On Stage: A weekend of special local shows

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Nels Cline

There are some special shows taking place at area venues this weekend – one of rock’s most respected guitarists with a show offering love to Philly, a sensitive singer-songwriter from Chester County, a Grateful Dead/Phish tribute band with Dead After-Show Party, an experimental alternative pop band from Brooklyn with its own niche and a popular indie rock band from Texas.

Nels Cline is a guitarist and composer with a very diverse resume. He has been the guitarist for the band Wilco since 2004 after first getting noticed in the jazz world. He also has performed with punk bands and alternative rock groups.  In 2011, Cline was named the 82nd greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

In 2016, Cline released his critically-acclaimed “Lovers” album on Blue Note Records.

According to a note written by Cline when the album dropped, “I have been dreaming about, planning, and re-working my rather obsessive idea of this record for well over twenty-five years, and it was always going to be called “Lovers.” It is meant to be as personal in its sound and in its song selection as it is universal in its endeavor to assay or map the parameters of “mood” as it once pertained, and currently pertains, to the peculiar and powerful connection between sound/song and intimacy/romance. In this, I hope “Lovers” offers something of an update of the “mood music” idea and ideal, while celebrating and challenging our iconic notion of romance.”

“Lovers,” which was an 18-song double album, was never meant to be a record that was toured a lot.

“We’ve only done seven performances of ‘Lovers’ since it came out,” said Cline, during a phone interview Thursday from his home in Brooklyn. “It’s a very bloated and expensive thing to do.”

On June 2, Cline in conjunction with Ars Nova Workshop, will present a very special performance at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com) — Nels Cline’s “Lovers (for Philadelphia).”

“Lovers (for Philadelphia)” has been created specifically for and inspired by Philadelphia. It is a one-off performance focusing on a Philly vibe that has been fueled by the efforts of Mark Christman, who is the Artistic Director and Curator of Ars Nova Workshop.

“It’s all Mark’s idea,” said Cline. “He had an idea about how he liked ‘Lovers’ and thought what if I did new song covers that fit into the concept of “Lovers’ and have all the material based on Philadelphia-associated, Philadelphia-based love songs.

“At first, I didn’t want to do it. He said we could get this grant. He told me – I’ll bring you to Philly and introduce you to the city. He also sent me a list Philly of artists and it was a lot larger than I expected.

“When I looked at the list, I thought I could come up with something. There were 40-50 artists from all genres – not just jazz. I like the idea of involving artists that are less-known – like the film composer Sol Kaplan or composer/drummer Paul Motian.”

So, Cline assembled an 18-piece ensemble and began work.
“It was a mind-expanding and challenging project,” said Cline, who will also be doing shows this summer with Nels Cline & Scott Amendola Are Stretch Woven and the Nels Cline 4.

The line-up of musicians for Nels Cline’s “Lovers (for Philadelphia)” includes: Nels Cline, guitars; Michael Leonhart, conductor + trumpet + flugelhorn; Charles Pillow, flutes + oboe + English horn + alto saxophone; JD Parran, flutes + baritone saxophone; Ben Goldberg, contra-alto + Bb clarinets; Jasper Dutz, bass + Bb clarinets; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon; Amir ElSaffar, trumpet; Ravi Best, trumpet; Alan Ferber, trombone; Will Shore, vibes + marimba + percussion; Stacey Shames, harp; Yuka C. Honda, keyboard; Nick Millevoi, guitars; Carla Kihlstedt, violin; Erik Friedlander, cello; Devin Hoff, bass; and Alex Cline, drums + percussion.

Research trips have led Cline on an inspiring journey, through uniquely Philadelphian moments, artifacts, and sites — Jimmy Smith’s organ; Paul Motian’s childhood home; the beginning of Dizzy Gillespie’s career and end of Lee Morgan’s; the continuing home of the Sun Ra Arkestra — and into the memories housed in uniquely Philadelphia institutions such as the Sigma Sound archives, the Blockson Collection, the Free Library’s orchestral music holdings, and the Curtis Institute archives.

What has emerged is an autobiographical “second book” of “Lovers” material, performed one night only, and featuring interpretations of material composed and/or performed by McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Paul Motian, Eddie Lang, Sol Kaplan, Ethel Waters, The Delfonics, Brenda & The Tabulations, and more.

“This has taken a lot of effort by our musical director Michael Leonhart, who is conductor, arranger and trumpet player,” said Cline. “We rehearse Friday in Brooklyn and then take a tour bus to Philadelphia. We’ll play most of the ‘Lovers’ album and some new Philly-based material.”

Video link for Nels Cline’s “Lovers” — https://youtu.be/xDHVGzKSOSA.

The show at Union Transfer will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are Japanese Breakfast on June 3 and Dance Gavin Dance on June 6.

Lisa Jeannette

Lisa Jeannette, an aspiring singer-songwriter who now calls West Chester home, will be performing on June 2 at The Craft House, 300 North Bailey Road, Thorndale, www.thorndalecrafthouse.com, 484-786-9008).

