On Stage: Mary Fahl returns to The Flash

West Chester’s Promiscuo comes home to play Chaplin’s

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times


Mary Fahl returns to The Flash in Kennett Square this weekend.

In the wide world of rock music, there is a lot of songs that are copy cats, a lot of musicians who are sound-alikes and a lot of generic music everywhere.

But, there are also musicians who are truly unique.

No-one plays guitar like Jeff Beck. The Cream’s Ginger Baker has a drum style that can never be duplicated.  Flea has a truly distinctive way of playing bass whether it’s with the Chili Peppers or as a session musician.

And, there are a handful of vocalists that can truly be considered unique.

Mary Fahl, who will be performing on December 13 at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org), is one of them. Once you’ve heard Fahl sing, you have her voice burned permanently into your memory bank. From that point on, if you hear a song by Fahl, you immediately know who is singing.

In 2011, Fahl recorded her own version of one of rock’s all-time classics — Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Fahl re-interpreted the songs on an album she titled “From the Dark Side of the Moon.

Fahl, who was a member of the October Project 20 years ago, went solo in 2001. Prior to this year, her recorded output as a solo artist has been slim — “Lenses of Contact” EP in 2001, “The Other Side of Time” album in 2003, “Classics for a New Century” in 2003 and “From the Dark Side of the Moon” in 2011.

This year, she released her new album “Love and Gravity” on Rimar Records and followed with “Mary Fahl: Live from Mauch Chunk Opera House” — a project that included a live album, a performance DVD and a PBS special. Fans can expect to hear a number of tunes from the Floyd-influenced album and “Love and Gravity” at The Flash this weekend.

“I play the Kennett Flash once a year — usually at this time of year,” said Fahl, during a phone interview Monday from her home in Upper Bucks County. “It’s always in the winter. The last time I played there was with a full band but this time will be a solo show.

“My solo shows are very intimate. They can be very impromptu. With a full band, it always has to be more structured. When I’m playing solo, I can talk about songs and I can take the music in any direction I want. I have a really varied repertoire.”

Many of Fahl’s fans have been with her ever since her time with October Project which lasted from 1993-1996.

“October Project had a large body of work and I still perform some of those songs in my live show,” said Fahl. “If I don’t do some of those songs, fans get upset. I also do songs from the Pink Floyd record and several compositions from my solo records.

“I’ll always have a new song I like to introduce. And, I like doing interesting covers. Putting together a set list can be difficult now and then because of the limited amount of time on stage. My sets usually are between 75 and 90 minutes.”

For many artists, the task of re-inventing songs from an album as iconic as “Dark Side of the Moon” could have been too much of a challenge. Not so for Fahl who crafted a disc that honored its roots but established an identity all its own.

“After making the Sony classical album (“Classics for a New Century”), I wanted to do something that was fun,” said Fahl. “An independent filmmaker I knew wanted to use me in a performance piece. I wanted to do something that I didn’t have the ability to write.

“That’s when I decided to do the ‘Dark Side’ recording. It’s like a classical piece of music. I did not intend to make a cover record. It’s my version and it doesn’t sound at all like Pink Floyd’s version. But, a lot of die-hard Pink Floyd fans have responded well. They like the album — and my live versions of the songs.

“My show at The Flash will be my last gig of 2014. After a break for the holidays, I have more than 30 gigs lined up starting in January. But, I don’t go out for weeks at a time. The demographics for my music are all over the place but my typical audience is a Friday-Saturday-Sunday audience. That works out well for me too.”

Fahl’s new album includes “Exiles”, a song written for Anne Rice’s new audiobook “The Wolves of Midwinter.” Fahl and Rice are fans of each other’s work. Rice mentions both Fahl and an October Project song (“Take Me as I Am”) in the “The Wolves of Midwinter.”

“A character in the book is haunted by a song I sing,” said Fahl. “Then, Anne asked me to write a song for the audiobook version. I love writing for movies. I like getting into the minds of characters.”

Fahl has written and performed songs for several major motion pictures, including the lead song (“Going Home”) for the Civil War epic “Gods and Generals.” Her music can also be found on the original soundtrack of the 2003 movie “The Guys.”

The singer’s show at The Flash will get underway at 8 p.m. with opening act Brooke Falls. Tickets are $27 in advance and $32 day of show.

On December 12, The Flash will present a performance by Elvis impersonator Bob Lougheed. The schedule for December 13 also has a free screening of the movie “Elf” at noon. The matinee show on December 14 will feature more area favorites — Lizanne Knott, Dan May, Jen Creed, and Cole Redding — and the evening concert features the Reminders and Keith Mack.


