On Stage: The circuses — sort of — are coming to town

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Volta

There are two circus-style events coming to the area this week – but not the one-ring type with lions, tigers, elephants and clowns. One is a new age style and the other is a day-long rock tour that is more like a circus than a concert.

From July 12-August 5, Cirque du Soleil will take up residence under the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) which has been erected on the grounds adjacent to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. On July 13, the annual Warped Tour will touch down at the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey.

“Volta,” the show in Oaks Center (100 Station Avenue, Oaks, www.cirquedusoleil.com) will be Cirque du Soleil’s first Big Top production in five years.

It is Cirque du Soleil’s 41st production since 1984, and its 18th show presented under the Grand Chapiteau. Its creative team features 16 creators under the artistic guidance of Jean Guibert (Director of Creation) and Bastien Alexandre (Writer and Director). The production had its debut in April 2017 in Montreal, Quebec.

“Volta” is a captivating voyage of discovery about finding yourself, unveiling your personal powers and fulfilling your true potential. It’s about the ultimate freedom that comes with self-acceptance and the liberation from the judgement of others.

Inspired in part by the adventurous spirit that fuels the culture of street sports, the show weaves acrobatics in a visually striking world driven by a stirring melodic score.

Waz, the central figure, is a game show contestant who has lost touch with himself. He enters the show in search of fame — thinking that this will bring him love and acceptance from others. He finds that fame is not the answer.

The show’s themes and inspirations are street sports and the spirit of adventure and authenticity as an antidote to superficiality.  Using the rise of the celebrity culture and reality TV as a subtext, “Volta” teaches us that the path to fame is not necessarily the path to freedom.

The characters of “Volta” are Waz, The Greys (city dwellers who have accumulated the dust of inertia over time), The Freespirits (Greys who have escaped the everyday), Ela (the archetypal Freespirit), and Mr. Wow and the Judges (who represent the collective judgement of society).

Mr. Wow, however, as the executive producer and supreme judge possesses the supreme veto — holding the power to make or break contestants. He might remind people of a former American game show host (who should return to that profession as soon as possible).

Ela plays a key role in the story. She sees the untapped potential in others and tries to rouse them from their apathy. The role of Ela is performed by Paola Fraschini, a native of Genoa, Italy.

Fraschini is a physical therapist specializing in sports physiotherapy. She has a master’s degree in sports psychology and also teaches pilates. But, her activity in “Volta” is something entirely different.

“I’m a roller skater,” said Fraschini, during a recent phone interview. “I was skating my whole life since I was four. I’ve won a world championship as a skater.

“It was actually my dream to bring roller skating outside the rink. So, to do a show like this is really a dream come true.”

Fraschini’s specialty is not speed skating.

“I do figure roller skating,” said Fraschini. “I specialized in dance – individual and pairs – with more focus on dance. When I finished with competition, I wanted to keep with skating. I applied online to Cirque du Soleil and they called me in for an audition. After one month, they called me back and said I was the one.”

Fraschini talked about this show and her character – Ela.

“This show has a story – a beautiful message,” said Fraschini. “It’s a message about finding ourselves – finding our true self.

“In my role, my mission is to bring Waz outside and show him that it’s cool to have blue hair – that it’s cool to be different. I think it’s really nice.

“I have different numbers in the show because of my role which has acting to link the parts together. Acting is something I’ve taught myself. I’ve had this talent since I was young.

“When you are an artist/dancer, you have to feel the emotions. You have to be real. You have to be able to involve the audience in what you’re doing. I love the connection with the audience.”

“Volta” has a wide variety of specialty acts, including:

“Acro Lamp” — An aerial artist flies in long sweeping arcs. Hanging on with his hands or feet, he swings and spins gracefully using the light to metaphorically illuminate the journey of the character.

“Hand to Hand” — Two colorful acrobats perform a daring hand to hand duo while rolling on a unicycle as part of a striking group choreography.

“Shape Diving” — In an electric, urban atmosphere, artists tumble and jump through shapes, sometimes feet first, sometimes backwards, sometimes bent in half –even adding breakdancing and hip-hop-style moves into the mix.

