On Stage: Uke virtuoso comes to Phoenixville

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Tiffany, yes that Tiffany, is back and playing Philly

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro

Hawaii native Jake Shimabukuro just released his “best of” live collection album — an album titled “Live In Japan.” On April 17, his fans will be able to experience the ukulele master “Live in Phoenixville,” when Shimabukuro performs in concert at the Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com)
The two-CD collection features some of Shimabukuro’s favorite songs from his 15-year career. The album includes a 10-minute classic reworking of the late George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which currently has over 14 million views on YouTube.

Recorded in Japan during his 2015 world tour, the collection begins with a nine-minute medley including the War classic “Low Rider,” and performances of “Dragon,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Blue Roses Falling.” It also includes several original selections from his most recent studio album, “Travels,” which debuted at Number 2 on Billboard’s Top World Album Chart in 2015.

Shimabukuro is a ukulele virtuoso and composer whose music focuses on his complex and ultra-fast finger work. His music is an impressive blend of jazz, blues, funk, rock, bluegrass, classical, folk, and flamenco.
Shimabukuro has written numerous original compositions, including the entire soundtracks to two Japanese films, “Hula Girls” in 2007 and the Japanese remake of “Sideways” in 2009.

“Our latest album in ‘Live in Japan’ but we’re touring now with a very smaller show,” said Shimabukuro, during a phone interview last week from his home in Honolulu.

“This year marked my 15th year with Sony Japan. So, to kind of celebrate, we released an album of music from live shows in Japan last year — one in Osaka and one in Tokyo.

“I wasn’t thinking about tracks for the album when I was making the set list for the shows. It was just the tour we were doing all last year. On this tour, we’re doing songs from ‘Live in Japan,’ some of my other older songs and five or six brand new tunes.”

The prospect of hearing new tunes from Shimabukuro is great news for his fans.

“I’m getting ready to release a studio record in September,” said Shimabukuro. “We cut the album two months ago and just finished mixing it two days ago. Now, we’re getting ready to master it. It’s nice when everything is tracked and recorded.”

Shimabukuro began his music career in the mid-1990’s, performing at local coffee shops as a sideman with his first band, Pure Heart. His solo career began in 2002 when he signed with Epic Records, becoming the first ukulele player to sign with Sony Music.

In the years since the YouTube clip of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” aired, Shimabukuro has collaborated with an array of artists that include Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Dave Koz, Michael McDonald, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Tommy Emmanuel, and Lyle Lovett.

He sold out world-class venues, played at Bonnaroo, SXSW, the Playboy Jazz Festival, Fuji Rock Festival, the influential TED conference, and even performed for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England.

“The music on this album went in a different direction,” said Shimabukuro. “My early influences wee Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix and this album really shows those influences. It’s my first all-original album.

“There are 12 original pieces. Some have a jam band, Jerry Garcia feel. Some are more eclectic with a Jeff Beck approach. Some are more aggressive. It’s a different side of the ukulele. I played it for some people and they said — this is a ukulele?  It’s not a guitar but it definitely doesn’t sound like the old traditional ukulele.

“For this album, I brought back all my analog equipment out of the closet and dusted off the pre-amps. I chose different things for each song. I used a bass player and three different drummers at times. I approached it like a band record. We played in the studio and kept it all live.

“I figured it was time to do something different. I looked back at my last four or five records and they were similar. And, the live record represented a live show. When I got back in the studio, I just wanted to take a different direction. But, it’s still me.”

Video link for Jake Shimabukuro — https://youtu.be/O8p1uxGJzwg.

The show at the Colonial will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $41 and $46.
Between the Buried and Me is a very predictable band — fortunately not in a musical sense.

between the buried and me

Between The Buried And Me

The veteran band from North Carolina has evolved a lot musically over the last 15 years from heavy metal to prog rock but has maintained its identity — its heaviness and experimental nature — throughout its history.

