On Stage: The Living Room is back, bigger but just as comfy as ever

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Laura Mann

When The Living Room at 35 East (35 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, thelivingroomat35east.com) reopens on September 4, it will be a special event – for several reasons.

When singer/songwriter Laura Mann opened The Living Room at 35 East a few years ago in Ardmore, the venue quickly established itself as one of the premier BYOB listening rooms in the Delaware Valley.

Laura Mann, a veteran Philadelphia musician, keeps a lot of irons in the fire.

In addition to being a talented singer/songwriter, Mann has been a licensed therapeutic and medical massage therapist since 2002. In 2005 she opened her own practice in Ardmore — Relax. Therapeutic and Corrective Massage Studio — and she continues to practice massage. 

In March 2018, Mann opened The Living Room at 35 East, a boutique 40-seat listening room in Ardmore. The venue has featured notable regional and national touring artists including Craig Bickhardt, Jeffrey Gaines, Dan Nvarro, Phoebe Legere, Freedy Johnston and Michael McDermott.

With the pandemic hitting the music industry hard for the last year-and-a-half, Mann closed The Living Room at 35 East.

On September 4, Mann is staging a Grand Reopening Party for the Living Room at 35 East and there will be a major difference.

The club, which was formerly located in Ardmore at 35 East Lancaster Avenue, is now located in Ardmore at 35 East Ardmore Avenue.

The original venue was an intimate space located on the same block as the Ardmore Music Hall. The new venue is a Masonic Hall which has an infinitely larger seating capacity.

“The full capacity is 300 but I’ll go with150 max,” said Mann, during a phone interview last week. “It has big chairs. It’s very relaxed. It’s BYOB and we’ll sell desserts. It all came out nicely. It’s really cool.”

Serendipity played a role in Mann, who lives in the neighborhood of both venues, finding the new space.

“I was taking my dog for a walk, and we saw the Masonic Temple,” said Mann. “It was a cool building. I looked at it and really liked the vibe of the building. I fell in love with it.

“When I asked the Masons what the address was, they told me it is 35 East Ardmore Avenue. Our old address was 35 East Lancaster Avenue. So, I didn’t even need to change the name of the club.”

Because of the hall’s larger size and a seating capacity of just 150, it makes it much easier for Mann to adhere to CDC guidelines for indoor venues.

“As far as I’m concerned, I have to do things safely,” said Mann. “We need to protect the musicians, the workers and the audience. Audience members need to be vaccinated, have proof of a negative COVID test, and wear masks.”

After the Grand Reopening, other shows planned for September are: Sept. 10 — An Intimate Solo Performance by Andy King; Sept. 11 — Live At The Fillmore; Sept. 17 — The Fractals, Stargazer Lily, and Cookie Rabinowitz; Sept. 18 — An Evening with Lauren Hart and Matt Santry; Sept. 24 — The Mark Evans Band and Better Ducks; Sept. 25 — Jim Boggia.

Before all that is the much-anticipated show on September 4.

There is another factor making the Grand Reopening a really special event.

US Rails

The show will feature US Rails – and it is the band’s only stateside date until 2022.

US Rails is a band featuring four top-flight musicians with Philadelphia roots – Ben Arnold, Scott Bricklin, Tom Gillam and Matt Muir.

The roster feature’s veteran players who are among the Who’s Who of Philly musicians.

A songwriter, musician, performer and producer, Ben Arnold remains longtime fixture on the Philadelphia musical landscape. He has toured regularly throughout the country as well as Europe for the better part of the last 25 years. Originally signed to Columbia Records in the 90’s, Arnold has since released countless label supported and independent records over the decades.

For years, Arnold, who is an alumnus of Philadelphia’s C.A.P.A. high school, has been involved in collaborative projects such as 4 Way Street (Sanctuary/BMG), US Rails (Blue Rose/Europe), the Los Angeles based indie rock band Pistol For Ringo (with US Rails drummer Matt Muir) as well as David Uosikinnen’s In The Pocket: Essential Songs Of Philadelphia.

Singer, bassist, guitarist, producer, Scott Bricklin is a musician’s musician. Soulful riot, screamer, dreamer and believer, Bricklin, an Upper Merion native, lives as an expat in Paris, France. A student of all British Invasion, Beatles and Stones, he was the driving creative force behind two other U.S. major label bands in the 80’s and 90’s – Bricklin and Martin’s Dam.

Practically a discographic encyclopedia of all things rock, pop and soul music pre-1975, Gillam is a master electric slide player and a wailing singer fronting his own Texas based band Tom Gillam’s Kosmic Messengers. Gillam, a native of Deptford, New Jersey who has lived in Austin, Texas for a long time, still rocks out on guitar — just with a little more twang.

Matt Muir is a Philly-based musician/engineer/producer – and top-caliber drummer. He has worked with a wide range of artists including Jefferson Berry & The UAC, Graham Parker, Adrien Reju, Joseph Parsons and Chris Kasper. Muir, who grew up in Pottstown, also has been involved an many projects with Gillam and Arnold.

“US Rails was formed from the ashes of 4 Way Street,” said Arnold, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It was me and Scott Bricklin, Joseph Parsons, Jim Boggia and Matt Muir.

“A couple years later, Joseph was living in Germany and asked Tom if he was interested in coming there to work with him. Tom was also working with us. So, we all went to Germany and then recorded our first record at a studio just outside of Paris.

“We got a recording deal in Europe, and we’ve been touring there on-and-off for 16-17 years. About five years ago, Joseph left to pursue other projects.

“The band has continued to grow. In Europe, our audiences are in the 100-500 range. It’s sustained itself enough that we can go there and make great music. Physically, the focus has been on Europe. We primarily exist in Europe.”

