On Stage: Mame is the perfect antidote for holiday stress

Also, Rusted Root comes home to Pennsylvania; Forbert at Flash

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

mame rosemary benson

Rosemary Benson stars in the title role in “Mame” at the Candlelight Theater.

For a small portion of the population — mostly computer geeks — “Mame” is an acronym for an emulator application designed to recreate the hardware of arcade game systems in software on modern personal computers and other platforms.

For everybody else, “Mame” is the name of one of the most popular Broadway shows ever. It’s a fun, joyous show that is a perfect antidote for holiday-associated stress that arrives each December.

Fortunately, “Mame” is back in town. Now through December 20, the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) will be presenting the classic musical in its small, intimate dinner theater.

“Mame” is a musical with the book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. It centers on Mame Dennis, a rich and eccentric Bohemian whose famous motto is “Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.”

The show opened on Broadway in 1966 and was an immediate hit. It starred Angela Lansbury as Mame and and Bea Arthur as Vera Charles — both of whom won Tony Awards for their portrayals. In the production at the Candlelight Theatre, Rosemary Benson is Mame and Margaret Hill is Vera Charles.

Benson is a veteran actress who has also starred in such shows as “The Power of His Love” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” She is very active as a cabaret, jazz and orchestral singer and as a narrator of audio books. This show marks her Candlelight debut — and her first return to a musical in quite awhile.

“The last ‘book’ show I did was several years ago,” said Benson, during a recent phone interview. “In the past four years, I’ve done mostly voice acting. I narrate and produce audio books — self-help, non-fiction, meditation — all kinds of books.

“I also sing with a number of groups and bands. I do a lot of cabaret work and sing with about six bands regularly. I’m sort of an itinerant musician Around the East Coast. I used to just work Las Vegas and Atlantic City but now I go all over the place.

“Doing a show like ‘Mame’ was just something I really wanted to do. I had friends in the show and they suggested that I come and audition. I’ve known the play for years and years.

“It’s one of my favorites — especially the music. Jerry Herman is phenomenal. I actually sing some of his songs in my cabaret shows so doing a Jerry Herman musical is something special for me.”

Once deciding to get back into the water with a book show, Benson chose to dive in rather than tiptoe into the shallow end. The role of Mame is a very demanding role in many ways.

“It’s a gigantic role,” said Benson. “At first, I was intimidated by the vastness of the role. The story is such a beloved story and the music is so well-known. The challenge of this character is that she seems indefatigable.  If she gets down, it’s only momentarily. She lives her credo — ‘Life is a banquet.’

“If you’re playing the role of Mame, you have to bring 100 per cent energy to every scene. I couldn’t have done it without such a special cast. Everyone is so helpful and supportive. From the outside, it looks like I’m carrying the show. In reality, everyone in the cast is carrying the show.”

One of the show’s other very impressive performers is Scott Angelides. He plays the role of Young Patrick, Mame’s 10 year-old nephew who becomes her ward and protégé.

“Scott is such a natural talent,” said Benson. “He’s very at ease with people of all ages. And, he really understands the role.”

Performances are December 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 18 and 19 (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.), December 6, 13 and 20 (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.) and December 16 (doors, 11 a.m./show, 1 p.m.) Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).


TORUK – The First Flight

A theatrical stage show of a different type will be presented for December 4-6 when

Cirque du Soleil offers a three-day preview run of “TORUK – The First Flight” at the PPL Center (701 Hamilton Street, Allentown, 610- 224-4625, www.pplcenter.com). The show, which will be presented in arenas around the world over the next few years, will premiere in Montreal on December 21.

“TORUK – The First Flight” is a live immersive multimedia spectacle that brings to the stage the breathtaking world of James Cameron’s popular movie “Avatar.” Through a fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry, stagecraft and soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to Cameron’s imaginary world.

The show is an ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things. Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, the production is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film “Avatar” — long before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omaticaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal.

Their quest takes them high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.

“We all had to learn Na’vi phrases,” said cast member Elizabeth Brown Gagnon, during a recent phone interview. “We had Paul Frommer (creator of the Na’vi language) available to translate phrases. It helped us develop our characters more.

“This is the first Cirque du Soleil show with a storytelling element. There is quite a bit of dialogue in it. The characters all speak in Na’vi and the storyteller helps translate the Na’vi.  It’s a different Cirque show because of the story and the language.

