On Stage: Don’t ‘sleep’ on Toby Lightman

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Toby Lightman

Toby Lightman, who is headlining a show on July 26 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com), released her latest album “When The Lion Sleeps” earlier this year.

Lightman, a talented pop singer-songwriter, has been making albums since 2004. Her new LP is unlike anything she has ever done before.

“When The Lion Sleeps” is a collection of acoustic covers – and so much more. It is an album of rock songs performed as lullabies for her two-year-old son Leo.

“There are acoustic versions of songs I listened to when I was young and want my son to hear,” said Lightman, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from Manhattan, where she currently lives with her husband and young son.

“When I was pregnant, I got a lot of gifts and a lot of lullaby albums. A lot of the lullaby albums were instrumentals and Leo didn’t really react to them.

“At the same time, I was having a hard time writing anything original. So, I looked for and found songs that were so right to sing to him.”

The songs Lightman chose to record come from a variety of genres — classic reggae (“Three Little Birds” by the Wailers); doo-wop (“Goodnite Sweetheart Goodnite” by The Spaniels); jazz (Louis Armstrong’s “(What a) Wonderful World”); Motown (“How Sweet It Is” by Marvin Gaye; “The Way You Do The Things You Do” by the Temptations); classic R&B (“That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding: “Dedicated to the One I Love” by the Shirelles; “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins); classic rock (“Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens; “Blackbird” by the Beatles).

There is also one original “You’re the Best”) as well as the title track – a remake of a traditional African song that was turned into a chart-topping hit by the Tokens in 1961.

“I’m working on a new album,” said Lightman. “I’m compiling songs and hoping to release a single in late fall or early spring. I’m working on a lot of songs and singles are part of the plan.”

Lightman is currently producing her new recordings entirely on her own, playing all of the instruments and mixing the tracks as well.  These songs represent and were inspired by her desire to get pregnant — something she had to struggle to accomplish.

According to Lightman, “These songs are extremely personal to me as they are what came out of a hard battle with infertility.  I wanted the song as well as the production to be 100% from me and it is.”

Lightman still prefers albums.

“Right now, I’m working on building a story and making an album,” said Lightman. “I’ve done so many singles which are fun but not representative of the emotional journey an artist is on. I like to think of the whole picture. I have seven songs written. Some might be stand-alones.

“I’m just letting the creativity flow. I start with a melody. I’m a melody person tried and true. The melody is most important and then the lyrics come after. I have a lot of melodies circulating in my brain. In the end, melodied sand lyrics have to be the perfect match.”

Lightman grew up in the Philly suburbs on the Jersey side of the Delaware River and graduated from Cherry Hill East H.S. So, coming back to play a how here is a welcomed homecoming.

According to Lightman, “I am always excited to play a show at World Cafe Live, but this show feels extra special because I’ll be playing some new material off of my latest release as well as trying out new songs for my next project. My Philly crowd is always so fun and energizing. I know it will be great”

Video link for Toby Lightman – https://youtu.be/TAVtALpSZ-U.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Andrea Nardello as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Philly Music Fest on September 27 and 28 and Lucinda Williams on October 1.

On September 27, The Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602, www.voltagelounge.com) is hosting Aetsthetic Perfection’s “Into the Black Tour” – a large stateside tour that has Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK as support acts.

Aesthetic Perfection

“Into the Black” is also the name of Aesthetic Perfection’s latest album which was released on March 29, 2019 via Graves’ own label –Close to Human Music.

“This is the first tour of the album in the states,” said Graves, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a Wal-Mart parking lot in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We toured the album in April in Europe. Our live lineup is Elliott Berlin on keyboards, guitar and bass and Joe Letz on drums. We’ve also brought Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK with us.

“At the beginning, I played a couple shows solo. I found them to be uninspired and uninteresting. We’ve been a three-piece ever since.”

 Since forming Aesthetic Perfection nearly two decades ago, Graves has released five full-length albums, numerous singles and music videos, all the while reinventing what it means to be a dark electro artist. Blending industrial, pop, goth, and everything in between, Aesthetic Perfection ‘s music defies definitions.

Aesthetic Perfection makes brutal industrial music that rattles listeners’ ribcages and at the same time soothes their ears – often in the same song.

According to Graves, “For me, this era of Aesthetic Perfection feels like a new beginning. New album, new live band… it’s an entirely different and amazing vibe. I can’t wait to share it with the world.”

 “Into the Black” features Letz, recognized for his work with artists such as Emigrate (also featuring Richard Z. Kruspe), Combichrist, Wednesday 13, Genitorturers, along with several other top-shelf heavy music artists such as Rammstein guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe, Jinxx of Black Veil Brides, Mick Kenney of Anaal Nathrakh and Krischan Wesenberg of Rotersand.

