On Stage: Double Vision, stand up comedy at Uptown!

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Double Vision

This will be a busy weekend at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, uptownwestchester.org).

On January 7, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center will host a show featuring the band Double Vision.

The band’s name should give music fans an idea of what kind of music to expect.

“Double Vision” was the name of the sophomore album by Foreigner in 1978. The title track also reached Number Two on the Billboard magazine Hot 100. Its predecessor, “Hot Blooded,” also reached the heights when it climbed to Number Three on the same charts earlier in the year.

“Double Vision – The Foreigner Experience” authentically recreates Foreigner’s hits from the 1970s and 1980s.

Featuring some of New York City’s top professional rock musicians, Double Vision is a seven-piece band that delivers an unparalleled level of integrity and technical prowess, resulting in a legitimate tribute and authentic performance.

Double Vision was founded by lead singer Chandler Mogel, a professional studio vocalist who has performed on more than 400 songs and more than 25 albums.

“Double Vision is a tribute to the music of Foreigner,” said Mogel, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Secaucus, New Jersey.

“In a sense, it holds its own. I didn’t want it to be a tribute band with guys wearing wigs. It’s about the music. People have always told me I sound like Lou Gramm.”

Foreigner is a British-American rock band, originally formed in New York City in 1976 by veteran British guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones and fellow Briton and ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald, along with American vocalist Lou Gramm. Jones came up with the band’s name as he, McDonald and Dennis Elliott were British while Gramm, Al Greenwood and Ed Gagliardi were American.

Foreigner arrived on the scene as a band loaded with talented veteran British musicians.

Jones was a singer, songwriter, and record producer. Prior to Foreigner, he was in the band Spooky Tooth.

McDonald was a multi-instrumentalist best known as a founding member of King Crimson in 1969. He is well regarded as a rock session musician as a saxophonist, keyboardist, flautist, and guitarist.

Elliott was a musician and artist who burst on the scene in the 1970s as the drummer for the pioneering jazz-rock British band If.

In 1977 Foreigner released its self-titled debut album, the first of four straight albums to be certified at least five-times platinum in the US. “Foreigner” peaked at Number Four on the US album chart and in the Top 10 in Canada and Australia, while yielding two Top 10 hits in North America, “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold as Ice.”

The band’s 1978 follow-up, “Double Vision,” was even more successful — peaking at Number Three. Foreigner’s third album, “Head Games,” went to Number Five in North America and featured two Top 20 singles.

“Double Vision started as a band a year before COVID started,” said Mogel. “More than half of the band’s existence has been during COVID.

“With the lockdown, we knew we couldn’t sit down and do nothing. So, we brought Kathy (Wagner, President/Agent, Panzyler Entertainment Group) on board. Had we been with anyone else, the band would have been dead.

“We posted some of our shows on YouTube for six or seven weeks. People were very receptive. We set up in our living room – ‘Live on the Orange Couch.’ We made it as personable as possible.”

In August 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Double Vision performed a worldwide livestream from the prestigious Daryl’s House Club in Pawling, New York – the venue where Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates films his award-winning TV series “Live From Daryl’s House.”

“The Livestream went out O.K. but we weren’t able to have a live audience,” said Mogel. “The Livestream show got thousands and thousands of views.

“The live show with a live audience got moved three times. In April 2021, we did a Livestream with 50 people in the audience.”

Double Vision’s line-up also features Sean Tarr (lead guitar, backing vocals), Scott DuBoys (drums),Chris Tristram (bass, backing vocals), Alex Lubin (keyboards), Jason Draven (guitar, backing vocals) and Tony Carfora (saxophone).

“In our show, we go back and do a lot of stuff from Foreigner’s first record, including ‘Starrider,’” said Mogel. “We do all the big hits. It’s a night of non-stop hits so there’s not a lot of time for deep cuts. We do play ‘At War with the World’ which was just an album track on the first album.”

In addition to filling the room at Daryl’s House, the band has sold out several other top tier venues this year, including Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland; Penns Peak in Lehigh Valley; Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe; and The Vogel in Red Bank, New Jersey.

While many tribute acts feature music by groups that have either disbanded or no longer tour, Double Vision is playing the music of a still-active band. Foreigner tours a lot every year and has an upcoming multi-week gig at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

“Foreigner still tours rabidly,” said Mogel. “That could be a disadvantage. At the same time, it helps us because they don’t play our area a lot.

“This weekend’s show will be the first time we’re played the Uptown. Actually, it’s our first show in the Philadelphia area. The closest we’ve come was in early 2020 at the casino in Harrington, Delaware.”

Video link for Double Vision — https://youtu.be/OhWBcH-vG8Q.