“It’s a prequel. It is set 3,000 years before humans have arrived on Pandora. It explains the history of the Na’vi people. It’s a great story because it’s before the movie. And, it’s a visual spectacle with amazing media immersion.”

Gagnon is a former national caliber gymnast and collegiate cheerleader from Texas.

“I started performing professionally when I was 20,” said Gagnon. “I worked at Sea World in San Antonio in a show called ‘Diva.’ It was my first time to do acrobatics. I worked at Sea World for eight years and kept learning new things.

“After Sea World, I was working in Macau for ‘The House of Dancing Water,” which was a Cirque-like show in a theater with a very large pool. This is my first Cirque show. I do three different acts and I’m in three different clans — Omaticaya, Tipani and Anurai.

“This is a Cirque du Soleil show so there still is a lot of physical action. It is separated from the other shows only in that it has a story element. The story takes precedence but a lot of us cast members were chosen for our movement-type qualities.”

“TORUK – The First Flight” is ready to take flight. In Allentown this weekend, Cirque du Soleil is saying “Ngaru fì’ut!” which is Na’vi for “Here it is.”

Video link for “TORUK – The First Flight — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7CVH0tqZyt8.

The shows at the PPL Center are December 4 at 7:30 p.m., December 5 at 4 and 7:30 p.m. and December 6 at 1:30 and 5 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35-$143.50 for adults, $28 – $115.25 for children (ages 2-12) and $31.50- $103 for seniors (over 65), students and military.


Rusted Root

Music fans can take a trip to the past on December 4 — a trip that will take them back 25 years and then bring them all the way up to 2015. It’s a trip through the history of Rusted Root.

Rusted Root, which is performing on December 4 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com), has a long and interesting history.

Actually, the veteran group of musicians has a quarter-of-a-century legacy as one of the premier rock bands to come from Pennsylvania. The group, which still includes three of the original five members, continues to write, record and tour. And, it still calls Pittsburgh home.

The trio of founding members includes Michael Glabicki (lead vocals, guitarharmonicamandolin), Patrick Norman (bass guitar, backing vocalspercussion) and Liz Berlin (percussion, backing vocals). Rounding out the quintet are Preach Freedom (percussion, backing vocals) and Dirk Miller (guitar, backing vocals).

In honor of its 25th Anniversary, Rusted Root has been on an extensive national tour to support the current release “The Movement,” which is described by Glabicki as “an extremely joyous recording with seriously deep undertones.” “The Movement” was released on Shanachie Records in 2012.

Rusted Root, which is known for its fusion of acoustic, rock and world, has recorded eight albums and sold over three million records worldwide. The band’s music has been featured in films such as “Ice Age,” “Twister” and “Matilda” and TV shows such as “Ally McBeal,” “New Girl” and “Charmed.”

 “We’ve had this lineup together for over five years now,” said Glabicki, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Lake Tahoe. “Colter (Harper), our other guitarist, left after the last album to teach school in Ghana. Preach has been our drummer for six years. Before that, he was our percussionist.

“We’re covering a lot of ground on this tour. We’re also exploring some new material — getting fans acquainted with that. And, we’ve been talking old material in different directions.”

While “The Movement” was more of a spiritual, highly-creative work, Rusted Root’s next album looks to be heading in a different direction.

“We’ve been working on demos and pre-production for our next album,” said Glabicki. “We’re still in the middle of it. It gets done when it gets done. It’s really exciting. We’re finding a lot of different ways of presenting material — like the way the percussion is laid out.

“There are different vignettes throughout the song instead of a whole song being just one vignette. The background vocals are laid out differently. And, I’ve been writing the blueprints for the arrangements first.

“Each song is its own entity and there is a lot of variety. We’ve road-tested about half of them. Some will just be studio pieces. We’re using both digital and analog. The analog sound comes from a digital device called RADAR. This device has a real analog sound.

“‘The Movement’ was a celebration of what we learned over the first 25 years. The new album is the start of the next 25 years. I can see the band being together for that long. I don’t see why not. The band keeps getting better. There are more landscapes to explore musically. And, we’re still getting bliss from the audience.”

