On Stage: Delicate Steve is a man of many talents

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By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Delicate Steve

The weekend’s music schedule will shift into high gear on Friday night but area fans can get ready to rock before the weekend arrives by attending the show by Delicate Steve on March 9 at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

Delicate Steve is the stage name of musician Steve Marion, a multi-instrumentalist who leads the band of the same name. Marion has developed a musical style in which you can hear a variety of influences – rock, pop, surf guitar, African rhythms, Americana and prog rock.

Delicate Steve is now touring in support of his new album “This Is Steve” and the album’s first single “Tomorrow.”

“I made the album in about 11 days,” said Marion, during a phone interview Monday from his home in Brooklyn, New York. “I did it in the summer of 2015 at a friend’s studio in the country called Outlier Inn.

“I recorded the whole album by myself. I’ve done all there of my albums that way. I write songs for myself and then the band fills in when I take them on the road. I write and play guitar, keys and drums. I use it all to help me compose.”

“My method of songwriting depends. Each song is pretty different. I go back-and-forth and write in different ways. Maybe writing on piano is the most common thing. I did my first two albums in my basement using ProTools.”

Delicate Steve’s first two albums, both on the Luaka Bop label, were “Wondervisions” in 2011 and “Positive Force” in 2012.

“The long gap between my last two albums was because I was keeping pretty busy,” said Marion. “I was working on a lot of music during that time—mostly rock music.”

“But, it wasn’t for my band. I was in another band called Saint Rich. We put an album out called ‘Beyond the Drone’ and toured for a couple years.

“The reason I came back and did a solo album now is because I just felt ready. As I was putting the songs together for ‘This Is Steve,’ I saw a vibe develop – more of an inclusive vibe.”

Now, Marion is taking the new songs on the road with a band.

“The tour band just sort of happened,” said Marion. “It was a matter of seeing who was around and available to go out on tour. It’s a pretty new band for this tour. It’s a four-piece with bass, drums and two guitars. The other guitarist also plays keys.

“We’re focusing on songs from the new album. All of them have been translating live pretty well. We’re also playing some songs from the first two – songs like ‘Positive Force,’ ‘Butterfly 7,’ ‘The Ballad of Speck and Pebble’ and ‘Afria Talks to You.’”

Video link for Delicate Steve — https://youtu.be/WkPdCbhNnmg

The show at Underground Arts, which also features Eric Slick, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Creepoid, Ecstatic Vision, Purling Hiss, and Spirit of The Beehive on March 10; The Goddamn Gallows, The T.C. Cole Riot, and Gallows Bound on March 11; Amorphis and Swallow the Sun on March 12; The Interrupters and Hub City Stompers on March 13; and Oathbreaker, King Woman, and Jaye Jayle on March 14.

Nadjah Nicole and Nalani & Sarina

There’s a chance – maybe a better-than-average chance –  that sometime in the future the list of Grammy Award winners will include Nadjah Nicole and Nalani & Sarina.

Both talented music acts have already joined the list of Homey Award winners. And, both will perform at this year’s 11th annual Hometown Heroes WSTW Homey Awards Ceremony. The event will get underway at 7 p.m. at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com).

Scheduled performers at Friday’s festive event are Nadjah Nicole, Nalani & Sarina, The Late Saints, John Faye & those Meddling Kids and In The Presence Of Wolves. Additionally, all the artists who have been nominated for Song-of-the-Year will perform their nominated songs.

Nadjah Nicole has established a very strong regional following throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. And, she also has had a good bit of national exposure.

“I was a contestant on ‘The Voice’ in 2015,” said Nicole, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in Claymont, Delaware.

“I was a finalist. I also was one of four first time ever ‘comeback artists.’ Each coach was allowed to bring back one contender from earlier in the season to join their team.

“Being on ‘The Voice’ gave me a lot more respect. But, nothing huge came out of it. In reality, you come off the show and come home – no record deal or anything like that.

