On Stage: Shindell anything but ‘Careless’ at The Flash

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Richard Shindell

Kennett Flash has built a reputation for being both a rock club and a listening room – one night it could be electric guitar whiz Jennifer Batten and the next night the folkie duo The Kennedys.

The venue will be in “listening room” mode on November 17 when veteran singer-songwriter Richard Shindell headlines a show at Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org).

Shindell, a New Jersey native who now splits his time between residing in the United States and living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, released his debut album “Sparrows Point” on Shanachie Records in 1992.

The versatile entertainer is now performing shows around the country in support of his latest album, “Careless,” which came out on Amalgamated Balladry in 2016. His discography also includes more than 10 albums that were made in between his first and his most recent offerings.

“Careless” represents the culmination of years of work, preparation, and growth. It was meticulously recorded over three years in upstate New York and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Shindell immersed himself in the studio — allowing the time and latitude to explore, experiment and take risks.

“I recorded ‘Careless’ mostly in upstate New York – at a studio in the Saugerties near Woodstock,” said Shindell, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I also did a lot of recording in Buenos Aires. My wife is from Buenos Aires and we’ve been living there for 17 years. I love Buenos Aires. There’s a lot of culture there. Argentina and its people are really interesting.”

On “Careless,” Shindell mixes in more electric guitar work than usual.

According to Shindell, “Returning to the electric guitar has transformed my relationship with all aspects of my career. The wider sonic and dynamic range of the electric has been a real inspiration. Rejuvenating.”

In addition to playing live shows to support “Careless,” Shindell is also, for the first time in almost 20 years, playing selected dates with Cry, Cry, Cry, his long dormant celebrated collaboration with Dar Williams and Lucy Kaplansky.

“I’m working ‘Careless’ a lot,” said Shindell. “But, I got diverted with Cry, Cry, Cry. I love the intricate harmonies of those two guys. I’ve put some of the Cry, Cry, Cry songs in my sets as well.

“Performing with them was fantastic. We just fell into the old material as if we had never parted company. The new stuff took some time for us to figure out the harmonies but it felt great. We did some recordings and a few are releasable. But, I’m not sure if it will be an LP or and EP.

“I’m an album-oriented artist. I released the new album because I love it. I felt all these songs belonged together. The songs sort of grew themselves over a period of time on the voice recorder on my phone. I use my phone to capture melodies and lyrics – mostly things I play on my guitar.

“A lot of times, it’s a melody free of any setting.  Sometimes, it’s an observation – something I’ve seen or something I’ve heard someone say. I do this a lot but many of them never see the light of day. Giving them a name is tough. I’ve found that it’s a good idea to go back and name them – a title that gives them an identity. It takes form and becomes a thing in the world. It’s a way of validating them.”

Shindell is more than just a song writer – he is a song crafter.

“It’s just a question of having a phrase in English that sounds good to me,” said Shindell, who also released five EPs from 1995-2009.

“The line has to sound good and be something that can be sung. It’s really helpful for these words to have a wide-open quality – to not be too specific – to not be too determined about where it is going.”

Like a tournament Scrabble player, Shindell is always looking for the perfect word to fit the situation.

“I edit fairly well,” said Shindell. “I like to mess around with word choices and word order – and that will go on forever. I love that process.

“I love polishing it. Then, after a while, it sounds fine and I can’t do anything more to it. I am a perfectionist. Actually, I wish I were less of a perfectionist.

“I’ve started writing new songs for my next project. But, I don’t want to play them live. I’m trying to hold back as much as possible. The idea that anything you play on stage can be preserved for posterity – it completely changes the equation. Once I start recording, I will have to play them live.

“For the songs in my current show, I go all the way back to the beginning. I always do a smattering of songs from all my records.”

Video link for Richard Shindell — https://youtu.be/9gek6HgQilI.

The show at Kennett Flash will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30.

Other upcoming shows at Kennett Flash are Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth and Jason Webb on November 18 and Adrian Legg on November 19.

Voltage deals with electrical power. The Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602, www.voltagelounge.com) deals with sonic – and electrical — power.

On November 16 and 17, The Voltage Lounge will host a pair of shows featuring powerful young bands – The Funeral Portrait on Thursday evening and The Wrecks on Friday night.

The Funeral Portrait

The Funeral Portrait is a four-piece emotional rock band that features Lee Jennings (vocals), Mikey J (guitar), Robert Weston (bass), and Homer (drums). The

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, The Funeral Portrait got its start in late 2014 and since then has done over 16 tours and shared bills with such acts as Alesana, Islander, Famous Last Words, Davey Suicide, Escape The Fate, and Slaves.

