On Stage: Todd Snider has stories to tell, still

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Todd Snider

In the 11th century, Occitania had troubadours. Starting in the mid-14th century, West Africa had griots. In the 20th and 21st centuries, America has Todd Snider.

Troubadours, griots and Snider all are travelling performers who tell stories and make music. They move from town-to-town entertaining and enlightening listeners with their musical narratives.

On March 14, Snider will bring his songs and stories to the area when he headlines a show at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

“I’m touring all this year – and next year too,” said Snider, during a phone interview last week from his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. “But it’s pretty easy – especially alone, Next year, I’ll do the same tour with my band – the Hardworking Americans.”

Snider is touring in support of his recently-released album “Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol 3.” Oddly, there has never been a “Vol 1” or “Vol 2” — sort of like when The Residents released three albums in their “Mole Show Trilogy” called “Vol 1,” “Vol 2” and “Vol 4” and never issued a “Vol 3.”

“Cash Cabin” is the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville.

The Cash Cabin Studio is a private recording studio with an astounding history. Not only did Johnny and June Carter Cash record most of their later music there, but many other talented musicians and famous entertainers recorded albums in the historic studio.

Johnny Cash built the original cabin in 1978. The studio is now owned and operated by John Carter Cash. It sits on 40 acres of woods and fields. There is also a large fishing pond stocked with largemouth bass, bream and catfish.

“Cash Cabin is out here near my house,” said Snider. “I could go there by boat. I’ve gotten to be good friends with John Carter Cash. It’s a really nice studio with great analog gear and a lot of old instruments including some of Johnny Cash’s guitars. The studio is way out in the woods – kind of creepy in a way.

“With the new album, it took a long time to figure out what I wanted. Once I got in the studio, it only took a few days. I’m always working on songs. I wake up, drink coffee, smoke weed and write songs. At night, I like to be in places where songs might happen.

“It had been a really long time since my last studio album. That was ‘Eastside Bulldog’ in 2016 which was like garage rock. The new one feels a little more like a folk album.”

As usual, the album showcases Snider’s storytelling expertise.

My writing is word-driven,” said Snider. “The topic comes first. Once I realize the point of the song – if it has one – I’ll keep working on it. I keep very little – one song for every six I write. I just make up songs all day – and throw out most of them.

“If I write songs that are melody-driven, people don’t like them as much. A lot of times, the stories are not about me but rather a story I heard. Anything can get a song going.

“In my live set on this tour, at least half the show is new songs. And, I go all the way back to my very early albums. I play them all. I still know them all, so I play them and give the fans what they want.”

Video link for Todd Snider – https://youtu.be/BBydsvJX8vM.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Reed Foehl as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are “Anniversary of the Allman Brothers ‘Live at the Fillmore East’” on March 15, Lucky Chops with special guest Nik Greeley & The Operators on March 16, Ghost-Note/Taz on March 17 and Oz Noy on March 19.

This weekend, the color you’ll see the most will be green because it’s the weekend when people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Prior to that, there is an event tonight that will feature a huge array of colors – and music.

On March 14, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host “Festival of Colors,” which is Red Baraat’s annual Holi celebration tour. It will also feature Vidya Vox as the opening act.

The tour had its debut in 2012 and has since expanded to a major annual tour. Each year, bandleader and dhol player, Sunny Jain curates a vibrant night of music and art highlighting the South Asian Diaspora in America and beyond through a diverse range of styles and mediums.

Holi is a Hindu holiday marked by public gatherings of families, friends, and strangers rejoicing in song, dance, and the exchange of “colors.” The holiday signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, an opportunity to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships. It is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March in the Gregorian Calendar.

Red Baraat

It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no other band in America like Red Baraat. Brooklyn-based Red Baraat is a Bhangra band — and a whole lot more. Bhangra is party-style folk music from the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan.

Red Baraat’s founder and leader is Sunny Jain, a New York jazz musician of Indian descent whose main instrument is the dhol (a double-headed drum from India).

“I had been playing drums and tabla before I started playing dhol,” said Jain, during a phone interview from his home in New York.

