On Stage: Steel City legend keeps to his roots

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Joe Grushecky

Joe Grushecky is a veteran rocker who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He released his first album in 1969 while a young musician in the Steel City. Now, almost a half-century later, he still calls the area home.

Pittsburgh is a blue collar, tell-it-like-it-is town and Grushecky’s music shares the same attributes.

Grushecky has been pumping out solid tunes since the 1970’s with a favorite uncompromising voice of the everyman. He tells the stories from being in the trenches everyday as a special needs teacher to collaborating with friend Bruce Springsteen.

Grushecky co-wrote “Code Of Silence” with Springsteen – a song that won a Grammy for best solo rock vocal performance. The two gritty rockers collaborated again on Grushecky’s recent album “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows.”

“I’m still in Pittsburgh,” said Grushecky, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in the western Pennsylvania city known as “The City of Bridges.”

“Pittsburgh has really gotten nicer over the last 20 years. It’s no longer a dirty steel town. And, it has the more bridges than any other city in the world.

“I grew up in a coal mining region in a small town called Biddle, which isn’t far from the Monroeville exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.”

Grushecky, who has 17 studio albums in his discography just released “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows” and is touring in support of the LP. The tour brings him to the area on July 6 for a show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“We released the album on March 30,” said Grushecky. “I had been working on it on-and-off for two years. Then, I finished it and sat on it ofr a while. I stared writing a lot of songs and then I got sidetracked. I wanted to do as blues record so I was collecting blues songs.”

Grushecky’s son Johnny, who has been playing guitar with his father since a very young age, altered the course of his father’s plans for the record.

“My son Johnny listened to what I had done and said – ‘Dad, I’ve got news for you…it sucks,’

” said Grushecky.

“He was right. There was too much blues stuff and not enough of my old stuff. So, I started writing. I wrote seven new songs. My son got involved in the production and took more of a role with the music – playing guitar and drums. The result was one of the best records I’ve made in a long time.

“I wrote seven or eight new tracks about a year ago and recorded them fairly quickly – January through November. But, I didn’t want to put the album out during the Christmas rush so I waited until the spring. When I was younger, I was always in a rush. Now, I’ve slowed down in my old age.”

As always, Grushecky’s songs have a real human touch. They are songs that almost everyone can relate to.

“I usually write a song or two by myself,” said Grushecky. “Toward the end, Johnny was coming over with me.

“I write primarily about what is going on around me. So, there is a thread around the town I grew up in. Usually when I’m writing, I try to have a complete picture in my head – a point of view for the record along with a beginning, middle and end. With so many rock stars dripping, it made me think about mortality.”

Video link for Joe Grushecky — https://youtu.be/PtHZU4O7hi4.

The show at Sellersville, which has Dave Goddess Group as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21.50 and $29.50.

Comedy at Sellersville

On July 7, the Sellersville Theater will host “Liberty Comedy Presents: “She-said, He-said” featuring Karen Bergreen and Andy Pitz with MC/comedian Shaun Eli.”

A mother of two small boys, Bergreen does stand up to get out of the house. She has appeared on Comedy Central, The Oxygen Network, Nick Mom, The View and more. While the kids aren’t looking, Bergreen is also a novelist. Her 2010 comic novel “Following Polly” earned praise from The New York Times, Oprah Magazine and her mother-in-law.

Pitz’s unique brand of comedy has landed him multiple appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He is also a regular performer at all of New York City’s top comedy clubs including Gotham Comedy Club, Caroline’s & Comic Strip Live.

Stand-up comedian Eli has rightfully been called one of America’s smartest comics. Whether it’s a story about dining with a vegetarian or successfully fighting a parking ticket, master storyteller Eli proves that there’s hilarity in the ordinary if you approach life with a comedic warp

The show is being produced by Eli’s company.

“I work with 40 different comedians,” said Eli, during a phone interview Thursday from his home in New York. “I’m a comedian and I book shows for me and other comedians.”

Eli has worked with Bergreen and Pitz for a while and paired them together once before for a show last year at the Union County Performing Arts Center.

“I’m always putting shows together – themed shows,” said Eli. “For this one, I needed a man and a woman reflecting different points of view.

“The theme is ‘She-said, He-said.’ It sounds gimmicky, but most comedians deal with personal relationships. Karen and Any are married – not to each other – and they look at marriage and family with different points of view.

“In the show, I also talk about relationships. Some comics have a message. I don’t do political comedy. My goal is to make people laugh. My favorite thing is thinking up a new joke on the way to a show and then using it that night.

