On Stage: Echo Black is taking it up to 11

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Echo Black

“Black and blue” is something that denotes pain.

“Black and Blu” is something that denotes pleasure – specifically when you’re talking about the band Echo Black and its lead singer Danny Blu

Echo Black, a New York-based pop/rock band, is known for its intense performances. The band plays shows that leave audiences physically and emotionally drained – pleasurably.

This spring, Echo Black is on the road with its “Turn It to 11 Tour.”

“We named the tour this as a tribute to the 34th anniversary of Spinal Tap,” said Blu, during a phone interview Wednesday from a tour stop in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

The line came from the film “This Is Spinal Tap,” where guitarist Nigel Tufnel proudly demonstrates an amplifier with a volume knob marked from 0-11 instead of the usual 0-10.

Echo Black, which hit the area last fall for shows at the Barbary and Bar XIII, is returning to Philly on May 3 for a show at the Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602,www.voltagelounge.com).

Last year, the band met and exceeded its goal on Indiegogo to fund its debut album “Dawn,” which was released in October.

Echo Black features Danny Blu (vocalist), Billy Long (drums, keyboards), Felix Skiver (guitar, vocals) and Rob Gnarly (bass, vocals).

“Felix is our permanent guitarist, but he was unable to come out right now for these shows,” said Blu. “So, we’ve added a touring guitarist – Alex Adamovich.

“We haven’t been in the studio to write or record lately. We’re still focusing on touring in support of the album. We had three singles out and then the single ‘Dawn’ was the lead for the album. We had been waiting to put an album out since we started the band in 2015.

“We’re proud of the album. It’s a good representation of the band. We put so much time and effort into it.

“We raised over $13,000 on Indiegogo to make the album. It’s pretty exciting that people give a shit about us and our music. We offered rewards like autographed items, drum lessons and makeup tutorials.”

Makeup tutorials might sound strange perks for a band’s funding perks but not that strange if you take into account that Echo Black is billed as a “queer pop/rock band.” All of Echo Black’s makeup is sponsored by MAC Cosmetics.

“I think it’s funny that we get described that way,” said Blu. “We just make poppy rock music and I happen to be gay. The other three aren’t.

“I grew up in Morris County in North Jersey and have been in New York City since I graduated high school in 2008. I moved to Queens with my sister. I went to New York to be an actor.

“I went to New York University as an acting major. I spent a year-and-a-half there and hated it. I didn’t want people telling me what to do

“I started making music in 2011 and out two albums on my own. Billy has been with me since Day One and Felix joined four years ago. We did a Danny Blu tour and then the process changed. We began writing as a group. That’s when we became Echo Black.”

Echo Black is comprised of members whose musical inspirations range from basement punk to Frank Sinatra, and everything in between.

“We’re all from different musical backgrounds,” said Blu. “Now, we all come together to make the dark sound we make.

“We recorded ‘Dawn’ early in 2017. We were in the studio over the course of a month. Some of it was recorded in Seattle and some in Paterson, New Jersey. Then, we had to rush to finish it because we were going on tour with Psyclon Nine.

“Now, we have our own tours. This is just a short tour and we have a bigger tour of our own in June. We’re always writing – always have ideas kicking around – but not in the studio. We’re hoping to get back in the studio in the fall to start working on our next album.”

Video link for Echo Black — https://youtu.be/Hy9-mYGqjTg.

The show at the Voltage Lounge, which also features City of the Weak and In Loving Memory, will start at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.

Other upcoming shows at the Voltage Lounge are That Big 80s Party on May 4, King Lil G on May 5, Luicidal on May 6 and Smooky Largielaa on May 8.

Michael Glabicki

For almost three decades now, Michael Glabicki has been travelling across the state – from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia – to bring his band Rusted Root to play shows in this area.

Glabicki is coming again this week to perform a show on May 3 at MilkBoy Philadelphia (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com).

But, there will be a difference this time. The show at MilkBoy will be with his new project – Uprooted.

