On Stage: Hot Tuna visits Phoenixville

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Hot Tuna

It seems whenever Hot Tuna come to the area, there is a holiday vibe in the air.

Usually, the veteran duo’s visit is a Thanksgiving week show at the Keswick Theater.

This time, Hot Tuna – Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen – have changed it up a little bit. The two veteran musicians are performing the day after Easter at the Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) when “Point Entertainment presents An Evening with Acoustic Hot Tuna.”

When Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen perform as Hot Tuna, the music veterans who were part of the original San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s bring a wealth of rock-and-roll history along with them.

Casady and Kaukonen were founding members of the original Jefferson Airplane and then together founded Hot Tuna. Kaukonen, a guitarist, has also released a number of solo projects and Casady, a bass player, had done a few. Both veteran musicians have done hundreds of recording sessions with other artists. As Hot Tuna, they play a mesmerizing blend of rock, folk and blues.

“I just finished up a four-day teaching session,” said Casady, during a phone interview last week when he was at Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp in the Appalachian foothills to teach a workshop.

“I just finished teaching bass guitar. I’ve done that and it was terrific. Now, I just finished packing for the week. I have no plans on stopping teaching or playing.

“What do Jorma or I want to retire for? We get to pursue the profession we like. We did so much work last year between our schedule and our individual schedules.  It all makes up for it un front of an audience. That’s why we’re coming around there now.  We’re minstrels of sorts.

“We’ve had a unique take on it — acoustic guitar and bass. We’ve had all kinds of configurations — folk music, rock, blues. Words, music, poetry — that’s what we’ve always been into. The music stays alive. The communication in the music keeps it alive every night.”

Casady and Kaukonen first got together when both were high school students in the Washington, D.C. area. Their first band together was a D.C.-area garage band called The Triumphs.

“We’ve been together since 1958,” said Casady. “We started Hot Tuna in 1968 and did both bands (Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane) together until 1973. That’s when Marty (Balin) put Jefferson Starship together.

“We figured that Jefferson Airplane had its run. The core years were over. Most bands don’t stay together more than four years so seven years was a lot. We did the first Hot Tuna album in 1970. Some of the material has held up well to the test of time.”

There are times when they go out as an electric duo, times as an acoustic duo and times as a trio.

“We’re doing acoustic this time,” said Casady. “We have 60 years of playing together and are still love doing shows. I can’t wait to do it.

“And, I love teaching. Teaching at Fur Peace Ranch is great. Teaching keeps you in shape and it keeps you investigating – which is important. I work in a workshop format. It’s a collaborative environment.”

When Casady was asked if 50 years ago he thought he would still be making music 50 years later, he replied, “I never thought of not doing it. I always thought of myself as wanting to be a good musician. You keep working at it. Jorma is a poet and a songwriter first and a musician second. That’s the key to our longevity.”

With a six-decade history of making songs, deciding which ones to perform in a show can be tough.

“The set list – Jorma is the master of that. We have over a 100 songs we can play right now. So, each tour will feature some songs not heard played live before.”

Kaukonen has been writing more than songs lately.

Kaukonen’s memoirs, “Been So Long: My Life and Music” will be published on August 28, 2018. Casady wrote the Afterword. This is the link for more information —https://www.relix.com/news/detail/jorma_kaukonen_reveals_cover_of_memoir_been_so_long_my_life_and_music#ixzz57vYiAO96.

“We haven’t been in the studio lately because Jorma has been working on his book,” said Casady. “I read the book while at home in the Channel Islands in February. Jorma talks about his life. It’s not a rock book about Jefferson Airplane or Hot Tuna.”

Casady also has extracurricular news of his own.

A recent announcement from Epiphone stated – “Epiphone Presents the Limited Edition 20th Anniversary Jack Casady Signature Bass Celebrating 20 Years of Epiphone’s #1 Best-Selling Electric Archtop Bass.”

