On Stage: 50 years of rock stardom? Just say Yes

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

In recent years, Yes has been visiting America during the summer months to perform shows featuring a couple of the bands classic albums performed in their entirety.

Founded in 1968 by Chris Squire and Jon Anderson, Grammy-award winning recording artists Yes have created some of the most important and influential music in rock history, such as iconic pieces “Roundabout,” “Close to the Edge,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Starship Trooper,” and countless others.

The group’s albums, including “Fragile,” “ Close to the Edge,” “Tales from Topographic Oceans,” and “90125,” have been certified multi-platinum, double-platinum, platinum, and more by the RIAA, and have sold over 50 million records total in a career that has so far spanned almost five decades.

On July 21, Yes will be in Philadelphia to perform a show at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) and to help fans celebrate the band at the “YesFanFest – 50 True Summers” event at the same venue during the day.

This year, Yes will be travelling around North America on its summer tour and it’s a special one. It’s the band’s  50th Anniversary North American tour titled “#YES50: Celebrating 50 Years of YES.”

During this summer’s “Evening with YES” shows, YES– Steve Howe (guitar since 1970), Alan White (drums since 1972), Geoff Downes (keyboards; first joined in 1980), Jon Davison (vocals since 2011) and Billy Sherwood (guitar/keyboards in the 1990s and the late Chris Squire’s choice to take over bass/vocals in 2015) — will perform a special classic hits concert to commemorate the landmark occasion

“I’m looking forward to our convention event and Philly shows,” said Downes, during a phone interview from his hotel room in Philadelphia Friday morning. “It’s a very exciting time for the band.

“We did a Yes convention before at the London Palladium. Phiadekphia was the most logical place to do onbe in the states considering Philadelphia is where the band broke initially. In 1969 when the band first cane to the states, a radio deejay named Ed Sciaky was a major reason in our success. He played our music on the raio a lot and other stations picked up on it a lot.

“Yes played the Spectrum, which is no longer there, multiple times. Certainly, Philadelphia has played a big role for a lot of British bands – Philadelphia and not New York or Los Angeles.”

The current Yes line-up will perform a selection of the band’s greatest hits.

“For the past few years, we’ve been doing these album series tours each summer,” said Downes. “We’re working our way through the catalog. ‘Drama’ was an important album for me. It was my first album with the band.”

In 1980, pop duo The Buggles (keyboardist Geoff Downes and singer Trevor Horn) acquired Brian Lane as a manager. The pair had had a worldwide hit with the single “Video Killed the Radio Star” and were working in the same rehearsal complex as Yes. The duo already had a song called “We Can Fly From Here,” which they thought would be suitable for Yes and which they consequently pitched to the band.

At this point, the departure of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, which had been kept secret from everyone outside the Yes inner circle, was revealed to Horn and Downes and it was suggested that they join Yes as full-time members.

Horn and Downes accepted the invitation and the reconfigured band recorded “Drama,” which was released in August 1980. The record displayed a heavier, harder sound than the material Yes had recorded previously.

“There were definitely changes when we recorded ‘Drama,’” said Downes. “Yes went from a band that was known for playing these long pieces to being more of a rock band.

“When John Anderson and Rick Wakeman left, the other guys were looking in different directions for the band. I think it helped propel Yes into a whole new genre. I think we injected a whole new technical aspect — not just in sounds but also in writing.

“That album showed that Yes could expand into a new musical style. In our 1980 tour, we played three or four tracks off the album. It’s a great album to play because there’s a lot of lively music in it.”

The most recent album by Yes is “Heaven & Earth,” which came out in 2014.

“We’re not playing any songs from the latest album but we play a lot from albums over the course of the band’s career,” said Downes. “It makes for quite a long show.”

Video link for Yes — https://youtu.be/XMyx-Oc0S_I.

On July 21, it’s time for the second session of the Ladybug Festival (Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, https://theladybugfestival.com) – a free two-day festival held on Market Street in downtown Wilmington.

The seventh annual all-female festival features 63 musical acts on 17 stages on July 20 and 21.

Laura Cheadle

One of the top acts performing tonight will be Laura Cheadle, who is performing in support of her new album “Chill.”

“‘Chill’ officially came out in May, so it’s still very new” said Cheadle, during a phone interview Friday from her home in South Jersey. “I’m filming a music video for it this weekend.

Cheadle wears several hats as a musician. She is a gifted singer/songwriter. She is a talented pop/rock artist. And, she is an acclaimed blues musician.

