Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best Video from Phillies Victory

After suffering through Fox's announcers, I thought this clip was a nice change, hearing the great Harry Kalas...with the bonus of seeing Chris Wheeler in action...

My boys and I will be at the parade on Friday. Been a long time coming...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Classic video: Early Genesis

Sometimes I just like to look back. So from time to time I may post a classic song or video from my youth. Genesis from the Peter Gabriel era (early to mid 70's) with "I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe." Some nice prog-rock with a great performance from Gabriel.

Music You Should Know: Slimfit

Let me just lay my cards out on the table: I’m not a country fan. In fact, I pretty much try to avoid just about any kind of music that even slightly bears any sort of resemblance to either country or bluegrass. Outside of a few alt-country artists, and perhaps some Alison Krauss, I just don’t do it. Yeah, call me a music snob, because I’m sure I’m throwing a lot of babies out with the bathwater. But there it is.

Now having said that, one of my favorite bands here in Central PA is the feisty roots-country/rock band Slimfit out of Lancaster. I love them. I adore them. They put on a great show. And, oh yeah, they make some pretty darn good music, too. But most importantly, the guys in Slimfit put on one heckuva show. Kinda like bluegrass on steroids. A pickin’ and a grinnin’ demolition derby. And the beauty of it is: they’re having fun! These guys know how to enjoy themselves on stage, to the point where it’s a surprise they don’t spend more time in the hospital.

Slimfit is one of the many Central PA bands that has been featured as part of WXPN’s local music initiative. Earlier this month they were one of three area bands featured in the XPN Local Showcase at the Chameleon in Lancaster (along with The Sleeping World and Farewell Flight). And tonight on Philly Local, Slimfit’s set from that Chameleon show will be played in its entirety. So tune in at 9 p.m. (ET) and I think you’ll like what you hear…though remember…without seeing these guys on stage you’re really only getting half of the performance.

Oh, and tonight’s show will also feature an in-studio interview and performance from Philly musician Amos Lee.

Since the World Series is still in a very lengthy rain delay, you probably have nothing better to do, so check out Slimfit on Philly Local on XPN.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pinch Me Now: Phillies in the World Series!

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or even on here, might be of the opinion that I'm a little too Phillies-obsessed. That I eat, breathe, and sleep the Phillies. Well, you'd be right and wrong at the same time. I love my Phillies. They're a beloved group of lunkheads. No real overpaid ego-maniacal superstar prima donnas. Just a bunch of guys who really seem to have fun playing the game. But I'm much more well rounded than just some beer-swilling sports junkie (in fact, I don't even drink. At all.) This is a team of somewhat regular guys. Every game there is a different hero. What's not to love about these guys?

But you have to understand...this World Series is a long time coming. The last time we were in the series was 1993. 15 years ago. And we lost (read: Wild Thing). The last time we won was 1980. 28 years ago. So you'll have to allow me my excitement. I'll rant and rave about the Phillies until the Series is over, hopefully tonight! I'll continue to wear my Phillies gear, along with my lucky moose pants (more on that some other time). But once the Series is over I'll get on with the rest of my life.

So Let's Go Phils! Bring us home a championship!

np: McFadden & Whitehead - Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now

Friday, October 24, 2008

The MP3 Game for Friday

Rules: Get your MP3 Player/iPod/iTunes or other random music player ready. Hit shuffle/random, etc. List the first ten songs that play - NO SKIPPING. And perhaps tell us a little bit about each song. Here we go!

1. Copeland - There Cannot Be a Close Second - nice laid back indie-pop. I think they are playing in Philly this weekend with Lovedrug.

2. The Mint - Are You - From their newest album, Love is Vapor. Lancaster band that played at Freedom Fest this year, as well as the XPoNential Music Fest. Nice guys. These first two songs mix together nicely.

3. Jeremy Enigk - Abigail Anne - From first solo album by Enigk, formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate, and also in The Fire Theft. Love this guys voice!

