On Stage: Enjoy a ‘Steady Holiday’ in Philly

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By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Steady Holiday

Fans of the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are in for a double treat this week. Actually, they’re in for a pair of double treats.

The first double treat is that the band will be playing back-to-back nights at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com) on March 2 and 3.

The second double treat is the lineup for the show. The opening act both evenings will be Steady Holiday. That’s two great acts for the price of one.

Dre Babinski, who goes by the stage name of Steady Holiday, released her debut album “Under the Influence” via N.Y.C.-based indie label Infinite Best in June 2016.

“The album came out last summer and I just finished an EP that is coming out in April,” said Babinski, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in Los Angeles.

“I’m flying out tomorrow morning to New York and then I’m heading down to Philadelphia. This tour will be solo. In L.A., I do have a full live band. It’s great. It’s not something I take for granted.

“The new EP has four new songs and the fifth is a gorgeous remix of the last song on the ‘Under the Influence’ album. It was almost entirely written from October to December.”

Babinski work up November 9 with a need to respond. Three new songs were written in a month — each dealing with our new reality in different ways.

The result was Steady Holiday’s “Terror EP.” Featuring Josh Adams (Jenny Lewis) and produced by Gus Seyffert (The Black Keys, Beck), the “Terror EP” will be released by Infinite Best in April 2017 digitally and on CD — the latter combined with her debut LP “Under the Influence.”

“The content of the EP is very much reflective of what is happening in this country right now. I wouldn’t say it’s political but rather it’s an emotional response.

“I made the EP at my producer’s studio in L.A. – Sargent Recorders in Filipinotown (an area in Echo Park). It’s the same place I recorded my full-length. It’s an amazing studio wit almost entirely vintage gear.

“It was just the three of us – my drummer Josh Adams, Gus Seyffert and me. We did most of the basics live to tape and then went from there with all the overdubbing. But, the bones were recorded live.

“After writing this way, I realized the value in it. It suits the way Gus works and it suits the way I work. Recording to tape is great – especially for vinyl. We pressed the full-length to vinyl.”

The video for the track “Terror” is a bit unsettling. While cleaning her house, a woman finds a rat-like creature while cleaning her house – a creature that will not die.”

According to Babinski, “I wanted to make something that combined totally overt absurdity with the grooves of fear and xenophobia that have been deepening in our country. Both the video and song describe a character that is threatened by an unknown, and thinks/acts before taking the time to understand.

“It is upsetting to see that kind of reactiveness becoming common and accepted at every level — not just in our government but also in our homes and communities. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale. Also, my director (Joseph Armario) and I really wanted to make a monster.”

Prior to starting her solo career, Babinski played violin and sang backup vocals with Dusty Rhodes and the River Band.

“I grew up in Orange County and studied classical violin through high school,” said Babinski. “During my high school years. I listened to oldie radio and classical music.

“In my solo shows, I play mostly guitar and some violin. I’m doing two songs from the EP – possibly three. Given my limited set-up, there are only a few songs that translate live.”

Babinski explained her band moniker.

“It’s a riff on how I perceive things,” said Babinski. “I feel like I can be on holiday all the time. And, at the same time, I’m very aware of being mindful and staying in the moment.”

Video link for Steady Holiday – https://youtu.be/mR-p34xl4iI.

The shows at Johnny Brenda’s will start at 9 p.m. each night with tickets priced at $20 per show.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Anvil, Night Demon, Grave Shadow, and Hound on March 4, Kane Strang, Chain of Flowers and Marge on  March 5, , Slothrust, And The Kids, and Pine Barons on March 6, Donny McCaslin’s Blackstar Quartet and Noveller on March 7 and “An Evening with Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge” on March 8.

Dua Lipa

There will be another show in Philadelphia on March 2 featuring a talented female artist just beginning to make her mark when the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) hosts Dua Lipa.