“This album is not a blues album,” said Cheadle. “It’s a vibrant, pop/R&B singer/songwriter album like the ones I made in the 2000s.

“I actually wrote every single song. Usually, I collaborate with other people. This album was all me.

“I like to use al organic instruments – bass, drums, guitar, synth and even live violin. Every song on this album is literally chill. It’s a real relaxed album.”

It is also a very personal record.

“I wrote the songs from 2013 on,” said Cheadle. “There were a lot of changes in my life. The songs are about relationships and love – about being true to yourself. It’s absolutely introspective. It’s about my life.

Making this album was definitely a cathartic experience. I worked through a lot of emotions on this record. I still feel the emotion when I perform them. I can’t let go of these feelings.”

Cheadle has a band that features blues, soul, funk – and a lot of Cheadles. Her four-piece group features her brother Jim Cheadle on guitar and her father James Cheadle on keyboards. James “Papa Cheadle” has played and recorded with Don Cornell, DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Four Aces, Grover Washington Jr., The Soul Survivors, Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine.

“My father has influenced me so much,” said Cheadle. “He’s a seasoned jazz musician who used to be a music professor at Rowan University. So, I’ve always been involved with music

“He has his own recording studio in South Jersey called the Swedesboro Music Studio and he records a lot of different people. He and I are both devoted to music. His influence on me is blues and jazz – but I make it modern.”

Cheadle’s music career began when she was four years old. Her father created the “Appreciation Choir” for the Persian Gulf War troops in the early nineties and created a music video that was aired on VH1 and MTV. Along with her two older twin brothers and various other children, Cheadle toured around the United States singing for audiences.

When she was 11, she enlisted her father to teach her how to play drums. From her “tween” to “mid-teen” years, Cheadle was in a band with her brothers called Sibling – a pop group that played at local restaurants, churches, music venues, private parties and parades.

“I’ve been in the Philadelphia/New Jersey music scene for quite some time,” said Cheadle. “I’ve been doing acoustic stuff since I was 16 and then put my band together later. Sibling was a blend and I morphed into my music. Songwriting comes very naturally for me. Sometimes, I wake up with a melody in my head. It’s just there.

“I’ve always been a super fan of old soul. My biggest influences are Aretha Franklin, Tower of Power, James Brown and Stevie Wonder. I love real drums and all the organic instruments. Some of my songs are rock. Some of them are blues. It’s hard to classify me – maybe pop/rock with soul influence. I just do what I feel.”

The Cheadle Family has built a strong reputation nationally.

“We were on an NBC television show called ‘The Next Great Family Band’ in 2013,” said Cheadle. “That got us a lot of interest in being booked for tours. They actually came to our place in Swedesboro. The exposure was great.”

Cheadle recorded chill at Swedesboro Music Studio with her father as the producer.

“I prefer working with my whole band whenever I can,” said Cheadle. “For this show at Ladybug, it will be just me accompanied by my father.”

Video link for Laura Cheadle — https://youtu.be/Szo15OvoQi0.

Some of the other acts performing at the Ladybug Festival this evening are Lauren Ruth Ward, Grace Vonderkuhn, Angela Sheik, Sonja Sofya and CVGES.

There will be another interesting musical attraction in downtown Wilmington on July 21 – just a few blocks up Market Street from the Ladybug Festival.

Miranda Sings

On  Saturday evening, The Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www.thegrandwilmington.org) is hosting the “Miranda Sings No Offense Tour” with Special Guest Colleen Ballinger.

“Miranda Sings” is the creation of Colleen Ballinger, an actor, comedian, trained vocalist, writer and executive producer. Best known for portraying her character “Miranda Sings”, Ballinger has amassed more than 20 million followers across social media and passed two billion views on YouTube.

Miranda is a hilarious parody of a young, self-absorbed singer with more far more confidence (and vibrato) than talent. She is known for her overdrawn red lips, questionable advice about singing and life and over-the-top rants about her family and personal problems.

On her website, Miranda explained her background, “it was a cold winters day on december 24 when I was borned. My mom always new I would be a singer because when I was cut out of her stomach i cried. I was homeschooled my whole life and won a lot of tonys for my musicals in my backyard. In 2008 I decided the world should no how famous I am so I put my videos online. Now I tour all over the world performing for my mirfandas. I have millions of views online and have performed in Australia, London, Ireland, Canada, New York City, Hollywood, and of course Pennsilvania. I love my mirfandas!”

