On Stage: Chester County’s Brian Fitzy is keeping busy

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Brian Fitzy

It’s been almost a year since Brian Fitzy released his new album “Hard Times for Dreamers. “ The album dropped  May 19, 2017 and Fitzy has been a busy man ever since.

“I’m busy every day – keeping the balance between playing shows and doing things that bring in money,” said Fitzy, during a phone interview Saturday afternoon from his Coatesville area home.

“I’m an artist with no big machine behind me. I am trying to get to a point where I can take a larger ensemble on the road instead of just me. I’m doing solo shows out of necessity. It’s too expensive to bring on players of the caliber I want to play with.”

Still, Fitzy’s solo shows have been going over well. The album has been well-received and Fitzy’s schedule of live shows is far from empty.

On May 10, Fitzy will perform at the Wilmington Flower Market.

This year, the 98th Annual Wilmington Flower Market returns to Rockford Park (Park Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-995-5699, www.wilmingtonflowermarket.org) for a three-day run from May 10-12.

The Flower Market, which always runs in conjunction with Mother’s Day, benefits over 50 children’s charities in Delaware.

The 2018 Wilmington Flower Market, which is free and open to the public, will be held Friday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. each day. As is the tradition, the event features crafts, booths, rides, food, fun, live entertainment and plenty of flowers.

The music line-up also features The Heirs, Welshly Arms, Andreas Moss, A Great Big World, Rozzi, Logan Henderson, Hot Breakfast, and Danielle & Jennifer.

Other upcoming shows by Fitzy are 118 North in Wayne (May 12), Kildare’s in West Chester (May 17), Rittenhouse Row Festival in Philadelphia (May 19), Box Lunch Revue in York (June 12), Tavern on Broad in Philadelphia (June 13), West Chester Craft Beer Fest (June 16) and Sister Cities Park in Philadelphia (June 28).

Most of these shows could be considered hometown shows for Fitzy who lives in West Caln.

“I just bought a house in East Fallowfield,” said Fitzy. “I have a lot of unfinished projects I’m working on and the new house is one more.

“I have a single that was supposed to be on the album – ‘Because of You’ – that I’ll be releasing soon. I also have a new video that I’ve been working on a long while. I wanted something that looked really different. The execution of it is pretty original.”

Brian Fitzy, a.k.a. Brian Fitzgerald, graduated from Coatesville Area Senior High and then attended West Chester University. Fitzy graduated from WCU in 2007 with a musical performance/classical violin degree. When he was a student at West Chester, he had a band called Leaving Cash.

His new disc “Hard Times for Dreamers” does not have Mexican music but does have roots in Mexico.

“I do a lot of corporate shows,” said Fitzy. “I was in Mexico doing a series of corporate shows at lush resorts.

“It was the first time I was ever in Mexico. There were these fortified resorts in great condition and, on the other side of the walls, living conditions were terrible.”

While on tour in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, graffiti art with the sobering slogan “Hard Times for Dreamers” brought a lifelong music journey into stark focus for Fitzy. It galvanized him into making a musical statement about the harsh realities of today.

The multimedia Mexican artist Sleepwalck made the tag. Its placement on a bleak intersection in an impoverished section of town surrounded by palatial resort and well-to-do living accommodations hit home for Fitzy.

“The new album is about the conversations I had and what I saw there in Mexico,” said Fitzy. “I wanted to release a summer-y record. The music is that way, but the subject matter is dark and bleak.”

Fitzy took a picture of the tag — used with permission of the artist he reached via Instagram – and that picture was used for the cover of his debut album.

Even though Fitzy is experienced as a producer, he enlisted Joe Nicolo (Kris Kross, Lauryn Hill, Fugees, Cypress Hill, Schoolly D) handle the production on the album.

That allowed Fitzy to focus on the album’s intricate layers and the its carefully-crafted track sequence. “Hard Times for Dreamers” features a classic A-side/B-side flow with an uplifting conceptual sweep — the lyrical bend gets more hopeful on the second side.

“We recorded most of the album at Joe Nicolo’s home studio in Audubon,” said Fitzy. “We thought about using his full studio – Studio Four – but the vibe there is more polished. I didn’t want things to be too worked-on and too methodical. Joe said – we need to put some dirt on it. We worked on it throughout most of 2016.”

Fitzy’s post-college career began on a high note when he performed with the Foo Fighters at the Grammy Awards as a Top Three finalist in the “My Grammy Moment” competition. Since then, he has established a career as a solo artist and a sideman.

“I grew up in a musical home,” said Fitzy. “My mom Gloria was a singer and a guitarist in a progressive rock band from the mid-70s until 1981.

“Music was continually playing in our house. My earliest memories tied to music include listening to George Benson, Al Jarreau, Genesis and Peter Gabriel. I started playing violin when I was nine in fourth grade at Caln Elementary School.

“I began picking up other instruments later, including guitar, drums, keyboards and sax – and beat-box. I had several different bands during and after college, but financial restrictions drove me to become a solo act. I’ve been able to do it by using a beatbox and doing live looping.”

Video link for Brian Fitzy – https://youtu.be/VNRNbTTsg_M.

