On Stage: Meow Meow & Thomas Lauderdale hit Philly

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Meow Meow & Thomas Lauderdale

Thomas Lauderdale has performed shows in this area many times over the years – always as part of his ensemble Pink Martini.

This week, Lauderdale will be in Philly to perform with a different musical project – Meow Meow and Thomas Lauderdale.

On March 26, World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) is hosting the “Meow Meow & Thomas Lauderdale, Hotel Amour Tour.”

The album “Meow Meow & Thomas Lauderdale, Hotel Amour” was released worldwide on March 22.

A musical love affair between two singular artists, “Hotel Amour” is the long-awaited collaboration between beloved Pink Martini founder and bandleader Thomas Lauderdale, and international singing sensation, the crowd-surfing tragi-comedienne and queen of Chanson, Meow Meow.

These two friends have performed and composed together across the globe for years, from the backstreet bars of Berlin to the glamorous stage of the Sydney Opera House, from London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall to Mary’s Club, Portland Oregon’s legendary strip club.

“Hotel Amour” features several original songs destined to be classics, alongside exquisite journeys into the French, German and Shanghainese canon of the 20th century, with alluring tastes of the 1920s and 30s, bittersweet tragedy, humor, politics, witty wicked Weimar, and aching French torch song.

And the album is enhanced by a bevy of guest stars, including joyful duets with Rufus Wainwright, Barry Humphries (of Dame Edna fame), and The von Trapps, as well as a very special live recording with the legendary pianist and composer Michel Legrand.

“We did our first show two nights ago,” said Lauderdale, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Palo Alto, California. “Our band has violin, bass, trumpet and percussion. I play piano and Meow Meow sings and crowd surfs.”

Lauderdale has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and ensembles, including the Oregon Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Portland Youth Philharmonic, Chamber Music Northwest and Oregon Ballet Theatre (where he collaborated with choreographer James Canfield and visual artists Storm Tharp and Malia Jensen on a ballet based on Felix Salten’s Bambi, written in 1923).
In 2008, he played Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F with the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Christoph Campestrini. Lauderdale returned as soloist with the Oregon Symphony in multiple concerts in 2011, and again in 2015, under the direction of Carlos Kalmar. In 2017, he and his partner Hunter Noack created and performed a dazzling, rhapsodic two-piano arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with choreographer Nicolo Fonte for Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Post-post-modern diva Meow Meow has hypnotized, inspired, and terrified audiences globally. The spectacular crowd-surfing queen of song had her New York Pops debut in 2015 at Forest Hills Stadium with Pink Martini, and her London Philharmonic debut in 2013 as Jenny in Brecht/Weill’s “Die Dreigroschenoper” in Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and London’s Royal Festival Hall.

She sold out her Lincoln Center American Songbook Series and Sydney Opera House concerts, toured the concert halls of Australia with Barry Humphries and the Australian Chamber Orchestra singing 1920‘s works from Weimar Germany, and in 2014 performed contemporary opera with the LA Philharmonic in Andriessen’s “De Materie.”

Meow Meow starred on London’s West End in “Kneehigh Theatre” and Michel Legrand’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and in her own solo concerts at the legendary Apollo Theatre.

Named One of the Top Performers of the Year by the New Yorker, award-winning Meow Meow has been called “Sensational” (the Times UK), “diva of the highest order” (New York Post), “The Queen of Chanson” by the Berliner Zeitung, and “a phenomenon” by the Australian press.

“I met Meow Meow in 2004,” said Lauderdale. “I was hire to be her accompanist at an art festival in Portland. It was a love affair Ten years later, here it is.

“We live on different continents and have our own projects. She just finished filming ‘Cats.’ She also does a lot of performing in Berlin including stuff with orchestras.

“We started working on the album in 2008. We came together once or twice a year to work on the album. We were very productive on the first few sessions – getting stuff down on tape. Half of it was finished about eight years ago.

