WXPN Best of 2021: Stories - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Show reviews, stats, stories from Philly music history and more — these are the most-read articles on The Key in 2021.

15. Bright Eyes and Lucy Dacus played a Steel Stacks show like it was their last — July 30, 2021

It was a turbulent night. Oberst several times checked in with the crowd, hoping they felt safe, acknowledging the weirdness of touring (deep breath) in these times. But one thing that was clear through it all was that live music, at this moment in history, provides as much a massively cathartic release for the audience as it does for the artist – two parties who have mostly spent a year and a half deprived of it. Together they tore through their feelings on a breezy Thursday night as the beautiful decay of the former Bethlehem Steel plant provided an apropos backdrop.

14. Hip Hop group Macc N Cheese the footsteps of their father Gillie Da Kid to make their name in Philly music — May 25, 2021

The hip hop duo Macc N Cheese consists of uptown rappers Tr37macc & Young Cheese: two real-life brothers whose father is Philly hip hop veteran Gillie Da Kid who was a member of hip hop group Major Figgas and a major influence on hip hop artists like Lil Wayne — especially the way he changed his flow in 2004. That explains why the group is signed under Gillie’s label Million Dollaz Worth of Game Ent. Who better to assist the hip hop group by providing them with resources and guiding them through the industry than their own father?

13. Shows are coming back. Here are six new-ish venues to keep an eye on. — August 2, 2021

In the midst of it all is a concert landscape here in Philadelphia that is vastly changed from where we left it in the before times. Beloved venues closed. New spaces have emerged. Some long-running spots are seeing a second life in the late pandemic. And some of the most exciting shows we’ve seen so far in 2021 are happening at those places that saw a gap and moved in.

12. Jazmine Sullivan explores sexuality, society, and empowerment on her new EP ‘Heaux Tales’ — January 12, 2021

Like her past albums, Sullivan isn’t dictating how listeners should feel. She’s more about putting stories out there and letting folks respond how they respond, gaining their own perspective in the process. In that sense, Heaux Tales is a creative conversation-starter that gives you food for thought, then makes you do the dishes.

11. Philly roots supergroup Cosmic Guilt makes their debut with two singles, “Cautious Lovers” and “Sun In Your Eyes” — May 24, 2021

Though both songs preach loneliness and wanting to belong, Cosmic Guilt is the result of a collective effort: those ten musicians we told you about earlier. Backed by Josh Aaron, Jared Loss, Kyle Perella, Jillian Taylor, George Murphy, Tyler Yoder, Jillian Willis, Hannah Taylor, Todd Fausnacht, the band is an undeniable supergroup of some of Philly’s most treasured alt / roots rock players. 

10. The Lost Dedications: Jerry Blavat Opens Fan Mail From 60 Years Ago — June 26, 2021

What I found inside wasn’t fan mail.  What I found were requests and dedications from 1962. I couldn’t believe it. I stopped everything and read them all.  It was fascinating. Mostly, I was struck by how personal some of the writing was.  The “yon teens” really looked up to the Geator. They trusted him. Returning the letters back to the envelope I found another packet at the bottom. I pulled it out, opened it up and to my shock, found a dozen unopened requests and dedications. All from May of 1962. Wow. The “lost dedications.”   

9. “Make tonight a wonderful thing”: Steely Dan plays ‘Aja’ in full and other hits to open its run at The Met — October 28, 2021

Following the Aja setlist, the Dan brought out an overwhelming number of hit tracks including “Hey Nineteen,” “Time Out of Mind,” and “FM.” During the song “Dirty Work” Fagen introduced his backup singers known as the Danettes to take lead vocals. Lead guitarist John Herington got ovations for his guitar solos throughout the evening, but most notably during the masterpiece that is “Kid Charlemagne” from The Royal Scam album, which the band will be performing in its front to back tomorrow for the second of the three-night run at The Met.

8. Brandi Carlile and friends rise to the challenge of playing Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ at Carnegie Hall — November 7, 2021

In her introduction to the night, Carlile spoke of the importance of giving folks their flowers, appreciating genius when it’s here. Maybe Londoners in the 1500s didn’t go around talking about how they lived in the time of Shakespeare, she said, but she wanted this audience to pinch themselves and remember that they walked the Earth at the same time as Joni Mitchell.

7. Announcing MTV Week: A 40th anniversary celebration on WXPN — July 27, 2021

The first-ever 24-hour music television network, MTV revolutionized the music industry when it was launched August 1, 1981, and it was massively influential throughout the 80s, the 90s, and into the 00s. Stars were born, a counterculture was nurtured, and videos became elaborate productions that were as iconic as the songs they were intended to promote.

6. Five reasons Wendy Rollins is excited to return to Philly on the XPN airwaves — November 10, 2021

Rollins’ career in radio has taken her all over the country: New Bern, North Carolina to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Reno, Nevada to Charleston, South Carolina. But her decade living and working in Philly had a profound impact on her, and the city has a special place in her heart. We asked Wendy to share five reasons why she’s excited to return to Philly, and here’s what she had to say.

5. Jason Isbell and Kathleen Edwards make a formidable return to Philly at The Met — September 16, 2021

It was an incredible dynamic range of music and emotion. Classics like “24 Frames” and the always-raucous “Super 8” keeping the energy flowing, and a version of “Stockholm” that in my opinion surpassed the original. It was a little bit of everything, performed with excellence. Two artists, perhaps at their peak, playing their hearts and asses off to a full crowd. It’s nice to feel things like this again.

4. Ready Or Not, Here Concerts Come! As fans vax up, in-person shows make a hopeful return to 2021 calendars — April 27, 2021

The thing is, all this can and will change. As more and more people get vaccinated, COVID-19 cases are beginning to drop across the region; the Philadelphia Inquirer reported this morning that Philadelphia is averaging 456 new cases per day, an 18% drop from last week’s average. Things are looking optimistic, and the region’s live music venues are embracing that optimism and looking to get back to work.

3. Dead & Company transforms Citizens Bank Park into a giant pot of gold at the end of the rainbow — August 22, 2021

Inside the ballpark, light raindrops fell as the band took the stage with a steady “Mississippi Half Step” opener. John Mayer took lead vocals for an unexpected “Franklin’s Tower” while the sky above the stadium was gifted with a beautiful rainbow as the setting sun took over the first baseline upper levels.

2. A guide to the weird and wonderful world of Philadelphia no wave music — April 29, 2021

No wave music encapsulates a lot of different things: it’s the in-your-face aggression of bands like The Contortions and Lydia Lunch, the arrhythmic art punk of DNA, the pulsating noise of Suicide. It’s jazz, it’s rock n’ roll, it’s funk, it’s electronic and analog, and it’s everything in between. It’s this rejection of the rules – for music and everything else – that was intrinsically and spiritually connected to the almost dystopian environment that was New York City in the late 70s and early 80s. But NYC didn’t have a monopoly on dystopia, for better or worse, and no wave spread across the country and across the world. That very much included Philadelphia, which produced its fair share of bands and musicians that had a huge effect on the genre, even if they were not always appreciated at the time.

  1. WXPN 2021 Countdown: By the numbers — December 2, 2021

The votes have been cast. The list has been tallied. Browse the realtime #XPN2021 data here.

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