On Stage: Old and new acts hit area this weekend

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Russian Baths

If you took five of the music acts playing in the area this weekend and sorted them like playing cards, you’d have a full house – three ‘new” and two “old.”

The “new” acts are Russian Baths, a band that has yet to reach its third anniversary; Mapache, just released its debut album in October 2017; and Dos Santos, which was formed in 2013.

The “old” acts are Kinky Friedman, who has been making music since the mid-1960s, and Honey West featuring Ian McDonald, whose earliest music endeavors were with King Crimson and Foreigner back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

For many people, Brooklyn’s Russian Baths means massage/sauna spas such as Mermaid Spa and Brooklyn Banya Russian Bathhouse & Spa.

But, fans of new music Brooklyn’s Russian Baths has a whole different meaning. To them, Russian Baths is an interesting new band from Brooklyn featuring Luke Koz (guitar, vocals) and Jess Rees (guitar, keys, vocals).

Russian Baths, which also now includes Evan Gill Smith (bass) and Jeff Widner (drums), will be in town on July 14 for a show at Beautiful World Syndicate (1619 East Passayunk Avenue, Philadelphia, 215- 467-0401,www.discogs.com/seller/philadelphiamusic).

The group is touring in support of its most recent EP “Penance,” which was released February 23, 2018 on Good Eye Records. The EP massed thousands of streams and hit the top of Hype Machine.

“Luke and I met a couple years ago,” said Rees, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from Brooklyn. “We were working in the same office and neither of us had a band at the time.”

Koz said, “Jess had just moved back from Seattle. We had known each other for a while and knew we each into playing music. So, we decided to go to a practice space.

“We both played guitars at the start. Another friend played synth and piano. We started down a relaxed path. We worked on our first two songs over a period of four months.

Rees said, “We were learning how to work together. Then, we got a drummer – Jeff Widner – who is a really powerful drummer. Then, we added a bass player – Evan Gill Smith.”

Before too long, they were ready to introduce their music to the world.

“It was about three years ago that we stared the band,” said Koz. “Our first live show was two summers ago. We were doing an electronic set with the two of us. But, we prefer it to be a four-piece because that’s what the arrangements are for.”

Russian Baths’ music is a blend of noise rock, British post-punk, and dream-like shoegaze. The band has developed a style that is experimental and accessible with DNA that shows signs of Big Black’s caustic fits, ’70s space rock, Chapel Hill’s noise pop, and dense guitar-driven grunge — along with the angular arrangements of post-punk U.K.

“Penance” is the band’s first serious multi-song release.

“We recorded ‘Penance’ in the fall of 2017,” said Rees. “We used this studio in Bed-Stuy called Time Castle. It’s a cool, crazy basement studio with great vibes – a great reverb sound.

Koz said, “We had already recorded a lot of the material on our own. Our single ‘Ambulance/Ghost’ was done two years ago. With ‘Penance,’ we wanted to make it quicker. We were in the studio for just one day.

“We’ve been working on a full-length album, but I don’t know when it will come out. It’s recorded but it’s hard to call it done.”

Russian Baths is just now beginning to venture into the world of life as a touring band.

“We’re just starting to venture outside the City (New York/Brooklyn),” said Rees. “We’ve played New Jersey a few times and also Connecticut. This will be our first time to play Philadelphia.”

Video link for Russian Baths – https://youtu.be/v6OwihgL2mc.

The show at Beautiful World Syndicate, which also features Dark Web, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $2-$10 on a sliding scale.

Dos Santos

On July 15 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com), WXPN and AfroTaino Productions will present “Nuevofest 2018,” featuring Dos Santos Antibeat Orquesta, Delaporte, Elena & Los Fulanos, Femina-X, Very Be Careful, ÌFÉ, and Orquesta Akokán.

“Nuevofest” is one of those events that falls into the “What’s not to like?” categories. Some of the most exciting new music of Latin America will be featured in the show which runs from 4-10 p.m. at the World Cafe Live on Sunday. It’s an all-ages show – a fun and educational family event. And, admission is free.

Dos Santos is a quintet based in Chicago, whose elastic live performances and recorded output have garnered the band wide attention as one of the Windy City’s most potent, impactful performance groups. The band’s five members – Peter Maestro Vale, Alex Chavez, Daniel Villarreal-Carrillo, Jaime Garza, Nathan Karagianis — have their own storied careers in a diversity of styles including jazz, R&B/soul, traditional Mexican folk, punk, cumbia, Latinx punk, salsa and electronica.

After making their debut in May of 2013, Dos Santos has been steadily playing Chicago’s premiere live music venues and festivals, and such prominent U.S. events as SXSW, the Pachanga Latino Music Festival, and the Ruido Fest Latin Alternative Music Festival.

“We’ve been together five years,” said Sanchez, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from his home near Gary, Indiana. “We first got together in Spring 2013 and started playing out live not long after.

“The folks in the band were playing music in the city (Chicago) in different scenes. I was the catalyst for the project – the project of making a band in Latin American popular sounds.