Lipa, who turned 21 in August, was born in London, England to ethnic Albanian parents from Kosovo who left Pristina in the early 1990s. Her father, Dukagjin Lipa, a Kosovar Albanian rock singer, moved the family back to Kosovo in 2008.

She studied from an early age at the Sylvia Young Theatre School with intentions of a career in performing arts. When Lipa was in her early teens, she posted videos of her singing covers of songs by artists such as Christina Aguilera and Nelly Furtado.

The combination of Lipa’s deep-voiced vocals, striking good looks and overall poise while performing proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Her videos went viral and her fan base began to grow exponentially.

She returned to London when she was 15 and immediately embarked on a modeling career. She also continued to move forward with her music career.

When she was 18, Lipa signed a record deal with Warner Bros. Records and started working on her debut album when she was 18. Days before her 20th birthday in August 2015, Lipa released her first single, “New Love.”

Her follow-up single “Be the One,” charted in 21 countries and earned more than 88 million views on YouTube.  Since then, she has had two more hit singles — “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” and “Hotter Than Hell.”

Now, Lipa has turned her attention to conquering America.

She has already appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and now is on a national headlining tour of the states. Her self-titled debut album will be released on June 2 on Warner Bros. Records.

Video link for Dua Lipa — https://youtu.be/1nydxbGhgv8.

The all-ages show at the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.50.

Other upcoming shows at Fillmore Philadelphia are Kodak Black on March 2, Leroy Sanchez in March 3, The Flaming Lips on March 4, The Knocks on March 4, Lihtz, Kur, Butterknife King, Drama & Mir Fontane on March 5, Eisley on March 6, and Passenger on March 7.

The Dig

On March 3, MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) will present a very attractive twin-bill featuring The Dig and Communist Daughter.

The Dig is a New York City-based rock band featuring Emile Mosseri (bass/vocals), David Baldwin (guitar/vocals), Erick Eiser (keyboards/guitar), and Mark Demiglio (drums).

The band released its debut album “Electric Toys” in 2010, followed by “Midnight Flowers” in 2012, and two EPs – ‘Tired Hearts” and “You & I” in 2013. The Dig’s new album “Bloodshot Tokyo” was just released on February 3 on Roll Call Records and now the foursome is off on tour to support the disc.

“We had a show in Toronto last night and now we’re on our way to Montreal for a show tonight,” said Baldwin, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “We’re based in New York City and we all live in Brooklyn – in Bushwick and East Williamsburg.

“Emile and I started playing in cover bands together when we were 10. Erick joined our band when we were 15. But, we started the band for real in 2008 in the city and it evolved from there. ‘Electric Toys’ was our first album.

“It was an evolutionary start but we don’t play any of those songs in our live shows any more. We still play four or five songs from ‘Midnight Flowers.’ In our shows on this tour, we’re playing all the songs from ‘Bloodshot Tokyo’ except the opening intro.”

From the beginning, The Dig have been a classic band’s band, and a true collaboration — three longtime friends, three songwriters, two singers in a true dual front man setup.

“Songwriting – for us, it’s the most important thing,” said Baldwin. “Our biggest mindset is how we can get better at songwriting. We started the writing process for ‘Bloodshot Tokyo’ in 2014.

“We had been balancing a lot of our time between self-managing, booking tours and writing. We put touring on hold in 2014 and 2015 and wrote as many songs as we could – songs that had a cohesive vibe and a more fun element – songs that were more danceable.

“We recorded it in pieces and finished it last spring. We did drums at a studio in Connecticut and the overdubs at Outlier Inn in upstate New York. We did the bulk of the recording at Proper Pop in Brooklyn. We had about 150 or so songs and ended up recording 20 of them. Whittling it down from 20 to the 11 that we used on the album was hard – especially because it’s a very democratic process.

“Songwriting for us is very collaborative – any combination of two, three or four people working on a song. We’ve gotten more and more used to each other as time goes on. When you’re writing something by yourself, you still have the other guys in your brain.”

