On Stage: Yellowman still brings the reggae

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By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times



Yellowman, one of the greatest reggae singers to come out of Jamaica in the 1980s, is still going strong. On November 10, he will return to the area for a rare show when he performs at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

Also known as King Yellowman and by his birth name of Winston Foster, he was born in 1956 and grew up in an orphanage in Kingston. Yellowman is an albino. Known as dundus in Jamaica, albinos have always faced racial prejudice and are usually shunned. This happened with Yellowman but he got the last laugh by becoming a major reggae star internationally and a sex symbol in the Jamaican music scene.

King Yellow first gained wide attention when he won a toasting contest event in Kingston. Toasting was a Jamaican singing/talking vocal style that was the precursor of rap and hip hop. In 1981, Yellowman became the first dancehall artist to be signed to a major American label and released his “King Yellowman” album on Columbia Records.

Yellowman has always been known for his high-energy shows. Fueled by the driving reggae sounds of the Sagittarius Band, Yellow is a non-stop whirl of action every show from start-to-finish.

“I’m 60 years old but I’m not slowing down at all,” said Yellowman during a phone interview Tuesday morning from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“I know how to keep my energy up. I take care of myself physically. And, I drink soursop juice and oatmeal porridge drink.”

One of Yellowman’s first big hits was a song called “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng.” In many of his numerous hit singles in Jamaica, he boasted of his sexual prowess – songs such as “Them a Mad Over Me,” “Letter to Rosey,” “Yellow Like Cheese” and “Going to the Chapel.”

Now, Yellowman is touring and performing with his daughter Kareema.

“She’s with me right now,” said Yellowman. “We have four new songs that we’ve done together.

“Reggae has been kind of stagnant for a while but my fans have stuck with me. The best reggae was in the 1980s. I still have the same band I used in the ’80s – the Sagittarius Band. There are still two original members and the rest are new.”

Yellowman is a true survivor. In addition to still making vibrant music, he has shown the strength to overcome obstacles – such as the prejudice he faced as a youth.

In 1982, Yellowman was diagnosed with skin cancer, and was initially told that he only had three more years to live. After several surgeries Yellowman was able to continue his career and the cancer went into apparent remission during this time.

In 1986 it was diagnosed that the cancer had spread to his jaw. Yellowman then underwent very invasive jaw surgery to remove a malignant tumor. This surgery permanently disfigured Yellowman’s face, as a large portion of the left side of his lower jaw had to be removed to successfully remove the tumor.

“I’m still all right,” said Yellowman. “I didn’t let it beat me. I’m doing fine – cancer gone.

“I just keep playing my songs and performing live. Younger audiences are coming out. I do songs that draw young people. They understand classic reggae.”

Video link for Yellowman — https://youtu.be/9Y2F9yVNEVE?t=113.

The show at Ardmore, which features Suburban Sensi as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Box of Rain and Broken Arrow on November 11, Everyone Orchestra on November 12, Anderson East on November 13 and Blue Rodeo with Devin Cuddy on November 14.



Dance music of a different kind will also be happening on November 10 when Destructo brings his latest tour package to Philadelphia. “The Renegade Fall 2016 Tour” featuring Destructo, Felix da Housecat, Drezo and Sita Abellan will provide an evening of intense EDM (Electronic Dance Music) at District N9ne (460 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com).

Destructo is Gary Richards, a well-respected g-house DJ/producer and one of the most innovative curators of music festivals in the world.

In support of his tour, Destructo has released lead single “Catching Plays” (out now on Hits HARD), a collaboration with one of Australia’s Wax Motif, and featuring Pusha T and Starrah.

“The tour has been out since September and it’s coming to its end,” said Richards, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Beverly Hills.

“This is the last weekend. After that, I’ll be home for a few weeks and then will go on a tour to Australia, Indonesia, Fiji and Hawaii in December.

“When I’m putting a tour together, I make a list of who I want to have in the show. I always look for variety. I just try to keep it fresh and entertaining.”

Richards makes his music in his own studio in Los Angeles.

“I have a studio in the Valley,” said Richards. “It’s mostly computers with Ableton. The studio now is just a place that sounds good – no mixing boards, consoles and gear like that. It used to be about the gear but that has completely changed.

“I have two singles that just came out – ‘Winning’ featuring Problem and ‘Catching Plays’ featuring Pusha T and Starrah. I have an EP that is coming out in January called ‘Renegade.’ I’ve been working on it a long time. I’m just trying to get it perfect so I’ve been taking my time.”

“Catching Plays” is the follow-up to “4Real” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and iLoveMakonnen, Destructo’s most successful track to date with nearly five million streams on Spotify, over one million streams on Soundcloud, and its music video logging almost one million views on YouTube. His uncompromising approach to music spurned the creation of g-house, a new unique hip-hop and house hybrid.

