On Stage: Popa Chubby ready to shake off cabin fever and rock it at Sellersville

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Popa Chubby

Things are looking good for Popa Chubby. After more than a year of being sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Popa Chubby is back in action with a new album and a series of live shows.

On June 4, Popa Chubby will visit the area for a pair of shows at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Street, Sellersville, 215-527-5808, www.st94.com).

Popa Chubby, born Ted Horowitz, has been hard rocking the blues in his fierce and soulful way for more than 30 years. Over the course of a career that began in the early 1990s, he has been a force on the guitar – an axeman known for his tempestuous, soulful playing.

He is an imposing figure with a shaven head, tattooed arms, a goatee, and a performance style he describes as “the Stooges meets Buddy Guy, Motörhead meets Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Johnson.”

Two of Popa Chubby’s favorite things are enjoying ganja — in a variety of forms — and playing kickass music on his guitar – in a variety of forms. He was enjoying one of them during a phone interview Monday afternoon – on the edge of a lake on a warm late spring afternoon.

“I’m here sitting on a lake near my home fishing and smoking a joint,” said Popa Chubby. “I have my medical card here in New York. I live in upstate New York and this lake is 10 minutes from my home.”

Popa Chubby remembers well the time when the pandemic slammed the door on the world of live entertainment.

“I played the Iridium in New York City on March 15 (2020) and there was just one case of COVID in New York,” said Popa Chubby.

“I went on the road for shows on the East Coast. Our last show was in Key West, Florida. On March 15, I did a ‘dead head’ home from the Keys. All my shows were cancelled.”

Popa Chubby realized that a pandemic was nothing to take lightly.

According to Popa Chubby, “We barreled home in my Chevy Van 1000 miles — no stopping. It seemed the world was on the verge of shutting down. So, I was home in isolation with a bunch of guitars, drums, amps, microphones losing my mind.

“I started writing songs. I wanted to make people feel better so the first was ‘Can I Call You My Friends?’ The answer was a resounding yes. We had 30K hits on social media almost overnight and the outpouring of love was both healing and mind boggling. So, I continued writing and recording.”

That was the start of his brand-new album, “Tinfoil Hat.”

“I made the entire record myself,” said Popa Chubby. “I have a studio in my home. For D.I.Y. stuff, I use ProTools. My studio is filled with vintage stuff – RCA mics, old compressors and vintage guitars and drums.

“I have a background in recording. I worked as an engineer, and I started out working with tape. It’s all digital now — but I have an analog way of getting in and an analog way of getting out.”

Prior to the pandemic, Popa Chubby was a road warrior, so finding time to get in the studio was a luxury for him. It was very different in 2020.

“The songs, which are about COVID, Trump and isolation, seem to be in the rear-view mirror now,” said Popa Chubby. “New York State is below 1 per cent and the vaccine data is so good. I feel confident – but not 100 percent.”

His career has always been about moving forward and carving a place for himself in the imposing terrain of the music business –overcoming odds to continue growing and maturing as a creative force. He has built a constantly increasing base of fans across the world, where in many territories he is a star.

A native New Yorker, his first gigs were in the NYC punk scene as a guitarist for what he reflects was a “crazy Japanese special effects performance artist in a kimono called Screaming Mad George who had a horror-movie inspired show.” Right from the start he was immersed in rock and roll as theater and learned from George and others playing CBGB’s (including the Ramones, the Cramps, and Richard Hell).

According to Popa Chubby, “Since I’d grown up on Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin, when I started playing blues in New York clubs I understood that the blues should be dangerous, too. It wasn’t just from playing in punk bands. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were dangerous men. They’d cut or shoot you if they thought it was necessary, and Little Walter packed a gun and wouldn’t hesitate to use it. That danger is a real part of the Blues and I keep it alive in my music.”

Now, Popa Chubby is ready shake off his cabin fever.

“It’s weird going back to gigs and figuring out what it’s going to be like,” said Popa Chubby.

“I’m looking forward to coming back to the Sellersville Theater. I’ve been doing shows there for many years. It’s a great place to play.”

“Tinfoil Hat” was released in March and fans will get to hear several songs from the new disc.

“I’m definitely playing the title track,” said Popa Chubby. “And, I’ll play ‘Someday Soon, A Change Is Going to Come’ and ‘MB’s Song,’ which is a love song I wrote for my wife.”

Video link for Popa Chubby — https://youtu.be/1vr0HGB1BEA.

The shows at the Sellersville Theater on June 4, which will also be available via Livestream, will start at 6 and 9 p.m. Tickets start at $25 in person and $10 for Livestream.