“Bloodshot Tokyo” is by far the liveliest album the band has made.

“There is more of an element of fun to it – a little more danceability,” said Baldwin. “It’s more sonically adventurous – more samples and more experimentation. It feels a little bit more unique to us as a band. There’s not as much moodiness.

“The songs are tighter compositionally. The changes we see in our audience reaction at these shows reflects the change in the music. There is more dancing going on – more dancing and less shoegazing.”

Video link for The Dig – https://youtu.be/tiA7iosPjac?list=PLP3Jm1z3UCEh6JupLTcNPeOQxM_uXAqnD.

Communist Daughter

Communist Daughter might sound like a possible topic of concern for some of America’s current politicians. In reality, Communist Daughter is a band from Saint Paul, Minnesota founded by Johnny Solomon. The band took its name from the title of a song by the band Neutral Milk Hotel.

Not that long ago, Solomon was a fixture in the tight-knit Twin Cities music scene. He formed the indie pop band Friends Like These and toured extensively. The band received critical praise from a variety of sources and appeared on the brink of success.

But, Solomon struggled with addiction and mental health problems which led to time in jail and treatment facilities across the country. By the end of that whirlwind, he had retreated to a small town across the border in Wisconsin where he assumed his music days were over.

Instead, he spent his nights writing and recording what he thought would be his eulogy — songs about lost love and lost chances, He recruited some friends to come out and put it all to tape. Calling his new band Communist Daughter, the group released its debut album “Soundtrack to the End” in 2010.

Then, the express strain to success got derailed when Solomon put all of it on hold and checked himself in to rehab one more time.

Two years later, Communist Daughter returned with a clear-eyed Solomon. The band, which also featured Solomon’s now wife Molly Solomon, bassist Adam Switlick, drummer Steven Yasgar, guitarist Al Weiers and keyboardist Dillon Marchus, put out an EP “Lions & Lambs” and began touring the country again.

Solomon had achieved sobriety and his creative juices were flowing again.

“Alcohol was what started all of it and then I went on to heavier drugs,” said Solomon, during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “Now, I’ve been sober for six years.”

In 2014, Solomon and his mates began working on their sophomore album “The Cracks That Built the Wall.”

“I recorded the album over the course of the last two years,” said Solomon. “Actually, it took a lot longer – about three years. We had about 28 songs total and pared it down to 11. It was definitely hard to make the final choices because you second-guess everything.

“Some of the songs we didn’t use will probably make it to the next album. It came down to whatever would make the album feel most cohesive. I worked with producer Kevin Bowe. He wanted us to have a better quality recording without giving up the intimate personal sound.”

Solomon explained the title “The Cracks That Built the Wall.”

“It’s a line in one of the songs that didn’t make the record,” said Solomon. “Replacing the mortar makes the wall stronger than the original wall. It reflected the way I had to look inward with rehab. I had to examine myself as a person and come out stronger.

“The vibe of the album? – I think the album revealed itself. I didn’t set out to make a specific idea. Because I write such personal stuff, every album puts itself in a box. With this album, a lot was about dealing with the past and the mistakes I made in the past – addressing myself and how I dealt with these mistakes.

“I feel like it’s cathartic now – after the process. Once it was no longer something I was working, I said – it’s now behind me. It’s cathartic now. But, it was a struggle when I was doing it. It was like very intensive therapy.

“After the recording was done, I went to Nashville in 2016 to do the mixing with Andrija Tokic. Together, we were able to make it all sound cohesive. Then, we had Heba Kadry do the mastering for the final product in New York City.”

Video link for Communist Daughter — https://youtu.be/FY3pTlrOebI.

The show at MilkBoy Philly will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy Philly are MC Lars + Mega Ran and Big O on March 2, Little Stranger, Tropidelic and The Norm on March 4, Lowland Hum and  Like Crazy on March 7 and Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells), Mike Dunn, and Chris Gennett on March 8.