“The band has been in existence for three years but this line-up has only been together four months,” said Jennings, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon as the band was driving from Richmond, Virginia to a show in Baltimore.

“This line-up, which came together in April, is what we’re focusing on. Earlier this year, everyone who had been in the band except me quit. Some were going back to school and others were starting new projects. . I don’t blame them because touring is not for the feint of heart. And, I think they were kind of over this type of music.”

The Funeral Portrait’s debut EP “For The Dearly Departed” came out a few years ago and was followed by the single “Memorable.” The group’s first album “A Moment of Silence” was released in 2016 and the band just released its new single “The Crash.”

“The first EP was theatrical metal and then the first single and the album were more atmosphere-based,” said Jennings. “Now, we’re going back to the middle ground – dark rock. The new single is the only track released by the current band.

“We’re trying to build a fan base that is genuine. We have a tight-knit community of fans who will always corm to see us play.

“It’s hard to keep fans’ attention because the music industry us so singles-based right now. So, we’re focusing a lot of time and energy on one song at a time.”

Right now, that song is “The Crash.”

“We just released ‘The Crash’ a week ago and the fans love it,” said Jennings. “I’m insanely proud of this song. I think it’s the best recording the band has ever done. It shows what I want The Funeral Project to become – a heavy-hitting rock-and-roll band. It’s important to keep our fans interested.

“The dynamics of the band changed with the new line-up. It’s on the inside. It flows better. It’s just a better band.”

Video link for The Funeral Portrait — https://youtu.be/0pN6sQJMNkk.

The all-ages show at The Voltage Lounge, which also features Emery, Civilian, Loyal and In Your Memory, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20.

The Wrecks

The Wrecks, who are bringing their “Robot Army Tour” to the Voltage Lounge, are a Los Angeles-based indie rock band with roots in Thousand Oaks, California. The group features Nick Anderson (vocals/guitar), Nick Schmidt (guitar), Harrison Nussbaum (guitar), Aaron Kelley (bass), and Billy Nally (drums).

With influences such as The Pixies, The Strokes, Weezer, and Vampire Weekend, the band rocks out with its own distinct melodic and quirky sound.

The Wrecks are touring in support of their debut three-song EP “We Are the Wrecks. The single that followed — “Favorite Liar” — caught the attention of Jeff Reagan at SiriusXM’s Alt Nation and reached top #5 on their Alt-18 countdown for weeks.

The EP is currently Top 40 at Alternative Radio and has almost 5.5 million streams on Spotify. The live video has garnered almost 400,000 views on YouTube.

“In November 2015, we were in the room together for the first time,” said Anderson, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Niagara Falls, N.Y. “Three days later, we snuck into a recording studio and recorded the tracks for the EP.”

The Wrecks recorded their debut EP on a whim when they heard the news that a friend had been granted access to a professional recording studio for just a few days.

With zero budget, limited recording experience, and less than a week as a band under their belts, the group set out to write and record the best songs that they could in three days.

“A friend was in custody of the studio and placed the key under a mat,” said Anderson. “We didn’t know we weren’t allowed to be there.”

As the owner’s ex-wife was on her way to the studio, the band members were told they had just minutes to leave without a trace.

“As we were pulling out, we saw the ex-wife’s car pull into the driveway,” said Anderson.

The Wrecks made a successful getaway – but it was not a clean getaway.

“We realized that we left the tracks on the hard drive there,” said Anderson. “Aaron snuck in the next night at 2 a.m. to get the files.”

Once they got the recordings back, the Wrecks joined together with a co-producer to assemble the EP.

“Our co-producer was Andrew DiAngelo,” said Anderson. “He is also co-producing our next EP.”

Both EPs are being released on Another Century Records.

“Another Century was coming to our shows before anybody else,” said Anderson. “We signed with them because they were the first to show interest — and because they are a growing label.

“We originally released the EP on our own in April 2016 and then Another Century re-issued it in February 2017. We’re finishing the second EP now. Andrew and I are co-producing again.

“We recorded it in L.A. and then scrapped those recordings. We came east and re-recorded the EP at Patrick Barry’s home studio in western New York. Now, we’re playing songs from both EPs in our live shows.”

The Wrecks’ fans can expect the new EP any day now.

“The EP is wrapped up and is now in label preparation,” said Anderson. “We’re now getting the artwork finished up. And, we’re hoping to get a single out early next year.”

The Wrecks played Fillmore Philadelphia a few months ago as an opening band. Now, they are headlining their own national tour.

“The shows at the Fillmore were incredible,” said Anderson. “They helped with ticket sales for this show.