“We started recording in Portland at a studio which is now out of business called Kung Fu Bakery. Another Portland studio we used was Thelma’s. On our original sessions, we used a band called Sneakin’ Out. We also used people from Pink Martini and members of the Oregon Symphony.

“The final sessions were last November – mixing and mastering. It all worked out pretty well. Even though the album was recorded over a long period of time, for me there is a lot of cohesiveness.

“For example, the title song was written over a period of years in two parts – before and after 2011 – and different things happened. The two parts were done in different mind frames. The corner stone is a bridge between loss and unbridled optimism.

“I’m not really a songwriter. In terms of all the people I’ve written songs with, she and I are the best. We share a love of beautiful melodies that soar.”

Video link for Thomas Lauderdale and Meow Meow – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D2mUNt8c4w.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45.

Ceramic Animal

Doylestown is a small town in the northern suburbs — the county seat of Bucks County. It is also the hometown of a variety of celebrities including Mike Pettine, the coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

The town is known for being the home of author James A. Michener, architect and archaeologist Henry Chapman Mercer, lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II and his protege Stephen Sondheim, Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

Doylestown also has produced several well-known acts in the world of rock music including Pink, Justin Guarini, Jon Van Dine, Karen Gross and Irene Molloy. Now, it’s time to add another name to the list – Ceramic Animal

Ceramic Animal is a five-piece rock band featuring three brothers — Warren Regan (vocals/guitar), Elliott Regan (keyboards/vocals), and Erik Regan (drums) – along with Dallas Hosey (bass/vocals) and Ant Marchione (guitar).

On March 26, Ceramic Animal will share the bill with Spendtime Palace at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,www.johnnybrendas.com).

The band, which plays what is billed as “garage-yacht rock,” independently released its first album “The Cart” a little over two years ago and followed with its second album “The Horse” in August 2018. Both albums were written, mixed and produced by Warren Regan.

“Our first album – ‘The Cart’ – was released in August 2016,” said Erik Regan, during a phone interview last week as the band traveled from Orlando to a gig in Atlanta. “We just put out our sophomore album – ‘The Horse’ – this past August. Both were self-released.

“When we were thinking about naming our first album, we decided to call it ‘The Cart’ and planned on calling the next album ‘The Horse.’ We were just tickled by it – putting the cart before the horse – but nobody got the joke.”

The brothers all went to Central Bucks High School in Doylestown.

“I was already out of college when we started this band,” said Regan. “Actually, Elliott and I were both put of college. I had gone to Pitt and he went to Syracuse. Our third brother went to Temple.

“We didn’t start getting serious with the band until much later in life. We went to a bar in Doylestown – Maxwell’s On Main – to have a drink on open mic night. They asked us to play. We thought of two songs we knew. After we played them, people were asking for a third.

“Then, we were at a second bar – Stephanie’s – and Elliott asked the bartender how to get a gig there. He said – come play next Thursday and we’ll give you $200.”

The prospect of fame and fortune lured them in.

“We did that for a year or two and then Ceramic Animal came into existence,” said Regan. “Warren joined us, and we were the Friday bar band at Bobby Simone’s. We were doing covers at first and then started doing originals.

“We now have a home studio in Doylestown. Warren and Elliott still live in Doylestown and I live in Philly – in Fishtown. We’re always writing. That’s the benefit of having a home studio. We recorded both albums there.

“Warren is always coming up with new ideas. Most of the recording on the new album was done in the first six months of 2018. We finished the mixing and mastering in July and released the album in August. Since then, we’ve made one new track – ‘Bone City’ – which we’ve played almost every show on this tour. We usually never road-test songs.”
Ceramic Animal makes distinctive music. The band members also have a distinctive look. The five musicians wear their signature identical “handsome-boy suits” during their live performances.

“The first time we wore suits was at a New Year’s Eve show at Puck’s in Doylestown,” said Regan. “After that, we decided to dress up and wear suits at all our shows. It works. This tour, we have green British mod suits and also black suits with red floral print.”