“When I’m making songs, I usually start with some kind of beat,” said Richards. “I just get a bunch of beats. Then, I figure out who would be good to work with on the song and start connecting with vocalists. One of my songs had five different vocalists from all over – Chicago, Louisiana, L.A. I send them the track, get it back, refine it and see what works.”

Destructo is also a music executive and convert promoter. He is the founder and CEO of HARDEvents, which has been putting on popular music festivals since 2007 and was acquired by Live Nation Entertainment four years ago.

“My dad was in the music business in the D.C. area,” said Richards. “I’ve always been around it. When I heard electronic music, it was what I loved – bands like Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and then Aphex Twin and Prodigy. Depeche Mode had such cool sounds. Then, in the 90s, the music turned into a whole different thing and I really got into techno.”

Video link for Destructo — https://youtu.be/JcV21ncTmV4?t=55

The show at District N9ne will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.

On November 11, there will be a variety of live music at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) with STS9 performing in the Fillmore’s main room and Klangstof playing in the venue’s smaller room – the Foundry.



STS9 – also known as Sound Tribe Sector 9 – is an instrumental band that makes music for both the head and the body – a swirling blend of funk, jazz, jam band, electronic, instrumental rock, hip hop, drum-and-bass, and psychedelia. The band is now touring in support of its new album “The Universe Inside.”

“The Universe Inside” is the band’s first new full-length studio album in nearly seven years. It was released via their own 1320 Records in September 2 and debuted at #1 on the iTunes and Amazon Electronic Album charts and #2 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums Chart — marking their highest position to date on the chart. It is the band’s first featuring bassist Alana Rocklin.

“We recorded the album over the last few years,” said Rocklin, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Washington, D.C. “We started the album over a couple times. We started working on it as soon as I joined the band.

“It’s a concept album. We developed it over a lot of conversations we had in the studio – conversations about life…conversations about everything.”

Twenty years before the emergence of STS9, NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on a mission to the farthest reaches of the solar system and beyond. Each of these probes was equipped with identical Golden Records, special messages attached to what Carl Sagan called “a bottle launched into the cosmic ocean.” They contained numerous images and sounds from throughout the world, pieces of music from various cultures, a map identifying the location of our planet, and other information for whomever, or whatever, might find them.

While the Golden Records included greetings in 59 languages, they made no mention of nations and borders, wars and rivalries, or anything else that divides us. What they did mention was life, love, peace, birth–the things that bind us to one another and to the planet we call home.

“The Universe Inside” is billed as a reflection of this message.

According to the band, “It means we are one, made of stardust and the forces of nature that evolved over billions of years. Connected by the sun, moon and stars, we are the living breathing conscience of the Universe. It is an album about human identity and the magical truth of who we are, where we’re going, and our place in the Universe.

“It’s about the joy and pain of being human, and the hope that one day, with the help of a common origin story, we can become a global civilization and cosmic society–a society that embraces each other and the vast cultures of Earth as one human race, transcending man-made concepts that keep us apart.”

Rocklin said, “It’s a story about how we’re all created from the same thing. We’re all made from stardust and we’re all the same. No matter what small differences we have, we need to accept the fact that we were all created the same. We have to get back to that.”

STS9 has released 11 albums, two remixed albums and multiple live DVDs on its own label, 1320 Records. The band is known for making music that features spacey instrumental passages along with solid rhythm-based grooves that makes listeners want to dance. Obviously, STS9 is a favorite of the jam band festival audience.

“We’re very aware of the balance of energy to the head and energy to the body,” said Rocklin. “We follow the music and let it take us to where it wants to go.

“There is the challenge of having a DJ dance element along with having no idea what’s going to happen. And, we like to leave room for improvisation. There are definitely open space moments in most of our songs.”

STS9’s sound is in a constant state of evolution, and so is the culture surrounding it. What started out as a deeply loyal fan base has blossomed into a full-fledged community united, not just by their love for STS9, but by a mutual desire to engage the world in a positive way. It is a philosophy that has been encouraged by the band’s music, as well as their actions.

Over the years, STS9 and their fans have helped feed communities with Conscious Alliance, built houses in post-Katrina New Orleans with the Make It Right Foundation, raised money for Rock Against Cancer and supported dozens more national and regional philanthropic efforts.

Rocklin joined the band in January 2014 when founding member and bassist David Murphy left the band.

“My husband Brad and I had a band called sub-ID,” said Rocklin. “A while back, we got a call to open for STS9. We played several shows together and just connected from the start. We put an album out on their label and did several more national tours with them. When David left, they came to me to take over as bassist for the group.