“I started this project over 20 years ago with Epiphone owner Jim Rosenberg,” said Casady. “It’s been going strong ever since.”

Video link for Hot Tuna – https://youtu.be/3ubSwu37-nI.

The show at the Colonial Theater will start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are — Gold Circle: $54.50, Orchestra: $47.50, Front Balcony: $47.50, Rear Balcony: $37.50.

Another upcoming show at the venue will be “Point Entertainment presents Billy Cobham’s Crosswinds Project” on April 4.

Dirty Dancing

“Dirty Dancing” began as a romantic dance drama film in 1987 which featured Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the lead roles. The cast also featured Cynthia Rhodes and Jerry Orbach.

Originally a low-budget film, “Dirty Dancing” became a massive box office hit – and a pop culture classic. It was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video.

The “Dirty Dancing” soundtracks were both multi-platinum albums and featured multiple hit singles — including “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life“, which won both the Golden Globe andAcademy Award for Best Original Song, and a Grammy Award for best duet.

Now, the show is a stage musical that is touring North America. From April 3-8, “Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story On Stage” will play The Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www.thegrandwilmington.org).

Written by Eleanor Bergstein, who also wrote the screenplay, the stage musical has all of the well-known songs from the movie, as well as some new ones that Bergstein was never able to use in the hit film.

The famous choreography (including the dance lift made famous by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey) and many scenes from the movie are also incorporated into the musical.

Seen by millions across the globe – either on film or on stage, this worldwide smash hit features the hit songs “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.”

“I didn’t even know there was a stage production before I auditioned,” said Nickolaus Colon, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Red Bank, New Jersey.

“I was real familiar with the movie. My mom was a die-hard fan. Her favorite character was Penny.

“I auditioned in July in August and watched the movie right before I auditioned. We started rehearsing on September 7 and opened in Folsom, California on October 5.”

It’s the summer of 1963, and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman is on vacation in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents.

Baby discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles upon the staff quarters where an all-night dance party is in full swing.

Mesmerized by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor.

Passions ignite and Baby’s life changes forever when she is thrown in to the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady, both on-stage and off.

Colon, who plays the role of Billy Kosteki, hails from North Carolina and graduated from the drama program at UNCSA. This show is his national tour debut.

“In the show, I have a love story with Elizabeth but, for me, the singing is the main thing,” said Colon. “Playing Billy is challenging but what I love is the amazing sings. I’m very much a bass baritone and the singers in these songs were hitting high notes like crazy. ‘The Time of My Life’ is very challenging because it’s a five-minute song and the high note at the end is really challenging. I do a 45-60-minute vocal warmup before every performance.”

Audiences love this show because the story is so relatable. Fans also love the show because of the time period, the music and the dancing.

“The movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ came out in the 80s. That’s when a lot of people had their first romantic movie date.

“That nostalgia gets people to but tickets for this show. It brings people back to a simpler, happier time – a time when all you had to worry about was moving your hips and dancing.”

Video link for “Dirty Dancing — The Classic Story On Stage” — https://youtu.be/V39JSQeTNq0.

The show at The Playhouse on Rodney Square will run from April 3-8. Ticket prices range from $40-$95.

Fans of metal music won’t have to worry about being affected by early-week, post-holiday doldrums because two powerful metal acts are coming to Philly over the next two days.

They are two of the promising young bands on Unique Leader Records – Obliterate and Krosis.

On April 2, Obliterate will perform as part of the “My Home Your Hell Tour” at the Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602, www.voltagelounge.com). The line-up also features Widowmaker and Second Death.

Obliterate — Rémi Provencher, Vocals; Hubert Therrien, Guitar;
Marcus Adam, Guitar; Pier-Luc Tardif, Bass; Pat Woods, Drums – is a deathcore band from Victoriaville, Quebec.

Formed in 2010, Obliterate quickly became a serious force in the modern death metal and deathcore scene. The band brings hook-laden breakdowns and a frenzied intensity that stands defiant.