While Rusted Root is on hiatus, Glabicki has been devoting his time to creating an entirely new soundscape. Glabicki intends to bring back parts of the Rusted Root of old, but also including more percussion and female vocals.

The Pittsburgh-based singer/songwriter/guitarist will continue to play Rusted Root’s entire catalogue but with a twist. The band will play fresh inspired versions of RR’s tunes along with new unreleased originals.

Rusted Root, the multi-platinum band out of Steel City, evolved around front-man Michael Glabicki’s distinct sound and grew into a musical entity that has thrived in a non-genre specific category all its own.

Now, Glabicki is exploring new sounds and opening new doors with his solo career. He has started touring nationally as a duo with Rusted Root’s guitar player, Dirk Miller, and explains that although he has his roots with Rusted Root, this show is very different. Live, both Glabicki and Miller play acoustic and electric and Glabicki often adds rhythm with a kick drum – creating a much fuller sound and energy than you find with a traditional duo.

“I’ve been writing a lot of material I tried to get to fit with Rusted Root and it just wasn’t happening,” said Glabicki, during a phone interview from his home in Pittsburgh. “It just wasn’t clicking for various reasons. I’m not really sure why.’

A multifaceted musician, producer and songwriter, Glabicki has a wealth of musical talent. His duo tour dates and new music are extensions of his creative talent, and while the show still features many Rusted Roots hits, it also provides a look into the mind of Glabicki through stories and songs yet to be released.

“With Uprooted, I wanted to make it a little more cinematic – and more blues-oriented,” said Glabicki. “I wanted tighter grooves and more impact for vocals as a collective.

“I started the project about three months ago. It’s modeled after Afro-Beat where guitar and drums all fit together and give space to others to be part of that rhythm.

“Rhythm has always been a big part of my music. With Rusted Root, it would start out with acoustic guitar and haver other stuff laid over it.”

The Uprooted tour will provide the testing ground for some of Glabicki’s new songs – the newest of which is “Man Not a Machine.”

According to Glabicki, “‘Man Not a Machine’ is a song about the collective cellular dance that has been happening at my shows for the last few years. Something new and exciting has been happening — so I wanted to write a song about it and breathe some extra life into it – like a funky steroid!”

With Rusted Root’s hectic schedule, it was time for everyone in the band to take a well-deserved break.

Rusted Root, which still includes three of the original five members, still calls Pittsburgh home.

The trio of founding members includes Michael Glabicki (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, mandolin), Patrick Norman (bass guitar, backing vocals, percussion) and Liz Berlin (percussion, backing vocals). Rounding out the quintet are Preach Freedom (percussion, backing vocals) and Dirk Miller (guitar, backing vocals).

“We’ve been pretty busy the last few years,” said Glabicki. “We had a great tour around the country. We went to Japan. We went to Guam and played for the troops over there. On the average, we play 160-170 shows a year. The numbers have been going up recently.”

In honor of its 25th Anniversary, Rusted Root embarked on an extensive national tour several years ago to support its most recent album “The Movement,” which is described by Glabicki as “an extremely joyous recording with seriously deep undertones.”

“The Movement” was released on Shanachie Records in 2012.

Rusted Root, which is known for its fusion of acoustic, rock and world music, has recorded eight albums and sold over three million records worldwide. The band’s music has been featured in films such as “Ice Age,” “Twister” and “Matilda” and TV shows such as “Ally McBeal,” “New Girl” and “Charmed.”

Now, for the time being, Rusted Root has been placed in a state of suspended animation. Glabicki is keeping his perpetual motion going with Uprooted.

“Me and Dirk have been doing a lot of duo shows and that was the inspiration for Uprooted,” said Glabicki. “With just two of us, we’ve been getting more in synch with each other – and we realized that there was this vast landscape to be explored.

“People are loving it. And, we’re having fun and learning more about ourselves. In our live shows, we have three songs that are strictly Uprooted and we do different takes on old Rusted Root songs.