BTBAM’s predictability comes from its regularity with regard to releasing albums and touring. Now in tour cycle, the band will be performing on April 15 at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

The band released its self-titled debut album in 2002. In 2003, Between the Buried and Me released its second album “The Silent Circus” and followed with its third LP “Alaska” in 2005 and its fourth album “Colors” in 2007. “The Great Misdirect”, BBAM’s fifth album, came out in 2009.
The hard-rocking quintet — Tommy Rogers (vocals, keyboards), Paul Waggoner (guitar), Dustie Waring (guitar), Blake Richardson (drums, percussion) and Dan Briggs (bass) — has had three releases in the last five years — “The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues “ in 2011, “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” album in 2012 and “Coma Ecliptic” in 2015.

“We do have a two-year cycle for each album,” said Waggoner, during a phone interview. Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Portland, Maine. “Then, it’s time to get back home to write a new album — time to start it all over again. There seems to be no end in sight.

“We’re still in the touring cycle for ‘Coma Ecliptic.’ After this tour, we’ll take a short break, d a European tour in July and then tour the states again in the fall. In 2017, we’re going to start writing and recording a new album.

“I’m always kind of amazed when I think about how many albums we put out in the last 15 years. The current line-up has been stable for the last 10 years. It’s good because we found the synergy we were looking for.”
When Between the Buried and Me began in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2000, it was a metal band — loud, heavy and straightforward. In recent years, the band has moved more in the direction of progressive rock.

“With ‘Coma Ecliptic,’ we just wanted to keep pushing ourselves — musically and creatively,” said Waggoner. “Obviously, we’re a little older now. Our music has a more melodic vibe — different sounds and different textures.

“We wanted to evolve as musicians and move ourselves in new directions — to push our limits and take ourselves out of our comfort zone. With ‘Coma Ecliptic,’ we’re more a prig rock band than a metal band. There is less emphasis on technical guitar riffs. A lot of the songs are keyboard-driven.”

For a lot of bands, a shift in direction could result in a large number of fans dropping off. Not so for BTBAM.

“We’re fortunate that our fans expect the unexpected,” said Waggoner. “Our new music is less abrasive. The vocals are more melodic. But, we will never abandon our roots.

“On this particular tour, we’re playing a mixture of old stuff and new stuff. We’re playing to some people who are not quite familiar with us so we want to present the whole picture. We’re playing songs all the way back to our self-titled album. a nice mix.”

Video link for Between the Buried and Me — https://youtu.be/R40wAZxMsTg?list=PLA919CDADE23267B1.

The show at Fillmore Philadelphia, which also features August Burns Red and Left to Vanish, will start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Tiffany

Tiffany

Those who are familiar with the history of pop music in the 1980s will instantly recognize the name Tiffany and invariably remember her chart-topping hit “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

They might even recall her groundbreaking “The Beautiful You: Celebrating The Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87” — which was the original mall tour — or her other hit singles such as “Could’ve Been” and “I Saw Him Standing There,” a gender-shifted  cover version of The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Tiffany has never stopped making music since she emerged as a teen idol almost three decades ago — with the exception of a few years off when she was raising her son Elijah. The Nashville-based singer has a tasty new album “A Million Miles,” which came out two weeks ago. But, her focus will be on the past when she performs on April 16 at Harrah’s Philadelphia’s The Block (777 Harrah’s Boulevard, Chester, 484-490-1800, http://www.caesars.com/harrahs-philly).

Stevie B and Tiffany are co-headlining the special event which is billed as “King & Queen of Hearts.” The show will also feature performances by freestyle superstar Judy Torres, chart-toppers The Jets, local freestyle artists Pain and Stefanie Bennett and Old School DJs.

Stevie B, who is considered one of the most influential freestyle artists of his time, has enjoyed many hits throughout his career including “Spring Love,” “I Wanna Be The One,” “In My Eyes,” and “Party Your Body”. Yet, his most popular song was “Because I Love You,” which spent more than four weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard charts and is still a favorite.

Rounding out the event will be such notable artists as freestyle queen Judy Torres, who is best known for her anthems “No Reason To Cry” and “Come Into My Arms” and The Grammy-nominated group The Jets, who will be singing their chart-topping singles “Crush On You,” “Make It Real” and other Billboard hits. Local freestyle performers Pain and Stefanie Bennett will also be on hand performing all of their fan-favorites.

