On Stage: Tough choices tonight for music lovers

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Sabaton

Area fans of heavy metal music have a tough decision to face on April 20. If their preferred metal music is Swedish heavy metal, they have a really tough decision to face

If they want to attend a live concert featuring one of Sweden’s top international bands, they face an excruciating choice – a choice between war-inspired metal or prog rock-influenced metal – a choice between Falun and Stockholm.

Sabaton is a metal band from Falun, Sweden that features lyrical themes based on war and historical battles. Katatonia is a metal band from Stockholm, Sweden whose music features death metal origins and progressive rock influences.

On April 20, Sabaton is headlining a show at The Trocadero (10th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, 215-922-6888, www.thetroc.com). On the same night, Katatonia is headlining a show at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com).

Undoubtedly, the bands have a large number of mutual fans – many of whom will be wishing they had the ability to “klona mig själv” (“clone myself” in Swedish).

Sabaton’s themes of war and historical battles are even reflected in the band’s name. A sabaton is a knight’s foot armor.

The war theme that Sabaton embraces can be heard in the albums “Primo Victoria,” “The Art of War,” “Attero Dominatus,” “Coat of Arms,” “Carolus Rex,” “Heroes,” and “The Last Stand.”

Sabaton was formed in 1999 and still includes two of the founding members — vocalist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström.

“I formed the band at the end of 1999,” said Sundström, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “We had a drummer who was a schoolmate with Joakim.

“He introduced Joakim as a keyboard player so we brought him into the band. When I heard him sing, I realized how good he was. So, I said – you’re the singer of the band.

“We were looking for something to write about. We were both interested in history and wars and realized – this is interesting, this is real. We don’t want to write about our private lives and we don’t want to make things up. I always liked reality more than fiction.

“We’re not history perfectionists. We’re more interested in it than most people but we’re not experts. We also liked to find a topic people can relate to – either from movies or from experiencing it.”

Sabaton is currently touring in support of its latest album “The Last Stand.”

“We recorded ‘The Last Stand’ during spring last year,” said Sundström. “We recorded it with Peter Tägtgren, who has produced our last few albums.

“We are based in Falun and the studio we used was 45 minutes away. It’s convenient for us. It’s a great studio and we don’t have to move around. We can get to it easily.”

Sabaton’s current tour is called “The Last Tour” but fans need not worry that this is the end of the heavy quintet from Sweden.

“This isn’t our last tour,” said Sundström. “We just call it that way. But, you never know – anything can happen. Let’s hope that we can go on a long time more.”

Video link for Sabaton — https://youtu.be/p13gsy6I4lc

The show at the Troc, which also features Leaves Eyes and Battle Beast, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $23.

Katatonia

Katatonia’s history dates back 26 years – to Stockholm in 1991.

The band was formed by Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström as a two piece studio-based project. Renske handled vocals – clean and screamed – and was the primary lyricist. Nyström played bass and guitars and was the primary music composer.

They were looking to explore the limitless possibilities of the then-burgeoning doom and death metal scenes in their Scandinavian homeland.

The duo had been working together with music in some capacity since 1987, but became serious about making music in 1991, when they began work on their first release, the demo “Jhva Elohim Meth… The Revival.”

Katatonia released its debut album “Dance Of December Souls” in 1993 and received immediate acclaim within the metal underground.

As the notion of progressive music began to exert its allure over open-minded music fans, Katatonia was in position to benefit.

Over the years, the band has incorporated more prog-rock influences into its sound without sacrificing any of its intense death metal roots.

“The whole evolution of the band has been gradual – and natural,” said Renske, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in  Lincoln, Nebraska.

“It began as a journey – a long one – and we’ve grown throughout the years. It’s not a deliberate thing to move out through metal. We have our roots.

“The last few years, we’ve gotten into more progressive sounds. It’s a natural thing because we’ve always been into prog. We’ve listened to prog for a long time.

“Dabbling with progressive on our last few albums has opened a new audience. Progressive music is getting more exposure and people are getting into it more.

“It was a laughingstock for a while but now it’s coming back. It’s nice to see people listening to music that’s not on the radar.

“Our audience has been quite consistent over the years. It’s not about labels or genres. It’s the whole package of music and artwork.”

Katatonia has released 10 albums. The most recent is “The Fall of Hearts,” which was released May 2016 on Peaceville Records.

“We’ve been touring a lot with this album,” said Renske. “When we’re not touring, we’re working on new music.