“I’m the primary songwriter/producer,” said Graves, an L.A. native who now lives near Linz, Austria. “I consult the other guys for their feedback. I co-wrote several of the songs with Mick (Kenney). I called Jinxx and he played guitar on all but ‘Gods & Gold’ which had Richard (Kruspe).

“I told myself I’d finish 20 songs and then choose the best. I recorded 15 and chose 10 songs for the album. I started making all the tracks and had to arrange the songs in a way that told a vague story.

“I’ve been writing a lot of these songs over the last four or five years – ever since my last full-length ‘’Til Death’ in 2014. Albums are a snapshot of who you are at the time.”

 Video link for Aesthetic Perfection – https://youtu.be/JMBzgU2z6WQ.

The show at The Voltage Lounge, which has Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK as openers, will start at 10 p.m.

Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at the Voltage Lounge are Hangman on September 26, Hail the Sun on September 28, Stand Atlantic and The Faim on September 29, and Jinjer on October 1.

“Triple G” is the nickname of Gennadiy Gennadyevich Golovkin, a Kazakh professional boxer who is ranked as the world’s second-best active middleweight and was the #1 pound for pound fighter in the world in 2017 and 2018.

“Triple G” could also be used to describe the three-act bill at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,

www.johnnybrendas.com) on September 27.

Gianmarco Cilli

The lineup of acts scheduled to play at the music venue in Fishtown Friday night includes Generationals, Gemma and Gianmarco Cilli.

Cilli has been part of the Philadelphia’s music scene for almost two decades – but it took him a while to get here.

“I moved here in 2001,” said Cilli, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from his home in South Philly.

“I was born in New York. I grew up in Atlanta and then went to college in Colorado – Colorado Colle in Colorado Springs. I started out as a chemistry major and then switched to a major in English with a minor in film.

“I was always into music. One of my many goals when I was in college was to be in a band. I started playing guitar when I was 10 and then started playing in bands with friends in middle school and high school.

“I played in two different bands when I was in college. One was The Project Project. That band moved to Philadelphia and eventually became National Eye.”

National Eye is an American indie-rock band. The band formed in 2002 from a core of five members who had met in college. The band’s sound has been described as psychedelic, post-rock, and lo-fi. National Eye evolved from The Project Project which moved to Philadelphia in 2000.

The band adopted the name National Eye, when it started recording “The Meter Glows.”  For its first two two albums, National Eye adhered to a communal approach to songwriting and recording. Band members William Baggott, Gianmarco Cilli, Richard Flom, Douglas Kirby, and Jeffrey Alan Love contributed equally in a “democratic, collective” recording philosophy.

“I was still in Colorado playing with a band there,” said Cilli. “But they were all a year behind me in school. The guys from The Project Project contacted me because they had to replace a band member who left. It was good timing. It was the right time to go.

“That led to me meeting all the players in the Philly music scene – Dr. Dog, Spintoi Band, Kurt Vile, Capitol Years. National Eye never really broke up. It just gradually became inactive after releasing the ‘Ramparts’ album in 2012.

“I was also playing with Winsor for the Derby around 2005 and 2006. I also played with The Silver Ages at the end of the 00s.”

Cilli also began his solo career at the start of the decade.

“I was still in National Eye,” said Coilli. “We all wrote songs but there were only so many that would fit on the record or in a set.

“I started accumulating extra songs that I liked. My first solo album was ‘Homely Joys’ in 2008. I made a home-recorded EP in 2012 and my new album is my second full-length.”

Cilli’s new album is “The Feel is Now.” His musical collaborators include Charlie Hall and Dave Hartley of The War on Drugs, Zach Miller of Dr.Dog, James Lavino and producer, engineer and mixer Nick Krill.

“It had been seven years since I’ve done any shows,” said Cilli. “I’m a bit of a reluctant performer for my solo stuff.

“I started making my new album in May 2016. It took quite a while. My wife and I had our second child that year. And, I needed a hip replacement because of a disease that was eroding my femur. I finished the album earlier this year.”

Video link for Gianmarco Cilli – https://youtu.be/PGcA6jJUyac.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which features Generationals, Gemma and Gianmarco Cilli, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Speedy Ortiz on September 26, Dressy Bessy on September 29, Acid King “Busse Woods” 20th Anniversary Tour on October 1 and Fred Frith on October 2.

Michael Sackler-Berner

Singer-songwriter Michael Sackler-Berner just released his new album “Short Stories” on The Orchard label and is touring in support of the LP. The tour brings him to Philly on September 27 for a show at Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 South Ninth Street, Philadelphia, https://conniesricrac.com).

