On Stage: Thumpasaurus makes Philly debut

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Philly get ready — Thumpasaurus is on its first national tour and has a stop in Philadelphia planned for March 9.

The genre-bending band from Southern California is bringing its “Book of Thump Tour” to the Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Thumpasaurus — Lucas Tamaren – Guitar/Vocals; Henry Solomon – Saxophone; Paul Cornish – Keys; Logan Kane – Bass; Henry Was – Drums/Production –released “The Book of Thump” album last summer and recently released a single titled “Alien.”

The band was formed when the members were students at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music a few years ago.

“It actually formed as an extension of a folk guitar/banjo I had with a fellow student when I was a freshman at USC,” said Lucas, during a phone interview Friday afternoon when he and Was were travelling to a show in Boston.

“Henry Was came onboard to produce a folk record. We played together right away and realized we needed to be louder. So, we added more members. Everyone was a music student at USC.”

Was grew up in the music world.

His father Don Was was a Was (Not Was) founding member. In addition to playing with that band, Don Was is the father of three sons who are also musicians — Tony, who plays in Eve 6; Solomon who has played in Leven Kali, and Felly; and Henry.

“I was a jazz drum major,” said Was. “I quit playing because I wanted to concentrate on production and now, I’m playing again.”

Was got the ‘Thumbs up” from his father when he joined Thumpasaurus.

“My dad loves the band,” said Was. “We accidentally made a band that was in the Was Not Was lineage.”

Thumpsaurus found its direction and has been steadily following it.

“It kind of formed over time,” said Lucas. “We started by playing house parties – mostly around USC in the fraternity scene and the music scene. We even did a show at Ski House in the middle of a half pipe. Soon, our fanbase started to grow.

“Everything worked out smoothly. We played a lot of shows at the university’s underground performance venue Yoni. At the tail end of our time at USC, we got hooked in with the bands Knower and Vulfpeck. It kept growing and eight months ago we played a sold-out show at the Troubadour in Hollywood.”

Before there was the “Book of Thump” album there was the EP “In the Beginning There Was Thumpasaurus.”

“We released the EP and then later the EP got incorporated into the album,” said Lucas.

Was said, “We made the album in my basement. That’s where we first started working back in the folk music days. I was producing them. They had this really crazy energy. It was something I was just going to produce. Originally, I was just going to play drums on the album. Before long, I was in the band. It was a gradual transition.”

The band’s latest project is a rock opera called “Where Does the Love Go.”  The “Thump Opera” explores “a mixed bag of emotions leading to an ultimate reinvention of reality — and the understanding and purpose that comes on the other side of the tunnel.”

The track listing for “Where Does the Love Go… An Opera In Five Parts” is: Introduction; Part I: Where Does It Go?; Part II: Without Your Love; Part III: Hell… & The Abyss; Part IV: I Will Get The Love Back; Part V: Return (Where Does It Go Reprise).

“The opera came together a year ago,” said Lucas. “It started with Part 1 and I realized it was the beginning of a journey. We wrote to a narrative arc. We chased down ideas of what we wanted the journey to be. It grew organically. Now, there’s a video with a lot of John Travolta in it.”

Thumpasaurus is already looking ahead to its next project.

“We’re working on a new album,” said Lucas. “We’ve been chipping away at it for the last six months. It’s coming together.”

Video link for Thumpasaurus — https://youtu.be/CBc9uL4n6S0.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at Kung Fu Necktie are My Favorite Murder on March 11, Rover Rover on March 12 and Medium Cheetah on March 13.

John McCutcheon

When John McCutcheon released his new album last month, his fans were treated to an opportunity to experience two legendary musicians at the same time.

On January 11, McCutcheon released his 40th album — a tribute to Pete Seeger called To Everyone In All The World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger.

On March 10, McCutcheon will make a rare area appearance with a matinee concert at Philadelphia Folk Song Society (6156 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/march-monthly-concert-with-john-mccutcheon-tickets-53107440785).