Laura Promiscuo

While Fahl’s concert features a singer whose career spans more than two decades, another concert in the area this weekend will feature a singer whose career spans less than two years. On December 13, West Chester’s Laura Promiscuo will headline a show at Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com).

“When I was growing up, there was always singing going around in our home,” said Promiscuo, during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “My grandfather had an operatic voice and my father sang. My family listened to opera, classical music, classic rock — and a lot of Disney music.

“I decided to play viola at a young age. I even played viola in the high school orchestra. I attended Penn State University as a voice major. I was in an a capella group there. That’s what inspired me to start writing — and to become a solo artist. I was a voice major but I didn’t want to just sing opera or classical. I liked all different kinds of music.”

Diversity has played a major role in Promiscuo’s musical development.

“When I started songwriting, I was writing soul music, pop songs, R&B and soulful songs,” said Promiscuo, who trained with world renowned artists including international tenor, Maestro Antonio Conte Pugliese, and Arlene Shrut, head vocal coach at The Julliard School.

“I was always very influenced by the Doors, Ani DiFranco, Ella Fitzgerald and Mariah Carey. Other influences are Tina Turner, Otis Redding and Sam & Dave.”

Promiscuo’s love of the music of the Doors took her down the cover band path for a period of time in recent years.

“I was touring with the Soul Kitchen Collective for awhile,” said Promiscuo, who played field hockey and lacrosse at West Chester Henderson. “They’re a Doors tribute band. In 2013, I decided to go solo and changed my name from Laura Mills to Laura Promiscuo.

“My mother’s maiden name is Promiscuo and I really took pride in my grandfather’s name. I’ve been performing live forever but my first show as Laura Promiscuo was at Pietro’s Prime in West Chester in August 2013.

“I think of myself as a higher level performer than someone just strumming a guitar onstage. A lot of people call me a chanteuse. I stand there like a night club singer but my original music is more pop-oriented.”

Right now, Promiscuo is promoting her new album “Chasing Down the Dream,” which was recorded with Grammy-winning producer Tim Sonnefeld at Milkboy Records. It features eight of her original songs, including “Closer To You,” “Water Is Wide,” “Take Me As I Am” and “Sweet Lovin’ Boy.”

The show at Chaplin’s will start at 8 p.m. with three opening acts — Covers, Dear You and Brosef Gordon Levit. Tickets are $10 online and $12 at the door. On December 12, Chaplin’s will present a comedy show featuring Chris Smith.


Will Downing

If Promiscuo is in the mood to hear live music in the genre that inspired her so much, she should head to the Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) on December 14 to attend the concert by Will Downing.

Downing, who has been dubbed “The Prince of Sophisticated Soul,” has established himself as a top-of-the-bill musician in both R&B and jazz circles. He is currently touring in support of his new album “Euphoria.”

“I have no real preference — jazz or R&B — it all depends on my mood,” said Downing, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in North Jersey. “‘Euphoria’ was more of a jazz-tinged project.

“But then all my projects are on the fence between contemporary jazz and R&B. The key is that there are no boundaries. Listeners today don’t listen to full albums. They listen in bits and pieces. So, music can be just about anywhere.

“When I was selecting songs to record for ‘Euphoria’, there was no rhyme or reason to how I did it. I’d talk to different songwriters to see what they had. If I like it, then we’re good. I do write some songs but not a lot. I’ll write when I have to.”

A career in music was never in Downing’s early plans.

“It happened because of a series of strange events,” said Downing. “I was always interested in music. When I was in high school, a teacher heard me singing in the choir and asked me to join a chorus. I went — and I started liking it.

“Then, I got recruited to an arts high school. I went to college and got into music more. I started networking in the early 1980s and began singing backup vocals for other artists’ records in 1988.”

It was also in 1988 that Downing released his first album “Will Downing” on Island Records. The rest is history.

“‘Euphoria’ was project number 17,” said Downing. “I’ve already started working on the next project. The new album is about 60 per cent done.”

Downing knows that he is fortunate to be able to sing — or even walk or talk — considering his medical history.

In 2007, Downing was diagnosed with polymyositis, a chronic inflammation of the muscles with serious symptoms including severe pain with marked weakness and loss of muscle mass in the muscles of the head, neck, torso and upper arms and legs.