The band was in Europe when the pandemic hit.

“We were 10 shows into a 40-plus show tour,” said Arnold. “We were in Spain, and we had to get back to Berlin. We recorded a live album at a club in Berlin and then they pulled the plug. The club closed and will never come back.

“Edgar Heckman, the founder of our label Blue Rose Records, wanted to multi-track the show. That became our most recent album – ‘Last Call at the Red River Saloon.’”

US Rails has survived for more than a decade and has evolved over time.

“The sound has changed,” said Arnold. “We started as a collective of singer/songwriters like CSN or the Eagles. We started a lot more folk-rock. Now, we’re leaning more toward an Americana rock sound. We’re more electric than acoustic now.

“Tom will not be able to make it here for the 35 East show so we have Cliff Hillis in his place. And we’ll also be having a bunch of special guests at the show.”

Video link for US Rails — https://youtu.be/hLu3YwILIuY.

The show at The Living Room at 35 East on September 4 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

Splintered Sunlight

On September 4, Splintered Sunlight will perform at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) – a venue that is like a second home for the band.

Splintered Sunlight’s line-up includes Zeren “Butchy” Sochorow on guitar, Stephen Spatz on bass, Mike Borowski on keyboards and two drummers –Jerry Horan and Scott Toop.

“The band started in 1992 bur I didn’t join until 1995. “Before I joined, the band was playing many shows.

“I played in anther band – the Rum Runners, who took their name from a Robert Hunter lyric. We played Dead music and did shows at the Jersey Shore a lot.

“A friend of mine told me that he knew a Dead tribute band that was looking for a guitar player. I was living down the shore in Long Branch, and they were in Philly. But we came together.”

According to gratefuldeadtributebands.com, there are more than 300 registered Grateful Dead tribute bands worldwide, including acts in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Japan and 48 of the 50 United States. Only North Dakota and Idaho are lacking. Thirty-one of those bands, including Splintered Sunlight, are in Pennsylvania.

Splintered Sunlight sits on an elevated plateau all its own in the Keystone State.

A short while after Sochorow joined Splintered Sunlight, the band was signed by a management agency and began getting booked in some of the larger clubs in the region, including the Electric Factory. It has become a regular at SteelStacks, Musikfest and has an annual early July run of shows at Ardmore Music Hall it calls “Dead, White & Blue.”

“The Ardmore Music Hall is our first home,” said Sochorow. “We used to play there when it was Brownie’s. Splintered Sunlight has played more than 1,000 shows at that venue.

“We’ve always been a Dead band. We love the music and want to honor the band. Now, we also play Jerry Garcia Band and Ratdog songs. We try to mix it up.

“We’ve done shows in part devoted to a particular Dead album –but not recently. We have three shows in Ardmore this weekend. We’ve made the set lists and they’re a mix of all kinds of stuff.

“This weekend, we have a female singer as well – Rosalind Rose. So, we’re comfortable with 70s Dead music with Donna Godchaux. We’ll have six players in the band.”

Video for Splintered Sunlight – https://youtu.be/5–iWyh9dUk.

Splintered Sunlight will perform at the Ardmore Music Hall on September 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Jared Feinman

Another show at Ardmore Music Hall will feature Jared Feinman on September 3.

Feinman writes poignant lyrics and arranges mournful instrumentals that enhance his vocals and create a sultry mix of jazz and blues. With their mournful and moody style, his signature songs have been coined “murder ballads.”

“I’ve always been into music,” said Feinman, who went to Radnor High and then spent his final two years of high school at The Hill School in Pottstown.

“I started studying classical piano at age 6 and studied it for 10 years. I was also studying jazz piano through high school. Music was more of a hobby back then.”

Feinman was drawn to classical composers such as Frederic Chopin and Claude Debussy. He also studied jazz piano under the renowned jazz educator, the late Jimmy Amadie, who had worked with Mel Torme.

According to Feinman, “I attribute my feel and approach to harmony largely to Jimmy. He was a powerful influence on me as his youngest student when I was only 15.”

After graduating from The Hill School, Feinman attended the University of Richmond as a business major.

“I hit a crossroad at the University of Richmond,” said Feinman. “I wasn’t cut out for school. I jumped ship at Richmond five credits short of graduating with a business degree.

“Eventually, I made my way to Berklee College of Music and graduated as a voice major in 2017.

“I thought about moving to Nashville after graduation. But I chose Philadelphia. Philly has a good scene with a lot of good clubs.”

Since returning to his hometown in 2017, Feinman has been releasing singles — starting with his debut release in 2018, “Love Is An Obstacle.” His second single, “All My Life,” was released in October 2019, and third single, “88,” was released in November 2019.

Video link for Jared Feinman – https://youtu.be/jwPD97u-C4Q.

The show at Ardmore, which also features Atlas Gray, starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) has two shows scheduled this weekend as part of its Rooftop Series – both featuring Kategory 5. The shows will be held on September 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. each night.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will host THE FUTURE OF THE BLUES with Gabe Stillman, Derek Matteson, Zach Lees, Jeffrey Attakorah, Sean McIntyre and Rando Branning on September 3 and Trae Sheehan on September 4.

People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is hosting its “People’s Light Drive-In Concert Series” with Sunny War and David Sickmen on September 10.

The concert will get underway at 6:30 p.m.

A $75 ticket applies per car, not per person. Up to 5 passengers can attend under a single reservation as long as they arrive in the same vehicle.

On September 11, People’s Light will present “Concert for the Family! Reggie Harris & Alastair Moock.”

The show will start at 10 a.m. in The Glen.

Tickets are $35. Each ticket includes a socially distanced Family Circle on the lawn, with space for up to four adults/children and one infant.

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