Rusted Root’s first major success came with the band’s 1994 album “When I Woke,” which went platinum, and its breakout song was a catchy tune called “Send Me On My Way.

“We’ve been playing that song so long that it has a life of its own — we just follow it where it goes,” said Glabicki. “In our live shows right now, half of it is acoustic with Preach doing a djembe solo in the middle. Then, there is the full band at the end. It connects nicely.

“We’ve been getting great responses with the new songs. It’s a little scary because the sound is different — but the crowd gets it. The grooves are more organic and moving. There’s a little bit of funk — and some straight-ahead rock grooves.”

Video link for Rusted Root — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=IGMabBGydC0.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. with Kings and Comrades as the opening act. Tickets are $22 in advance and $27 day of show.

The Ardmore Music Hall will also present a loaded twin-bill in December 6 with Nicole Atkins as the headliner with Erin McKeown as the special guest in the opening slot.

erin mckeown

Erin McKeown

The evening’s performances will be polar opposites. Atkins’ show is billed as “An Intimate Holiday Show with Nicole Atkins.” It will be preceded by “Erin McKeown’s Anti-Holiday Show.”

Filled with profanity, irreverance, and just plain bad behavior, McKeown’s Anti-Holiday album (and show) is the antidote to all that annoying holiday spirit. It’s the world’s first anti-capitalist, pro-queer, suspicious of Christmas-as-patriotism, sex-positive, not safe for work, multi-ethnic, radical leftist Anti-Holiday record.

There is nothing redeeming about Christmas in any of the album’s 10 songs. Please note. This album/show contains adult language and themes completely inappropriate for children — on purpose.

“The record came out in 2011,” said McKeown, during a phone interview Wednesday morning. “I’ve done the show every other year — 2011 and 2013.I did 10-15 dates each time. This year, I just didn’t have the time to do a tour so I’m only doing it in Northampton, Massachusetts and Ardmore.”

McKeown is a musician, writer, and producer known internationally for her prolific disregard of stylistic boundaries. Her brash and clever electric guitar playing is something to see. Her singing voice is truly unique – clear, cool, and collected. Over the course of seven studio albums and thousands of live performances, she has developed and refined a distinct and challenging mix of American musical styles.

An active voice on social justice issues and culture, McKeown was a 2011-12 Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Recently, she’s also added radio to her resume- blogging and hosting for WNYC New York Public Radio. A former board member of the Future of Music Coalition, McKeown also works closely with Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) on immigration issues.

“Lately, I’ve been spending all my time writing an original musical,” said McKeown. “Writing a musical takes over your whole life. I’ve probably already written over three albums worth of music. It’s going to have its premier in fall 2016 at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.

“It’s about a mother and daughter who take a road trip across the country and it’s set in the Obama years. I’m doing the music and the lyrics and Quiara Alegria Hudes is doing book and lyrics.

Hudes is a Tony & Pulitzer winner from Philadelphia. She wrote “In the Heights,” a musical that won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.  Hudes also won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play “Water by the Spoonful.”

“In my show at Ardmore, I’ll probably play a few of my other songs but I plan on playing lots of anti-holiday songs,” said McKeown. “They’re like other traditional songs but with a different attitude. I get flack about it all the time — I’m not sure why. I think maybe people think their childhoods are being attacked.

“I do the shows because I love them. There are lots of people who like them — others are missing out. It’s a fun evening. It’s a good laugh.”

Video link for Erin McKeown — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Cab-dtSVFxw.

The show on December 6 will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day of show.

Other shows this week at Ardmore are Monophonics (Dec. 3) and John Scofield and Jon Cleary (Dec. 5).

old man canyon

Old Man Canyon

On December 4, MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) will host Old Man Canyon. The Vancouver-based band is winding down its stateside tour featuring songs from its soon-to-be-released album “Delirium.”

Old Man Canyon is actually a vehicle for singer-songwriter-guitarist Jett Pace — much like Nine Inch Nails with Trent Reznor or A Fine Frenzy with Alison Sudol.

“When it started, it was just me writing songs with no idea where it would go,” said Pace, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Montreal. “I bring in a constantly-changing lineup. I started it four years ago, wrote an EP and released it a year later.”

That EP was “Phantoms & Friends.”