“BMX” — Five riders invade the stage to deliver a jaw-dropping, fast and furious performance of nonstop acrobatics on wheels.

“Flatland & Ballet Duo” — Coming from disciplines that seem worlds apart, two artists create mirror-like images in a mesmerizing synchronized choreography.

“Rope Skipping” — With an urban, hip hop attitude, they tumble, flip, and perform handstand hops through the spinning ropes.

“Acrobatic Ladders” — Artists climb on two giant articulated ladders pivoting on stage. They execute stunning acrobatic figures while spinning majestically over the audience.

The outer ring of the circular stage is a revolving plate with footlights that illuminate the performances. It is used to generate kinetic energy on stage as well as move props and artists. Articulated hydraulic lifts emerge from the stage floor to populate the space above the stage. Higher up, a bridge that spans two of the Big Top’s four masts can move gracefully up and down to modulate the audience’s focus and serve as a second stage. All of the mechanics on stage provide a showcase for the story.

The Cube, a magic box where Waz keeps treasured childhood mementos, is a 5,900-kg, highly versatile mechanical device – one of the iconic symbols in the world of “Volta.” The Cube can pivot and move upstage and downstage. Two of its movable panels are used for delivering video content. In this show under the Big Top, the audience has a 240-degree view of the “Volta” stage.

As always, this Cirque du Soleil production promises audiences a breath-taking experience – and lives up to that promise in every performance.

Video link for “Volta” – https://youtu.be/CE_IxUaojt4.

Video link for Paola Fraschini – https://youtu.be/TxWlspY6gSg.

Performances of Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta” will be presented from July 12-August 5 under the Grand Chapiteau in Oaks. Ticket prices range from $49-$155.

Despite all odds, the Vans Warped Tour is well into its third decade. The touring music festival was started back in 1994 by Kevin Lyman and has continued to grow and flourish ever since.

Unfortunately, this year’s Warped Tour will be the final one. Lyman has decided that the time has come to pull the plug.

In its early days, the tour featured mostly punk rock and ska bands.

Over the years, the lineup has become more diversified. It is an impressive tour that features more than 90 bands and covers a variety of genres — mainly punk, hardcore, power pop and the harder side of alternative.

Those attending this years’ Warped Tour on July 13 in Camden (1 Harbour Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey, 856-225-0163, www1.ticketmaster.com) can listen to live performances by bands as diverse as Twiztid, Tatiana DeMaria, Harm’s Way, Ice Nine Kills, Frank Turner and Cassadee Pope.

Twiztid

Each year, there are number of bands making their Vans Warped Tour debut. One of 2018’s rookie entries is a music act that came into existence three years after the inaugural Warped Tour – Twiztid.

Twiztid is an American hip hop group from Detroit, Michigan. Formed in 1997, Twiztid is a duo featuring Jamie Spaniolo and Paul Methric, who perform under the respective personas of Jamie Madrox and Monoxide.

The two musicians always perform in make-up – make-up that makes them appear as if they just left the set of a horror movie. Hard to believe, performing on the Warped Tour on outdoor stages in 90 degree-plus weather has not been a challenge for their facial stage appearance.

“Our make-up doesn’t run – even in the sun on really hot days,” said Madrox, during a recent phone interview. “We use a special make-up called Mehron. It’s high quality make-up that allows you to sweat through it.”

Formed in 1997, Twiztid is an 11-time Billboard chart-topping rap duo featuring Jamie Madrox and Monoxide Child (a.k.a. Jamie Spaniolo and Paul Methric). The two former members of the group House of Krazees departed that group and formed Twiztid in 1997.

Now, 21 years later, the Twiztid guys are still going strong with more than 20 albums in their catalogue.

Madrox and Monoxide Child could be content to settle into the cycle of releasing an album, touring extensively in support of the disc and then starting the cycle all over again with a new album.

But, that’s never going to happen. That’s the “straight” way and Spaniolo and Methric do things the “Twiztid” way.

Usually, Twiztid hit the road with themed tours with unique names. Last year, the duo played in Reading on its “Eat Your Heart Out” U.S. tour.

