On Stage: Yann Tiersen at The Keswick tonight

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Yann Tiersen

Yann Tiersen speaks a lot of languages, plays an amazing number of instruments and has released almost 20 albums.

Tiersen is a multi-dimensional musician from the Breton region in the west of France who is known for his solo work and his work on film scores. He is currently on tour supporting his new album, “ALL” – a tour that brings him to the area for a show on May 23 at the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

On “ALL,” Tiersen tackles themes of environment, ecology and nature by using field recordings taken from various locations. For “Usal Road,” he chose to return to a very particular spot — one where his own place within nature was brought into sharp focus.

“The song ‘Usal Road’ deals with an event that changed my point of view on the world,” said Tiersen, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from a tour stop in Toronto, Ontario.

“It refers to the exact place where we were chased by a mountain lion in California when we were on a break during the American tour five years ago. We were crossing California on bicycle.”

Coming face-to-face with a wild animal and knowing that the encounter could very easily lead to your demise is an experience that makes an indelible impression on your mind.

According to Tiersen, “This is the only field recording from California and we included it not because of the place, but because this was a life changing experience. It changed my entire way of seeing the world.”

“ALL,” which was released on February 15, is a diverse album with recordings done in and out of the studio.

“I started the album last year and finished mixing it in September in my new studio,” said Tiersen. “I also did a lot of field recording.”

In addition to the violin recording done in California, “ALL” incorporates recordings from locations such as Brittany, Devon’s redwood forest and Berlin’s decommissioned Tempelhof airport, an urban space now reclaimed by nature.”

The album also features field recordings Tiersen made on the Breton island of Ushant, which is his home as well as the location of his newly-built studio, venue and community center, The Eskal. “ALL” also examines Tiersen’s renewed interest and deeper connection to his own place within nature.

 “I built the studio over the last couple years,” said Tiersen, who won the César Award for Best Original Music in 2002 and the German Film Award for Best Score in 2003. “This is the first recording done in the studio so that brings a lot to the album. We spent a lot of time there.

“You’ve got plug-ins and changes at every step of the recording. I got ProTools and it’s really good. I also have a 16-track recorder. The amount of equipment at the studio gets bigger and bigger over time. It took me two years to build the studio to the point it was ready to use.”

Tiersen was born in Brest in the Finistère département in Brittany in northwestern France and learned to speak the Breton language there. Breton is also the language of Ushant, the island where he has lived full-time for the last five years

 “Ushant is a peaceful place to make music,” said Tiersen. “Living on the island influenced my songwriting. It’s a small community and everything is in union.

“And, of course, there is the nature, the Atlantic and the (English) Channel. The weather here can be really tough. There are really big storms in the wintertime.”

French is the official language of Ushant but that doesn’t mean it’s the language of the people there.

“The Breton language is still spoken,” said Tiersen. “It’s being kept alive by a younger generation. It’s important to keep languages from the past alive to understand who you are.”

Predominately sung in the Breton language, “ALL” features several guest vocalists. Anna von Hausswolff is the guest vocalist on “Koad” while Ólavur Jákupsson collaborates on “Erc’h” and Breton singer-songwriters Denez Prigent (“Gwennilied”), Emilie Tiersen and Gaëlle Kerrien all feature on the album.

“In our live shows now, we play all of ‘ALL’ – in order,” said Tiersen. “We also play some older songs. We look to find a balance.”

Video link for Yann Tiersen — https://youtu.be/VFVMAPEOZjo.

The show at the Keswick Theater will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $55.

Other upcoming shows at the Keswick Theater are Nathan Carter on May 23, Art Alexakis on May 26 and Apocalyptica on May 29.

On May 23, The Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602, www.voltagelounge.com) is offering metal music fans a tasty smörgåsbord of live treats with a quadruple-bill featuring four diverse metal acts on the “Tech Trek IV Tour.”

The tour features the hyper-intense, rapid-fire death metal of Archspire; the melodic, almost-prog metal of Virvum; the melodic death metal of Nashville’s Inferi; and the “Technical Brutal Death Metal/Deathcore” music of Wormhole.


Archspire, the headliner, is a technical death band from Vancouver, B.C. featuring Oliver Rae Aleron, Vocals; Dean Lamb, Guitar; Tobi Morelli, Guitar; Jared Smith, Bass: and Spencer Prewett, Drums.

The band was formed in 2007 as Defenestrated but changed its name to Archspire in 2009. In April 2011, Trendkill Recordings released “All Shall Align,” the band’s debut album. It was recorded with producer Stuart McKillop at The Hive studios.