In addition to the headliners and performers, long time Egypt and Shampoo resident DJ Frank DeSante and local Video DJ Ed Ex will be spinning “throwback jams” for this unforgettable party. And unlike other traditional seated casino shows, this event is standing room only.

“These combo-pack shows are really good for the fans,” said Tiffany, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in Nashville. “It’s a party weekend. I love The Jets and their music. I did a mini-tour with them back in the 1980s after my mall tour.”

Later this year, Tiffany will be back on tour in support of her new album.

“I started writing for the album on December 15 and it came out on the 31st of March,” said Tiffany. “It was really quick. I knew the writers I wanted to work with in Nashville — especially my girls Kirsti Manna and Julie Forester. We’ve been friends for years and they worked on my ‘Rose tattoo’ album.

“I had a lot of the melodies — and I had a plan. The songs were mostly about the last five years on my life. It was a bittersweet time. My father passed away from cancer. The last six months of my dad’s life were sad — but he kept the best attitude.

“It was healing for us to be together in the last stages. Some of the songs are about the pain. I also had a cousin who died from drugs and alcohol. That’s what the songs ‘A Million Miles’ and ‘Fall Again’ are about.

“On the new album, you can hear some of my country roots even though I’m a pop singer. I’m a songwriter who listened to Emmylou Harris and other songwriters like her. They were my inspirations.”

The world knows Tiffany as a pop star but she started her music career in a different genre.

In 1981, Tiffany debuted with country music singer Jack Reeves. Later, she was singing at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood when she was discovered by Hoyt Axton and his mother Mae Axton.

Mae Axton took her to sing in Nashville, Tennessee, where she performed on the “Ralph Emery Show,” singing Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts” and Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad.” In 1982, Tiffany performed on the same bill as Jerry Lee Lewis and George Jones.

“I started off in country music when I was 10 years old,” said Tiffany. “Four years ago, I released they ‘Rose Tattoo’ album about that chapter in my life.”

If you catch Tiffany’s show this weekend, you’ll see a different chapter in her life — the chapter where she was riding high as an international teen idol and recording star.

Video link for Tiffany — https://youtu.be/w6Q3mHyzn78.

The show at The Block will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

Jessica Fichot

Jessica Fichot

On April 16, another female vocalist will be performing in the area — with totally different roots for her music.

Accompanied by her accordion, toy piano, chanteuse and songwriter Jessica Fichot draws from her multi-ethnic French/Chinese/American heritage to create a multilingual fusion of French chanson, 1940s Shanghai jazz, gypsy swing and international folk.

Fichot will visit Philadelphia for a show at the Ruba Club (416 Green Street, Philadelphia, https://www.pfs.org).

Following the acclaimed release of her albums “Le Chemin” (2007) and “Le Secret” (2012), she has performed to packed venues in China, France, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Born in upstate New York to a Chinese mother and French father, Fichot spent her youth in France. After earning a degree in audio engineering in Paris, she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

While living in Boston, she wrote batches of children’s songs for musical theater and educational programs. More than 100 of her songs are published as part of ESL (English as a Second Language) programs published in over a dozen countries.

“Technically, English is my first language but the language I grew up with is French,” said Fichot, during a phone interview Monday morning from her home in Los Angeles. “I went to an international high school in Paris. I was in the American section.

“I knew I wanted to be a musician. I came to the America to study because, in the states, college music courses don’t just mean classical. Berklee was more modern. I majored in songwriting there. I stayed in Boston for awhile after I graduated and then moved here to L.A.”

If you listen to Fichot’s music, you’d assume that it was music that she heard when she was growing up in France. But, it would be a wrong assumption.

“I didn’t listen to French music when I was living there,” said Fichot. “I was a big fan of Tori Amos and singers like that. After I moved to L.A., I discovered bands that were making music in English and Spanish. That got me interested in performing in French.  So, I formed a band here in California.