A few months earlier, Twiztid played a gig at the Troc in Philly as part of its “Spooktacular Horror Show” tour. Another recent area visit was on the pair’s “Freektasteless Show” tour.

Twiztid has its own record label and management company called Majik Ninja Entertainment and last year released its 12th album “The Continuous Evilution Of Life’s ?’s.”

“We were recording the album all of 2016,” said Madrox. “But, we stopped everything when it was time to go on the road. After the tours, it was re-getting familiar with the songs and getting back in the zone. It helped taking a break from the songs and then going back to them. We’re absolutely happy with how the record came out.”

“The Continuous Evilution Of Life’s ?’s” might just be Twiztid’s best album ever.

“What I like about the new one – we didn’t have any boundaries,” said Madrox. “We did songs we like to do.

“It wasn’t about doing what was expected of anyone. We catered to ourselves and we had a great time in the studio. I feel this time around there is a nice blend of everything. There is something for everyone – even if they didn’t know they wanted it.

“It was taking shape for a year out. The writing was different. Usually, it was one of three ways – one, Monoxide and I would hear a beat and write it on the spot; two, we’d write separately; three, I’d write a song with no music and sing it to him. This time, we worked together more.”

“The Continuous Evilution Of Life’s?’s” features 12 all new tracks, primarily produced by longtime Twiztid producer Seven. However, the new album features four tracks with a clear hard rock influence — a crossover genre the duo has successfully dabbled in for over a decade. These tracks were produced by famed goth rock front man Davey Suicide and his keyboardist Needlz.

“There was a catalyst for us doing a few hard rock songs,” said Madrox. “Right around the time we made our ‘Freekshow’ album in 2000, was when rap rock started taking off.

“I like rock. Monoxide is more rap. Together, we’re like peanut butter and jelly. We were primarily introduced as a rap duo but we’ve become an entertainment duo. We’re doing shit that we want to do.”

A new Twiztid album might feature a long wait.

“We’ve started working on new Twiztid songs,” said Madrox. “Then, we went out for a short run of shows to get wared up for the Warped Tour. Playing on the Warped Tour is an opportunity of a lifetime for us.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years. The last eight shows (Warped Tour dates) have been more productive for getting a new audience than half of the first 20 years. If we had done the Warped Tour 10 years ago, who knows where we’d be now.

“The Warped Tour is like a festival. Just walking around, you hear so many different types of music. That is why there is room for us. I appreciate them (Warped Tour producers) putting up with our shit. We’re not your typical act.”

Vans Warped Tour features a grueling schedule of non-stop dates — frequently in venue parking lots in addition to main stages. And, it hits the road during the hottest part of the summer.

“The heat has been ungodly,” said Madrox. “We’ve been performing on days when the temperature has been over 100 degrees. One day, it was 111. It was a real scorcher. It’s difficult. It’s been keeping us on our toes. Social media keeps reminding fans at the show to stay hydrated.

“The fans at the shows have been great. And, the bands on the tour have been great. Three is nothing like playing the Warped Tour. It’s like a tight-knit family.”

Another thing that sets the Warped Tour apart from all the others is that each band is allotted a 30-minute set – a policy that must be strictly adhered to.

“With such a short set, we try to focus on energetic material – and also be diverse,” said Madrox. “We do some new material. We also do some classics. If these songs have been right all this time, they will still be right. And, a lot of songs we did when we first started are new songs to these fans and they’re going over well. Our music is not dated

Video link for Twiztid – https://youtu.be/4QtokETDSiQ.

Tatiana DeMaria

Tatiana DeMaria, a British rocker with her roots in punk music, is a Warped Tour veteran. The first time she played in this area was almost a decade ago on the Warped Tour with her band TAT. This time, she is rocking out as a solo act even though TAT is still alive.

“A lot of people – especially in America – think TAT refers to tattoos or is named after me,” said DeMaria, during a recent phone interview. “Actually, then name comes from the British word ‘tat’ which means ‘rubbish’ or ‘trash’ as in an ‘old load of tat’.”

DeMaria is a Brit singer/songwriter/guitarist whose musical roots can be traced back to the era when the Clash, the Jam and the Sex Pistols ruled the British music scene.