“Originally, I just put the EP on Bandcamp,” said Pace. “Within two days, I had booking agents contacting me. Then, I got the EP on iTunes. In the year before I recorded, I wrote a ton of songs and then picked five for the EP.

“It was always pretty clear that I needed a full band to bring it to s live setting. My current band is a four-piece — guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. We used to have another guitarist but now there are just the four of us. Josh, the drummer, has been with me since the beginning.”

Old Man Canyon’s music falls somewhere between indie-pop and indie-folk and features Pace’s expressive voice and insightful lyrics. “Delirium” takes up where “Phantoms & Friends” left off.

“‘Delirium’ is going to be out on January 15,” said Pace. “I’ve already released a couple singles — ‘Hollow Tree’ and ‘Back to the Start.’ In our live set, we do two songs from the EP and the rest is all new songs. A couple new songs we experimented with on our last U.S. tour.

“Some of the songs have changed a bit from the record — just little things. When I was recording the new album, I kept in mind how the songs would sound when played in concert. Still, we’ve definitely expanded some of the songs. We have some crazy jam sessions.”

Video link for Old Man Canyon — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hzIGIBQXVqA.

The show at Milkboy, which also features the Paper Kites, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Two of America’s most-respected singer-songwriters whose careers as folk artists span decades will be in Chester County for concerts this weekend. 

Steve Forbert will perform at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) on December 4 and Ellis Paul will play the Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) on December 5.


Steve Forbert

It’s pretty safe to say that singer-songwriter Steve Forbert is never going to oversaturate the market with his recorded output.

Three years ago, Forbert released a new album “Over With You” on Blue Corn Music — 34 years after he released his debut album “Alive On Arrival.” In the three decades-plus, he has only released 14 studio albums. His previous album was “The Place And The Time” which came out on 429 Records in 2009.

Forbert released his new album ‘Compromised” on November 6, 2015, via Rock Ridge Music. Recorded in Woodstock and Cape Cod and produced by Forbert along with John Simon, “Compromised” features a healthy dose of the singer-songwriter’s aggressive, roots-rock music.

“Compromised” collaborators include bassist Joey Spampinato (NRBQ), drummer Lou Cataldo (The Freeze), pianist/trumpeter Kami Lyle, and keyboardist Robbie Kondor.

“With ‘Over with You,’ the songs had been building up for three years,” said Forbert, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home at the Jersey Shore. “Ben Harper had rented a studio and had time left that he wasn’t able to use. So, he offered to let me use that time. I was ready. I had to be ready.”

Forbert headed off alone to Carriage House studio in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood to work with Grammy Award-winning producer Chris Goldsmith.

 “I was working with musicians I had never worked with before,” said Forbertt. “I wanted to do something different so I trusted the producer. We were in the studio three days and did all the songs. I flew in on Sunday, checked out the studio Monday, recorded Tuesday through Thursday and was back home in Nashville Friday. It was my first time to do a record like that. I think the immediacy helped.

“The new album was the opposite of the last. I contacted John Simon first and we set up some sessions. We did some recording with John in Woodstock and then he went to Florida. So, I went to Cape Cod and did some more recording with John Evans producing.

“I worked a lot on the album from October to January. We had to go to Cape Cod right after that huge snowstorm in Boston. We did a few bonus tracks — Americana versions of some of the things on the album.

“I’m not going to make another record for awhile so I threw in the kitchen sink. Every album I make, I have to look around and find a new record label. When you get older, the pace starts to slow down. I try my best. I’m really happy with the new album.”

Forbert has a very solid fan base and that’s fine with him.

“New fans — I don’t really court them,” said Forbert. “I just do what I’ve always done. Lyrics — and topics — move with me through life. I don’t pay attention to fads. I do have songs that I know people want to hear me play such as ‘Going to Laurel’ and ‘Romeo’s Tune’ so I don’t want to exclude them.”

Video link for Steve Forbert — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=eu_oTh04u3c.

Forbert’s show at The Flash, which has Christian Lopez as the opening act, will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at The Flash are Mason Porter on December 5, Open Mic with Sam Kwietniak on December 6 and Grace & Tony on December 8.

ellis paul

Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul is also on the road with a new album to support. Paul recorded and released his 19th album “Chasing Beauty” this past fall — an album of tasty songs that was produced by Kristian and Brandon Bush of Sugarland and Train.