4. The Emergency - Theme Song - Downloaded MP3 from a great band that never was. Or something like that. Kind of a Southern Cali indie super group that imploded after being signed by a major label.

5. Brown Feather Sparrow - Catching Rain - Beautiful song from this Dutch group. Nice quiet song featuring one of my favorite female vocalists.

6. The Shackeltons - Tremble - Chambersburg's own! Man I love these guys. Saw them for the first time at the Abbey in Harrisburg back in February. Have gotten some airplay on XPN and Y-Rock. Lead singer Mark Redding is all about the love. He makes me smile.

7. The Czars - Anger - Don't know much about these guys but discovered them when I was working in NYC. Kinda quietly haunting lounge-singerish indie-rock. Yup.

8. U2 - Bad - Just love these guys. 'nuff said.

9. Lampshade - Father of Lead - European band with female lead. Fans of Sigur Ros and Bjork would dig them.

10. Rainer Maria - Terrible - Man I miss this band. Another great female voice.

And...ten more quick ones for the road:

11. Lovedrug - Salt of the Earth
12. Big Country - In a Big Country (woo hoo...oldschool!)
13. Mineral - TheLastWordIsRejoice
14. Hundred Year Storm - All This Time
15. The Myriad - A Clean Shot
16. Lisa Loeb - Waiting for Wednesday
17. Eric Clapton - Cocaine
18. The Welcome Wagon - Sold! To the Nice Rich Man!
19. The Skeleton at the Feast - Answer
20. The Gravity Show - Aching

OK gang...have at it. What's in your musical device?

Your Weekend: Character Counts....

Another Friday and yet another quest for things to do for the weekend. Fortunately, there is a lot going on. Unfortunately, I've got a full weekend on my calendar already and can't avail myself of some of the cool things happening.

One of my favorite places in Lancaster is a place called Building Character on the 300 block of North Queen Street. The store itself is just plain cool. On the surface it is an architectural salvage place. They get things out of old buildings and sell them. Things like old windows, fixtures, pictures, and all sorts of odds and ends. My wife and I have gotten lost in there on a number of occasions. But store owners Tony Niese and Marty Hulse have created an environment that is much more than a store. They are currently in the process of expanding to include performance and gallery space to help nurture the local arts and music community.

Part of this is the relatively new Singer/Songwriter series. From time to time they host performances from local musicians. Tonight from 7 - 9 pm you can go and hear the music of Jason Mundok and Jordan Rast. Then this Sunday, and every Sunday, the parking lot/courtyard area is converted into the Sunday Market from 11 am to 3 pm. The market features local crafters, fresh local food and produce, as well as music and all sorts of other things.

Building Character also plays a big part in the monthly First Friday and Music Friday (3rd Friday of the month) activities in downtown Lancaster. Much of this is due to the vision of owners of the store, who realize the importance of creating new and exciting opportunities for the local community. I've been down there a number of times, and as these activities grow, you can expect much more from these guys. They've even created a weekly Downtown Lancaster events guide email that you can subscribe to from their site.

The store itself is great, but the experience is so much more. And if you go, tell Tony I sent ya!

And for a fun Saturday night, head on over to Quips Pub in Lancaster to an incredibly lively and acrobatic show from Slimfit. These guys put on an amazingly fun show. Again, tell 'em I sent ya.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Of Music and Baseball

Well, first and foremost, the Phillies pulled out a nice win last night, 3-2 over the Rays. It wasn't pretty, but in the end that doesn't matter. A key win on the road.

Secondly, the 885 Essential XPN Songs Countdown is in its final hours, as is the fall fund drive on WXPN. I have really enjoyed the countdown. So far, I think only four of my songs have been played so far. Here's my list:

1. The Swell Season - Falling Slowly (not played yet, but I'm almost certain it will show up)

2. Van Morrison - Into the Mystic (not played yet, but 5 other Van Morrison songs have showed up)

3. Bruce Springsteen - Radio Nowhere (#365 on the list)

4. The Clash - The Magnificent Seven (#618 on the list)

5. Death Cab for Cutie - I will Possess Your Heart (not played yet, but again, I'm pretty sure this will show up.)

6. Bruce Cockburn - If I Had A Rocket Launcher (#265 on the list)

7. B.B. King - Riding with the King (not played yet, and I doubt it will show up)

8. U2 - I Will Follow (not played yet, but 8 other U2 songs were on the list. Probably won't be in the top 50...but ya never know!)

