On Stage: Mmmmmmm, Bacon Brothers

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Bacon Brothers

For Kevin Bacon, the thought of going out on an “Actors Rock” style music tour with other actors who have bands is not something that would bring a smile to his face.

Like Kiefer Sutherland, Priyanka Chopra, Hugh Laurie, Juliette Lewis and Jennifer Lopez, Bacon’s main claim to fame is as an actor.

But, he has also been a serious musician performing with his brother Michael as the Bacon Brothers for almost a quarter-century. Bacon is not an actor with a band or a musician who acts. He is both a musician and an actor and, for him, they are separate careers.

“I would never want to tour with other actors,” said Bacon, during a phone interview last week from a Bacon Brothers tour stop in Annapolis, Maryland.

“I don’t want to be looked at as an actor who also makes music. I’ve worked so long to get rid of that albatross. There is a big difference between making music and acting. It’s more about the importance of making real music than it is about a feeling that actors shouldn’t be playing.”

On August 11, Bacon (the rocker) and his brother Michael will return to their hometown area for a Bacon Brothers show at the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

The band – Michael, vocals, guitar and cello; Kevin, vocals, guitar and percussion; Paul Guzzone, bass and backing vocals; Joe Mennonna, keyboards and accordion; Ira Siegel, lead guitar, mandolin and backing vocals; Frank Vilardi, drums – is touring in support of its brand-new album, “The Bacon Brothers.”

“The album dropped on June 1,” said Bacon. “We had recorded three or four songs and then I wanted to do a video for ‘Broken Glass.’ We played a gig with G.E. Smith. He liked my song, ‘I Feel You’ and he said he’d like to produce it. We booked a studio – Hobo Sound in Weehawken, New Jersey – for two days. It’s a great studio. G.E. stuck around for the second day and we did four or five songs.”

Smith is the former “Saturday Night Live” music director and guitarist of Hall & Oates.

With Michael teaching at Lehman College in the Bronx and Kevin spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, time for the brothers to get together to work on songs is a precious commodity.

“It was so great to be able to sit around and look at each other,” said Bacon. “When we were in the studio, there was a great vibe in the room. Joe Mennonna was there pumping out sounds on his Hammond B-3 and Leslie speakers.

“When making the album, there were basically three sessions – four songs at Hobo, five at Lehman. The last song we did – ‘The Garden’ – was done at G.E.’s basement studio in Montclair, New Jersey. We wanted conga drums on the track. The basic structure of the song was percussion.”

Kevin and Michael have been making music together since they were kids and performing as a real band since 1995. The Bacon Brothers’ debut album “Forosoco” was released in 1997.

Kevin Bacon is an award-winning actor with 80 films and dozens of television and stage credits to his name, resulting in numerous Emmy and Screen Actors Guild nominations in his resume.

Older brother Michael initially began making music in Philadelphia before moving to Nashville where his songwriting career blossomed. An Emmy-winning composer, he most recently scored the documentary “That Way Madness Lies” currently on the festival circuit.

Other recent works include the audiobook: “You Don’t Look Your Age…And Other Fairytales” and the HBO documentary “Underfire: The Untold Story of Private First Class Tony Vaccaro.”

“We grew up in Center City Philadelphia – 21st and Locust,” said Bacon. “Mike went to Central High and I was at the Parkway Program and then Masterman High.”

According to Michael Bacon said, “The first songs we wrote were in the late 1960s. Kevin would sing me a melody and I’d do the chords. Gradually, our skills went up.”

As time went on, Kevin built up his acting resume, but the Bacon Brothers also moved forward.

“We had been writing to try to pitch songs to other people or to put the songs in my movies,” said Bacon. “We did a demonstration tape. A friend invited us to sing at his venue – the TLA.

“It was me and Mike on acoustic guitar. After the show, we got invited to do another show. It just evolved from there. It’s really about writing a song and playing it in a band.”

The two siblings share a singular body of work that’s found them spending more than 20 years of working the road and paying their dues, resulting in eight albums – “Forosoco” (1997), “Getting There” (1999), “Can’t Complain” (2001), “Live: The No Food Jokes Tour” (2003), “White Knuckles” (2005), “New Year’s Day” (2009), “Philadelphia Road” (2011) “36 Cents” (2014) and “Bacon Brothers” (2018).

Sold-out gigs in New York, LA, Nashville, Chicago and San Francisco followed, as well as a high-profile show opening for The Band at Carnegie Hall and appearing alongside the likes of Shania Twain and Wyclef Jean on the TNT Network’s “The Gift of Song” special. In eight years of recording and touring, the band has become a top live draw and continues to build momentum.

According to Michael, “For us, each CD is a milestone. It’s what we’ve done up to that point in our career.”

Video link for the Bacon Brothers — https://youtu.be/QPuY_Y4QbL8.

The show at the Keswick Theater will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39, $49 and $59.