“Chasing Beauty” is the second album by Paul that was completely funded by fans with more than $100,000 raised by over 600 donors. Paul also recorded fourth live album in April at his show at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston, Illinois.

“I wrote the songs for ‘Chasing Beauty’ from 2011–2013,” said Paul, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. It took over a year to record it because it was produced by Kristian and Brandon Bush and their tour scheduling and my schedules were conflicting. We recorded it at their studio in Atlanta. I also recorded some tracks in Nashville and Boston.”

Paul is recognized as one of the genre’s top songwriters — and an artist who has excelled at teaching the art of songwriting to fortunate pupils.

“Songwriting is always easy for me because I love it,” said Paul, whose debut album “Urban Folk Songs” was released in the late 1980s. “Sometimes, a song comes in five minutes and is pretty much done. Sometimes, a song can take five months for me to finish. They all have their own ways.

“Usually, it starts with an idea — something people say or a line from a book. Once I start, I have an idea of where the song is going. Then, I let the song go where it wants to go. Songwriting is still work but I’d rather be doing it than anything else.

“I was 19 or 20 when I started writing songs. It was in my DNA — part of who I am. I’ve always been creative — writing stories, playing trumpet, writing songs, playing guitar. When you’re young, you have these big hopes. That’s the kind of blind faith you need to keep going.”

Like the Energizer Bunny, Paul has kept going.

“I’ve been doing collaborative writing more in recent years because I go to Nashville a lot,” said Paul. “I have a publishing contract in Nashville so I do some co-writing there. And, I still do some shows with musicians that were in the Boston folk scene when we were all getting started — Dar Williams, Vance Gilbert, Patty Griffin.

“With ‘Chasing Beauty,’ one benefit was having a year in the studio. It gave me time to fill in the blank spaces — to put a new song in where it was needed. I pay a lot of attention to the way songs fit together. I want them to have a common theme.”

Video link for Ellis Paul — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6Mkw34pLG08.

The Ellis Paul show at Steel City will start at 8 p.m. with Adam Ezra as the opener. Tickets are $20 in advance and $24 day of show.

Other upcoming shows at Steel City are Joseph Robert Krauss and Native Harrow on December 3, Kyle Swartzwelder Band and Michael Braunfeld on December 4 and John Gorka on December 6. 

A solo artist with a totally different approach to music will be performing on December 6 at the Electric Factory (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215-627-1332, www.electricfactory.info). Dan Deacon, whose music is electronic and experimental, will be the opening act for Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz.

“It’s just me and a drummer, a sound engineer and a lighting designer,” said Deacon, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon en route from Burlington, Vermont to Portland, Maine. “We tour with a small package of lights. We do it mainly with proprietary software. I can program the lights to be in synch with the music with Ableton.”

Back in April, Deacon performed at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia and treated fans to first-time performances of songs from his new album “Gliss Riffer.”

The album was met with universal praise. It claimed the Number 1 position on CMJ’s Radio 200 Top 20 for the week of March 31, 2015. The multi-layered album sounds like a full band production but was actually just the opposite. ‘Gliss Riffer’ is virtually all Deacon.

“It is the first record he’s made all by himself since 2007’s breakthrough “Spiderman of the Rings” album. It marks a return to his first loves — synthesizers, MIDI, samples and drum machines. He tracked and mixed on the road during his headlining dates and support dates with Arcade Fire on their North American arena dates in 2014.

“I finished the album last October,” said Deacon. “I started working on it on-and-off in 2013 between tours. That’s when I started writing the songs. Then, I let it sit in the incubator. Songwriting is like sketching on a sketch pad — just noodling around and deciding whether to keep going. Then, it’s about finishing it.

“I’d say my computer is my main instrument. For this record, I was writing the lyrics as I was arranging the songs. Usually, I do the music and out the lyrics on later. Lyrics are the most stressful part because I’m not really a lyricist. But, I’m trying to do more of it.”

Deacon has released 16 albums over the last 12 years– starting with “Meetle Mice” in 2013 and ending with “Gliss Riffer” in 2015.

“I’ve always been into electronic music,” said Deacon. “I started writing songs when I was in junior high. Sometimes, it was noise and sometimes it was straight-up songs. When I was in college at SUNY-Purchase, I got interested in the pioneers of 20th-century composition like Iannis Xenakis and Conlon Nancarrow.

