On Stage: The 7eventy 2wos at The Flash

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Also: ‘Rain’ in Wilmington, ‘Trotters’ in Philly

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times


The 7eventy 2wos — a band with strong Unionville roots — takes the stage at The Flash March 6.

March 6 will be a night of good music for area fans who want to get out of the house and listen to some of their favorite tunes performed live.

And, it will also be a night of tough decisions with Jorma Kaukonen performing at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, “Rain” opening a three-day run in Wilmington, Martin Bisi visiting Philly for a special intimate performance, Roomful of Blues heating things up at the Sellersville Theater and the Seventy Twos performing a hometown show in Kennett Square.

The 7eventy 2wos, who are headlining a show on March 6 at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org), have an interesting story behind their name.

The talented young band features a foursome of local musicians — Glenn McNemar on bass, Brad McNemar on lead guitar, Matt Creighton on percussion and voice and Chris Ferron on guitar and lead voice. All of them grew up in the Kennett Square area and that played a role in the selection of the group’s name.

“Brad, Glenn and I all grew up on the same road — Marlboro Road in Kennett Square,” said Ferron, during a phone interview earlier this week. “Some cigarettes are 100s and the shorter ones are 72s. We’re all short and I have red hair. So, we came up with the name Marlboro Reds.”

Marlboro Reds are one of the many Marlboro brands of cigarettes and each cancer stick is  72 millimeters long.

“We liked the name but realized that we’d probably be stopped from using it by the Marlboro Company,” said Ferron. “So, we decided to just call ourselves the seventy twos.”

In the future, Ferron could avoid telling the long story and just say that everyone in the band is under six-foot tall (72 inches).

The 7eventy 2wos are short when it comes to band history and to a repertoire of original songs.

“We’ve been together for about six months,” said Ferron. “Brad, Glenn and I have been friends for a long time and a mutual friend introduced Matt to us. Prior to that, I was just doing solo stuff.

“The first time we got together, we played live at La Verona in Kennett Square and we’ve been playing live ever since. We started off by playing covers and that was fun. It helped us get in tune with each other.”

Now the four local musicians — Ferron and the McNemar brothers are Unionville High grads and Creighton is an Archmere Academy alumnus — are taking it up a level.

“We’ve started writing our own songs,” said Ferron, whose father the late Charlie Ferron was a teacher and top-flight basketball coach at Unionville High for 16 years and whose mom Ann is a beloved art teacher in the district.

“Brad and Glenn start the writing. Brad comes up with the riffs. Then, Matt and I write the lyrics and work on the melodies.

“The Kennett Flash is one of the reasons we started working on original material. Our music is a funky, jazzy mix along with harder rock. We have a lot of variety because there is a lot of variety in our different tastes in music.

“We haven’t done any recordings yet. But, we’re going to be recording our set this weekend at The Flash live. It’s going to be recorded by Powell Live Sound. There’s a good chance we’re going to be doing an EP soon.”

Powell Live Sound is well respected for its ability to produce high quality mobile recordings. Chip Powell has recording facilities in Kennett Square and has worked locally with such acts as Billy Penn Burger and the Melton Brothers with Lili Añel.

The 7eventy 2wos will share the bill with Dirk Quinn at The Flash. Showtime on March 6 is 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $16 in advance and $20 at the door. On March 7, The Flash will present Beaucoup Blue and Angelo M.

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“Rain — A Tribute to the Beatles” will open a weekend run from March 6-8 at the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com).

Tribute acts are everywhere these days — offering musical homage to acts from the past. These acts range from Kiss and Elvis impersonators to bands that recreate the music sand vibe of some of rock’s legendary groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.

Some are worth listening to, some are pretty bogus and some are downright laughable. And, some take their mission a lot more seriously than others — especially one particular Beatles tribute band.

On February 7, 1964, the Beatles stepped off a plane from England and put their feet on American soil for the first time. It was a truly historic moment in the history of rock music.