The show at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center on January 7 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.

With the post-holiday doldrums setting in and the prospect of three months of cold, bleak winter weather ahead, now is a good time for comedy shows – for shows that make you smile and laugh.

There are two good comedy shows on January 8 at area venues. The Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center is one of them and Jamey’s House of Music inLansdowne is the other.

Jim McCue

On Saturday night, the Uptown! will present “Best of the Boston Comedy Festival” featuring Jim McCue, Carolyn Plummer and Dave Decker.
Jim McCue went viral this year with his DryBar special “nothing personal” which has had three million views. He has been featured on Comedy Central, Comcast Comedy Spotlight, NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and Live at Gotham AXS.

Since 2000, McCue has also entertained U.S. troops at hundreds of military zones and in several war zones around the world.

The veteran comic star has played hundreds of cities around America and in more than 50 countries around the world. When he takes the stage at the Uptown! on Saturday, it will only be the second time he has performed in the area.

“I also played the Uptown! two years ago,” said McCue, during a phone interview from his car Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a really nice theater run by nice people. I’m glad to be coming back.”

A mixture of witty “A-list material” and his ability to work off-script has earned McCue the title “Boston’s King of Crowd Work!” It’s not only his height (6-6) that makes McCue stand head and shoulders above club comedians of the “stick-to-the-script” variety.

McCue blends thought-provoking material and uncanny improv skills with a style that encourages audience participation. No two shows are ever the same.

“I’m old enough to remember Johnny Carson and the comedians of that day,” said McCue. “I learned the trade in all the clubs – Nick’s Comedy Stop, Improv, Catch a Rising Star.

“I live in Connecticut now, but I’m based in Boston. I grew up in Hampton, New Hampshire. That’s why I don’t have a Boston accent.”

McCue founded and currently runs The Boston Comedy Festival. He works in top comedy clubs in Boston, Las Vegas, New York, Dublin, Montreal and Edinburgh.

“It was in1989 when had my first open mic – at Billy Jack’s in Glastonbury, Connecticut,” said McCue. “After a short time, I was getting offered paid work. I moved to Boston in 1990. There was a big comedy scene then – Paula Poundstone, Sarah Silverman, Bobcat Goldthwait.”

McCue travelled down the comic’s well-worn “MC-feature-headline” trail smoothly.

“When I got to Boston, I moved along pretty quickly,” said McCue. “Dick Doherty, who owned several comedy clubs around New England started giving me work. I started getting featuring gigs in the early 90s.

“I got on Comedy Central in the mid-90s and then ‘Last Comic Standing.’ I did cruise ships and a lot of USO tours in different war zones, I wrote a book about doing comedy in a war zone – in Bosnia.”

The book, “Embedded Comedian,” was published in 2011. The following description can be found on the purchase page on Amazon – “From Boston comedian Jim McCue comes a true account of entertaining our troops overseas while keeping one’s sense of humor intact. To many, the idea of doing a tour of duty in Iraq is no laughing matter. Yet for Jim McCue along with fellow Boston comedian and friend Joey Carroll, that’s exactly what it is, as they perform standup comedy to bring smiles and laughter to the troops’ otherwise very serious lives.

This discerning memoir, taken from McCue’s own journal entries while stationed abroad, explores the fine line between laughter and sorrow as he experiences what it is like to live as a soldier in a war zone on a thirty-day adventure leaving both Carroll and him embedded in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and finally Iraq.

McCue’s reflections on each new experience, such as visiting the mess hall at Camp Diamondback where a bomb killed 22 people with 14 of them being U.S. soldiers, are sharp and accessible, and provide the opportunity to follow along with both comedians as they take off for duty without being given any itinerary for security purposes, being told as they go along what to eat, where to go and what to do.”

With his unique act, McCue keeps the audience on its toes. Volleying between set material and working the crowd, he cracks jokes with amazing timing and whip-like precision.

“My comedy style features doing set material and interacting with the audience,” said McCue. “And I can do ‘clean’ and ‘not clean.’ It depends on the audience.”

Video link for Jim McCue – https://youtu.be/lFbXSgOrhfA.

Carolyn Plummer

A Google search revealed that Carolyn Plummer passed away in Texas on December 28, 2021. She is not coming back from the dead to perform at the Uptown! this Saturday – wrong Carolyn Plummer.

Carolyn Plummer lives in central Pennsylvania and has a staging service for people wanting to sell their homes. She will not be onstage at the Uptown! this Saturday – wrong Carolyn Plummer.

Carolyn Plummer is a comedian who lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. She will be part of the “Best of the Boston Comedy Festival” in West Chester this weekend – correct Carolyn Plummer.

