Meet XPoNential Music Festival Sunday 9/24 Lineup

Pictured Above: Mobbluz (Pronounced Mob Blues)  Photo Credit: Contributed 

This article is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series dedicated to WXPN's 30th anniversary of the XPoNential Music Festival, authored by Lori Goldstein.

The Sunday, Sept. 24 lineup includes Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, Allison Russell, and Low Cut Connie, Leyla McCalla, and Sunny War. Arts News Now interviews with the leaders of the Philly locals, Mobbluz and Velvet Rouge.

By: Lori Goldstein

According to drummer and music director MuzikalDunk, aka MD, Mobbluz (pronounced Mob Blues) creates original boombap hip hop. Omar Saleem, better known as Omar PHI215, is the mpc/percussionist, “our beat maker, that’s what makes us hip-hop. Omar has digital as well as percussion in front of him.” Mobbluz takes his boombap and puts jazz on top of it, and then it becomes a more expanded sound.  “That’s where you get the #goodvibe,” says MD. The band’s four other musicians are Josh Grace on guitar, Damani (the Doctor) Okuri on bass, Gabe Preston on horns, and Dan Saleem on keys.

All the musicians contribute original music equally.  “We’re a six-part collective,” says MD. “You bring your idea, your creation, and we flesh it out.  Or if you have exactly what you want us to do, that’s what we do, and we build it. Our first single “Grand Intro,” a song I wrote five years ago, was sitting on my computer.  I just knew that this song had all six instruments in it, so I gave it to Omar. He chopped it up, spliced it up, separated certain tracks so that we could turn down the ones that we will be playing, and then he lifted up the tracks that he can sample himself throughout the song.  He does it live, on the spot.  That’s what makes us different, we’re live producing when we perform.”

Are they improvising on the spot? “That’s the basis of how we create, because we all come from improv,” says MD. Improvisation happens when they’re playing their monthly residency at Time Restaurant on 13th and Samson.  “But at a show, it’s very intentional, we make it something that is repeatable.”

Mobbluz will undoubtedly repeat the success of their 2022 EP Upward Spiral with a full-length album.  Two orators, spoken word artist Ursula Rucker and legendary poet Black Ice, will be featured. “We wanted it to be a love album. [We asked ourselves,] what do we all essentially have a love for, and everybody said family.” Thus the title: FAMILY: Forget About Me, I Love You.

Pictured Above: Velvet Rouge. Photo credit: Contributed.

On the release of Velvet Rouge’s latest single, “Faking It,” during Pride Month, songwriter and leading lady Gina Zo, said, “It’s not really about my coming out [as a bisexual], it’s an encouragement to stop faking who you are…it doesn’t have to be your sexuality, it can be anything…it’s so cool to get messages [from fans, saying] ‘you’ve inspired me to be true to myself.’”

Having grown up in West Chester, making it to Team Blake on “The Voice,” and now living in Fishtown, Gina points out that Velvet Rouge has begun touring in NYC, Toronto, and the West Coast. “I love L.A., but I do love Philadelphia, so much so that I plan to keep it as my home base, what I’ll come back to when I need those signs of inspiration in home.” Songwriting is a collaborative effort with guitarist Joe McEnany, drummer Buddy Mazzenga, and bassist Andrew Amado.   

The go-getter that she is, Gina made the initial contact with WXPN by asking John Vettese to get coffee, mainly to learn as much as she could about the music industry.  “WXPN has given us just endless opportunities, including performing on WXPN for National Public Radio Day and a Key Studio Session.  John has introduced me to tons of radio marketers who now help us [to be heard] on other stations around the country.” Their EP is set for release in early 2024.

The WXPN XPoNential Music Festival is presented by Subaru.


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