On February 7, 2004, exactly 40 years later to the minute, “Rain — A Tribute to the Beatles” walked off the Concorde in Seattle to a group of over 7,000 screaming fans, and performed live all of the songs the Beatles played on their three consecutive Ed Sullivan appearances in 1964.    Without a doubt, Rain is the real deal.

On March 6,“Rain — A Tribute to the Beatles” will open a four-show run through March 8 at the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com).

“The current line-up of our group is pretty fresh,” said Steve Landes (John Lennon), during a phone interview earlier this week as the band travelled from Blacksburg, Virginia to a show in Anniston, Alabama.

“We’ve been trying to get new blood into the show. It’s hard. Our main focus is to get talented people — not necessarily people who look like the Beatles did.

“Our Paul and Ringo have been in the group a year-and-a-half and our new George came a few months ago. These guys are in their twenties and are some of the best talent I’ve worked with. It’s brought a lot of energy to the show.”

Landes, a Delaware Valley native who grew up in Lansdale, is not an original member. But, with a tenure that has lasted 17 years, he is the veteran of the group.

“The band started in 1975 in Los Angeles,” said Landes. “The group played its own music but the guys in the band at the time were also Beatles fans.

“So, they threw a few Beatles songs into their set and replicated them note-for-note. There was no tribute band genre at the time. Fans knew they wouldn’t hear the Beatles play again so they persuaded the group to become a tribute band.”

Not long after that, “Beatlemania” opened on Broadway and was an instant success. The Broadway production served as a source of talent for “Rain.” Landes was originally in “Beatlemania” prior to joining “Rain.” He has always portrayed John Lennon – in “Beatlemania” and with “Rain.”

“We just upgraded the whole look of the show,” said Landes, a graduate of North Penn High. “We’re using huge LED screens — four of them surround the band onstage. Now, we can change the set with every song. It gives it a modern look without taking away from the authenticity.

“We also have new footage that we’ve been working on. Before, we were the Beatles and the videos that were shown on screens on the side of the stage were about the 60s. Now, it’s all about what was going on with the Beatles at that point.

“We relate things such as the touring years, John’s comments about Jesus and them preparing for the recording of “Sgt. Pepper’s.” This version is more about the Beatles. It’s really important for newer generations in our audience to see the Beatles.”

The sets and costumes have been upgraded and the list of songs has been updates.

“We have changed some of the songs since the last time we were in your area,” said Landes, who now lives in Los Angeles. “There are so many great songs to choose from. Some are staples — ‘Yesterday,’ ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand,’ ‘Sgt.Pepper’s,’ ‘Hey Jude.’ We also do John’s song ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ That’s what John stood for — peace and love.”

Video for “Rain” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_VS8NcPvxPo.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. on March 6, 2 and 8 p.m. on March 7 and 2 p.m. on March 8. Tickets range from $35-$68.

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Martin Bisi

In many way instances, Martin Bisi, who will perform March 6 at the Rotunda (4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-573-3234, www.therotunda.org), is the man behind the music you hear.

There are some musicians who have made indelible marks in the history book of rock music even though they have remained primarily in the background — talented musicians who have also become masters of the recording studio as producers and engineers.

Some of the world-acclaimed musicians who top the list in this category are Brian Eno (Roxy Music, David Byrne, U2, Robert Fripp) and Bill Laswell (Material, Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, Ornette Coleman). Bisi is right up there with them — and he has worked with both.

In the recording studio, Bisi has worked with an amazing range of artists — from Iggy Pop, The Ramones and White Zombie to John Zorn, Herbie Hancock and Sonic Youth. He also produced the Dresden Dolls and has worked frequently with Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione.

Bisi is also a solo rock artist who performs live and occasionally releases an album. The New York-based musician released his first album “Creole Mass” in 1988 and followed with “All Will Be Won” (1992),” See Ya In Tiajuana” EP (1994), “Dear Papi I’m In Jail” EP (1996), “Milkyway Of Love (1999), “Sirens Of The Apocalypse” (2008), “Son Of A Gun” EP (2010) and “Ex Nihilo” (2014).