“We’re going to go in the studio soon to work on an album. I’m writing now, I get up at 5 a.m. every morning ands sit down and write. With Uprooted music, there’s more of a rock-and-roll tinge to it – and a little more attitude.”

Video link for Uprooted – https://youtu.be/pQWxfzsR5Io.

The show at MilkBoy, which has Time Lapse as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy are Triple Goddess on May 4, Clay Cook on May 5, The Mother Hips on May 6 and Taylor Phelan on May 9.

Becca Mancari

MilkBoy was one of the clubs Becca Mancari played late last year when she just released her debut album “Good Woman” via Gold Tooth Records. She also played a show at the World Café Live.

Now, Mancari is coming back to Philly for a show on May 4 at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

Listeners immediately know that there is something special about “Good Woman” – right from the opening track “Arizona Fire.” A unique, almost-industrial intro leads into Mancari’s sinewy vocals and then atmospheric steel guitar by Blake Reams supplements the hazy-but-still-country sound.

“This is my first real album,” said Mancari, during a phone interview. “It took a while, but it was worth waiting for. I started recording last May and then had some complications. It wasn’t wham-bam. It took a year in the studio with Kyle Ryan producing it.”

Last year, Rolling Stone Country named Mancari one of 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know and called her music, “The spacey soundtrack for sunbaked afternoons, full of atmospheric Americana, hazy folk-rock and songwriting that drifts, drawls and draws you in.”

Born in Staten Island, NY, to an Italian-Irish preacher father and a Puerto Rican mother, Mancari has spent time working as a janitor in South Florida, writing songs with train hoppers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and traveling to India seeking spirituality.

Mancari’s debut is hauntingly lonesome, with dust cloud swells of electric guitar and don’t-look-back lyrics that reveal scenes from Mancari’s well-travelled life.

“I actually grew up in rural Pennsylvania,” said Mancari. “It was a little town near Harrisburg. I went to Harrisburg Christian School and even played soccer there. I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida when I was 16 and graduated high school there.

“My parents were involved in ministry work and non-profits, so we traveled all over. We were in Africa for a while. Between the ages of 18 and 23, we were living in Zambia and Zimbabwe.”

Mancari’s travels introduced her to an amazing variety of music. For example, her time in Harare, Zimbabwe introduced her to the mesmerizing music of African music legend Thomas Mapfumo, “The Lion of Zimbabwe.”

“I moved to India when I was in my early 20s,” said Mancari. “I’ve always been really interested in learning from other cultures. I spent a lot of time wandering.

“I went back to West Palm Beach and worked as a janitor in my old high school. That was one of the best times in my life. I did my job and then went to the library and just read. And, it was near the ocean.

“I went to Nashville in September 2012. I just got in my car and moved to the city. I’ve been living here ever since.”

Once she had relocated to Music City in Tennessee, Mancari has been writing songs that blur the lines between genres as well as sharing shows with artists like Hurray For The Riff Raff and Natalie Prass.

Mancari never backs away from challenges. As a gay woman in the South, she has found a way to balance her sexuality with her spiritual background – an avenue to travel a trail that frequently divides people.

“I’m in a generation where being gay was really taboo,” said Mancari. “I’m really thankful for this generation where it’s more normalized. I think I’ve been a role model of sorts.”

The release of “Good Woman” should open more doors for Mancari. The album is hauntingly lonesome and warm and embracing at the same time.

According to Mancari, “Our hope is that we’re doing something that respects the roots but also has space and the galaxy in it.”

Mancari doesn’t push the boundaries. She steps beyond them and pulls them out to her. The results are very refreshing.

Video link for Becca Mancari — https://youtu.be/oGwjMGCUKSI.

The show at Underground Arts, which also features The Weeks, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Todd Barry on May 5, and The Melvins on May 10.

Unless you’re a diehard fan of live comedy, you probably haven’t been exposed very much to the style of comedy known as ‘improv.’