Fitzy’s show at the Wilmington Flower Market is scheduled for May 10.

Over the next two days, MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455,  will host shows by bands that blur the lines of categorization and meld music genres with ease – The National Reserve on May 10 and Of Good Nature on May 11.

The National Reserve

The National Reserve is a New York-based quintet featuring Sean Walsh (vocals, guitar), Jon LaDeau (guitar, vocals), Matthew Stoulil (bass), Steve Okonski (organ, Wurlitzer piano), and Brian Geltner (drums, vocals).

For nearly half a decade, The National Reserve has spent its Friday nights lighting it up at a Brooklyn bar, winning over barflies with epic sets and a remarkable breadth of songcraft and showmanship. Now, with its new Ramseur Records debut album, “Motel La Grange,” the band has crafted a rich and raucous collection of hip-shaking tunes.

Founded and fronted by Walsh, The National Reserve mine an archetypal musical seam, marrying gutbucket R&B, Laurel Canyon lyricism, New Orleans funk workouts, late night soul, and boozy rock ‘n’ roll to create its own timeless brand of American music. The National Reserve is now on tour with the intention of bringing all the fun and fire of their fervent Friday night sets to the rest of the world.

“I’ve been doing this project for 10 years,” said Walsh, during a recent phone interview from his home in Brooklyn. “The first five years were different – more singer-songwriter. The last five years, I’ve had a set band.

“The biggest change was Friday nights at Skinny Dennis, a club in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). We would play four hours a night there. Now that we’ve signed with Ramseur Records, we’re touring a lot more.

“We actually started years ago at Passenger Bar. We started playing a country night. Then, this honky-tonk bar Skinny Dennis opened up around the corner. The owner offered us a one-month residency. After five weeks, we kept it going. Now, we’ve been doing it for about five years.”

The Nation Reserve has kicked the cow dung off its boots.

“Now it’s more rock music,” said Walsh. “It comes from as lot of stuff. I like a lot of old music — gospel, soul and blues. Our drummer loves Cheap Trick. We all like different stuff and it’s all been melded together.”

The National Reserve released its first recording a few years ago.

“We put out an EP three-and-a-half years ago on Lovers Dream Records,” said Walsh. “It’s called ‘Easy Does It.’ It was a little more in the songwriter style.

“‘Motel la Grange’ is our first album. We weren’t in a rush to put it out. We wanted to find the right team of people to work with.”

When people ask Walsh what his band’s genre is, he has the answer.

“I just tell them that we’re a rock-and-roll band,” said Walsh. “I wrote everything on the album except one song which was an old bluegrass standard. Most of the stuff came last summer and early fall.

“We recorded the album in Brooklyn at Studio G with producer Alexi Berthelot. Then, we mixed it in Lexington, Kentucky with Duane Lundy. We cut the whole thing live. I don’t like to do overdubs.

“The people I play with all have their individual voices with their playing. When we’re playing live, there is definitely some improvisation – letting other people have their turns.”

Video link for National Reserve – https://youtu.be/jolPKZIHJDw.

The show at MilkBoy Philadelphia, which also features Transistor Rodeo and Hayley Thompson-King, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Of Good Nature

is an indie rock-reggae group that was formed in 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The group was initiated by guitarist/vocalist Cameron Brown and drummer/percussionist Joey Vachon. The band now also features Brandon Hucks on trombone and Jon Reed on bass

Coming up in the thriving music scene in the Queen City has been vital to the band’s early success, as well as the blending of rich musical styles which transcends foundations of rock-reggae to progressive instrumentals of funk and rock n’ roll. The sophisticated fusion of genres stem from the band’s well-versed members who bring a variety of influences to the table.

Of Good Nature’s debut album, “Just Add Water,” won Indie-Ville Reggae Album of the Year and the group’s sophomore album, “Life Worth Livin,” made its debut at Number 5 on the iTunes Top Reggae Album Chart. In 2017, Of Good Nature hit the iTunes Reggae Single Charts with its infectious tune “Sit Around.”

Of Good Nature has gotten off to a strong start in 2018 with critical acclaim for its newly-released music and a well-received run of tour dates. The band’s fusion-friendly approach and willingness to explore a range of styles has allowed it to develop a highly-accessible sound which has been spreading like wildfire.

The quartet’s single “Take Me Anywhere” has been featured on Sirius XM’s The Pulse and is currently streamed on a handful of popular Spotify playlists including Reggae Summer Beach. Three additional singles are set for release this spring and summer.

Of Good Nature has been able to add to its fanbase with its record of impressive performances at festivals like Jacksonville Beach’s Salt Life Festival and other special events such as Train’s “Sail Across The Sun Cruise.”

The group’s work ethic is off-the-charts and includes a seemingly never-ending tour schedule.

The quartet recently spent quality studio time at White Star Sound with legendary producer Danny Kalb (Beck, Ben Harper, Foster the People, The Movement) and emerged with a number of polished singles.