Ballinger offered a much more believable explanation during a recent phone interview from her home in Santa Barbara, California.

“I was just goofing around when I was in college a while ago at Azuza Pacific,” said Ballinger, referring to Azusa Pacific University — a private, evangelical Christian university in Azusa, California. “That was before YouTube.

“Girls were rude to me – cocky and not nice. I merged them together. And, I was doing a play in college and my character’s name was Miranda. Miranda gave lessons. I’d do routines where Miranda was teaching people how to sing. It was terrible advice. And, the theater community loved it.”

Ballinger was a natural when it came to making videos that would go viral on YouTube.

“I always filmed my life,” said Ballinger, who is also the co-author of the New York Times #1 Bestselling book “Selp Helf,” alongside her brother/producing partner, Chris Ballinger. “As kids, we had our own video camera and made our own movies. Instead of doing a school paper, I’d make and edit a video.

“YouTube was a new concept. It was a bizarre thing to see people talking to the camera. So, I uploaded my videos. I got a lot of hate comments at the beginning because they thought Miranda was real. What they didn’t like – I’d do more of.

“It seemed funny to me that people could get angry at something like that. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, people love to hate. Slowly, people realized I was an actress and Miranda was just a character. By mistake, my character became an anti-bullying figure.”

Ballinger eventually took her act to the next level – live shows.

“I’ve been touring since I started the character,” said Ballinger, who regularly appears on Live with Kelly & Ryan and served as a guest co-host on The View, as Colleen. “I’ve always been touring and getting on stage. I started my one-woman show nine years ago.”

Now, it’s a two-woman show.

“The first half of the show is me as Colleen,” said Ballinger, who resides in Southern California with her Instagram-famous cats, Prissy Gus Gus and Daisy Ma. “Then, I change into Miranda in the middle of a song. I change clothes, put on lipstick and change my voice.”

Video link for Miranda Sings Live — https://youtu.be/oaChBEWd7E0.

The show at Playhouse will start at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $48.50-$89.

Scattered Hamlet

“Scattered hamlet” is name for a small dispersed or widely spaced settlement — generally one smaller than a village.

“Scattered Hamlet” is the name of an American rock/country/hard rock/hillbilly band featuring Adam Joad, Jake Delling Le Bas, Richard Erwin and Adam Newell.

The quartet is touring in support of its most recent album “Swamp Rebel Machine” and is bringing its “Stay Hungry Stay Free Tour” to The Nail (2580 Haverford Rd, Ardmore, http://www.thenail1.com) on July 21.

The name of the toru is a reference to the band’s new single – a cover of Twisted Sister’s song “Stay Hungry.” The single “Stay Hungry” is a heartfelt tribute to the bands drummer, Jake Delling Le Bast, who is currently in a coma.

“Jake was celebrating his 30th birthday last September,” said Erwin, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Houston. “He was trying to climb a balcony and took a spill.”

At first, the doctors didn’t know if he was going to make it. Later though, Le Bast did defy all odds and made it. But, he remains in a coma with a traumatic brain injury — the kind of brain injury soldiers get from IEDs.

“He’s making progress,” said Erwin. “But, it’s extremely slow.”

“Swamp Rebel Machine” features all the original members.

“We recorded the album two Januarys ago,” said Erwin. “It came out in November 2016. We recorded it in L.A. at NRG Studio. Me and Adam and Jake were all in the room together – trying to capture the live energy.

“The vocals were done separately at Adam Joad’s house in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. All the songs are about him and stories from his life.

“At some point, all of us have lived in L.A. to make things happen with music. Adam lived out here for two years. He started the band. Once the band began touring a lot, he moved home to Pennsylvania.

“We started out more modern rock and our sound slowly evolved into what it is now. I’m not a huge fan of the metal label. We’re more a hard rock band with Southern influence and a little country influence.”

Video link for Scattered Hamlet – https://youtu.be/Ipn-nMQoaek.

The show at The Nail will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Bee Bee Sea

On July 21, Bee Bee Sea, a psych/garage band from Italy will make its Philadelphia debut with a show at Power Tower (Ninth and Glenwood streets, Philadelphia,  https://www.facebook.com/powertowerphl).

The Italian trio – Damiano Cason, vocals, guitar, Giacomo Parisio, bass, backing vocals; Andrea Onofrio, drums, backing vocals — will be focusing on songs from its new album “Sonic Boomerang,” which was released a few months ago via Dirty Water and Wild Honey.