“These two acts along with me as an opener fit together really well. And, we do a Q-and-A at the end of the show. That’s something audiences always seem to like.”

Video link for Shaun Eli — https://youtu.be/zCr-pbPL5Qc.

The show at Sellersville will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $39.50.

Jeremy & The Harlequins

Another interesting show at the Sellersville Theater will take place on July 10 when Jeremy & The Harlequins open for Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express.

Jeremy & the Harlequins’ main objective with their music is keeping rock-and-roll alive. That’s something the New York five-piece — – Jeremy Fury (vocals), Craig Bonich and Patrick Meyer (guitars), Stevie Fury (drums) and Bobby Ever (bass) — has been doing since forming just a few short years ago, both with its debut album “American Dreamer” (2015) and its follow-up “Into The Night” (2016).

The next phase of the band’s career was marked by a series of songs trickling through the airwaves via Yep Roc Records, starting with “Little One,” released in August of 2017, and leading into their new album “Remember This,” which is coming out on August 17 via Yep Roc Records.

“We recorded the album in L.A. and stayed there the whole time,” said Fury, during a phone interview Monday. “It took three weeks from start-to-finish. We had done most of the writing in New York before we headed to the West Coast.”

The album was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Lord Huron, Scott Weiland) in the historic Beachwood Canyon and Boyle Heights areas of the city.

“I wrote about 20 songs and, by the time we got to L.A., it was down to a dozen,” said Fury. “Then, we just got in thew studio and banghed it out fats. It’s a New York record that was made in Los Angeles.

“I’ll write songs on acoustic guitar and record demos on my iPhone. Then, I’ll make demos with my band on my iPhone. All the pre-pre-production was done in New York at the Music Building near Times Square.”

Fury, however, was no stranger to the music scene in Los Angeles.

“I’m from Toledo, Ohio,” said Fury. “I moved to L.A. after my previous band’s demise. I was living in L.A. for eight years. Now, I’ve been living in New York for seven years. Living in New York, I realize things change here. In L.A., everything stays the same.”

“Remember This” is an album of straight-up rock-and-roll joy – an album that reminds listeners of another era.

According to Fury, “By the time ‘Into the Night’ was released, I had about two thirds of ‘Remember This’ written. I wrote the songs in my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and then we worked on the majority of the arrangements as a band together at the infamous Music Building near Times Square.”

The album could have been recorded anywhere – anywhere there was a studio that met Fury’s needs.

“We made the album at Palomino Studio in Boyle Heights,” said Fury. “We had Rick Parker as the producer. We recorded with Rick 10 years ago on a project that never got off the ground. We knew Rick was a really good producer. Once this album started to take shape, we knew we had the right guy.

“Palomino Sound is an analog studio. Recording at an analog studio was important. It’s a different sound. This band sounds better recording through analog gear as they play live.”

“Remember This” has all the hallmarks of a Jeremy & The Harlequins record, but at the same time it sees the five-piece expanding on their own musical boundaries. This new record sees the band widening its sonic horizons with the help of Parker.

According to Fury, “We wanted to make a classic American rock record. I love music and I wanted to take the best aspects of the things that I like and roll them into our sound. I feel like America is in a period of reinvention right now — everything from fashion to what we drink to the restaurants we eat at are all being reinvented — and I wanted to take things from the past that I loved and create something refreshing and new.”

Video link for Jeremy & The Harlequins – https://youtu.be/2oD9g9DsjH4.

The show at the Sellersville Theater will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21.50 and $29.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Jag Panzer on July 5, Eric Steckel and Dustin Arbuckle & the Damnations on July 8, and Armored Saint on July 11.

Karen Akers

On July 7, Karen Akers, a world-famous vocalist and cabaret artist will headline a show – “Sing the Shadows Away” — at the

Rrazz Room (6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, 888-596-1027, www.TheRrazzRoom.com).

Akers, one of America’s most arresting and successful concert and cabaret stars, has performed throughout the United States, Europe and the former Soviet Union.

She has appeared in many prestigious venues worldwide from Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, New York’s Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, and London’s Pizza on the Park. Her career also includes three performances at the White House.

“The full title of the show at the RRazz Room is ‘Sing the Shadows Away – Songs of Doubts and Reassurances’,” said Akers, during a phone interview from her home in New York City.

‘Originally, I was a folk singer. Accompanying myself on guitar. People would ask me for my autograph because they thought I was Joni Mitchell. She and I both had bangs, played acoustic guitar and sang.

“I came out at the time when there were great folksingers like Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Carolyn Nester and Joan Baez. I saw Carolyn Hester play when I was in college. I was so impressed with her guitar playing that I cut off my fingernails to play like her.

