On Stage Extra: Nathan Gray brings new band to Milkboy Philly

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Nathan Gray and the iron Roses

Nathan Gray, who will headline a show at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) on March 18, has been the front man for several well-received bands including BoySetsFire, I am Heresy and The Casting Out.

Gray’s arrival was in 1994 as the singer for BoySetsFire, a post-hardcore band from Newark, Delaware. That band released its debut album, “The Day the Sun Went Out,” in 1997.

His most recent recording is a solo LP titled, “Rebel Songs.” The album was released on December 17, 2021 on End Hits Records.

Experimenting for 25 years in a musical conquest for emotional freedom, Gray has left no stone unturned, having dipped his hands into international success fronting projects in hardcore, metal, pop-punk, gothic-pop, and acoustically delivered dark hymns.

His new album is described as “ripe with melodically-driven power anthems of light and love.”

“I’ve been doing my solo stuff for about four years,” said Gray, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Elkton, Maryland.

“I just recently added a band. Nathan and the Iron Roses is a new thing. I wanted to get away from the singer-songwriter thing.

“It’s a melodic punk-rock band. They were all friends of mine from the area music scene. I looked into my lot of friends and said – who’s got the talent?

“The current line-up is just this tour. I had to kick someone out of the band two shows in. My new guitarist is Jared Knapik from Connecticut.

“I recorded ‘Rebel Songs’ during the pandemic but all the songs were written prior to the pandemic. The album was done a year abo by me and two other people with Brian McTernan as the producer.

“He has a lot of equipment at his house in Baltimore. It was a really nice environment and I wanted to go back to that. It worked out great.”

Refusing to allow this confinement due to COVID to block his creativity, Gray and band turned inward to music and created one of their most anthemic and passionate albums to date. Fired up by both the isolation as well as in response to the division caused by the previous administration, they created a stellar album of fists-raised rallying cries.

According to Gray, “The inspiration both musically and lyrically came from just seeing a lot of the darkness surrounding us and seeing it taking over so many people during a difficult time in the world (and in this country), especially within the last four or five years.

“The darkness was being allowed too big a place in this world, and ‘Rebel Songs’ is my rebellion to that. It’s a call for joy as an act of revolution. Seeing greed and bigotry and hatred, and even the way groups were playing to people’s brokenness, which was very calculatedly being exploited by politicians and much of the upper class, shattered my heart.

“The entire album is a rebellion against that darkness. A lot of horrible political opinions reside in hopelessness and the best way to combat that nihilism is to show people that there is hope and they don’t have to be broken and sad. There is a light, and that light is right there inside of them.”

Nathan Gray & The Iron Roses is Nathan Gray (vocals, guitars, keys), Gene Priest (drums, additional guitars, keys), Jedidiah Johnson (bass, vibraslap, additional guitars, backing vocals), Becky Fontaine (backing vocals), Jared Kanpik (additional guitars), and Philip “Eugenius” Smith (additional vocals).

“I try to make my music personal,” said Gray, who originally is from Newark. “There is so much going on in the world – I need to make it personal and uplifting.

“There are a lot of songs about mental health and finding healing through music. I talk about my political views and the need to be more positive. Happy people make other people happy.”

Video link for Nathan Gray – https://youtu.be/M4exj8-8zI8

The show on March 18, which has Blackguyfawkes and Clancy & the Grifters as openers, will start at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy Philly are Soraia and John Fay on March 19, Shamir on March 22, and Grady Spencer & the Work on March 23.

There are two major families in the folk music/singer-songwriter world. One is the Taylors spearheaded by brothers James and Livingston.

The other is the Roche-Wainwright clan.

The Roches

Lucy Wainwright Roche is a singer-songwriter who is the daughter of singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III, a Grammy Award winner, and Suzzy Roche, who, along with her sisters (Lucy’s aunts) Maggie and Terre Roche, made up the vocal group The Roches.

She is also the half-sister of singer-songwriters Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright. Through her father, she is a niece of singer-songwriter Sloan Wainwright.

Area fans will have the opportunity to hear two of them perform together on March 19 when Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) presents “Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche – A Mother / Daughter Duo.”

“This is a show that has already been rescheduled twice,” said Suzzy Roche, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“There are a lot of shows that have been scheduled three times and then postponed because of the pandemic. It’s been really devastating for musicians.

“We did play some shows in the fall and then the new COVID variant came. These shows we’re playing now are our first in 2022. Now, we have dates on-and-off until the end of June.”