“This is our first time to tour America and we’re playing both coasts,” said Damiano, during a phone interview this week from a tour stop in Connecticut.

Having an internationally-released album and a tour of America was beyond the band’s dreams when it started a few years back in its hometown of Castle Goffredo in northern Italy.

“We were just friends from a small town of 10,000 people,” said Damiano Cason. “When we started to play together, few of the guys played instruments. 2010 was the beginning. We started doing some songs. In 2105, we changed to Bee Bee Sea. It was a name that was easy to remember.

“The music was more garage music. We started doing covers of the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks. We wanted to be more like garage bands. And, we liked a lot of post-punk music.

“Not long after we became Bee Bee Sea, we started to write our own music. At the beginning, the songs were like shit. We just weren’t that skilled. Six months later, we sounded a lot better. Our first live show was eight years ago.”

The band continues to evolve and improve. The result of that evolution was the “Sonic Boomerang” album.

“We recorded ‘Sonic Boomerang’ in 2017,” said Cason. “We recorded it here in Italy at T.U.P. Studio.”

T.U.P. Studio is an analog gear-based recording studio in Brescia run by musicians/producers Pierluigi Ballarin, Brown Barcella and Alessio Lonati.

“We were playing these songs for two years before we went into the studio,” said Cason. “We were writing all the time. Now, we already have a couple songs ready for the next album. Some are quite good. But, we still have a lot of work to do.

“Touring America is great. We’re so excited to be here and to see the big cities.”

Video link for Bee Bee Sea – https://youtu.be/qS3VakLAFxs.

The show at Power Tower will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

If you’re in the mood for some blues on Saturday, head east to Bucks County.

The Cash Box Kings

Blues masters The Cash Box Kings, touring in support of their Alligator Records debut, “Royal Mint,” will perform at the Bucks County Blues Society’s 36th Annual R&B Picnic in Morrisville on Saturday.

On July 21, the Chicago-based band will play at the festival which is being held at Snipes Farm, 890 West Bridge Street, Morrisville, 215-946-4794 or 215-264-6631)
The Cash Box Kings play the blues the way the music should be played – straight-forward and with feeling.

Known as one of the finest purveyors of vintage Chicago blues with a modern twist, The Cash Box Kings deliver a potent mix of tough vocals, powerhouse harmonica and stinging guitar.

Joe Nosek founded The Cash Box Kings in Madison, Wisconsin in 2001 and, since 2007, has co-led the band with the charismatic, larger-than-life vocalist Oscar Wilson.

“‘Royal Mint’ was released last June,” said Nosek, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Madison, Wisconsin.

“We recorded it over a year-long period in 2016. It was the first time in a while that we didn’t record our album in Chicago. It was recorded in Madison and mixed it in Chicago.

“Mark Haines, our drummer, is also a recording engineer. He built his studio in Madison with all analog gear. We recorded live in one room to tape.”

Nosek and his bandmates knew the sound of the blues is better real that doctored up with technical advances.

“We decided to go back in time and do it old school,” said Nosek. “We had two live performance LPs and the rest were done in studios with minimal overdubs.

“We took our time making the new album. It was more important to retain a real feel. Going to tape elevates the game – you know it’s rolling.

“We did four different recording dates over the course of a year. Some of our originals were written as we were recording them. Even though we recorded in Wisconsin, we’re a Chicago blues band. Our sound and approach is rooted in traditional Chicago blues.”

The genius of The Cash Box Kings is their ability to capture the infectious spirit of classic blues with a dash of Memphis-drenched rockabilly and meld them with contemporary lyrics that stand side by side with the old school songs that they revitalize.

The Cash Box Kings also reach a higher plateau because of the talents of Oscar Wilson, who was just named “Vocalist of the Year” in Living Blue Magazine’s poll.

“I’ve been singing the blues all my life – ever since I was a little boy,” said Wilson, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Chicago.

“I was born into it. There was always blues music around –Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf. We even have a few Lightnin’ Hopkins songs that we play with the Cash Box Kings – songs like ‘Katie Mae.’

“I can’t begin to count how many blues songs I know. I done forgot more than I know. Somebody has to mention it because sometimes I can’t remember the first line. That’s why I don’t follow a set list. If I got the feeling, I just keep rolling.”

Video link for The Cash Box Kings – https://youtu.be/7ynE2xoQgXU.

Gates open for the festival at Snipes Farm at 9:30 a.m. Ticket prices range from $15-$40.

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