On Stage: Beloved local improv troupe ‘Better Than Bacon’ to debut at Colonial

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Better Than Bacon

What is Better Than Bacon?

With breakfast in mind, some will say “nothing.” Some will say sausage or pork roll — or even scrapple. An Amish person might say “Pannhaas” (ponhoss/panhaus) but that breakfast meat dish is definitely an acquired taste (look it up).

On the flip side, Hindus, vegetarians, Jews, pollotarians, Buddhists or Muslims looking for a breakfast choice will tell you that anything is “Better Than Bacon.”

However, fans of comedy throughout the Brandywine Valley will tell you that “Better Than Bacon” is a top-flight improvisational comedy act.

For the last 12 years, Better Than Bacon has been generating laughter at its performances and has become a local favorite with its frequent shows at Kennett Flash and Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center.

On April 15, Better Than Bacon will make its venue debut at the Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, thecolonialtheatre.com/events).

Better Than Bacon Improv is a short form improv comedy troupe based in West Chester. BTB performs short skits and games based on audience suggestions, often inviting audience members on stage.

Improv comedy is a one-time only performance without scripts or nets. What audiences experience in one show will never be seen again. The spontaneity of improv makes improvisational comedy one of the most challenging forms of comedy.

BTB’s current troupe members hail from all over the Philly suburbs including Malvern, Exton, West Chester, Kennett Square, and Phoenixville. The troupe’s artistic backgrounds include improv, acting, stand-up comedy, and music.

The cast includes comedians Lauren Henry, Bob Curran, Jack Dibeler, Brett Heller, Lauren Burawski, Sarah Hennessey, Susan Price, Greg Faber, Dan Freed, David James and Kevin O’Connell.

“We’ve been together professionally since 2011,” said Henry, during a phone interview Monday from her home in West Chester.

“We all live in Chester County except for a few in Swarthmore and Wilmington.

“It started with a bunch of us meeting at Chester County Night School in West Chester. We got to be friends, took classes and picked up more people. We decided to start our own troupe and found a director. The committed people stayed.

“We had our first gig at Kennett Flash in June 2011. We have regular dates at Uptown, Kennett Flash and Media Arts Council. We play mostly in Chester County and northern and central Delaware. We don’t play Philly because of territorial turf wars.”

In a fashion similar to the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” the members of the troupe make up every single word and perform every single action completely on-the-spot…and it’s all driven by audience suggestions. Every show is a brand-new experience.

“We have 15-16 games in a show,” said Henry, who graduated from York College with a degree in radio and television communication. “It’s like ‘Whose Line Is It?” We call one of the sketches ‘the guessing game.’”

Even though the shows are improv shows, BTB still spends a lot of time and effort rehearsing.

“We still rehearse after all these years,” said Henry. “We get together every week for about two hours. Uptown allows us to practice at their place.

“Everything we do in our shows is spontaneous. It’s a very interactive show. Everything we do is based on audience suggestion.”

Video link for Better Than Bacon – https://youtu.be/Y5sem4ZDsl4.

The show at the Colonial Theatre will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Blood Brothers

“Every Day I Have the Blues” is a blues song that has been performed in a variety of styles. An early version of the song is attributed to Pinetop Sparks and his brother Milton. It was first performed in the taverns of St. Louis by the Sparks brothers and was recorded July 28, 1935.

“Every Day I Have the Blues” could also be a theme song for local music fans this weekend because of the many upcoming live blues shows at area venues.

Just over a year ago, Albert Castiglia was part of a blockbuster blues show at the Sellersville Theater with Mike Zito. The two blues aces toured with their bands on what was billed as, “Blood Brothers Tour 2022 – Two Brothers, Two Bands, One Amazing Show.”

Castiglia recorded a Blood Brothers album with Zito that Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith produced. The CD, “Blood Brothers,” was released via Gulf Coast Records on March 17.

“We recorded the album at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana and got Joe and Josh to produce it,” said Castiglia, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon route to a gig in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a wonderful studio with a great mixing board. It has a mix of digital and analog equipment including a 48-track Neve board. It’s located in a beautiful, secluded part of Louisiana in the middle of a bayou. It’s a wonderful place to record, meditate, unwind and get work done.

