On Stage (Extra): Sunday night shows to calm the soul

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times



Rather than attending a show or watching a movie in a theater, people in this area tend to stay at home on Sunday nights – especially during the winter months. That tendency will increase for the next few Sundays with the added pressure of recovering from weekend holiday shopping.

Fortunately, there is a variety of shows and events that could easily lure active people out into the night on December 4 – a smooth jazz Christmas show featuring a world-famous sax player and concerts by very diverse bands including a glam-rock band, a female-fronted rock/garage/punk/blues-influenced band, and a funky Midwest garage/punk band.

The female-fronted rock/garage/punk/blues-influenced band is Soraia, a Philadelphia-based sextet that includes ZouZou Mansour (lead vocals, tambourine), Travis Smith (bass guitar, backup vocals), John Glaubitz (guitar, backup vocals), Mike Reisman (guitar, backup vocals), Brianna Sig (drums, percussion) and Jack Faracchio (organ, keyboards, backup vocals).

The music Soraia creates captures the essence of gritty blues-influenced rock music — the kind of rock you’d hear in smoky bars back in the 1960s. It’s not a retro-sound but rather a tapping into the emotional nature of the music.

Soraia is the stage name of singer ZouZou Mansour and also the name of her band. On December 4, Mansour and her band will play the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com) as one of the acts on a show billed as “DVT ENT.&SSHD Presents Hesheyfest 2016 — Benefit Rock to the Future.”

The all-ages show, which starts at 3 p.m., also features Kid Felix, Stolen Rhodes, Zymotic Flow, John Faye, The Captain The Pilot The Driver, The Quixote Project, Sweet Eureka, Five Times Famous, and Rock to The Future Student Band.

“Travis and I are the core of the band and we’ve been together for over 10 years,” said Mansour, during a recent phone interview. “We released our first album ‘The Valley of Love and Guns’ in 2013, ‘Soraia Lives’ in 2014 and ‘Less Than Zero’ in 2015.

“We hope to get back in the studio later this month. We’re a rock-and-roll band. We go in the studio, make a record and get out. When we record, we play live and then might add some overdubs later. We’ve already played a lot of the new songs in our shows this year.

“Things are going really well with the band. We’ve been touring a lot. And, we just signed a deal with Wicked Cool Records to release our back catalogue

“Wicked Cool Records is owned by Little Steven Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. We just set up a tour with them in March. Our shows are drawing more people and we’re playing better venues. It all happened at the beginning of this year. David Fricke, a senior writer at Rolling Stone Magazine, contacted us out of the blue and said he loved our music. He has a show on Sirius Spectrum.”

The domino effect had started and the dominoes continued to fall in a positive direction for Soraia.

“Earlier this year, we were contacted by rock radio station, 93.3 WMMR-FM, to open their annual MMR*B*Q festival at the BB & T Center in Camden, New Jersey,” said Mansour. “We met an artist there – Alex Carapetis from Wolfmother – who came to America and accomplished his dream. He made us think about our dreams – about making decisions and knowing that something can be accomplished.

“We knew then that we had to go on tour and take our music to the people. We just did a two-week tour in October. Everything is going at a real natural flow. Even the songwriting has become easier. The inside voice quiets down and self-confidence comes.”

It has also taken years for Mansour to find where she wants to be emotionally.

“I was 17 when my mother died,” said Mansour. “I had just graduated from high school. That changed my life.”

After a period of time that included stretches of drug use, alcohol abuse and being homeless, Mansour got her life back on track. She became one of the survivors. She returned to college and graduated with a teaching degree. Then, she was lured back into the music world by her first love — singing.

“My dad always said — where there’s a will there’s a way,” said Mansour. “It looks like I proved that he was right.”

Video link for Soraia – https://youtu.be/41y2reYVTx0?t=57.

The show at the Theater of the Living Arts will get underway at 3 p.m. on December 4. Tickets are $17.

Dave Koz

Dave Koz

Over the last two decades, smooth jazz sax legend Dave Koz has played Philadelphia many, many times – and each show has been different from its predecessors. There have been romantic Valentine’s Day shows, summer festival vibe shows and tours when he has brought along several top-flight jazz artists to share the bill. He also hosts ocean-going cruises on a regular basis.

“I stay focused on whatever I’m doing at the time,” said Koz, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Naples, Florida.

Now, the nine-time Grammy Award nominee is on the road with his annual Christmas tour. Each year, Koz puts together a new, all-star lineup of artists for his holiday run, which has been going on for almost two decades. The tour will touch down in this area on December 4 at the Scottish Rites Theatre (315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, N.J., http://www.collingswood.com/entertainment/theater-and-ballroom).

This year he will be joined by special guests Jonathan Butler, Ashford and Simpson’s Valerie Simpson and Kenny Lattimore. Together, the four remarkable artists will put on a high-energy show filled with fresh renditions of holiday classics as well as other selections that capture the spirit of the season.

Butler, an “alumni” of the tour, has earned accolades in the R&B, contemporary jazz and gospel fields and recently released a new studio album entitled “Free.” Acclaimed vocalist Valerie Simpson co-wrote such classic hits such as, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” as half of the songwriting/performing/producing entity Ashford and Simpson. She recently released a new solo album, “Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again.” Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Kenny Lattimore has released seven solo albums, including his latest, “Anatomy of a Love Song.”

“Believe it or not — this is ‘Year 19’ for my Christmas tour,” said Koz. “For a nice Jewish boy, what’s wrong with this picture? I love Christmas and I love being on the road at this time of the year. The show morphs and changes from year-to-year. We try to keep it fresh. That’s the big thing.

“The impetus for the whole tour goes back to a conversation I had with David Benoit in 1997. My dad and his mon had both recently passed away. It was his idea to go on the road and make music for our parents. We did six or seven holiday shows and people liked it. The next year, Peter White came along. It’s just kept growing ever since.

