On Stage: Ramonda Hammer hitting its stride

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Ramonda Hammer

Ramonda Hammer is a relatively new Los Angeles grunge band that is beginning to hit its stride.

The foursome of Devin Davis, Andy Hengl, Justin Geter, and Mark Edwards just released a five-song EP called “Destroyers” on New Professor Records.

Now, Ramonda Hammer is out on tour in support of the disc – a tour that brings them to the area on September 14 for a show at Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 South Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 267-908-4311, info@conniesricrac.com).

Ramonda Hammer took its name from a lady featured on the television show “Cheaters.” The “Destroyers” EP is a follow-up to the band’s debut album “Whatever That Means,” which is not only a playful nod to everyone who’s puzzled by the band’s name, but is a lyric from a track on the album.

Davis, who the foursome’s primary songwriter, is also the founder of the band.

“I grew up in Orange County – the San Clemente area,” said Davis, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Nashville.

“I moved to New York when I was 19 and then came back out west to Oakland. After that, I moved back to Los Angeles – to the Frogtown area.

“I had just moved to L.A. in the summer of 2014. I went to this giant 6,000-feet warehouse that is a huge art space with artists, band rooms, a barbershop, and all kinds of things.

“It’s like a nomad art compound. People also live there. I moved in the same day as our bass player Andy (Hengl). He was working in film and, at first, I didn’t know he was into music too.

“We got together musically. We jammed a bit and I told him that he was my bass player. A year late, Justin joined the band. We were developing our grungy sound and then the drummer quit.

“We had a show lined up at SXSW and needed a drummer. Our label recommended Mark Edwards for the SXSW show. He came – and never left.

“The first Ramonda Hammer gig was in July 2014. Then, in spring 2016 we made a self-produced, self-released album. It was an eight-song disc called ‘Whatever That Meant.’”

Ramonda Hammer worked hard at building a fanbase – and a solid base of songs.

“To make ‘Destroyers,’ we did a Kickstarter campaign,” said Davis. “Our goal was $1,000 and we far exceeded that.

“We recorded the first record at Sunset Sounds. It was awesome to get to make a record at such a legendary studio. And, we got to work with an amazing engineer named Morgan Stratton.

“We were playing a show at the Echo here in L.A. and that led to us getting signed by New Professor. The first thing we did with them was our ‘Zombie Sweater’ single last fall. Now, we just released ‘Destroyers’ with them.”

The band’s evolution is obvious.

“There is a definite difference between ‘Whatever That Meant’ and ‘Destroyers’,” said Davis. “The new record is definitely heavier – a little grungier. It’s the sound that I wanted.

“On the early album we recorded, it was all my songs. ‘Destroyers’ was totally collaborative. I’d come in with the original idea and then the band would develop it.

“The new record was done at New Monkey Studio in Van Nuys. It used to be Elliot Smith’s studio and it still has a lot of old-school equipment.’

“We spent two days in the studio with Greg Katz as the producer and Theo Karon doing the mixing. We did a month of writing and pre-production before we went there – working with the guys and getting the songs fine-tuned.

Then. we went to New Monkey and finished five songs in two days in the studio. It worked out really well.”

Video link for Ramonda Hammer –https://youtu.be/laW79eVdjVM.

The show at Connie’s Ric Rac, which also features Good Luck Hornet, Rasan Allbritton, and ¡Tortuga!, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Greg Sover

Greg Sover’s relationship to Phoenixville has come full circle – especially with the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043,www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com).

Some of the earliest gigs by the Greg Sover Band — Allen James, Garry Lee, Tom Walling and Greg Sover – were at Steel City.

The guitar ace held one of his “CD Release Parties” for his debut album “Songs for a Renegade” at the venue in Phoenixville. Earlier this month, Sover was one of the featured acts at the Phoenixville Blues Festival.

Sover, who grew up in Philly and attended William Penn High, is making a return appearance at Steel City on September 15 and will be recording the show for a possible future release.

“If we’re going to record a show live, it seems right to be at Steel City,” said Sover, during a phone interview this week from his home in Philadelphia.

“Steel City as a venue has been pretty much there for me since Day One. Phoenixville is definitely a happening place. It’s alive.

“The whole Phoenixville area is really receptive to the blues. We just played the Phoenixville Blues Festival. It was jam-packed – thousands of people.”

While Sover is back in the studio working on new material, he is also looking to get some live music recorded for his fans.

“I’m happy to be going back to Steel City,” said Sover. “It makes sense to do a live recording there.

“We have our own set-up that we’ll use for recording. If we can get all the instruments sounding the same way, it will be good. The key is to have it miked properly.”

Sover became fascinated with the guitar at age 13. His father taught him the French song “La Maladie d’Amour” and Sover took it from there. He taught himself how to play guitar, how to write songs and, eventually, how to sing.

“I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and my family moved to Philadelphia when I was 10,” said Sover. “I was exposed to music when I was really young.  I had musicians on both sides of my family. My whole life I’ve had access to the guitar.

“With guitar, I started really knowing what I was doing when I was around 15. At the same time, I was playing electric bass at my church.”