Roche is an American singer and actress best known for her work with the vocal group The Roches (with sisters Maggie and Terre). Suzzy is the youngest of the three and joined the act in 1977. She is the author of the novels, “Wayward Saints,” and “The Town Crazy” and the children’s book, “Want To Be in a Band?”

After a lifetime of performing and recording with The Roches and as a solo performer, Suzzy has been playing and recording with her daughter. They recorded their first album, “Fairytale and Myth,” in 2014 and their second recording, “Mud & Apples,” in 2016.

They released their latest recording, “I Can Still Hear You,” in the fall of 2020. The album was largely recorded in the darkest hours of the COVID shutdown in the spring of 2020 in New York City.

After starting the recording in Nashville, with producer Jordan Hamlin, the mother/daughter team went back to New York City just as the city closed up. They set up studios in their bedrooms — Lucy in Brooklyn, Suzzy in Manhattan — and finished the record.

“We have done a bunch of shows together,” said Roche. “It was not something either of us expected.

“Now, we already made three albums together. We never really did sing together until the last 10 years or so.

“Our live set is a mix of different things. It’s just us – vocals and guitar – and we have things prepared. Because we have harmonies, we have to rehearse.”

Unfortunately for fans, there are no new recordings on the horizon.

“I have not been writing at the moment,” said Roches. “The things that are happening in the world are very distracting to me. I feel shell-shocked.

“Singing and playing for people is good. We like to bring warmth and good cheer.”

Video link for Suzzy and Lucy Wainwright Roche — https://youtu.be/NFFIf1MBHFI.

The show on March 19 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $30.

“The Bannister Effect” is the phenomenon of one person showing others that it can be done and, thus, prompting others to believe and achieve.

It helps to know what – or who – Bannister was.

More than a half-century ago, running a sub-4-minute mile was considered a barrier in athletics. Breaking the barrier, according to experts, required peak performance in ideal weather and track conditions.

Roger Bannister, a full-time student with no formal training, devised a strategy to break through the elusive barrier. He was considered an outsider and un-conventional. On May 6th, 1954, in a small meet at Oxford, England, attended by few thousand, he breached the barrier by covering a mile at 3 minute 59 and four-tenths of a second. This moment demonstrated to other runners that it is not an insurmountable obstacle.

There is another “Bannister Effect” that is causing aural reactions in 2022.

It helps to know what – or who –is responsible for this “Bannister Effect.”

Bannister Effect

Bannister Effect, which will be headlining a show at Steel City Coffeehouse (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, steelcitycoffeehouse.com) on March 19, is a duo featuring lyricist Joe Puleo (formerly with Ten Years from Home) and singer-songwriter Eli Wenger (formerly with Los Halos).

The connection between Puleo and Wenger goes back years and is based in Saturday night’s venue.

In 2010, Wenger took ownership of Steel City Coffeehouse where he had worked since 2007. He owned the business from 2010-2016.

“Eli owned the club, and I was his landlord,” said Puleo, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I owned the building.”

Puleo is and has been a Phoenixville resident. Both musicians call Chester County home. Wenger is a graduate of Downingtown High School.

“I grew up in Phoenixville and still live there,” said Puleo. “I wrestled for Phoenixville High in the 1980s.”

Puleo grew up wrestling, running, swimming, cycling, and competing in triathlons. After his competition career, he owned the Haddonfield Running Company, a running specialty store in South Jersey and later, the Philadelphia Running Co., which offers coaching services to clients including the United States Marine Corps’ All-Marine Running Team.

He also has coached running at several area high schools, including Spring-Ford. Puleo was an English Lit major and has written two non-fiction books. His first attempt at lyric writing produced the words for the well-received Bannister Effect EP, “Ten Years To Home,” which was released in 2021.

Now, the duo is celebration the release of its debut album, “A Life I Knew,” which dropped on January 21, 2022.

“This album was seven years in the making,” said Puleo. “We recorded at Turtle Studio in southwest Philly.

“We finished the basic tracks four years ago. Eli’s been tinkering in his home studio. It took a while with the mixing. We finished in the fall and released it in January.”

The show at Steel City will be a band show with support from Ross Bellenoit, Jonathan Colman, Matt Scarano and Jaron Olevsky.

“This a very good band,” said Puleo. “It has four of the top musicians in Philly.”
Video link for Bannister Effect —  https://youtu.be/LNw5bSXWs4E.

The show on March 19 will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20.