“My first release was what it was,” said Bisi, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York. “Now, it’s — who is this person? My personal music has changed a lot over the years. From a practical standpoint, the older stuff is so off-target from what I’m doing now.

“There was ethical and spiritual stuff on ‘Creole Mass.’ Then, there was garage stuff in the 90s and indie pop stuff after that. That music was concise. Now, my music is darker — almost like a soundtrack.”

All that led up to “Ex Nihilo” — and to whatever will come next.

“My latest album ‘Ex Nihilo’ was recorded over a period of time — from 2010-2013,” said Bisi, who has his own recording studio and still works with other artists.

“The song ‘Fine Line’ was the genesis of that album. It was written with the Dresden Dolls’ Brian Viglione in mind. The rest of the album is very different. I even have a professional opera singer — Amanda White — singing on the album.

“For my next album, I fell into this concept that seems so obvious t me. It will feel like a follow-up to ‘Ex Nihilo.’ I’m going to call it ‘Solstice’ and base each side on a solstice — a path of a year.

“And, I want it on vinyl. Vinyl is round and looks like a planet — and it has two sides. One side will be winter and the other side will be summer. It’s going to be somewhat operatic with post-punk noise underneath — rhythm and voice and a lot of weird sounds.”

Bisi not only wears a lot of hats as a musician and producer/engineer, he also wears a lot of hats in keeping the progress of his career on track.

“I’m still trying to juggle all aspects of things,” said Bisi, who just wrapped up a recording project in his studio with the New York band Soft Gang. “Everything is D.I.Y. I’m the tour booker — and the tour manager.

“I’m looking for someone to do a new video for me. And, I would like to find a small able for my music. I’m trying to stay creative. With music, if it’s not funny, it has to be cathartic.”

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Roomful of Blues

The concert at the Rotunda will start at 8 p.m. with a pair of opening acts — Red Masque and Green Cathedral. The show features free admission.

Roomful of Blues will bring its musical amalgam of traditional blues and old-time swing to the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) for an 8 p.m. show on March 6.

The Rhode Island-based band boasts a recording career that has lasted longer than 40 years and resulted in more than 20 albums. The band has toured worldwide and has treated fans around the world to its unique blend of a variety of music genres including rock and roll, swing, R&B, boogie-woogie, soul and a number of different blues styles.

Roomful of Blues has received five Grammy Award nominations and seven Blues Music Awards , including “Blues Band Of The Year” in 2005). The Down Beat International Critics Poll has twice selected Roomful of Blues as “Best Blues Band.

Over the years, more than 50 different musicians have been part of Roomful of Blues’ line-up, including vocalist/guitarist Duke Robillard, vocalist Lou Ann Barton, keyboardist Junior Brantley and trumpeter Fred Jackson.

Roomful of Blues is currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist Chris Vachon and long-time tenor and alto sax player Rich Lataille. The other members are Mark Earley (saxophone), Rusty Scott (piano, Hammond B-3 organ), Chris Rivelli (drums), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), John Turner (bass) and  Phil Pemberton (vocals).The band’s latest album is titled “45 Live.”

“We recorded the album in 2013,” said Vachon, during a phone interview last week from his home in Rhode Island. “It was our 45th year being together so we decided to do a live record.

“We did it in Rhode Island at a club called Ocean Mist in Wakefield. We recorded three nights in a row there and there were sell-out crowds every night. It’s our favorite little bar. We worked there a lot before so we knew it was going to be a good situation. We set up with a control room on the side.

“We played the same set every night. When it was time to put the album together, I ended up picking stuff from all three shows. There were a lot of people there for every show. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend so people were really in a party mood.”

Not many bands stay together for more than 10-15 years. Very few make it past 25 and passing a 40th anniversary is almost unheard of. Roomful of Blues is less than three years away from its golden anniversary (50 years) but, according to Vachon, there is no great secret to the band’s ability to keep it going.

