On Stage: Jeffrey Gaines hit The Flash

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Also: Serafin String Quartet, Micky Dolenz, Scrooge and more!

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

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Jeffrey Gaines brings his powerful music to The Flash in Kennett Square, Nov. 29.

It’s been almost a quarter of a century since Jeffrey Gaines signed his first recording deal with a major label. It’s been 22 years since his debut album “Jeffrey Gaines” was released on Chrysalis Records.

It’s been 11 years since “Toward the Sun” on Artemis Rercords — his fifth overall and his last studio album.  And, it’s been 10 years since his last album release — “Jeffrey Gaines Live,” which is also on Artemis Rercords.

Despite the lack of recorded output, Gaines still is a popular live act — frequently selling out venues all around the East Coast. On November 29, Gaines will visit the area for a show at The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org).

In December, Gaines already has shows booked for Bristol, Ardmore, Harrisburg and Pitman, New Jersey. And, there is still no new album on the horizon.

“A new album — it’s not in the works,” said Gaines, during a phone interview last week. “The new album hype happens every year — but it doesn’t come from me. I’m not reluctant to do it — maybe reluctant to do it myself. I don’t even know how that happens.

“I’ve always made records for labels (recording companies). I just know how to do what I have to do. I go into a performance room with engineers and producers in the other room and big glass separating us. And, they’re assured they’re getting paid. If they’re looking for their money, I can just refer them to the grown men in suits.”

Many musicians — new and old — are getting into funding campaigns like Kickstarter to raise money to record. And, there is a whole generation of musicians who record in home studios on computers and then release the music only online. Gaines doesn’t do any of that.

“When it comes down to me right now — I have no label, no backing, no interest,” said Gaines, a native of Harrisburg. “I wouldn’t even know how to start doing things like that. I got into tech too late. I don’t know how to record on computers. I’m not a D.I.Y. guy. It’s not even that much fun.

“I write new songs from time to time. But, it would have to be a commercial release for me to put them on a record. And, it would be really hard to put out a record and know that it doesn’t have a shot. It would probably do well in the tri-state area but no so well on a national level.”

If being a commercial success were a prerequisite for Gaines’ maintaining a career in music, he would have vanished from the scene years ago.

“I write a song almost every day,” said Gaines. “When I pick up a guitar, there is a new song waiting — a riff or a lyric. But, I never know if I’m going to work these songs into my set.

“Fans come out to a show. They’ve worked all week. They don’t want to have to do more work to get used to unfamiliar songs. My fans want to hear my songs that they know. For me, the job now is to just go out and give the fans what they want.

“I’m in a comfortable niche — reluctantly. You settle into a groove because that’s how it panned out. I was shooting for the ‘pie in the sky’ and then had to realize it wasn’t going to happen.

“In 1992, my first record came out — sell 100,000 copies and I sneered at that. I wanted to be in Rolling Stone. If these people think I’m that good, come on — buy it. When you’re a Zen guy, it’s hard to be a Hun about your quest for success. I like nice little chill gigs when all I have to do is let people hear me sing.”

Gaines’ show at The Flash will start at 8 p.m. with opening act Chris Ferron. Tickets are $20 in advance and $24 day of show.

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The Serafin String Quartet

Other upcoming shows at The Flash are comedians Joe Bublewicz and Chris Coccia on November 28 and the Serafin String Quartet on December 3.

The Serafin String Quartet will perform a collage concert titled “Viennese Classical Roots” as part of the “Sip and Savor with the Serafins” series at The Flash. The Serafin String Quartet includes Kate Ransom and Lisa Vaupel (violins), Esme Allen-Creighton (viola) and Lawrence Stomberg (cello) — all of whom are current or former professors at the University of Delaware..

“This is the third of our ‘Sip and Savor’ series,” said Stomberg, during a phone interview Wednesday night. “In each one, we focus on one piece of music and include other pieces of music or narratives that go along with it.”

In the upcoming concert, the spotlight will be on Mozart’s “Quartet in D Minor” with music samples from Haydn and Beethoven.

“We take Mozart’s quartet and frame it with the music of other composers who lived in his time,” said Stomberg. “We use Haydn’s ‘Quartet in D Minor’ and Beethoven’s ‘Quartet in C Minor.’

“Mozart and Hayden knew each other pretty well. In a way, they inspired each other. Mozart was inspired by Beethoven but they never got to know each other because Mozart died before Beethoven moved to Vienna.

“All the pieces in this show were written in Vienna. It was the ‘Music Capital of Europe’ at the time. Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven all lived in Vienna at some point in their lives. One of the reasons Mozart admired Haydn was because he was considered the ‘Father of the String Quartet.’ He was the first to codify it as an art form.”

