By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times
The Kinks got their start in 1963 in the Muswell Hill section of North London.
Recognized as one of the most important and influential rock acts of the 1960s and early 1970s, the Kinks closed up shop around 1996 and were inducted into the U.K. Music Hall of Fame in November 2005.
Since the band’s demise almost two decades ago, lead guitarist Dave Davies has forged a solid solo career and has continued to release new music and tour the world.
His current tour will bring him to the area for a show on April 17 at Havana (105 South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-5501, havananewhope.com).
A few weeks ago, Davies released a new full-length album written and produced in collaboration with his son, Russ Davies.
“Open Road” is a sonic testament of two musicians coming from different eras and backgrounds in music and fusing their mutual experience into a deeply honest and inspiring album.
Russ Davies is well-known in the global electronic dance music scene, having produced over 15 albums and toured the world over with his alter-egos Abakus and Cinnamon Chasers. His track and music video for “Luv Deluxe” won the SXSW Award for Best Music Video and became a viral hit.
The father-and-son team recorded two previous albums together – “Purusha and the Spiritual Planet” (1998) and “Two Worlds” (2010).
“Two Worlds” was recorded throughout 2010 by The Aschere Project, the production team of Dave and Russ Davies. Both members wrote, produced, and recorded all the tracks. Dave described the music as “a mixture of rock, kinda classical and electronic music.”
While musicians frequently tour immediately after the release of an album in support of the new disc, such is not the case here.
“For this tour, we’ve been rehearsing a few of the songs from ‘Open Road’ – without Russ,” said Davies, during a phone interview to weeks ago. “We might be playing them later down the road.”
The interview was held at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning to allow Davies plenty of time to get in front of a television at 11 a.m. to watch his beloved Arsenal FC play Manchester City in an English Premier League game. Davies, a London native has been a Gunners’ fan since he was a kid.
“For this tour, it’s a three-piece,” said Davies. “There is Dave McNulty on bass and keyboards, Dennis Diken from the Smithereens on drums and me on guitar and vocals. Russell and I might do a tour together later this year.
“Me and Russell got together at the beginning of last year. Russell had wanted to get involved with a rock album for some time. He’s got a great following in his own right.
“We got together to do some songwriting and then decided that Russell should produce the album because he’s got really a great vision.
“We made a conscious decision to make this type of album. We liked the way it was going. We were writing songs with choruses and licks and the songs sort of grew out of it.
“There were only the two of us working so we did a lot of the music and the layering together. We shared everything. It’s very collaborative in every sense of the word. Once we go the father-son thing out of the way, it was easy to work together.”
Davies wrote many of the Kinks’ songs and his powerful guitar work was as much a part of the band’s identity as were the lyrics which were mostly penned by his brother Ray.
On the Kinks’ first hit single “You Really Got Me,” his guitar riff with its unique distorted sound laid the groundwork for a whole new style of music. Davies was the forefather of the hard rock and heavy metal genres.
“One of the songs on my studio album in 2014 — ‘Ripping Up Time’ — was a softer song,” said Davies. “I was thinking about the front room in our parents’ house in Muswell Hill where Ray and I used to write.”
Davies worked out the famous two-chord riff of “You Really Got Me” in that front room.
“I did it on a speaker that I had purposely sliced with a razor blade,” said Davies. “I was working on the riff and it didn’t sound weird enough. So, I sliced the speaker cone. I was frustrated. It was a complete accident that I found that sound.”
Davies’ most recent solo album is a live album titled “Ripping Up New York City: Live at the City Winery,” which was released in 2015. The recordings were culled from two exciting live performances by Dave and his band in NYC in November 2014.
The album features many of the great songs Davies wrote for the Kinks, songs from his prior solo projects and songs from “Ripping Up Time.” It closes with the Kinks’ first two chart-toppers from the mid-1960s — “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night.”
“In my live shows right now, I’m doing some songs from ‘Ripping Up Time’,” said Davies. “I do ‘Death Of A Clown’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ and the audiences always sing along. It’s nice to see people like these songs.
“I’m pretty much writing songs all the time — except when I’m on tour. Song start with whatever you get — sometimes it’s a character or a story. I could be driving along when I get a line for a song.
“With a song like ‘Suzannah’s Still Alive,’ the character came first. The title track from ‘Ripping Up Time’ came out of a nightmare. There is a repeated phrase — ‘There is madness here.’ The dream was about the past, the present and the future all clumped together in a weird scene.”
Davies’ career — and life — almost was cut short back in June 2004 when he suffered a debilitating stroke. Fortunately, he has recovered admirably.