Sover says his music doesn’t fit into one particular genre. It includes elements of “blues and rock with a dash of everything else.”

The Philly musician first attracted serious attention when he won the 2015 Hard Rock Rising competition at Philadelphia’s Hard Rock Cafe. His development is due in large part to his band, which is comprised of three Philly veterans with extensive resumes – bassist and album co-producer Garry Lee, guitarist Allen James and drummer Tom Walling.

Lee, who has played with June Rich and The Rhythm Cats Revue, is currently the bassist in the Deb Callahan Band. Lee assembled the band for Sover — enlisting James and Walling, his long-time band mates in the Deb Callahan Band.

Their cohesiveness as a unit enabled Sover to develop as an artist and take his music to the next level.

“The band all started with Gary Allen,” said Sover, who

headlined a show at the Eagleview Summer Concerts on the Square at Eagleview Town Center last summer.

“I played an open mic at the Grape Room and Gary was doing sound that night. Garry really helped me get my career going.

“I needed top level musicians and he brought them. It’s been amazing working with Garry and I’ve really learned lot from these guys. Allen is one of my favorite guitarists ever.

“We recorded the album at two studios — one in Center City Philadelphia and one in Mount Airy,” said Sover. “When we finished, we had nine originals and one cover. The cover I did was ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers.”

Opening for the Greg Sover Band will be Northern Lights – a twosome featuring Raquel Rosenwald and Ayva Behm. They perform a unique blend of indie and alternative music. The duo originated from the suburbs of Philadelphia and has been writing, recording and performing since 2014.

Sover will be back in Chester County in October. He and his band will be one of the featured attractions at the Paoli Blues Festival on October 7 at Paoli Presbyterian Church (225 South Valley Road, Paoli, paolibluesfest.com).

Video link for Greg Sover — https://youtu.be/8LAygpzHyWM0.

The show at Steel City, which has Northern Lights opening, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at Steel City are “An Evening of Solo Acoustic with Neil Tapp & David Falcone” on September 16 and Phoenixville Area Acoustic Jam Group Unplugged on September 17.

dada

Another act playing the area on September 15 has a much longer history that Sover. That act is dada – a band that has been making music for about as long as Sover has been alive.

On Friday night, dada – singer/guitarist Michael Gurley, singer/bassist Joie Calio and drummer Phil Leavitt — is bringing its 25th anniversary tour to Philadelphia for a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

The visit by dada will feature a similarity to the old wedding adage — “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

The “Something Old” will be tracks from the band’s quarter-century history of delivering crisp action-packed songs.

The “Something Borrowed” will be the vibes of Calio and Leavitt’s other long-time musical project 7Horse.

The “Something Blue” will be Leavitt’s past experience as one of the original members of Blue Man Group.

The “Something New” will be the band’s first new singles in over a decade.

The newly-recorded dada tracks are “The Bluebird” and “Take Me to the Song.” They are also being released as a collector’s edition ‘double A side’ vinyl 45 pressing — in limited edition and signed by the band.

“It took us four days to cut two tracks in L.A. with producer Dave Way,” said Leavitt, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

“We recorded the new songs at The Way Station in Coldwater Canyon. It’s a great studio with a lot of vintage instruments and gear.”

The band’s silver anniversary was the inspiration for this tour.

“It’s a milestone anniversary,” said Leavitt. “It’s the 25th anniversary of the release of ‘Puzzle,” our debut album.

“People hadn’t seen dada perform live for a few years because of our involvement with 7Horse. Back in February and March, we went out on a three-week run in the Midwest – L.A. to Chicago and back. The reception was great and we had a great time playing together.

“We had this tour of the East Coast booked for the fall so we had a chance to do some recording. We got in the studio in L.A. and recorded the first new dada songs since 2007. We produced it on vinyl and made a limited-edition collectible.”

Leavit and his mates knew the time was right for dada to rise again.

“It’s just a good year for us to get back to business,” said Leavitt. “Dada takes breaks but never really breaks up. The music world needs bands like us.

“Rock/pop is just awful with its songwriting right now – very mediocre. There are great musicians – great playing but the songwriting isn’t there.

“Songwriting has always been a main focus for us and fans appreciate the depth of our songwriting. We’re a power trio where everyone has a stake in it – three strong personalities.

“Right now, we’re pretty fired up about working together again and being out on tour with each other.”

Video link for dada – https://youtu.be/XsF1FzjBSEw.

The show at the World Café Live, which also features The Trews and Grant Stinnett, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $28 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café are Jon Stickley Trio and The Last Revel with Jeremiah Tall (September 14), SuperFive and The Sparklers (September 16), Penny & Sparrow’s Wendigo Tour with Lowland Hum (September 17), Frank Catalano (September 17), Hayes Carll with Curtis McMurtry (September 19), Polyrhythmics (September 20), and Will Hoge (September 20).

Walter Etc

On September 16, Walter Etc. is coming to Philadelphia to showcase a bunch of new tunes when it headlines a show at Planet Phitness (12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia,https://www.facebook.com/events/113593205967892/?ti=icl).