Like McCue, she grew up in New Hampshire – Wolfeboro – and that is why she doesn’t have a Boston accent.

“I do comedy full-time,” said Plummer, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in the Boston area.

“I was going to work a cruise ship prior to the pandemic. Now, they’re having trouble again.”

Plummer traces her comedic skills back to her childhood days.

“My dad was a minister, and I was the youngest of three kids,” said Plummer.

“I was a wise ass in school. I got sent to the principal a lot. He was cool. He’d ask what I said to get myself in trouble. He’d tell me – that’s funny bit you can’t say it in class. Sit here for 15 minutes and then just go back to class.”

Plummer attended college at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire and that’s where she officially started her career as a comic.

“I saw an ad for a comedy class in New Hampshire,” said Plummer. “At the end, you get to do standup. The teacher encouraged me to keep at it – so I did.

“I began doing open mics in New Hampshire – Gilford and Manchester – and at the Comedy Connection in Portland, Maine.

“I was driving more and more to Boston in 2003. I moved to Boston and the rest is history. I played Giggles, Comedy Connection Nick’s Comedy Stop, Calhoun Comedy, Comedy Connection and some of Dick Doherty’s clubs.

“I feature a lot and I headline as well. In Boston, all the old school headliners are still here in their sixties and still performing. So, it’s harder to get headline gigs.”

Plummer is a Boston Comedy Festival favorite and had been selected to perform at the Boston Fleet Center in front of 17,000 people this November with Dennis Leary’s “Comics Come Home.”

“‘Comics Come Home’ in November got cancelled,” said Plummer. “Just a little more bad luck on my part.”

Plummer is not a topical comedian. Instead, she gets her material from the humdrum, day-to-day monotony of the life of everyman.

“I talk about my crazy family and the stupid shit that happens to me,” said Plummer.

“At first, it was hard to get the timing for the lead. I was a writing major, so I realized I had to get to the point faster.

“I’m not a crowd work person like Jim McCue. I’m more a storyteller with a punch line and I structure my story with jokes within jokes.”

Video link for Carolyn Plummer — https://youtu.be/NztJ4Q1Hw6I.

Host Dave Decker, a native of Massachusetts, performs regularly at clubs from Boston to New York City. Winner of the coveted Betty Crocker Award in 1975, Decker brings his distinct point of view to the stage in a way that both engages and charms audiences.

Video link for Dave Decker — https://youtu.be/soeW_aDM76g.

The show on January 8 at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will have a similar schedule format for this weekend – live music on Friday night and a comedy showcase on Saturday night.

The show on Saturday night will feature Zack Hammond as the headline with Gary Sharp and Pat George as the opening acts.

Hammond has been plying his trade as a stand-up comic for more than a dozen years.

“I’m a full-time comic,” said Hammond, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I’m mostly on the road – doing what I can.”

Being on the road a lot can be a good thing if you home is in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania and your hometown is Myersville in Frederick County in western Maryland.

“Myersville is where they captured the D.C. snipers,” noted Hammond.

In 2006, Hammond left the hustle-and-bustle of Myersville and replaced it with the hustle-and-bustle of Wyoming Valley where he graduated with a writing degree after four years at Kings College.

“When I graduated, I was already doing comedy,” said Hammond. “I chose to stay here so I could live in a dirt-cheap place that was a good location to do comedy work in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“I’ve always been a fan of comedy. I was doing comedy in college, but I had to wait until I was 21 because the clubs have liquor laws.

“My first show was at Wisecrackers in Scranton – three minutes and it was horrible. But the host encouraged me to come back – and I did. After that, I kept travelling on to different places to play.

“It’s been 13 years since I started with open mics, and I was doing MC stage by the end of the first year. It took me another five years to feature and that bled into headline.”

Hammond’s humor is not for sensitive audiences – not because he is gross or drops one expletive after another. It is because Hammond’s humor is dark humor.

“I don’t have pleasant thoughts – I never have,” said Hammond. “I don’t have the ability to make humor like Jim Gaffigan.”
Hammond takes topics such as going to Catholic grade school, suicide, disastrous shows, Nazis in America and fat shaming and somehow manages to find a humorous slant about each.

“I don’t take anything seriously,” said Hammond. “I didn’t deliberately look for screwed-up things that I can talk about. They are just there.”

Hammond’s jokes may be in-your-face real but are never depressing.

According to Hammond, ““There is nothing I wouldn’t joke about. If I can find a way to make it funny, I will do it.”

Hammond follows a “Nothing Is Sacred” school of thought.