“My health is good,” said Davies. “I’m fightin’ fit. When you have a stroke, it’s a daunting prospect of recovery. It’s very frustrating. I had to learn how to talk again and how to walk again. I just kept thinking about a Winston Churchill quote — ‘When you’re going through hell, just keep going.’
Video link for Dave Davies — https://youtu.be/59vYeHIIj3o.
The show at Havana will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 and $85.
Another show featuring an iconoclastic rocker will open in Philadelphia on April 18. But, this is not a rock concert – it is a stage production.
From April 18-23, the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Philadelphia” series will present “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, www.forrest-theatre.com).
Neil Patrick Harris starred in the first Broadway production at the Belasco Theatre in 2014 and Lena Hall played Yitzhak. This production won several Tony awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Harris) and Best Featured Actress in a musical (Hall).
The Broadway production closed on September 13, 2015, after 22 previews and 507 regular performances. Now, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is out on its first national tour with Euan Morton playing Hedwig and Hannah Corneau playing Yitzhak.
“We’re usually playing two-week runs,” said Corneau, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The setting is actually quite mobile and that makes it manageable.
“It’s all set on a rock music stage – just one set. It’s told in the format of a rock concert. What you see is what you get. It’s one hour and 45 minutes straight through with no intermission.
“Following the different characters is a challenge. You do have to pay close attention to the story. But, the beauty of ‘Hedwig’ is that you can take it on any level. If you leave with just the music, that’s enough. If you don’t get every detail of his character, that’s O.K.”
The show starts with the audience watching genderqueer rock star Hedwig Robinson’s musical act as she follows rock star Tommy Gnosis.
Gnosis is recovering from an incident that nearly ruined his career. He crashed his car into a school bus while driving high and receiving oral sex from none other than Hedwig herself.
Capitalizing on her notoriety from the incident, Hedwig builds her act around telling the audience her story. She is aided and hindered by her assistant, back-up singer and husband, Yitzhak.
Yitzhak, who is a Jewish drag queen from Zagreb, Croatia, has an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship with Hedwig. In keeping with the show’s theme of blurred gender lines, Yitzhak is played by a female actress.
“Playing a guy who is portraying a girl wasn’t as hard as I anticipated,” said Corneau, a Syracuse university grad and native of Saratoga Springs, New York.
“The only challenge was the physicality. You have to carry your body in a different way when walking and moving around the stage – doing the show in a way that’s not feminine.”
“I had seen the show on Broadway with Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall. It was an incredible experience seeing her perform. I don’t try to copy her.
“I really just try to emulate the spirit she possesses when playing Yitzhak — watching her physicality and efficiency. What I like most about Yitzhak is that she is a character a lot of people can identify with.”
Video link for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” — https://youtu.be/6RhV2JqEYvg?list=PLYmk-SqS1nYQyFES9Qrj9dp8ci0vZgghN
The schedule for the Forrest is 7:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday; and 1 and 6:30 p.m., Sunday. Tickets range from $62-$122.
On April 18, another act with an iconoclastic vibe will play the area when The Slants headline a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).
The band from Portland, Oregon is touring in support of its new EP, “The Band Who Must Not Be Named.” There is a very good story behind the strange name of the EP.
The Slants — vocalist Ken Shima, guitarist Joe X. Jiang, drummer Yuya Matsuda, and founder/bassist Simon Tam (whose stage name is Simon Young) — are an all Asian-American rock band.
The quartet from the Pacific Northwest formally applied for a trademark in 2010, but a trademark examiner rejected the application, stating that “The Slants” was a disparaging term, using sources like UrbanDictionary.com as evidence.
In 2011, Tam filed a second application, but was rejected again under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act. After numerous appeals and arguments in court, the band finally prevailed on December 22, 2015, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruling that The Slants have the right to register their trademark.
In a decision with national implications on free speech, the appeals court ruled that the U.S Patent and Trademark Office and Department of Justice violated the band’s First Amendment rights.
In a 9-3 vote, the appeals court struck down the “disparagement” portion of the Lanham Act, a 1946 law that allowed the Trademark Office to deny marks that could be considered “scandalous, immoral, or disparaging.”
Writing for the opinion, Judge Kimberly Moore stated, “Courts have been slow to appreciate the expressive power of trademarks… Words – even a single word – can be powerful.
“Mr. Simon Tam named his band The Slants to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in this country. With his band name, Mr. Tam conveys more about our society than many volumes of undisputedly protected speech.”
Michelle K. Lee, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, responded by petitioning the Supreme Court on Wednesday, April 19, 2016.
