On Stage: Petras fashions a music career in pop

By Denny Dyroff Entertainment Editor, The Times

Kim Petras

Kim Petras has been developing a lot of avenues to fame recently – including some runway work this week at New York Fashion Week.

But, her main claim to fame is her music.

Petras writes and sings pop songs – good pop songs that have the potential to be earworms. Her latest single is a catchy pop song called “Heart to Break.” The new video for the single racked up more than one million views in just four days.

On October 6, Petras will bring her strut and her music to the area when she shares the bill with Troye Sivan on his “The Bloom Tour” at the Tower Theater (69th and Ludlow streets, Upper Darby, 215-922-1011, www.thetowerphilly.com).

Petras was born in Germany 25 years ago and lived with her mother in Köln, Germany until a few years ago.

“I was 19 when I moved to the United States,” said Petras, during a recent pre-tour phone interview. “It was a little bit of a culture shock when I first got here.

“For me, it was kind of necessary. I couldn’t find the right producers to work with in Germany. And, learning the business was easier over here. Ever since the beginning, it’s been about writing good pop songs – learning the essence of writing a good pop song. It was really not that easy. I was writing a song every day.

“Then, Fergie got one of my songs and that led to a publishing deal. One of the songwriters I worked with on the song sent it to Interscope Records and Fergie recorded it. That’s when I really started buzzing as a songwriter.”

The song that Petras wrote for Fergie wasn’t released. But, it generated enough buzz in the industry to land her a publishing deal with BMG.

“Then, I concentrated on working on my own records,” said Petras. “That was my master plan. I’ve always wanted to write great songs.

“I remember being a kid watching MTV – singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera doing interviews. I became obsessed with the language. In fifth grade, I started taking English classes in school and learned the grammar.

“Learning the language as spoken just naturally happened. I’ve never had any interest in writing songs in German. I’ve learned English through listening to music – listening to Madonna and the Spice Girls. It’s also cool that English isn’t my native language because I say things in a different way.”

Petras’ command of the English language and her ability to write songs with good hooks has proven to be a successful combination.

“I put so much work into the music and being a good songwriter,” said Petras. “I’m just really proud of what I’m doing. I have so many songs written.

“The more I work, the more people will know me. I’ve put together an album. I want to put it out when I have a hit record.”

If that is Petras’ criteria for an album release, the time is coming soon – very soon.

Video link for Kim Petras – https://youtu.be/5CPeHQHAQyo.

The show at the Tower Theater will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $59.50 to $77.

Welshly Arms

“No Place Is Home” is the name of Welshly Arms’ current tour, which is touching down locally on October 6 at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

“No Place Is Home” is also the name of Welshly Arms’ sophomore album, which was released on May 25 via Republic Records. The band’s self-titled debut album was issued in 2015.

Welshly Arms – Sam Getz [lead vocals, guitar], Brett Lindemann [keys], Jimmy Weaver [bass], Mikey Gould [drums], Bri Bryant [vocals], and Jon Bryant [vocals] — has also released three EPs – “Welcome” (2013), “Covers” (2014) and “Legendary” (2017).

“Our first album was released on Position Music,” said Getz, during a phone interview last week. “All our EPs were on Position. They’re our publishing company. The new album is on Republic Records. We inked a deal with Republic in April 2017.”

Gould said, “The first thing we did with Republic was the ‘Legendary’ EP. Then, we went to work on this record. We had a few songs sitting around like ‘Down to the River’ and ‘Hammer.’ Some of the other songs on ‘No Place Is Home’ were written three months before we went int to make the album.

“We recorded the album in an 1890s farmhouse in the woods outside Cleveland. It’s like our oasis. There was a drum room, a guitar/amp room, a keyboard room and a production room.”

Getz said, “We recorded most of the album there. But, we’re on the road a lot so we set up a little studio in the back of our bus. Our bassist Jimmy does all the production. We all chip in on the music but I’m the primary writer.