“It took a while to figure out how to talk about something dark — three-to-four years to figure out that I had to understand what I say is funny,” said Hammond.

“The hardest thing for me is to get people into what I’m doing. I’ve always had a slant that was different. It’s hard at first to get people on board. I talk aboutschool shootings, homeless people, pedophile teachers, abortion.”

According to Hammond, “Comedy is there to make people laugh, and comics are like flavors of ice cream – some you like, some you don’t. If you don’t like what someone jokes about, walk away and find someone who you do like. You don’t have a right to be offended, but you do have the ability to enjoy the things that don’t offend you. Try that.”

Hammond has logged a lot of miles, performed a lot of shows and learned a lot about the profession over the last 13 years.

“Whatever your act is, you have to warm them up,” said Hammond. “You have to get them to trust you.

“Story-wise, I’m an English major, so I learned how to write and tell stories. I’ve always been good at telling stories. I know what the big punch line is and where the little punch lines are.”

Last year, Hammond released his latest album, “Because I’m Considerate.” It was recorded locally at a show at the at Midnight Oil Brewing in Newark, Delaware.

Video link for Zack Hammond — https://youtu.be/1jqTb23ttP8.

LeMaire Lee was originally on Saturday’s bill but has been replaced by Gary Sharp.

“LeMaire was going to be the third act,” said Sharp, during a phone interview Tuesday night from his home in South Philadelphia. “Then he got asked to do a Punch Line gig, so he pulled out – understandably – and brought me into it.”

Sharp’s history never appeared to be heading to a career in comedy.

“I’m from South Jersey — Burlington Township,” said Sharp. “In high school, I went to a boarding school in Hightstown – to Peddie School on a football scholarship. In 2014, I graduated and went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“I played football there too. I was a tailback. I graduated with a degree in civil engineering and now work in construction management.”

Humor was always in his life.

“Growing up, I was always laughing,” said Sharp. “I always enjoyed comedy.

“In 2019, I was living in South Philly – actually Queen’s Village. They offered at ‘Stand-Up 101’ class at Helium (Comedy Club on Philly). I took the class, and it was an incredible six-week class. We had a graduation show and I killed it.

“I finished the class and hit the ground running. I got booked for two shows in February 2020 and did both. I had more booked for the spring but then everything shut down in March.”
Sharp’s career got back on track this year.

“I’ve still got to do open mics,” said Sharp. “It’s a necessary evil.

“I started up again in the beginning of summer. I was doing 15-20 gigs a month – some feature work but mostly hosting gigs.

“Two friends of mine started a monthly show at Penns Port Beer Boutique in Philadelphia. It will be a year in May. It’s called ‘Boozed and Confused Comedy Showcase’ and the next one will be January 25.”

Sharp is a storytelling comic.

“The topics are things like growing up, family, relationships, myself, not wanting kids.

“They deem me as a ‘twisty’ comic. I lead you down a path and then hit you with a left-turn punch. I’m quick and witty.”

Video link for Gary Sharp — https://videos.ctfassets.net/z7jxy1j5016o/6yJ5x9BCJsxykoG2eNJXO4/1454e24dcdf2bd9303ca43e84fa4e2e3/trim.48B44D79-5D62-4125-9860-C68FF78BE76B.MOV#t=0.5.

Pat George (The Hard Times/Baby Mermaid Productions on YouTube) is a comedian/podcaster who is native of St. Peterburg, Florida who currently lives in Harrisburg.

He works up and down the east coast, spreading his unique form of “Peaceful Nihilism” shrouded in silliness.

Video link for Pat George — https://youtu.be/NJz0qXQecgk.

The show at Jamey’s on September 8 will start at 8 p.m. with the kitchen opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 online advance and $30 at the door.

The live music at Jamey’s on Friday evening will be performed by Gabe Stillman.

Stillman, an accomplished blues guitarist from Williamsport, last played in this area back in February with a Livestream show at the at Sellersville Theater.

“I started playing live in front of audiences not long after that,” said Stillman, during a phone call Wednesday from his home in the birthplace of Little League Baseball.

“That was at the end of March. I’ve stayed busy all through this year.”

Stillman was busiest during a two-week period in April.

“I went to Austin in April and recorded my first album,” said Stillman. “It was produced by Anton Funderbergh at Wire Recording.”

Funderbergh is top-flight guitarist and the bandleader of Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets since 1978. Their style incorporates both Chicago blues and Texas blues. He is also one of the most respected producers in Texas’ capitol city.

“I met Anton at the International Blues Challenge a couple years ago,” said Stillman. “I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager. He’s in my top 10 list of blues players. And I loved his production work with other people.”