Chapel Hart

On June 6, the Sellersville Theater will host another hot show — the area debut by the New Orleans-based trio Chapel Hart.

Family is at the heart of New Orleans-based band Chapel Hart. Consisting of Grammy-nominated Danica Hart, her cousin Trea Swindle and her sister Devynn Hart, the ladies of Chapel Hart have been singing together since they were toddlers in their hometown of Poplarville, Mississippi, and their musical chemistry clearly shows.

The three African American singers display inspiring confidence and fierceness on stage and draw upon their family ties to create an unforgettable experience for every audience they encounter. The band was showcased by CMT as one of several artists for their 2021 “Next Women of Country” program, which promotes new and upcoming female country music artists.

“We’re getting ready to gear up for our last local shows and then getting ready to head north,” said Danica Hart, during a phone interview last week from New Orleans.

“We haven’t been able to tour for such a long time. We did have an opportunity to play at the House of Blues during the pandemic as a Livestream. We’ve also done other Livestream shows with no audiences. They were always so weird to do – so weird. It’s just not the same. New Orleans is just now starting to open up.”

Chapel Hart features three vocalists who focus on southern sound of country and subtly show their southern gospel roots. The ladies of Chapel Hart write music inspired by their life experiences, which include growing up together in Poplarville.

“We were born and raised in Poplarville – one school and one radio station – Kicker 108,” said Danica Hart. “We grew up on country music.”

Kicker 108 is WZKX, a hot country music formatted FM radio station based in Gulfport–Biloxi-Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi.

Things came together relatively easy for the three talented vocalists.

“Chapel Hart began as a duo with Trea and I busking on Royal Street in New Orleans,” said Danica Hart. “Three years ago, Devynn came on. Now, we’ve been a group for three years.”

Devynn Hart said, “I was working at a hospital in Poplarville. I thought – if I was ever going to be a musician, I had to move to New Orleans with Trea and my sister.”

The group started out as just two singers playing in New Orleans and drawing from their entire musical background. They took a couple of years to try and acclimate to the New Orleans music scene, but they knew that wasn’t what was in their heart to do. When Devynn joined Trea and Danica, the three decided to go back to what they really loved, which was country music.

“Once I moved in, we knew we had to start doing our music,” said Devynn Hart. “We were doing exceptionally well on Royal Street. We were the favorite group of the busker community.

“We were a cover band and then made the transition to doing originals. When we first came to New Orleans, it was hard to find country musicians. Finally, we found guys who were willing to learn the music.”

They chose to ignore that they were told more than once that there was no country music coming out of New Orleans. Helping solidify their decision, the girls were given advice from one of the bands they used to cover on Royal Street — Louisiana’s LeRoux.

LeRoux told them several things that deeply resonated with the Mississippi ladies. The girls remember vividly what they said – “Let the music be the guide and never forget what you do is for the love of the music.”

Shortly after this encounter with the band, they were then asked to sing harmonies on LeRoux’s famous song “New Orleans Ladies.”

“Our music is old school country,” said Devynn Hart. “People are happy to hear it coming back.”

In 2019, the group independently released an album — “Out the Mud.” They also performed at the New Orleans Music Festival in Innsbruck, Austria.

“We made the album ‘Out the Mud’ here in New Orleans,” said Danica Hart. “We started it in 2018 and finished it in 2019.

“We recorded it at the Music Shed and it was produced by Jack Miele and Brentt Arcement. It was our very first experience with recording and putting together an album.”

The album was followed in 2020 by a standalone single titled “Jesus & Alcohol,” which features ZZ Top member Billy Gibbons on guitar. They also shot a music video for the song, in which Gibbons plays the role of a pastor. Deborah Allen and T. Graham Brown also make cameos in the video, which aired on CMT after its release.

“All the songs on ‘Out the Mud’ are originals,” said Devynn Hart. “A lot of times we write together. Other times, we write independently and bring it to the others. It’s pretty cool because we grew up together. Our music comes from our lives of growing up together.”

After the success of the single, “Jesus & Alcohol,” Chapel Hart released “I Will Follow” and “You Can Have Him Jolene.” They have been named one of CMT’s “Next Women of Country” and are currently working on their second album to be released in early 2022.

“It’s great to hear from people telling us how much this music means to them,” said Devynn Hart. “Thank you to all our fans who bought our records and tickets to our shows.”

