Radio can be a drag, but there are a few bright spots out there to lift our spirits. WXPN is one of these shining beacons of hope, a Philadelphia media institution. One listen is all the reassurance that we need to know that the world isn’t shit and there are plenty of folks out there churning out amazing music every single day.

Meet Bruce Warren, who has made it his life’s mission to keep radio awesome and improve upon it every year. He’s been at XPN for more than 20 years and among other achievements, created World Cafe Live. Luckily we’ll never lose him to commercial radio – a sentiment he’s put on record. We caught up with him over email last week to chat up the station, the Phils, the uptick in amazing local bands, and much more.

SOP: As far back as I can remember, you’ve been involved with WXPN. What have been some of this year’s highlights at the station? Your favorite World Cafe performance of the year?

BW: I’ve been at XPN now for a little over 20 years. It’s been amazing. That said, some of this year’s highlights? Last year around this time we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of World Cafe, which is a show that I helped launch with the legendary David Dye and a few other folks at the station at that time. Looking back over the 20 years was pretty amazing. My favorite World Cafe performance of the year? Wow. Hard to say. Can’t point to just one. I think Alabama Shakes was pretty special and it was earlier this year when they recorded the session. Their growth has been phenomenal since they walked in our studios in the middle of last December 2011. They rocked a version of Led Zep’s “How Many More Times” that was just jaw dropping.

Bruce always wears his sunglasses at night

SOP: How was the Philly Folk Fest this weekend? Any good stories or performances to share?

BW: The Folk Fest was great. Hard to believe that as a Philly native I never went to the festival. I was there for XPN’s Mississippi Blues Project concert with Big George Brock and the Cedric Burnside Project. It was illuminating and booty shaking.

SOP: How would you gauge the local music scene right now? Which bands have records out now or coming out soon that you’re particularly excited about?

BW: Philly’s music scene has been super dynamic over the last three-five years. Of course, bands like Dr. Dog and War On Drugs and Kurt Vile and Good Old War and Amos Lee have turned into some of Philly’s more popular success stories, but there’s so many great great bands that are out there touring and recording and making great music: Bleeding Rainbow, Toy Soldiers, Strand of Oaks, Purling Hiss, Hezekiah Jones, Work Drugs, Chill Moody – I hate to name one, cause there’s so many and I don’t want to leave any out.

Bleeding Rainbow – “Pink Ruff” from stereogum on Vimeo.

SOP: Moving on to sports, I know you’re a big Phillies fan. How has it been watching a team that’s really underachieved this season? What changes would you make, if any?

BW: Ugh. Don’t get me started. It’s been okay watching; look – they’ve faced some challenges this year. Who’d have thought Cliff Lee would have such a suck ass year. That Utley thing was a debacle. Thank goodness for Chooch, but he may not make it back by the end of the season. I think the Phils did the right thing to let Victorino and Pence go. Of course, they had to drop some payroll, but they have to build for the future and it’s good to see some of the new guys. Changes? The only thing they must do is to lose Bastardo. I don’t know why Charlie keeps putting him in. And I’d be searching to the corners of the world to find some new guys for the bullpen. What the heck do I know? I’m in the music business! (Ed. note: What the heck does Ruben know?)

SOP: Heading into next year, which players are the most excited to see on the field?

BW: I’m a Mayberry fan and a Domonic Brown fan. Third base is a big uh-oh. But there’s nothing out there that will solve the challenge of solidifying the infield. But I am looking towards those two guys really improving.


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