“I’m not signed to a label. I’m an independent and have one EP that was released last year– ‘Journey to Become Nadjah Nicole.’  Now, I have a mixtape EP called ‘From My Lips.’ It’s coming out in April. It’s mostly R&B, hip-hop beats and soul. I’ll probably be doing two songs from the mixtape at Friday’s show,”

Even though Nicole is just 25, she has been singing for a long time.

“My mom and dad got me into music,” said Nicole, who was Artist-of-the-Year at the 2016 Homeys. “They forced me into the church choir at Bethel A.M.E. where they put me out front to sing solo.

“When I was doing that, I was happy to see how people reacted to my singing. It gives me a high when I see people get excited to hear me sing. When I was 14, I did my first talent show – Omega Psi Phi Talent Hunt.

“People would hear me at talent shows and church and tell me that I should pursue a career as a singer. So, I started doing open mics and karaoke.

“A friend of my dad – Jerry Anthony Thompson – has a recording studio called Jat World Studio. So, I started recording at his studio. I did a bunch of shows and the did my first show at the World Café at the Queen when I was 18.”

Nicole has added to her ever-growing fan base with annual performances at Wilmington’s highly-respected Ladybug Music Festival.

“My first Ladybug was 2012,” said Nicole. “I’ve played it every year but one. That was 2015 when I was away doing ‘The Voice.’ I really love playing the Ladybug Festival.”

Nalani & Sarina are also Ladybug Festival favorites. Last year, they were co-headliners along with Nicole.

Nalani & Sarina are 23-year-old twin sisters from central New Jersey who have been building a huge fan base in the Mid-Atlantic region for the last four years.

They have performed at venues all over Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey — a variety of venues around the area — including Kennett Flash, the Eagleview Concert Series in Exton, and Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville.

The highly-talented siblings have already established themselves as top-flight vocalists, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists. With roots based in rhythm-and-blues, soul, rock and especially funk, the sisters create vocal harmonies that only twins can make.

At last year’s Homey Awards, they took home the trophy for EP-of-the-Year for their record “Scattered World.”

“We’re identical twins,” said Nalani. “We both started playing classical piano when were six and then studied operatic vocals when we were in sixth grade.

“Classical music and opera provided good basics for us. Our mom was a folkie so we listened to a lot of folk music when we were young — great songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. And, we’ve listened to a lot of classic rock.

“We always have the funk. It’s impossible for us to keep the funk out. We’ve always had funk in our blood. We play shows with just the two of us, it always sounds more singer-songwriter. When we do shows with our band, it gets more funky.”

Nalani & Sarina also will be performing on March 14 at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) and at the World Café Live at the Queen on April 14 when “Ladybug Festival presents Nalani & Sarina and Rachael Sage.”

Video link for Nadjah Nicole — https://youtu.be/L4G-9I_xcFw.

Video link for Nalani & Sarina — https://youtu.be/SBpqsaHYaRE.

The show at the Queen on March 10 will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Tristen

On March 11, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host an impressive twin-bill featuring two very talented singers/songcrafters – Vanessa Carlton and Tristen.

Tristen, a Chicago native, is a versatile artist – singer, poet, guitarist, songwriter, keyboardist, performance artist — who relocated to Nashville 10 years ago. She released her first album “Teardrops and Lollipops” in 2008 on Pupsnake Records.

She followed with “Deceivers Are Achievers (EP)” in 2009 (Pupsnake Records); “Charlatans At The Garden Gate” album in 2011 (American Myth); “Decks the Halls (Christmas EP) in 2011 (Pupsnake Records); and “CAVES” in 2013 (Pupsnake Records).

“My new album is coming out in July,” said Tristen, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Northampton, Massachusetts. “It’s called ‘Sneaker Waves.’

“I’ll be touring on my own when the album comes out. I’m just doing this tour because Vanessa asked me to do it.

“I went into this album without any flavor or vibe in mind. I let the songs decide what they were going to sound like. One thing I kept in mind was knowing that they would be played live. It’s minimalist pop – keyboard and guitar.

“We recorded 30 songs, kept the ones we liked and added a few more. I have a home studio with my husband Buddy Hughen and that’s where I do my recording.

“He is a guitar player and an awesome engineer. We both have the same interests. Our house has no living room or dining room. It’s a huge studio. We both are fine with sacrificing our space.