“I reached out to different folks that I knew. Our original guitarist Irekani (Ferreyra) and I were linked up in the traditional folk scene in Chicago. He and our original bassist knew percussionists, so we got a drummer and then a percussionist. Everybody was already playing music in the city.

“A lot of people don’t think of a Mexican population in Chicago. Actually, Chicago has the sixth-largest Latino population in the country – and the fifth-largest Mexican population in the states.”

Dos Santos, which translates to “two saints” in Spanish, found a musical blend that in representative of the diverse Latino community in Illinois’ largest city.

“Our band is a good example of Latinos finding common language,” said Sanchez. “Our music includes styles from Mexican to salsa to Afro-Cuban – and also Latino house music. We’ve created a meaningful statement of who we are. Our music has always been multi-dimensional. We keep getting better at integrating different sounds.

“We take Latin rhythms and treat them in a progressive way. Look at the makeup of our band. Jaime and I are Mexican and American. Daniel is from Panama and Peter is from Puerto Rico and now a Chi Rican. Our sound incorporates cumbia from Peru and Colombia, African-American music and storytelling from Puerto Rico. Then, we filter it through an experimental voice. That has always been the foundation.”

Dos Santos have released three albums — “Dos Santos” in 2015, “Fonografic” in 2016, and “Logos,” which was released this year on International Anthem Recording Company.

Dos Santos have been steadily moving forward into something more future-minded and universal — something that transcends nationalism. “Logos” has generated a push into this transcendence.

“Your really do hear the band’s growth in terms with the discography,” said Sanchez. “All three records sound different from each other – with an element of consistency.”

Video link for Dos Santos – https://youtu.be/AGeVN67Wn3g.

The all-ages show at World Café Live will run from 4-10 p.m. Tickets are free.


Mapache, which will perform on July 15 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com), is a new folk/ blues/rock/bluegrass/psychedelic duo from Los Angeles – a band interested in spreading good feelings of love as well as raw musical talent to anyone and everyone. Mapache is an experience both live and in the studio presenting a memorable and honest sound.

The band was formed in January 2016 in Glendale (California) by Clay Finch and Sam Blasucci and cites influences such as Grateful Dead, The Band, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash, blues and traditional bluegrass. It is touring in support of its self-titled debut album and its new EP “Lonesome LA Cowboy.”

“The new EP was recorded in the house we live in here in L.A.,” said Finch, during a phone interview last week. “We made it with Dan Horn, who also produced our first record, which came out in December 2017.

“We’ve been playing together eight years – since we were in high school in Glendale – and as Mapache for two years. The core of the music has stayed the same – two of us with guitars singing together. Maybe the influences have changed. We might be evolving but the core is the same.

“We love the Dead and old country music. The Byrds have been a big influence along with George Jones, the Louvin Brothers and the Stanley Brothers.

“I’m not really sure what the demographic is for our audience. It’s a mix of alternative, jam and country rock fans. We play music that appeals to a lot of different kinds of people.”

Mapache has been able to stay true to its simple, straightforward, honest sound – mainly on the lyrics, vocals and guitar work of the two talented musicians.

“It’s just the two of us,” said Finch. “Some friends have played bass, percussion and pedal steel, We like to keep it among friends and family. We’re always writing, and we already have another album ready to record.

“In our live shows now, we play half the set with songs from the record and half new songs. And, we also throw in a few covers of bands like the Louvin Brothers.”

Video link for Mapache – https://youtu.be/182wZNr2eRM.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which also features Grateful Shred, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Ian McDonald, who is known as a co-founder of Foreigner and King Crimson, has embarked on a new project – a band called Honey West with fellow New Yorker Ted Zurkowski. On July 15, McDonald will be bringing his New York City-based guitar rock band Havana (105 South Main Street, New Hope, www.havananewhope.com, 215-862-5501) in support of its acclaimed debut album, “Bad Old World.”

McDonald is a British rock legend who has figured prominently on four of the biggest-selling albums of the 10-year period from 1969-1979 – in two completely different rock genres. Foreigner was a hit-making arena rock band while King Crimson was one of the forefathers of prog rock.

“I had a neighbor and his wife who lived across the street from me in New York City,” said McDonald, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in New York. “Ted and I passed each other on the street for years. I found out that his wife had a Shakespeare company and that he had a band. I went to see his band play and liked what I hear. I thought there was a lot of potential for something really good. I thought that if they’d have me, it was something I’d like dto be involved in. They were happy to have me. There have been some minor changes since.”

The band soon was working hard on a new album – “Bad Old World.”

“Bad Old World” is filled with memorable melodies and clever and sophisticated lyrics served on a bed of guitar-driven rockl played by top-shelf musicians, including guest appearances by drummer Steve Holley, whose credits include Paul McCartney & Wings and Graham Maby (Joe Jackson, They Might Be Giants) on bass. The band’s DNA includes Brit-rock greats as The Move, Mott the Hoople, the Kinks and Rockpile.

“We recorded the album at four or five studios in Brooklyn and New York,” said McDonald. “A lot of it was done at Cowboy Technical Services in Brooklyn. It’s been out for a little while and it’s getting good reception.