9. Nick Drake - Pink Moon (#75 on the list)

10. Andy Pratt - Avenging Annie (nope. not played...and I doubt it will be played now)

You can access the entire list on the 885 Countdown Page of the XPN Site.

What are your thoughts on the countdown? I've heard so many positive comments from friends and listeners. And by the way, if you are a fan of XPN, and you are on Facebook, why not become a fan of our new XPN Page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's World Series Time: Go Phils!

It's been a long time coming. My sons have never seen a championship of any sort from a Philadelphia team. And the Phils last won the Series back in 1980. I was in my 2nd year of college, and boy things have changed...and in some cases...things are much the same.

Last time the Phils won the series:

A gallon of gasoline - $1.19
New house - $68,000
New car - $7,000
Average income - $19,000

News and Culture events:

Who Shot J.R.?
The Reagan Era begins
John Lennon killed
O Canada becomes official National Anthem of Canada (who knew???)
End of Embassy hostage crisis in Iran
HP unveils 1st PC
$1.5 billion government bailout of Chrysler
Mt. Saint Helens erupts
Miracle on Ice

Popular Music

1."Please Don't Go" ... KC & the Sunshine Band
2."Rock With You" ... Michael Jackson
3."Do That to Me One More Time" ... The Captain and Tennille
4."Crazy Little Thing Called Love" ... Queen
5."Another Brick in the Wall" ... Pink Floyd
6."Call Me" ... Blondie
7."Funkytown" ... Lipps, Inc.
8."Coming Up" ... Paul McCartney
9."It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" ... Billy Joel
10."Magic" ... Christopher Cross

Most Popular Television Shows

1. Dallas (CBS)
2. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
3. 60 Minutes (CBS)
4. M*A*S*H (CBS)
5. The Love Boat (ABC)
6. The Jeffersons (CBS)
7. Alice (CBS)
8. House Calls (CBS)
9. Three's Company (ABC)
10. Little House on the Prairie (NBC)

Wow. Seems like a LONG time ago. Here's hopin' the Phils can make some NEW history. Go Phils!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And they say nothing happens in Central PA!

I often hear people moaning about how nothing ever happens here in Central PA, especially in terms of live music. But all you have to do is look. There are a number of venues in the region that are featuring some cool bands and musicians. Here's a quick list of some of the stuff on my radar for the next month or so.

10/24 – Black 47 at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
10/25 – Slimfit at Quips Pub, Lancaster
10/25 - Vinegar Creek Constituency at the Abbey Bar (Appalachian Brewing Co.), Harrisburg
10/28 – Zappa Plays Zappa at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
10/30 – The Ting Tings at the Chameleon, Lancaster
10/31 – Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
11/1 – The Sleeping World at the Lancaster Dispensing Co.
11/5 – Drive By Truckers/Hold Steady at the State Theatre, State College
11/6 - Norma Jean, Haste the Day, The Showdown at the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/7 – XPN Welcomes Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) to Messiah College, Grantham
11/8 – XPN Welcomes Kathleen Edwards & John Doe to the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York
11/8 – The Gin Blossoms at the Pullo Family Center, York
11/8 – William Fitzsimmons at the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/9 – XPN Welcomes The Felice Brothers to the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/10 – XPN Welcomes Arlo Guthrie to Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
11/12 – The Avett Brothers at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
11/13 – XPN Welcomes Denison Witmer to the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/15 – Perkasie at the Abbey Bar (Appalachian Brewing Co.), Harrisburg
11/15 – James McMurtry at the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/16 – Blind Melon at the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/18 – Tea Leaf Green at the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/21 – The Derek Trucks Band at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
11/21 - The Hackensaw Boys at the Abbey Bar (Appalachian Brewing Co.), Harrisburg
11/21 – Laura Love w/ Orville Johnson at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
11/21 – XPN Welcomes Keller Williams to the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/26 – Lotus at the Chameleon, Lancaster
11/28 – Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes at Whitaker Center, Harrisburg
12/4 – XPN Welcomes David Byrne to the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, York
12/6 – XPN Welcomes Iris Dement to Harrisburg Academy, Wormleysburg
12/6 – The Sleeping World at McLeary’s Pub, Marietta
12/10 - Farewell Flight at Messiah College, Grantham