“This tour is our first-ever headline tour – 38 dates and half of them have sold out already. It’s a big change for us because we played a 25-minute set as an opening act and now we have a 45-minute set. It’s pretty interesting to tour having released just three songs. But, we have enough songs to play for two hoiurs. We write all the time and we have jams we work on at soundcheck.

“We’ve only toured as a support band so we’re used to playing for people who don’t know who we are so it doesn’t matter if we have three songs or 30 songs. We’ve changed the set throughout the tour based on what songs are working the best. It’s important to be able to read the crowd.

Video link for The Wrecks – https://youtu.be/_kHjDNHEU5o.

The all-ages show at The Voltage Lounge, which also features The Technicolors and Mainland, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Other upcoming shows at The Voltage Lounge are The Emo Band on November 18, In Hearts Wake, Like Moths To Flames, Phinehas and Fit For A King on November 21, and Bitsky, Mirkos, Avrage Joe and NO SIR E on November 22.

Margaret Cho

On November 17, Margaret Cho will bring her politically-charged and brutally-honest comedy to the stage at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center (77 Sands Boulevard, Bethlehem, www.sandseventcenter.com).

This has been a busy time for Cho, a five-time Grammy and Emmy nominated comedian who was recently named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time.

A pioneer among women in comedy, Cho doesn’t take anything for granted as she continues to tackle difficult subjects with sensitivity and her razor-sharp insight with her takes on addiction, abuse, activism and Asianness.

“One good thing about stand-up is that you can take on anything,” said Cho, during a phone interview Monday from her home in Los Angeles. I’m grateful for my profession.”

Cho is out on her “Fresh Off The Bloat” tour.

According to Cho, “‘Fresh Off The Bloat’ is my sickest show to date.  My grandmother said — you look like bloated as if you’ve been found dead in a lake after several days of searching. Koreans are the most savage of all the Asians. My new show is all about being fresh off drugs and drinking and suicide and coming back to life — finally fished out of the river Styx. It’s meta. It’s magical. It’s me.”

As always, Cho’s show deals with a variety of topics such as gay marriages and what is happening in politics at the moment.

“It’s a crazy person in the White House now,” said Cho. “In comparison, Bush is adorable now. It’s pretty bizarre.

“The man in the White Hose now is mentally ill – and it’s not even addressed. People don’t even talk about it and how bad it is. We are letting Trump get away with pretty much murder. He didn’t win fair and square. He didn’t get there by merits of his own.

“We’re not at school recess with a bully. This is the real world and he’s dangerous. Hopefully, the good will prevail and we’ll survive. But, we don’t know. That’s what is really scary. We just have to find a way to hang on and survive this.”

Trump is just one of Cho’s many targets.

“I talk about Harvey Weinstein,” said Cho. “It’s a long time coming – so important and so vital. It’s so important to tell the truth. I now feel I can talk without fear of repercussions. I also talk about the way things have shifted for the Asian-American community and about gay rights.”

Cho’s new TV project “Highland” has been picked up for pilot by TNT Network. “Highland” will chronicle what happens when two extended, dysfunctional Korean-American families who share the same patriarch must come together after tragedy strikes. As it turns out, the most reliable person in both families is the one who just got out of rehab.

“We shot the pilot and it’s incredible,” said Cho. “I’m excited about this show. It’s so good.”

On another front, Cho will co-star with Will Smith in his new movie “Bright,” which will premiere on Netflix on December 22.

Video link for Margaret Cho – https://youtu.be/Do1KezAC3Rk.

The show at Sands Bethlehem Event Center will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49. Tickets are $25, $35, and $39.50.

Other upcoming acts at the Sands Bethlehem Center are Billy Gardell on November 18 and Culture Club on November 19.

Over the years, the American listening audience has had limited exposure to the native music of Cuba.

There has been Latin dance music by Havana native Gloria Estefan and her band, and, years and years ago, bits and pieces of Cuban music from Desi Arnaz, a native of Santiago de Cuba, who played the role of bandleader on his wife Lucille Ball’s TV show. But, these are hardly representative of the treasure trove of great music coming from the small island nation.

The Caribbean island of Cuba has been influential in the development of multiple musical styles in the 19th and 20th centuries. The roots of most Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, a form of social club among African slaves brought to the island. Cabildos preserved African cultural traditions, even after the Emancipation in 1886 forced them to unite with the Roman Catholic church.

At the same time, a religion called Santería was developing and had soon spread throughout Cuba, Haiti and other nearby islands. Santería influenced Cuba’s music, as percussion is an inherent part of the religion. Each orisha, or deity, is associated with colors, emotions, Roman Catholic saints and drum patterns called toques.