“One time when I was in India, I was in a shop buying a tabla. I saw a dhol there and decided to buy one. I took lessons in New York and instantly fell in love with it.

“It was a great feeling because I wasn’t confined to a drum set. And, with the drum hanging at your gut, the sound resonates through your entire body.

“My family are Jains from Punjab, so I grew up listening to music that had dhol in it. I did a lot of learning how to play it by watching dhol performances on YouTube. I also listened to old recordings — especially Pappa Saen, who was a Sufi dhol player.”

Red Baraat is a six-piece band featuring Sunny Jain (dhol), Chris Eddleton (drum set), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), Jonathon Haffner (soprano sax), Sonny Singh (trumpet) and John Altieri (sousaphone).

The band’s influences extend beyond bhangra and include jazz, Latin, funk, brass band and Bollywood.

“I wanted to play something that was upbeat and joyful,” said Jain, who is a respected drum and percussion player in the New York jazz scene.

“It was just another project of mine — drums and a brass band with no guitar and no electric instruments. That changed when we added Jonathan Goldberger on guitar.

“I wanted horns, drums and sousaphone. I didn’t want jazz musicians. I didn’t want it to be perceived as a jazz project. I wanted smaller, tighter songs. And, I wanted it to be mobile so we could get down into the audience and play there too.”

Red Baraat has released seven albums. The most recent is “Sound The People.”

“‘Sound The People’ came out at the end of June 2018,” said Jain. “We recorded it in Brooklyn at Studio G.”

On “Sound The People,” the Brooklyn-based band continued its exploration of South Asian culture while firmly placing it within the context of a globalized generation as demonstrated by the diverse backgrounds of its members.

According to Jain, “With the migration that’s happened, there is all this varied and expressive music that has erupted from the South Asian diaspora. ‘Sound The People’ is a shout out to, and celebration of, this community around the world.”

The universality of Red Baraat’s music – and its driving rhythms –ignite audiences at every show.

“Spontaneity and improvisation are at the heart of playing our music, but moreover, the energy of the crowd is something we feed off,” said Jain. “The purpose of Red Baraat is to bring joy and togetherness — to take people on a journey and let our music fill the room and do all the talking.”

Video link for Red Baraat — https://youtu.be/lgmw41CY1Fo.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Vidya Vox as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers on March 15, The Hip Abduction on March 16, Barleyjuice on March 17, Tom Rush on March 17, Damian McGinty on March 19 and Kat Edmonson on March 20.

If you looked up the definition for “road warrior” in the dictionary, it could well be accompanied by a picture of Andy Frasco and his band The U.N.

Averaging 250 shows per year, 10 countries, at least 10,000 hours playing music, countless satisfied fans, and about one million beers kicked, the past decade has been nothing short of an odyssey for Andy Frasco & The U.N.

On March 14, Frasco brings his band and its raucous music to Philly for a show at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,www.johnnybrendas.com).

At the Wakarusa Festival in 2014, Frasco & the U.N.’s performances were described as a “boisterous blend of harmonic funk and jazzy influences, all topped with boundless energy.”

“I grew up in L.A. – in North L.A. where all the porn is made, and in the Valley” said Frasco, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon form a tour stop in Buffalo, New York.

“When I was 19, I took my Bar Mitzvah money and left L.A. I went to school at San Francisco State. A philosophy professor there told me to quit school and do what I loved.

“I’ve been touring and living on the road since I was a teen. I worked for a record label – Drive Through – and booked bands for Capitol Records. I loved the music industry since I was a kid, but I always wanted to be a musician.

“I decided I wanted to live on the road. I drove to the city and hired local musicians. I call it U.N. because everyone is from everywhere – Holland, California, Texas. I love travelling so much so I wanted to hang out with people who also loved it. Three-quarters of this journey is in the hang.”

Frasco has released seven records in the 2010s — “Love, You’re Just Too Expensive” (2010), “Road Life Revival” (2012),”Just a Good Ole Time” (2013), “Half A Man” (2014), “Happy Bastards” (2016), “Songs From The Road” (2017), and “Change of Pace,” which was released February 22, 2019 on Fun Machine Records.