“I had my own career in Nashville – playing bass for other artists and doing session work. But, I also always had a desire to be in a band. I love their music and we’ve always been close friends. So, it was an easy decision.”

Video link for STS9 — https://youtu.be/behaASpz144?t=3.

The show at the Fillmore will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $32.50.



When Klangstof takes the stage at the Foundry, it will be a band. But, for the most part, Klangstof is the solo project of Koen van de Wardt, a talented Dutch-Norwegian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist.  Klamngstof is currently touring in support if the new album “Close to the Exit,” which was recently released on WB Records.

“I live partially in Oslo and partially in Amsterdam,” said van der Wardt, during a phone interview last week from Amsterdam.

“I’m Dutch and moved to Norway when I was young. I moved back to the Netherlands three years ago. I had some time to settle down. I have a studio in an old abandoned warehouse.”

At the age of 14 while living one hour away from civilization somewhere in the middle of Norway, van der Wardt realized that to do something meaningful with his life he would have to learn how to make music. With a limited budget and no friends around to start a band, he started teaching himself how to play and record. Inspired by Radiohead’s “OK Computer” album, van der Wardt began with the guitar and soon mastered the entire album.

Given his isolation and lack of prior musical knowledge, it took him over two years to complete his first song, which he eventually uploaded to a Norwegian website for unsigned bands. The song was picked up by a radio station in Norway and started making its way across the Nordic airwaves. Two years later, he became the bass player for one of Holland’s most critically acclaimed indie bands, Moss.

Van der Wardt enjoyed a successful stay with Moss but realized he missed creating music alone in his basement. So, he left Moss, created Klangstof (“klang” means “echo” in Norwegian and “stof” means “dust” in Dutch) and wrote the single “Hostage” to describe feeling stuck and itching for a creative outlet. Within three months after uploading “Hostage” to Soundcloud, he was in L.A. to sign a deal with Mind Of A Genius Records.

“I started writing demos in Norway six years ago when I was 18,” said van Der Wardt. “I got to Amsterdam and found I had way too many songs on my hard drive. ‘Hostage’ was the first song that got finished. For me, it was the starting point. I found the right sound. I got more into electronics – using synths and keeping acoustic guitar and drums in the mix. Apart from the drums, I wrote everything by myself.”

The result was an album with a fresh approach — combining the Scandinavian feeling of epic soundscapes and guitar with a synthesized, drum machine-driven industrial vibe.

“The whole recording process took me about half a year,” said van der Wardt. “The songs were just laying there on my hard drive – most were guitar-based. The guitar things are my roots when I’m making a record but I also used many, many other instruments. On ‘Hostage,’ I used 50-60 synthesizers, including some old vintage Italian synthesizers.”

Now, van der Wardt is bringing Klangstof to the states as a live band.

“I have a full band,” said van der Wardt. “I didn’t want to use backing tracks for my live show. As soon as you bring backing tracks, you’re locked in. On stage, I sing and play synth and guitar. J.C. is my drummer, JoBo is the extra guitar player and Wammes is the synth wizard. This is a really good band.”

Video link for Klangstof – https://youtu.be/tm9jYDkkayI?t=6.

The show at the Foundry, which also features Jagwar Ma, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Other upcoming shows at Fillmore Philadelphia are Fitz and the Tantrums on November 12, Sleeping with Sirens on November 13, Ingrid Michaelson on November 14, and The Fray on November 16.



Another artist who operates both in solo mode and as part of the group will be performing in Philly on November 11. Sims, who will headline a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) is both a solo artist and part of Minneapolis’ Doomtree Collective along with Cecil Otter, Dessa, Lazerbeak, Mike Mictlan, P.O.S. and Paper Tiger.

Sims is touring in support of his new album “More Than Ever.”

Sims wrote “More Than Ever” last winter in the wake of some personally trying times — death and sickness in his immediate circle of friends and family. He realized that the only acceptable answer to big loss is big joy. The 13 tracks on “More Than Ever” capture Sims coming to — and living out — that conclusion.

“I just started to write whatever I felt,” said Sims, during a phone interview Monday from a tour stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Previously, I felt my story wasn’t worth anything. Now, it is. There are songs about my youth, songs about being 30 and there are dark tunes – people sick, people dying.

“I transfer that emotion to songs – celebrating every moment I have…. abandoning my worry and finding joy. Making this album was very therapeutic. Writing these songs was absolutely cathartic. I hope people find that when they listen to these songs.”

Sims grew up in Minnesota and was a part of the busy and fiercely independent Minneapolis hip-hop scene. In high school, he made friends with the classmates that would eventually become his cohorts in Doomtree—the seven-member rap collective now responsible for some of this era’s most interesting, genre-defying releases.

