On Stage: Rolo Tomassi at Underground Arts, Friday

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Rolo Tomassi

Rolo Tomassi just released its sixth album, “Where Myth Becomes Memory,” and arrived in America last week to begin a support tour for the album.

The tour gets underway on September 1 at the Brighton Music Hall in Massachusetts and then heads straight to Philly for a show on September 2 at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org).

Rolo Tomassi, which got its start in Sheffield, England, features Eva Korman – lead vocals; James Spence – backing and lead vocals, keyboards, piano, synthesizers; Chris Cayford – guitar; Nathan Fairweather – bass guitar; and Al Pott – drums.

“Where Myth Becomes Memory” serves as the final part in an unintended trilogy that began with 2015’s “Grievances” and continued with 2018’s “Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It.”

“We recorded ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ during the lockdown in January 2021,” said Spence, during a phone interview last week from his home in Brighton, England.

Last week was Brighton to Brighton for Spence – southern England to Allston, Massachusetts

“We planned to release the album in November 2021. But without being able to tour it, we pushed the release date back to February 2022. Touring is so important. So, the delay was inevitable.”

Rolo Tomassi formed in February 2005 in the town of Stocksbridge with Spence and his sister Eva (Spence) Koman forming the nucleus of the band. They released their debut album “Hysterics” a few years later.

“We released ‘Hysterics’ in 2008 – my 20th birthday,” said Spence. “In 2012, we got two new members – replacing 50 per cent of the people who wrote the music. It was a big shakeup.”

The new members were Cayford and Fairweather.

“We were all in a lot more harmony together,” said Spence. “Our band comes primarily from a hardcore background. Screaming vocals was the vocal style of the bands at that time. At the base of it, we’re a heavy band so we used screaming vocals.”

Rolo Tomassi is a band with heavy hardcore influences along with ambient music in its DNA. If you listen, you can hear the influence of acts like Steve Reich, Brian Eno and Stars of the Lid.

Rolo Tomassi uses both dirty (screaming) vocals and clean vocals. It varies from song to song. One minute, the music is whispering sexy things in your ear and the next minute, it punches you in the face.

“We go with how the music comes,” said Spence. We don’t write with scream or clean in mind.

“Eva is a great vocalist. She has an intensive vocal warmup before shows. It’s all about conditioning.”

Video for Rolo Tomassi – https://youtu.be/MA315mvXrCs

The show at Underground Arts, which has Cryptodira and Callous Doaboys, as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at Underground Arts are Hail the Sun on September 3 and Scene Queen on September 7.

Donovan Woods

Donovan Woods may have had a lot of shows cancelled because of the pandemic but he’s making up for it now.

The veteran Canadian singer/songwriter has embarked on a 35-date tour across the states and Canada that started on July 23 in Sarnia, the Canadian town where he grew up, and ends on October 9 in Los Angeles. Three weeks later, he travels overseas for a nine-show tour that visits Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and the U.K.

The massive tour touches down in this area on September 3 when Woods shares the bill with Matt Nathanson at the Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

Woods, a JUNO Award winning singer-songwriter, will support Matt Nathanson on his U.S. tour and then will share the bill with Aoife O’Donovan in Europe.

His most recent release, “Big Hurt Boy EP,” was released March 18, 22.

“I cut the EP at Union Street Studio in 2021,” said Woods, during a phone interview last week.

“I guess this is a support tour for the EP. It’s just a support tour to be exposed to like-minded fans of Nathan’s. It’s great to be out with him.”

Nathanson is a singer-songwriter from Massachusetts whose music is a blend of rock and folk. In addition to singing, he plays acoustic and electric guitar and has played both solo and with a full band. His work includes the platinum-selling song, “Come On Get Higher.” One of his hit songs, “Giants,” was the opening music for the 2016 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas on ESPN.

“We wrote the title track of his latest album together a few years ago,” said Woods. “We were both in Nashville and got hooked up via a mutual friend.

“I’m in Nashville quite a bit – about one week out of every month. I live in Toronto, and I do a bit of recording in Nashville. I grew up in Sarnia and lived there until I left for college. I went to the University of Guelph and studied English.”