Monday, October 20, 2008

Music You Should Know: Farewell Flight

And yet another great band from Central PA's incredibly active music scene. In a previous post I mentioned WXPN's efforts to reach out to local Central PA bands. Then a few weeks back we hosted our first XPN Local Showcase at Lancaster's legendary Chameleon Club.

One of the bands featured was Farewell Flight, which calls this area its home. Members live in around the Harrisburg/Hershey/Lancaster area, however this is one local band that really isn't local in nature. Farewell Flight has a strong national fan base and is known for the lengthy amount of time they spend on the road. They are a great indie-pop band comparable to the likes of Coldplay or Death Cab for Cutie. Make sure you check out their new album, Sound.Color.Motion.

So tune in tonight for XPN's Philly Local Hour or listen online. You can read more on the XPN All About the Music Blog.

I (heart) Simple Marketing

A lesson in marketing made simple based on a brief overview of my past few days.

I went to the Lancaster Chamber's Business Expo, mostly for the purpose of networking and generating ideas that might help me in my job of marketing for WXPN here in Central PA. As usual I took some of my marketing materials with me, including a handful of our new "I Heart XPN" pins. When I registered at the entrance the woman from the Chamber told me she "just LOVED" XPN, and asked if she could have a pin. From that point on I was "the guy from XPN." People kept coming up to me and asking me for pins, and I handed out about 30 of them.

XPN was a media sponsor for Lancaster's annual Fall ArtWalk and our volunteers were out in full force, handing out information about the station as well as these popular pins. I was chatting with one of my friends on Twitter who told me that as they were walking around town, her husband (apparently our station's #1 fan) accosted a total stranger and asked her for her XPN Pin! Not sure if this qualifies as a criminal act, but I assume he was more polite than she described, and the woman handed over her pin. (Don't know what Twitter is? You should...)

My family and I went to Lancaster for the second day of the Fall ArtWalk and we bumped into Liz Todd Lambert of Lancaster Arts (the sponsor of Art Walk). She told me how a man had come up to her and asked her for her pin. I put two and two together and asked if it was the previously mentioned man from Saturday, and lo and wasn't! Yet another case of an XPN fan wanting to get their flair! So I took my pin off and replaced the one Liz had given away the previous day, and then pulled another one out of my pocket and put it on my sweatshirt.

Moments later we were browsing through the Christiane David Gallery when I overheard a teenage girl whispering to her mother, "Everyone has those I Heart XPN pins. I want one." I turned to her and said, "You're in luck. Here!" And I gave her my last pin.

"Where did you get it?" she asked.

"Well, I work for the station, so I have more." And I then told the family where they could find the XPN table. As we walked away I heard the mom whispering "Well that was good timing!"

At the end of the day I walked back to our table located at Building Character on the 300 block of North Queen Street. While talking with my musician friend David Green, who was sporting one of our pins, his family came over and his daughter said, "Nice pin, dad!" So of course we gave some more to the whole family, which they promptly put on their jackets and wore proudly the rest of the day.

A pin. A simple pin. Relatively inexpensive, and in some ways it's kind of a pre-digital method of underground or viral marketing. Sure I'd love a huge marketing budget with billboards and TV commercials, or even t-shirts to give out. But we're a non-profit, non-commercial station, and we don't have huge corporate budgets with which to work. But of all the little things we have used, I'm hearing more positive reactions from our "I Heart XPN" Pins. Sometimes its the simple little things that are the most effective. And those who wear the pins usually get one of two reactions:

Reaction One - "Where can I get one??" which we get often from listeners who see us wearing the buttons.

