NonCOMM, produced by WXPN-FM, was founded by WXPN’s Music Director Dan Reed. The quick background of the event is that Dan Reed wanted to create a meeting of the minds to discuss the unique concerns of public radio stations. Since 2000, Dan and WXPN have been able to bring together non-comm radio stations, hosts, artists, and music industry professionals, in partnership with The Top 22, for three-days filled with music and networking. For attendees, it’s a chance to meet up with colleagues from across the US. It’s also a great place to see many well-known bands do short sets in a very intimate setting. I could spend all day listing some of the amazing artists I’ve seen over the years, but I won’t. So, instead, I’ll just focus on what I was able to capture during this year’s event.
Dan Reed and Bruce Warren kicked things off and celebrated the 25th Anniversary of NPR’s World Cafe by introducing the audience to the new host, Talia Schlanger. After a few words from each of them, guests filled up their drinks and got ready for the first set.
Performances at NonCOMM move quickly, with each act performing about 30 minutes. Guests rotate from the upstairs and downstairs stages. Day one of NonCOMM 2017 started with the National Reserve upstairs. They have the southern rock vibe everyone has been loving lately, yet they are from Brooklyn. They’ll be back in our area next month.
Georgia’s Brent Cobb was up next, and the first act for the downstairs stage this year. Cobb is from Georgia and you may know him because he penned tracks for Luke Bryan (“Tailgate Blues”), Kenny Chesney (“Don’t It”), Miranda Lambert (“Oh Shit”), and Little Big Town (“Pavement Ends”). He’ll be back in Pennsylvania later this summer, opening for Chris Stapleton at Hershey Stadium. You can also catch his television debut on June 9th, as he performs on Conan.
Philly’s own The Districts were up next. I missed them, as I started to run into people I haven’t seen in a while. Time for catching up! They’re a great local band, so look out for their upcoming appearances in our city. The band is in France tonight, followed by Berlin and Amsterdam! Most of the summer will see them touring the US, with a hometown stop on August 11th at Union Transfer.
Ani DiFranco was next for me, and I truly have no words. Many of my friends are huge Ani fans, so it was an absolute pleasure to catch her live finally. I stumbled upon her record label in Buffalo last summer (drove by, saw a sign for an arts and crafts fair in the lower level of the church where her Righteous Babe label is located, and immediately pulled over). She’s powerful, classic, and I am really looking forward to her upcoming 19th (!!!) studio album, Binary (out on June 9th).
I ran upstairs to catch a bit of Bash & Pop- a group formed in the early ’90s by Tommy Stinson following the breakup of the Replacements. I wish I could have seen more, but by then it was getting hard to move around upstairs and I desperately needed a snack. I did meet some of the band’s crew earlier in the evening and I appreciate (thanks Steve and Ian!) them letting me join in on their conversation. They’re in Florida tonight, and I hope to see them next time they play Philly so I can enjoy a proper show.
My evening ended with a performance by Blondie. Again, what can I even say? It’s Blondie! Their latest album, Pollinator, was just released and the band is just as great as they have always been. Debbie Harry came on stage with a strong message to us and the planet, along with a bee headband. If Debbie Harry can’t save us, who will? The band opened with “One Way or Another” and played fan favorites like “Call Me” and “Heart of Glass”. Off the new album, we heard “Fun” and a few others. Blondie will return on August 2nd with Garbage, at the Mann Center.
I can’t hang like I used to, and so I headed home before Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin took the stage upstairs. The final performance of the night was from Chicano Batman, a band I did really want to see (they’ll be back on July 29th for the XPoNential Music Festival). You can read our recent interview with them here. Ah the days where I would hang until 1am, sleep for a few hours, and head to work the next morning.
One of the really great things about NonCOMM is that a website called VuHaus streams everything live. Take a look at their NonCOMM 2017 clips, and upcoming shows that you can watch live from your couch. This is also the perfect way to catch next year’s sets if you can’t make it down to the World Cafe Live.
There are limited tickets available to the public and WXPN members, so if you love mingling with industry folks and enjoy seeing some of the best big acts (and fantastic up-and-coming ones as well), I highly suggest you keep an eye on the event page for next year. The best way to stay in the know about NonCOMM and other WXPN-produced events is to become a member, so click here and begin supporting your local radio station.