On Stage: Escovedo headlines Mushroom Festival show

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Alejandro Escovedo

This weekend, the annual Mushroom Festival in downtown Kennett Square (http://mushroomfestival.org) is celebrating its 33rd anniversary. The Mushroom Festival will run from September 8-10 at various locations in downtown Kennett Square.

A musical highlight will be a live performance by Alejandro Escovedo with Don Antonio on Saturday evening in the Special Events Tent at State and Willow streets. The show, which is produced in association with Kennett Flash, will start at 8 p.m.

Escovedo has long been known as a “musician’s musician.” He is one of those performers that other musicians flock to hear perform whenever possible.

He is currently touring in support of his new album “The Crossing,” which will be released September 14 on Yep Roc Records.

Escovedo is performing with Don Antonio for their first ever American gig on Saturday. Additionally, it will be the first time these songs have been heard live anywhere.

“We’re playing seven songs from ‘The Crossing’ and we’ll go back in my catalogue for the rest of the songs in the set,” said Escovedo, during a phone interview Thursday morning.

“We’re in Philadelphia to play at WXPN and then we go to New York to do CBS Saturday Morning. Then, we come back to your area for the Mushroom Festival. We’re rehearsing for these shows now.”

For this tour – and the making of “The Crossing” — Escovedo, a Mexican-American from Texas, joined forces with Don Antonio and his band, a talented rock group from northern Italy.

Don Antonio with Alejandro Escovedo

“I used all Italian musicians,” said Escovedo. “The album is about immigration – about an Italian boy and a Mexican boy.”

Ranging from sweeping orchestral numbers to classic rock to bursts of 70s punk, the new album features Escovedo delving further into his lifelong musical journey and producing his most sonically diverse work yet.

“The Crossing” tells the tale of two boys– one from Mexico, one from Italy — who meet in Texas to chase their American rock and roll dreams. They discover a not-so-welcoming, very different place from the Promised Land they imagined.

“A young boy from southern Italy named Salvo and a young boy from Mexico named Diego meet in Galveston (Texas) and then they try to find the America that they had heard about,” said Escovedo.

“They go looking for the Ramones, the MC5, the Stooges, the Dolls — American bands that they love. They go looking for the authors like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Instead, they find a new and different America. An America that is very different than what they expected.

“I spent about six months writing the songs. The topic of immigration is something I always felt was important. My father crossed the border from Mexico to America when he was 12. He was looking for his parents who had to leave him behind. Eventually, he found them near San Marcos, Texas.”

Two years ago, with a string of European tour dates booked, Escovedo went looking for a band from Europe to back him up. Don Antonio, a seasoned, all-instrumental band from Mogdliana, in the northern Italian province of Emilia-Romagna, came highly recommended.

“This band had played with a lot of my friends before and they all offered a lot of praise,” said Escovedo. “I sent the band about 30 songs before we first met in Mogdliana. We rehearsed a day-and-a-half and then did 35 gigs in 45 days in 10 different countries across Europe. It was a wonderful experience. I fell in love with them.”

Don Antonio features Antonio Gramentieri, the  band’s guitarist and leader, along with Denis Valentini on bass, Matteo Monti on drums, Franz Valtieri and Gianni Perinelli on horns plus Nicola Peruch on keyboards.

The Mushroom Festival is expected to draw more than 100,000 festival fans and mushroom lovers. Some of the main attractions are the Amateur Mushroom Cook-off, an Antique and Classic Car Show, the National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship, and a Mushroom 5K Run/2-Mile Walk.

On September 8, the festival gets underway at 10 a.m. with the opening of the Street Fair and the Growers’ Exhibit as well as the Painter Mushroom Silent Auction.

At 10:30 a.m., it will be time for the Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off in the Special Events Tent at State and Willow Streets. The National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Special Events Tent. Contestants will be competing for a $1,000 prize by eating the most fried mushrooms in eight minutes.

Sunday’s activities begin with the Mushroom Run and Fun Walk at 8:30 a.m. — with registration starting at 7:30 a.m. The Walk goes off at 8:35 a.m. The race begins on South Street in front of Kennett High School, follows Red Clay Creek and passes by a number of mushroom houses.