Mozart’s “Quartet in D Minor” has some very distinctive qualities.

“This work by Mozart is the only complete string quartet he wrote in a minor key,” said Stomberg. “It’s a dark, brooding piece at times. It’s definitely an inward-looking piece. The first movement is the most brooding. It’s got a bit of turbulence.

“The second movement is interesting because most had slower movements and this isn’t slow or fast. It’s lyrical — and a little sunnier. On the surface, it seems very simple but underneath there is a lot of depth. The third movement is a Menuetto and Trio. It’s more fiery and exclamatory. The fourth is a fast movement. It breezes by.”

The Serafin String Quartet concert will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 day of show.

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Stephen Kellogg

On November 28, the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present a musician who has developed a solid love affair with Philadelphia area fans over the last decade — first with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers and later as Stephen Kellogg the solo artist.

Kellogg will be performing with a drummer — Rob Griffith — and the show will be the first date on his “Every Night’s A Little Different Tour.”

“We’re playing a lot of clubs and listening rooms so there will be a different canvas every night,” said Kellogg, during a phone interview Monday shortly after he arrived back in the states from some shows in Brussels, Belgium.

“I’ll play requests and songs I think will fit the evening,” said Kellogg, a Massachusetts native. “I have my ‘hits’ but I pretty much can get away with not playing any one song. My song ‘Fourth of July’ is the closest to being a must-play song.

“This is an exciting moment — two years since my band (the Sixers) going into hiatus. It’s such a transition to be going out on my own.”

Next on tap for Kellogg is a major recording project.

“I making a new record,” said Kellogg, who will be celebrating his birthday the night of the show. “It’s fun to be getting ready to go again. This one is interesting. I’m recording it in four different regions with four different produces and four different sets of musicians.

“It is as much about the process and the experience as it is about the music. To be doing something I’ve never done before is great. And, I’m going to own this record. I have no regrets about my career but I’ve been on labels all these years and I’ve seen very little of the money from what was sold.

“I’m doing a Pledge Music campaign for this. I still need a studio to record in and that costs a bundle. You’ve got to roll with what is going on. I’m going to still produce vinyl and CDs but I also want to adapt. There is money to be generated by streaming. But, it’s great to get something out there that we can own.”

Kellogg’s new album will have four parts — North, East, West and South.

“I’ll go into a studio with a great band and knock out a few songs at each location,” said Kellogg. “I’ve already done a bit of pre-production. I wanted each region to have its own vibe. The first session will be in the first week of January.

“I have sessions scheduled for January, February and March. I might do separate releases and tour each region. I’m recording the North region in Woodstock, New York and the South region in Nashville. The East will be done in Washington, D.C. and the West in Colorado.”

Kellogg’s show at the Ardmore Music Hall will start at 6:30 p.m. The opening act will be Hailey Steele, a talented young singer-songwriter from South Dakota. Tickets are $25.

There will be a late show at the Ardmore venue on November 28 at 10 p.m. featuring the Box Social with Flightschool.

The line-up for November 29 features US Rails, John Byrne Band and the Brian LaPann Trio. The roster of performers for December 3 includes The Nth Power featuring members of Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, John Brown’s Body and Toubab Krewe with Freekbass as the opening act.

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Micky Dolenz

In the 1960s, the music scene had “Mickey’s Monkey” and the Monkees’ Micky. One of those will be featured at a special event in the area this weekend and it’s not the hit song from 1963 by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

Micky Dolenz, who was one of the Monkees, will be performing and also be an autograph guest on November 29 at the All Things That Rock Philadelphia Festival 2014, which is being held November 28 and 29 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (Station Avenue, Oaks, 484-754-3976, http://allthingsthatrockfestival.com).

“At the convention, I’ll be meeting fans,” said Dolenz, during a phone interview Wednesday morning after a visit to WMMR’s studios in Philadelphia. “And, I’ll use it as an opportunity to make money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I just did an autograph thing two days ago in Boston. I get two and three generations of fans at events like this.”

There is an amazing array of Monkees’ memorabilia that Dolenz has been asked to sign over the years along with some other unusual requests. He even gets requests to put his name on memorabilia dating back to when he was a child star on the “Circus Boy” television series that ran from 1956-1958.

While there will be many personalities from the world of rock appearing as autograph guests, there will be just three that will be performing — the Philadelphia-based band Octane, the Van Halen tribute band Romeo Delight and Dolenz.

“My brother-in-law Buddy Blanchard sings and plays guitar for Romeo Delight,” said Dolenz. “I’ve sung with him over the years. So, I agreed I’d do some of my tunes with them. They’re a great band so it’s a win-win situation.”