“I wasn’t playing acoustic instruments. I was just writing and trying out how to perform electronic music live. I started thinking of my voice as another element of sound. My most recent album was solo. On the one before it, I used 30 musicians.”

Touring with a pop mega-star like Miley Cyrus is a totally different experience for Deacon.

“I’m playing to audience members who never knew I existed,” said Deacon. “When the opportunity to do this tour came, we dove right in. I’ve been happy with the audience reaction. I never opened before for an act with such a large fan base. It’s really surreal playing to an audience of that nature.

“I still do some audience participation and the audiences have been really great. The common thread between Miley Cyrus and me is just being who you are and being comfortable with it. Her audience is very open.”

Video link for Dan Deacon — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kK-1axSGkXc.

The show at the Electric Factory will get underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are listed at $69.69.


Music that is non-mainstream, atmospheric and energy-filled can also be found on December 6 when Idle Bloom visits Philadelphia for a show at Hong Kong Garden (1712 North Philip Street, Philadelphia, https://www.facebook.com/hongkoooong).

Idle Bloom is a four-piece band that rocks out while embracing textures and psychedelic flavorings at the same time. The Nashville-based group features Olivia (vocals & guitars), Callan (vocals & guitar), Katie (bass), and Weston (drums). The group recently released its debut EP “Some Paranoia.”

Idle Bloom came together in 2014. Olivia and Katie had played together in Fancytramp prior to putting the new group together.

“We all came together in the Nashville music scene,” said Olivia, during a group phone interview Wednesday. “I first met Katie because I worked as a hairdresser and did her hair. We got to be friends and started making music together.”

Katie said, “Olivia and I were in Fancytramp together until that band ended in 2013. We didn’t want to stop playing music so we got Callan and Weston and formed Idle Bloom. We definitely have shared tastes.”

The band’s members all have different geographical roots. Weston is from Nashville. Katie is from Chicago and Nashville. Callan is from Nashville and western North Carlina and Olivia is from Saratoga Springs, New York.

Olivia is a driven activist/poet who left New York City for the sleepier aesthetic that Nashville provided in 2008. Callan arrived in Nashville later to pursue audio engineering at Belmont University, but had already refined her guitar techniques playing in the metal scene of Raleigh, North Carolina. Katie finds herself drawn to aggressive music, bands like Electric Wizard, Smashing Pumpkins, True Widow, and more. Weston began drumming after continuously being scolded by teachers to stop tapping and banging on stuff in the classroom.

Olivia said, “It’s like a Zen diagram. We overlap on some things.”

“We all have our separate influences,” said Callan. “I like atmospheric, textured guitar sound — guitar sounds that don’t sound like guitar. I use a lot of pedals. We wanted something that isn’t just guitar rock. We like to do double-leads.”

“Some Paranoia” is the perfect showcase of Idle Bloom’s need to explore sound. No two songs sound alike. The way this band accesses different states, musicians and various art forms results in a complex sonic weave.

“We’re recording our debut album in January,” said Olivia. “We’ve been writing a lot lately. We’ll spend four or five days in the studio. It will be a crunch so were trying to do some pre-production first. And, we’re road-testing a lot of songs in our shows now.”

Video link for Idle Bloom — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4IEBPCCRkn4.

The show at Hong Kong Garden, which starts at 9 p.m., also features littler, Mannequin Pussy and Spirit of the Beehive. Tickets are $10.



Tommy might be a deaf, dumb and blind boy but if he heads to the show at the Tin Angel (20 South Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-928-0770, http://www.tinangel.com) on December 6, he should be wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and be ready to tap his feet to some “Whograss” music.

The Tin Angel is hosting a performance of “Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry” — a show by the HillBenders. The veteran bluegrass band — Nolan Lawrence (mandolin), Gary Rea (bass), Jimmy Rea (guitar), Mark Cassidy (banjo) and Chad Graves (dobro) — has created a bluegrass version of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy.”

Conceived and produced by SXSW co-founder and longtime musician/producer Louis Jay Meyers, this Bluegrass Opry brings a new perspective to Tommy while paying total respect to its creators.

“Tommy,” which was composed by The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend, is a rock opera that tells the story about a deaf, dumb and blind boy. The original album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant value.”