“When I wrote my early stuff, I loved everything, but punk was my main influence,” said DeMaria. “I started writing when I was in high school.

“Having my own band was a dream come true. We got to record and we toured for six years. We had a great time. Then, after a while, it was time to get off the road, go home and reconnect with friends.

“I was writing for myself, writing and producing for other artists, doing stuff for movies and writing jingles for ads – including a jingle for a 7-UP ad. I kept writing, but everything sounded like TAT. I needed a different sound, so I decided to write and produce songs in a different way and see how they would sound. So, TAT is one things and my solo project is a different thing.

“The solo project came to the forefront. Right now, it’s the main thing I want to do. I have a new EP coming with new videos being put out every month.

“I want to give people something they can feel connected to. I want to give people music I want them to hear – just a few singles every month or so. I like giving people chunks of music rather than a full album.”

So, DeMaria has given the fans an impressive new EP to appreciate.

“I made the EP over the course of the last two years,” said DeMaria. “I haven’t been touring too much because my focus has been on writing.

“Maintaining identity without emphasis on guitar has been a challenge – a challenge to maintain an edge. But, I think a lot of edge can come out with vocal delivery. This EP has been an exploration of that.”

Demaria’s touring band includes Tyler Zarzeka on bass and Mick Campetore on drums.

“This is very new,” said DeMaria. “We’ve only played eight shows together. It’s been fun. With TAT, I knew the set intimately. Now, it’s great to start fresh and work out a new live set. It’s challenging, exciting and a lot of fun.”

Video link for Tatiana DeMaria — https://youtu.be/a9LfTiAilk8.

Harm’s Way

If you’re wandering around the festival grounds at the Warped Tour and you’re in the mood for some seriously heavy music, be sure to check out Harm’s Way’s set.

Harm’s Way — Bo Lueders, Christopher Mills, James Pligge, Nick Gauthier, Casey Soyk — is hardcore punk band from Chicago that has been playing its own blend of metal, industrial, and hardcore music since 2006.

Harm’s Way released three studio albums prior to this year – “Reality Approaches” (2009), “Isolation” (2011) and “Rust” (2015). In February, the band released its critically-acclaimed Metal Blade Records debut – “Posthuman.” They have been recognized for their unique blend of metal, industrial, and hardcore music.

“The band had its start as a group called Few and Proud, became another band and then Harm’s Way took the helm,” said Mills, during a phone interview this week from a tour stop in Nashville, Tennessee. “Three of the originals are still in the band – James, Bo and me.

“Over the years, we’ve become more metallic – heavier and more industrial. In the early days, we were more power punk with quick songs.

“We made ‘Posthuman’ in August 2017. We recorded it in three weeks with producer Will Putney at Graphic Mature Audio in New Jersey. He had some cool ideas that he brought to the table. He helped us create the best album we’ve ever made.

“We demo’ed the songs in Milwaukee and then came to New Jersey. We also wrote another song in the studio. The demos were done live but when we got in the studio in New Jersey, we layered it track by track – drums then guitar then bass then electronics.”

The band’s new album is its most complex LP – musically and lyrically.

“The lyrics were more introspective – pertaining to James’ personal struggles,” said Mills. “James takes the helm with the lyrical content. The lyrics also are taking a bigger look at society and our place in it.

“A lot of the themes in ‘Posthuman’ look at the potential danger of power put in the wrong hands. Fans are getting the message.

“For our set list at Warped, half is songs from ‘Posthuman’ along with three songs from ‘Rust’ and one from ‘Isolation.’ We’re playing the Monster Stage and you only have so much you can pack into a 30-minute set.”

Video link for Harm’s Way – https://youtu.be/9bYTsegjXbE?list=PLy8LfIp6j3aJK0TspFvj01hIBkirbN5F2.

Some of this year’s other featured acts are Yungblud, Doll Skin, Every Time I Die, Motionless in White, Nekrogoblikon, Senses Fail, Sharptooth, Hatebreed, This Wild Life, All Time Low, Falling in Reverse, Echosmith and Less Than Jake.