Cuban music has its principal roots in Spain and West Africa, but over time has been influenced by diverse genres from different countries. Most important among these are France, the United States, and Jamaica. Reciprocally, Cuban music has been immensely influential in other countries, contributing not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to Argentinian tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, and Spanish “nuevo flamenco”.

Susan Werner, recently in Havana.

American singer-songwriter-guitarist Susan Werner has embarked on a mission to elevate Americans’ awareness of the treasure trove of music emanating from Cuba – especially with her new recording “An American in Havana.”

On November 17, Werner will showcase music from her new disc when she performs with Cuban vocalist/percussionist Mayra Casales at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

Werner’s new six-song EP, “An American In Havana,” is a collection of original songs inspired by Werner’s recent travels to Cuba.  The recording features performances and arrangements by legendary Cuban percussionist Mayra Casales (Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Regina Carter), along with Werner’s trademark songcraft and wry, poetic lyrics.

“I made two trips to Cuba in the last three years,” said Werner, during a phone interview Wednesday from her home in Chicago. “The first one was in 2015.

“Cuba had started to show up again in the news. There was excitement and America re-establishing political ties with Cuba.

“Havana is one of the world’s great musical capitals, so I wanted to go. I went with a group on a 10-day trip. It was a ‘People-to-People’ trip. My second trip was independent.

“Cuba is worth it. It rewards your curiosity. It’s the last ‘different’ place. Because of the U.S. embargo, Cuba has retained much of its culture and identity. Americans are an object of curiosity to them. The whole Cuba experience is fascinating.”

The most well-known native styles of Cuban music are rumba, rural rumba and son. Son Cubano is a style of music and dance that originated in Cuba and gained worldwide popularity during the 1930s. Son combines the structure and traits of the Spanish canción with Afro-Cuban stylistic and percussion instruments elements. The Cuban Son is one of the most influential and widespread forms of Latin American music. Its derivatives and fusions, especially salsa, have spread across the world.

“On both trips, I’d sit in with Cuban musicians,” said Werner. “I heard a lot of son music. I learned how to play Cuban rhythms on guitar. They’re played on the off-beat. It makes you want to dance. In Cuba, many of the rhythms are the same as they are in Africa.

Cuba’s musical innovations stemmed from the interplay between African slaves settled on large sugar plantations and Spanish or Canary Islanders who grew tobacco on small farms. The African slaves and their descendants reconstructed large numbers of percussive instruments and corresponding rhythms, the most important instruments being the clave, the congas and batá drums.

Werner knows the importance of percussion in this music.

Joining Werner for many of these shows is Mayra Casales, a Havana-born percussionist. Casales, who recorded with Werner, grew up in a family of Cuban musicians and her artistry informed all the songs on this record.

According to Werner, “Mayra is the real deal. She has not only lived the story of Cuban music but plays it, and plays it at a world class level.  Going to Cuba is amazing — and if you can’t pull that off this year — going to see Mayra play is the next best thing.”

“An American in Havana” was produced by Werner along with Venezuelan drummer Pablo Bencid. It is her13th studio recording. The lead track, “Cuba Is”, describes an American’s first impressions of the island in lyrics set to an Afro-Cuban beat.

“Rhythms communicate more than words do,” said Werner. “It’s irresistible.  It is so rewarding to bring this show to my audience – especially bringing Mayra Casales. It’s a delight. She plays a lot of percussion instruments – including clave and congas – and she sings. She is the real deal.”

Video link for Susan Werner – https://youtu.be/rSNb1qarA_0.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Kipyn Martin and Jason McGovern on November 17, JD Malone & The Experts on November 18 and Matt sentry and Jeff Campbell on November 22.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will present Theatre Organ Concert with Pierre Fracalanza on November 19.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Kevin Gordon with Katie Buxton on November 16, Mouth of Babe on November 17 and Idlewheel featuring Craig Bickhardt and Jack Sundrud on November 18.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Big Sam’s Funky Nation with special guest Darla on November 17, Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers with special guest Dynagroove on November 18, Funky Brunch featuring Hannah Taylor & The Rekardo Lee Trio on November 19, and Urban Guerrilla Orchestra and Loose Ends featuring Jane Eugene on November 19.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com)  will host Rhonda Vincent & The Rage on November 17, Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds along with Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations on November 18, Boy Named Banjo and Maybe April on November 19 and Brother Joscephus and the Love Revolution on November 22.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will host the Delaware Symphony Orchestra on November 17 and “Invincible – A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson” on November 18.

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