Some musicians pick up their love for music in school. Some decide to study an instrument because they’re inspired by a famous musician – just think how many kids took up guitar after hearing Jimi Hendrix play.

jamie branch

jamie branch, who will perform on March 19 at an Ars Nova Workshop show at the RUBA Club (416 Green Street, Philadelphia, www.arsnovaworkshop.org), took a different path.

branch’s love of playing instruments went through birth and gestation in her family home when she was a kid.

“I started getting into music when I was very little,” said branch, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from Brooklyn.

“I was studying piano when I was three and then started playing trumpet when I was nine.

“I was introduced to a lot of music by my brother Russell, who is 10 years older. He was a trumpet player. He switched to euphonium and gave me his trumpet when I was 12.”

branch is a Brooklyn-based improviser, composer and trumpeter whose work is primarily focused on expanding the sonic and technical limitations of the trumpet in free and improvised music. Since branch’s debut as leader with the release of “Fly or Die” in 2017, the Fly or Die quartet has evolved into one of the most exhilarating and tightrope-walking units in modern jazz.

Featuring bassist Jason Ajemian, cellist Lester St. Louis and drummer Chad Taylor, the band is cosmic and confrontational, soaring and searing, able to grapple with controversial political ideas and transcend them into a gripping spiritual realm.

branch, who was born in Long Island and raised in Chicago, schooled herself in the music of jazz trumpet masters and other jazz greats.

“Early on, I was listening to Miles, Louis Armstrong, Woody Shaw and Chet Baker and early Coltrane,” said branch. “A while later, late Coltrane blew my ears off.

“When I was around 15, I got into Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, Monk and Mingus.

“I was playing in bands in high school and then went to college at the New England Conservatory of Music. Then for grad school, I went to Towson University. They gave me an assistantship. I got some free education.”

branch has released two albums as a bandleader – “Fly or Die” in 2017 and “Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise” in 2019. Both records were issued on International Anthem Recording Co.

“’Fly or Die II’ was recorded in November 2018,” said branch. “We recorded it in London at the end of a tour.

“I’m planning on getting back in the studio later this year. I have some compositions that I’m working on.”

Video link for jamie branch — https://youtu.be/lSC4jQR-3Ko.

The show on March 19 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25.

The Miners

The Miners, a Philly-based band that is performing a show at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) on March 20, seem to send a mixed message.

In Pennsylvania, miners are found in the Anthracite Region – not Philadelphia.

In the country rock/alt-country genre, bands are frequently from Nashville or Austin – not Philadelphia.

“Megunticook,” the title of the band’s debut album is taken from the name of a campground in Rockport, Maine – not Philadelphia.

But here are The Miners, an original alt country band based in Philadelphia. On Saturday night, they will open for The Outlaws and treat area fans to live renditions of songs for “Megunticook,” which was released October 22, 2021.

The Miners are Keith Marlowe (lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar), Gregg Hiestand (bass), Vaughn Shinkus (drums, vocals), and Brian Herder (pedal steel guitar).

“The Miners started in 2007,” said Marlowe, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Cheltenham. “It was started by myself and a guy named Matt Maguire. I had been in Tornado 5 and Matt came from The Bensons.

“We started to play an acoustic show and we decided to do some shows together. Then he said – forget the acoustic thing…we need a band.

“I contacted John Fay and he got us a show at the Grape Street. That was our first show – back in 2007. Matt was more into British rock, and I was more into alt-country. After a couple years, Matt said he didn’t want to play live shows but was still interested in recording.

“I decided I was going to front the band and got another player. I ended up getting a pedal steel player and took over as front person. There have been line-up changes. No-one is left from the original except me. This line-up has been together four years.”

The Miners released a single called “Miller’s Cave” in 2019 and followed with their debut album two years later.

“We recorded the album’s basic tracks at MilkBoy Studio,” said Marlowe, a Cheltenham High/Temple University grad who is also a business lawyer.

“We did overdubs at my home studio and a few tracks and overdubs at Match-up Zone Studio.

“We started thinking about the album in 2015 and began recording it in 2020. All the songs are originals, and all are pre-pandemic. There is even a song that was written in 2008.

“I always liked country-rock. When I was at Temple, I got into college radio — indie music and alt-country. It evolved from there. I always liked bands that were country influenced.”

Video link for The Miners – https://youtu.be/B-Tf1wHtq3k.

The show in Ardmore on March 20, which has The Outlaws as the headline act, will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $35.

Other upcoming acts at the Ardmore Music Hall are Steal Your Peach on March 17, Smithereens on March 18, Marshall Crenshaw on March 19, Satsang on March 20, Oz Noy Trio on March 22 and Cassadee Pope on March 23.

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