“We’ve been together for eight years and ‘Tommy’ is our third album,” said Lawrence, during a phone interview Wednesday evening. “Louis Meyers, a good friend of ours, had been following us for quite some time. He said that he had spent 20 years looking for

the right band to do this project and he found that band in us.”

The HillBenders are one of the few bluegrass groups that recognize their ability to bridge the gap between the common music consumer and the bluegrass genre, selecting material that defies any hillbilly stigmas.

What did a couple country boys from the Midwest know about “Tommy” and the vibrant rock music scene in London at its time of conception? As it turns out — not much.

“We started making the album early fall last year,” said Lawrence. “I wouldn’t say we were very familiar with ‘Tommy’ — except for our guitar player. It’s one of his favorite albums so he volunteered to be the arranger.

“There were a couple months spent listening to ‘Tommy,’ watching live performances of it by The Who and even watching the movie. We tinkered for a month before committing to do the project. “We recorded the first couple tracks as demos at a friend’s house in Springfield.

“After that, we spent three months watching more live performances, listening to the album and immersing ourselves in it. We were getting really deep into studying it and realizing how much it would take to make the conversion. We wanted to make something that was seriously different — and something that was authentic.”

The HillBenders succeeded in their quest. “Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry” is well-done, unique and respectful to the original.

“The biggest challenge musically was the vocal work,” said Lawrence. “The vocal performances on the original are so amazing. Roger Daltrey went so high up on it so it was a serious challenge as a singer to get to the right key.

“Another challenge was sinking into the music and capturing the way the original was made. It’s a huge record — and a huge project. In our live shows, we play it in its entirety — 75 minutes front to back. Fortunately, we’ve has a lot of support from The Who on their Facebook page.”

Video link for the HillBenders — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=cLgbU7acsgY

The show at the Tin Angel will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at the Tin Angel are the John Byrne Band on December 4 and Dan Bern with Cliff Hills on December 5.


Family shows about the Christmas holiday are always popular attractions. So are shows that feature traditional Irish music and Gaelic culture. Combine the two and you have a sure-fire winner.

“Irish Christmas in America,” which visits the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on December 9, offers living proof.

The show is also being performed at Millersville University’s Student Memorial Center (21 South George Street, Millersville, 717-871-7600, MUTicketsOnline.com) on December 8.

The hugely popular show features top Irish music, song and dance in an engaging performance rich in history, humor and boundless energy. Produced by Oisín Mac Diarmada of award-winning lrish group Téada, the 2015 tour brings back singer Séamus Begley along with the vocal talents of Teresa Horgan.

This family-friendly performance features Irish ballads, lively instrumental tunes and thrilling Irish dancing, while interesting and educational photographic images provide a backdrop to some of the rich historical traditions.

“This is our11th year with the show,” said Diarmada, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It very quickly turned into my favorite tour. I did a Christmas tour in Europe with a group of harpers in my younger days and that was fun. This is even much more fun.

“I had been touring the states with Téada and decided to try a Christmas tour in America. The idea was to build it around a core of musicians and bring different vocalists each year. It’s a nice balance — a really great time.

“The show is a mix of traditional Irish music and stories. The nice part of the Christmas show is that there is a thematic part. We have a slide show with Irish traditions. The most famous tradition is the Wren Boys, which occurs on St. Stephen’s Day — December 26.”

Celtic myth had it that the robin that was supposed to represent the New Year killed the wren which represented the Old Year during this time. Wren Boys blacken their faces and go from house to house asking for money to bury the wren. The money they collect is used to buy food and drink for the “wren dance” held on this night.

St. Stephen’s Day honors the first Christian martyr, stoned to death shortly after the Crucifixion. St. Stephen’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, but, the celebrations have little connection to the Saint.

“It’s a pagan tradition,” said Diarmada. “People get dressed up in strange costumes and go from door-to-door singing songs. Christmas in Ireland is a huge family day and most of it is spent indoors. December 26 is a day to get outside.

“Christmas is also a drawn-out affair in Ireland. People are off work from Christmas Eve until after New Year’s Day. So, we do a skit about Janaury 6 — the women’s day off.”