The Warped Tour will run from 11 a.m.-midnight. Tickets are $45.

Katie Herzig

If you’re looking for softer, more complex music, you should check out the show by Katie Herzig on July 12 at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

Herzig is a singer, songwriter and multifaceted musician who grew up in Colorado and now calls Nashville home. She is currently touring in support of her new album “Moment of Bliss.”

“I’m touring now with a five-piece band,” said Herzig, during a phone interview last week on her way from Nashville to a gig in St. Louis, Missouri. “It’s me plus guitar, bass, drums and keyboards.

“I made ‘Moment of Bliss’ over the course of many years. My most recent album came out in 2014 and I started writing new songs right after it came out. I had a lot of life happen. So, I took my time. It’s the longest time I’ve ever taken between album releases.”

Surprisingly, Herzig followed the album’s release with a six-song EP – “Delicate” – which was just released on June 29. The stripped-down EP contains reimagined versions of some fan favorites including the recent single “Beat of Your Own.” Along with her originals, Herzig delivers a gorgeous cover of James Blake’s “The Wilhelm Scream.”

‘The reason I decided to put out an EP was that I didn’t want to wait another four years. The EP was a response to the long time gap. I like making music more than I like putting it out and promoting it. It was my way of pushing back. The live thing is what is most important to me.”

According to Herzig, “After spending the last year releasing my new album Moment of Bliss in slow motion, and before my tour this summer, I desperately wanted to get my hands dirty, to experience the immediacy of recording songs and getting to share them right away. So the last couple months I dug in and I dug deep:) Today I am releasing Delicate, a small collection of 6 delicately re-imagined acoustic vibey versions of these previously released songs.”

Herzig’s “Moment of Bliss” album is a collection of sonic delights.

“I co-produced ‘Moment of Bliss’ with Cason Cooley,” said Herzig. “I’ve always been quite involved with the production because it talks me to the next level.”

Herzig has also worked as a producer for several top-fight artists including Ingrid Michaelson.

“I’ve worked with Ingrid on her last two records,” said Herzig. “I’ve gotten more involved each time. Now, Ingrid and I are working on a new one.

“I do want to do more production work – but I need it to be an inspiring fit. And, I’ll always want to keep my own production on my songs.

“My songwriting in recent years has been more a musical thing happening that draws me in. I haven’t done the standard lyrics thing in a while. A lot of times, I’ll do stream of consciousness writing. The sonic part invites me into the space. Once I’m in that mode, I discover things I want to write.

“My recent material has been more organic. I have a home studio, so the new album was intentionally a very solo effort – a pretty hands-on effort. It was done all digitally with ProTools. I’ve always had a pretty good balance between organic music and sampled sounds.”

Herzig also has a knack for selecting words for both their meaning and they way they sound.

“When I’m writing, at times I wanted to sound in a certain way and tgere isn’t a word that fits,” said Herzig. “I’ve enjoyed a lot of music – maybe in different languages where I don’t understand what they’re singing. I like that feeling.”

Video link for Katie Herzig — https://youtu.be/-UrEjDktCmg.

The show at the Fillmore will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the Fillmore are Emo Night Brooklyn on July 13, So Far Gone on July 14, and Adelitas Way on July 17.

Marcia Ball

If you like your music with a southern vibe – especially music with its roots in the myriad of styles found in New Orleans – then you need to check out Marcia Ball’s show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) on July 12.

Ball is touring in support of her new album “Sine Bright,” which was jus released on Alligator Records and produced by Los Lobos’ sax player Steve Berlin.

“We cut ‘Shine Bright’ last October and November,” said Ball, during a phone interview last week from her home in Austin, Texas.

“We recorded part of it in Louisiana and did eight songs in Austin, Texas.

“I’ve known Steve for a while. He was at an event in Austin and I thought – if he’s coming to Austin, maybe we can get together and do some recording. He did have some time and he was happy to do it.”

According to ball, “With ‘Shine Bright,’ I wanted to make the best Marcia Ball record I could make. It is a ridiculously hopeful, cheerful record.”