Jeannette is performing in support of her debut album “Chasing Happy,” a self-released album that was recorded in her home studio in West Chester with her husband Rich DeAngelis, who is an electronics engineer and a recording producer.

Her music career can be traced back to her days at Little Flower High School in Philadelphia. Her high school orchestra instrument, the double bass, led her to Temple University, where she studied with Henry Scott, bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jeannette earned a Bachelor of Music in Performance and currently plays double bass with Main Line Symphony Orchestra.

“As a singer-songwriter, I’m playing all original material,” said Jeannette. “I play guitar and keyboards in my show – and I write on both.

“Before I got married, I lived in Lansdowne and Rich lived in West Chester. When we go married and I moved to West Chester, he had a Baby Grand piano in the house. So, I started writing again. I wrote all the songs on piano – except ‘Marie Lauré.’ Now, I’m also writing on guitar again.

“We recorded the album at our house. The studio is digital – and a little bit old school. It took two years to make the album. I semi-released it in October 2107 with a release party. But, I haven’t released it to DJs yet.”

Jeannette explained her songwriting process.

“The song starts with an emotion,” said Jeannette. “Then, it all comes out at once – the melody and the rest. I usually write a song in an hour and then I’m done. I wrote about one song a month.

“My song ‘Marie Lauré’ is based on the main character of the book “All the Light We Cannot See.’ The song ‘I’m Rita’ is about Rita Hayworth. My next CD, which I’m working on now, is called ‘Time of the Clock.” The songs are all about the passage of time.”

Jeannette will also be performing on June 22 at the Philadelphia Area Songwriters Alliance (PASA) Showcase at the Malelani Cafe, which is located at 6734 Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia.

Video link for Lisa Jeannette — https://youtu.be/9oSaF2hCA7I.

The show at the Craft House will run from 7-10 p.m. Admission is free.

DeadPhish Orchestra

It doesn’t take too much brainpower to figure out that a band named the DeadPhish Orchestra is a tribute band dedicated to the music of the Grateful Dead and Phish.

On June 2, the DeadPhish Orchestra will be playing a Dead & Company After Party Show at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) at 11:30 p.m. Earlier in the evening, Dead & Company will be performing in Camden, New Jersey.

The Deadphish Orchestra is a quartet of Colorado musicians who, above all, are close friends who have played music together for many years. The foursome — Chris Sheldon – Drums/Vocals; Paul Murin – Guitar/Vocals; Brian Adams – Bass/Vocals; Ted Tilton – Keyboards/Vocals — had played Grateful Dead music together, and they had played Phish music together.

They got to wondering what would happen if they tried to merge the music of these two bands. The result is a show that is a seamless web of Phish and Dead music.

“The band has been doing this with these guys for nine years,” said Murin, during a phone interview Friday afternoon as the band sat in a traffic jam in New York City on its way to a gig at the Brooklyn Bowl.

“We’ve known each other even longer than that. We all knew each other from the music scene around Boulder and Denver. We’re all Midwest boys that relocated to Colorado. I’m from the Chicago area.

“We initially played in Phix – a Phish cover band – in the 2000s when Phish wasn’t active. After Phish came back, we knew all the Phish material and decided to throw in Dead material.

“Now, when we play as the DeadPhish Orchestra, we plan our set list in advance. We’ll play a Dead song and then a Phish song – sometimes with integrated segues. Occasionally, there will be parts of one band’s song in the other band’s song that happens during an improv. We do mix it up like that sometimes. But, we don’t do any originals.”

While the DeadPhish Orchestra no CDs of its own, it does have a number of live audio and video recordings available on its website – perfect for members of the jam band scene.

“We are pretty much fixed on the jam band genre,” said Murin. “In our repertoire, we have about 300 tunes between the two bands. We’re a four-piece band so it lends itself to do Phish-type arrangements with this line-up.

“We usually do a three-hour show with a set break depending on the venue schedule. There might be more Dead songs than Phish songs just because the Dead were around a longer time. People love Dead music almost at a religious level.”

Video link for the DeadPhish Orchestra — https://youtu.be/daWR7_7jev4.

The show at MilkBoy Philadelphia will start at 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

The Dreebs

On June 2, The Dreebs will headline a show at The Sound Hole (43rd Street and Osage Avenue, Philadelphia, https://www.facebook.com/SoundHolePhilly).

The Dreebs — Adam Markiewicz (Vocals, Violin), Jordan Bernstein (Prepared Guitar) and Shannon Sigley (Drums) — are a NYC experimental rock trio that formed in 2009. The group quickly became a staple of Brooklyn’s experimental music community alongside contemporaries like Guerilla Toss, Guardian Alien, Cloud Becomes Your Hand and Sediment Club.