“I taught myself how to play accordion, which is now my main instrument — after my vocals. I listened to Edith Piaf and other classic French singers. The vibe of my music is influenced by the 1920s and 1930s. And, there is some Django (Reinhardt) influence. It is French chanson.”

Chansons refers to songs with French word — specifically classic, lyric-driven French songs or European cabaret style songs. “Chanson” is the French word for “song.”

Fichot’s songs sung in Mandarin are a nod to her Asian heritage. Ironically, Mandarin is not her mother’s native tongue — which actually is Shanghaiese.

“My mother is from Shanghai and I go there to perform,” said Fichot. “There is a big jazz community there — Shanghai jazz. I discover a lot of musicians there who influenced me. My music is a mixture of French chansons and Shanghai jazz from the 1930s.

“With the music I’m playing on this tour, every song is written a little differently. I try to not write on an instrument and just use my voice instead. I come up with melodies or concepts and sing them. The songs all start with a melody or a vibe.”

Video link for Jessica Fichot — https://youtu.be/ajs5wrd8RpY.

The show at Ruba Club, which also features rare Spirits, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Thao

Thao

The roster of acts playing in the area on April 16 also features another female singer with Asian-American roots. On Saturday night, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down will be performing at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, the San Francisco-based band fronted by singer and songwriter Thao Nguyen, released their fourth studio album “A Man Alive” in March via Ribbon Music.

Produced by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, the new record is a musical departure for Nguyen. Beat- and bass-driven with more manipulated sounds, it lends itself to her trademark high energy show.

The album deals with Nguyen’s relationship with her father, who left the family when she was a young girl. According to Nguyen, “It’s a document of my life in conjunction with his, even though we’ve always been leading our lives away from each other. Some are optimistic and forgiving, some are the opposite.”

“I only write when there is a deadline,” said Nguyen. “We went into the studio last winter. I wrote the songs in the month before we went in the studio and even some into the recording time.

“We was recorded it at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco. The first session was about two weeks and then we had another nine-day session. We recorded live in the studio for most of the songs.

“Our songs have moved away from guitar and accordion instrument-based songs. I think we’re more reliant on bass and groove. It’s more instrumental, more riff- and loop-centric, and has more manipulated sounds. Lyrically, I’m saying more of what I want in life.”
Nguyen grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Falls Church, Virginia and moved to San Francisco 10 years ago.

“I started writing songs when I was just a kid in the suburbs — bored in my room,” said Nguyen. “I wanted to write songs so I had to learn guitar as a vehicle. I loved Motown from age five. I had a brother who was eight years older so I was exposed to the music of the 80s and 90s — pop and hip hop.

“Once I started to play guitar, I started to listen to country music and the blues for the finger-picking. That’s my favorite kind of guitar playing. I played a lot of open mics in high school and continued to write and play when I was in college at William & Mary. I majored in sociology and women’s studies. I met our first drummer Willis Thompson when I was in college. We played as a duo.”

Her current band featured Adam Thompson (vocals, bass guitar, keyboards) and Charlie Glenn (drums).

“I picked up Adam toward the end of college,” said Nguyen. “That’s when we started working more as a band. My guitar songs were always pretty percussive. When I’m writing, melody is a key factor — definitely.”

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down’s discography includes the following albums — “Like the Linen” (2005), “We Brave Bee Stings and All” (2008), “Know Better Learn Faster” (2009), “We the Common” (2013) and the recently-released “A Man Alive.”

Video link for Thao & the Get Down Stay Down — https://youtu.be/N9jpvELaKqQ.

Woozy

Woozy

The show at Underground Arts, which has SAINTSENECA and Little Scream as the opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.
On April 16, Woozy, a band based in New Orleans, will return to one of its favorite cities in which to perform — Philadelphia. And, for its tour opener, the trio from the Crescent City will be bringing along Kississippi , a band from Philadelphia — for the show at Goldilocks Gallery (723 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-432-8564, http://goldilocksgallery.com).