“It took five years to really get a groove and find a band I love hanging with,” said Frasco. “It’s like a chemistry thing – like being married to five people. This group has been together eight years now.

“‘Change of Pace’ is my third album. I wanted to get out of the party boy/fratboy mentality that helped me build my career. I had an anxiety attack that changed my approach. I really dialed it down and dove into being a songwriter. We write most of the songs on the road.”

Frasco is so hooked with being on the road that he didn’t even stop and block out a chunk of time to record the album.

“I recorded the album at three locations,” said Frasco. “I did a lot at Tom Waits’ studio in California. I did some at a studio in Brooklyn and four songs in New Orleans.

“I called it ‘Change of Pace’ because I did a song a day in a different genre. There are two themes. One is living in the moment. The other is mental health…to not be afraid to speak up.”

Fortunately for Frasco, his serious songwriting hasn’t altered his way of performing.

“When I play live, I want people to be in my space,” said Frasco. “I want people to crowd surf over me.”

Video link for Andy Frasco – https://youtu.be/Ao9sTiKaSOc.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Wild Adriatic as the opening act, will start at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

On March 15, Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com) will host a long-awaited show by the Flesh Eaters.

The Flesh Eaters

The Flesh Eaters, a legendary Los Angeles punk rock band, got their start in the late 1970s and were no longer active by the early 1990s.

The band released its debut album “No Questions Asked” in 1980 and followed with “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die” in 1981 and “Forever Came Today” in 1982.

Now, the Flesh Eaters are back together and kicking ass across the country with their signature dark and powerful punk rock. The current edition is the legendary “all-star” edition of the band featuring vocalist Chris D. (Chris Desjardins) along with Dave Alvin (guitar) and Bill Bateman (drums) of The Blasters; John Doe (bass) and D.J. Bonebrake (marimba and percussion) of X; and Steve Berlin (saxophones) of The Plugz (and later The Blasters and Los Lobos).

“The first album with this lineup was ‘A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die’ in1981,” said Chris D., during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon as the band was travelling to a stop in Syracuse, New York. “I’ve had many lineups of the band since – but not with these guys.”

The Flesh Eaters were started in the fall of 1977 by Desjardins, a punk poet/singer known for morbid lyrical themes. Their first gig was December 21, 1977 at The Masque in Los Angeles. The Flesh Eaters initially broke up in 1983. Desjardins performed with his new band, The Divine Horsemen until 1988.

“In 2006, I hadn’t been doing it for a few years,” said Chris D. “The guys from Mudhoney called and asked us to play at the All Tomorrows Party Festival in England. John Doe was up for it, so we reached out to the other guys. We did three warmup shows in California and then went to the festival.”

Then, it was time for another hiatus for the band.

“After that, I got a day job in film programming the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles,” said Chris D. “Then, I spent four years flying back-and-forth to San Francisco to teach a film history course at a university.

“In 2015, a record label re-issued ‘A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die’ and ‘Forever Came Today.’ I went to the guys and said – these re-issues are happening. We ended up doing five shows in January 2015 and then we did it again last January.

“We had enough material to make a new album. I brought it up to the guys and we went in the studio April last year. Within a week, Yep-Roc Records signed us without even hearing the record. Yep-Roc was really enthusiastic.”

Before long, the Flesh Eaters had their first new studio album in 15 years.

“We recorded it in a studio in Hollywood that Dave uses — Winslow Court Studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. Craig Parker Adams who did the engineering was simpatico. Everything fell into place nicely. We took four days to do the basic tracks, one day on overdubs and then the mixing went on for a while.”

The result was a hard-hitting new LP titled “I Used to Be Pretty.”

“The album came out on January 16, 2019,” said Chris D. “We’ve been promoting the album for the last three months. There are a few songs that sound like ‘A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die’ along with 35 years of other influences. The new record might be a little more accessible. I’m happy with the way it came out. We’ve done five videos to keep the album alive.”