In doing so, she has put together the most musically substantial, hopeful and uplifting set of songs of her five-decade career. “Shine Bright” contains 12 songs (including nine originals), ranging from the title track’s rousing appeal for public and private acts of courage to the upbeat call to action of “Pots and Pans,” a song inspired by renowned Texas political writer and humorist Molly Ivins. From the humorous advice of “Life of The Party” to the poignantly optimistic “World Full Of Love,” the intensity of Ball’s conviction never wavers while, simultaneously, the fun never stops.

“In Louisiana, we recorded at a studio called Dockside Studio in Maurice,” said Ball, who was named Texas’ “State Musician” this year. “It’s a legendary studio. It’s where B.B. King recorded ‘Blues on the Bayou’ and it’s also where Buckwheat Zydeco made a lot of records.”

Over the years, there have been a number of stellar piano players from Louisiana who have made the region’s blend of blues, soul and swamp boogie famous around the world. The list is mostly male-dominated — Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair — but also includes Marcia Ball.

Ball’s music has always been able to blend Gulf Coast blues, New Orleans R&B, swampy Louisiana ballads, and jumping, Tex-­‐Mex flavored zydeco into a one­‐of­‐a­‐kind musical gumbo — a sound she has been perfecting over the course of her legendary career.

Ball received the 2014 Blues Music Award (BMA) for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year. She has now won a total of 10 BMAs and has received a whopping 44 nominations. Ball recently received a 2015 Living Blues Readers’ Poll Award for Most Outstanding Musician (Keyboard) and now holds nine Living Blues Awards in all.

She was inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2012. This year, she was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall Of Fame – along with Los Lobos and Ray Charles.

Ball released her first album in 1972. Her career is still going full-tilt 46 years later and her popularity continues to grow.

It was back in the early 1970s when she immersed herself in the music of the great New Orleans piano players — especially Professor Longhair. Her solo album debut was a country-rock album called “Circuit Queen” that was released in 1978 on Capitol Records.

Before long, Ball developed her own sound which was much more in line with the sweat-drenched music played in clubs in the Texas-Louisiana border region than with traditional country music. She released six critically-acclaimed albums on the Rounder label during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Louisiana vibe became more pronounced when she moved to Alligator Records in 2001. She has recorded seven albums for Alligator, including “Roadside Attractions”, which received a 2011 Grammy Award nomination in the Best Blues Album category.

“I’m still a little studio shy — and I don’t write that much,” said Ball. “I make a lot of notes, hum songs into my cell phone and then finally sit at a piano at home. I’m busy and it’s hard to find time to write with so much going on.”

Even though Ball has been recording and touring for more than four decades, the spirited veteran is showing no signs of slowing down.

“I’m still doing more than 100 shows a year and that’s fine,” said Ball. “I play clubs and theaters and do a few festivals each year.

“I never get tired of being on the road because home is where the homework is. My band is what it is — a five-piece with bass, drums, guitar, sax and me on keyboards and vocals.”

Ball and her band members all have roots in the Louisiana/Texas music scene.

“I grew up in Louisiana,” said Ball. “I was listening to New Orleans music, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis. I also listened to a lot of blues musicians who did gigs in Baton Rouge. I have a lot of R&B in my background along with the great legacy of Delta music.”

Video link for Marcia Ball – https://youtu.be/kqB8PqOORls.

The show at the World Cafe Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $35.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Sharon Katz & The Peace Train: Side-By-Side CD Release Party on July 13, Antigone Rising on July 14, Nuevofest 2018 on July 15, Nick Hakim on July 17, and Slum Village on July 18.

Vacationer

On July 13, Philadelphia-based Vacationer will introduce its newly-released album “Mindset” at a show at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com) that also features the L.A.-based band Sego.

“I got Vacationer together in 2010,” said band leader Ken Vasoli, during a phone interview this week from his home in Willow Grove.

“I got two guys – Grant Wheeler and Matt Young – to form an electronic hybrid band. I wanted to incorporate more electronic sounds into it. I had always been in love with rock bands, so I wanted something fresh – and not super-loud.