Echo Courts

Another interesting show on August 11 will feature Echo Courts. The Carolina-based band — Kelly Fahey, Jean-Luc Swift, Nate Goldsmith, Nick Parascandola — will make a return visit to Philadelphia to headline a show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

“The band started in 2014 and we’ve played Philly three times,” said Fahey, during a phone interview last week as the band travelled to a gig in Atlanta, Georgia.

“This weekend’s show was originally scheduled for Kung Fu Necktie, but it got changed. We’ve never played Johnny Brenda’s before. We’ve heard great things about the club so we’re really looking forward to it.

“Even though Echo Courts came together in 2014, this line-up has only been together for about a year.”

Echo Courts released their first LP “In the Garden” in July 2016 on Negative Fun Records.

“We toured our last record,” said Fahey. “Then, everybody that was in the band at the time got busy with other stuff. We had a six-piece back then. People left, and it was down to me, Nate and Luc. Then, we picked up our drummer Nick a little while ago.

“It’s definitely easier to get stuff done when you’re a smaller band. When we play live, it allows us to do a little more because of less moving pieces. We’re now definitely more focused on the sound. Making our new record has changed the vibe of the sound. It’s also changed because we’re older and into different things.”

Echo Courts just released its sophomore album “Room With A View” on July 13 via Refresh Records.

The new songs evolved over the course of six months of playing live shows in the Mid-South region before the band finally decided it was time to commit them to record. The result was an album with a cleaner, more focused sound.

According to Fahey, “‘Room With A View’ is a necessary step forward. The album’s title says it all. The songs come from a refreshed perspective.”

Recorded and produced by Jean-Luc Swift at A Domestic Studio and mastered by Kris Hilbert at Legitimate Business, “Room With A View” came out a few weeks ago on 12-inch vinyl, cassette, and digitally via iTunes, Spotify, and other retailers.

We have a lot of influences,” said Fahey. “Music I’ve been listening to now is George Harrison, Led Zeppelin and Ty Segall. When our band started, my favorite bands were Girls and Foxygen.”

Echo Courts, which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, plays jangly, guitar-driven power pop with plenty of vocal harmonies – sort of like Raleigh’s legendary pop-rock band from the 80s, the Connells.

“I don’t know what genre we’re supposed to be in,” said Fahey. Usually, I just say rock-and-roll – two guitars, bass and drums.

“When describing our sound, people have made refences to R.E.M. I never saw it. It’s not something I strive for. It just happens with guitar rock and a little country influence. For example, we love the Byrds and are more influenced by them than we are by R.E.M.”

Video link for Echo Courts – https://youtu.be/EXHNS-OfTu8.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Line Lender and Fred Beans as openers, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Alice Bag on August 12 and Sparta on August 13.

The “Heart Attack” – live performances by current and past members of Heart – that struck the area last week is now in “Stage 3.”

This has been a great nine day-stretch for area Heart fans with three concerts featuring musicians who have been key members of the hit-making band from the Pacific Northwest.

On August 4, Ann Wilson, one of Heart’s two main vocalists, shared the bill with Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers in Camden. On August 9, Heart By Heart, a group featuring original Heart members Steve Fossen and Michael Derosier, performed at the Sellersville Theater.

Nancy Wilson

Last but not least, Nancy Wilson, Ann’s sister who played guitar and shared the vocal duties in Heart, will headline a show at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center on August 12.

In late 2016 with Heart on an indefinite hiatus, Wilson formed a band called Roadcase Royale with former Prince band member and R&B singer Liv Warfield, lead guitarist Ryan Waters (the musical director for Warfield’s solo work and Prince protégé), and three Heart alumni —  keyboardist Chris Joyner, bassist Dan Rothchild and drummer Ben Smith.

Roadcase Royale released its first single, “Get Loud,” in January 2017. The band signed with Loud and Proud Records in July 2017 and released its debut full-length album “First Things First” on September 22, 2017.

“A couple years ago when Heart was doing a couple nights at the Hollywood Bowl, I saw Liv Warfield with her band,” said Wilson, during a phone interview last week from her home in Los Angeles.

“She just owned it – killed it – and I was floored. We offered them an opening slot for two nights at the Hollywood Bowl. Back then was when I talked to her about doing some music together. She wanted to do more rock and less R&B. Heart was always rock with some R&B.

“A little while later, Ann was already doing her own thing. I was in New York, met up with Liv and we got together in a rehearsal space. Liv brought Ryan and we started working on music right away.

“We did an arrangement of a song by Colin Hay – ‘Hold On To My Hand’ – and we nailed it the first time we played it. We had so much fun working with each other – no egos – everybody worked together well. The work ethic was big – and professional. We made the album pretty quickly.

“Then, we opened for a Bob Seger tour. Dan, Ben and Chris were all in Heart with me – the rhythm section and the keyboard player. So, there was good chemistry right from the start between Liv, Ryan and us.”