Danny Black

Another show in Philadelphia on March 3 will feature one of the city’s native sons. Danny Black will present a CD release party for his new album at the Maas Building (Fifth and Thompson streets, Philadelphia, www.dannyblackgtr,com).

Danny Black may be an unfamiliar name – but that’s because it’s a nom de plume for the local guitar ace.

Danny Black is an alias for Good Old War’s Dan Schwartz. His guitar-only album “Adventure Soundtrack” officially came out on February 24. The all-instrumental disc was released via Nettwerk Records, the same label that issues Good Old War’s recorded output.

“Good Old War is still going strong,” said Schwartz, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Glenside. “We’re working on some new music now – hoping to put out a lot of stuff this year.

“Early last year – around February – I wasn’t on tour or in the studio with Good Old War so I took advantage of the time off. I went to a house at the shore to work on my own music.

“My dad has a house in Ventnor City (NJ) and it’s really dead there in the winter. I brought all my own gear down to the house and started writing and recording.”

Schwartz had no hidden agenda with this project.

According to Schwartz, “I made a guitar album for no reason other than my love of the instrument. I’d never personally recorded anything but demos, so it was a really incredible feeling to make an album on my own.

“When people listen to it, I want it to enhance what they have going on. That’s the great thing about instrumental music. I’d love for them to create their own adventure to it and let it become part of their daily soundtrack.”

Schwarz embarked on the recording process without a grand master plan.

“I had little pieces of music strewn about,” said Schwartz. “I’d wake up in the morning and start playing on some idea throughout the day. I’d record it and then, on the next day, I’d rewrite and re-record it. I really wanted it to be real.

“I wanted something that was really believable – something that people would listen to and say – hey, he’s playing it…there’s no production tricks…he’s really playing it.

“It took me about a month-and-a-half to make the album. I didn’t really know what I was doing and then, all of a sudden, it was finished. Then, I took off for Europe on tour with Good Old War.”

Good Old war is a band based in Bucks County featuring Keith Goodwin on vocals, guitar and keyboards and Dan Schwartz on vocals and guitars.

“I grew up in Northeast Philly,” said Schwartz. “For high school, I went to The Crefeld School in Chestnut Hill. It definitely is an arts-friendly school. They would let me focus on music. It really helped me enjoy school. It’s a very small school. There were only 10 in my graduating class.

“I’m happy with playing in Good Old War. There is no conflict with my solo work and my work with the band. I wasn’t doing this project to further my career. It was a labor of love.

“There are 13 songs on the album and I’m playing every one of them in my live show. I might do some Good Old War songs. And, there might be a surprise or two in my set.”

Video link for Danny Black – https://youtu.be/Z4q9x0HSDbQ

The show at the Maas Building will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby

When Ricky Skaggs visited Wilmington for show last April, he treated fans to a show that featured more than just Ricky Skaggs music. He was joined on the bill at the Grand Opera House by Ry Cooder and Sharon White.

On March 4, Skaggs is returning to the Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) and, once again, he is bringing along a friend.

This time, Skaggs will be joined on stage by keyboard virtuoso Bruce Hornsby. The tour will also touch down on March 3 at American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-0 648-4102, www.AMTshows.com).

Bluegrass musician Skaggs has been making music for more than 50 years. A 14-time Grammy Award winning singer and multi-instrumentalist, Skaggs is a Grand Ole Opry member, CMA and ACM Award winner, and has 11 #1 songs to his credit, including “Heartbroke,” “Highway 40 Blues,” “Honey, Open That Door,” and “Country Boy.”

Best known for his work as a keyboardist with his former group, The Range, Hornsby is also a talented singer and songwriter who has won three Grammy Awards. Some of his most-known hits are “The Way It Was,” “Mandolin Rain,” “Look Out Any Window,” and “Every Little Kiss.”

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby collaborated on a studio album several years ago titled “Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby,” which featured re-workings of Hornsby originals as bluegrass tunes, as well as a number of traditional songs and a Skaggs original composition.