“Rémi and Marcus went to the same high school and played in small groups together,” said Woods, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Dallas, Texas.

“We all knew each other. After jamming together for a little while, we figured we’d play together as a band. Here we are eight years later playing shows in the United States.”

In 2012, Obliterate released its debut album “The Filth of Humanity.” The band followed with a self-titled EP that featured crushing heavy drops and a relentless riff onslaught that confirmed the bands growing identity as a leader of the Canadian deathcore sound.

“We did ‘The Filth of Humanity’ in 2012 and the self-titled EP in 2014,” said Woods. “Now, we’re about to release a new full-length on May 18 on Unique Leader.

“Hubert is the main songwriter.  Hubert and Pier-Luc write together. Then, we get together. We always work on every song to make it the best we can do.

“Our sound has definitely evolved. The more you play and write songs, the more mature your sound gets. In the beginning, we just wanted heavy and really fast riffs. Now, our music is more mature and more melodic.

“But, we still have fast death metal songs. On the new album, ‘Impending Death,’ we tried to go heavy but also added things – solos and more groovy stuff.”

Obliterate’s live show will be as brutal as ever.

“This is our first time in America,” said Woods. “We play three songs from ‘Impending Death’ and the rest is from the EP. We don’t play any songs from ‘The Filth of Humanity.’ We only have about a 35-minute set.”

Video link for Obliterate – https://youtu.be/3taDLbpBxPM.

The all-ages show at the Voltage Lounge, which also features Widowmaker and Second Death, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the Voltage Lounge are Lil Wop on April 3, Rico Nasty on April 4 and Stacked Like Pancakes on April 5.

Krosis

Krosis will bring its heavy and progressive sound to the area on April 3 for a show at The Rusty Nail (2580 Haverford Road, Ardmore, 610-649-6245, thenail1.com)

The progressive death metal band Krosis formed in 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. A group of talented musicians and friends saw a pattern starting to develop in modern metal music that they felt was not a good thing.

The band – Tyler Jacob Brown: Vocals; Adam Thiessen: Guitar; Brian Krahe: Bass; Brandon Scurlark: Guitar; Dan Cece: Drums – decided that too much of modern death metal and deathcore was limited to a paradigm.

Krosis, on the other hand, sought to eliminate boundaries. With backgrounds of rock, jazz, concert bands and music theory, the five musicians brought together many parts of a musical spectrum to emerge as a different force in metal music.

“At the start, we knew each other from other bands here in the Raleigh area,” said Cece, during a phone interview last Tuesday.

“I joined the band March 2015. Adam came into the restaurant I work at and mentioned that they needed a new drummer. They had been a part of another old project Above the Tides that kind of transitioned into Krosis.

“I tried out for the band and it worked out well. We became a full band. Songs were getting written and, before long, we had a record finished.

“Our first recording was a five-track EP a few years ago. Then, we released the single ‘Feed’ in 2016 and that’s when things started to take off. Now, we just released a brand new full-length with 12 tracks on March 9.”

A few weeks ago, Krosis’ debut, “Solem Vatem,” came out on Unique Leader Records. The album was recorded, mixed, mastered by Brandon Scurlark of Eltar Studios and featured guest appearances by John Robert from The Last Ten Seconds of Life and Duncan Bentley of Vulvodynia.

“Our guitar player Brandon Scurlark has his own studio,” said Cece. “He’s a phenomenal producer. It made it super easy for us because it wasn’t a third party doing the producing.

“We were in and out of the studio several times over the course of a year. We started writing the very first track at the end of 2016. We went from the winter of 2016 until the end of last year – many sessions over the course of 12 months.

“We try to split up the songwriting as much as we can. We bounce ideas off each other. It’s a big amalgamation of ideas from all of us. We spent a lot of time in the studio – trial-and-error. Then, Brandon glues everything together nicely.”