The East Coast reggae scene has been responsible for some of the most fusion-friendly bands in recent years – bands that constantly push their music beyond the traditional “island” sound. Of Good Nature stays true to this tradition of innovation by mixing elements of funk, soul, pop, rock, and jazz with twists of reggaeton and hip-hop.

Video link for Of Good Nature — https://youtu.be/CJDfIJhhMj8.

The show at MilkBoy Philadelphia, which also features Mike Pinto, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

The Pennsylvania Ballet

The Pennsylvania Ballet is concluding its 2017-2018 Season with the classic George Balanchine ballet “Jewels,” from May 10-13 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, http://paballet.org).

“Jewels” is a three-act ballet created for the New York City Ballet by co-founder and founding choreographer George Balanchine. It premièred in April 1967 at the New York State Theater and has been described as “the first full-length abstract ballet.” It has three related movements – “Emeralds,” “Rubies,” and “Diamonds.”

Each of the three acts features the music of a different composer.

“Emeralds” is set to the music of Gabriel Fauré — “Pelléas et Mélisande” (1898) and “Shylock” (1889).

“Rubies” is set to the music of Igor Stravinsky — “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra” (1929).

“Diamonds” is set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — “Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29” (1875).

This ballet uses the music of three different composers and unfolds in three separate sections – each with its own mood that reflects the precious jewels emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.

“Emeralds” evokes the elegance of the French Romantics. Heavily influenced by Balanchine’s time in America, the second act “Rubies” showcases the crisp, high-energy of the American metropolitan world, set to Stravinsky’s jazz-inflected score. Imperial Russia serves as the inspiration for the ballet’s final act, “Diamonds,” which uses a Tchaikovsky score.

“One of Balanchine’s most loved and classic ballets is ‘Jewels,’” said Pennsylvania Ballet Artistic Director Angel Corella. “This ballet is the perfect way to celebrate our history in our final performance of the season.”

The Pennsylvania Ballet’s performances of “Jewels” are scheduled for May 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., May 12 at 2 and 8 p.m. and May 13 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35-$149.

It’s always exciting when Opening Night arrives for a production at The Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

So, expect some excitement on May 12 because it’s Opening Night for the hit comedy “Boeing Boeing.”

“Boeing Boeing” is a classic bedroom farce written by the French playwright Marc Camoletti. The English language adaptation was first staged in London at the Apollo Theatre in 1962 and transferred to the Duchess Theatre in 1965, running for a total of seven years.  In 1991, the play was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world.

Set in the 1960s, the play centers on bachelor Bernard, who has a flat in Paris and three attractive stewardesses – all of whom are engaged to him without knowing about each other. Bernard’s life gets bumpy when his friend Robert comes to stay, and a new, speedier Boeing jet disrupts his careful planning. Soon all three stewardesses are in the city simultaneously, timid Robert forgets which lies to tell whom, and catastrophe looms.

American audiences are more familiar with “Boeing Boeing” from the film of the same name which was a box office success in the mid-1960s. The movie starred Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. It was released on December 22, 1965 and was the last film Lewis made with Paramount Pictures. The play also had its Broadway debut in 1965.

The 2008 revival garnered several Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress, Best Director, Best Costume Design and Best Sound Design and won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play and Mark Rylance who played Robert, won for Best Leading Actor.

The Candlelight Theatre is presenting the classic rip-roaring, door-slamming, furniture-jumping bedroom farce of the swinging 60s from May 12-June 24.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evening (doors, 6 p.m.; show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (doors, 1 p.m.; show, 3 p.m.). There is a Thursday evening performance June 14 and two Wednesday matinees, May 16 and June 6. There are no performances Memorial Day weekend, May 25 – 27. All tickets include dinner and show and are $63 for adults.

Steve Katz

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present “An Evening of Stories & Songs with Steve Katz (founding member of Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears)” on May 11, “First Impression – A Progressive Classic Rock Tribute” on May 12, Brendan James and Pete Muller on May 15, and Matthew Ryan and Sammy Kay on May 16.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host House of Hamill on May 11, and Starbelly & the Walkabouts on May 12.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present

David Olney with Michael Braunfeld on May 11, and Ana Egge with Joshua Howard on May 12.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Friday Night Fever on May 11, The Temptations and The Four Tops on May 12, and Clementine on May 16.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) is hosting The Secret Sisters and Brian Dunne on May 10, Robert Kline on May 11, Brand X on May 12, “When Swing Was King (Benny Goodman Tribute)” on May 13, Danielle Nicole and Nate Myers & The Aces on May 13, Stryper Acoustic Duo Featuring Michael Sweet & Oz Fox on May 14, and Indigenous May 16.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Lisa Lampanelli on May 11 and “My Father’s Dragon” on May 14.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will have Kat Edmonson on May 10, Nalani and Sarina on May 11, “The Rock Orchestra performs Peter Gabriel” on May 12, and Dark Star Orchestra on May 15.

The Rainbow Comedy Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, http://www.rainbowcomedy.com) is presenting “Whose Wife Is It, Anyway” now through May 26.

Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m. There will also be “Twilight Performances” on selected Sundays with dinner at 2:30 p.m. and the show at 4 p.m. Ticket prices range from $27-$63.

 

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