“We recorded the album in September, and it just came out last month. The songs were written mostly by Mike. He wrote four, I wrote one and Tinsley Ellis gave us a song. We also took liberty with some classics. We hadn’t played the songs as a group until we got in the studio.”

Both blues guitarists have been celebrating releases of highly acclaimed new albums — Zito’s double live set, “Blues for the Southside,” which was released in February 2022 and debuted at Number One on the Billboard Blues Chart, and Castiglia’s new album, “I Got Love,” which was released in March 2022.

“I Got Love,” was produced by Zito and features Justine Tompkins (bass and vocals), Ephraim Lowell (drums and vocals), Lewis Stephens (Hammond B3 organ and piano) and Castiglia (guitar and vocals).

It showcases 11 intense, blues-drenched tracks and is a personal and powerful statement from Castiglia.

According to Castiglia, “The album is a musical essay documenting the last two years of my life — two years of many highs and lows. It’s about falling, failing, adapting, reinventing, surviving and becoming triumphant.

“The blues and blues-infused music is rooted in truth. This album is my truth. To ignore the events of the past two years (the COVID era) and write about anything else would not be my truth. I went through it all – loss, depression, illness, fear of the unknown.

“I know I couldn’t have been the only one that went through it. This collection of songs is for those who felt like I did. It’s for those who went down fighting and those who keep on fighting. For many of us in my profession and in the gig economy, this was our great depression. Some of us are doing well and some of us are still trying to find solid ground.”

Castiglia’s two previous albums were “Masterpiece” in 2019 and “Wild and Free” in 2020. Castiglia was the 2020 BMA winner for Blues Rock Album of the Year with “Masterpiece.”

“When ‘Masterpiece’ came out, we toured pretty heavily that year,” said Castiglia. “We did a winter tour in early 2020. We were in Switzerland and there were rumblings of a pandemic in the states.

“We got home and did shows in Atlanta and Tallahassee. We were on our way up to Delaware for a show in St. George’s when the owner called and said – hold on. He called again and said that the state had shut down. So, we turned around and headed home.

“We put out ‘Wild and Free’ in 2020. COVID was part of the inspiration. There were no real rules where we lived – in Florida. We just had to adapt to what was happening. I did gigs and then got heat from the other side.

“For musicians, the pandemic was a time of depression. We lost all those gigs and had to find a way to make up for it.

“Our drummer is a handyman, so he found work. So did our bass player, who is an office worker. I improvised — teaching lessons by Zoom and doing virtual shows. It was a tough couple of years, but we found a way to get through it.”

Castiglia was born on August 12, 1969 when the planets were getting in cosmic alignment to welcome the hundreds of thousands of music fans who had already begun their journey to New York State to attend “Woodstock Music & Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition.”

A lot of blues acts performed live during those three historic days including the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Johnny Winter, Keef Hartley Band, and Canned Heat along with blues-influenced rock bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mountain, Ten Years After and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Castiglia, who is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, got involved in the blues two decades after Woodstock.

“Eric Clapton got me into the blues in the beginning,” said Castiglia. “I listened to a lot of blues on record. I was fascinated but these were blues songs that were covers. I wanted to find the versions that were the originals.

“Then I bought Muddy Waters’ ‘Hard Again.’ That was the record that really changed it. I was hearing Muddy for the first time on cassette. To me, the songs are what matter — even without production. Music is still really powerful. It’s all about the song and the message.

“It’s because of the old stuff that I’m doing this now. The great thing about the blues is that you never stop learning.”

Castiglia joined the Miami Blues Authority in 1990 and was named the “Best Blues Guitarist in Miami” by the Miami New Times in 1997. Discovered singing by Junior Wells in 1996, Castiglia joined his touring band and worked as Wells’ lead guitarist until the blues legend’s death in 1998.

Castiglia’s first solo album, “Burn,” was self-released in 2004 and followed in 2006 by “The Bittersweet Sessions,” which was also self-released. He then released four albums on BluesLeaf Records — “A Stone’s Throw,” These Are the Days,” “Keepin On,” and “Living the Dream.” Next was a series of four LPs on Ruf Records – “Solid Ground,” “Blues Caravan 2014,” “Big Dog,” and “Up All Night.”