Reaction Two - "What is XPN?" A reaction that opens the door for the person to "evangelize" about their favorite radio station, often getting someone to at least sample the station, and hopefully become a full-time listener.

And we're even taking the campaign digital. If you're on Facebook, all you have to do is add the "Pieces of Flair" application, search for XPN, and add the digital version of the pin to your Facebook page.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The 885: Essential songs, part 5

Been really loving the 885 Essential XPN Songs Countdown on WXPN. What a great mix of tunes. Kinda like an iPod on steroids.

I mentioned previously how difficult it was for me to vote for JUST ten songs. I started with a larger list and argued with myself (out loud at times) to try to whittle it down to ten. I've been sharing my list with you over the past weekd, and admittedly if I had to do it all over again, I might pick a completely different set of ten songs. In fact, I could come up with a new list every day. So with that in mind, there are a few artists who didn't make my final list, but I very easily could have voted for them. For instance, I'm a big R.E.M. fan...and for some reason they didn't make my final cut. Others I coulda/woulda/shoulda voted for include: Johnny Cash, Sufjan Stevens, Ingrid Michaelson, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Beth Orton, T-Bone Burnett, Arcade Fire, Sam Phillips, Over the Rhine...and the list goes on. I even could've voted for some of my favorite local bands, such as The Shackeltons, The Sleeping World, Farewell Flight, the Mint, or Slimfit. Maybe even Philly old-school faves the Hooters or Robert Hazard.

But I could only vote for ten. And my number one song really isn't a "favorite" per se, but I really like it. And if you stay within the parameters of what we were looking for in the countdown, it fits nicely. My #1 song was "Falling Slowly" from The Swell Season (Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova).

This just seems to be one of those songs that has found a home at XPN. It is from the soundtrack to the movie Once (which I still haven't seen!!!), and really speaks to me about what XPN is all about. A song from some indie artists featured in an indie film about indie music. Or something like that. The song even won an Oscar for Best Original Song.

This is why I really love working for XPN. I'm in marketing for the station, which means its my job to tell other people about the station. Not a hard job. I'm passionate about what we do at XPN and my friends can tell you, I get really excited when I talk about it. That doesn't mean I like every song or every show that we air. But even when I hear a song that I don't particularly care for, I won't hit the button to switch to another station. Because I know that coming up will be another song that I probably love.

Enough gushing. What are your Essential XPN songs? Or even your top ten songs? I'd love to know. And what do you think of my list? love it? hate it? Let me know.

The 885: Essential Music, part 4

The 885 Essential XPN Song Countdown continues at WXPN, and as I write this, it seems as though only one of my top ten has been played (at this writing we are up to #485). So far only "The Magnificent Seven" from the Clash has made it...but we aren't even half way yet. Still plenty of time. I'm sure some of the songs I voted for won't make it, and I'm certain others WILL show up on the list.

Before I take you to my #2 song, I just wanted to comment on the countdown so far. It's been incredibly interesting, and I'm hearing songs that I've never heard before, or songs that I haven't heard in quite a long time. A great mix of classic tunes from classic bands alongside more obscure songs from artists who are either newer, or long gone. And even a few local bands from the Philly area thrown in for good measure. That's the beauty of XPN. You never know what you will hear. I've even heard a few jazz tunes.

Which bring us to the song I voted #2 - Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic." I'd have to say it's not my favorite Morrison song (not sure how I would pick a favorite), but it sure seemed to fit the criteria of a song that helps to define what WXPN is. I'm a big fan of Van the Man, and I've often said that I believe him to be incapable of putting out a bad album. Sure, some of his albums are more "accessible" than others, but so what? I love the variety. Rock, pop, soul, jazz, blues, standards, etc. Van does it all. And he's just as brilliant when he is covering an old standard as he is with his own songwriting and original pieces. The man is just amazing.