Sackler-Berner grew up in the Tribeca area of New York City and now lives and has his recording studio in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn. The two areas are less than four miles apart, but it took a long time and a roundabout path for Sackler-Berner to make the trip.

“I grew up in Tribeca and then went to college at McGill University in Montreal,” said Sackler-Berner, during a phone interview Wednesday morning from his Brooklyn home.

“I got into a few other schools and did the college tour with my parents. We visited schools like Duke and Vanderbilt that were in college towns. Then, we went to Montreal. I met a kid who was studying music tech – and it was a city. I’m a city kid.”

So, McGill was his final choice. Soon, he realized how good a music town Montreal was – and still is.

“That was a good time to be in Montreal,” said Sackler-Berner. “Arcade Fire was breaking. A real music thing was happening. The arts get good government support in Canada.

“When I was living in Montreal, I played in a band called Hearts of Palms. We started as a college band and then made a record. We even were one of the acts at International Live8 in Montreal. After I graduated, I hung around Montreal for about six months until I headed back to New York.”

Sackler-Berner performed solo concerts in Greenwich Village, New York City from 2006-2009. His debut album, “MSB,” was released in 2010. “MSB” was produced by Bob Thiele Jr., and featured contributions from longtime Bob Dylan bandmates Jim Keltner and David Mansfield. Songs from “MSB” went on to be licensed more than 30 times on cable and network television programs including FX’s Sons of Anarchy, and NBC’s Law and Order. Sackler-Berner was then signed to Razor and Tie Music Publishing in 2013.

“I met David Mansfield,” said Sackler-Berner. “He was a friend of my father. He had played pedal steel, fiddle and mandolin in the Rolling Thunder Revue with Bob Dylan.

“He was the only real musician I knew. I played my songs for him. He said – they’re good but you need to work on them more. He introduced me to a guy named Bob Thiele, Jr. from L.A. and Bob was a big help – especially getting me started in film and TV placements.

“When I was making the ‘MSB’ album, I was pretty young, so I didn’t know a lot of the session men Bob brought in for the recording sessions.

“I didn’t even know who Jim Keltner was. It was like a master class working with him. He knew so much, and he shared it all with me.”

Keltner is an American drummer known primarily for his session work. He was characterized by Bob Dylan biographer Howard Sounes as “the leading session drummer in America.”  The outrageously long list of acts with whom he has played includes Neil Young, Carly Simon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Traveling Wilburys, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Delaney & Bonnie, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Brian Wilson and John Lennon.

“After ‘MSB,’ I was experimenting to find the sound I loved – something that would hold up for a full album,” said Sackler-Berner. “I got signed to a publishing deal and did co-writing.

“A year or so ago, I took all my best songs that I’d been saving up. I took each song and had it produced based on what the song called for. I recorded it at Studio G in Brooklyn, and it has a lot of different styles – synth-pop, big band, Moroccan chants, some soul things and two pop ballads.

“It represented six years of writing. I cut the album over five months in three-to-four-day spurts. I had to do it that way because different songs needed different players. For my current lives shows, I’m not using a band. It’s just a duo featuring Canadian pianist Cat Toren and me.”

Video link for Michael Sackler-Berner — https://youtu.be/FELCle4ZfPc.

The show at Connie’s Ric Rac will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.

Other upcoming shows at the Mojo Machine on September 28 and This Is So Fetch on October 1.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org)

Bonnie McFarlane

Bonnie McFarlane Stand-Up Comedy Show on September 27, StringSongs featuring Michael Manring, Christopher Garcia, and Tim Farrell with special guest Lisa Jeanette on September 28 and Latin Dance Party with Conjunto on September 29.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Joseph Parsons and Ross Bellenoit on September 27 and ETC Theater Company: A Night of Stand Up Comedy on September 28

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com)

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Jeff Bradshaw & Friends on September 26, Steve Kimock & Friends on September 28, and Jimmy Herring with special guest Rugby Road on

Sunday, 9/29 – 7pm

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com).will host Roots of a Rebellion and Big Mind on September 26.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Steve Hackett on September 27 and 28.

Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, https://annenbergcenter.org/events) hosts Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal from September 26-28 and “Sugar Skull” on September 27 and 28.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Jason Petty on September 26, Purple Xperience (Tribute To Prince) on September 27, An Afternoon Of Conversation & Song With Peter Yarrow (Of Peter, Paul & Mary) on September 28, CSNsongs (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Tribute) on September 28, Red Hot Chilli Pipers on September 29, and Blues Project on October 2.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) presents Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi onSeptember 28 and George Thorogood and the Destroyers on October 1.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will host Patrick Sweany with special guests The Levee Drivers on September 26 and The Nields on September 28.

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