On Stage: W. Caln’s Brian Fitzy isn’t waiting

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CASH grad hits the road in advance of new album release

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Brian Fitzy

Even though Brian Fitzy doesn’t officially release his new album “Hard Times for Dreamers” until May 19, he is not sitting back waiting for it to drop before playing album support shows.

Instead, he has seven shows booked between now and May 19 including a concert on April 28 at Bourbon and Branch (705 North Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-238-0660, bourbonandbranchphilly.com) and a show April 29 at Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com).

Both venues could be considered hometown shows for Fitzy who lives in West Caln Township — almost equidistant from both locations.

Brian Fitzy, a.k.a. Brian Fitzgerald, graduated from Coatesville Area Senior High. He then attended West Chester University and graduated in 2007 with a musical performance/classical violin degree. When he was a student at WCU, he had a band called Leaving Cash.

His new disc “Hard Times for Dreamers” does not have Mexican music but does have roots in Mexico.

“I do a lot of corporate shows,” said Fitzy, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his Coatesville area home. “I was in Mexico doing a series of corporate shows at lush resorts.

“It was the first time I was ever in Mexico. There were these fortified resorts in great condition and, on the other side of the walls, living conditions were terrible.”

While on tour in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, graffiti art with the sobering slogan “Hard Times for Dreamers” brought a lifelong music journey into stark focus for Fitzy. It galvanized him into making a musical statement about the harsh realities of today.

The multimedia Mexican artist Sleepwalck made the tag. Its placement on a bleak intersection in an impoverished section of town surrounded by palatial resort and well-to-do living accommodations hit home for Fitzy.

“The new album is about the conversations I had and what I saw there in Mexico,” said Fitzy. “I wanted to release a summer-y record. The music is that way but the subject matter is dark and bleak.”

Fitzy took a picture of the tag — used with permission of the artist he reached via Instagram – and that picture was used for the cover of his debut album.

Even though Fitzy is experienced as a producer, he enlisted Joe Nicolo (Kris Kross, Lauryn Hill, Fugees, Cypress Hill, Schoolly D) handle the production on the album.

That allowed Fitzy to focus on the album’s intricate layers and the its carefully-crafted track sequence. “Hard Times for Dreamers” features a classic A-side/B-side flow with an uplifting conceptual sweep — the lyrical bend gets more hopeful on the second side.

“We recorded most of the album at Joe Nicolo’s home studio in Audubon,” said Fitzy. “We thought about using his full studio – Studio Four – but the vibe there is more polished.

“I didn’t want things to be too worked-on and too methodical. Joe said – we need to put some dirt on it. We worked on it throughout most of 2016.”

Fitzy’s post-college career began on a high note when he performed with the Foo Fighters at the Grammy Awards as a Top Three finalist in the “My Grammy Moment” competition. Since then, he has established a career as a solo artist and a sideman.

“I grew up in a musical home,” said Fitzy. “My mom Gloria was a singer and a guitarist in a progressive rock band from the mid-70s until 1981.

“Music was continually playing in our house. My earliest memories tied to music include listening to George Benson, Al Jarreau, Genesis and Peter Gabriel.

“I started playing violin when I was nine in fourth grade at Caln Elementary School. I began picking up other instruments later, including guitar, drums, keyboards and sax – and beat-box.

“I had several different bands during and after college but financial restrictions drove me to become a solo act. I’ve been able to do it by using a beatbox and doing live looping.”

Video link for Brian Fitzy – https://youtu.be/Axindik9aXY.

The show at Bourbon and Branch on April 28, which also features Josh Miller, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

The show at Tellus 360 on April 29, which also features Josh Miller along with Jacopo & The Late Saints, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

The New Pornographers

On April 27, the New Pornographers will visit Philadelphia for a show at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

The New Pornographers – Carl Newman, Blaine Thurier, Dan Bejar, Joe Seiders, John Collins, Kathryn Calder, Neko Case, Todd Fancey — released a new album called “Whiteout Conditions” on April 7.

It is the first release on the band’s own label — Collected Works Records – and the first New Pornographers album to be written exclusively by frontman Carl Newman.

“The album just came out and we’ll be touring it for the next few months,” said Newman, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Oakland, California.

“It was recorded on-and-off throughout 2016. It’s always been our way to do things piece meal – nine months in and out. We did a lot of it at my home studio, some in Seattle and some in L.A. We mixed it in Boston and Vancouver.

“It’s how we’ve always made records. So much of the writing of the album is the arranging. That just focuses the whole thing. We record first as a skeleton power trio – me, John and Joe – to get going with the arrangements.

“I pretty much wrote all the songs – but the other members contributed a lot. I’m not the one who makes them sound the way they do.”

