Drive-in concerts, a Springsteen album, ‘Song Exploder’ on Netflix, and more top music picks for fall
Thanks to coronavirus, the concert industry has been shut down since March. But that doesn’t mean the music calendar won’t be full-up with musical activity.
Thanks to the coronavirus, the concert industry has been shut down since March. Big, in-person, live shows are out through the end of the year, and beyond.
But that doesn’t mean the pop music calendar for fall 2020 won’t be filled with musical activity.
The album schedule is as busy as ever. Maybe busier, with releases originally planned for earlier in the year but held back by the pandemic, plus never-planned recordings created under lockdown by musicians who otherwise would have been touring.
Fans and artists have adapted to get their music fix. Look for some socially distant outdoor and drive-in shows to continue through October. And livestreamed performances that were haphazardly pulled together are growing more polished, and frequently no longer free.
A number of upcoming livestreams are listed below. But virtual shows don’t require the months of planning that concert tours do, so performances often are announced days before they take place.
To keep up, check clubs like Ardmore Music Hall and Chris' Jazz Cafe that are staging livestreams and, in Chris' case, also bringing in fans for dinner-and-a-show performances. Philly-founded Nugs.net keeps a heavy schedule of snazzy shows from venues across the country, like Red Rocks in Colorado.
Finally, as busy as the already announced fall album release schedule is, it will only get busier. Surprise is a prized marketing tool for the recording industry, and the upcoming weeks are sure to be filled with new projects that drop unannounced. Some of the big names listed below are marked “TBA.” There will be more of those to come.
Song Exploder (Now on Netflix). Since 2016, Hrishikesh Hirway has hosted Song Exploder, an illuminating podcast that brings in artists like Sleater-Kinney, Lorde, Metallica, and Meek Mill to explain how one of their songs was built from scratch. This fall, the pod becomes a TV series, with Hirway joined by Alicia Keys, R.E.M, and Ty Dolla $ign. (Netflix.com)
Exit Zero Jazz Festival (Through Oct. 4, Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May). The autumn 2020 iteration of the semiannual South Jersey jazz festival will be a socially distanced outdoor event on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate. It runs through Oct. 4, with Sunday shows including Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble, a tribute to recently deceased bluesman Frank Bey, and I Got Life, which is Carol Riddick and Gerald Veasley’s homage to Nina Simone. (Exitzerojazzfestival.com, 609-849-9202)
Zeek Burse (Oct. 4, People’s Light). Gospel-trained vocalist Zeek Burse has distinguished himself singing with locally based, globally minded ensemble Worldtown Sound System and was a standout at last month’s Philly Music Fest. His People’s Light drive-in concert will be recorded and released as a fund-raiser for the Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia. The Malvern drive-in series continues with Stella Ruze on Oct. 11 and 49 Burning Condors on Oct. 18. (PeoplesLight.org, 610-664-3500)
Mary Lattimore, Silver Ladders (Oct. 9). Next to Joanna Newsom, Mary Lattimore is the world’s second-best-known indie rock harpist. The musician who found her footing in the Fishtown rock scene alongside acts like Espers and Kurt Vile is now Los Angeles-based, but she traveled to Cornwall in England to record Silver Ladders with Neil Halstead of Slowdive. (Ghostly.com)
Sun Ra Arkestra, Swirling (Oct. 9). The expansive Germantown-based collective, led by saxophonist Marshall Allen since the death of its titular founder in 1993, hasn’t released a new studio album in 21 years. Swirling was recorded at Rittenhouse Soundworks and features sax great Danny Ray Thompson, who died in March. “We hope it contributes to a change in the ominous direction of man’s journey through the cosmos,” saxophonist Knoel Scott says. (Strut-Records.com)
BTS, Map of the Soul ON:E (Oct. 10 and 11). One of the first signs of coronavirus trouble for the concert industry came when Korean boy band BTS was forced to cancel Asian tour dates in February. The K-pop group adapted with a massively popular Bang Bang Con livestreamed concert in June, and has another coming, which will have fans in the United States staying up late or waking early, with start times of 6 a.m. on Oct. 10 and 3 a.m. on Oct. 11. (Weverse.io)
Low Cut Connie, Private Lives (Oct. 13). Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie has been an astute pandemic adapter, garnering new fans and international attention for his Tough Cookies livestream from his South Philly home. While that virtual entertainment showcases his charisma, the Noel Coward-referencing Private Lives puts the breadth of his songwriting on display. (ContenderRecords.com)