Prior to the arrival of the new disc, McCutcheon had already released seven albums in the 2010s — “Passage” (2010), “Fine Times at Our House” (2010), “This Land: Woody Guthrie’s America” (2102),  “22 Days” (2013), “Joe Hill’s Last Will” (2015), “Trolling for Dreams” (2017) and “Ghost Light” (2018).

“Albums — it seemed like I was popping then out every year,” said McCutcheon, during a recent phone interview from his home in Smokerise, Georgia. “Being involved in recording and putting out CDs is like tilting at a windmill.

“But I still like making full albums – with full spectrum sound. I still have fun in the studio. We always put some ear candy in – like a kick drum going down to 80 hertz.

“In 2015, I did an album for the 100th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill and in 2012, I did an album for the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie. The new one is a 100th birthday album for Pete Seeger. I’m at a point where I get to do a project that is interesting to me – commerce be damned.

“People want to know about people like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. These are not museum pieces. I’m at a point where I’m at the fringe of music. I can do a bible album like ‘Sermon on the Mount’ or do an album like ‘Mightier Than the Sword’ where I get together with authors. It’s never a case of — I’ve written 15 new songs and need to make an album.”

McCutcheon is a Renaissance Man – one who prefers the rustic vibe of rural America to the pomp of a royal court. He is one of America’s most respected and loved folksingers.

As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments. His career has already spanned more than four decades.

McCutcheon has received every imaginable honor, including six Grammy nominations. He has produced more than 20 albums for other artists. He also has written numerous books and instructional guides and helped start the first traveling musician’s union — the Local 1000.

“I’ve been staying busy,” said McCutcheon. “In some ways, I always knew I wanted to do an album of Pete Seeger songs. He was so influential on how I want to do music. He rejected the ‘cult of personality.’ When Pete Seeger wrote a song, it was about something.

“With is shows, it wasn’t just him – it was us. You knew you were going to have to participate. People left his shows feeling moved rather than impressed.”

The Seeger album was a natural progression for McCutcheon.

“The catalyst was the making of the woody Guthrie and Joe Hill albums,” said McCutchen. “As soon as I did that, I knew the third leg would be Pete Seeger’s birthday. This feels like the completion of a trilogy.”

It could have been a major challenge for McCutcheon to find the right songs from a catalogue as big as Pete Seeger’s – but it wasn’t.

“I put the list together fairly quickly,” said McCutcheon. “These were simply songs I loved. These songs have been gestating a long time – with the exception of ‘The Spider’s Web.’ All these songs have been with me since I was a teenager. I wanted the album to be diverse and I wanted it to be fun.

“I recorded the album at Bias Studios in Springfield, Virginia with engineer Bob Dawson. My songs never sound better than they do with Bob Dawson. I used a core band and most of the songs were recorded live. We started in May 2018 and were done by August.”

McCutcheon plays numerous instruments including piano, guitar, auto harp and banjo.  He is one of the world’s master players of the beautiful hammered dulcimer.  Usually, he plays all or most of these instruments during his one man show.

Video link for John McCutcheon – https://youtu.be/Dw2z3EjYQFE.

The show at Philadelphia Folk Song Society will start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 and $15.

If you want a concert featuring singer/songwriters of today’s generation, head to The Met (858 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://themetphilly.com) on March 9. The new venue on North Broad Street is hosting a show featuring James Bay and Noah Kahan.

James Bay

Bay, the show’s headliner, is an English singer/songwriter/guitarist who was born in Hitchin 28 years ago and now resides in London. Hitchin is a small (pop. 33,000) market town in Hertfordshire, England

Bay released his debut EP, “The Dark of the Morning,” in July 2013. His second EP, “Let It Go,” was released in May 2014 and debuted in the Top 10 iTunes album chart. The lead single, “Let It Go,” peaked at Number 10 in the UK charts.

In 2014, he released his single “Hold Back the River,” which has been certified platinum, before releasing his debut studio album “Chaos and the Calm” in 2015. Bay recorded “Chaos and the Calm” with producer Jacquire King at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.  The album debuted at number one in the UK charts, Number 15 in the US and has been certified X2 platinum.

