On Stage Extra: Phoneboy comes to the Foundry at Fillmore

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


In the early 1980s, there was a British ska-pop-punk band called Fun Boy Three which was actually a trio of singers and percussionists performing along with a six-piece backing group that included a cellist and a trombone player. One of their UK hits was “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which was a chart song for The Go-Go’s in the states.

Now in the early 2020, there is an American Gen-Z indie-pop trio called Phoneboy – a group that is actually a three-piece band. On April 29, Phoneboy will make a return visit to Philadelphia to headline a show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Phoneboy is Wyn Barnum and Ricky Dana – both on vocals and guitars – and James Fusco on bass.

The band released its self-titled debut album in April 2021. On April 28 this year, Phoneboy released its sophomore album, “Moving Out.”

“We wrote a lot of the new album in the summer of 2021,” said Barnum, during a phone interview earlier this week as the band was travelling to a gig in Cleveland. “We recorded it in early 2022.”

The band’s roots go back more than a decade when they were students at Stevens Institute of Technology.

“Ricky and I were going to Stevens College in Hoboken,” said Barnum. “The next year, James came over. He was going to Fordham. We needed a good bassist.

“James and I are from the (San Francisco) Bay Area. I grew up mostly in the East Bay area. We met when we were 11 or 12. A little while later, we started playing in bands together.”

A few years ago, the three musicians’ paths crossed at Stevens and a new entity was born – a pop-punk-rock band with bits of surf rock influence.

“I chose Stevens because they gave me money,” said Dana. “I majored in quantitative finance.”

Fusco said, “I majored in math and economics.”

Only Barnum had music in the picture.

“I was a music major,” said Barnum. “Music and technology.”

Phoneboy took a major step forward with the release of its self-titled album in 2012.

Fusco said, “We write a lot of music inspired by pop punk. One person musically comes to the table and then we all work around it

Phoneboy’s two albums are very different.

“We didn’t record the first album in one cohesive setting,” said Dana. “The songs were written over the course of a couple years. We look at it more as a mix tape than an album. We released a ton of singles.

“The second album is more of a proper album. It was more electronic – Phoneboy found a synth. Our influences were the Strokes and Blink 182. Our music now is electronic sounds with a rock feel.”

Barnum said, “We know what sound we like, and we just go for it. It’s just us making music. Fortunately, people like it.”

Video link for Phoneboy – https://youtu.be/ZgjrvhZq-nE.

The show on April 29 at The Foundry will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $18.

The Steel Wheels

When the Steel Wheels formed almost 20 years ago, they were a bluegrass band in every way – an acoustic band featuring a trio of  singers/multi-instrumentalists.

That trio is still the core of the band which will be performing on April 30 at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, www.citywinery.com).

Trent Wagler is lead vocalist, mountain banjo player, guitarist and the band’s primary songwriter. Jay Lapp plays mandolin, guitar, electric guitar and sings. Eric Brubaker plays fiddle and sings.

Formed by Wagler in Harrisonburg, Virginia, they released several albums under Wagler’s moniker, before officially adopting The Steel Wheels name with the 2010 release of “Red Wing.” They have released six studio albums since – the most recent of which is “Over The Trees,” which was released in 2019 on their own label – Big Ring Records.

“I came to Harrisonburg to attend James Madison University in 1997 and then stuck around,” said Wagler, during a phone interview last week from his Virginia home.

“I was born in southern Indiana in Bean Blossom, which is a hub of bluegrass. I grew up with bluegrass.

“One the good things about going to school here in Virginia was that I got a chance to see Doc Watson playing in Lexington. He was just amazing.

“Doc Watson was always an influence along with Townes Van Zandt and that Texas vibe stuff. I was always into songwriters.

“I was also into Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I was somewhere in the middle between that and singers such as Gillian Welch, Jason Isbell and Brandi Carlile. I was always drawn to bluegrass – especially the harmonies.”

At one point in his college career, Wagler got away from the Virginia mountains – but not away from acoustic music.

“I took a year off from college and did volunteer work,” said Wagler. “I spent a year teaching English in the Gaza Strip.

“I really gravitated toward folk music and roots stuff. I got into oud music when I was in the Middle East.

“When I came back to Virginia, it made me realize how much I liked acoustic pared-down music.