David Byrne’s American Utopia (Oct. 17). In 2018, David Byrne brought the eye-opening tour for his album American Utopia to the Xponential Music Festival and the Mann Center before moving to Broadway. With Byrne and his gray-suited, 11-person band in constant motion thanks to wireless microphones, the show reimagines what concerts can look like. Spike Lee directs the HBO movie from the Broadway show. (HBO.com)
Bruce Springsteen, Letter To You (Oct. 23). The Boss has returned to work — and to rock — with the E Street Band with an album inspired in part by the death of George Theiss, the leader of Springsteen’s teenage band the Castiles. Its nine newly written songs (and three that reach back to the 1970s) were recorded in less than a week at Springsteen’s home studio last November. (BruceSpringsteen.net)
Jeff Tweedy, Love Is the King (Oct. 23). Since the pandemic began, Wilco leader and dad-rock exemplar Jeff Tweedy has been performing near-nightly living room shows with sons Spencer and Sammy, with wife, Susan, handling the camera work. He’s also been writing country-ish songs that have lately grown “more frayed at the edges, with a lot more fear creeping in.” His boys are his backing band. (Wilcoworld.net)
A Tribute to Bootsie Barnes (Oct. 23, Chris' Jazz Cafe). When Robert “Bootsie” Barnes died of COVID-19 in April, Philadelphia lost a jazz legend who was one of the city’s busiest working musicians. Barnes' close friend saxophonist Larry McKenna will lead a tribute with the John Swana Quartet in a show that’s viewable in-person (with dinner), as well as virtually. (Chrisjazzcafe.com)
Planet Afropunk (Oct. 23-25). The Afropunk festival, usually held in Brooklyn in August, is going virtual with a three-day presentation of performances and workshops billed as Planet Afropunk: Past, Present and Future Is Black. It aims to be “the largest virtual gathering of the worldwide Black creative community in one, curated online space.” Last year’s fest included Kamasi Washington, Tierra Whack, and Santigold. This year’s acts have not yet been announced. (Afropunk.com)
Lady Alma (Oct. 29, World Cafe Live). Philly soul singer Lady Alma’s history in the local scene dates back to her vocalizing on King Britt’s Sylk 130 album When The Funk Hits The Fan in 1997. Her career as a house music diva got a boost in 2018 when a video of a South African man lip-syncing to her song “Let It Fall” went viral on Facebook. She’s playing a free livestream with her band on stage at the World Cafe Live. (Worldcafelive.com.)
Elvis Costello, Hey Clockface (Oct. 30). Elvis Costello’s 2018 album with his longtime band The Imposters, Look Now, was the British tunesmith’s strongest work in years. He’s back with songs recorded in Helsinki, Paris, and New York, accompanied by pianist Steve Nieve and an all-star lineup including guitarists Nels Cline and Bill Frisell. (Elvis Costello.com)
Sam Smith, Love Goes (Oct. 30). British pop-soul singer Sam Smith swept the Grammys in 2015 on the strength of his “Stay with Me” breakout hit. His new album, a follow-up to 2017′s The Thrill of It All, was meant to be called To Die For and released this past June. COVID-19 led to the album’s delay, and a new, less unsettling title. (SamSmithWorld.com)
Chris Stapleton, Starting Over (Nov. 13). Burly-voiced country-rock songwriter Chris Stapleton returns with an album recorded in Nashville’s legendary Studio A with producer Dave Cobb. It features the vocal harmonies of Stapleton’s wife Morgane and includes a cover of John Fogerty’s “Joy of My Life” and two songs by the late Texas songwriter Guy Clark. (ChrisStapleton.com)
Drake, Certified Lover Boy (TBA). The Canadian rapper and singer born Aubrey Drake Graham never really goes away: He’s maintained a pop presence during the pandemic with singles like the hard-to-resist ditty “Toosie Slide” and “Laugh Now Cry Later,” the single from his sure-to-be-commercially dominant sixth album, which could arrive at any time. (Drake.lnk.to-incl)
Miley Cyrus, She Is Miley Cyrus (TBA). The former Hannah Montana has lately been impressing with performances that put her own stamp on classic pop and rock songs: Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” the Beatles’ “Help!” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” With She Is Miley Cyrus, she said she intends to rock out with “Joan Jett vibes.” Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson and Swedish song doctor Max Martin are involved. (MileyCyrus.com)
Kanye West, Donda: With Child (TBA). The rapper-producer-clothing-designer-attention-seeking celebrity superstar was supposed to release his 10th studio album — named after his mother who died in 2007 — in July on the same date that Taylor Swift dropped Folklore. It didn’t happen then, but could at any time, should West focus his attention. (KanyeWest.com)
Lana Del Rey, Chemtrails Over the Country Club (TBA). Lana Del Rey’s reputation as an auteur of sun-kissed Southern California noir grew steadily over the past decade until she was universally celebrated as a great American songwriter with last year’s Norman F— Rockwell. She released a bunch of poems, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, in September, and has said Chemtrails will be out by the end of the year. (LanaDelRey.com)