Castiglia’s 11th album was “Masterpiece,” which was released by Gulf Coast Records on May 24, 2019.

“I recorded the album in Mike’s studio in Nederland, Texas,” said Castiglia. “It was very special to be there.

“Mike played bass and drums and I played guitar and sang. It was mostly analog. A lot was done live with Mike on drums and me. I think it has a live feeling. The only thing we overdubbed was the bass.”

Zito said, “I’ve known Albert for 12 years. We just hit it off right away. We’re cut from the same cloth – Italian-American blues players.”

Zito has released four albums over the last four years — “Rock ‘N’ Roll – A Tribute To Chuck Berry” in 2019, “Quarantine Blues” in 2020, “Resurrection” in 2021 and “Blues for the Southside” this year.

“We toured ‘Resurrection’ in 2021,” said Zito, a five-time Blues Music Award winner. “We played more shows that year than most bands. We did 30 shows just in December.”

One of those shows late last year resulted in “Blues for the Southside.” The album was recorded on November 26, 2021 at the Old Rock House in St. Louis, Missouri, and produced by Mike Zito.

“Blues for the Southside” showcases Zito (guitar and vocals) and his band — Matthew Johnson – vocals/drums; Lewis Stephens – piano/organ; Doug Byrkit – vocals/ bass, with special guest guitarists Tony Campanella, Dave Kalz and Eric Gales.

According to Zito, “‘Blues for the Southside’ is a special album for me. I have wanted to do a live blues album playing songs from my catalog with my current band for a while now. I wanted to go back to my old neighborhood in South St. Louis to make the recording.

“That’s where it all began for me, where I fell in love with music. I knew friends and family would fill the Old Rock House and bring the energy I was looking for in this recording.

“I wanted Tony Campanella and Dave Kalz to join me as guests. I grew up with both of these guys playing in the scene in St. Louis in the 1990s. I was surprised by my dear friend Eric Gales, who happened to be in town for a rehearsal. He showed up and I got him onstage to do an impromptu version of the original ‘Voodoo Chile,’ which turned out to be 12 minutes of pure guitar bliss. I am proud of this album and my band.”

Zito’s “Rock N Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry” was released on November 1, 2019, and quickly rose to #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.

Featuring 21 guest guitarists honoring the Berry including Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout, Eric Gales, Robben Ford, Richard Fortus, Sonny Landreth, Luther Dickinson, Albert Castiglia, and Anders Osborne. Also performing on the album is Charles Berry III, Berry’s grandson. The album is produced by Zito and was recorded at his Marz Studios.

“The Berry album was released at the beginning of November 2019,” said Zito, who lives in Fort Lauderdale Florida. “We wanted to go out with a big band with horns. Because of COVID-19, we didn’t get the tour we had hoped for. We did a big show in St. Louis and then everything came to a halt.

“I probably wouldn’t tour the Berry album now. Maybe I’ll do just one Berry show each year – in St. Louis. I grew up in St. Louis. Chuck was from St. Louis, and I lived there for 32 years. When I was young, I worked at a small musical instrument store in a record store and Chuck used to come in there.

“Being away from St. Louis for the last 17 years, I wanted to do something about St. Louis. If you’re a musician from St. Louis, you have to learn to play Chuck Berry and learn how to play the blues. So, I decided to do a Chuck Berry tribute and add the guitarist aspect.”

Making an album like the one Zito did on Berry’s music provided special challenges.

“I recorded the album without the guitarists initially,” said Zito. “I decided how much space to leave for the guitar and then had to send off the tracks to the different guitarists. I could never bring them to my studio to record live because they’re always on tour playing all over the country.

“The best way to do it was to accommodate them as much as possible. I’d send them a track and say – send it back in four or five months. I went into this knowing I’d need a big window.

“As the songs came back, I had to re-record my parts to make sure the intensity was the same. In the end, it sounded like we were in the studio together. I’m pretty proud of the production. The album was completed at the end of July.”