“Buddy and I have been together nine years. We met in the local scene in Nashville. He was in a band called Eureka Gold. I went to see them play and said – I want to date someone form this band. Buddy was the best looking so he was the one I dated.

“Over the last five years, we’ve become very collaborative. I write all the songs. Sometimes, he’ll bring a riff. The collaborative part is the work on production.

“Our goal is to have an analog studio. Buddy works in the box. We do have a lot of vintage gear but our recording is all digital. Those tools complete our ability to be self-sufficient.”

There are times when Tristen performs with a band in the Nashville are but touring is still done solo – sort of.

“When I tour, it’s with Buddy,” said Tristen. “He plays guitar and keyboards. In our shows now, we play about one-third from the first album, one-third from the second album and one-third from the new album. I like to play songs from all and give a snapshot.”

Video link for Tristen – https://youtu.be/F9B8guZfOcU.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34. 

Roomful of Blues

On March 11, fans of the band Roomful of Blues will be heading away from Philadelphia – heading northwest to hear the band headline a show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

The Rhode Island-based band has developed a huge fan base in this area – a devoted group of fans whose demographic spans generations.

Roomful of Blues boasts a recording career that has lasted longer than 40 years and resulted in more than 20 albums. The band has toured worldwide and has treated fans around the world to its unique blend of a variety of music genres including rock and roll, swing, R&B, boogie-woogie, soul and a number of different blues styles.

Roomful of Blues has received five Grammy Award nominations and seven Blues Music Awards, including “Blues Band Of The Year” in 2005. The Down Beat International Critics Poll has twice selected Roomful of Blues as “Best Blues Band.”

Over the years, more than 50 different musicians have been part of Roomful of Blues’ line-up, including vocalist/guitarist Duke Robillard, vocalist Lou Ann Barton, keyboardist Junior Brantley and trumpeter Fred Jackson.

Roomful of Blues is currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist Chris Vachon and long-time tenor and alto sax player Rich Lataille. The other members are Mark Earley (saxophone), Rusty Scott (piano, Hammond B-3 organ), Chris Anzalone (drums), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), John Turner (bass) and Phil Pemberton (vocals).

Roomful of Blues’ latest album is titled “45 Live.”

“We used to do one every couple years,” said Vachon, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Rhode Island. “But, we haven’t been in the studio lately. We’ll probably do another studio album sometime soon.

“We did a live album a few years ago because we hadn’t done a live album in years. We recorded the album in 2013. It was our 45th year being together so we decided to do a live record.

“We recorded it in Rhode Island at a club called Ocean Mist in Wakefield. We recorded three nights in a row there and there were sell-out crowds every night. It’s our favorite little bar. We worked there a lot before so we knew it was going to be a good situation. We set up with a control room on the side.

“We played the same set every night. When it was time to put the album together, I ended up picking stuff from all three shows. There were a lot of people there for every show. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend so people were really in a party mood.”

Not many bands stay together for more than 10-15 years. Very few make it past 25. Passing a 40th anniversary is almost unheard of. Roomful of Blues is less than two years away from its golden anniversary (50 years) but, according to Vachon, there is no great secret to the band’s ability to keep it going.

“What’s the reason for our longevity — it’s the music we like to play,” said Vachon. “We’ve had our ups and downs. This particular line-up has been together about seven years – except that we just got a new drummer. Rich is the only original member left.

“Some years we’ve toured more than others. We currently play about 150 shows a year. We used to do more but it’s becoming harder to do weekday dates. Lots of venues aren’t even doing weekday nights.

“The band keeps getting new fans and there are a lot of older people who have been listening to us for years. For young people, their only exposure to us has been at festivals. We play a lot of festivals every year.”

With a 48-year history and 20-plus albums from which to draw songs, choosing a set list for a show can be easy and difficult at the same time — what to play and what to leave out.

“We always mix it up,” said Vachon. “We’ve got a lot of stuff from over the years. We’ve got so many albums, it’s hard to just pull one out. We try to keep some variety there with tempos and beats — trying to mix it up.