“We had about a dozen songs we felt were worth recording. I just wanted to give the songs the production they deserved. The songs have good lyrics. That’s why I like working with Ted. I do all the lead guitar, keys and wind instruments. The songs do start off with the lyrics. That’s pretty much the standard with us. But, lately, some songs have been starting with musical ideas.”

Now, Honey West are presenting the music in a live context.

“When we play live, we usually just do the songs in the sequence they were mastered,” said McDonald. “In longer shows, we will be introducing new songs that have been written since the album was recorded.”

Video link for Honey West – https://youtu.be/8Fk4PV82HAc.

The show at Havana, which has NYTROUS as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Kinky Friedman

Over the years, Kinky Friedman has been called a lot of things – by friend and foe – but “prolific” isn’t one of them.

Friedman, who will play July 16 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com), could probably go an entire year without even having thoughts of making a new album.

Prior to “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met,” which was released in October 2015, Friedman had released just 10 studio albums — starting with “Sold American” in 1973.

With the proclamation that here “is what music was, before it came homogenized, trivialized and sanitized,” Friedman just released his first all-new album of original tunes in four decades. “Circus of Life” presents a side of the veteran musician that few would have suspected in the halcyon days of his Texas Jewboys, laying perhaps legit claim to the title “The Leonard Cohen of Texas.” On July 3, Friedman released the album on his own terms and on his own Echo Hill Records.

“The new album has really taken off,” said Friedman, during a phone interview last week from his home in the Lone Star State. “It’s all digital now which means 18 years from now I’ll get a check for $18. But, the album is climbing. It just passed Garth Brooks for downloads and is getting a lot of action on Spotify. What that does – I gets a lot of radio stations interested in picking it up. Rolling Stone just picked it up. I hope it doesn’t get too big. I couldn’t handle a hit like ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’ We’ll see what happens.”

When asked if there was a catalyst that got the new album in the works, Friedman told a story.

“I got a 3 a.m. phone call from Willie Nelson,” said Friedman. “He asked me was doing at that moment. I told him I was watching ‘Matlock’ on TV. He told me that it was a sure sign of depression. He said – Kinky, turn Matlock off and start writing. So, I did.

“I got inspired. I wrote 12 tunes in about five weeks. That’s a fact. Willie said – send them to me. Writing was fun. For example, the song ‘Jesus in Pajamas’ is a true story. It really happened.”

With Joe Cirotti on multiple instruments, and Mickey Raphael, Augie Meyers, original Texas Jewboy Little Jewford, Clay Meyers, and Jim Beal providing amazing grace notes, not a single track on the album fails to reach its very high mark.

“This album runs deep,” said Friedman. “It runs so deep, it finds people. The majority of us are disgruntled with what is coming out of Nashville. All they care about in Nashville is production. This album is about real songs. I recorded the album here at my studio at Echo Hill Ranch, the family ranch in the heart of Texas. It took one-and-a-half weeks to record.”

Friedman is a singer-songwriter who has been recording music since the mid-1960s. But, that only tells part of his story. He was making music that was a blend of country, folk and rock long before the term “Americana” was coined.

His music and his outlook have always had humorous sides. His first real group was Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys, a name which parodied the famous country/western swing band Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

By the mid-1970s, Friedman’s music was poplar enough to land him a spot as the opening act for one of Bob Dylan’s tours. One of his signature songs from that era was “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” a song in which Kinky puts down a drunken white racist who has been spewing hate for blacks, Jews and frat boys.

Friedman’s bio almost reads like fiction – but it’s all true. He served two years in the United States Peace Corps as a teacher in Borneo. Just over 20 years ago, he started writing detective novels with a fictionalized version of himself as a New York City detective.

In 2004, Friedman began a serious but unsuccessful campaign to get elected as the Governor of Texas with campaign slogans such as “My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy” and “He ain’t Kinky, he’s my Governor.”

“I don’t regret running for Governor,” said Friedman, who also ran for a short while in the 2010 Texas gubernatorial election. “I lost in 2006 but I still got 600,000 votes. That’s not bad at all. The governor’s race was the one I won everywhere but Texas. I’ve been ahead of my time.”

Friedman has also become a well-respected cigar maker. His line of Kinky Friedman Cigars includes stogies called Kinkycristo, Texas Jewboy, The Wille (inspired by his friend Wille Nelson), Lone Star #4, The Governor, Utopian and Kinky Lady. He will have his cigars on sale at his show in Philly.

He also sells Kinky Friedman Cigars Coffee which is grown by Fara Coffee, a company that produces Rainforest Alliance-certified 100 percent shade-grown Arabica coffee on its own farms in the mountainous rainforests of Nicaragua. And, he founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch to care for stray, abused and aging animals.

But, music is on the main burner right now with a new album and a major U.S. tour.

“When I heard that Willie was having some health problems, I called him to see how he was doing,” said Friedman. “Willie replied – a little up, a little down. By the way Kinky, what channel is Matlock on?”

It’s all part of the circus of life.

Video link for Kinky Friedman — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FSWm67IhDU.

The show at Sellersville, which has Brian Molnar opening, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $39.50.

The venue will also present the Felice Brothers on July 18.

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