In 2013, Archspire signed with Season of Mist and released its second album  — “The Lucid Collective.” Archspire’s third album —  “Relentless Mutation” — was released on the same label in September 2017.

“We have been working on new stuff,” said Lamb, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Atlanta. “We’re in the pre-production phase.

“We all jam together. A lot of bands work online and email; music files back-and-forth. With us, we’ll sit in a room together for two or three hours – four nights a week. We start with a basic part and develop it. If you’re a member of Archspire, you have a say in every single part of each song and every instrument used.

“It’s music we all develop and are happy with. We don’t want anyone in the band to be unhappy with a part of a song a few months after it’s been recorded. We want to be playing these songs 10 years from now and still loving them.”

The members of Archspire have no need for the internet to make a recording.

“We all live in the same city 20 minutes away from each other” said Lamb. The space where we play is a central location along the water in Vancouver.

“So, when we’re not on tour, we spend four nights a week working on our music. We’ll record ideas on the fly and then can listen back to it the instant we write it. We’re all in it from step one.”

With “Relentless Mutation,” which was nominated for a JUNO Award in 2018, the Canadian musicians are pushing the limits of their genre even further than before — on all levels.

“We recorded ‘Relentless Mutation’ with producer Dave Otero,” said Lamb. “We cut the album at Flatline Audio, his studio in Denver. We spent five weeks there — retreat-style.

“The next record will be our fourth album and we’re hoping to work with Dave again. We want to take all the ideas from the last album and push them – make the crazy stuff crazier, the groovier stuff groovier and the faster stuff faster. We like everything fast, but the music also needs memorable hooks.”

Video link for Archspire – https://youtu.be/oiY4zwcjt-s.


Virvum is a Swiss band from Zurich that includes Bryan Berger, vocals; Nic Gruhn, guitars; Toby Koelman, guitars; Arran McSporran, bass; and Diego Morenzoni, drums.

“The band was formed by me and the singer Bryan, who was a drummer at the time,” said Gruhn, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in Atlanta.

“Now, we’ve been making music together 13 years. But we didn’t start playing live shows until 2012 and we used some different names in the early days.”

The band is still touring in support of its latest album, “Illuminance,” which was released by Season of Mist in 2017.

According to Gruhn, “‘Illuminance is a journey to a place where timelessness reigns and nature blooms in strangest colors…A heavenly place far beyond comprehensible perception.”

The album took a while in its making.

“We started writing the record in 2014,” said Gruhn. “It took about four years altogether. We began recording it in 2015. We did the guitars at home. It’s easy to do with modern technology. Then, we mixed and mastered it with Chris Brandes at Iguana Studios in Freiburg, Germany.

“We were a quartet but now we are a quintet. Arran McSporran is a bass player from the U.K. He was a session player for is and then later he joined the band for tours. Now, he is a full member of the band.”
What sets Virvum apart from the majority of metal bands is its use of melody.

“With us, melodies always come first,” said Gruhn. “A lot of bands just do rhythms. Some bands on this tour are purely technical.

“Even though our style is physically technical, songwriting always comes first – melodies and a good song. I think memorable melodies are needed to add something refreshing.”

Virvum’s sophomore album is looming on the horizon.

“We’ve been constantly working on new material for the last two years – composing all the time,” said Gruhn. “When we write, there is no structure in process. I start from scratch with a new idea.

“I also have a day job. I work as an accountant. So, I can only write at night. Actually, we all have day jobs so getting away to do tours is difficult. This is our second tour of America. We did a smaller tour in 2017.”

Video link for Virvum – https://youtu.be/UjOsxIpoWJY.

The all-ages show at The Voltage Lounge will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Slum Village on May 24, Jayme Stewart on May 26, and Night With The Wolves on May 28.

Caleb Johnson

On May 23, the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, www.chameleonclub.net) will host a concert by one of the most acclaimed new southern rock acts — Caleb Johnson and The Ramblin’ Saints.

Johnson is touring in support of his new album “Born From Southern Ground.” His first album “Testify” came out a few years ago but Johnson looks at “Born From Southern Ground” as his real debut album.

“My first solo album was ‘Testify’ in 2014,” said Johnson, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Asheville, North Carolina.

“To me, that album was just a project for the show. It was a very rushed thing – not 100 percent me…not a lot of TLC.”

The show to which he was referring is “American Idol” – a competition that Johnson won in 2014.

