On Stage: ZZ Ward takes control of her career

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

ZZ Ward

A lot has happened with ZZ Ward’s life and music career from the time of her Philadelphia debut in March 2013 with a show at TLA until now.

She has recorded three albums – the most recent of which was her first as an independent artist with her own label. The album, “Dirty Shine,” will be released on September 8 on her label, Dirty Shine Records.

Now, Ward is heading out on an album support tour. The “One Hell Of A Night Tour” will get underway on September 6 at World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, www.worldcafelive.com).

Her first album, “‘Til The Casket Drops’ was released in October 2012. Her sophomore album, “The Storm,” hit the shelves in June 2017. Both LPs were released on Hollywood Records.

“Now that I’m independent, I can decide when to make an album,” said Ward, during a phone interview Wednesday evening from her home in Los Angeles.

“I have control over all of the parts of my career. As an indie artist, I love the freedom. I love the independence.”

In February 2017, Ward performed at the Americana Music Association’s tribute concert to Loretta Lynn at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California, performing a cover of “The Home You’re Tearing Down”. She performed at the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in June 2017 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

On March 2, Ward released the single “The Deep,” featuring Chicago MC Joey Purp. The track is built around a sample of “As Long As I’ve Got You” by The Charmels, which is also sampled in “C.R.E.A.M.” by Wu-Tang Clan. The song is about Ward’s feelings of being trapped in a bad relationship. The song’s music video premiered on W magazine’s website on March 9, 2017. Also in 2017, Ward collaborated with Gary Clark Jr. on “Ride” from the soundtrack to the Pixar film Cars 3. Ward performed “Ride” on Dancing with the Stars on April 17, 2017.

Ward’s second studio album, “The Storm,” was released on June 30, 2017, through Hollywood Records. It peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart in July 2017, at number 12 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart, and at number 75 on the Billboard 200.  The music video for the single “Cannonball” (featuring Fantastic Negrito) was released in July 2017.

After a while, Ward and Hollywood Records parted ways. She was on her own and could record when and where she wanted.

“I have a studio in my house where I use Logic,” said Ward. “I’ve had my own studio for the last seven years.”

Now, Ward is welcoming a creative and career rebirth as an independent artist. She’s also a label owner, video director, and even a hat maker now, personally handcrafting signature fedoras in her kitchen, creating a direct connection with her fans who can purchase them through her website.

Without the constraints of a label budget, her brother Adam is helping bring Ward’s high-concept, action-packed cinematic fantasies to life through ambitious mini-movies for her songs. Removing the influence of big corporations has brought Ward closer to her fan community, engaging with them directly every morning.

Her husband, GRAMMY-winning songwriter Evan Kidd Bogart, is serving as her label partner and manager, and with the recent addition of their firstborn, this time of creativity and personal growth is especially meaningful.

Her new album ‘Dirty Shine’ is spilling over with bold electronic textures, rugged hip-hop beats, acoustic Delta blues riffs, and sensual R&B vocals.

“I usually just use my studio to record ideas,” said Ward. “Then, I’ll go in the studio with someone better than me.

“I recorded ‘Dirty Shine’ in studios all around L.A. – different studios and different producers.”
The new album reflects Ward’s love of hip-hop and her fascination with the blues.

“I’m very influenced by the blues and very influenced by hip-hop,” said Ward. “Blues will always influence my music I will never be a blues artist, but I’ll always have some bluesy-influenced songs.”

Ward grew up with the blues.

“I was born in Abington and then grew up in Bucks County — in Churchville,” said Ward. “My mom went to Germantown High, and my dad went to Hatboro-Horsham High.

“My mom grew up as a city girl and she wanted to get out in the open air. So, our family moved to Oregon — to Roseburg, Oregon. It was a small town and we lived a half-hour outside town on a 23-acre farm lot.”

It was there that Ward got interested in music.

“My dad was in a blues band,” said Ward. “When I first started listening to the blues, the sincerity of the artists resonated in me. Something in their voices made me love the blues.

“I was in my first blues band when I was 12 or 13. I’d come out with my Fedora on and sing Albert King’s ‘As the Years Go Passing By.’ I was also listening to hip-hop — Nas, Jay-Z — and the stories they were telling.

“I went to a community college. I played hip-hop shows when I was there. I was also singing songs with my dad’s blues band. He taught me how to play harmonica. But there was no opportunity for music where I was living so I had to move to L.A.”

Once in Southern California, Ward began making her own music — starting with the “Eleven Roses” mixtape in February 2012 and the “Criminal” EP in May 2012 – the two releases that preceded her debut full-length album “‘Til The Casket Drops.”

“I’m always trying to write incredible songs,” said Ward. “I don’t limit myself to how I write. It could be keyboards, guitar or tracks. If you feel the emotion — sad, angry, sexy — it’s good as long as you get emotion from the song.”

Video link for ZZ Ward – https://youtu.be/6Pv6dWyz4zY.

The show at World Café Live on September 6 will start at

Ticket prices range from $29.50-$45.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Brittany Ann Tranbaugh on August 31 and Pub Choir on September 2.