According to Newman, “At the beginning of this record, there was some thinking that we wanted it to be like a Krautrock Fifth Dimension.

“Of course, our mutated idea of what Krautrock is probably doesn’t sound like Krautrock at all. But we were thinking — let’s try and rock in a different way.

“I like to get sounds that sound artificial. I just like it that way. The synthesizer is essentially an artificial sound. A lot of people use the synth to sound like other instruments. I like to use a synth to sound like a synth.”

The band is celebrating the new album with a world tour that kicked off on April 12 at Los Angeles’ Theatre at the Ace Hotel. After headlining venues throughout the U.S. and Europe, the group joins Spoon in select cities this summer. Tickets for all headlining U.S. shows include a free download of the new album.

Since their debut in 2000, The New Pornographers have released six studio albums including the 2014 release “Brill Bruisers,” an album that was hailed as an “exuberant, synthpop-infused set” by Rolling Stone, and “infectious” by Harper’s Bazaar.

“We’re still playing stuff from ‘Brill Bruisers’,” said Newman. “Most of the songs from ‘Whiteout Conditions’ are playable live so we’re doing a lot of them. We usually always play one or two songs from every album.”

Video link for the New Pornographers – https://youtu.be/ZAlHISTNbwY.

The show at Union Transfer, which also features Waxahatchee, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $36.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are Turnpike Troubadours and  Charley Crockett on April 28, Emily King on April 29,  Nicole Atkins and Old 97s on May 2 and the Black Lips on May 3.

Blair Crimmins and The Hookers

On April 28, Blair Crimmins and The Hookers are bringing their “You Gotta Sell Something Tour” to the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

“You Gotta Sell Something” is the title of the just-released album by the band which features Blair Crimmins (vocals, tenor banjo, guitar), Justin Roberts (bass), Colin Agnew (drums), Taylor Kennedy (sax/clarinet), Darren English (trumpet), and Dustin Cottrell (piano).

“We just got done shooting a video for ‘You Gotta Sell Something’ yesterday,” said Crimmins, during a phone interview last week from his home in Atlanta, Georgia.

“The song is about commercialism in music. It was a lot of fun. It’s a satire that embraces the way the industry is today.”

“We did a couple festivals last weekend. We’re home for a few days and then we’re off for our big East Coast tour.”

The band’s debut album was “The Musical Stylings Of” in 2010 and was followed by their “State Hotel” EP in 2011. They released “Live in Little Five” and “Sing-a-longs!” in 2013 and then “You Gotta Sell Something” in 2017.

“We recorded the new album all of last year,” said Crimmins. “We started working on in in January 2016. We cut the album at Stonehenge Studio in Atlanta.

“We had some scheduling problems so it wasn’t finished until the end of last summer. By the time it was done, we decided to wait until this spring to release it.”

Crimmins began his current music career in Atlanta with a determination to bring Ragtime and 1920’s style Dixieland Jazz to new audiences.

While playing small rock clubs around the Southeast, Crimmins developed a sound that is at once modern while being deeply rooted in the past.

A multi-instrumentalist and music academic, Crimmins writes songs and arrangements for a classic New Orleans style horn section consisting of trumpet, clarinet and trombone.

In 2012, Crimmins showed his musical diversity by writing and recording the full score for the independent short film “Old Man Cabbage.”

“Sing-a-longs!” went to Number 21 on the EuroAmerican radio chart and earned him a nomination at The Georgia Music Awards for Best Jazz Artist.

“I wrote most of the tunes for ‘You Gotta Sell Something’ in fall 2015,” said Crimmins. “I wrote all the arrangements. Then, we did some rehearsals prior to a 10-day ‘pre-production tour.’ The album came out on February 17 on our own label — New Rag Records.”

Grimmins and his band are approaching their 10th anniversary.

“I started the group in 2009,” said Crimmins. “I always wanted to have the set-up I have now with a horn section and piano. Things really started taking off with the band in 2011.

“I’ve always been a songwriter – and always a big fan of jazz and the musical challenges jazz presents. This early style of jazz brings two worlds together.

“This music is attractive to audiences because it has good energy. It makes people want to dance. And, it’s not what people are used to hearing.”

Video link for Blair Crimmins and The Hookers —https://youtu.be/bqgEHhniUB0.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at World Café Live are Fortunate Youth, Josh Heinrichs and Iya Terra on April 27; Jon McLaughlin and Katrina Woolverton on April 28; The Feelies on April 29; Tom Rush on April 30; Jamestown Revival and Ghost of Paul Revere on May 2; and Bobby Long on May 3.