The band is now streaming its new single “Petunia You’re Home.” The track is from the new Walter Etc. LP “Gloom,” which was released on August 25 via Lame-O Records andLauren Records.

Walter Etc. (formerly known as Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra) has been around since the group’s first release in 2009. The band, based in L.A. and Portland, has always employed a juxtaposition between its sunny, upbeat music and its poignant, and occasionally dark lyricism.

Recently the band – Walter, Kris Schobert, Russell Park and Bread — evolved into Walter Etc. adding eclectic instruments and broadening its range of genres. “Gloom Cruise” is the first record released by the current line-up.

In 2009 Dustin Hayes (aka Walter) formed Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra in high school. The band’s sound featured honest lyrics, jangly instrumentation, and home recording charm.

“Kris, the drummer, has been in the band since the beginning,” said Hayes, during a phone interview Monday afternoon as the band traveled from a show in New York to a gig in Burlington, Vermont.

“It’s the same with our guitarist Russell, too. We got together in San Luis Obispo, moved to Portland and then came back to California. Now, I’m living in Ventura and the rest of the band is back in Portland.

“Initally, we were all in school in Orange County. Kris and I have played together since we were kids. We grew up in a local punk band that ooenbed for O.C. ska and punk bands. EWe all were into skateboarding and surfing.”

The band’s first four albums developed a devout cult following all around the country. After the U.S. tour following their fourth LP “Well Soon”, members began to struggle with mental health issues and drug addiction.

In 2015, the band played a sold out show in Orange County then called a hiatus. During that hiatus, the members split off towards grad school, professional careers, or rehab. Without his band, Hayes was left with an unfulfilled dream and struggled to find where to go next.

During this time, Hayes fell into a period of depression — concerned about his best friend’s drug addiction and recovery while watching the other people in his life moving on and away from their shared passion of music.

To cope with the loss, he wrote a concept album called “Gloom Cruise” — a journey into the darkest corners of the psyche and a mediation on sadness – with lyrics revolving around his missing buddy’s addiction issues and his own struggle with mental health.

In 2016, Hayes reformed the band as Walter Etc., a slight variation of his original group that included Schobert and Park.

“The first Walter Etc. gig was in January 2016 at a show in Portland, Oregon,” said Hayes. “It was our first show after we changed our name. We tweaked the name when we went electric.

“There had been a real lackadaisical attitude in the band. When we changed the name, we got more serious.”

“Gloom Cruise” was produced by Jeff Rosenstock (of Bomb The Music Industry) and mastered by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Joyce Manor).

“Instead of recording on our own as we had done in the past, we went to a real studio to record ‘Gloom Cruise’ instead,” said Hayes.

“We cut the album last September at The Atomic Garden in Palo Alto, California with Jeff producing and Jack as the engineer. We spent five days in the studio and then finished it at home.

“The songs were all written before we started recording. We actually had recorded it before at a cottage on the Oregon coast near Portland using Logic but we scrapped it and started fresh in a real studio.

“The vibe of the album was inspired by the Oregon coast. It’s a dark, rainy Pacific Northwest record. The songs are drenched in rain.

“Lyrically, I wanted to match the gloominess with lyrics in the dark corners of the mind. The writing definitely came from a period of darker times.”

Now liberated, the songs are finding fresh life on the stage as Walter Etc. travel around the states on a month-long, coast-to-coast tour.

Video link for Walter Etc. — https://youtu.be/3cW0hJZmqRE.

The show at Planet Phitness, which also features Izzie True and Anika Pyle, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Janet Robin

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Better Than Bacon Improv Comedy on September 14; Bruce Klauber sings Frank Sinatra on September 16; Open Mic with guest host Frank Sokolovic on September 17; and Janet Robin and Jessica Graae on September 19.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will host Swing That Cat, Sonnder, Tyler Lamkins, and Hillary Wallace for an evening of swing dancing on September 15 and Nxt2normal and Sapphire Band on September 16.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Zoso – The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience with Billy Walton Band on September 14; The Werks on September 15; Bill Frisell: Harmony featuring Petra Haden, Hank Roberts & Luke Bergman on September 16; Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead tribute) on September 16; and John Kadlecik Band (of Furthur & Dark Star Orchestra) featuring Jay Lane (Furthur, Rat Dog), Benjie Porecki (Keller Williams Grateful Gospel) and Joe Gallant (Illuminati) on September 20.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Kirsten Maxwell and Mike Tedesco on September 15 and Chris Trapper with Bea on September 16.

The Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Boz Scaggs on September 16 and Coyote Peterson on September 17.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Hackensaw Boys on September 14, Gary Morris and Loretta Hagen on September 15,

BoDeans and Harlowe Jones on September 16, Oz Noy & Ozone Squeeze on September 17, An Intimate Acoustic Evening With Parachute and Johnny Balik on September 18,John Popper (of Blues Traveler) Sharing “The Hits, The Stories, The Experience”

Katrina Woolverton on September 19 and Ten Years After on September 20.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host Josh Blue on September 15  and Hannibal Buress on September 16.

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