Video link for The Flesh Eaters – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkWOf-C2AAE&feature=youtu.be.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Porcupine as the opening act, will start at 9 p.m.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Stella Donnelly on March 16, “Third Annual St. Patty’s Day Metal Massacre” on March 17 and The Tough Shits on March 20.

The Flesh Eaters are sure to have their fans at the show on their feet and moving – even if it is nods and shoulder shakes rather than full-scale pogo.

MINKA

There will be another show in Philadelphia on March 15 that will have audience members dancing and gyrating. On Saturday night, MINKA is hosting “MINKA Masquerade” at Warehouse on Watts (923 North Watts Street, Philadelphia, 215-853-6358, www.wowphilly.com).

MINKA is the musical project of Ari “Dick” Rubin featuring Philadelphia-based musicians supporting the multi-platform rocker from Delaware County.

This year’s “MINKA Masquerade” event is an all-encompassing experience with MINKA doing what it does best — embracing eclecticism and celebrating life. Attendees should dress to impress, and Rubin will be giving out masks at the door to the first 200 revelers.

“I really like getting people to move,” said Rubin, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood.

“I always loved having parties – even back to when I was in high school. At ‘MINKA Masquerade,’ I’ll be handing out masks. With a mask on, there is no need to feel inhibitions. I’m doing it at a warehouse in North Philly and it will definitely be a party.”

Rubin graduated from Haverford High about a decade ago and then was a history major at New York University. His involvement with music began a long time before that.

“I started with classical piano when I was six,” said Rubin. “When I was 11, I started breaking off into jazz. I also played gospel music. In college, I played a lot of jazz gigs in New York. After graduating, I got a job through Craig’s List and in 2009 toured the country with a reggae band called Tariii.

“Then, I started my own project which, after a few years, became MINKA. I’ve been working on it for five years. I started off imitating Talking Heads and David Bowie. As we evolved, we started putting out new music which was closer to my origin as a player.”

MINKA’s current recording project is a trilogy.

“End of the Affair” was released on February 14 and is a showcase for Rubin’s love of ’80s R&B and soul. “Mysteries of the Heart,” which will be released on March 29, is a potent blend of intrigue and sexuality – an R&B exploration of all things forbidden. “Reincarnation,” which is set to come out on April 12, experiments with modern pop interpretations of 19th-century classical repertoire.

“The single that came out on Valentine’s Day is romantic rock-and-roll,” said Rubin. ‘Mysteries of the Heart’ is up-tempo R&B. The point of the band is to make people move and get them dancing.”

MINKA may be a band but it is mainly a vehicle for Rubin’s musical visions.

“I wanted my own band to make music that felt really authentic,” said Rubin. “I realized that if it’s going to be something meaningful, it has to be my decision. It had to shift so I can be the creative voice.

“My new band is very talented – and very cohesive. I play synth, sing and write all the music. The other three pieces are drums, bass and guitar. I’ve had this lineup for about six months. It’s been good – fresh blood.”

Video link for MINKA – https://youtu.be/MXsmAi6kQyA.

The show at Warehouse on Watts, which has OOLALA as the opener and DJ Humble spinning post-concert, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org)

Beyond The Pale

One More Tric Town with The Knobs on March 15, Beyond The Pale on March 16, and Open Mic with guest host Karter Jaymes on March 17.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host JD Malone & The Experts on March 16.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) presents Rhythm of Recovery featuring Marcus David and Jake Currie on March 16.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Auld String Theory on March 16.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will host Bert Kreischer on March 16.

Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, https://annenbergcenter.org/events) is presenting Michael Londra and the Celtic Fire on March 16.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents “Band Of Friends: A Celebration Of The Music Of Rory Gallagher” featuring Davy Knowles, Gerry McAvoy and Ted McKenna with Nick Schnebelen on March 14,  Sponge with Eighteenth Hour on March 15, Glengarry Bhoys on March 16, Luther Dickinson, Amy Helm & Birds Of Chicago Present The Sisters Of The Strawberry Moon on March 17, and Big Brother & The Holding Company on March 20.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) hosts Kinky Friedman & Dale Watson on March 18.

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