“What the tour has always been about is family. Now, the audience has adults who have been coming ever since they were kids. Now, they are bringing their children to the show — kids are actually bringing their kids.”

Parents have no trouble deciding whom to bring. It’s not that easy for Koz.

“Deciding who to bring out on tour with me each year can be tough,” said Koz. “I already know the line-up for the 20th anniversary tour – David (Benoit), Peter (White) and Rick Braun. At the end of the tour, we have a little break.

“In January, we look at the options. It’s like casting a movie. You have to find the right combination of people. I don’t want any divas. I just want people who love what they do. It’s about creating moments that are shared.”

Koz has a good cast on the stage with him and a good production crew working behind the scenes.

“This is a big show with the lighting and everything,” said Koz. “We did five rehearsals in L.A. and two dress rehearsals at a venue in Nashville where we could hang lights. The lighting is almost like a character in the show.

“We did the first show the other night and it felt great. This is a two-hour show split with a 20-minute intermission. This is the kind of show that brings people together – a show that reminds us of a simpler time.”

Video link for Dave Koz — https://youtu.be/4ed-YwQsNHU?t=15.

The show at Scottish Rites will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $85, $62.50, $52.50 and $42.50.



The glam-rock band – The Fame Riot – and the Midwest rockers – Radkey – will share the bill at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

There are some similarities between the bands. The both record for Another Century Records. Both bands have been formed by brothers. And, they both put on exciting shows. Other than that, Radkey and The Fame Riot are very different animals.

Radkey consists of three home-schooled brothers from St. Joseph, Missouri. Isaiah Radke (bass), Solomon Radke (drums), and Dee Radke (lead vocals and guitar) — with their dad, Matt Radke, as their manager.

They put the band together in 2010, and played their first show in 2011 when they opened for Fishbone. Radkey’s first opportunity to play Afropunk Fest in 2011 was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene but the brothers returned to Brooklyn to play Afropunk in 2012.

“We grew up in St. Joseph’s, which is a small city north of Kansas City,” said Isaiah Radke, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Birmingham, Alabama. “Dee is two years older than me and Solomon is two years younger. I think I was 14 or 15 when I started with music. This is really our first experience as a band. Solomon and I picked playing music as teens to help fight boredom. We needed something to do.

“Our parents were really supportive when we decided that we wanted to form a band. It’s been six years since our first show at the Aftershock in Merriam, Kansas. We played on a bill with Fishbone after another band dropped out. That show wasn’t long after the band started. After that, we were able to get a lot more gigs. Even though we were young, it gave  us more respectability.”

Radkey has released two EPs — “Cat & Mouse” in 2012 and “Devil Fruit” in 2013 – and two LPs – “Dark Black Makeup” in 2015 and the new album “Delicious Rock Noise,” which was released November 11 on Another Century Records.

“The new album is a re-release or our last album along with some new stuff,” said Radke. “We also added some vocal tracks on the older songs. We just wanted to make bigger songs – catchier songs.”

On its website, the band stated “‘Delicious Rock Noise’ is the album we’ve always dreamt of making. Since we were old enough to even think about stuff I think. It was really important to make an album the way we believe rock records should be made, and that’s pretty much writing anything you feel like writing and then recording it because you feel that it rocks exactly the way that you needed it too. ‘Delicious Rock Noise’ is everything that we are, and we feel so lucky to have been able to make it just the way we wanted to.’

The band already is looking ahead to its next album.

“We haven’t gotten into the studio lately but we have been writing some new songs,” said Radke. “We’re ready for the studio. The new songs are less groovy and heavy – but it’s still catchy rock. On the next record, we want to rock out hard.”

Video link for Radkey – https://youtu.be/bSV3AROTSmI?t=6.

The Fame Riot

The Fame Riot

The two brothers who make up The Fame Riot are Liz Scarlett (Lead Vocals, Lead Guitars, Beats, Keys) and Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins- (Lead Screeching, Lead Keys, Percussion, Guitars).

According to them, “The Fame Riot is not a band; it’s a religion. The two brothers are at the forefront of a shift in musical style and culture, drawing influence from the last four decades of rock, pop, electronica, disco, and everything in-between.”

“We live in Seattle now but we grew up in California and a lot of other places because our dad was in the ministry for 32 years,” said Scarlett, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Birmingham, Alabama. “Then, he settled in Seattle.

“We have our own form of ministry. We preach our own gospel. Rebellion got us into the radio. We weren’t allowed to listen to any secular music growing up – but, every once in a while, our dad would slip the radio on when our mom wasn’t around.

“That led to the explosion of our interest in rock. It was such a new thing that we couldn’t resist creating our own music. It was 2005 when we started and we’ve been playing as this group ever since. The band has been as big as a five-piece at one time and now we’re a three-piece.”

The third member – drummer Mason Spence – has great rock music in his DNA. His grandfather, the late, great Skip Spence was a guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and then spent years drumming for San Francisco’s legendary band Moby Grape.

“We have about three records worth of stuff that hasn’t been released,” said Scarlett. “In 2014, we released ‘Heart Stray,’ a seven-track EP. It sold out so we did a replant in 2015 with two additional songs. That was our first record with Another Century. They had us take all our music off-line and re-release it. Hopefully, we’ll have a handful of new tracks by February.

“We’ve been playing a lot of shows and we keep getting new converts to our ‘Freek Family.’ When someone asks what type of music we play, I tell them we play dance music – but it’s funky dance rock-and-roll with pop elements, guitar solos and nasty beats.”

Video link for The Fame Riot — https://youtu.be/xnS34BG3URE?t=65

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features the Parameters, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

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