Over the past decade Sims has released a host of projects, both as a solo artist (Lights Out Paris, Bad Time Zoo, Wild Life EP, Field Notes) and as a member of Doomtree (No Kings, All Hands, and many others.) To create “More Than Ever,” Sims enlisted Lazerbeak, Paper Tiger, and ICETEP to join in the production.

“With the new album, I started working on the demos last fall,” said Sims. “Then, I recorded the album earlier this year at a studio in Minneapolis and at my home studio. I finished mastering it in July. I had a lot of help form Paper Tiger, ICETEP and Tiger Beat.

“With my songwriting, I find inspiration wherever I can. I wake up, go to the studio, turn beats on and see what happens. The key is repetition. I try to make as many songs. I make a lot and whatever comes out, comes out. If I listen back and don’t like it, I throw it away. You don’t get to decide what happens – you just have to react to it.”

Video link for Sims – https://youtu.be/Ah-IFs7oin8?t=3.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which has Air Credits as the opening act, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Other upcoming shows at Boot and Saddle are Diane Coffee and Palmas on November 10; Broncho on November 11; Parsonfield on November 12; Vanishing Life on November 14; Honus Honus on November 15; and Darla on November 16.

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Another solo musician whose new album reflects dealing with death and personal tragedy will be performing in Philadelphia on November 11 when Benjamin Francis Leftwich headlines a show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,


Leftwich, a British singer-songwriter, is touring the states in support of his sophomore album “After The Rain,” which was released by Dirty Hit / Vagrant Records in August.

Born in York, England to South African and Australian parents, Leftwich lived a nomadic childhood — spending just as much time in Sydney, Australia as in his native U.K.. Inspired by Elliott Smith and Bruce Springsteen, he taught himself to play the guitar when he was 10. Leftwich fronted indie pop outfit the Nicoles in his teens before embarking on a solo career.

After recording his first EP, “A Million Miles Out,” in Southern France, he attracted attention for his cover version of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion” on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC R2 Saturday Sessions show. In 2011, his first single was “Pictures” which was followed by his debut album “Bleeps.”

“I moved to London at the end of 2013,” said Leftwich, during a phone interview last week from his home in North London. “I just wanted to get away from the town I grew up in. Music is my life and London has a great music scene – and a lot of my friends have recording studios.

“I’ve always been in love with music. I remember my dad playing the Beatles and Nina Simone when I was young. I’m a big song guy. I love great songs. I started music when I was 10 and later began playing gigs with local bands. I started doing solo gigs when I was 17 and, after a few years, made my first solo EP ‘A Million Miles Out.’

“I’ve always been very passionate about music. I can’t write music but I let my ear absorb everything. I sit down with my guitar and write melodies. And, I’ve got about a thousand voice memos in my song files. I’ll start a song with rough versions or demos. Usually a melody comes first and then the words come pretty soon after that. I craft songs from there.”

For most of this decade, Leftwich has been working on his craft and his music has been evolving.

“Things have changed as I’ve gotten older,” said Leftwich. “I’ve gotten more experimental. But, ‘After the Rain’ does have some older stems. I started recording it in April 2015 at Iguana Studio in Brixton. I had been writing the songs for it for two-and-a-half years. My dad passed away in April 2013 from cancer. It happened pretty quickly.

“That was the main road through the desert for the album. The songs aren’t all about losing my dad but his death informed everything. Making the album was a cathartic experience – waves of emotion that affected the color of the sound palette.”

Video link for Benjamin Francis Leftwich — https://youtu.be/YxDOtHVwFEE?t=98.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Brolly and Kevin Manning as the opening acts, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are HiSoft, Igneous Eyes, and Sparrow Steeple on November 10; New Sound Brass Band on November 12; and True Widow and Mary Lattimore on November 13.

kennett-flashKennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Better Than Bacon on November 10; Davey Dickens & The Troubadoors and Grady Hoss & The Sidewinders on November 11; and Who Are You on November 12.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Adrien Reju, Beth Goldwater and Joy Ike on November 11, John Flynn on November 13 and Philadelphia Main Line Ukulele Group on November 12.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will present Beethoven’s Wig on November 12 and Al Stewart on November 17.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Herman Bruning and Friends on November 11, nxt2normal and Sapphire on November 12 and Open Mic on November 13.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Arlo Guthrie on November 12.

World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will have Special Delivery & Company on November 10; Jamie Lin Wilson and Courtney Patton on November 11; Lolly & YoYo on November 12, Tinsley Ellis on November 13 and Tech2gether 2016 on November 16.

World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host Margo Price on November 10; Trace Bundy and Sungah Juhn on November 11; Brendan James on November 12; Lydia on November 13; Daniela Andrade on November 14; Charlie Parr on November 15; and the Accidentals on November 16.

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