“Earlier vibes were electro influence with bands like Radiohead. ‘Kid A’ struck a chord with me. Since then, I’ve been influenced by a variety of bands from Aphex Twin and Four Tet. When I was still making experimental music, I got into Bran Eno. This latest version of vacationer is a fusion of electro and my pop sensibilities.”

“Mindset” is built on delicate melodies and crystalline rhythms that seem to alter the very texture of the world around you. Ornately composed but breezy in energy, the album’s warm-hearted dream-pop perfectly mirrors Vasoli’s intentions in making the album.

According to Vasoli, “The objective was to write songs that remind me how my brain needs to operate for my own wellbeing and happiness. That’s where the title comes from — the record is filled with all these reminders that put me in a good mindset for the day.”
Despite its often-euphoric effect, Mindset began in frustration for Vasoli. After countless false starts on the follow-up to 2014’s “Relief,” the Philadelphia-based musician decided to completely upend his creative approach.

While Vacationer’s previous albums came to life in close collaboration with fellow members Matthew Young and Grant Wheeler, Vasoli shifted his focus from songwriting to production and worked entirely on his own for months on end. During that time, he immersed himself in exploring the nuances of Ableton and analyzing the construction of beloved albums by artists like the Beach Boys, Barry White, and Curtis Mayfield.

“Actually, ‘Mindset’ is more collaborative than ever,” said Vasoli. “For example, when Brian Wilson was doing things for the Beach Boys, he made stuff knowing that he could trust it to other players.

“With my music now, it doesn’t become a reality until I bring it to other players. These guys in my live band have been with me for years – and I hang out with them socially. I’ll do the basics of the songs and then bring them to the band. If it has Vacationer on the bill, it’s going to be the four of us — Greg Altman, Ryan Zimmaro, Michael Mullin and me.

“Bringing the new album to the stage can be a challenge because there are lot of tracks on the record. But, it’s a challenge we’ve been able to meet.”

Video link for Vacationer – https://youtu.be/BsjTlwWYNXE.

If you asked most people to name the best music acts from Provo, they’d probably respond – where is Provo?

Those in the know, however, would reply – Donny and Marie Osmond.

Those really in the know would reply – Donny and Marie Osmond…and Sego.

Sego

Sego’s Spencer Petersen and Thomas Carroll both got started in the burgeoning Provo, Utah music scene. However, finding inspiration in the dissonance that the towering structures and bustling city offers over the mountains and relative quiet of Provo, the two young musicians relocated to an old pasta factory in downtown Los Angeles.

Through various projects together, both founding members uncovered their distinct sound – lazy, grungy guitars with digital overlays and refreshingly honest lyrics — angular guitars, complex arrangements and musings from an 80’s kid contemplating the void left from the misguided hope of our youth.

“Tom and I went to the same high school but never met until we were in college,” said Peterson, during a phone interview earlier this week while waiting for the tour vehicle to ger repaired in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I went to BYU (Brigham Young University) and Tom went to UVU (Utah Valley University).

“We were in different band and played a show together. The band I was in needed a drummer, so we hit up Tom. That band was Elizabethan Report. When we moved to L.A., it changed its name to Eyes Lips Eyes. That band broke up and it left Tom and me in a lurch. We were stuck in L.A. with nothing to do.

“We kept jamming together. I was never interested in singing with a band. I played guitar and Tom played drums. We always intended toi start a four-piece to play live. It stared as a four-piece but always with Tom and me as the core. Now, we’re a set four-piece when we play live with Brandon McBride on keys and guitar and Alyssa Davey on bass.”

Over the past three years, Sego has released two EPs and one full-length, which came out two years ago.

“We’re just getting ready to release our second full-length,” said Peterson. “We’ve finished it twice and then keep adding to it. It’s still in the process – but, it’s getting close.

“We’ve been recording it all over the place – in Canada in Toronto, some in Provo and a lot at our warehouse studio in downtown L.A. We write, rehearse and record at the warehouse. It’s been our home base since we moved from Utah – and we also live there.

“In our live show, we play the singles and stuff from our previous records, but the new LP is the bulk of the show. I like testing out new material.”

Video link for Sego — https://youtu.be/zVNcMxjKkM4.

The show at Union Transfer will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $18

The only other show this week at Union Transfer will be Snail Mail on July 14.

