On Stage: Brand X returns, again

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Brand X

Brand X, which is headlining shows at the Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) on May 18 and 19 has a similarity to horror film characters like Freddie Kreuger and Chucky – just when you think they’re dead and gone for good, they reappear.

The London-based band started in 1975 and its first incarnation lasted until 1980. Its second incarnation began in 1992 and concluded in 1999.

The third incarnation began in 2016 and is still going strong.

Through it all, Brand X has continued to remain relevant. It received a number of awards in 2018 including # 2 Radio in New Ears Radio Boston; #11 Progressive Charts in Prog Magazine; #13 International Sales – Burning Shed; and #20 Album in All About Jazz magazine.

The current lineup features Percy Jones, bass (1975–1980, 1992–1999, 2016–present); John Goodsall, guitars, synthesizers (1975–1980, 1992–1999, 2016–present); Chris Clark, keyboards (2016–present); Kenny Grohowski, drums, percussion (2016–present); and Scott Weinberger, percussion (2016–present). Drummer Kenwood Dennard was also part of that lineup but has since departed.

Brand X has an alumni roster that includes many of the most influential musicians in Britain — including Phil Collins, John Giblin, Robin Lumley, Morris Pert, and Peter Robinson. Goodsall and Jones have always been the core of the band. They wrote most of the band’s material and are the only members who have been with the band since its formation more than four decades ago.

“We got started again in the middle of 2016,” said Goodsall, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Then, we played our first gig in October.

“It was Scott Weinberger’s idea. He was a friend of Kenwood Dennard and Percy Jones. They had discussed a return of Brand X with Norman Bedford, our manager. Norman and Scott were in a band called Security Project. Percy and I had worked together on a session project called ‘Tunnels.” We put together the Brand X lineup that we still have – except for Kenwood. He had to go back to teach at Berklee School of Music.”

Goodsall, who is a Brit 100 per cent, actually was born in Pennsylvania – in nearby Broomall. His family moved back to the U.K. and he grew up in Molesey. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1980.

“I used to watch the Beatles on TV when I was young and wanted to play guitar,” said Goodsall. “I got a guitar for my seventh birthday – a Rosetti Lucky 7. My first real guitar was a Gibson SG Standard. I kept learning guitar through my teens and joined Atomic Rooster when I was 19.”

Brand X played their first gigs with a series of low-key warm-up shows in November and December 1975. These were followed by a full-scale tour across the UK from February 1976, mainly on the college circuit. The group released its debut album – “Unorthodox Behaviour” – in 1976.

 Since the band’s reformation in 2016, it has released two live albums – both of which were recorded in Pennsylvania. “But Wait… There’s More! – LIVE 2017” was recorded on January 6, 2017 at the Sellersville Theatre. “Locked & Loaded” was recorded in June 2017 at Longs Park Amphitheater in Lancaster. Brand X’s last studio album was “Manifest Destiny” in 1977.

“It’s great that Brand X are still going,” said Goodsall. “All the other fusion and progressive bands are biting the dust.

“At the beginning, all the prog rock bands took it so serious. Brand X was a band that people could relate to. We were more like fusion comedy. And, there are still some comedic elements in our music.”

Video link for Brand X — https://youtu.be/oSGhi34qHXk.

The shows at Kennett Flash, which have Andre Chomeldely from Project/Object Band is opening act, will start at

Tickets are $53 and a two-show pass is $94.

If you’re in the mood to spend an evening laughing, head to Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org) for a performance called “Bobcat Goldthwait & Dana Gould: The Show With Two Heads.” It will be the final show of the duo’s East Coast run.

“I’ve known Bob since I started in comedy,” said Gould, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

“We both came out the same Boston comedy scene. I moved to Boston as he was moving out and inherited his circle of friends. Last year, we both had horror comedy shows on TV.”

Gould’s show was “Stan Against Evil” on IFC, and Goldthwait’s show was “Misfits & Monsters” on Tru.

“We’re not just show biz friends, we’re actual friends,” said Gould. “We have the same taste in comedy. We have the same taste in music.

“He casually mentioned that we should do a show together. We figured we would do a date in Los Angeles, and maybe a gig in New York. People liked it so we booked tour.

“We each go out and do our own set and then we’re back on stage together. Bob and I are in the same sensibility. We share the same audience.”

Figuring out who opens the show and who comes on last hasn’t been a problem for the two comedy vets.

“Top billing and who comes on first – neither of us cares,” said Gould.

“Comedy is something we do because we want to do it. We have other careers too. Because of that, we can do comedy because we enjoy it. And, it’s an interesting time to be on the road and go to people.”