Modern death metal needs a twist. Too much music is predicated around what artists think fans want to hear. A new culture is emerging with new tastes and the ever-increasing amount of elite heavy metal fans crave the kind of output that Krosis can deliver.

“We’re not a death metal band stuck in one place,” said Cece. “Some people don’t like it if metal gets expanded but that isn’t holding us back. We try to make it so we don’t sound like another band. We want to sound unique. That’s why Unique Leader liked us. We definitely do our best to think outside the box. We want to play music that challenges us.”

On March 30, Krosis premiered a Jaiden Frost-directed music video for the band’s song “Melting Point.”

According to Cece, “‘Melting Point’ explored the lighter, more atmospheric side of our musical creativity. We are just as much a progressive metal band as we are deathcore or death metal.

“That allows us to incorporate various experimental elements that might be rarely seen in today’s metal genres. This one is a fun, melodic song that still jams, and the video that Jaiden shot for it fits the theme perfectly.”

Video link for Krosis – https://youtu.be/eRvjGrCK3ho.

The show at the Rusty Nail, which also features Silent of Fifth Street and Terraform, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

On April 3, MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) will host In Tall Buildings.

In Tall Buildings

In Tall Buildings, a.k.a. Chicago songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erik Hall, has released a new album, “Akinetic” on Western Vinyl.

Produced along with Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine, Califone) at Hall’s Chicago home studio, “Akinetic” features 10 tracks of spacious and textured handmade pop with lyrical allegories of communication, loss, impulse, vice, and mass-denialism.
Hall wrote and recorded “Akinetic” between stints producing records for label mates Lean Year and ambient artist Justin Walter. A one-man ensemble, Hall performed every instrument heard on the album with the exception of a lovely guest vocal appearance from Heather Woods Broderick and occasional looming woodwinds from Elliot Bergman.

While Hall’s previous recordings were natural documents of his musicianship and songcraft, “Akinetic” arose from deliberate intent to write in concrete pop forms, lyrically informed by what he observed of modern culture, namely its fixation on technology-driven pseudo-progress at the cost of direct communication.

“I’ve always been into music,” said Hall, during a phone interview last week from his home in southwest Michigan.

“I began studying piano when I was eight. Guitar came pretty early on – fourth or fifth grade. Then, in the early 90s, I was listening to grunge and rock. I started playing guitar and drums while taking weekly classical piano lessons.

“I had a band and started writing songs when I was in high school. I graduated from music school at the University of Michigan and have been touring with bands ever since.”

Hall spent time as a sideman, producer, singer, songwriter, touring musician and one-man band,

“It took me several years after college to figure out what to do,” said Hall. “I put out my first album as In Tall Trees in 2010.ext album was ‘Driver’ in 2015.

“For the new album, I decided to work with this producer Brian Deck. He’s worked with a lot of great bands. He came to my place to work with me. One if the great benefits is that the songwriting went faster.

“When you’re just tinkering by yourself in your own studio, you can just stay in that state for a long time. When he came in, there was no time to tinker.”

According to Hall, “Rather than merely dwell in an inviting musical bed, I wanted to write songs with intentionality that would more directly declare themselves to a listener instead of just passively inviting them in.”

Hall had full control on “Akinetic.”

“The album is me on all instruments except woodwinds – and a friend who sang on one song,” said Hall. “We started in December 2015 and wrapped it up in early 2017. We recorded in short stints throughout the year. When we finished tracking Brian put it in his hard drive and took it home to mix it.

“I was writing songs as I went along but some of the music had been around for a long time. I always come up with musical parts before I start writing lyrics. I realized at the end that all of the songs had a little bit of as darker tone.

“Themes lyrically seemed to be about being stalled – communication block and growth halted – trends with how people are connecting with each other. But. It’s all a little oblique allegorically.”

Video link for In Tall Buildings – https://youtu.be/TSJF-toLC6Q.

The show at MilkBoy Philly, which has Ruby Dear as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Another upcoming show at MilkBoy Philly is Patrick Richards on April 4.

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