The album was produced by Zito and was recorded at his Marz Studios in Nederland, Texas.

Zito began playing guitar at the age of five, and by the time he reached his late teens, he was already a fixture on the local St. Louis music scene. He initially released his music independently and then signed with Eclecto Groove Records in 2008. “Pearl River,” the title track of his 2009 album for the label, won Song of the Year at the Blues Music Awards and marked his first collaboration with Cyril Nevill, with whom he’d later work in the Royal Southern Brotherhood.

A steady succession of critically acclaimed albums followed, culminating in 2011’s “Greyhound,” which was nominated for Best Rock Blues Album at that year’s Blue Music Awards ceremony in Memphis. Two years later, he signed with Ruf Records and released “Gone to Texas,” the story of how he gained his sobriety, offered an emotional homage to the state that left an indelible imprint on his entire life. It also marked the debut of his band, the Wheel.

​From 2010-2014, Zito also played an integral role in the super group of sorts — Royal Southern Brotherhood. The group released two albums and a DVD — “Songs from the Road – Live in Germany,” which was winner of the year’s Blues Music Award for Best DVD.

Zito recently launched his own new label, Texas-based Gulf Coast Records, which has an artist roster featuring Billy Price, Jimmy Carpenter, Tony Campanella, Diana Rein, The Proven Ones, and Kid Andersen – and Albert Castiglia.

Video link for “Blood Brothers Tour” video — https://youtu.be/RpN7W9yrPtg.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on April 13 will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices start at $29.50.

Carolyn Wonderland

Carolyn Wonderland will take over the stage at the Sellersville Theater on April 16.

In 2021, the award-winning Texas guitar slinger, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist celebrated the release of her Alligator Records debut album, “Tempting Fate.

The new LP, which is Wonderland’s 11th album, was produced by famed master roots musician Dave Alvin, and features Wonderland’s signature, blistering six-string and lap steel playing, her intense vocals and her original songs melding blues, rock and Americana.

In November 16, tastemaker UK magazine MOJO released its influential Best Blues Albums Of 2021 list and three Alligator Records artists were selected. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram’s “662” topped the list at #1. West Coast bluesman Chris Cain’s “Raisin’ Cain” followed at #3, and Wonderland’s label debut, “Tempting Fate,” earned the #7 position.

Things got even better for Wonderland as she was nominated for two awards in The Blues Foundation’s 43rd Blues Music Awards.

The first BMA nomination was “Song of the Year — “Fragile Peace and Certain War” written and performed by Carolyn Wonderland and the second was “Contemporary Blues Female Artist.”

“It was cool because I got to play at the awards show,” said Wonderland, during a phone interview last week. “Everybody – well not everybody – got to go up and do a few songs. It’s quite the honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as my fellow nominees.’

A BMA Awards nomination is always a good way for an artist to achieve a higher profile.

“We didn’t win – but it was our first nomination,” said Wonderland. “I don’t think of myself as a ‘Contemporary Blues Female Artist.’ I’m all over the place. I guess it’s under the Americana umbrella. People can call it whatever they want.”

Wonderland has been playing guitar in John Mayall’s band on tour from 2018 until his recent retirement. She also recorded with him on his 2019 Forty Below Records release, “Nobody Told Me.”

“After being in John Mayall’s band for a couple years, I decided it was time to do some recording on my own,” said Wonderland, during a phone interview.

“I was in Woodstock with my friend Cindy Cashdollar, who is a great lap steel player. She asked me who I’d like to do the album with, and I said – Dave Alvin. She called him and he said yeah.”

Wonderland and her band — Kevin Lance and Bobby Perkins – tracked the album in their hometown of Austin, Texas at Stuart Sullivan’s Wire Recording with Dave Alvin producing.

“I’ve been a fan of Dave Alvin since I was a kid,” said Wonderland. “I’m a huge fan. I love him.

“We made the album at Wire Recording in January 2020. We just captured the joy in less than a week.”

The album featured a lot of top-flight guests.

According to Wonderland, “We were super lucky to have Dave, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Red Young, Cindy Cashdollar, Marcia Ball, Shelley King, and Jan Flemming all lend their extreme talents in the studio.”