Video link for Bobcat Goldthwait — https://youtu.be/cHQarfETmrg?list=PLCs4qpIOzO-hr1rmi86-AZPU84qRUkNAx.

Video link for Dana Gould – https://youtu.be/5FtuUcOostk?list=PLCs4qpIOzO-hr1rmi86-AZPU84qRUkNAx

The show at Underground Arts will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30.

If you’re in a more serious mood, attend of performance of the Azuka Theatre production of “Boycott Esther,” which is running through May 19 at the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake (302 South Hicks Street, Philadelphia, azukatheatre.org).

Azuka Theatre presents the world premiere of “Boycott Esther” by Philadelphia playwright Emily Acker. In an urgent response to the #metoo movement, Acker’s new work chronicles the aftermath of a young woman’s career once her boss, a Hollywood mogul, becomes enmeshed in a workplace sexual misconduct scandal.

“I wrote the play in early 2018,” said Acker, during a recent phone interview from her home in San Francisco.

“I finished the first draft a little over a year ago. It’s been in development ever since. We did a reading in April 2018 at Theatre Exile.

“I was employed by the Weinstein Company as a writer for a TV show. We were working on a pilot for a remake of a British sitcom.”

When the national scandal for sexual misconduct ripped through the company, her project was shelved and never saw the light of day.

“Our project was still in development stage,” said Acker. “When the scandal broke, the everyday business of the company was halted.”

In the wake of the national discussion that erupted, she was compelled to write the play.

According to Acker, “Once the news hit, it spiraled quickly across the internet and media. That was right when we were on the cusp of selling our show. The larger controversy at Weinstein made it clear though the project wouldn’t move forward. After my first big break in TV, I had to take time to process all the hard work we did and how it wasn’t going to hit the next level.

“I was balancing my personal disappointment with my feelings of solidarity with the movement and empathy toward the women speaking out. In order to process those feelings, I started writing – it was a cathartic way to work through this – and lend a voice to the important issues arising.”

Acker’s play is not a factual expose.

“The play is entirely fictional,” said Acker, who is an alumna of The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr. “It’s not super-close.

“One of the main investigations of the play is how the internet permeates our lives – exacerbates a situation and heightens it in a negative way. The internet is not the best forum.”

Azuka continues its commitment to the community by extending the innovative pay-what-you-decide box office initiative for the 2018-2019 season.

No money is exchanged before the show. Audience members reserve tickets in advance, see the production, then decide on a price which they think is suitable based on their experience and pay as they leave the theater. Ticket payment can be made after the performance by cash, check or credit card. All money collected helps to pay Azuka artists and further support future productions.

Video link for Azuka Theatre— “Boycott Esther” is running now through May 19. Admission is a donation.

And, if you just want to rock out – or space out — on Sunday night, your destination could be Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150,www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Amo Amo

On May 19, the Fillmore is hosting Amo Amo, a psychedelic dream pop band from Los Angeles, California. The band’s lineup features Omar Velasco, Shane McKillop, Justin Flint, Love Femme, and Alex Siegel.

“Most of the band was already formed around older music I had written,” said Vasquez, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Dallas.

“My band was called Mother Tongues,” but somebody had the trademark. We wanted a clean slate. So, we had to find a new name. It was Amo Amo.

“We were getting ready to make a record with Jim James. Love Femme came to a session and jumped in. She’s been in the band ever since.

“We were writing songs at this beautiful old house in wine country. We had a friend whose family owned the house for generations – ever since California became a state. One room was still adobe.

“His family opened up the house for us and let us stay there. The house was definitely haunted by friendly spirits – music-loving spirits. It dawned on us that his place would work as a makeshift studio. Jim was cool with it and he brought his gear there.

“The place was pretty removed from everything. There wasn’t even Wi-Fi. We did have a land line. The isolation helped a lot. Just having everyone there in the studio – being present without Instagram. It was like our brains went back to their original wiring pretty quickly.

“We were out there for about three weeks tracking. Then, we took 12 days to mix it in Louisville, Kentucky. It was fun.”

After the multi-week recording retreat nestled amongst California’s vineyards and out of range of cell phone service, Amo Amo emerged with a collection of soulful, magic songs.

“The album has a combination of songs I had written prior to the session,” said Vasquez. “Others came together quickly. And, Love had some lyrics that fit.”

The album was produced by Jim James, mixed by Kevin Ratterman and mastered by Bob Ludwig.

“The album came out April 26,” said Vasquez. “Now, we’re on the road. This is the first extended tour we’ve done – and the first time we played outside California.”Video link for Amo Amo – https://youtu.be/iKl00rpSqDk.

The show at Fillmore Philadelphia, which has Jim James as the headliner, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

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