In February 2015, Bay received the Brit Awards “Critics’ Choice Award.” At the 2016 Brit Awards he received the award for Best British Male Solo Artist. The London-based hitmaker also received three nominations at the 2016 Grammy AwardsBest New Artist, Best Rock Album, and Best Rock Song.

In May 2018, he released his second studio album, “Electric Light.” Bay released a single, “Peer Pressure,” on February 22 2019, featuring artist Julia Michaels.

“I just released my single ‘Peer Pressure’ today,” said Bay, during a recent phone interview. “It’s always a fine day when you put out a new song. Julia and I wrote it in November 2018. It’s the first song we wrote together. I finished off producing it in January. I recorded it in L.A. I’ve been going back-and-forth to L.A. for six years.

“Now, I’m in the states — touring in support of ‘Electric Light.’”

“Electric Light,” Bay’s sophomore album, is a display of his musical evolution.

“Ninety per cent of the tracks on the record were rough tracks,” said Bay. “Paul Epworth, who co-produced the album, heard the tracks and took them to his studio. He said that the rough tracks were good.

“On my first record, I wrote the songs, took the demos to the studio and started from scratch on each track. With the second album, we had the rough tracks and we wanted to keep that energy.”

In a press release, Bay said: “If I had to describe my first album visually it would probably be a flame – while this new album is about a real sonic and artistic evolution for me. The feeling of a 100-watt bulb expanding and brightening is what I envisioned. ‘Electric Light’ came to my mind and I knew it was perfect.”

Bay lives in North London and stayed there to make “Electric Light.”

“We recorded it at a studio in North London called The Church,” said Bay. “It’s Paul’s studio. The studio originally belonged to Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics.

“It was a weird process. I started at the end of 2016 and by May 2027, all the songs were written. We were done mixing by August. We just kept our heads down and kept working.

“I’m bringing my band out for this tour. I’m looking forward to being loud. There are also parts of being intimate – solo moments. We’re playing a few tracks from the first album that I didn’t play in 2018, a few songs from the new album, the new single and some tracks I’ve never played live before.”

Video link for James Bay — https://youtu.be/4whnY_hTVDE.

Kahan’s music spans genres such as indie pop, folk, rock and singer/songwriter.

Noah Kahan

Growing up in Strafford, Vermont (pop. 1045), small town wonderment led Kahan to explore songwriting early on – modeling his songs based on musical influences like Paul Simon, Ben Howard, and The Lumineers. Kahan writes with thought-provoking realism about self-doubt and fear while highlighting the intricacies of relationships with an unpolished sincerity.

That approach, along with head-turning vocals, has brought Noah a long way from Strafford in a very short time. As a senior in high school, Noah’s unique take on the world and his knack for crafting a captivating story attracted the attention of world-class songwriters Dan Wilson (Adele), Scott Harris (Shawn Mendes), Chris DeStefano (Carrie Underwood), among others.

“I was going to go to college,” said Kahan, during a recent phone interview during a break from rehearsals in Nashville, Tennessee.

“But then I got a record deal when I was 17 or 18 – a senior in high school. I’m 22 now. I had been putting music up on Soundcloud. I was working with my friend Nate Tookas on production. My songs did really well on Soundcloud and that led to me getting signed by Republic Records.”

Within two short years, music took Kahan around the world — a long way from the 133-acre tree farm where he resides. On the trip, the alternative troubadour notched an international hit in the form of “Hurt Somebody” (featuring Julia Michaels), which tallied 200 million-plus streams in the span of a year, went triple-platinum in Australia and gold in six other countries, and was the third most played song on Australian Top 40 radio in all of 2018.

Additionally, he performed the single on Late Night with Stephen Colbert during his late-night television debut. As Kahan steadily averaged more than six million monthly listeners on Spotify, his songs “Young Blood” and “False Confidence” racked up millions of streams and he sold out tours in North America, Europe, and the UK.