“What’s the reason for our longevity — it’s the music we like to play,” said Vachon. “We’ve had our ups and downs. Some years we’ve toured more than others. We currently play about 150 shows a year. We used to do more but it’s becoming harder to do weekday dates. Lots of venues aren’t even doing weekday nights.

“The band keeps getting new fans and there are a lot of older people who have been listening to us for years. For young people, their only exposure to us has been at festivals. We play a lot of festivals every year.”

With a 47-year history and 20-plus albums from which to draw songs, choosing a set list for a show can be easy and difficult at the same time — what to play and what to leave out.

“We always mix it up,” said Vachon. “We try to do some of the latest album. Lately, we’ve been playing songs from our 1983 album ‘Blues Train.’ We try to keep some variety there with tempos and beats — trying to mix it up.

“And, we do a fair amount of covers — not familiar stuff but rather mostly obscure stuff that no-one knows. We’re also doing some Doc Pomus songs for his 90th birthday celebration. In another six months, we’ll be doing a new album.”

Video for Roomful of Blues — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9Fb7m4Ilsl8.

The show at Sellersville will get underway at 8 p.m. with the opening act — the Deb Callahan Band. Tickets are $25 and $40.

Other acts at the venue over the next week are “The Irish Comedy Tour” (March 5), Alejandro Escovedo and Lili Añel (March 7), Leo Kottke (March 8), Dom Flemons (March 10) and Andy Kim (March 11).

Jorma Kaukonen will performing at the Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) on March 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets  are $41 and $46 for the concert  by the world-famous musician who played guitar for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

On March 7, the Colonial Theatre will present the bluegrass sounds of dobro legend Jerry Douglas and the Earls of Leicester with special guest Gretchen Peters. Tickets are $33 and $38.


Chris “Handles” Franklin

The Harlem Globetrotters return to Philadelphia this weekend with some of basketball’s greatest athletes — players/showmen who will display their innovative ball handling wizardry, amazing rim-rattling dunks, trick shots and side-splitting comedy.

The Globies will be in the area for three games — March 6 at 7 p.m. at The Liacouras Center (1776 North Broad Street, Philadelphia) and March 8 at noon and 5 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center (Broad Street below Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia).

When the star-studded team comes to the area, it will be a homecoming of sorts for one its key players — Chris “Handles” Franklin.

Franklin grew up in Harrisburg and was a star player at Susquehanna Township High School and Lock Haven University. For almost a decade, he has been known to the world not as Chris Franklin, the former Pennsylvania scholastic hoops standout, but as “Handles” Franklin, the featured dribbling star on the Harlem Globetrotters.

“Being a Harlem Globetrotter is a dream come true,” said Franklin, during a phone interview last week. “I never wanted to do anything else in life but this ever since I saw a Scooby-Doo cartoon with the Harlem Globetrotters when I was six years old.

“The NBA was never a goal of mine. It was always to be a Globetrotter. I’ve played in countries around the world but coming back to my home state is always the best. Any time I’m playing in Pennsylvania, it’s like playing at home.”

Franklin played in the ABA with the Wilkes-Barre Blazers andthe EBA with the Harrisburg Horizon. One year, he participated in the world’s best ball handler competition, which was part of the NBA All-Star weekend. Franklin scored a perfect 100 in the competition which led to a contract with Nike.

He was part of award-winning commercials with NBA stars Paul Pierce and Vince Carter and that set the stage for his signing to play with the Harlem Globetrotters.

“I’ve been to 74 countries and every state in America,” said Franklin. “The Globetrotters are very popular everywhere they go. They’ve been around for 89 years and they’ve been able to cross generations — to emotionally connect with every member of the family. I’m honored to be a part of such a great tradition.”

Harlem Globetrotter video–  https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lFOvUK5kaOk.