Video link for Chapel Hart — https://youtu.be/1_bMgoPAlTY.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on June 6 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19.50 for in person and $10 for Livestream.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are the Malpass Brothers on June 3, JC Cole & Folsom ’68 on June 5, Todd Henkin & The Great Unknown on June 8, Kat Riggins on June 9 and The Levin Brothers on June 10.

John Kadlecik

Two months ago, John Kadlecik headlined at the Sellersville Theater with a show billed as “John Kadlecik Solo Acousti’Lectric.”

This weekend, Kadlecik is heading to the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) for a pair of shows on John Kadlecik on June 4 and 5.

These two shows are billed as, “John Kadlecik & Pals: Reed Mathis+Todd Stoops+Chris English.”

Kadlecik has an extensive musical resume – much of which relies heavily on association with the Grateful Dead.

He was a founding member of Dark Star Orchestra, one of the country’s premier Grateful Dead tribute bands. DSO formed in 1997 and Kadlecik was a member until 2009.

According to his website bio, “John Kadlecik is a singer, songwriter, and musician based in the DC-area who can play most string instruments but is primarily known for being a guitar-slinging sideman to Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir in the band Furthur.

“An original co-founder of the group Dark Star Orchestra, John has been performing improvisational-oriented shows regularly since the late 1980’s and touring nationally for the last 20 years. His work also includes several studio releases of original music.

“He is currently active with Melvin Seals and JGB in addition his own group, The John Kadlecik Band. He also plays with the supergroup, the Golden Gate Wingmen, and occasionally with Phil Lesh & Friends.”

With some states loosening restrictions on gatherings, opportunities to play have begun to appear.

“I’m one of the few D.I.Y. guys from the 80s and 90s that got national,” said Kadlecik, during a phone interview from his home in Takoma Park, Maryland.

“I’m booked pretty much every weekend through June including Denver to play at the Rocky Mountain Grateful Dead Revue with two shows a day for four days.”

Even though his DSO days are more than a decade in the past, Kadlecik still has a lot of band activity.

“I have the John Kadlecik Band – although the players are scattered around the country,” said Kadlecik, who grew up in the Midwest – mostly Chicago.

“I have the Golden Gate Wingmen which started in 2014 and has all members who have played with the Dead. There is also a spinoff band — the Fellowship of the Wing — if I have to substitute.

“My main gig is waiting to again play with Melvin Seals, who is the keyboard player with JGB. That’s my main priority. Things might be happening in the fall.”

For now, there are mostly only solo gigs for Kadlecik.

“One thing I like about solo gigs is that I can play nice venues that now have reduced capacity,” said Kadlecik. “With solo, I know 500 songs that I can just play. I don’t have to call anyone to rehearse.

“When I do a solo show, I use guitar, synth and looping. I can create drums and piano. And with looping, I can build a big wall of sound.”

This weekend, Kadlecik will be performing in expanded mode with three additional musicians onstage – a talented trio of keyboardist, bassist and multi-instrumentalist.

Reed Mathis is a bass player who is best known as a former member of Tea Leaf Green. The Bay Area rooted player has also notably worked with Grateful Dead members Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. He played with Steve Kimock Band, and was a founding member of Tulsa progressive jazz band Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.

Todd Stoops first gained fame with prog-rock band RAQ in the early 2000s. He also was a founding keyboardist and now is a former member of Connecticut-based funk band Kung Fu.

Chris English plays the piano, guitar, bass, drums, banjo, mandolin and electric sitar. He has worked with acts such as INXS, Don Was, Joe Strummer, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails and Ziggy Marley.

Video link for John Kadlecik – https://youtu.be/LG5ebgd9KAc.

The shows at the Ardmore Music Hall will start at 8 p.m. each night with limited capacity. Each Pass/Table Ticket includes admission for two. Groups larger than two people are encouraged to purchase tables adjacent to each other. Tickets are $60-$85 with table seating sold in pairs.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) are Muscle Tough + lespecial on June 3, “Between The Dark And Light — The Grateful Dead Photography of Jay Blakesberg” (storytelling event) on June 6 and Midnight North on June 9.

Chris Smither

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Chris Smither on June 3 and Beatlemania on June 5.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Matt Sentry on June 4.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will present Huffamoose on June 6.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, jameyshouseofmusic.com) hosts Big Boy Brass on June 4 and JR Harrison on June 5.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will have Julia Scotti on June  3, Supermonkey on June 4, and Caligula Blushed on June 5.

Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, philadelphia.heliumcomedy.com) will host John Crist on June 3-5 and JF Harris on June 6.

Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia, 215-606-6555, http://www.punchlinephilly.com) presents Melissa Villaseñor on June 3-5 and Tom Cassidy on June 6.

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