SCOTUS responded on Thursday, September 29, 2016, agreeing to hear The Slants’ (In Re Tam) trademark case. Conversely, the justices announced on October 3, 2016 that they were declining to hear the Blackhorse v Pro Football trademark dispute, rejecting an appeal from the Washington Redskins.
It all started rather innocently.
According to Tam, he chose the name to co-opt and defuse a demeaning term that had been directed at Asian Americans — “We want to take on these stereotypes that people have about us, like the slanted eyes, and own them.”
The Slants are not sitting back waiting for the case to slog its way through the courts. Instead, they are making politically-charged music and taking it to the people.
“We worked on the EP for about seven months because we wanted to release it early this year,” said Tam, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Fort Worth, Texas. “It came out digitally in January.
“We recorded 23 songs and pulled five for the EP. The full album will come later this year but we wanted to get the EP out right away. I’m not sure which other tracks will make it to the album.
“Songwriting is a band effort. I do the greater part of it and so does our guitar player. Often, when we come up with ideas, we’ll record almost a full demo and send it to the band.
“Years ago, when I first put the band together, I used Craig’s List and local classifieds. I also used MySpace.com. Over time, 11 players have come and gone. The current line-up came through mutual contacts.”
The Slants’ discography includes five albums – “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts” (2007), “Slants! Slants! Revolution” (2009), “Pageantry” (2010), “The Yellow Album” (2012) and “Something Slanted This Way Comes” (2016).
“The album that is coming out later this year is more of a throwback,” said Tam, referring to the yet-to-be-named LP.
“Instead of hard rock, it’s more danceable – more like ear candy. We’re on this 80s kick right now, but then for us, the 80s never really ended. There is something about it that has transcended time.
Video link for The Slants – https://youtu.be/C_Eswa5jQgs.
The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Voltheque, Overcoming Gravity, and Future Computre, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.
On April 19, there will be quite an international flavor on the menu of area shows – a singer/guitarist from L.A. with Mexican-American roots, an American singer/actress who has built a large following in Europe as a musician and a model, a rocker of Italian-American descent from North Jersey and a duo featuring an All-Ireland fiddle finalist who has recorded with local musicians in Malawi and a versatile singer/guitarist from Glasgow, Scotland.
The singer/guitarist from L.A. with Mexican-American roots is Angelica Garcia, who will be headlining a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).
Garcia is a 23-year-old Richmond-based singer-songwriter who was born in Los Angeles. When she was a teen, her family moved to Accomack, Virginia when her stepfather traded a career in the music industry for the Episcopalian priesthood.
“I grew up east of East L.A. and then had to move to an isolated area in Virginia,” said Garcia, during a phone interview last week. “They were complete opposites. The interesting thing about opposites – it’s totally what you’re not used to but that’s what makes it tolerable.
“At first, it was hard to make adjustments. I didn’t hear any Spanish. I was an artist and musician from a big city and the girls in Virginia were very sheltered. It made me realize what was important to me.”
Garcia’s family lived in a 200-year-old gothic brick home encircled by magnolia trees. Isolated and alone, Garcia locked herself in the parish house and fashioned a musical world that veers between ghostly gorgeous countrified blues and sly swamp Americana.
“The Eastern Shore is mostly retirees,” said Garcia. “I was the only teenager for a couple miles. It made me realize what a special place Los Angeles is.
“But, I was able to hold my own on the Eastern Shore. It made up for it with its natural beauty.”
Garcia’s new album “Medicine for Birds” has generated a lot of buzz since its release last fall, earning critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, Paste, American Songwriter and more.
Recently, her song “Orange Flower” was featured in NPR’s Top 100 Songs of 2016 and Paste Magazine branded her “Best of What’s Next.”
“Medicine for Birds” was recorded by Charlie Peacock (The Civil Wars, Switchfoot) in Nashville.
“I was 21 when I went in to record the album but I had been working on the demos since about a year-and-a-half after I moved to the Eastern Shore when I was 18,” said Garcia.
“That was a crazy experience – packing up and going to Nashville for a month. I went to Charlie’s studio every day. We started and tracked the songs throughout the songwriting. It was on a case-by-case basis.
“One thing I noticed was that I’m a pretty observant person. Some songs, I started playing and the words came out in one swoop – maybe from a conversation. I have songs written from different perspectives.
“Some songs come from things that never happened to me. In the song ‘Loretta Lynn,’ I imagined that I’m sitting having a conversation with her. The main thing about how I write is that I like to tell stories.”