Labor Day Weekend is a tough weekend for venues to book shows. It’s unofficially the end of summer – time to squeeze in one more trip to the shore, one more trip to the Poconos or a weekend of picnics.

Attending a live show is not high on the list.

Many venues do not even schedule shows for this weekend including Kennett Flash, The Living Room & Cricket Café, Rivers Casino, The Grand, Zoetropolis, Ardmore Music Hall, The Met, Mann Music Center, Kung Fu Necktie, The Xcite Center at Parx Casino, The Keswick Theater, Fillmore Philadelphia, World Café Live, Theatre of the Living Arts, Johnny Brenda’s , Underground Arts, The Foundry, Union Transfer, Franklin Music Hall, Scottish Rite Auditorium , The American Music Theatre and The Freedom Mortgage Pavilion.

Fortunately, there are still some venues where fans of live music can get their fix.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is hosting “Meet Loaf” on September 2.

“Meet Loaf” is a tribute band for — you guessed it – Meat Loaf.

The “Meet Loaf” tribute show epitomizes the Meat Loaf experience in a look-a-like and sound-a-like event, that leaves audiences awestruck. A world-class show that delivers the powerful wide-ranging male and female operatic lead vocals, along with the epic theatrical elements that Meat Loaf fans have come to love, in an unforgettable evening of smash hits.

Video link for Meet Loaf – https://youtu.be/n_Ob5JtLm_w.

The show at Uptown! Knauer on September 2 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) will present a show on September 2 featuring Chester County’s Fred Mascherino.

The nationally acclaimed guitarist/singer/songwriter is known for his work with The Color Fred, Ex-Taking Back Sunday.

The show on Saturday will start at 7 p.m.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy Philly are Dhysrythmya on August 31, He Is Legend on September 1, and Pyrrhon Couch Slut on September 3

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) continues its tradition of presenting top quality blues music this weekend.

Area music fans know that Jamey’s House of Music is a primo spot 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.

Headline acts are featured on Fridays and Saturdays.

On September 1, Jamey’s will present the Khadijah Renee Trio.

Khadijah “Renee” is a jazz songstress in the vein of the Great Ladies of Jazz. Her resonant tones remind you of the ladies who paved their way through the male dominated syncopated instrumental ingenious sounds of Be-Bop and Classical Jazz from as early as the 1950′s. If you close your eyes while listening to her, you may hear reminiscent echoes of Sarah, Ella, Billie, Nancy, Dinah and Gloria.
Khadijah is a contralto whose range is deep and sweet at the same time. She has been performing jazz since the late 80′s in and around the Tri-State area. Khadijah is always accompanied by the best musicians the area has to offer. She has been recorded live at the East Coast Jazz Festival now called the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in Maryland and heard on WRTI 90.1 Jazz Radio.
Born and raised in Chester, Renee currently lives and works in Philadelphia, where the jazz audiences there accepted and adopted her as their own. A former member of the Delaware Council of Jazz Advocates, she recently graced the stage of their tribute to Clifford Brown at the Delaware School of Music with a rendition of Sassy’s “September Song.”

Video link for Khadijah Renee — https://youtu.be/c74l3jLvyNQ.

The show will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The show at Jamey’s on September 2 will feature Katie Barbato and Ava.

Barbato is currently in the studio working on her 10th album “The Trail of Us”. The album will feature 14 tracks with production and engineering by multi-instrumentalist Brett William Kull (Grey Eye Glances, Echolyn). A three-time finalist in the International Songwriting Competition, Barbato has performed at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and is regularly on WXPN.

In addition to releasing her own music, Barbato composes music for TV and film, such as the theme she wrote for the movie “Sugar,” starring Shenae Grimes and Marshall Allman. Her song “Magical Ending” was recently featured in the Netflix drama “Yankee”, the MTV series “Busch Family Brewed”, and several of her songs have been featured on the Australian television show “Neighbours”.
The show will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Disney Theatrical Productions, along with the Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Shubert Organization, celebrates the eagerly awaited return engagement of Disney’s “The Lion King” for a four-week summer engagement at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus.

The musical, which features music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, opened on August 16 and is running now through September 10 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org), as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway Series.”

“The Lion King” is a stage musical with a book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, with additional music and lyrics by Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor, and Hans Zimmer. It is based on the 1994 Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film of the same name. Directed by Taymor, the musical features actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. The show is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions.

After 25 landmark years on Broadway, “The Lion King” continues its ascent as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Since its premiere on November 13, 1997, 27 global productions have been seen by more than 112 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), “The Lion King” has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years, with four of those running 20 or more years.

The show, which is set in the jungle somewhere in Africa, tells the story of the lion Simba from his days as a newborn cub through his adult years and is filled with sub-plots and unexpected twists. The hyenas – Shenzi, Banzai and Ed – provide a bit of comic relief.

With “The Lion King”, the animated feature came first and then the Broadway show. The stage production is very similar to the movie. The story and the characters are exactly the same and so is a lot of the dialogue.  The stage version “The Lion King” is known for its elaborate costumes — outfits that transform human actors into jungle animals. It also wins over audiences with its lively, exotic music.