Video link for Ceramic Animal – https://youtu.be/kdhqdwsUvVk.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which also features Spendtime Palace, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.

On March 27, Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting a show called “Jimmy Vivino & Bob Margolin — Just 2 Guitars and 200 Stories…with special guest David Bromberg.”

Jimmy Vivino and Bob Margolin are veteran blues guitarists whoa have been friends since the 1970s. Together for these special shows, they play original music, familiar tunes and deep blues songs — and tell the personal stories about the blues legends they knew and learned from.

Their tour started on March 23 at Daryl’s House in Pawlings, New York. The show at Kennett Flash is the only one with the special bonus of having legendary guitarist/songwriter Davin Bromberg joining them. Bromberg currently lives in northern Delaware.

“Bob and I would run into each other at festivals and always threatened to play together,” said Vivino, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Pawlings.

“With the ‘Just 2 Guitars and 200 Stories’ theme – I got that from shows by John Sebastian, Phoebe Snow and Al Kooper. They wouldn’t just play their music. They’d talk about where the music came from and tell stories about their careers in music.

“These guys would tell all these great stories. With Bob and I — we have a similar situation. It’s so important for us to tell the stories behind the music. We hope people care.”

Vivino serves as the Music Director on the TBS late night show CONAN. Vivino has been a consistent element in O’Brien’s late-night career, starting with the first episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien in September 1993. In June of 2008, Vivino moved from New York to Los Angeles and worked as Music Director/guitarist/arranger on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, The Legally Prohibited from Being on Television Tour and currently leads Jimmy Vivino and The Basic Cable Band on CONAN.

When not appearing weeknights on TBS, Vivino divides his time between recording sessions and live gigs throughout the country. In addition to his solo work, Vivino plays with The Prisoners of 2nd Avenue, Rumble & Twang with Lee Rocker, The Barn Burners, The Rekooperators, and the successful Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux.

Vivino has also recorded and played live with such legends as Johnnie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, Levon Helm and Al Kooper. Earlier in his career he got his start producing playing and arranging for such artists as Phoebe Snow, Laura NyroJohn Sebastian and Donald Fagen.  Summer 2014, Jimmy headlined the King Biscuit Festival with his other band, Jimmy Vivino & the Black Italians.

Margolin, who is nicknamed “Steady Rollin’”, is prominent in today’s blues scene. He tours worldwide at festivals, concerts, clubs, and workshops. His self- titled album reveals the latest from the 2017 Blues Music Award winner for Best Male Traditional Blues Artist. Just released by the VizzTone Label Group (Bob is a founding partner), six new original songs are his Blues for today’s world. He also interprets nine songs he learned “back in the day” from his legendary friends Muddy Waters, The Band, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Rogers, Snooky Pryor, Pinetop Perkins, and James Cotton.

From 1973-1980, Margolin played guitar in Muddy Waters’ band, appearing on all the albums Muddy made then and at special shows like The Last Waltz. Since 1980, he performs his own songs, but still honors his historic and personal connection to Muddy Waters.

“We carry these stories inside as friends,” said Margolin. “I was in Muddy Waters’ band in the 1970s. He passed in 1973 and I share stories about him. He was a sun in the universe. He attracted Eric Clapton and a lot of those other British guitarists.”

Vivino said, “That’s when I met Bob – when he was playing with Muddy Waters. I was so into Mike Bloomfield and he would say – check out where these things came from – check out Chicago blues.”

The live show by the duo (trio) will feature blues and a lot more.

“We do a combination of blues songs along with some of our originals,” said Vivino. “We are the band. It’s mostly music but we set up stuff with recollections.”

David Bromberg

Margolin added, “It’s like a musical conversation and the audience is in on it.” The fans at Kennett Flash are in for a real treat with the addition of David Bromberg.