“We’re really happy with the ‘No Place Is Home’ album. It’s cool because this record is more dynamic than any of our previous records.

“If we’re asked what type of music we play, we say rock, blues, R&B – anything that has a soul to it.”

The band got its start in 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.

“We were all friends in Cleveland,” said Getz. “We played in different bands and sometimes in bands together. Mikey, Brett, Jimmy and I were friends for a long time. After high school, some went to college and some stayed in music.

“In 2103, we got together at a picnic at my place. We did a jam at my house and it was fun. We jammed again the next week and the next week and kept going. I had a little ProTools setup and recorded the jams. That became our first EP.

“Now, we rent the farmhouse that we’ve fully taken over as a studio. It’s overrun with gear but it’s still like a home recording. We do have a lot of gear. We have a couple tape machines that we’ll use and then drop the recordings back into digital.”

Recording blues-based music in an old farmhouse on tape is a big reason Welshly Arms makes fresh, powerful music that doesn’t sound manufactured. And, that’s a very good thing.

Video link for Welshly Arms – https://youtu.be/Z2CZn966cUg.

The Glorious Sons

The Glorious Sons are also musicians from the midwestern section of North America, but they hail from a city 450 miles northeast of Cleveland – Kingston, Ontario.

Like Welshly Arms, the Glorious Sons — Brett Emmons, vocals, guitar, harmonica, keys; Jay Emmons, guitar, vocals; Chris Koster, guitar, vocals; Adam Paquette, drums, vocals; Chris Huot, bass – have two albums and several EPs.

The Glorious Sons released their first album – “The Union” – in 2014 and followed with “Young Beauties and Fools” last October.

“We recorded our last album in Los Angeles with the Fast Friends production team,” said Brett Emmons, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Minneapolis.

“We heard a few songs they had done for other acts and immediately a green light went off. It was done at their studio — a small, little studio with computers and amps.

“It took three years between albums because we had trouble figuring out what the next step would be. We toured our asses off for years and we were tired. We also lost a member. There were a lot of factors. It was a long road.”

The band stopped and went into a period of reassessment.

“We took about six months off – not really by choice,” said Emmons. “We needed time for refreshing – for rejuvenation. But, it can also be a scary time – just sitting and waiting.

“We had actually started writing not long after our first album came out. When we went to L.A., we had 200 songs to choose from. There was so much to sort through, it’s easy to lose perception.

“Between management and the label, we got it down to 60 that they thought were best. We actually only used a couple of those songs.

“Me and my brother are ambitious people. With songwriting, I try to write something every day.”

The JUNO-award winning rock band is proud to share a new open letter video for standout single “S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun),” addressing a variety of pressing topics including gun violence, racism, misogyny, opioid addiction, alcoholism, and the overall divisive political climate around the world. Narrated by frontman Brett Emmons, the piece presents a call to action to confront our demons head-on and address the issues facing society.

The US-Canada border is the longest in the world — stretching 5,525 miles from Maine to Alaska. It often produces an unseen barrier for music acts from north of the border.

“America has been a challenge,” said Emmons. “We’ve had to work twice as hard to make it in the states. A lot of Canadian bands give up and like to sit on the money they make in Canada.

“One of the reasons America is such a challenge is that it’s so big. But, I think we’re making headway. The band is completely prepared to win people over one show at a time.”

Video link for The Glorious Sons — https://youtu.be/k4WIJnNrr8Y.

Welshly Arms’ “No Place is Home Tour,” which also features The Glorious Sons and Charming Liars, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Other upcoming shows at The Foundry are Chelsea Cutler on October 7, Noah Kahan on October 9 and CloZee: Evasion Tour on October 10.

Rock Allegiance, which is scheduled for noon-midnight on October 6 at the BB&T Pavilion  (1 Harbor Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey, 856-365-1300, https://wmmr.com/event/rock-allegiance-2018), is a monster show. It will run for 12 hours and feature 21 bands on three stages.


One of the featured bands will be Sylar, which will perform on the Wiggins Stage at 2:20 p.m.