“The Lion King” won six 1998 Tony Awards — Best Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical.  It has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and the 1999 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

One of the key players in the touring show is Gugwana Dlamini, who performs the role of Rafiki, a Sangoma.

Philadelphians can look forward to seeing two local cast members appearing on Pride Rock — Nick LaMedica, who plays the role of Zazu, is a native of Newark, Delaware. Ensemble member Eric Bean, Jr. is a graduate of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

The production features Peter Hargrave as “Scar,” Gerald Ramsey as “Mufasa,” Nick Cordileone as “Timon,” Nick LaMedica as “Zazu,” John E. Brady as “Pumbaa,” Darian Sanders as “Simba,” Forest VanDyke as “Banzai,” Martina Sykes as “Shenzi” and Robbie Swift as “Ed.”

Khalifa White will play “Nala” from August 16 – 20 and Syndee Winters will play the role from August 22 – September 10.

The role of “Young Simba” is alternated between Jackson Hayes and Mason Lawson and the role of “Young Nala” is alternated between Jaxyn Damasco and Aniya Simone.

Video link for “The Lion King” — https://youtu.be/awqwdi1xakU.

Tickets for “The Lion King” range in price from $29-$189.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will host X (the band) and Squirrel Nut Zippers on September 1.

On September 1, Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, http://www.lnphilly.com) will host a show featuring HARIZ, JVKE, Maisy Kay and Blake Proehl.

Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net) is hosting Rivers of Nihil on September 2, OVERTIME x CRUCIFIX: Scars and Stripes Tour Reloaded on September 3, and Richard Lloyd Group on September 6.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will present Pure Jerry on August 31, The Ancient Mariners on September 1, The Great Bonfire on September 2, and The Newspaper Taxis on September 6.

The Sound Bank (119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, www.soundbankphx.com) is presenting three shows this weekend at The Gem Speakeasy (66 North Main Street, Spring City) – The Fractals on August 31, Jared Templeton on September 1 and Milou Sky + Erica Baehser on September 2.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Get the Led Out on August 31, September 1 and 2, and Back To The Eighties Show with Jessie’s Girl on September 3.

City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, www.citywinery.com) will host Iris Dement on August 31, Remembering Marvin Gaye: The Experience on September 1, and The High Kings on September 2.

Brooklyn Bowl (1009 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.brooklynbowl.com/philadelphia) will have The Groove Merchants, Tubey Frank, Emily Drinker and Stella Ruze on August 31.

Fire (412 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, thefirephilly.com) presents Ausgang on September 1, Khalea Lynee on September 2, and Grooverelly on September 2.

Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, kungfunecktie.com) will have Seven Kingdoms on August 31, Escape from the Zoo on September 1, and Kali Masi on September 2.

Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.thefillmorephilly.com) will have U+ME+RNB on September 2.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) presents Liam St. John on September 2 and Soulja Boy on September 3.

Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com) hosts Flagz on September 3.

Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, www.johnnybrendas.com) hosts Smokin’ Pipes on August 31, A Black Celebration on September 1, Richard Papiercuts on September 2, Your Neighbors on September 3, Speedy Ortiz on September 5 and Rose City Band on September 6.

PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 267-519-9651, www.philamoca.org) will have Title Holder on September 1 and Time of Man on September 2.

Special note:

Hey music fans,

Jamey’s House of Music is one of the best venues around for live music and it could use your help.

Please read about the current situation and help if you can.

It will be appreciated — by the club and by the music lovers who head there every week.

Thank you.



We Need Your Help & Support!

We’ve set up a Go Fund Me to raise money for emergency repairs due to severe water damage caused by negligent upstairs tenants — and thank you for your support!

LINK TO GO FUND ME FUNDRAISER PAGE — Fundraiser by James Reilly : Emergency Repairs for Jamey’s House of Music! (gofundme.com)

File this under “kill me now.”

Mind if I blow off some steam?

This is what we found when we opened on Sunday. Our lovely (soon to be former) tenants for the second time, have overflowed their bath and caved in the ceiling in our dining room.

Our workman went into their bathroom and said get rid of these people right away. Cigarette butts snuffed out all over the floor, wall tiles falling off, the wood floor rotted – and the rest of the place a smelling trashed garbage pit filled with extended family. Trying to get Lansdowne Code Enforcement involved – right to voicemail. Certified vacate letter now on its way…

Trying to scrape money together to pay the exorbitant school taxes, and now this? I give up. We set up a Go Fund Me page for contributions to a repair fund. Our contractor said we’ll need at least $16,000 to take care of things. We dare not file an insurance claim. You know for sure they would cancel us like a hot potato or double their usurious rates.

Just to add to the misery, our battery backup failed, one of the video cameras died, and a neighbor’s tree just fell over onto our fence at our house, and the nuns who lived there sold their property to St Joe’s U – and I got voice mail there too.

Yeah, I know. It could be worse. Give it a minute…

Kill me now.

I hope some of you might be in a position to make a donation so we can afford to fix this mess and continue to serve you the best food and music on the planet. We are supremely grateful for your generosity!

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