The Monkees didn’t start as a band but rather as four actor/musicians in a TV sitcom that was broadcast on NBC from September 1966 to March 1968. The series followed the adventures of four musicians who formed a band called the Monkees.

“We were all musicians before we even auditioned for the show but they already had the music for the first album,” said Dolenz. “We weren’t even allowed to play on the earlier sessions. We had very little to say about the recordings. I was lucky enough to sing lead on so many but they still switched our vocals at times.

“Mike (Nesmith) was frustrated. He was hired for his singing and writing. In the early days, he sang one of his songs for the show’s producers they said it didn’t sound like a Monkees’ song. So, he gave the song to Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Ponys and they had a big hit with it. The song was ‘Different Drum.’ Just after the second album, we got control of our music.”

Dolenz still performs the music of the Monkees — sometimes on his own and sometimes with the two other remaining members….Peter Tork and Nesmith.

“Davy (Jones) passed away a few years ago so I got together with Mike and Peter to tour as a tribute to Davy,” said Dolenz. “We liked doing it. So, we’ve gotten together for more tours in the past few years. I also do solo tours. I’m doing a solo show in the area near Bethlehem soon (December 12 at the Musikfest Café).

“I’ve also been working in film production for the past few years. I’m always keeping busy. I just started a business with my daughter making furniture (Dolenz and Daughters Fine Furniture) and it was an immediate success. I’ve got to get back home to L.A. soon and start making some sawdust.”

Some of the other autograph guests at “Not Just” Rock Expo & All Things That Rock Festival Philadelphia Festival 2014 will be KISS drummer Peter Criss, former Live lead singer Ed Kowalczyk, David Uosikkinen from the Hooters, Vinnie Martell of Vanilla Fudge, Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, former Moody Blues and Wings singer Denny Laine and Billy J. Kramer.

Tickets for the special holiday weekend event are $10 for either day of $18 for a two-day pass. Show hours are from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. each day.

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The Machine

Another musical act playing the area with a link to the music of the 1960s is The Machine, which is performing on November 28 at the Keswick Theatre (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

The Machine accurately re-creates the music of Pink Floyd. One of the oldest Pink Floyd tribute bands, the group was put together 15 years ago by Tahrah Cohen and Joe Pascarell. The Machine’s show at the Keswick is billed as the “Annual Thanksgiving Weekend Show.”

“We’ve been playing the Keswick on the Friday after Thanksgiving for at least 10 years in a row already,” said Cohen, during a recent phone interview from the band’s home base in Manhattan. “It’s a given for the venue and a given for us. The date is always held.

“‘It’s a special event. It definitely is a big tradition. People make it a family event. We recognize a lot of people who have been coming every year. And, they keep bring new people — their friends and relatives.”

Over the course of its decade-plus history, The Machine has developed a repertoire that covers Pink Floyd’s entire career — from 1967’s “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” to the “new” Pink Floyd album “The Endless River,” which was just released on November 10.

“We’re performing the song ‘Louder Than Words’ from ‘The Endless River’ onstage already,” said Cohen. “We had it before it was released so we recorded it the day the album came out. Pink Floyd never played the song live.

“We still cover most of their catalog — very old material to the latest. Deciding which songs to play each night is a democratic process. We decide the set list in the dressing room an hour before the show. We review set lists from our previous venues so we don’t play the same show over again.

“We try to play songs everybody wants to hear — ‘Have a Cigar,’ ‘Wish You Were Here,’ ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ ‘Comfortably Numb’ and anything from ‘The Wall.’ We chose ‘Louder Than Words’ from the new album because it’s the only one that has vocals.

“If you’re going to play an instrumental for five minutes, it should be an intro for something like ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond.’ People want to hear someone sing. If it’s an instrumental, it has to be something everyone knows. We’re considering the whole audience when we make our set lists.”

Not surprisingly, The Machine tends to focus on the five most popular Pink Floyd albums — “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Animals,” “The Wall” and “The Final Cut.” But, the band still can break out songs from even the formative era when Syd Barrett was still in the band.

“We still cover most of their catalog — and we’re still improvisational,” said Cohen. “The direction of our band is still the same. And, our light show keeps getting better.”

The Machine’s show at the Keswick will start at 8 p.m. with tickets priced at $27.50 and $32.50. Other shows at the Keswick in the next week are “Sister’s Christmas Catechism — The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold” on November 30 and Martina McBride’s “The Everlasting Tour” on December 3.

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Strand of Oaks

One of the most interesting acts to visit the area in the upcoming week is Strand of Oaks, which will be performing on December 3 at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, http://www.utphilly.com). Tickets are $15 for the 8:30 p.m. show.

Strand of Oaks is the musical vehicle for Timothy Showalter — as a solo act or with a band. The guitarist/vocalist is currently touring with a four-piece band (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums) in support of his brand new album “HEAL.”