“When I’m home, I try to write every day. The next real writing process will start after the end of our current touring.

“We’re definitely still touring for ‘The Fall of Hearts.’ We have a pretty long set so we have plenty of time to play a lot of the music from the new album and to play our greatest hits.”

Video link for Katatonia – https://youtu.be/aFNyjtxzZ18?list=PLdtAahlfc_S1nQ7MN3pw6t2tw_aRQlUr3.

The show at TLA, which also features Caspian and Uncured, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at the TLA are Chronixx on April 21, gnash on April 22, Goldfrapp on April 24, Mike Posner on April 25 and Balkan Beat Box on April 26.

Another show on April 20 will feature a band from across the Atlantic – a band from a different country than the metal guys…a band with a totally different sound.

I draw slow

I Draw Slow, a traditional music band from Ireland, will headline a show at the Philadelphia Folksong Society (6139 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, https://pfs.org). The show also features Kaitlyn Raitz & Ben Plotnick.

I Draw Slow is a five-piece outfit comprising vocals, guitar, fiddle, banjo, and double bass. Holden siblings Dave (guitar) and Louise (vocals) have been writing together for more than 20 years.

In 2008 the pair teamed up with violinist Adrian Hart, clawhammer banjo player Colin Derham, and double bassist Konrad Liddy to form I Draw Slow.

The band has a very distinct sound — bringing together Irish tradition with modern Americana while staying rooted in the old-time style of Appalachia.

“We’ve been together as this band for about 10 years,” said Dave Holden, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Dublin.

“It was small scale at first. There wasn’t much of a scene for this type of music in Dublin. We’ve been playing old-time bluegrass and Cajun music.

“Myself and my sister decided it was a lovely style of music to write songs in. We added double bass and fiddle to the band line-up. We also have done some experimenting with horns and percussion.”

The band steadily built a following in its homeland.

“We started off at festivals and clubs,” said Holden. “We built a following and added more club dates. We did more festivals and then added dates around Europe.

“We made our first album when we were living in Wicklow and put it out ourselves. For our second album, we made a video pf the song ‘Gold Miner.’ Pine Castle Records heard it and liked it. So, they signed up to their label.”

I Draw Slow will be releasing its highly-anticipated album “Turn Your Face to the Sun” on Compass Records on April 21. Other recent releases were “White Wave Chapel” (2014) and “Red Hills” (2011).

“‘Turn Your Face to the Sun’ is our first record for Compass,” said Holden. “We’re launching it in New York on Friday at the Rockwood Music Hall.

“We recorded the album live with engineer Brian Masterson. We did it at a house in County Wicklow and brought in a lot of equipment. We tend to record very quickly. We made it back in November – mostly in one weekend.

“Bluegrass and Celtic – a lot of them are the same songs with different titles. We were more committed to being pure at the start – quite traditional. Now, we’re a little more open – more singer-songwriter.”

Video link for I Draw Slow — https://youtu.be/C6jQDX2VEF4.

The show at the Philadelphia Folksong Society will start at 8 p.m.

There will be a lot on the music menu at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com) on April 21.

Tommy Keene

The early show will feature Tommy Keene and Ivan Julian and the late show will feature Evolfo.

Tommy Keene and Ivan Julian  is a natural pairing. Keene, a prominent pop songwriter, and Julian, a storied punk guitarist, are throwing in together for an acoustic solo tour. The two of them are each performing solo as well as together.

The two Washington D.C.-area natives were briefly in a band together in New York in 1980. The roots of their relationship go all the way back to 1978.

Julian was playing guitar with the seminal New York punk outfit Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Keene was working in D.C. with the Razz, a legendary local rock ’n’ rock outfit.

One night, along with Razz bassist Ted Niceley, Keene drove up to Manhattan to see Cheap Trick at the Bottom Line. Arriving to find out that the show had been cancelled, the two headed to Max’s Kansas City, where Nicely introduced Keene to his friend Ivan Julian.

“I’ve known Ivan for quite a while,” said Keene, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from a tour stop in Boston. “He went to high school with my former bandmate Ted Nicely.

Ivan Julian

“Ivan came down to D.C. to check us out when he was with the Voidoids. Then, both the Voidoids and the Razz imploded. He wanted me to come to New York to join his new group.

“I spent a few months in New York. We rehearsed together and hung out at clubs such as CBGB’s and the Mudd Club. Then, I had an offer for good money to tour with Suzanne Fellini. So, I did that and Ivan formed his band Outset.”