Can't seem to find a video of any of Morrison's performances of the song, but you might be able to hear it over at

Looking forward to the Countdown starting up shortly again on XPN, and continuing throughout the week. Tomorrow I'll tell you the song I voted as #1 for the countdown (and I'll be shocked if it doesn't make the final list), and I think I'll also mention a few of the artists for whom I wanted to vote...but didn't because I could only vote for ten songs.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Did someone say World Series?

So....I've waited a few days to post this because I'm waiting to wake up from this dream. But apparently it is true. The Phillies are going to the World Series. There. I said it. As a Philly native and life-long Phillies fan, this is truly amazing. The only World Series we have won was 1980, but it seems like such a distant memory. More present in my mind is the Great Debacle of 1993. Great team to watch...but....well, Mitch Williams happened.

But here we are. 2008, and this loveable bunch of guys is headed to the Fall Classic. And in typical Philly fashion I am hopeful, but not overly optimistic. But that's who we are. It's what we do. We're Philly sports fans. Low expectations. That way it minimizes the disappointment.

If you're a Yankee fan, or a Braves fan, you might be disappointed this year, but you don't know our pain. Cubs fans are one of the few groups that can relate. If you want to find out more, I highly suggest Joe Queenan's hilarious book: True Believers - The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans. Great book.

And maybe I've jinxed it, because I've already told my boys that if the Phils DO win this thing, we'll be headed down to Philly for the parade...which is something Jamie Moyer got to do in 1980, but I didn't.

So let's go Phils!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The 885: Essential Music, part 3

As WXPN continues its countdown of the 885 Essential XPN Songs, here are a few more songs from my list.

4. The Clash - The Magnificent Seven. The Clash, like many of my choices, were a college discovery for me. In fact, the album London Calling continues to be one of the most important albums in my collection. Having said that, I decided NOT to pick a song from that album. I knew The Clash would make my top ten, but I wasn't sure whether to do the obvious "Train in Vain," which was their first big commercial hit, or try something else. The Clash rose up out of the British punk scene in the 70s and while much punk music wasn't very "accessible," the band confounded conventional wisdom by making their mark with a double-album. And then they did the unthinkable: they followed it up with a triple-album, Sandanista. Whereas London Calling was a mix of punk, reggae, ska, and other styles of music, Sandanista threw in some dub and rap. A great album, and a great song.

3. Bruce Springsteen - Radio Nowhere. Full disclosure: I am not now, nor have I have ever been, a Springsteen fan. I grew up in the Philly area in the seventies when Springsteen was sort of a regional legend and everyone I knew played him to death. It wasn't where I was musically at the time, and I think I OD'd on him. And I've never really gotten into his stuff. Which is what makes this selection all the more interesting for me, espeically at #3. But having said that, I do appreciate him and his music. Springsteen is a legend. A true rock star. And yet when his latest album, Magic, was released, radio didn't seem to notice. Actually, they noticed, but commercial radio giant Clear Channel reportedly told its classic rock stations NOT to play the album, but instead to play only the tried and true Springsteen classics that everyone knows. Interesting.

But XPN played the album, and I actually kinda, sorta fell in love with this song. Nice catchy tune, nice lyrics, and it grew on me. YouTube has disabled embedding of this video, but you can view it here.

I'll give you my final two songs on Monday. But stay tuned to XPN, and let me know what your Essential songs are.

The 885: Essential Music, part 2

WXPN is now in the midst of its annual 885 Countdown, featuring the 885 Essential XPN Songs - the songs that define the station from the perspective or our listeners. None of my choices were played during day one of the 885...but I'm sure some will show up. Here are a few more choices from my personal list that I submitted back in June.

7. B.B. King/Eric Clapton - Riding With the King. XPN is one of the few places you can hear the blues, and for purists, there is no better show than The Blues Show with Jonny Meister. But there is something about this collaboration between blues legend King and rock guitar-god Clapton, as they do a classic John Hiatt tune. I've always loved both Clapton and King, and I love how they work together, with Clapton clearly tipping his hat to one of his heroes. This album also won the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues album in 2001.