Woods released his first album, “The Hold Up,” in 2007. He has released six more LPs since then. The most recent is “Without People,” which came out in 2020 and as a deluxe edition in 2021.

“I did a few Livestream shows during the pandemic,” said Woods, who was the winner of the 2019 JUNO Award for ‘Contemporary Roots Album’. “I did one thing in an empty auditorium in Toronto.”

Now, Woods is introducing live versions of songs from “Big Boy Hurt” to his audiences.

According to Woods, “I wanted to get back to the feeling that my early recordings had.

“Now, I tour solo and with my band. I didn’t have a band for a long time. It’s like night and day.

“I’m performing solo on this tour with Matt. Solo, I can do songs I don’t usually do. When I performa lone, I have a lot more leeway.”

Video link for Donovan Woods – https://youtu.be/9EKhuw-a5L8.

The show at the Keswick Theatre will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $39.50 and $49.50.

Brian Quinn might just be the busiest professional musician in Montgomery County.


The King of Prussia resident is a talented guitarist who performs solo and duet shows locally on a regular basis – and he is a member of the veteran Seattle-based rock band Candlebox.

Several area venues have hosted shows by Candlebox Unplugged, featuring Quinn, a guitarist originally from Pennsylvania’s Anthracite region, and Kevin Martin, lead vocalist and only remaining founding member of Candlebox.

On September 4, Live! Philly Casino (900 Packer Avenue, Philadelphia, philadelphia.livecasinohotel.com) will host the only area show on the current tour of Candlebox Unplugged.

Candlebox Unplugged does not mean that Candlebox is breaking up – or even slowing down slightly.

“The full band is going out soon,” said Quinn, during a phone interview in April from a tour stop in Indiana.

“Candlebox has a run of shows in May in Florida. We’re playing in Alaska on June 11. It will be the first time Candlebox has played Alaska since I’ve been in the band.

“Alaska and Florida are my last two states to visit. Hopefully, my wife Denise and I will be able to take a vacation in Hawaii later this year.”

From May through October, Candlebox has shows in Florida, Alaska, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Ohio, California, New York, Washington and Virginia.

“We’re pretty busy the whole year,” said Quinn. “I’ll have time off in the summer to do some solo acoustic shows and then Candlebox starts up again at the end of August.”

Candlebox is touring in support of its new album, “Wolves.”

“We recorded ‘Wolves’ in September 2019,” said Quinn. “Because of the pandemic, it wasn’t released until September 2021. It was supposed to come out in April 2020, but we had to sit on it.

“We waited until things with COVID started to settle down and touring became available. We started laying live again in August 2021. We played a lot of places and 97 per cent of the shows were well-attended. People were glad to get back out.”

Doing band shows had a special attraction for Quinn, who had performed mostly acoustic shows – seated acoustic shows.

“It felt great to perform standing up,” said Quinn. “We started in August and didn’t finish until November. We got a lot of shows in. It was the longest tour we’ve done since I’ve been in the band.

“This has been an album support tour for ‘Wolves.’ It’s strange because by the time the album came out, it was already old for us. We already had a pile of new ideas before this album was even out. To get ready for the tour, we had to critically listen to the record and look at the album notes.”

Candlebox may be a band from the Pacific Northwest, but Quinn is a Pennsylvania boy all the way.

In the late 1990s, Quinn moved from his hometown of Pittston (PA) to Philadelphia. Soon after arriving, he co-founded the Philadelphia-based rock band Octane (2000-2005). During this time, Quinn was named “Best Guitarist” in the Philadelphia region by the Philadelphia Music Awards in 2001 and 2004.

After five successful years with Octane, Quinn left the band to form a blues-based hard rock band that would later become known as Fosterchild. Then, Quinn joined Candlebox a few years ago when the band needed to replace its guitarist.

“Kevin (Martin) and I were labelmates when I was with Fosterchild,” said Quinn, who now lives in the Philly suburbs.

“We met at a label showcase and stayed in touch after that. I played on two tunes with his side project Le Projet. When personnel changes started with Candlebox, he asked me to join the band. I’ve been with the band since 2015.”