In celebration of the feast of the Epiphany in Ireland, January 6 is marked by Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Little Christmas. On this day, it is the tradition in Ireland for the women to get together and enjoy their own Christmas, while the men folk stay at home and handle all the chores. It is also common for children to buy their mothers and grandmothers presents on this day.

“This is a great show about how Christmas is celebrated in Ireland,” said Diarmada. “We have a 90-minute show that is divided into two halves.”

Anyone who attends either of the performances might just want to exclaim “Nollaig Shona,” which means “Merry Christmas” in Gaelic.

Video link for “Irish Christmas in America” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=otmC70Htok4.

The show in Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $25 and $39.50. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show at Millersville are $18 for reserved seating, $15 for seniors and $5 for students with ID.

Other upcoming shows at Sellersville are Albert Cummings on December 4, The Security Project on December 5, and Jay & the Americans on December 6.


On December 9, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, philly.worldcafelive.com) will host a show featuring Caitlin Canty and Jeffrey Foucault.

Caitlin Canty is a talented singer-songwriter from Vermont who released her latest album “Reckless Skyline” earlier this year. The album features a dozen well-crafted songs performed by the singer along with a full band.

“We recorded the album in four days in October 2013 in Easthampton, Massachusetts,” said Canty, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Maine. “We mixed it a few months later. The live recording experience in the studio was magic. We had a blast and were efficient too. We cut 19 songs in those four days.”

“The album came out in January and I’ve been touring behind it almost non-stop since then. I’ve really been on the road a lot this year.”

The album received great reviews and was an instant hit with her fans.

“I wrote most of these songs in the six months before I went into the studio,” said Canty. “I started writing with this band in mind. It’s Jeff’s band from his ‘Horse Latitudes’ tour. The music is more centered around the vibe and personality of the players.”

Foucault is a veteran singer-songwriter who has performed with artists such as Chris Smither, Gillian Welch and Roseanne Cash. He has released nine albums since 2001, including two with the band Cold Satellite.

“The core of the band that I have with me on the road is the same band we had in the studio,” said Canty. “There are five of us in the touring band — Billy and Jeremy, who are the Cold Satellite rhythm section, Eric, Jeff and me. We’ve all toured together in different arrangements.

“I absolutely prefer touring with a band but I have to play solo shows too. My favorite deal is when I open for Jeffrey Foucault and Billy Conway. They back me up on my set and I sing backing vocals on theirs. That’s a pretty sweet tour.”

Canty spends much of her time each year on the road or dividing her time between Nashville, Idaho, and New England.

“A few years ago I had a full-time job as a sustainability consultant in New York,” said Canty, who is part of the duo Down Like Silver with Peter Bradley Adams. “I went to Idaho for few months after I quit my day job and really liked it there. I still go back to Idaho every year.”

Not surprisingly, nature and the outdoors figure heavily in Canty’s songs. On her new album, there are references to riding a Harley on a desert highway, “breathing in rivers,” braving winter’s wind and walking through tall grass. On the title track, Canty sings about “watching the sun paint a reckless skyline.”

“A lot of the songs I’ve written have been written next to rivers,” said Canty, an alumna of Williams College. “I’m always writing songs. I’ve got a bunch that are in the hopper right now. There is a lot of emotion in my songs always. I write whatever comes.”

Video link for Caitlin Canty — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9sgJpRd5-pM.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.


“The Book of Mormon” is running now through December 27 at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia 866-276-2947, www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway) as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Philadelphia” series.

Video link for “The Book of Mormon” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=OKkLV1zE8M0.

Ticket prices ranges from $67-$177.


“Annie” is running now through December 6 at the Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-888-0200, www. duponttheatre.com). Show times are 8 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Video link for “Annie” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2gD_Gq8chFU.

Tickets range in price from $40-$90.


Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Zilla and The Phibz, Paige Bergen, Kristina D’Amico and Alex Leblanc on December 4, Aaron David & The Wise Owls, Fidlam Bens, Matt Spitko and Jeremiah Tall on December 5 and an Open Mic Night on December 6.


Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will host the band whitewalls on December 5.


Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King Of Prussia, 610-354-8118, www.vfcasino.com) will host High Five Swan Dive on December 5 in The Vault.


The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) has Dawes on December 6 and Whitehorse on December 9.


Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will host Charlie Phillips on December 4,


The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents  “1964…The Tribute” on December 4.


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