Sylar — Jayden Panesso, Vocals; Dustin Jennings, Guitar; Miguel Cardona, Guitar/Vocals; Travis Hufton, Bass; Cody Ash, Drums — is an American metalcore band that was and still is the brainchild of Jayden Panesso. The band’s new album “Seasons” officially dropped on October 5 on Hopeless Records.

Sylar spent the weeks leading up to the much-anticipated release of “Seasons” on the road. The band then embarked on a tour supporting Beartooth and Knocked Loose – a tour running from September 14 through November 17. The band will also appear at two major fall festivals — Self Help and Rock Allegiance.

“This is probably our longest tour ever – a nine-week tour,” said Panesso, during a phone interview Wednesday as the band travelled to a show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Panesso formed Sylar in Queens, New York in 2011.

“I went out looking for people on the internet back in 2011 in New York City. It’s hard finding people – especially drummers. It’s so hard to find a good drummer.

“I did a D.I.Y. tour the first summer with a band called Frontline. By the end of the tour, the two guitarists and the bass player joined Sylar. That was at the end of 2012.”

Those three players – Cardona, Jennings and Hufton – are still with Sylar. Ash, the current drummer, was in the touring band in 2016 and became the full-time percussionist for Sylar in 2017.

“We released our first EP – ‘Cutting the Ties’ – in early 2013. Then, we got a record deal with Razor & Tie Records a few weeks later. We’ve had two albums so far – ‘To Whom It May Concern’ and ‘Help!.’

Caleb Shomo of Beartooth and Attack Attack! helped produce Sylar’s second EP, “Deadbeat,” in 2013, and the band’s debut album,
“To Whom It May Concern,” in 2014. In 2016, Sylar released its second studio album, “Help!,” on Hopeless Records — followed by the release of three singles “Assume,” “Dark Daze” and “Soul Addiction.”

“We recorded ‘Seasons’ in North Hollywood at Grey Area Studio with producer Erik Ron, who has worked with bands like Godsmack and Blessthefall. We also did our second album ‘Help!’ with him. We first found him through the grapevine. Palisades, a good band from North Jersey, did a record with him that I really liked.”

Playing a show in Camden/Philadelphia is now a “hometown” show for Panesso.

“I just moved from Brooklyn to Philly,” said Panesso. “My lady and I just had a baby a few months ago. Her family is from the Philly area so we moved down here. We’re living in Northeast Philadelphia. I grew up in an apartment in Queens so this is definitely an improvement.

“Our baby – Luna Grey – is three months old and it’s hard for me to be away from her while we’re touring. I fly back home whenever we have down time on the tour.”

“Seasons” shows Sylar’s musical evolution – sonically and lyrically.

“Our new LP is way more mature – more polished,” said Panesso. “I’m more clean with my vocals. You can hear every lyric. It just feels very comfortable. Lyrically, it’s way more personal. It’s very honest. You don’t have to read between the lines.

“We’ve gotten more melodic, but our songs still hit heavy. We’re going with the flow with whatever we feel. And, we’re still powerful.”

Video link for Sylar – https://youtu.be/PcdJ0WIr46Q.

Rock Allegiance, which starts at noon, features Motionless In White, Avenged Sevenfold, Limp Bizkit, Bullet for My Valentine, Papa Roach, Of Mice & Men, Insane Clown Posse, Skillet, Knocked Loose, GWAR, The Fever 333, Beartooth, Bad Omens, Badflower, Devour the Day, Fozzy, Sylar, Blacktop Mojo, From Ashes To New, Stone Broken, and Siravo. Ticket prices range from $39.50-$99.50.

Roomful of Blues

Roomful of Blues, a Rhode Island-based band that has a recording career that has lasted longer than 40 years and resulted in more than 20 albums, will headline a show on October 6 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

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.

“We have one new guy,” said band leader Chris Vachon, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from his home in Rhode Island. “We got a new drummer – Chris Anzalone. He just joined us about a year ago.”