The game at the Liacouras Center starts at 7 p.m. on March 6. On March 8, the games at the Wells Fargo Center are scheduled for noon and 5 p.m. Tickets range from $17-$100.

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Miss May I

Miss May I, which is playing March 8 at the TLA (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-922-1011, www.tlaphilly.com), is a metalcore band that came together in Troy, Ohio eight years ago. The band’s line-up features Levi Benton (vocals), Justin Aufdemkampe (guitar), BJ Stead (guitar), Ryan Neff (bass/vocals) and Jerod Boyd (drums).

“When we started the band, we were in high school — skateboarding and jamming together,” said Benton, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in San Antonio, Texas. “We all went to the same high school except Ryan. We stole him from another band.

“We signed with Rise Records back then. We were a My Space band. We had more than 2,000 plays a day on My Space. Back then, that made us an overnight sensation. We were just a local band. Then, we released the song ‘Architect’ and it went to 250,000 plays a day.”

“Architect” was on the band’s debut indie release album “Apologies Are for the Week.” Miss May I signed with Rise Records and released three albums since then — ‘Monument” in 2010, “At Heart” in 2012 and “Rise of the Lion” in 2014.

“Every two years a new album — that’s our cycle,” said Benton.  “We solved the equation.

“Writing is a band thing. We all write. The guitar players are always writing riffs. When I write, I think about how Ryan will respond — and vice versa.”

Benton is the band’s vocalist who is the screamer. Neff, on the other hand, provides the clean vocals.

“With the vocals, Ryan and I are our own critics,” said Benton. “The counterpoint of clean and dirty vocals isn’t as common among bands as it used to be. The way we do choruses and melodies sets us apart from the other bands anyway. It always has.”

The latest album “Rise of the Lion” was released to critical acclaim in April 2014 on Rise Records.

“We’re still touring ‘Rise of the Lion’ even though it’s been out for awhile,” said Benton. “We had a lot of time before we went into the studio to record it. It was the first time we ever had a whole record written before we went in. We’d write songs, road-test them and then we’d be ready to record them.

“We finished 15 songs in the studio with producer Terry Date and then used 10 of them. We just released the third single from the album ‘Hero with No Name.’ We’re playing a lot of the new songs live — but not the same ones every night. On this tour, we’ve been changing the set lists a lot.”

Miss May I’s show on March 8 at the TLA starts at 6:30 p.m. and also features August Burns Red, Northlane and Erra. Tickets are 28.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Jeffrey Gaines with Tom Guest on March 6 and “Banjo Babes featuring The Lowest Pair and Erin Inglish on March 7.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will feature a “Bluegrass Jam” on March 5, a “BalShag Dance” on March 6 and singer/songwriters Ryan Cohen and Chelsea Sue Allen​on March 7.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will  host  the “Road to DelFest” featuring The Travelin’ McCourys  and the Jeff Austin Band (March 5), DRKWAV featuring John Medeski, Adam Deitch and Skerik (March 6), The A’s (March 7) and the “Allman Brothers Celebration: Book Release Party” with Alan Paul (author of “One Way Out: Inside Story of the Allman Bros”) and Allman-inspired sets by Old Soul and Big in China  (March 11).

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Charlie Phillips on March 6 and Robbie Hecht and Caroline Spence on March 7.

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will host Savior Soul and Found Wandering on March 6 and hold an “Open Mic Night” on March 7.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents “One Night of Queen performed by Gary Mullen and The Works” on March 7 and Women of Ireland on March 8.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) has a stellar line-up of shows for the next week — “One Night of Queen performed by Gary Mullen and The Works” (March 5), The Flying Karamazov Brothers (March 7), George Thorogood and The Destroyers featuring special guest The Daniel Nicole Band (March 10) and Diana Krall’s “Wallflower World Tour “(March 11).

World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) will feature Rhett Miller on March 5 and Los Lobos on March 7.

The Rainbow Dinner Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, www.RainbowDinnerTheatre.com) is presenting its new production “Squabbles” now through March 21.

Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30-$55.

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