NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  Find more music at WUNC's  Back Porch Music.

The D.C. brewery Right Proper was like a cultural mullet during a recent visit: a posh baby shower in the front (complete with chocolate petit fours), a bunch of metal heads making beer in the back. Right Proper's head brewer, Nathan Zeender, was dumping a heaping spoonful of hop extract into a tank.

A massive fire at a Fruitvale district live work space has reportedly left an unconfirmed number of people dead died at an East Oakland work space, authorities said.

The fire apparently broke out about 11:30 p.m. in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue.

No other information was immediately available.

Check back for updates.

"Our theory was simple," wrote Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO of Spotify, in 2014, "offer a terrific free tier, supported by advertising, as a starting point to attract fans and get them in the door."

So what happens after everybody's crossed the threshold?

Sometimes, highly anticipated live concerts knock other priorities right off the calendar — in the case of Britney Spears and Israel, even an election.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published today, Britney Spears' July 3 concert in Tel Aviv's HaYarkon Park is delaying the Labor Party's leadership vote by a day. The election was originally scheduled to take place on the same day at the Convention Center for Labor, which is adjacent to the park.

Hear music from and inspired by the National Theatre of Scotland show that has won acclaim over the past five years, including during its recent run in the U.S. The non-traditional production, which plays in bars, pubs and civic spaces, celebrates Scottish traditional poetry, storytelling and music woven through a supernatural tale.

On March 18, Drake released More Life, 22 songs packaged as what he's calling a playlist and what everyone else (including the streaming svengalis at Apple Music and Spotify) have categorized as an album. Whatever you call it, on Monday, Billboard announced that More Life had arrived at the top of the Billboard 200, which tracks the performance of the world's most popular albums, mostly through fans streaming it on Spotify and Apple Music.

There's no shortage of poignant moments in I Called Him Morgan, Kasper Collin's mesmerizing new documentary about the life and death of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan. One moment, about half an hour into the film, has stuck with me since I first saw it, lingering like an afterimage or the hook from a song.

This is the story of a hoax that almost was. Its motivating force was a hunger for fame, or infamy, or whispered legend in a particularly American sort of way. It begins on a beach somewhere in south Florida.

Chuck Berry Taught Me How To Be An American

Mar 21, 2017

I was an immigrant's kid growing up in the 1970s in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York. From an early age I learned that because I carried this weird name and my family ate, dressed and worshipped differently than most of my neighbors, being fluent in American popular culture connected me with others — especially the neighborhood boys who often ignored and sometimes threatened me. So I devoured everything I could find about baseball and watched an unhealthy amount of television.

When Chuck Berry died last week, the music-loving world rose to acknowledge his status as, in Bob Dylan's words, the Shakespeare of rock and roll. The man was 90; people were ready. Jon Pareles, chief pop critic of The New York Times, and David Remnick, editor at The New Yorker, both immediately published lengthy obituaries. Musicians ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Questlove to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones – Berry's famous protégé – rushed to pay tribute.

The Thistle & Shamrock: ThistleRadio New

Mar 15, 2017

Hear some of the recently added tracks that have grown our playlist to more than 1,000 tracks on ThistleRadio, The Thistle & Shamrock's popular round-the-clock music channel. The list includes music by Goitse, Gerda Stevenson, Sharlene Wallace and Lilt, among others.

Culture Wars

Mar 15, 2017

Last week, a fierce battle was pitched between the Austin, Texas-based music mega-festival South by Southwest (SXSW) and artists who took exception to a certain passage in the agreements which SXSW sends to its performers.

Symphony orchestras and opera companies across the country continually ask the same question: How do we attract a younger and more diverse audience?

Saturday night, I discovered something of an answer at the Washington National Opera's east coast premiere of Champion, a four-year-old opera by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.

In 21 seasons of attending WNO performances, I've never witnessed a more diverse crowd.

Practice is a physical activity, of course, but it's also hard mental work — if you're doing it right. A new video published by TED Ed gets down to the scientific nitty-gritty of what good practice looks like, and what it does to your brain. (Think axons and myelin, not "muscle memory" — muscles don't have "memory.")

Life has its rules: You choose some; others choose you. This Stephin Merritt knows all too well. Child of a beatnik mom and folk-singing dad he never met until well into adulthood, the singer-songwriter and principal musician of indie pop's Magnetic Fields is both blessed and cursed by circumstance, like all living creatures, although perhaps more so, as his 50 Song Memoir suggests.

Don't Bother Big Sean — He's Working

Feb 28, 2017

Real life will tell you different, but to let rap lists tell it an artist peaks in his late teens or early 20s. Most MC's debut albums are praised as their classics, even retroactively, while fans spend the rest of their careers pleading for them to return to their glory days. Nas has had a phenomenal career, but he still hasn't topped Illmatic. Jay Z wasn't popular until 1998, but his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt is seen as his undisputed best. And no matter how much he pushes the boundaries of hip-hop, many fans want "the old Kanye."

Hip-hop took off its cool over the weekend — and lit itself ablaze in the process.

Two seemingly unrelated threads this past weekend served as raucous, yin-and-yang reminders that hip-hop is not just a genre measured by charts, award show accolades and platinum plaques, but an organic culture unbound by industry rules.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame, with some assistance from Nile Rodgers and CBS This Morning, has announced its 2017 inductees, which include a first for the 38-year-old organization: rap.

Jay Z will be the first rapper inducted into the Hall and will be joined this year by one-man Swedish hit factory Max Martin; Motown founder Berry Gordy (who deferred his induction last year); Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of The Time; Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Peter Cetera of Chicago; and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds.

The 'meaning' of music is an amorphous concept, as are the lessons of psychotropic experiences brought on by substances like lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Recent scientific studies have attempted to tackle both of these topics and gauge whether ingesting the substance impacted peoples' experiences with and interpretations of music. By request, the poet August Kleinzahler considers two recent studies, through the lens of his own musical and psychedelic dabblings.

Adele broke her Grammy award in half Sunday night. It might have seemed like the careless act of someone with plenty to spare; the 28-year-old powerhouse vocalist has 15 of the music industry's most coveted statues, including the five just presented for her latest album, 25. She did so charmingly, with a characteristic big laugh, and apparently by accident, severing the statue's gramophone horn from its base as she nervously handled it.

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