Another interesting show in Philly on July 13 will be Howlin’ Rain’s concert at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

Howlin’ Rain was founded by Ethan Miller in San Francisco in 2004 and released its self-titled debut album in 2006. The band’s lineup features Ethan Miller, vocals, guitar; Jeff Mcelroy, bass; Dan Cervantes, guitar; and Justin Smith, drums.

Howlin’ Rain is on tour this summer in support of its fifth album, “The Alligator Bride,” which was released on June 8 via Silver Current Records.

“‘The Alligator Bride’ was recorded in 2016 on the night of the election,” said Miller, during a phone interview Monday from his home in Oakland, California.

“We recorded three days surrounding the election. Being in October, we expected something different to happen. The song ‘The Alligator Bride’ was already written and we recorded it on election night. It was about standing on the edge in the United States in the moment.

“We had just closed the end of the last American era – then end of the last century that brought things like color TV and faster cars. Now, we’ve been catapulted into a new era. The song was a poetic meditation on that. I had pre-written it and, luckily, history gave it meaning.”

For “The Alligator Bride,” Miller and company drew inspiration from classic rock formations such as the Grateful Dead’s “Europe ’72,” Mountain Bus’ 1974 album “Sundance,” and Free’s “Fire and Water.” The collection was recorded at the Mansion Studio in San Francisco — the same space that gave birth to modern garage-psych classics by Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees and Mikal Cronin. The record was tracked over three days with the band playing live to tape and cutting the material in first and second takes.”

“We made the album at the Mansion and co-produced it with Eric Bauer,” said Miller. “I liked the late 60’s era in San Francisco. I did want to tap into that because it’s where the hear of Howlin’ Rain lives. There are also some nods to the first Howlin’ Rain record – that little vibe of classic hippie music but not just stoner music.”

The band’s new album spans American eras and generations.

According to Miller, “We’re in a vortex of futuristic events. At this present moment, we can still remember the way the train whistle sounded in the middle of the night, rolling through the dark on the outskirts of town. An old America before we walked on the moon, before TV, cell phones, and the internet. ‘The Alligator Bride’ is about standing in the eye of that tornado of time — between the past and the present — in America.”

“The Alligator Bride” is part of a larger project.

“It is the second album of a trilogy,” said Miller. “The first part was ‘Mansion Songs’ in 2015. We just started working on the third part.

“I was writing and had this ton of stuff coming out. Some are completely finished and waiting to be mastered. I also have other new stuff that I’ll be working on.

“In our live shows on this tour, we’re playing a lot from ‘The Alligator Bride.’ We’ve put a set together with at least one song from each album – and a lot from the new album. It’s a good balance.”

Video link for Howlin’ Rain – https://youtu.be/-1NuHx5HjkQ.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has the Mountain Movers and Violet Phase as opening acts, will start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Ortolan on July 15, Cut Worms on July 17 and An Horse on July 18.

Eilen Jewell

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) presents New Summer Sounds at the Kennett Flash: Week 1– Tyler Greene, Backyard Blue, Guam, Levi Dylan and the Former Ruins on July 12; The GTVs and Kitty Rotten on July 13; Eilen Jewell on July 14; Open Mic with guest host Angelee on July 15; The 2nd Annual Ben Arnold Summer Residency – Week 2: Matthew Rineer on July 17; and The Kennett Flash & Anson B. Nixon Park Present Matt Cappy Quintet Anson B. Nixon Park on July 18.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Blob Fest Family Story Time with Patient Creatures on July 14.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com)  will have Cardinal Sin, Double Suede and Think Machine on July 13 and House Plants on July 14.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Yellowman and Kuf Knotz on July 12; Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Bands on July 13; andMapache on July 15.

Kimmel Center (Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) will present the “Free at the Kimmel Organ Demonstration” on July 14.

The Merriam Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org) will host “Bring It! LIVE” on July 14.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) hosts Malina Moye and Joshua Howard on July 13, Lotus Land (Rush Tribute) on July 14, Simply Streisand on July 15, Kinky Friedman on July 16 and The Felice Brothers on July 18.

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