’68

Also on April 28, the other World Café Live — World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) – will host ’68.

’68 is a rock duo that was formed four years ago in Atlanta. The two-piece band features guitarist/vocalist Josh Scogin, formerly of the hardcore band The Chariot, and drummer Michael McClellan.

“In 2013, all of us in The Chariot parted ways,” said Scogin, during a recent phone interview from his home in Atlanta, Georgia. “We all had next ideas.

“I had been doing The Chariot for 10 years and that was enough. It was better that we called it quits after 10 years. I knew that I was going to keep doing music so I figured it would be fun to do a two-piece.”

The Chariot played its final show in November 2013. Just a few days later, Scogin began teasing an announcement with a countdown timer on the website “theyare68.com.”

Once the timer ran out in December 2013, Scogin revealed that he formed a new band named ’68 and subsequently posted a two-song EP titled “Midnight” for sale online.

“I talked to my friend from home Michael McClellan — an old friend who I had used as a studio drummer in the past — and asked him to join ’68,” said Scogin. “We met over burritos and he was up for it.

“His older brother Matt worked at a studio I did my albums at. Michael and I would meet at the studio and hang out. I realized he was really good and really versatile. He was very quick and he knew what he was doing.

“With ’68, there is no set list. There are a lot of free jam parts. I knew Michael had that ability. We’ve grown together and now are really in synch with each other.”

The duo has recorded two albums — “In Humor and Sadness” (eOne/Good Fight) in 2014 and “Two Parts Viper” (Good Fight/Cooking Vinyl), which will be released on June 2.

“We recorded the new album last year,” said Scogins. “It was done in bits and pieces over a seven-month period.

“We tour as a duo and there are some challenges with only two of us. There was a learning curve. With my previous band, it was all heavy all the time – no guitar pedals

“When I began playing with a duo, I didn’t know how to split my guitar signal three ways. I’m still learning the tricks and the effects just to get my signal across. I started knowing nothing about it.

“Now, I play my guitar and kick it down into the bass world. I know how to do what I’m doing – but I’m still evolving.

“I wrote our first album ‘In Humor and Sadness’ really fast. It was written with the idea that his was an aggressive rock band.

“On the new album, I learned to do more with effects and pedals. I’m a fan of making my guitar sound like not a guitar. The songs on the new album were written with effects in mind.”

According to Scogin, “I wanted it to be as loud and obnoxious as it can be. I want it to be in-your-face. I want people who hear us live to just be like, ‘There’s no way this is just two dudes!’

“That became sort of the subplot to our entire existence — ‘How much noise can two guys make?’ It’s obviously very minimalistic, but in other ways, it’s very big. I have as many amps onstage as a five-piece band.

“Michael only has one cymbal and one tom on his kit, but he plays it like it’s some kind of big ‘80s metal drum setup. It’s minimalistic, but it’s also overkill. We get as much as we can from as little as we can.

“We’ve just broken the tip of the iceberg. We’re really just exploring all the different things we can do. I’ll get more pedals, we’re try different auxiliary instruments, whatever – the goal is to challenge ourselves and challenge an audience.”

The music being created by ’68 is loud, aggressive and different – and much more than just noise rock.

“I can listen to the new album and it’s a journey,” said Scogin.

Video link for ’68 – https://youtu.be/DusMs0ojo_g.

The show at the Queen, which has Every Time I Die as the headliner, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. The only other show at the Queen in the next week will be The Girlfriends on April 30.

Local H

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Local H and Boxcar on April 27; The Bullets, Betty & The Bullet, Origami for Addicts, and Kid Michael Davis on April 28; Tret Fure on April 29; and Naff, Odd Men Out, Ava Wannemacher on April 30.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Jake Kelleher on April 28 and Steal Your Face Band on April 29.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Jr. Wolf, Burn Cruize, and Six Years Later on April 28 and Nxt2normal and Sapphire Band on April 29.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and Billy Strings on April 27; The Clarks with special guest Linus the Moon on April 28; Everyone Orchestra with Steve Kimock, Jason Hann, Zach Deputy and members of Railroad Earth on April 29; and Jaguar Wright & Gerald Veasley on April 30.

Amy Speace

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Amy Speace and Kerri Powers on April 27, Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche on April 28, and Jesse Ruben with Kate Vargas on April 29.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Doo Wop Live

on April 29, Tower of Power on April 30 and Transatlantic Sessions on May 2.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Trace Bundy and Willy Porter & Carmen Nickerson on April 27, John Tesh on April 28, Tannehill Weavers on April 29, Eilen Jewell and Miss Tess & The Talkbacks on April 30 and Kathy Mattea on May 2.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host Noah Gunderson on April 27.

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