“I had a serious weight loss and was down to 115 pounds,” said Downing. “It was serious and life-threatening. There were times when I wondered if I was going to make it. I’ve gone through therapy and strong treatments. I even had to learn how to walk again. But, it’s getting better. I’m about 80 per cent back now.”

Downing’s show at the Keswick will begin at 8 p.m. with special guest Carol Riddick. Tickets are $44.50 and $57.50.

Other shows at the Keswick this weekend are Tyler Oakley’s Slumber Party on December 12 and a twin bill featuring the Four Tops and the Temptations on December 13.

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Marco Benevento

Another musician playing the area this weekend whose music spans genres is Marco Benevento, who will be performing on December 12 and 13 at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com). Showtime is 8 p.m. each night and tickets range from $15-$28.

“Last month was a really busy month,” said Benevento, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Woodstock, New York. “I’ve had the last 10 days at homed here in Woodstock. So, I’ve been recording some new music and working on recharging my batteries.”

Benevento’s earliest recordings were back in the early 2000s as part of the Benevento/Russo Duo with drummer Joe Russo. He released his first solo album “Invisible Baby” in 2008. Benevento’s latest album is “Swift,” which just came out in September.

“I probably won’t put out another record for another two years,” said Benevento, whose music has been influenced by seminal electronic rock bands such as Kraftwerk, Can and Neu.

“Even a record every two years is a lot. I don’t want to go crazy and oversaturate. We recorded ‘Swift’ in March out in Oregon. We’re playing all of that music now in our live shows.”

Benevento has written, arranged and played his mostly instrumental songs and led his band from behind his customized piano and bank of drum machines, sequencers, keyboards and pedals. Prior to “Swift,” Benevento had never sung his own songs.

“I never liked my own voice,” said Benevento. “It’s too deep. I like the Robert Plant/David Bowie voice — the higher singing voice — so I never got into singing that much. I was self-conscious about it. On my ‘Tiger Face’ album, I had female vocals. I used Kalmia Traver from Rubblebucket on two songs. When I was working on ‘Swift,’ I had my phone in hand to call Kalmia but then I realized that the vocals would be missing in my live shows.

“So, I realized that now was the time to do it because I liked the songs with the vocals. Still, there aren’t many live vocals in the show. I made four records prior and all were instrumental. So, the majority of the set is still instrumental.”

Benevento’s diverse fan base has always been more interested in the songs not the singing.

“My demographic is really varied,” said Benevento. “My fans come from rock, jazz, jam band, electronic music and modern rock. It’s mostly a younger crowd. I have the jam band audience because I’ve played a lot of jam band festivals. I’ve also played a lot of electronic music festivals.”


Kerri Powers

This weekend will mark the area debut for Kerri Powers. The talented singer-songwriter from New England will headline a show on December 12 at Burlap and Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427- 4547, www.burlapandbean.com).

Powers’ seeds of creativity began germinating when she was really young.

“I’ve always been very creative,” said Powers, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in central Connecticut. “I got my first guitar when I was eight. At the time, I was also writing stories and illustrating them.

“There was always a lot of music in our house. My mom would listen to artists like Neil Young, Janis Joplin and Creedence Clearwater Revival. My dad was listening to classic country acts such as Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette. When I was nine, I started taking guitar lessons.

“I started writing songs at a really young age — not that the songs were that good. I grew up in East Taunton (Massachusetts) which was a very rural area. I lived near the railroad tracks. I walked down a dirt road to take my guitar lessons.”

Powers, who has a son that is 21 years old, grew up far removed from urbanization and long before cell phones, texting and the internet.

“I was always considered to be shy,” said Powers. “I was reclusive. But, I had my music. I started playing coffee houses when I was around 13 and also played some country music festivals. I’ve been making music for a long time. I had to take time off for various reasons.

“I had to raise my son who is now studying journalism at the University of Connecticut.  But, music never left me. I always had music. It was where I turned to all along. It’s brought me a lot of comfort overall. I continued to write and play but more on a personal level. I decided to take baby steps and ended up making an album.

“I was pushed to go into the recording studio by my husband. We found this amazing studio in Chester, Connecticut — an analog studio called Dirt Floor Studio. It’s owned by Eric Lichter and he produced my album. We recorded the album last fall and it was released in January 2014.”

Powers’ album is simply titled “Kerri Powers.” Some of the other acts who have cut albums at Dirt Floor are Susan Cowsill, Hannah Fair, Ian Fitzgerald and Elli Perry.

“I’m just taking things one day at a time,” said Powers. “It’s great to be playing — great to be making music. Without it, I’m not a whole person.”