6. Bruce Cockburn - If I Had a Rocket Launcher. Cockburn is another artist I discovered while working in college radio in the late 70s/early 80s. This was about the time that he had his first big hit with "Wondering Where the Lions Are." I ended up spending a ton of money to import all of his older vinyl from Canada, and then moved forward with him as he continued to release new albums. This isn't my favorite Cockburn song, but I think it exemplifies much of his career: a catchy pop song with an overtly political message, and curiously was Cockburn's only other hit here in the U.S. The song is from 1984's "Stealing Fire," and I think the video even got played on MTV a bit. I haven't followed Cockburn's music as much in recent years, but his music from the 70s and 80s can still get to me.

5. Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Possess Your Heart. This was a big song for XPN this year and for some reason it has really grabbed me. I've been aware of Death Cab since their inception, but never really got into them. But this song did it for me. I've never been a big fan of overly repetitive songs, and while some may think of this song in that way, I think of it as hauntingly beautiful. Great video, too.

I'll have a few more of my ten Essential XPN Songs tomorrow. But again, don't forget to listen to the countdown on XPN, and feel free to comment here. What's YOUR essential XPN song?

The 885: Essential Music, part 1

Each year WXPN puts together an 885 countdown of sorts and solicits voting from listeners. This year's countdown, which begins today, is a little different than most, and I'm pretty sure will really make you think. The 885 Essential XPN Songs is an attempt to find the songs that you think define WXPN. Might not be your favorite songs, or the "best" songs...but the songs that make XPN the unique station that it is. I have no clue what the results are, so I'll be listening alongside you over the next week or so as the station counts 'em down.

Before listeners were asked to vote, our programming department solicited responses from the staff. What a painful experience. When I sat down to pick my 10 Essential XPN Songs I quickly realized how difficult a task it was. I started writing down songs and ended up with about 30 songs which I had to pare down. And the debate raged in my head. Which songs would make the cut and which would end up on the cutting room floor.

For those who aren't familiar with WXPN, we're a public radio station with a format generally known as Triple-A (Adult Album Alternative). Not constricted by formulaic computer generated playlists, we probably have one of the largest music libraries in the business. So while you will hear new music from artists you have never heard'll also hear familiar music from the Beatles, Stones, and Springsteen. You'll hear singer/songwriters, Reggae, Blues, and Folk, alongside all sorts of indie-pop/rock and "alternative" rock. No one style of music can define the station.

As the staff began submitting their top-ten lists, they were circulated via all-staff emails and I began to second-guess my own list. And I'm convinced that I could put together a completely different list ever day. But is my initial list of my Ten Essential XPN Songs...and why I chose them. I think I'll roll these out over the next several days....

10. Andy Pratt - Avenging Annie. I discovered Andy Pratt while I was working in college radio in 1979. I heard his album "Motives" and immediately fell in love with his music. As is customary for me, when I discover a new artist I run out and soak up their back catalog. Pratt is a master of the great pop song. The closest thing he ever had to a hit was this song, sung from the perspective of a woman, from 1973's self-titled album on Columbia. According to Wikipedia, this particular song took about 500 hours to record due to its complex and wide ranging vocals. XPN could very likely be the only station in the country that ever plays this song.

side note: I've never spoken to our midday host Helen Leicht about this, but in the early 80s, while home from college, I was listening to her show on WIOQ (what a great station at the time!) when I heard her play this song. I flipped out. It was the first time I'd ever heard Pratt played on commercial radio.

second side note: Roger Daltrey of the Who covered this song, but it just doesn't do it justice. I'll stick with the original, thank you.

9. Nick Drake - Pink Moon. British singer/songwriter Nick Drake is one of those artists who never really achieved the fame he deserved while he was alive, though he was a darling of the critics. He died in 1974 at the age of 26, and never really got into the public consciousness until 2000 when this particular song was used in a Volkswagen commercial. Harp all you want about the commercialization of cool music, but we can thank that commercial for bringing Drake's music to a much wider audience. And XPN is one of the few stations that plays Drake's music.