Video link for Candlebox – https://youtu.be/RIt37__QhRg

The show at Live! Philly Casino will start at 8 p.m.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com)

is a prime destination to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

The shows this weekend are Nick Black and Matt Walden on September 2 and Moon Festival Celebration on September 3.

The shows at Jamey’s on Friday and Saturday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for Friday and $15 for Saturday.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

Jamey’s has started a popular “Guest Singer Series” featuring many of the best singers in the region performing a set from 7-8 p.m. with the backing of the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

The Philly Blues King are a veteran outfit comprised of David Reiter on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Maci Miller on vocals, Bill Marconi on drums and vocals and Reilly on bass guitar. They have performed together for 15 years (except for Miller) and are the house band for Jamey’s House of Music. They are well known for tight, jazz inflected classic blues.

Reiter performs on a seven-string guitar and Reilly plays a fretless five string bass and that sets the group above the ordinary. The three veteran musicians have each spent decades playing the blues professionally and have backed many well-known national artists. Maci Miller, an internationally recognized jazz singer based in Philadelphia, joined the Blues Kings and quickly established herself as a top-flight front woman.

Video link for Philly Blues Kings — https://youtu.be/bAnBVLc7Wsg.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music on August 28 will start at noon. Admission is free.

Chestnut Grove

Chestnut Grove will play on September 3 at Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net) with a focus on its latest album, “The Album.”

The band has its roots in the Delaware Valley, has played gigs at the Ardmore Music Hall and recorded “The Album” at BarnSound Studios in Newtown Square with producer Derek Chafin.

Chestnut Grove was formed by James Daniels, John Tyler, Sean Murray and Dee Gerhart in 2011 during their senior year of high school. The band’s name was chosen in memory of would-be member and guitar player Matt Barber, who passed away tragically in a car accident on Chestnut Grove Road.

“We’ve been together for more than a decade,” said Gerhart, during a phone interview. “We’ve been touring heavily since 2015.

“We all graduated from high school together in 2011 – Boyertown High School. Our drummer James played with our guitar player John. I was doing acoustic singer/songwriter doing open mics. We weren’t drawn together musically.

“In my senior year, I was in a talent show at Boyertown High. I did some numbers like ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ with Zach Winkler. They approached me and it rolled on from there.

“We covered a lot of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix. I was the only one singing. We immediately started working on some originals. We were trying to be a jam group but drifted more to singer/songwriter.

“It’s collective songwriting. It’s mainly driven by me and James, but everyone has an input. Each has their own part of the puzzle.”

In 2015, Gerhart, Winkler, Daniels, Tyler and Gary Geers, with the help of friend/engineer Owen McGreehan, released their self-produced album, “Perkiomenville,” to a sold-out hometown crowd at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

“We recorded that album at our barn studio in Perkiomenville,” said Gerhart. “It had 10 tracks with a vert rootsy, Americana feel.”

In 2016, the band recorded the EP “Let it Down” with critically acclaimed producer Bill Moriarty, who has worked with notable artists like Modest Mouse and Philly’s own Dr. Dog. This EP featured a collection of songs including “Whiskey Hand” and “Let it Down,” two of the band’s first hits.

The band released the EP “Black Champagne” with Mad Dragon Records in 2018, signed a deal with Nimbleslick Entertainment, and began touring the East Coast and Midwest. Chestnut Grove has headlined venues including the Trocadero, World Cafe Live, and Ardmore Music Hall, while continuing to gain popularity in their home city of Philadelphia and beyond.

In 2019, Chestnut Grove began recording their first full-length studio album when home from touring. In 2020, they released the single “Golden Age,” which received praise from American Songwriter Magazine. The band’s ambitions for 2020 had also included completing and releasing the new album and embarking on a US tour–goals ultimately derailed by the global pandemic.

Undeterred, Chestnut Grove went back to the studio with producer Derek Chafin (AKA “Chestnut Grove’s sixth man”) and finished “The Album” featuring singles “Golden Age,” “Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Newspaper Hats,” and fan favorite “I Know Somebody.” This album was released in 2021 at Ardmore Music Hall and virtually streamed via Nugs.net, followed by appearances on Radio 104.5 and 88.5 XPN.

Video link for Chestnut Grove — https://youtu.be/sWBiFGvzK_Q.