Wilson was a guitar virtuoso when she was just 10 years old. Celebrated as one of the seminal musicians in the history of rock, she was an integral member of Heart — the multi-platinum rock group that has sold more than 35 million records. As a songwriter, Wilson has co-written a collection of songs that are classic rock standards including “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda” and “Straight On.”

Her status as a rock icon was cemented when Heart was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. That same year, she and her sister received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Wilson has also built a successful career as a film composer. Her composing credits include scores for “Elizabethtown,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Say Anything…”

“My live shows now are half-and-half – Heart music, the biggest hits, and a few original things,” said Wilson. “There are some Roadcase Royale songs and a couple Pink Floyd covers.

“It’s definitely a place for Heart fans. After 50 years, honestly, I don’t know what else I’d do. I do have a varied career with scoring TV shows and films. And, I host a TV show about Muscle Shoals.”

Wilson also had an answer to the question asked by all Heart fans – will there be a reunion and tour any time soon?

“I’m still waiting to hear back from Ann,” said Wilson. “That always takes time. Hopefully, we can get on the road next summer.”

Video link for Nancy Wilson (with Roadcase Royale) — https://youtu.be/_tDK7mRihqk.

The show at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center on August 12 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $25-$55.

In 1998, the band Far — Jonah Matranga, vocals, guitar; Shaun Lopez, guitar; John Gutenberger, bass; Chris Robyn, drums, percussion – released a highly-acclaimed album called “Water & Solutions.” The LP had a strong cult following in the late 1990s – mainly because of the single “Mother Mary.”

The Pauses

Far broke up a few years later, reformed in 2009 and then split up again. On a radio show in 2011, Matranga said that it was not likely Far would be getting back together. He cited several problems but mainly that there was just “too much drama.”

Matranga celebrated the 20th anniversary of “Water & Solutions” this past March with a special live-streamed intimate performance. Now, he’s taking that celebration on the road with a carefully-selected backing band.

Matranga’s backing band is also the band that will be the opening act on this tour – The Pauses.

The two-pronged tour will touch down in the area on August 12 for a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

Orlando indie-rock trio The Pauses — multi-instrumentalist Jason Kupfer, vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Tierney Tough, and drummer Nathan Chase – will be pulling double-duty nightly, opening each show with their own set and then serving as Matranga’s backing band.

“We grew up as huge fans of ‘Waters & Solutions’,” said Tough, during a phone interview this week during a break in pre-tour rehearsals in Orlando.

“On this tour, we do a 30-minure set of our own and then a 60-minure set backing Jonah. We play the whole album. I grew up playing along with that album when I was 14 and 15. Jonah contacted us and asked if we’d play with him on the album’s anniversary shows. I was really thrilled. Obviously, we immediately said yes.”

The Pauses’ roots go back about 15 years to a band that shared its name with a Russian satellite.

“It spawned out of a different band – Vostok,” said Tough. “I was playing bass and Jason was on guitar. That band broke up and I was trying to figure out ideas on keyboard. Jason and I kept throwing musical ideas back-and-forth. Our first show as The Pauses was in 2008.”

Kupfer said, “Vostok had a different singer and was a lot moodier and darker. With The Pauses, it was more upbeat and fun – with some dark elements. We wanted to evolve and see what we could do.”

Tough said, “Our first album was ‘A Cautionary Tale’ in 2011. That was our first release ever. Then, we did a split with Great Deceivers in 2012. Our songs on the 45 were ‘The Beginning of Things’ and ‘Formerly.’ We also did a song called ‘Don’t Wake Me Up,’ which was a single for a compilation. We re-recorded the song for this record.”

Tough was referring to The Pauses’ sophomore album “Unbuilding,” which was produced by J. Robbins and released June 22, 2018.

Kupfer explained the seven-year gap between albums by The Pauses.

“Tierney was involved with other bands and I was doing film stuff,” said Kupfer. “We weren’t on hiatus. We still played shows now and then, but we weren’t going with it full-time.”

Tough said, “The first record was a big undertaking and we were a little discouraged with the results. We needed a little separation from it. Still, we were always active and playing. We did a lot of regional shows and short East Coast tours.”

The Pauses showed some serious progress with their new album. Produced by the legendary J. Robbins, the album reflects his influence in the heavier guitar propulsion that churns under the allure of the electronic ear candy on the surface.

“We made the album with J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage – his studio in Baltimore,” said Kupfer. “We finished recording the album two years ago and then spent time finding a record label deal.”

Tough said, “We have no management. We do everything ourselves. Last year, we signed with Arctic Rodeo Records, which is based in Hamburg, Germany. They like what we do, and they’ve been great with us. They even gave us a special yellow vinyl record for his tour.”

Video link for The Pauses – https://youtu.be/P6dkOeMwxP0.

The show at Boot & Saddle on August 12 will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at Boot and Saddle are E Joseph and the Sparrows on August 11 and Whiskey Shivers on August 15.

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