Stillman’s album, “Just Say the Word,” was released in August by the Vizztone Label Group.

“It’s a 15-song album – 13 originals and two covers,” said Stillman. “The covers were Bill Withers’ ‘Friend of Mine’ and Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘I’ll Take Care of You.’

“When the album came out in August, it debuted at Number 10 on the Billboard Magazine Blues chart. It was also named one of the top blues albums of 2021 by Roots Music Report.

“I brought my rhythm section Bassist Colin Beatty and drummer Ray Hangen – down to Austin. In the studio, we used Taylor Streiff, a piano player from St. Louis, Austin’s Texas Horns and had Sue Foley and Anton playing guitar on one track.”

It was a big step forward for Stillman, who has been studying guitar for almost a decade-and-a-half.

“I started taking guitar lessons when I was 11,” said Stillman. “I’m 25 now so I’ve been playing for 14 years.

“When I started out, I wanted to play heavy rock and heavy metal. Listening to guitarists in those genres, I realized that their playing was very fast and technically complicated. A teacher told me to learn rock by getting into the blues.

“So, I started listening to a lot of blues guitarists like B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Elmore James. I was also listening to guitarist such as Duane Allman and Derek Trucks. I realized – hey, I can do this. I got hooked on blues and R&B – and jazz. When I was 13 or 14, I started to perform live.”

A key stage in Stillman’s development came at the Uptown Music Collective in Williamsport.

For 20 years, the Uptown Music Collective has been providing exceptional modern music education grounded in traditional educational principles. Its programs engage students through an emphasis on modern genres including rock, pop, soul, blues, country, R&B, and funk.

“I studied at the Uptown Music Collective when I was younger,” said Stillman. “I also taught there after I got out of college.”

Stillman spent his college years in Boston where he got a degree in “Professional Music” with an emphasis on guitar performance and songwriting.

“I started my band in 2015 after graduating from Berklee,” said Stillman, whose honors include making it to “Final Eight” of the 35th Annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis Tennessee.

“My band has been primarily a trio but at the Blues Challenge, I made it to the finals with the addition of a harmonica player in the group.

“My bass player Colin Beatty, who is also from Williamsport, has been with me the whole time. We’ve had different drummers come in-and-out. Right now, our drummer is Ray Hangen from Buffalo, New York.

“With the trio, we play mostly blues and American rock. There also is a little mix of R&B in there.”

Video link for Gabe Stillman — https://youtu.be/QGIJgb51Kw8.

The show at Jamey’s on January 7 will start at 8 p.m. with the kitchen opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 online advance and $30 at the door.

Jamey’s House of Music this week posted this message –

“COVID Statement: We have reduced our seating capacity by 25% from 80 to 60 to provide more space per patron for increased safety. Full covid vaccinations, including a booster, are required (honor system) and once again, masks are required unless sitting and actively eating/drinking until covid is under control. In addition, Jamey’s has implemented mitigation measures that greatly exceed CDC guidelines to help keep you safe and worry free.”

For more than a month, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) has presenting the world premiere of “A Christmas Carol.”

All the live shows sold out. Fortunately, you can stream the filmed version of “A Christmas Carol,” featuring Ian Merrill Peakes as Ebenezer Scrooge, now through January 6 for $25.

This version of “A Christmas Carol” is adapted from Charles Dickens by Zak Berkman and features original music by Zak Berkman.

Callous Scrooge, shackled Marley, and the haunting spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future spring vividly to life in this fresh adaptation of a favorite yuletide ghost story.

Featuring a lively mix of original songs and newly arranged 19th-century English carols, this music-infused retelling captures the magic, joy, and generosity of Dickens’ beloved classic.

Each year, the People’s Light holiday show is a panto that transforms a beloved children’s story into a musical extravaganza filled with outrageous characters, toe-tapping original music, slapstick comedy, and topical humor for both kids and adults.

“A Christmas Carol” is not a panto. But it is music-filled, interactive fun for every age — whether you believe in spirits or not.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Lez Zeppelin (all female Led Zeppelin tribute) on January 7 and Boat House Row on January 8.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Four Lean Hounds on January 6, Super Unknown on January 7, Baked Shrimp on January 8 and Amanda & Teddy on January 12.

City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia) will have Griffin House on January 6, Broken Arrow on January 7, Urban Guerilla Orchestra on January 8.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus (Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) will present the touring Broadway musical “Pretty Woman” now through January 16 (Academy of Music), Vox Ama Deus on January 7 (Perelman Theater) and Rock the Organ on January 8 (Verizon Hall).

World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host Countdown to Ecstasy on January 7 and Breakwater with Seth Aaron on January 8.

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