Roomful of Blues is currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist 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),  Carl Gerhard (trumpet), John Turner (bass), Phil Pemberton (vocals) and Anzalone (drums).

“We’re doing a lot of weekend stuff – mainly because there’s not much going on during the week,” said Vachon. “Our shows are mostly Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t know how many we do a year. It’s a pretty good amount. Half the guys in the band are form Boston and half are from Rhode Island. It’s also hard to get together because people have families and other responsibilities.

“We’re probably going to do a new album pretty soon. We used to do one every couple years.”

Roomful of Blues’ latest album is titled “45 Live.”

“We recorded the album in 2013,” said Vachon. “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 celebrating its 50th anniversary this year 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. 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 50-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’ve got a lot of stuff from over the years. We’ve got so many albums, it’s hard to just pull one out. We try to keep some variety there with tempos and beats — trying to mix it up.

“What I like to do is have a variety of stuff, so people aren’t listening to the same beat over and over again. It’s more of a journey instead of 10 shuffles in a row. And, we do a fair amount of covers — not familiar stuff but rather mostly obscure stuff that no-one knows.”

Video for Roomful of Blues — https://youtu.be/p5XkI0zor74.

The show at the World Café Live will get underway at 9 p.m. Tickets are $24.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Tim Reynolds & TR3 along with Dave Cahill on October 7, Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino along with Darlingtyn on October 9, Tom Morello: The Atlas Underground Experience on October 9, and The Boxer Rebellion and Taylor Phelan on October 10.

Max Richter

On October 7, there will be a concert in Philadelphia featuring an entirely different kind of music.

On Sunday evening, Max Richter will perform in concert with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble in the Zellerbach Theatre at Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, AnnenbergCenter.org).

The work of the award-winning British composer Max Richter includes concert music, film scoring, and a series of acclaimed solo albums.

Having built a reputation for top-caliber work in dance, film and television, Richter’s beautiful works have made him one of the most influential composers of his generation.

Joined by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, described by NPR as a group of “contemporary music dynamos,” Richter will perform his work “Infra,” inspired by T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” and selections from the enhanced reissue of his 2004 masterpiece album, “The Blue Notebooks.”

“There are about 10-12 shows on this tour,” said Richer, during a phone interview Friday afternoon from Berkeley, California – where, ironically, he was performing a show at Zellerbach Hall.

“We’ve played a few ‘Sleeps’ this year but most of my time has been spent writing – doing some of my own stuff but mostly movies. Recently, I did the scores for ‘White Boy Rick,’ starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and ‘Mary Queen of Scots,’ starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.”

Richter has composed the scores for more than 60 movies, including 96 Hours,” “Disconnect,” “The Nun,” “Into the Forest,” “Miss Sloane,” “The Sense of an Ending,” and “Hostiles.”

“When I’m composing a score, I’ll have a rough cut of the movie,” said Richter. “It’s a puzzle. That’s what I like about working in movies. It’s a voyage of discovery working in a very hybrid language. You’re trying to do something that other elements in the film aren’t doing – emotional undercurrents – stuff you can hear. It can tell the viewers what to see.

“Still, my main focus is on my own records – concerts, ballets, compositions for albums – that’s where I’m from. My performing life is mostly centered from my records – which is mostly small ensemble stuff. I also have works like ‘Recomposed,’ which used a 22-piece orchestra, and

‘Three Worlds,” which used an 80-piece orchestra.

“For this tour, we’re playing ‘The Blue Notebooks’ and ‘Infra,’ both of which are political pieces. ‘The Blue Notebooks’ is a protest from around the time of the Iraq War. The whole buildup was politics moving away from facts and toward a story. ‘Infra’ was made for a ballet. It’s a memorial to the 2005 London bombing victims. Both pieces feature a lot of electronic music.”

Video link for Max Richter – https://youtu.be/Ubjylmxrj9o.

The show at Annenberg Center will start at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $28-$59.

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