The show at Phantom Power, which also features Consider the Source, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

Video link for Chestnut Grove — https://youtu.be/sWBiFGvzK_Q.

Two-and-a-half years ago, HumblemanBand, one of the Philadelphia area’s longest-running rock bands, released its most recent album, “Beautiful Day.” The album officially dropped with a “HumblemanBand CD Release Party” at Rittenhouse Soundworks in November 2018.

On November 2019, HumblemanBand played a special area show at its favorite local haunt — the Mermaid Inn in Germantown. Little did they know it was to be their last show for an extended period of time.

Now, after a long layoff caused by COVID-19, HumblemanBand is hitting the stage again. On September 3, the band is performing at Gorgas Park (6300 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia,www.facebook.com/humblemanband).

“The HumblemanBand was formed in 1999,” said guitarist/songwriter/vocalist/founding member Charlie Cooper, during a phone interview from his home in Germantown. “I was in a band with our drummer Buck Buchanan. Three of us were living near each other in South Philly and we gradually picked up people.

“The third guy was bassist Bruce Koch, who just died two years ago from a stroke. That was a real loss – as a friend and as a bandmate. We weren’t sure we were going to pick up the pieces. We were using hired hands to fill in. We then added a permanent bass player – Boz Heinly, who lives in Plymouth Meeting.

“Now, there are five of us in the band and we get along really well musically and as friends. We have a lot of respect for each other.”

The band also has had respect for COVID-19.

“When COVID shut down things, we shut down,” said Cooper. “I was just laying low – playing guitar. We started up again in September 2021, but that didn’t last long because of omicron.

“I went through a dry period during lockdown. Then I got introduced to ‘The Artist’s Way.’ You have to do writing exercises every day and it helped. I ended up writing three new songs.”

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” is a 1992 self-help book by American author Julia Cameron. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. The program is focused on supporting relationships in removing artistic blocks and fostering confidence.

“Things were chugging along and then our previous vocalist Kim Epson decided she wanted to do things elsewhere,” said Cooper. “So, we got a new singer.”

The band’s current lineup includes Wain Ballard on guitar, Katie Tuner Drake on vocals, Heinly on bass, Buchanan on drums and Cooper on vocals and guitar.

“We seem to have a cycle of putting out an album every five years,” said Cooper.  “We put out an album a few years ago called ‘Least Bad of Humbleman 1984-2009.’ That album was a 25-year compilation starting with our days in 1984 as a punk band called The Proles.

“Our most recent previous album was ‘Late Bloom’ in fall 2015 was self-produced – and mostly D.I.Y. “‘Beautiful Day’ was also self-produced – and also mostly D.I.Y. We recorded the album ourselves in our rhythm practice space and then did solos and vocals in my living room. For our previous album, we used CakeWalk. This time, we used REAPER.”

REAPER is a complete digital audio production application for computers, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset.

“We spent most of this year making the new album,” said Cooper. “After finishing recording it ourselves, we sent it out for the mixing. We had Scoops Dardaris do it. We were extremely happy with the mixing.

“We mastered it at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown. Jim Hamilton, a percussionist and tap dancer from the Kensington area of Philly who toured with Boyz II Men, put the studio together. He’s a terrific talent – and he knows an amazing amount of people in the music world.”

HumblemanBand, a rock quintet that is socially conscious, features songs that band members have written and arranged – songs with lyrics inspired by current events.

“We went out to Standing Rock (Indian Reservation) in North Dakota,” said Cooper. “That inspired a brand-new song – ‘AIM ’21.’ The title stands for ‘American Indian in the 21st century.’

“On ‘Beautiful Day,’ Kim wrote two songs, we did two covers, and I wrote the rest. The two covers were songs by the late Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ and ‘Alien.’ Gil Scott-Heron was a very influential voice in music and activism and most-known for his song ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and his poetry.

HumblemanBand, like Scott-Heron, has consistently delivered social commentary and positive messages, often with humor and a light touch, using spoken word lyrics, and generally delivered with dance beat arrangement. His influence upon the band has been strong.

Video link for Humbleman Band – https://youtu.be/01Clk69MaAU.

The free show at Gorgas Park will start at 3:30 p.m.

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