The timing was right.

“The magic trick was that it was January when most of these musicians weren’t on tour. Even Cindy (Cashdollar) was in town.”

Wonderland, who was born Carolyn Bradford in Houston, has been making music her whole life.

“When I was a kid, music was the only thing that would hold my attention,” said Wonderland. “My mom had a guitar, and my aunt had a trumpet. I learned to play and then started doing shows. My first gig was in Houston when I was 14 or 15.

“I played Sellersville Theater in John Mayall’s band. For this show, I’m being joined by Shelley King on guitar and vocals. I went from a trio to a quartet. My bass player is Naj Conklin and my drummer is Giovanni Carnuccio – but we just call him Nooch.

“My set list will include a little bit of everything – mostly from the latest album,” said Wonderland. “It’s my first release on Alligator and Dave Alvin produced it so there are a lot of good songs.

“I’ll also play at least one new song. I’ve been in a writing phase and want to get in the studio soon. I want to be in love with 15-20 songs and then whittle it down to tell the story. Right now, it’s just a handful of songs.”

Video link for Carolyn Wonderland — www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTh-rlPIpSY.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on April 16 will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices start at $25.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Rhett Miller on April 14, Double Vision on April 15, and Albert Cummings on April 19.

As usual, blues will also be on the menu at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) this weekend.

The main attractions this weekend at Jamey’s are the Dukes of Destiny on April 14 and Onyx&Honey on April 15.

The Dukes of Destiny are headlining on Friday evening and it’s a match made in blues heaven.

Jamey’s has become the area’s top showcase for regional and national blues acts – a destination for blues band’s tour schedule and a Mecca for area blues fans.

The Dukes of Destiny, who have been treating fans to live performances of top-flight blues and soul music for almost three decades, are back in action with a lineup built around John Colgan-Davis (harmonica, vocals) and AC Steel (guitar, vocals).

About a year-and-a-half ago, the Dukes’ lineup went through a major change when vocalist Aryl Wolters retired from the band.

As a result, Colgan-Davis had a dual role with the Dukes.

“Now that Arlyn is gone, I’m doing the majority of the singing,” said Colgan-Davis. “I was singing before Arlyn so now it’s back to the roots.

In addition to performing at most of the clubs in the Tri-State area, the Dukes of Destiny have performed at the Pocono Blues Festival, the Waterfront Jam at Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing, the State Street Blues Stroll in Media, the Bucks County R’n’B Picnic, the New Jersey Folk Festival and the Longwood Gardens Summer Concert Series.

“For the past few years, we’ve had great years,” said Colgan-Davis back in 2019. “We played places we had never played before – like the Philadelphia Folk Festival. We also played places we really love like the Kennett Flash and the West Grove Friends Meeting.

“We played the Phoenixville Blues Festival and the Paoli Blues Festival. We really love playing the Kennett Flash. And, we love our Chester County crowd. They’ve been coming to see us play for 14-15 years.”

Chester County music fans and the Dukes of Destiny definitely have a love affair going on.

“We did the Turks Head Festival in West Chester a few years ago – and ‘Rhythm and Roots’ in Media,” said Colgan-Davis. “We love the Flash – the intimacy and the sound system. And we love what it stands for and what it means to Kennett Square.

“We love the people of Chester County and I really like the landscape of the area. It’s always a special place for us. Chester County gigs have the vibe of old coffee houses. We put out the energy and the audience give sit back to us.”

Audiences that like to get out of their seats and dance are a big part of the Dukes of Destiny live experience.

“We get all kinds of dancers at our shows,” said Colgan-Davis. “We’ve been playing a lot more festivals. We’re back on the festival circuit. I love playing festivals for a couple reasons. You get a whole bunch of people playing together. That takes me back to the 60s and the be-ins back then.

“Sun Ra had said the message that music is the healing force of the universe, and you feel that at festivals. And kids get to hear real music played by real people. With a band like us that plays off the crowd, a festival show is a real exciting thing.”