Video link for Angelica Garcia — https://youtu.be/tIeTfd457Ns.
The show at Boot and Saddle, which also features Geisha Façade and Grayling, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8.
The American singer/actress who has built a large following in Europe as a musician and a model is Sophie Auster, the April 19 headliner at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com).
Auster is touring in support of her soon-to-be-released fourth album, “Next Time.”
“We’re playing the chicken-and-egg thing with the album,” said Auster, during a trans-Atlantic phone interview Friday from a tour stop in Livorno, Italy.
“The album is done. Now, we’re trying to see what kind of deal we can get. It’s going well in Europe. This tour has built a lot of momentum.
“I recorded ‘Next Time’ in Sweden with Tore Johansson at a cottage studio outside Malmo. We recorded it on 2016. It was about six months from start-to-finish.
“I actually started recording another album before it. When I was done, I didn’t like any of the songs. So, I started writing a new album. My friend Nicole Atkins connected me with Tore.
“Tore really understands what my music is about. He pushed the good tunes and the story things. He came up with some good arrangements.”
Auster released her self-titled debut under the French label Naïve when she was 18 years old. The album was a collaboration between Sophie and Brooklyn-based musicians Josh Camp and Michael Hearst of One Ring Zero.
Using her writer father, Paul Auster’s, early translations of French Surrealist poets, along with a few original lyrics written by Sophie, the poetic lines of Tristan Tzara, Paul Eluard, Robert Desnos, and Guillaume Apollinare became songs set to music by Camp and Hearst.
“I recorded that album on holiday when I was 16 in high school,” said Auster, as she prepared for a sound check at Ex-Cinema Aurora, a venue in the port town in western Tuscany.
The album began as a side project and was never intended for wide public consumption
“A family friend heard the album and really liked it,” said Auster. “She took it to the French label Naïve. The album quickly made its way from France into other countries. It was distributed all over Europe and did well.
In 2012, Auster recorded and released her sophomore album “Red Weather.” She followed with her next album “Dogs and Men” three years later.
With Johansson (New Order, Franz Ferdinand, The Cardigans, Martha Wainwright) at the helm, “Next Time” developed into a solid display of Auster’s musical evolution – and her love of the music of 60’s girl groups, Peggy Lee, and 70’s soul.
According to Auster, “The album is a reflection of moving on and getting back up again. Sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, but the thread that ties the work together is the idea that next time I’ll be better. Next time I’ll learn from my mistakes.”
The album nails it on every track and offers an insightful look at Auster’s songwriting ability and vocal prowess.
“I definitely feel I have more of an audience in Europe,” said Auster. “I’m hoping that ‘Next Time’ will keep growing my American audience. My other albums were more rock. This album is more jazzy pop.”
Video link for Sophie Auster – https://youtu.be/yXvCjBipBF8.
The show at MilkBoy, which has SEE as the opener, will start At 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.
The rocker of Italian-American descent from North Jersey is Frank Iero. On April 19, Frank Iero and the Patience will headline a show at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).
Iero and the Patience are out on the road – touring in support of their new album “Parachutes.” The disc, which came out on BMG/Vagrant Records in October, is billed as “heartfelt, while still maintaining its punk rock identity.”
“Parachutes” was co-produced by Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn, The Cure, Deftones) and Steve Evetts (The Used, Saves The Day, Senses Fail).
On his website, Iero offered the following self-introduction – “hi, you might not know me but my name is frank iero, and i have recently come to the realization that you can not kill me. many have tried, and at times have bled me well. but here i am…limping yet still standing. new jersey’s rock and roll cockroach. i have learned a great deal in my 34 years and 361days of living… and i am proud to say i am still learning.”
Iero is a New Jersey boy to his core.
“I grew up in South Jersey – in Lawrence Township,” said Iero, during a phone interview last week from his home in North Jersey. “I grew up in Belleville. My wife’s family lives near West Milford, so we moved up to that area.”
There must be something in the water in Belleville that turns people into talented musicians.
The long list of notable musicians from Belleville includes Four Seasons’ singers Frankie Valli, Nick Massi and Bob Gaudio and producer Bob Crewe (and their friend/actor Joe Pesci); Connie Francis; Tommy DeVito; Dennis Diken (Smithereens); My Chemical Romance; Junior Sanchez; Peggy Santiglia Davidson (The Angels); and The Delicates.
Iero joined My Chemical Romance in 2002 and remained with the group until it disbanded in 2013.
“My Chemical Romance’s Gerard and Mikey Way grew up in Belleville but we never met until 2001,” said Iero. “They were on the same label I was – Eyeball Records – and we became friends.
