Jidenna at WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert on 7/7/17 | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN
The Key’s Year-End Mania: Helen Leicht’s Free At Noon highlights of 2017
Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, WXPN midday host Helen Leicht recaps her favorite #FreeAtNoon moments from 2017.
Every week I look forward to hosting the Free at Noon concerts. The most exciting shows are the artists that are surprises for our listeners. Plus I look forward to watching the artists’ response to YOU in the audience.
Here’s how the day begins – load in of instruments, sound check, then the bands sit in the backstage green room waiting for Noon. Some of the bands have driven all night to get here by 9:30 a.m. Some look wide awake and ready and others need a nap. I like to make sure they all know most of the people in the audience
are members and music lovers. That seems to get many of them ready for noon.
If the band has not done a Free at Noon they are cautiously optimistic. I understand. They just drove here for a midday concert. To a band, night time is the right time. Midday is for sleep. I’d say most bands ask me if there will be an audience. I assure them that our members put Free at Noon on their weekly to-do calendar, and we have been presenting them since 2005. That’s why I do the Free at Noon warm up before the band takes the stage — so they hear your cheering before noon. Then they know there is actually a large group of people waiting to hear their music.
We always ask if they want to do an encore. They say let’s see what happens after the set. Once they take the stage and you all respond, I know an encore is a strong possibility.
Here are a few of my favorite Free at Noon moments from 2017.
Most recently we invited a new artist to perform – that was Jacob Banks. It took me one song to say “let’s get him for our festival.” That voice!!! Check out the song “Chain Smoking.” His album will be out in early 2018 and I’m confident we will be hearing much more from Jacob Banks.
Arkells from Canada – amazing live band, and friends of Talia Schlanger (which I didn’t know til after the show was over).
Sweet Spirit from Austin …giving us “The Power” for the XPoNential Music Festival and memories of 2017.
Jidenna – I LOVED this FAN … incredible performer and over the top nice… just ask Emily in XPN Membership! Recordings from his Free at Noon were heard this week on World Cafe with Talia.
Hurray for the Riff Raff — I love Alynda Lee, and she was thrilled to be back in Philly.
The top of my list was seeing Portugal. The Man. Lights down low, music up loud and a performance to remember. After every song I kept saying “this band is WONDERFUL.” Like Jidenna, music from this Free at Noon appeared on World Cafe.
Of course these are just a few of my faves and I look forward to more musical discoveries in 2018.
Thanks to the members of XPN for your support of the Free at Noon concert series. You are shaping the music of our community and of the country, giving these artists a chance to be heard and making a difference in their lives!