Woozy is  a three-piece experimental rock band featuring Kara Stafford (guitar/vocals), John St. Cyr (guitar/vocals) and Ian Paine-Jesam (drums/percussion).  The band released its debut album “Blistered” last October and has been out on the road pretty much ever since.
“We’ve played Philadelphia a number of times,” said St. Cyr, during a phone interview Monday from a tour stop in Chicago. “The show at the Golden Tea House in Philly was one of our best shows ever. We also had a really good show at Philamoca.”

Woozy plays an intense mix of punk, indie, slowcore, post-punk, art rock, anti-folk, sludge, post-harcore, pop and emo musical styles. The trio’s music focuses on intricate instrumentation and bold dynamic shifts.
Blending melodic songwriting with intricate instrumentation and bold dynamic shifts,

Woozy uses dual lead vocals and guitars to challenge natural pop tendencies and to create something that avoids easy genre categorization.  Woozy’s music has continues to evolve from the band’s inception in 2012.
“We met when we were in school at Loyola University in New Orleans,” said St. Cyr. “We all gravitated to the same circles. I was in a band called Sun Hotel and Ian was a percussion major.

“It started with just me, Ian and Kara. We called it ‘remedial math rock.’ We mad eour first EP in fall 2012 and another after that and then made our first full-length in October 2015.”

Paine-Jesam said, “We started writing songs for ‘Blistered’ in fall 2013. It took a really long time to grow the songs. We threw a lot away. We’d work with ideas, put them away for months and then come back to them. The last song was finished a week before we went into the studio.

“We were all writing together in the same room. We recorded the album at Living Room Studios in Algiers, Louisiana because a friend of ours worked there — and because it was a really relaxing environment.”

Stafford said, “We did three days of recording in that studio and then two days of overdubbing in New Orleans. Some of the songs we had already been playing live — maybe two-thirds of them.”

St. Cyr said, “Our first tour in 2012 was five days. Then, we had a two-week tour. It has just continued to grow. I think we played more than 100 shows last year. We’re up past 50 this year and it’s only April.”
Paine-Jesam said, “I always wanted to be in a band. But, this is definitely much more of a real thing than I expected it to be.”

There are already many Woozy fans that are glad that it did indeed turn out to be more than Paine-Jesam expected.

The show at Goldilocks Gallery will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage

Rachael Sage will be releasing her new album “Choreographic” on May 20 on Mpress Records. Fans will be able to hear a preview of the new songs when she performs on April 17 at World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, http://philly.worldcafelive.com).

Sage is like a modern-day Renaissance woman — singer-songwriter, ballerina, pianist, poet, record label owner, actress, organist, writer and record producer. Currently, she is focused on being a performer.
“I started recording the album in August,” said Sage, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from a tour stop in Atlanta. “It went pretty quickly.”

On “Choreography,” Sage reconnects to her dance roots. The album is an inspired set of piano-based chamber pop sounds merging orchestral elements with her signature blend of folk, pop and rock.

“I got the idea to do a dance-themed concept album,” said Sage, who studied and danced professionally with the New York City Ballet when she was younger and then went on to get a degree in theater at Stanford University. “The TV show ‘Dance Moms’ had used a lot of my music with its choreography.

“I thought about how ballet and my experiences in ballet had informed my influences. I holed myself up in a hotel in London. Each day, I wouldn’t leave until I had at least one song written. It’s always exciting when it gets done as something different.

“When I was writing the songs in London, I watched the Glastoinbury Festival on TV. I had a keyboard and also wrote some on guitar. It was mostly on piano because I was writing more with an orchestral sensibility.

“In general, I usually write the lyrics and the melody at the same time. There were certain musical themes that developed as I wrote. My process is very subconscious at that point. All my channels were open.

“Producer Andy Zulla, weho I had worked with before, said he’d like to work with me again. I recorded the bulk of the songs with him at Carriage House Studio in Connecticut. It’s a rustic environment. It’s kind of a retreat for me. There is such a great energy there.”

Now, the songs from “Choreography” are ready to be unveiled on the live stage.

“If they’re not playable live, I make them playable live,” said Sage, whose expressive voice instinctively wraps itself around her well-thought lyrics. “Being a production head, I can work with songs. But, it can be a challenge at times.