“This band began very acoustically. We spent a lot of earlier days with a lot of different influences – acoustic influences. Now, we’ve grown into a bigger sound.”

The Steel Wheels have a bigger sound – and a bigger band.

“The core of this band has been together playing shows every year since 2005,” said Wagler. “On our last three studio albums and through the pandemic, we were really pushing more.

“We hired a drummer in the studio and on the road. Kevin Garcia has been our drummer since 2019 and Jeremy Darrow has been our bass player for over a year.

“We just recorded a new record and we’ll be releasing it next year. We’re already playing some of the songs live.”

The Steel Wheels have long been at home in the creative space between tradition and innovation, informed by the familiar sounds of the Virginia mountains where the band was formed, but always moving forward with insightful lyrics and an evolving sound. Newest member Jeremy Darrow rounds out the rhythm section and grounds the band as they continue to explore deeply rooted yet fresh folk rock sounds.

“The drums are more present,” said Wagler. “There’s been a shift. I like it when we’re able to grow and evolve. It’s kind of a hard thing to communicate that we’re not still that same band playing around a single mic. We’ve embraced taking a folk-rock moniker.”

One way of putting it is that the Steel Wheels now play “bluegrass with balls.”

Video link for The Steel Wheels – https://youtu.be/8E3Eh3lvdjU.

The show on April 30 at City Winery will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25.

Earlier this month, City Winery hosted a concert by Rachael Sage – a show that was part of a two-week, seven-show tour with Annalyse & Ryan.

Now, Sage and her band are doing a show at a new concert venue just west of Chester County — Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse (112 North Water Street, Lancaster, zoetropolis.com).

The show, which is scheduled for April 30 at 6:30 p.m. is billed as “Songwriters in the Raw with Rachael Sage, Katie Dahl, and Jessica Smucker.”

Sage and The Sequins started their Spring Tour at SXSW and made a stop later for a taping of NPR’s Mountain Stage. The band features Kelly Halloran (violin), Andy Mac (drums), Ward Williams (cello) and Trina Hamlin (harmonica).

Sage and her Hudson Valley neighbors Annalyse & Ryan are on the road together for the “Out Of The Valley Tour,” which began March 26 at the Towne Crier in their hometown Beacon, New york.

The tour will end on April 30 and then, three weeks later, Sage will head across the Atlantic for a three-week tour that will take her all around the U.K. — including a showcase event at The Plesantry in London.

In addition to her ambitious touring, Sage is putting the finishing touches on her brand-new album, “The Other Side.”

“Whistle Blow,” the first single from “The Other Side,” will officially be released tomorrow (April 21).

Sage has released 15 studio albums – starting with “Morbid Romantic” in 1996. She released her sixth album, “Ballads & Burlesque” in 2006 and then has faithfully released a new album every two years (on even years) since then – until COVID hit. Her two most recent LPs are Myopia” in 2018 and “Character” in 2020.

Sage is like a modern-day Renaissance woman — singer-songwriter, ballerina, pianist, poet, record label owner, actress, organist, writer and record producer. Currently, she is focused on being a performer.

Sage has developed a loyal international following for her dynamic piano playing, delicate guitar work, and improvisational audience interaction. A six-time Independent Music Award winner, Sage has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Howard Jones, Beth Hart, Ani DiFranco, and Grammy® winners Shawn Colvin and Judy Collins – with whom she also recorded a critically-acclaimed duet of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”

Since founding her own label MPress Records two decades ago, NYC-based alt-pop artist Rachael Sage has steadily released a slew of vibrant, dynamic albums with poetic lyrics spanning subjects as wide as her inspirations. She has toured with an eclectic list of artists including Ani DiFranco, Beth Hart, Sarah McLachlan, Judy Collins and Howard Jones.

Sage also continues to significantly grow her visibility via her many song placements – including many on top reality show, “Dance Moms,” which translated into over 10 million YouTube hits.

Annalyse & Ryan are a NY-based Americana duo. Their sound and songs take listeners on a soulful, rootsy journey. The sweetness and severity in their music echoes a cross between The Civil Wars and Tedeschi Trucks Band. Their music has been featured on CBS, BBC, and in multiple documentaries.

Video link for Rachael Sage – https://youtu.be/IDk5HWy1pgM.

The show, which is scheduled for April 30 at Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse, will start at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25.

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