Colgan-Davis’s introduction to the blues came when he was in high school at Central High in Philadelphia and saw the Stones performing with Howling Wolf on the “Shindig” TV show. Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name was Chester Burnett, was an American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player who was one of the premier Chicago bluesmen.

“When I saw Howlin’ Wolf on that TV show, I jumped up and said — this is what I want to do,” said Colgan-Davis. “I started playing blues when I was 16. My dad gave me a grab bag for my birthday and a harmonica was in it.

“I started listening to blues records a lot — players like Muddy Waters and James Cotton. I was really into Chicago blues of the 1950s and 1960s when I started. Then, I got into guys like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. One of the first bands I played in was a Philly blues band called Sweet Stavin’ Chain.”

A while later, the Dukes of Destiny became the main musical vehicle for Colgan-Davis. At first, they played house parties in Germantown, generating word of mouth interest. A gig at the now-defunct Taker’s Cafe in Germantown launched their public career.

“The Dukes got together in the mid-1980s,” said Colgan-Davis. “Steve Brown started the band, and it began with that gig at Taker’s Café. Steve died of pancreatic cancer in 2000 and I’ve been the leader ever since. Steve has always been in my mind. We did a tribute concert to him a few years ago and we still do some of his favorites in our set.

“We have a whole range of music in what we can play — everything from Chicago blues to old-school soul. What’s great about the Dukes is that we’re a band. We use each other’s strengths.”

Video link for the Dukes of Destiny – https://youtu.be/j5fM0sugB5w.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. Another weekly event at the venue is the “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio with guest vocalist Phyllis Chapell.

Donovan Woods has been very busy in the post-pandemic era.

Last summer, the veteran Canadian singer/songwriter joined with Matt Nathanson and embarked on a 35-date tour across the states and Canada that started in July in Sarnia, Ontario — the Canadian town where he grew up.

Now, he is touring the states again.

Woods’ upcoming tour is a co-headliner with Henry Jamison, dubbed “The Husbandry Tour.” It will make a stop at World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, www.worldcafelive.com) on April 13.

“After the tour with Matt Nathanson, I went and did a bunch of European shows,” said Woods, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Boston. “I toured with Aoife O’Donovan in Europe.

His most recent release, “Big Hurt Boy EP,” was released March 18, 2022.

“I cut the EP at Union Street Studio in 2021,” said Woods, a JUNO Award winning singer-songwriter.

“I’ve been doing more recording lately. I was in the studio at Union Street for a week before I came here and a week back in January.

“I have about 18 songs written – maybe 20. There will probably be 11 on the record. Some recording was done in L.A. and some in Nashville.

“Two of the songs are mixed already. It’s still early – and I’m slow. A lot of the songs were done in demo form and written when I was on tour with Matt.

“I’m in Nashville quite a bit – about one week out of every month. I live in Toronto, and I do a bit of recording in Nashville. I grew up in Sarnia and lived there until I left for college. I went to the University of Guelph and studied English.”

Woods released his first album, “The Hold Up,” in 2007. He has released six more LPs since then. The most recent is “Without People,” which came out in 2020 and as a deluxe edition in 2021.

“I did a few Livestream shows during the pandemic,” said Woods, who was the winner of the 2019 JUNO Award for ‘Contemporary Roots Album’. “I did one thing in an empty auditorium in Toronto.”

Now, Woods is performing live versions of songs from “Big Boy Hurt” for his audiences.

According to Woods, “I wanted to get back to the feeling that my early recordings had.”

Video link for Donovan Woods – https://youtu.be/9EKhuw-a5L8.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and $30.

A huge number of musicians live in New York – mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In recent years, a lot of them have moved upstate – which, for many of them, means two hours north up the Hudson River.

So, it’s not surprising that the band Upstate, which is performing on April 15 at 118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com), is based in the Hudson Valley.

The band, which is touring in support of its new album “You Only Get a Few,” features Mary Webster, Melanie Glenn, Harry D’Agostino and Dylan McKinstry.

“I live in Highland,” said D’Agostino, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home along the Hudson.

“Mary, who is our main singer and also plays guitar, is from the east side of the river in Poughkeepsie. Dylan, our guitarist, lives in Brooklyn and Melanie, who also sings and plays guitar, is from Vermont. When it’s time, everybody convenes in Hudson.