“But, I couldn’t play what I wanted to sing so I moved over laterally to more music theater and acts like Edith Piaff. Even when I was nine years old, I was impressed with the music of Edith Piaff. It was so emotional and direct. I also loved Harry Belafonte and a lot of Broadway scores.”

Akers’ career path eventually led to Broadway.

“I was singing in clubs in the late 70s into the early 80s,” said Akers. “Then, my life took another shift – to Broadway.”

Akers first appeared on Broadway in the original production of “Nine,” a musical directed by Tommy Tune and based on the Federico Fellini film “.” She played Luisa Contini, the wife of promiscuous film director Guido Contini (played by Raúl Juliá). The show opened May 9, 1982, and had a successful run of 732 performances, closing February 4, 1984.

Akers won a Theatre World Award for her performance. She was one of three actresses in the show nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, with the award eventually going to fellow cast member Liliane Montevecchi.

“Seven years later, Tommy (Tune) cast me in ‘Grand Hotel,’” said Akers. “I loved doing those shows. It was very different than cabaret.”

In 1985, Akers appeared in such feature films as Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo as a celluloid chanteuse, and in “Heartburn” as the mistress of Jack Nicholson’s character.

In 1989, Akers appeared on Broadway in “Grand Hotel,” a musical adaptation of the novel and film, scored by Robert Wright, George Forrest, and Maury Yeston.

In the Tony Award-winning musical “Grand Hotel,” Akers was reunited with Tommy Tune and “Nine” cast members Liliane Motevecchi and Kathi Moss. The show opened November 12, 1989, for a run of 1,018 performances, through April 19, 1992.

Akers is considered one of the best cabaret singers in America. She has a long history of performing in this area including benefits for People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern and headlining shows at the long-gone Hotel Atop the Bellevue Cabaret

Video link for Karen Akers — https://youtu.be/xfD4_0wInLM.

The show at the Rrazz Room will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45.

Late Bloomer

On July 10, Late Bloomer will be part of a quadruple-bill at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com) along with Bandname, Hurry and Yankee Bluff.

Late Bloomer – drummer Scott Wishart, bassist Josh Robbins and guitarist Neil Mauney – are touring in support of the band’s new album, “Waiting” (6131 Records).

“The album’s release date was June 29,” said Robbins, during a recent phone interview from his home in Charlotte.

“We have a release show this Friday at Snug Harbor in Charlotte and then we head out on a three-week tour. ‘Waiting’ is our third full-length. We’ve been together since 2012 and we put out a self-titled LP in 2013 in our post-college days.

“I had been out of college a few years and found the drummer at our local record store. Ever since I moved to Charlotte, I talked to Scot about starting a band. I met the guitar player in another band. We were all friends – and we liked playing together. We’ve always been comfortable as a trio.”

“On ‘Waiting,’ Late Bloomer showed that it is a band that has come into its own — both sonically and lyrically. The trio effortlessly harness the massive hooks of 90s alternative with the raw energy of punk and hardcore.

“We recorded ‘Waiting’ in Northampton, Massachusetts,” said Robbins. “We made the album with producer Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab last October. We did a demo in another studio, edited it down and did some demos on our own.

“We started with close to 20 tracks and did demos of 14 of them. Then, we narrowed it down to a straight 10. Then, we did the final product with Justin. We spent four days at Sonelab with Justin.”

Late Bloomer took time to get the album ready for the recording session with Pizzoferrato, who had produced records for Dinosaur Jr, The Pixies, Speedy Ortiz, and Parquet Courts.

“Since we wrote over a period of time, I’d write, and Neil would write. We realized we were hitting the same topics. Our experiences with life were just really close that way. As the songwriting progressed, we knew what the other person was thinking. The songwriting was a common experience.

“On this tour, we’re doing a 30-miute set and 75 per cent of it is new sings. We play seven new songs, one from our first album and two from our second. Some of the songs we’ll be playing live for the first time.”

Video link for Late Bloomer – https://youtu.be/gWF9DIGB0Qs.

The show at Boot and Saddle, which also features Bandname, Hurry and Yankee Bluff, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present

Chris Fabiano

– “Unusual Ideas” — An Evening of Magic, Mentalism & Comedy along with Marc Staudenmaier and Cassandra Dee on July 6;

46 Sherman, Knightlife, and Los Festingos on July 7; and “The Second Annual Ben Arnold Summer Residency — Week 1” along with Bet Williams on July 10.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host

Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead tribute) from July 5-7.

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