After releasing a few tapes and two full-lengths, the group went on hiatus in 2014. The members all remained active in the psych-sludge group PC Worship and PCPC (PC Worships collaboration with Parquet Courts).

The band has been around nine years and has already managed to do what it takes most bands 20-25 years to do – form a musical unit with friends, release a debut album, tour, release a sophomore album, tour some more, go on a hiatus for a few years, get back together, release a new album and tour in support of that album.

Those last two stages are happening now.

The concert at The Sound Hole is the “Philadelphia Release Show” for The Dreebs’ new album “Forest Of A Crew,” which was released June 1 via Ramp Local.

“The record that was released today was our first new record in five years,” said Markiewicz, during a phone interview Friday afternoon from his home in Brooklyn.

“We were on hiatus and didn’t play from 2014-2016. We were doing other stuff in other bands. A lot revolved around PC Worship. That’s the crew that’s in the family band. We all shared a house together for years – The Wallet.

“Tons of bands have lived at The Wallet. All three of us have lived there. I still live there. It’s a commercial space that was converted out of an old warehouse. Now, it has a performance space, living quarters and a studio space.

“‘Forest Of A Crew’ is our fifth release. We’ve had a cassette, two previous full-lengths and a one-sided LP with four songs in a Gothic vein. We recorded ‘Forest Of A Crew’ last year in the winter. We did it at our practice space and I did all the vocals at home at The Wallet.”

The new disc was not totally a DIY project.

“We had Kellzo produce the album,” said Markiewicz. “He’s a good buddy of ours. He lived in Philly and then moved to New York. He’s part of the crew.”

He also played a major role on the sound of the new album.

“Kellzo was able to get a really clean, nice-sounding album,” said Markiewicz. “Early Dreebs records were recorded live and there was a roughness to them. This time, the songs are more based in sound.

“He took direct signals from the instruments and re-recorded them through amps later. It’s been a challenge over the years to get a clean sound from the guitar – but he did it. We didn’t record live this time. It was all over-dubbed separately – an attempt to touch it up a lot more. Also, in the past, lyrics weren’t that much a part of the picture. On this record, we tried to write words to unify it all.

“For our live shows now, we’re not playing much from the catalogue. It’s pretty much just the new stuff. Keeping it as fresh as possible is the key to the vitality of the experience.”

Video link for The Dreebs – https://youtu.be/yh08uhz2MJg.

The show at The Sound Hole, which also features Taiwan Housing Project and Bambara, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

The Unlikely Candidates

On June 3, Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) will host a show by The Unlikely Candidates – a quintet from Texas that has been described as “the band that brings grit to alternative pop.”
The Unlikely Candidates – Kyle Morris – Lead Vocals; Cole Male – Guitar; Brenton Carney – Lead Guitar; Kevin Goddard – Drums; Jared Hornbeek – Bass Guitar — are an indie rock band from Fort Worth, Texas. The Unlikely Candidates formed in 2008. To date, the band has released three EPs – “Follow My Feet” in 2013, “Bed of Liars,” in 2017 and “Danger To Myself” in 2017.

“All the band members except me are from the Dallas area,” said Hornbeek, during a phone interview Thursday afternoon from Boston – the day before the tour started.

“I’m from Long Beach, California. I flew out and joined the band five years ago. We have the same management. The guys came out to L.A. to record five years ago and we got to be friends.

“Kyle and Cole started as an acoustic duo 10 years ago. About eight years ago, they picked up Kevin for drums. Then, they went through adding guitar and bass. The current line-up has been together five years.

“We currently have three EPs. The first EP, Kevin and Cole wrote it on acoustic guitars then they got it produced out. Over the years, we started working with different producers and programming as a band. We keep moving forward.”

A full-length album seems to be a carrot on a string always dangling in front of them – just out of reach.

“We’re always working for a full-length,” said Hornbeek. “The last two EPs were supposed to be a full-length but it got cut in half. With Spotify, all the playlists want new songs.”

The Unlikely Candidates boast a total of more than 18 million combined streams on Spotify. Their latest single, “Oh My Dear Lord,” was recently released and is featured on the top rock Spotify playlists, Digging Now, New Noise, and The Scene and is currently one of the Top 50 songs at Alternative Radio. The band also co-wrote and is featured on the Dirty Heads’ new song titled “Celebrate,” which is currently #12 at Alternative Radio. The Unlikely Candidates also recently performed the song with The Dirty Heads on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

“With our songwriting, we all write individually and throw songs at Kyle,” said Hornbeek. “Kyle has also been working with different producers. We have a ton of back catalogue –hundreds of songs and it keeps building. We hope to have an album done by the end of the year.

“On this tour, we’re co-headlining with Brick + Mortar so we do about a 60-minute set. We try to tap into a little from each EP and also play some unreleased songs.”

Video link for the Unlikely Candidates – https://youtu.be/F8RMTP8aOmQ.

The show at Boot & Saddle, which also features Brick + Mortar and Daddylap, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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