After being crowned the winner of Season 13 of “American Idol,” Johnson recorded his debut album, “Testify,” which was released on Interscope Records. It debuted at Number 1 on the iTunes Rock chart and Number 24 on the Billboard “Top Album Sales” chart. He was recruited as an opening act for some of the biggest touring bands in rock n roll, including KISS, Cheap Trick, Sammy Hagar, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and Black Stone Cherry.

“With the new album, there is a vast difference in the music and the songwriting,” said Johnson. “I had complete control over it. I recorded it in Nashville with Zac Brown.

“It was done over a period of three to four years in between tours. All the songs were cut live on the floor. It’s got a throwback, vintage sound. All but one of the songs are originals.”

“Born From Southern Ground” was recorded at Brown’s Southern Ground Studio, where the veteran producer enlisted the help of his three-time Grammy®-winning multi-instrumentalist cousin, Bryan Sutton, to co-produce the album. Sutton brought in some of Nashville’s A-list musicians to form the studio band, including Audley Freed, Kenny Greenberg, Fred Eltringham, Mike Webb, Tony Lucido, Angela Primm, Gale Mayes, and Devonne Michelle.

Johnson has been singing for a long time – but with somewhat less stellar accompaniment.

“What really got me into rock was when a friend in middle school gave me a copy of the ‘Queen Greatest Hits’ CD,” said Johnson. “I wore that CD out. I was blown away by Freddie Mercury’s voice and Brian May’s guitar playing. “From Queen, I went to Led Zeppelin to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Rush to Van Halen to soul to grunge to metal. Music became a big part of my life.

“A few years later, I sang for a buddy’s band at a high school talent show. I sang Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’ and the audience reaction blew me away. When I heard the audience erupt, it just gave me chills. That was the genesis of that spark of inspiration. Right then, I knew that making music was what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

In the summer of 2010, Johnson was involved in a freak accident that put him in the hospital for several weeks.

“I got run over by a car and landed in the hospital,” said Johnson. “I had a fractured pelvis and a dislocated arm. I was stuck in bed, so I watched a lot of television. ‘American Idol’ was one of the shows I frequently watched.”

Johnson decided to try for a spot on “American Idol.” After a few years of unsuccessful auditions, Johnson hit pay dirt and got accepted for Season 13.

“It all started with three preliminary rounds,” said Johnson. “It ended with me being the winner of Season 13.

“Since then, I been the opening act on a lot of great tours. I played Lancaster and Philly opening for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and played at the Thanksgiving Parade in Philadelphia. And, I played the Chameleon before opening for Black Stone Cherry.

“Now, I’m on my own tour with my band The Ramblin’ Saints – all great musicians from Asheville. We do two songs from the first album – ‘Devil’s Daughter’ and ‘Testify’ – but mostly songs from ‘Born From Southern Ground.’

“I’d describe the new album as Bob Seeger meets the Black Crowes. It’s a southern, visceral, over-the-top rock-and-roll record. It was self-funded and self-produced and it drops on June 14.”

Video link for Caleb Johnson and The Ramblin’ Saints – https://youtu.be/dchc0jI6Xqc.

The show, which has Cody Tyler and Gypsy Convoy as opening acts, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at the Chameleon Club are Church of Misery on May 24, Lest Lane Cruiser on May 25, and Boundaries on May 28.

The Bill Currier Band

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) has The Bill Currier Band and Tony Travalini & The Still Lifes on May 24, and “Films & Words – A Band Called Death with Lamont Caldwell” on May 26.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host “Open Mic Night” on May 23, “A Benefit for Orion: Bob Dylan’s 78th Birthday Show’ on May 25, and “Affinity Colabs Story & Poetry Slam” on May 26.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host its “17th Annual

Bob Dylan Birthday Party” on May 23; The Quelle Source, Seamus Browning and Cardillo on May 24 and Yngwie Malmsteen on May 25.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host its “17th Annual

Bob Dylan Birthday Party” on May 23; The Quelle Source, Seamus Browning and Cardillo on May 24 and Yngwie Malmsteen on May 25.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will present Maya de Vitry, The Sea the Sea and Originaire on May 23.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents Sugar Mountain (Neil Young Tribute) on May 23, Gary Hoey with Jim George on May 24, Barleyjuice on May 25, Savoy Brown with James Pace Band on May 26, and Yngwie Malmsteen with Sunlord & Paralandra  on May 29.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host Laura Story on May 23.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will have Cracker on May 24,

Merry Pranksters Spring Happening on May 25 and Led Zeppelin 2 on May 26.

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