Showtime for Powers’ concert at Burlap and Bean will be 8 p.m. with Ben Arnold as the opener. Tickets are $15. Other shows at the venue are Winterpills and John Mallinen on December 11 and Twin Ghost and Megan Burtt on December 13.

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The Ghost Inside

On December 14, The Ghost Inside will visit the area for a show at TLA (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-922-1011, www.tlaphilly.com) — a show in which they will share the bill with Every Time I Die. Tickets are $20 for the 6:30 p.m. show that also features Architects, Hundredth and Backtrack.

The Ghost Inside skirts a number of genres and sub-genres — metalcore, power pop, heavy metal, melodic hardcore, hard rock and even a bit of emo. Unlike many of the metal bands, The Ghost Inside has songs that feature clean vocals in addition to ones that are out-and-out screamers.

The Los Angeles-based band began as a group of friends in El Segundo who shared a passion for hardcore music. The group is known for personal vocals, frantic riffing and slamming breakdowns — with a sense of melody. The quintet features Jonathan Vigil (vocals)Aaron Brooks (guitar)Zach Johnson (guitar)Jim Riley (bass) and Andrew Tkaczyk (drums).

The Ghost Inside’s new album “Dear Youth” was just released on November 17 on Epitaph Records. The band’s debut album “Fury and the Fallen Ones” came out in 2008.

“Our sound just came with time,” said Vigil, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Salt Lake City. “We’ve played together so long. We just keep trying to push the envelope. From the first record to this record was a big progression.

“We did the recording on-and-off throughout last year. We tour a lot so we just record when we can. We like touring so much that we’ve stayed on the road for almost a year. In the past, we’d take a month off and record in a big block.

“The new album is a little different. The actual sound is better. And topic-wise, it’s a lot different. The record is a little more frustrated but the songs are uplifting. They tell you not to let people push you around.

“We’ve traveled a lot and seen a lot of different cultures. It struck me how some people in other parts of the world need so little to be happy. They don’t need fancy cars or other possessions like that. It made me realize how lucky I am. I saw things happening with the world and put it on paper.”

Even though the band has just released a new album, it will not play a set dominated by new tunes.

“We’ve been holding off playing new songs,” said Vigil. “We have started to play the two singles — ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Dear Youth (Day 52).’ People need time to get used to listening to new songs before they hear them live. So, we’re going to wait for the record to sit a little.”

The schedule for the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) includes Irish Christmas in America on December 11, Cheryl Wheeler and Patty Larkin on December 12, Jane Siberry on December 13, Bill Kirchen on December 14 and Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. on December 17.

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will also perform on December 18 at the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com).

The World Café Live at the Queen will also present Kategory’s “Rewind to Vinyl Show” on December 11, The Porkroll Project on December 12, the “Runnin’ Late Holiday Show” on December 13 and The Sermon on December 17.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Splintered Sunlight on December 11, Café Ole on December 12 (8 p.m.), Control for Smilers on December 12 (10:30 p.m.) and Jeffrey Gaines on December 13.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will present Rock & Roll After School Supergroup and John Faye on December 12, the Melton Brothers Band and Lili Anel on December 13 and Cliff Hillis and Amy Fairchild on December 17.

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will feature Jesse Ruben on December 11, Howish on December 12, Ben Smith on December 13 and Keystone A Capella on December 17.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host Frank Vignola on December 11 and the Wizards of Winter on December 13. The Baby Grand will present “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the Eric Mintel Jazz Quartet on December 13.

The Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) will have Ed Kowalczyk on December 12, Burnt Sienna on December 13 and Chiodos , We Came As Romans, Slaves and Sleepwave on December 17.

Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com) will host

Chris Rattie & The Brush Valley Rumblers on December 12, Vulcans and A Very Herbie Christmas on December 13, Cherish the Ladies on December 14, Big Red on December 16 and Dave LeFever on December 17.

Several stage shows with Christmas themes are playing in the area over the next few weeks.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org) is presenting the holiday classic show “A Christmas Carol” now through December 23. Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

The Rainbow Dinner Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, www.RainbowDinnerTheatre.com) is presenting its holiday production “Burglar’s Holiday” now through December 28. Ticket prices range from $48-$54.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-0 648-4102, www.AMTshows.com) has its holiday show running now through December 30. The show features spectacular vocal harmonies, lively musical arrangements, impressive dancing, elaborate scenery, elegant costumes and the music of the AMT Orchestra. Tickets are $42.

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