The Soup and Wine Event will be held at 11 a.m. in the Special Events Tent with guests sampling local wines and voting for the festival’s best mushroom soup.

Brian Fitzy

Other festival activities include a mushroom soup sale at the Masonic Lodge, a Cute-as-a-Button (Mushroom) Baby Photo Contest, cooking demonstrations in the Culinary Tent, and live music on the Community Stage featuring Coatesville’s Brian Fitzy, South African Andrew Lipke, Nicely, Smith and Hawkins, Evergo, Tim Celfo and Joe Hillman, Orpheus Supertones, Campbell and Son, and Hot Breakfast.

Video link for Alejandro Escovedo — https://youtu.be/bEoXB-aBiPc.

On Saturday, gates at the Special Events Tent open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $55.

Admission to the festival is $3 per person (12 and up).

The Chairman Dances

Another interesting show on September 8 will take place when The Chairman Dances headlines a three-act bill at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

The Chairman Dances officially released its new album “Child of My Sorrow” on September 7 on Black Rd Records. One day later, the Philadelphia-based band is celebrating the event with an “LP Release Show” at the popular venue in South Philadelphia.

“We recorded the album in the winter last year,” said The Chairman Dances founder/leader/vocalist Eric Krewson during a phone interview  from his Philly home.

“Child of My Sorrow” was recorded and mixed by Daniel Smith at Familyre Studio in Clarksboro, New Jersey. Additional recording was done by Krewson in Philadelphia, Luke Pigott and Krewson in Chattanooga, Tennessee and by Ashley Hartman in Galicia, Spain It was mastered by KRAMER at Noise Miami in south Florida.

“Most of the tracking was done in New Jersey,” said Krewson. “A few things were done in Chattanooga. Ashley lives in England so I sent her some tracks to work on there. Daniel Smith is a great producer. He also produced our last album. We have a really good rapport.”

The Chairman Dances features Dan Comly: analog synthesizer, piano, organ, wurlitzer, mellotron, glockenspiel;  Dan Finn: analog and FM synthesizers, piano, organ, wurlitzer; Ashley Hartman: vocals;  Eric Krewson: vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, trumpet, analog and FM synthesizers, piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, glockenspiel, electronic drums, percussion, violin and cello arrangements, saxophone arrangements, field recordings; Luke Pigott: electric guitar, analog synthesizer, organ; Will Schwarz: bass guitar; and Kevin Walker: drum kit.
The highly-acclaimed, non-mainstream band will be focusing on songs from its brand new disc at Saturday night’s show.

“We’re playing basically the whole record,” said Krewson, who was a music student as an undergrad at Drexel University and a grad student at Temple University. “We’ll also be playing songs from our ‘Time Without Measure’ album and our EP ‘Samantha Says’ but the focus will be on the new material.

“I wrote for quite some time, stockpiled songs and then picked the ones I liked most. I had 28 and whittled it down to 11. Then, I brought the songs to the band. I write a song and use ProTools to record the bare bones demo myself before I take it to the band.

“Occasionally, I’ll have fun and add a few things. I write most of the songs away from instruments. I write melodies and lyrics first. My songwriting varies. It could be a story first…or a lyric…or a melody – or all of the above. Usually, I have the idea for the scenario of a song – but not all the time.”

Krewson is always looking for ways to keep the band’s music fresh.

“Two records ago, we did an EP,” said Krewson, who is a graduate of Fleetwood High in Berks County. “It had pop formats with a literary beat to it. This time, I tried to make the form leaner – to make the harmonic structure more intact.

“The new album is loosely tied together topically. I really love fiction. There are a number of authors whose writing makes me want to write. Seventy per cent of the stories on the album are fictional. But, some parts are also deeply personal.”

Video link for The Chairman Dances – https://youtu.be/BJjpwDYROEg.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which has Bird Watcher and Brother Martin as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at Boot and Saddle are No Fun At All, The Drowns, and Aspiga on September 9, Ex Hex and EZTV on September 10, and Buck Meek and The Goodbye Party on September 12.

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