8. U2- I Will Follow. Not much to say here. Big U2 fan, so there had to be one of their songs on this list. Didn't want to go with one of their big, recent hits. So I went with one of their first big songs that I played on college radio when it was new. First song on their first album (Boy). First time I heard this band, I was hooked. I could rave on and on about them, but think about it. This band has been around for nearly 30 years with the same line-up, and they are still putting out good, relevant music. People still look forward to their new music (and a new album is coming out soon!), unlike some bands who are forced to recycle their tried and true hits.

I'll continue the list tomorrow. But in the meantime, tune into XPN to hear the countdown. I know I'll probably hear some old favorites, and discover some new ones! And feel free to comment and let me know your essential XPN songs, or call me an idiot for my personal choices.

Oh, and in the meantime, check out our own little video.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Music You Should Know: The Sleeping World

Earlier this year my radio station, WXPN, began a concerted effort to reach out to the local music community here in Central PA. Helen Leicht, host of Philly Local, has a real passion for local music, and since we extended our signal reach to Central PA, it made sense to put our feelers out and find some of the best music the region had to offer. We partnered with Fly Magazine to encourage artists to submit their music, and the response was great. About 70 artists sent their CDs to the station, and at the same time, I immersed myself in the local music scene. Most of what I found was from Lancaster, a city that has an extremely vibrant arts and culture scene.

Two weeks ago we had our first XPN Local Showcase in the region, featuring three bands at the Chameleon Club. We recorded the showcase and tonight you'll get a chance to hear some of that evening. If you missed it, here's your chance. But if you were there, you know what a great night it was with lots of energy in the room. The Sleeping World, fronted by my friend Jessica Smucker, will be featured on the program between 9 -10pm (ET) tonight on WXPN (88.5 in Philly, or 88.7/99.7 in Central PA...or listen online at

The Sleeping World also recently released their debut EP which I would encourage you to check out/purchase. This is an artfully produced selection of songs, from full-on rockers to more introspective tunes. Smucker openly explores the depths of her inner-being, as we get to hear her wrestle with matters of faith and love.

If you're anything like me, you love discovering new music. So tune in tonight to XPN to hear this live set from Lancaster's The Sleeping World. You can thank me later.

The Perils of Late Onset A.D.D.

So sue me. It's been over two months since I last blogged. Not for lack of trying. I WANT to blog. But for some reason, despite the fact that I'm a writer...I just can't seem to write. I have a full-time job which I love, and that keeps me busy. Plus there's that whole family "thing." Wife. Three kids (one in college). Dog. Cat. Oh...and a few carnivorous plants which I'm sure will suffer and meet their maker while under my care.

Anyway...I can't seem to write. But I'll keep trying.

Right now while the economy seems to be fluctuating wildly around me, my thoughts are more on Philadelphia and my beloved sports teams. The Eagles pulled out a wild one yesterday. Penn State (technically not a Philly team, but does anyone really follow Temple football?) is really playing well. But mostly I'm in baseball mode. My Phillies are in the NLCS against the Dodgers, and despite a rough game last night, are still up 2-1 in the series. Tonight will be very telling. Haven't won a championship since 1980. Last saw the World Series in 1993 and we all know how that ended. Here's hoping Brad Lidge can avoid doing a Mitch Williams impersonation.

So as I sit here nursing a nasty cold and drinking coffee (is that a wise thing?) I have thoughts of all the many things I want to write about here. Here's hoping that I can maintain the pace and dedicate myself to writing once again. Unfortunately I think the Internet has contributed to my late onset A.D.D. and I can barely pay attention to anything for more than a fleeting moment. WXPN. Radio. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Central PA. Music. Local Music. Books. Sports (both real AND fantasy). Family. Writing. Listening. Reading.

Oh look...a bird!