“I put out the ‘Hurt Somebody’ EP last year,” said Kahan. “I’ve released 10 singles so far. I just put out another single today. The way the music industry is now, making singles is the way. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Like James Bay, Kahan also teamed up with Julia Michaels on a single.

“I put out the original version of ‘Hurt Somebody’ as my own single,” said Kahan. “It’s a song about how the grass is always greener on the other side. Julia Michaels liked it and reached out to me. She said she wanted to make a recording of it with me. We did it and that version of the song became a huge hit in Australia.”

Now, Kahan is ready to release his debut album.

“I’m excited about making a record,” said Kahan. “It’s all finished. We recorded a bunch of songs over the last year-and-a-half. I recorded it primarily with Joel Little at his studio in L.A. and did two tracks with Todd Clarke in Nashville. And, I did one track in upstate New York with Simone Felice.

“The album has five new songs, including my new single ‘Ness’ and five previously-released songs that fit the theme of the album. The songs on the album have a lot of self-exploration and tracking the experience on my last four years making music – songs about who I am and where I’m going.”

Bay and Kahan, who complement each other musically, will be touring together until the beginning of April.

They should get along well — unless the topic of conversation switches to English Premier League football. Bay grew up supporting local favorite Newcastle United and now is also an Arsenal fan – because he lives right next to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. Kahan is an American but, in one of his videos, there is a jersey of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard hung on the wall.

Video link for Noah Kahan — https://youtu.be/ZdsER1S3t8k.

The show at The Met will begin at 8 p.m. Ticket prices start at $39.95.


Motherhood, a band based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, will headline a show on March 10 at The Pharmacy (1300 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, https://thepharmacyphilly.org).

The Canadian trio features Adam Sipkema, Brydon Crain and Penelope Stevens. Motherhood’s sound has been described as everything from experimental art-rock to avant-country to circus punk to weirdo country to black metal fusion.

“We’ve been together almost 10 years,” said Crain, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Fredericton. “Adam and I went to high school together in Belle Isle, New Brunswick. We moved to Fredericton and met Penny. At first, we had a five-piece band and then we whittled it down to three.

“Our new album is our third – and there’s an EP in there too. Our first album was ‘Diamonds and Gold’ in 2013. We released our second album – ‘Baby Teeth’ – in 2017. Our new one – ‘Dear Bongo’ – is out on Forward Music in Canada.”

“Dear Bongo” had its US release on March 1 via Forward Music Group.

“We recorded ‘Baby Teeth’ in 2016,” said Crain. “We’re always writing so pretty soon after we were working on songs for the next album. We recorded ‘Dear Bongo’ in 2017 with producer Corey Bonnevie at Monopolized Records on St. John, New Brunswick. We’ve been sitting on it. We didn’t want to rush things.”

But, Motherhood didn’t waste time in the studio.

“We made the album in about a week,” said Crain. “We couldn’t agree on the track list, so we went back for another day and did another song. There are nine songs on the album. We don’t generally write extra songs. Some, we did demos for and tested them live. And, there was one instrumental that we arranged in my studio.

“I got more conscious about it lyrically as it went on. We try not to add any filler – which is why it takes us longer to write. We take out things we don’t need. I do all the lyrics separately from the music so there were a lot of lyrics we couldn’t use.”

“Dear Bongo” is loosely about a painter. Reeling from the end of his latest relationship, a distressed painter seeks solace in alcohol and his craft. Bored of typical canvas, he paints rooms, other artists’ paintings, buildings, and highway lines until he ultimately decides to fix nature’s colors — most of which now seem flawed to his obsessed eye.

A meditation on the strident need for perfection in an imperfect world, the narrative weaves and waves, bounces and bops, and careens and crashes amidst the group’s signature blend of self-made circus punk.

“I had been thinking about doing a story about a painter because I liked the metaphor,” said Crain. “It’s not so removed from being a musician. It was more a vague idea at first. As it went on, I got an idea of what this guy was like – but not too specific.”

Video link for Motherhood – https://youtu.be/y8vobfq3AIg.

The show at The Pharmacy, which also features Mondays, Dipking, and Cold Soul as opening acts, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

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