Most likely, your main exposure to the art form has been the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” is an American improvisational comedy show which was an official adaptation of the British show of the same name. Two of the driving forces in the show are Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood. The first two episodes of the new season are scheduled to air June 4, 2018.

If you’d like to experience an “improv” show in person – especially a show featuring Sherwood and Mochrie – then plan a trip this weekend to the Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, 888-588-7279, https://www.parxcasino.com)

On May 4, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood will bring their “Scared Scriptless Tour” to the Parx Casino’s Xcite Center.

This exciting event brings two of the funniest talents from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” to the stage once again to play off of each other with their hilarious hijinks on the stage! Though both have worked in other respective works like “She’s The Mayor” and “The Big Moment,” they’re best known for their work in the improvisational world, using their quick-thinking abilities to create hilarious scenarios.

The two comedians offered the following descriptions –

“The world’s funniest improv show, featuring the brilliant comic stylings of Brad Sherwood and his addle-brained sidekick, Colin Mochrie. It is the longest running international improv show on planet earth, we think.” – Brad Sherwood

“An evening of interactive comedy with big belly laughs supplied by improv icon Colin Mochrie and eye candy for the visually impaired by Brad Sherwood. The most fun you can have with a theatre full of people that’s legal and doesn’t include washing up.” – Colin Mochrie

One thing for sure – when the two zany characters get together, you can expect the unexpected.

“We’ve been touring together for 15 going on 16 years,” said Sherwood, during a recent phone interview from his home in Las Vegas. “Colin is the most easy-going guy you’ll ever meet. We’ve never had a disagreement.

“We’ve been doing this on stage for a long time. The saving grace is that it’s never the same show. All the travel is the only thing that is marginally unpleasant.

“We’ve done shows when we’re crazy sick or exhausted but the minute we hit the stage, it all goes away. The adremnalin kicks in. We’ve been doing it so long we kick into super power mode.

“We’re totally improv. There are no plot point nuggets. That would take the fun out of it. We don’t ever want to go to a well-worn groove. You can’t phone in an improv show.

“We have a universality. It’s situation-based on the audience. Silliness is a major part. It’s our job to make stuff that’s not very interesting fascinating – to take mundane facts and make them sound interesting. Audiences want to see rationalizations for the ridiculous things we’re doing.”

Every show is fresh. Every show is different.

“It’s a two-hour show with an intermission,” said Sherwood. “We give them a full night. Most stand-up comedians only do a 60-minute show. We have a lot more energy than that.

“There are different games we play. What games we decide to play in a show depends on the audience. We do our sound effects game most of the time. Two audience members provide sound effects. Usually, one is good and one is bad.”

One thing is constant with their shows.

“We do a thing at the beginning of the show,” said Sherwood. “It’s a pre-show announcement. We tell the audience that it is a political-free zone. It gets a round of applause from the entire audience. No-one is happy with politics.”

Video link for Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood – https://youtu.be/315XcuPAZU0.

The show at the Parx Casino will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35, $45 and $55.

Kofi Baker

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Kofi Baker’s Psychedelic Trip – A Tribute to Cream on May 3, A Night With The Kid – The Music of Michael Davis on May 4, Raymond the Amish Comic on May 5, and Mutlu on May 6.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Pat McGee on may 4 and 5.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Robert Randolph & The Family Band and New Sound Brass Band on May 3, Badfish, a Tribute to Sublime on May 4, Hezekiah Jones and Chestnut Grove on May 5, Bob Schneider on May 6 and The New Mastersounds on May 9.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Man About a Horse on May 5.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents “Abba the Concert” on May 5, “Late Night Catechism Las Vegas” on May 6, Garrison Keillor on May 7 and Eric Burdon & the Animals on May 9.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) has Canned Heat on May 3, Cash Is King on May 4, Vince Martell Band (Of Vanilla Fudge) on May 5, Robben Ford on May 6 and The Go Rounds on May 9.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will hoist Hatebreed on May 3, Ani DiFranco on May 8 and Rival Sons on May 9.

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