“This is a pre-release show. The album won’t be out for another month but fans will be able to purchase copies of ‘Choreography’ at my live shows now.”

Video link for Rachael Sage — https://youtu.be/yqO70wFJVxI.

The show at the WCL, which has Jennifer Harper as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day of show.

the crookes

The Crookes

Three months ago, the Crookes released their new LP “Lucky Ones” on Modern Outsider via Culture Collide, and announced a month-long U.S. tour with Geographer  — kicking off the tour at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, and wrapping it up on April 17 in Philadelphia.
Now, the end is near. The tour will close next week with a show at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, http://www.utphilly.com).

The Crookes — Daniel Hopewell, George Waite, Tom Dakin, Adam Crofts — are a British indie rock band that formed in Sheffield in 2008. They released their first single “A Collier’s Wife” in 2009 followed by the single “Bloodshot Days” that was released in 2010. They have since released four albums — “Chasing After Ghosts” (2011), “Hold Fast” (2012), “Soapbox” and “Lucky Ones” (2016).

“Daniel and I met at Sheffield University in 2006,” said White, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in San Francisco. “We went to this pub night in Sheffield and ran into each other there a lot. We had the same influences so we decided to start a band. We had the notion of being a band for awhile before we actually became a band. We started writing songs as an acoustic duo. We also had Alex Saunders on guitar and Russell Bates on drums. After a year, people were telling us that we really needed a bassist so I took up bass. Alex left the band in 2011. About three weeks later, we had a European tour booked and we needed a guitarist. Tom Dakin joined the band and has been with us ever since. Russ left about a year ago so we got Croftsy. We’re known as the magpies of Sheffield for poaching musicians from other bands.”

The current lineup created a very tasty album with “Lucky Ones” and has met with a string of glowing reviews for the shows on this tour.

“The new album is the first we did with Adam,” said White. “Him joining the band has added a new level of energy. I think there were less restrictions with this album. The songs were written by me, Tom and Dan.

“We wanted to write pop music — but pop music filtered through our own influences. We recorded the album around this time last year at Matt Peel’s new studio The Knave in Leeds. It took a few months. We did a lot of experimentation. We were keen to lay things out on the table to see what works.

“We’re now playing about half the album in our shows. Each night, we play five or six tracks and every night has been great. We’ve got a lot of confidence in these songs and we’re very comfortable playing them.”

Video link for the Crookes — https://youtu.be/XZn8ivXYmxs.

The show at Union Transfer will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8.

breaking benjaminBreaking Benjamin brought its “Breaking Benjamin — Unplugged” show to Fillmore Philadelphia in January. Now, the band is band on another unplugged tour with a show scheduled for April 19 at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net).

Back in December, Breaking Benjamin, the chart-topping Pennsylvania-bred rock band led by founder Benjamin Burnley, announced a tour featuring a string of intimate acoustic performances featuring live and unplugged versions of several fan favorites.

“The acoustic tour — people enjoy it a lot,” said Burnley, during a recent phone interview from his home in Ocean City, New Jersey. “All the shows have been amazing. We have great fans. I wouldn’t continue to do it if people weren’t into it.

“We try to put the acoustic tours in the time we would have been off from touring with the electric band. We just put the acoustic tours on to play for the people. We try to squeeze these shows in as much as possible. The first full tour with this line-up was acoustic. We did it to show that the band didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles.”

Breaking Benjamin’s highly-anticipated return to rock music in 2015 scored them a Number One Billboard Top 200 album debut with the June release of its fifth studio album “Dark Before Dawn” — an album that included two consecutive Number One active rock singles in “Failure” and “Angel’s Fall.”

“Dark Before Dawn” came out a really long time after the band’s previous release — “Dear Agony,” which was released in September 2009. A six-year hiatus can frequently spell doom for a band but Breaking Benjamin’s ever-loyal fan base continued to grow with over 5.8 million Facebook fans, 267K followers on twitter and 80K Instagram followers combined.

“There was a good reason for the long gap between albums,” said Burnley, during a recent phone interview from his home in Ocean City, New Jersey. “I went on a hiatus to address some health issues and then deal with a legal conflict. Those two things combined to produce an extended hiatus.”