“We’ve bene together for 10 years. The configuration of the band has changed a lot but Mary, Melanie and I have been together the whole time. We met in college at the State University of New York – New Paltz. We didn’t start with any clear conviction of being a recording band. It just sort of snowballed.”

Over the past decade, Upstate has garnered acclaim for their effortless and genre-dodging arrangements, which flourished on two previous albums, “A Remedy” (2015) and “Healing” (2019). The group swelled with members, traveled the country on a national headlining tour, and secured support slots with The Felice Brothers, Marco Benevento, Lake Street Dive, Mt. Joy, and the Wood Brothers.

“We were regional, then national, then regional again,” said D’Agostino. “When we released ‘Healing’, we were a national band and out on the road a long time.

“Then, Mary got married and had a baby. I got married. A lot of our lives had been on the road and, all of a sudden, we were stuck in place. We started making the new album during the pandemic and then two members left – drummer and singer.”

“You Only Get a Few” continues Upstate’s pattern of releasing an album every four years.

“We’re not very prolific,” said D’Agostino. “But we’re happy with what we get out of the other end. We had too many good songs. We wanted to make a really good record.

“We got together and did most of the tracking in a few days at The Building (a studio in Marlboro, New York). Dylan was engineering and co-producing with Mary. He did the overdubs in Brooklyn at a studio in Brooklyn — Greenpoint Recording Collective. We worked on the album between 2020 and 2022 with the main batch in summer 2021.

“We don’t think it was curated to do a theme. We just picked songs we liked. The theme came later with a lot of honest and introspective songs. A lot of the themes are love and change and death. A lot of the record is about time — how it shows what it is to set the course of life.

“In our live shows now, we’re doing all of ‘You Only Get a Few’ and a good amount of ‘Healing.’ There aren’t any songs from ‘A Remedy’ – at least not now. They all have a different flavor.”

Video link for Upstate – https://youtu.be/UNRDVeX4KsU.

The show at 118 North on April 15 will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) just opened its production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” – a show that will run through April 23.

The show is billed as “A musical presented in the form of a series of vignettes, connected by a central theme of love and relationships. Everything you have secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit! For mature audiences. Adult content.”

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is a musical comedy with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts. It is the second-longest running Off-Broadway musical. The musical was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award as Outstanding Off-Broadway musical in 1997.

The musical premiered Off-Broadway on August 1, 1996, and closed on July 27, 2008, after 5,003 performances. It was first produced in the town where playwright Joe DiPietro was born, Teaneck, New Jersey. This production ran from February 24 to March 12, 1995, at the American Stage Company Theater.

Despite the large number of characters, the show is typically done with a comparatively small cast: the original Off-Broadway production uses a cast of four.

The production at the Candlelight features a standout cast of Jessica Ball, Jared Calhoun, Tori Healy and Max Redman.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is presented in the form of a series of vignettes connected by the central theme of love and relationships. The play’s tagline is “Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit.”

With few exceptions, the scenes stand independent of the others, but progress in a fashion designed to suggest an overall arc to relationships throughout the course of one’s life. A first date, for example, comes before scenes dealing with marriage, and scenes dealing with marriage come before those dealing with childbearing.

Watching this production is similar to watching a show by a comedy troupe like Second City – watching a rapid series of scenes that are intense, loosely related and very funny.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is running now through April 29. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $69.

Later this month, there will be another edition of the Candlelight Comedy Club.

Jake Mattera will headline a show on April 20. Jay Simpson will be the feature and Seamus Millar will be the emcee. Tickets are $30 for the 7:30 p.m. show.

There also will be a special one-night-only show on April 29 featuring Broadway’s Tyler Hanes in concert. The show, which is a benefit for Candlelight Education Programs, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and include hors d’oeuvres and open bar.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present the third edition of “Singer-Songwriter Showcase 2023!” on April 15. This weekend’s showcase features Dante Robinson, Cal Toner, Cameron Narimanian, and Stephanie Phillips.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will have The Weeklings on April 13 and Live at the Fillmore on April 15.

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