“When they decided they wanted to add another guitar, they asked me. Prior to 2002, I spent a couple years in a band called Pencey Prep, which was also on Eyeball Records.
“Around 2013, I had these solo songs I had been writing. I had a home studio and just started making recordings. A friend heard them and soon record labels came around.
“Those songs became my ‘Stomachache’ album in 2014. It was recorded in Belleville and came out on Staple Records. I toured for about two years on ‘Stomachache.’”
Iero wrote a few paragraphs about the new album on his site — “A message from Frank Iero — Parachutes are life saving devices. We rely on them to bring us back from the brink of death.
“Whether we fall or jump they are the only things keeping us alive. Such as with life, we are all just falling or plunging to an eventual end, but the love of my family and my ability to create art and music has always been my parachute.
“The act of living can be random and strange, beautiful and ugly at the same time and the only thing that is undeniably certain is eventually we are all gonna hit the ground.”
“Some of us plummet at an incredible rate and it’s over in a flash, but some of us get saved and are able to enjoy the view for a little while…. This album is one of my parachutes.”
Iero ventured away from New Jersey to make “Parachutes.”
“I went to California last summer and recorded it at Ross Robinson’s studio in Venice Beach,” said Iero. “I started writing songs for ‘Parachutes’ and needed to be pushed beyond boundaries.
“A friend told me I could go to any producer and make a great-sounding record but that if I wanted to make an album where I found out more about myself, I needed to make it with Ross.
“Ross performs mental surgery. He’ll push you into exhaustion to find what songs are about. We tracked 12 songs in 17 days and then did some additional tracking.”
When asked the difference between “Parachutes” and his previous albums, Iero said, “As an artist, you have to use moments. Every 10 years, you hit a peak. Say everything you want to say and you achieve the peak.”
Video link for Frank Iero and the Patience – https://youtu.be/jD-cApWvDSI.
The show at Union Transfer, which has Dave Hause and the Mermaid as the opening act, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $19.
The All-Ireland fiddle finalist who has recorded with local musicians in Malawi is Andrew Finn Magill and the versatile singer/guitarist from Glasgow, Scotland is Paul McKenna.
Both have busy schedules with their own projects but they are taking a break. Together, they are touring the states with a show that is billed as “a must-see for Celtic fans in America.”
The band was named “Best Up and Coming Artist” in 2009 by the MG Alba Scots Music Awards after extensive touring in the North America and Europe with their blend of traditional folk tunes and original songs.
Magill has achieved virtuoso status in several American folk idioms such as old time and bluegrass. Paul and Andrew played on each other’s new releases and bring a complimentary mix of sounds to their show.
“We first met about six years ago,” said McKenna, during a recent pre-tour phone interview from Magill’s home in Asheville, North Carolina.
“I was touring the states and Canada with the Paul McKenna Band. We needed a fiddle player at the last minute. A mutual friend put us in touch two days before the tour.
“As soon as we started playing together, I realized Finn was a phenomenal fiddle player who plays all styles of music. And, he’s a multi-instrumentalist.”
Magill is a fiddler/violinist who straddles genres. By the time he was 16, he was a two-time finalist at the All-Ireland fiddle championships. In 2011, he co-produced an MTV- sponsored album with Afro-pop star Peter Mawanga in Malawi.
“I studied different styles of African music when I was in Malawi,” said Magill. “I was based in Lilongwe and did a lot of travelling in the upper two-thirds of the country.”
Magill is also well-versed in choro, a Brazilian style of music that started in the 19th century. He currently leads his own quartet of Brazilian choro, O Finno and co-leads Violino no Choro.
McKenna, who is still based in Glasgow, has been racking up national music awards on a regular basis. He was named “Scots Singer of the Year” in 2012 by Scotland’s Trad Music awards, and is also a virtuoso guitarist.
His award-winning group The Paul McKenna Band released its fourth album “Paths that Wind” to critical acclaim in 2016.
While a fiddle player with a Brazilian slant from North Carolina and a traditional Celtic singer/guitarist from Scotland’s capital may look like a mismatch on paper, it is actually a union – musical and personal — that works very well.
“There’s Paul McKenna – and then I have to be the rest of the band,” said Magill, who plays fiddle, ukulele, octave fiddle, mandolin and guitar.
Onstage, McKenna and Magill make beautiful music together – just the two of them.
Video link for Paul McKenna – https://youtu.be/oQ5LPV0jZd0.
Video link for Andrew Finn Magill – https://youtu.be/Vq77yFZKN0o.
The show in Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19.50 and $29.50.