But, Breaking Benjamin never died and “Benjamin breaking” never happened. The veteran singer did not let adversity break him. If anything, it made him more determined to keep going and growing.
“Everything happens in its own time and with its own reason,” said Burnley. “We came back stronger than ever.”

The band’s re-vamped lineup features musicians hand-picked by Burnley himself; guitarists Jasen Rauch (Red) and Keith Wallen (Adelitas Way), bassist Aaron Bruch, and drummer Shaun Foist (Picture Me Broken).

“A six-year hiatus was hard to take,” said Burnley. “Most of the time, it was me going to the doctor and trying to discover the cause of the problem. I’m still suffering. Inflammation of muscles, joint pain and dizziness are constant things. I’m still suffering but I’m pushing through and living my life.

“It has influenced my songwriting. Any sort of aspect of life influences any artist and what they write. As a songwriter, you never really stop writing. I put ideas down all the time — constantly. Writing is just something I unconsciously do.”

Burnley’s writing resulted in a well-received, critically-acclaimed album.
Originally known as Clan 9, Breaking Benjamin got its start in north-central Pennsylvania right around the start of the century. Late in 2001, the group became Breaking Benjamin after a lineup shuffle. Burnley grew up in Ocean City and later moved to Pennsylvania where he put the band together. Now, Burnley is back at the beach.

“I have my own home studio here and I’m building a larger studio which is also in Ocean City,” said Burnley. “I did most of the writing for the new album here in Ocean City. I’d say 95 per cent of it was written before I put the band together. I’ve always been the primary writer for the band.

“Whenever I’m writing a song for the band, I have the whole song envisioned in my mind. And, I’m fluent in programming drums so that allows me to make a project that is complete.

“When I write something new, I don’t have any expectations of a song’s success. I just try to do the best I can. If it does well, it’s validation — just icing on the cake. I definitely don’t write anything that would coincide with a trend. I can’t bring myself to be that way. And, my fans recognize that sincerity.”

Video link for Breaking Benjamin — https://youtu.be/9zFfRSeA1ls.

The “Breaking Benjamin — Unplugged” show at the Chameleon will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $39.50.

7horse

7horse

This is becoming a busy time for the band 7Horse with a new album — “Livin’ in a Bitch of a World” — that will be released on April 15 and a national tour in support of the new disc. The tour touches down in this area on April 20 when the duo performs at Fire (412 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, 267-671-9298, thefirephilly.com).

7Horse is an American rock and blues duo formed in 2011 most notable for its song “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker,” which was featured in Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street” — in the second trailer and on the soundtrack.  It was also used by FoxSports on the pre-game show for the NFL playoff season.

The group consists of Phil Leavitt (songwriter, drummer, and lead vocals) and Joie Calio (songwriter, guitars, bass, and vocals) — musicians who also make up two-thirds of the band dada.

7Horse began as a hypothetical — What if, longtime band mates Joie Calio and Phil Leavitt thought, we bury our musical past and see if we can discover rock ’n’ roll’s Ground Zero? That question was explored in bold fashion on the duo’s 2011 debut “Let the 7Horse Run” and continued on its sophomore album “Songs for a Voodoo Wedding.”

It was during the time between the first two albums that 7Horse received a phone call from a representative of director Martin Scorsese, saying that the single “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker” was being considered for use in the film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

“Having Scorsese use our song ‘Meth Lab Zoso Sticker’ really helped us,” said Leavitt, during a phone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles. “It was great exposure — and they paid us well. We put every dollar back into the band.

“We’ve played together for a long time in dada. The music dada made was all above the neck. The music we’re making now is for the body. It’s rock. It’s blues. It’s music you can feel. We make a pretty big sound for two guys. We’ve got this rhythmic lock that is the centerpiece for everything we do.”

That groove figures prominently on “Livin’ in a Bitch of a World.”

“We started making last year,” said Leavitt. “We went to the desert — to a studio in Landers, California — and holed up for a few days. We also used my studio in Forestville, California. We spent a week in Seattle doing some tracks at London Bridge Studio and cut a couple things at Echo Park in L.A.

