues in history, Pitchfork's Top 200 songs of the 1980s, and more.

In addtion to the DD podcast itself, scroll below and check out a Spotify playlist of the music discussed on the show, including Cibo Matto, Beach House, Grandmaster Flash, The Smiths, Lauryn Hill, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Joy Division and more. Don't miss Egyptian Lover's "I Cry (Night after Night)" from the Pitchfork list that one of the Dan's lambasted as "pretentious" and stick all the way through the last track to hear Urge Overkill's "Doin' The Skronk." Listen up!

POSTED: Sunday, September 6, 2015, 10:52 PM
Filed Under: Made In America Music
The Weeknd closed out Made in America on Sunday, September 6, 2015. Photo: Yong Kim / Staff Photographer

The endurance test that was the fourth annual and biggest yet Budweiser Made in America festival came to a close Sunday night with the final act of the weekend being — appropriately — Canadian pop singer The Weeknd.

Day 2 of the festival took the Jay Z-curated event more toward hip-hop and R&B than ever, with The Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) taking the closing-act place occupied by marquee rock bands in previous years, and a formidable slate of rappers, including Action Bronson, Future, Big Sean, and J. Cole taking over the main stages on a day that brought in a bro-heavier crowd than on Saturday, when Queen Beyoncé reigned.

Unlike last year, when thunderstorms disrupted the festival on its closing day, no rain fell. But the dry dusty fields on Eakins Oval, however, posed a challenge to concertgoers, many of whom employed the style-statement hip-hop bandanas to protect themselves from the dust.

POSTED: Sunday, September 6, 2015, 8:53 PM
Filed Under: Made In America Music
J. Cole performs at Made in America on Sunday, September 6, 2015. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Fayetteville, N.C. rapper and singer J. Cole played Made In America for the second year running on Sunday, moving up to the main Rocky Stage at the fest helmed by his mentor and label boss, Jay Z.

In 2014, his appearance came on the heels of his recording Be Free, a powerfully immediate response to the recent police shooting death of Ferguson, Mo., teenager Michael Brown. In the year since, he's released 2014 Forest Hills Drive, an autobiographical song cycle that topped the charts.

As the sky turned from blue to grey and a welcome breeze kicked up the dry and dusty grounds, J. Cole interspersed some old hits, but mainly focused on 2014, from the memories of adolescent awkwardness in “Wet Dreamz” to more socially conscious George W. Bush sampling in “No Role Modelz.”

POSTED: Sunday, September 6, 2015, 7:02 PM
Filed Under: Made In America Music
Future performs Sunday, September 6, 2015 in Philadelphia at Made in America. Photo: (Avi Steinhardt / For the Philadelphia Inquirer)

What does Future — the Atlanta trap-rapper born Nayvadius Wilburn — have in common with a Presidential candidate who moves to the right (or left) to distinguish him- or herself from a centrist rival?

He understands that one route to popularity is to avoid catering to the masses, but rather to give hard-core followers an alternative by giving them the red meat they crave.

That’s the idea behind “I Serve The Base.”

POSTED: Sunday, September 6, 2015, 5:51 PM
Filed Under: Made In America Music
Emily Haines of the Metric sings at the Rocky Stage during day two of Made In America along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday, September 6, 2015. ( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )

“When I say ‘I Want It All,’ ” said Emily Haines of Canadian rock quartet Metric, in the middle of the song of the same name that she was performing on the Rocky stage on Sunday afternoon, “I don’t mean consumer [stuff]. I mean I went the honor of playing music, of being here in places like this today.”

Last Labor Day weekend, Haines’ face was also on the video screens alongside the Rocky Stage, but that was when she and her polished not-really-indie-anymore band were being simulcast from the now-defunct (after only one year) Made In America Los Angeles.

This time, Metric and their gleaming, driving sound, on display on their new album Pagans in Vegas, due Sept. 18, were here in the flesh. But though the band secured a main-stage spot, attendance was sparse for their hard-hitting set while crowds gathered at the adjacent Liberty Stage for Atlanta rapper Future, who was much more highly anticipated by the crowd on this day, when hip-hop was the focus much more than on Saturday.

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