After touring with Fellini, Keene formed his own group and in the ensuing decades released acclaimed albums on the Dolphin, Geffen and Matador labels. He also has been a sideman for Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard.

Julian continued the Outsets for a few years, worked with the Clash and Shriekback, and later played extensively with Matthew Sweet before releasing his own solo album in 2011. Julian also fought his way back to good health after nearly succumbing to cancer.

“Last October, Ivan gave me a call,” said Keene. “He had a run-in with cancer and beat it. He asked what I was doing. I told him I had a band tour in Japan and then a solo tour in April.

“I asked him if he’d like to join my solo tour and he wanted to do it. So, instead of just a solo tour, we decided to do one together.”

The two veterans have come up with a solid format for the tour.

“Ivan does a set and then I do a set,” said Keene. “After that, we do a few numbers together. In my set, I’m doing 75 per cent acoustic and then play the last five songs on electric guitar.

“My first acoustic tour was in 1987 opening for Alex Chilton and I’ve done them on-and-off ever since. Acoustic shows are a completely different animal. It’s easier. Less can go wrong. But, it’s more difficult for me because I have to carry the whole thing.

“I like acoustic shows because I can hear myself sing very well rather than getting drowned out by a drummer. And, in a solo show I can wing it. I can pull out any song I want.

“People really like it because it’s a different format. Diehard fans like this scenario because that’s how the songs started. I can present the songs in their original form.”

Video link for Tommy Keene – https://youtu.be/SB_u2gC5S5o.

Video link for Ivan Julian — https://youtu.be/f_Ia52Gh7DM.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Philly Soul Syndicate, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Evolfo will be introducing its new album “Last of the Acid Cowboys’ in its show at Kung Fu Necktie.

Evolfo

What began in 2011 as a basement party band in the pits of Allston, Massachusetts, has since relocated to Brooklyn where the collective has honed its garage-soul sound with a bubbling mixture of rock, psychedelia, and a touch of spaghetti western drama.

“We were living in the Boston area going to school at Berklee College of Music,” said Evolfo guitarist/vocalist Matt Gibbs, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from a tour stop in Davenport, Iowa.

“I wanted to start a band so I got people around me to play shows. We play party music – funk, rock and soul. We did that from 2009-2013. Then, I moved to New York and the rest of the band followed. Everyone – seven guys — came down from Boston and joined me after a couple months.

“We live in Brooklyn – in Flatbush. So, we do most of our shows in Bushwick and North Brooklyn. Boston still feels like our home base. We’ve been trying to play clubs across New York. Now, this tour has taken us to the Midwest.

“The most accurate description of our music is garage-soul. It’s garage rock but we take a lot from the Dap-Tone songbook. I’d say we’re a party band. My intention is to bring the energy up at every show.”

Last of the Acid Cowboys,” which is the band’s debut album, melts down decades worth of eclectic and bizarro records and emerges with a house-shaking mix of garage rock, psych soul, spiritual funk and ecstatic freakout.

“We recorded the album over the last couple years,” said Gibbs. “We’d pop in and out of different studios around Brooklyn. We met Royal Potato Family and Kevin (Calabro, the label’s founder) and started working with him.

“The album came out April 7. We’ll probably do the weekend warrior deal for a while and play cities that we can drive to from Brooklyn in a couple hours.

“Our audience has a tolerance for a wide variety of genres. I think we see a lot of people our age – late 20s guys. I think we’re seeing ourselves reflected in the audience.”

There is a good explanation for the band’s unusual name. They originally called themselves Evolfo Doofeht, a reversal of “the food of love” — Shakespeare’s famous description of music from “Twelfth Night.”

Video link for Evolfo — https://youtu.be/9oTNLJJcou8.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Philly Soul Syndicate, will start at 11 p.m. Tickets are $6.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Hot Bijouxx on April 20, The Spring Standards on April 21, Beatlemania Again on April 22, and Heather Maloney on April 23.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Ari Heist with Emily Neblock on April 21 and The Core on April 22.

At the Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com), Point Entertainment presents Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives on April 23/.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Electron with Tom Hamilton’s American Babies on April 20, Splintered Sunlight and Rainbow Full of Sound on April 21 and the Krieger Band on April 23.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) presents David Jacobs-Strain and Bob Beach on April 20, Frances Luke Accord with Chris DuPont on April 21 and Frances Luke Accord with Chris DuPont on April 22.

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