“We’re always writing — even when we’re on the road. This is a real important album for us. So, we started from scratch. When we were in the studio in Forestville, we stayed in the studio and slept on the floor. We’d start at noon and work until midnight.

“There are only two of us playing so we always cut the tracks together. We try to get it out as quickly as we can. We don’t try to get it perfect. If it’s really bad, you should do it again. If it isn’t, you can leave it. That’s what’s cool about rock and roll. Anything can happen.

“We didn’t want to make music for the head — music that was too smart. We put the focus on from the belt down. Rock and roll has to have a street level vibe. Onstage, it’s just the two of us. But, my wife is a big part of the organization. She runs the merch table. She’s a very colorful personality.”

Video link for 7Horse — https://youtu.be/7-W92xs0iMY.

The show at Fire, which also features Liz Brennan and Shadowplay, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

The Ballroom Thieves

The Ballroom Thieves

Another show on April 20 will feature Ballroom Thieves performing at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, http://www.ardmoremusic.com).

The Ballroom Thieves — Martin Earley (guitar, vocals), Devin Mauch (percussion, vocals), and Calin Peters (cello, vocals) — have been described as a rock band disguised as a folk band.
On this tour, they’ll be even more disguised because they’re performing with an orchestra. The eight-show swing through the Northeast will feature the Ballroom Thieves accompanied by Maine Youth Rock Orchestra.

“Martin and I went to school together at Stonehill College,” said Mauch, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Boston.

“We got our start playing a lot of college shows. Universities have amazing arts budgets so we made enough money to be n the road.

“We played as a duo for about two years then we got our first cello player. We got Calin, our current cello player, two-and-a-half years ago. She’s been playing cello since she was 10 years old. It was kind of cool the way it worked out.

“Martin was also raised as a percussionist and it’s had a cool effect on the band. He’s very percussive as a guitarist. From very early on, we were always in agreement that our favorite instrument was cello. It can do everything. We wanted to keep the band small so cello gave us the most bang for the buck.

“Calin plays rock and roll cello and pushes the limits with what she can do sonically. It’s helped redefine the band — from folk roots to a more progressive rock vibe. We make more noise than it seems we should be able to do with just three musicians.”

The Ballroom Thieves went from “keeping the band small” to touring with a 25-piece orchestra.

“It’s a dream come true to play shows with an orchestra — and to help outreach to young musicians,” said Mauch. “We did some shows with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra in Maine and the sounds we created together were inspiring. It’s very powerful. No-one has done this before.”
Video link for The Ballroom Thieves — https://youtu.be/0NOZYbITnD4.
The show in Ardmore will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Particle and Tweed on April 14, Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead Tribute) and Sophistafunk on April 15, David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket on April 16, and Dirty Dozen Dance Band and Jontourage on April 17.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Better Than Bacon on April 14, Heather Maloney and Jason Webb on April 15, Countdown To Ecstasy on April 16, Open Mic with guest host Michael Melton on April 17 and Lowdown Brass Band on April 19.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, http://www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Matt Sharayko, Dirty Dollhouse and Kevin Killen on April 14, Porkroll Project and Georgie Bonds on April 15 and “Liv Live Benefit” with Judah Kim, Cowmuddy, Barry Rabin and Clarabell on April 16.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com)  will present Zeus on April 15 and Local Detour, Last Chance and The Elwood James Band on April 16.
Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will present Brazen on April 15 and Harbaneros on April 16.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, http://www.burlapandbean.com) will present The Lowest Pair with Rivers on April 14, Nathan Bell and Craig Bickhardt on April 15, and Ryanhood with Joy Ike on April 16.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents  Boz Scaggs on April 14, OneNight of Queen on April 15 and “Oh What A Night of Doo Wop” on April 16.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Rhonda Vincent & The Rage on April 14,Oz Noy Trio featuring Dave Weckl & Jimmy Haslip and Caryn Lin on April 15, Tempest on April 16, and “Sister Strikes Again: Late Nite Catechism 2” on April 17.

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