Bromberg is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter who plays bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, country and western, and rock and roll. He is known for his quirky, humorous lyrics, and the ability to play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time.

Bromberg has played with many famous musicians, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Rusty Evans and Bob Dylan. He co-wrote the song “The Holdup” with former Beatle George Harrison, who played on Bromberg’s self-titled 1972 album. In 2008, he was nominated for a Grammy Award. Bromberg is known for his fingerpicking style that he learned from Reverend Gary Davis.

He is also the proprietor of David Bromberg Fine Violins in Wilmington, Delaware

According to Vivino, “We are thrilled to have our old pal David Bromberg sitting in at Kennett Flash on Wednesday. It’s more like ‘3 Guitars and 300 Stories’.”

The show at Kennett Flash will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

The blues will also be in the spotlight at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) when Tinsley Ellis and Coco Montoya brig their “Blues Rock Titans Tour” to the venue.

Montoya and Ellis will each perform a full headline-length set at the Sellersville Theater. Montoya, a legendary blues-rock guitarist and vocalist, will feature songs from his latest Alligator Records release, “Hard Truth.”

Ellis is among the blues world’s best loved, hardest-working and most well-traveled statesmen. His latest release, “Winning Hand,” debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Blues Chart when it was released in 2018. The two “Blues Rock Titans” will also join forces each night for an unforgettable jam session.

Ellis played Sellersville just over a year ago on a solo tour.

“It tunes out that this is a wintertime thing for us,” said Ellis, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“People turn out in winter for this this music.”

Since his first Alligator album 30 years ago, Ellis has become a bona fide worldwide guitar hero. Ellis has performed in all 50 United States as well as in Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Australia and South America — picking up legions of fans with his guitar virtuosity, passionate vocals and memorable original songs.

“I started in 1979 so this is my 40th year on the road,” said Ellis. “I think I’ll do it forever. I toured last spring and, after a long tour, started with the festivals -– flying to international festivals from Poland to Vancouver Island. Then, I did a three-week tour with Tommy Castro at the end of last year.”

Ellis is still touring in support of his latest album “Winning Hand” on Alligator Records.

“It’s great to be playing shows,” said the veteran bluesman. “When we play new songs live, they start as the studio version and then we add to them and modify them. We’ll be playing a bunch of songs off the brand-new record. And, we’ll play some standards – songs by B.B. King, Freddie King, Elmore James, Junior Wells and Howlin’ Wolf.”

Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis was raised in southern Florida. He found the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, The Rolling Stones and Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. As he discovered the roots of these bands, he attended shows by B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and every other blues artist who came through town.

Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis returned to Atlanta and started playing with local bands. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After cutting three Heartfixers albums for the Landslide label, Ellis was ready to head out on his own.

Now, Ellis has 20 albums in his discography – ranging from “The Heartfixers” in 1982 to “Winning Hand” in 2018.

Recorded in Nashville and produced by Ellis and keyboardist Kevin McKendree, the 10 songs on “Winning Hand” include nine originals ranging from blistering blues to heart-pounding rock to soulful ballads.

“Guitar, guitar, guitar is what this album is all about,” said Ellis, who recorded primarily with his 1959 Fender Stratocaster, his 1967 Gibson ES 345 and his 1973 Les Paul Deluxe.

“I recorded the album in Nashville and at my home studio. I started it nine months ago – building up songs and putting them in a file on my laptop. Some songs were written 10 years ago, and some are very new.”

Ellis will be adding to his discography sometime soon.

“I’ve already got a new album in the works,” said Ellis. “It should come out within a year. I’m using the same musicians as my last album and the same studio – The Rockhouse in Nashville. It’s also the same producer – Kevin McKendree. We’ve been working together for 20 years.

Video link for Tinsley Ellis – https://youtu.be/4cS0sSyEHrM.

The show at the Sellersville Theater, which also features Coco Montoya, will start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $29.50-$40.

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