STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
“All hail the underdogs/all the hail the new kids
All hail the outlaws/Spielbergs and Kubricks”
— X Ambassadors, “Renegades”
Hopefully you have your tickets by now for the first of this year’s all-ages Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party Series at Penn’s Landing’s Festival Pier.
The window is closing to pick up free tickets to see Modern Colour, Run River North, Kaleo, Nothing But Thieves and X Ambassadors, the band behind one of 2015’s most memorable songs.
One of the final opportunities to get tickets is noon to 2 p.m. April 30 at Plato’s Closet, 187 W. Lincoln Highway in Exton. Learn more at http://radio1045.iheart.com/features/summer-block-parties-1986.
Besides its impact on the radio, Jeep pounced on the song “Renegades” for the soundtrack of TV commercials promoting their Renegade model.
“There was a time it was uncool and taboo to have a song in a commercial. It’s a new age,” said X Ambassadors singer Sam Harris. “With Shazam and SoundHound and all these applications … it’s a new way of discovering music.” That would include Pandora, which has recorded 130 million plays of X Ambassadors songs.
Yet the title of their debut album, “VHS,” is quite analog. In between the songs are charmingly personal audio vignettes lifted from younger-days home movies of Harris, his older brother Casey, guitarist Noah Feldshuh and drummer Adam Levin.
Their music has been in the show “One Tree Hill,” an NBA playoffs/“Pitch Perfect 2” TV promo and even a Payless Shoes commercial. But one could argue that the New York band got its biggest boost when like-minded band Imagine Dragons stumbled upon, and championed, X Ambassadors’ bombastic alternative rock mishmash of electronica, pop hooks and a noticeable dash of hip-hop.
“We owe the guys a lot for taking us around the world with them. They introduced us to Alex da Kid (who signed them to his KiDinaKORNER label and produced “VHS”),” Harris said.
X Ambassadors have also since opened for Panic! at the Disco, Jimmy Eat World, and most recently Muse.
“We’ve always liked coming to Philly. We’ve been coming for years, going back to when X Ambassadors played for 10 people at Kung Fu Necktie,” said Harris.
Originally from Ithaca, NY, Harris said he, his brother and Feldshuh were among the “townies” that tried to get into parties thrown by Ithaca College students. Bluegrass and current pop hits were the Ithaca townie music of choice, Harris said, which had a lot to do with their wanting to “get the (expletive) out of there as soon as possible.”
Although, he also said: “It’s isolated, but it’s a great town. I’d like to go back.” The “VHS 2.0” tour brings them there May 14 for a hometown show.
You might notice that Casey Harris, X Ambassadors’ keyboardist, has a white cane. Visually impaired/legally blind from a genetic condition, he has advocated in interviews for wider acceptance of musicians with disabilities.
“I think it’s great. I think he’s the perfect person for it,” Sam Harris said of his brother’s recent spokesman status. “He’s incredibly talented, and he’s just a guy — a normal guy.”
A highlight of the Summer Block Party concert should be X Ambassadors’ soulful and vulnerably introspective new single “Unsteady.”