“What I like to do is have a variety of stuff so people aren’t listening to the same beat over and over again. It’s more of a journey instead of 10 shuffles in a row. And, we do a fair amount of covers — not familiar stuff but rather mostly obscure stuff that no-one knows.”

Video for Roomful of Blues — https://youtu.be/SO2ZyRQAgfs.

The show at Sellersville, which also feature Mike Mettalia and Midnight Shift, will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 The Sellersville Theater will also feature

Citizen Zero

Another attractive show that will be drawing music fans away from the city on March 11 is the concert by Citizen Zero at Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com).

Citizen Zero was formed in 2010 in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Michigan by three brothers – Greg Dudley on bass, John Dudley on drums and Matt Dudley on guitar. They were joined by their neighbor Josh LeMay as lead vocalist.

The following year, the oldest brother Matt Dudley passed away. The band members decided to carry on and enlisted Sammy Boller as lead guitarist. A while later, Sam Collins replaced Greg Dudley on bass to bring the band to its current configuration.

“Citizen Zero has been together for about six years,” said LeMay, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Montreal, Quebec. “As a signed band, it’s been a little over a year.

“Me and Dudley grew up together in Rochester Hills. The band’s line-up has changed a little bit over the years but the music is still the same. At the same time, the music has changed a little.

“It’s different in that as you get older, your mentality changes – what you want in life changes. We’ve moved from teen angst to more poignant things to say.”

In its early days, the band recorded two EPs – “Citizen Zero” in 2011 and “Life Explodes” in 2012. Citizen Zero released its debut album “State of Mind” in 2016.

“We recorded ‘State of Mind’ over a two-year period,” said LeMay. “We made the whole album prior to signing with Wind-Up Records. Now, we’re signed to Anti- Records.

“We had so many songs that we recorded over a crazy, volatile time in our lives. From that chaos, the album was born. For example, the song ‘Love Let It’ was written about overcoming ridiculous odds.

“The song ‘Lure and Persuade,’ which is our new single, was written during a time when I was searching for something. But, I spent a lot of time looking for it in all the wrong places and being with the wrong people. I was trying to fill voids in my life – trying to fit a mold – and that wasn’t right. That all came out in ‘Lure and Persuade.’

“Our first single ‘Go (Let Me Save You)’ charting at #15 on Active Rock Radio and ‘Lure and Persuade’ is climbing the charts right now. We’re still touring in support of the album. We don’t have any new songs ready right now but we’re getting close.”

Video link for Citizen Zero — https://youtu.be/-rKcmE_zrfE.

The all-ages show at Reverb, which also features Failure Anthem, Cypher 16 and Smash Into Pieces along with headliner Amaranthe, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 at the door.

Nik Everett

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Better Than Bacon on March 9, Let It Rain – A Tribute to Eric Clapton on March and The Nik Everett Band and Cliff Hillis on March 11.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host The Greg Sover Band with Ben Kessler on March 10, Sing That Cat and Jazz 180 on March 11 and Philadelphia Mail Line Ukulele Group on March 12.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com)  will present Kevin Cox and Swing Top on March11 and “Open Mic Night” on March 12.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Melvin Seals & JGB with special guest Jamie McLean Band on March 9, Splintered Sunlight with special guests Cabin Dogs on March 10, An evening with Jeff Mattson & Friends featuring Rob Barraco, Skip Vangelas, Lisa Mackey and Tom Barraco on March 11, and St. Paddy’s Celebration featuring The Druids and Galway Guild on March 14.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Jenny and Tyler with Annie Lawrence on March 9, Paul McCartney Tribute on March 10, and Ben Arnold with Andy Stack and Adrien Reju Duo on March 11.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Blackthorn on March 11, and Colin Hay on March 15.

Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia, 215-606-6555, http://www.punchlinephilly.com) will present Ian Bagg from March 9-11.

TORUK

Cirque du Soleil’s “TORUK – The First Flight” will be runing now through March 12 at the Wells Fargo Center, Broad Street below Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia, https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/usa/philadelphia/toruk/buy-tickets/).

The Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com) will present the national tour of the hit musical “Pippin” now through March 12.

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