Now, Skaggs and Hornsby are out on the road to collaborate with Skaggs’ razor-sharp band Kentucky Thunder on brand new tunes and traditional bluegrass classics. The pair blends songs drawn from deep roots in mountain music, adding piano and Hornsby’s songwriting to Skaggs’ instrumental core of mandolin, guitar, bass, fiddle and banjo.

“I’ve toured with Bruce before,” said Skaggs, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from a tour stop in North Jersey. “We recorded two records together – a studio album in 2000 and a live CD about three years ago. We’ve played together quite a lot over the last 10 years.

“I first met Bruce at q Fourth of July concert in Horseheads, New York in the late 1980s. Don McLean was also on the bill and so was Judy Collins. That was back when I was playing with a full country band. Bruce was riding a pretty high crest with his pop hits.

“He came by and met me in my dressing room. He invited me to come out and sit in with him for a song or two so me and my banjo player did. Then, I didn’t see Bruce again until 1996.

“I was hosting a TV show at the Ryman (Auditorium in Nashville). We had Bruce on one night with Vince Gill, Mark O’Connor and Bela Fleck. That was another great meeting of musical minds. Later, I asked Bruce to join in on a Bill Monroe tribute.”

Skaggs played mandolin and sang on stage with bluegrass legend Bill Monroe when he was six years old. One year later, he appeared on television’s Martha White country music variety show, playing with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.

The versatile musician started playing mandolin over a half-century ago. Skaggs has had 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics — from “Bluegrass Rules!” in 1998 to “Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved” in 2010.

The touring show which is coming to the area will be a total collaborative effort.

“Every time we get together, creative juices start to flow,” said Skaggs. “All of us will be playing together for the entire show. We just come out and play. He is playing the rip-roaring tunes that Kentucky Thunder and I play. Our styles fit together well. In a way, it’s a match made in heaven musically.

“Our music was made for each other. With our bluegrass music, we don’t write it out. We have the licks in our head. When we did the Skaggs-Hornsby studio record, we only had to rehearse a little bit. In this show, we just switch it up and play around. There’s not a lot of hardcore structure.”

Skaggs said that there are plans for a live Kentucky Thunder album to be released later this year.

“I’ve had my own studio since 2001 — Skaggs’ Place Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee,” said Skaggs. “We have a lot of analog gear — and ProTools and RADAR, which is still the best for going from analog to digital.”

Skaggs’ most recent album in “Hearts Like Ours,” which he recorded with his wife Sharon White and released on his Skaggs Family label.

“We recorded that album in 2013 and released it in October 2014,” said Skaggs. “Sharon and I started doing some touring together after the album and we’re still doing shows together. Unfortunately, she’s with me on this tour.”

Video link for Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby — https://youtu.be/DAOi7M_Up5Y.

Video link for Ricky Skaggs — https://youtu.be/oZIHSXpmilw.

The show at the American Music Theatre will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $73.

The show at the Grand will start at 8 p.m. Tickets prices range from $43-$51.

Other shows at the Grand over the next week are Gaelic Storm on March 2, Seldom Scene on March 3 and Dawes on March 7. The American Music Theatre will host country music star Martina McBride on March 4.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present StringSongs featuring Tim Farrell, Michael Manring & Pat Robinson along with Mark Unruh on March 3 and Open Mic with guest host Jason Ager on March 5.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Korby Lenker with Lizanne Knott and Ben Shannon on March 3 and Chrstine Havrilla’s Birthday Bash on March 4.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Mo Lowda & The Humble, Rad & Kell, and NorthEast Corners on March 2, Nigel Hall Band and Remember Jones on March 3 and The Victor Wooten Trio, Dennis Chambers, and Bob Franceschini on March 4.


Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Nathan Bell and Rivers on March 2, Dala with Lawrence Trailer on March 3 and Marc Berger with Alex DiMattia on March 4.

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