The album wastes no time in slamming into high gear when the opening track “Goshen ’97” initiates the sonic assault. The disc maintains a high level of emotional intensity from the start to the final note.

“Sometime, you just make a record,” said Showalter, during a phone interview Wednesday evening from his home in Philadelphia’s Mount Airy section. “This time, I needed to make this record. I didn’t go to therapy, so I made this record.

“It was very cathartic. I had 10 years of stuff building up. I realized I wasn’t being honest to myself. So, I made a record that was like a journal entry. It’s just me. It’s first person — so much so.

“A lot of records are created out of sad or negative feelings. A year ago September, I was playing a show in Malmo, Sweden and encountered some people who were happy and I had a good time with them. I hadn’t realized how I hadn’t been connecting with people.

“I realized that I needed to come out of this coma. They were just ordinary people having fun. It was just a reality check for me. It let me know that I had to get out of the funk I was in. It hit me the next day.”

When Showalter returned to Philly, he started composing the songs for “HEAL.”

“I toured for two years non-stop so I didn’t have time to write any songs,” said Showalter, who grew up in Goshen, Indiana. “I like writing. Once I start writing, the songs explode out of my head. Even today, I had a song idea right when you called. It was just a three-chord song. But, they’re the best kind. It took me about five minutes.

“With ‘HEAL,’ I made the exact record I wanted to make. I didn’t care if people wanted to hear it. But, I’ve found out that the people who come to are shows were ready to hear it.”

Showalter’s story leading up to the creation of ‘HEAL’ is similar to the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“Scrooge — that’s a good comparison,” said Showalter. “This record is kind of about the past, present and future. When I was young, I thought of ‘A Christams Carol’ as a kids’ book. Now, thinking about it as an adult, I can see that it’s very much geared for adults.”

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Barry Gomolka as Scrooge.

Coincidentally, the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.nctstage.org) is presenting the holiday classic show “A Christmas Carol” now through December 23.Tickets, which include a tasty buffet dinner, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

“A Christmas Carol,” a novella by Dickens that was first published in 1843, tells the tale of an old miser name Scrooge who gets transformed from a curmudgeon to a likable old soul after visits from his deceased partner Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future.

The cast at the Candlelight presents an entertaining and very believable retelling of Dickens’ story. The show is propelled by standout performances by Barry Gomolka as Ebenezer Scrooge and Brian McCole as Bob Cratchit.

“I’m having fun with it,” said Gomolka, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from his home in Philadelphia. “It’s a role I always wanted to do. I wasn’t planning on doing any theater over the holidays. But when the show’s director Bob Kelly offered me the role, I thought — I just don’t think I should pass up this opportunity.

“I was familiar with movie version of the show but I only ever saw it onstage once. They used to do it every year as a stage production at Madison Square Garden. So, one year when I was living in New York, I went to see it. Tony Randall was starring in it that year.”

Gomolka and Scrooge made friends easily.

“I like the whole transformation that takes place,” said Gomolka. “Someone that mean and steeped in isolation locking himself away from interaction with other humans — it takes ghosts for him to see.

“Ghosts show him his horrible childhood loneliness, and his only true love leaving him. All these things made him shut off from wanting to be happy. Then, with the help of ghosts, there is the transformation and the forgiveness. Everyone was forgiving.

“With this production, Bob Kelly came up with elements that would be really entertaining. It’s a very short novella so he wanted to flesh out the show. I had to find that fine line of Scrooge wanting to get involved but still hold back a little. If he was so adamantly opposed, he couldn’t have that much fun. I’m still trying to find the balance.”

Gomolka offered his take on why “A Christmas Carol” has remained so popular for generation after generation.

“It’s almost 200 years old so obviously there is a message there,” said Gomolka, a native of South Amboy, New Jersey. “It’s a message that can hit home for ordinary people. And, everyone wants to be merry at Christmas.”

Two other stage shows with a Christmas theme are playing in the area.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-0 648-4102, www.AMTshows.com) has its holiday show running now through December 30. The show features spectacular vocal harmonies, lively musical arrangements, impressive dancing, elaborate scenery, elegant costumes and the music of the AMT Orchestra. Tickets are $42.

The Rainbow Dinner Theatre (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, www.RainbowDinnerTheatre.com) is presenting its holiday production “Burglar’s Holiday” now through December 28. Ticket prices range from $48-$54.

Another attraction for theater fans is “Cinderella, which is running now through November 30 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org). Ticket prices range from $20-$105.50.

The National Tour production tells the tale of the Cinderella we all know and love — but with a slightly different twist.

“It’s an updated script — updated for the 21st century audience,” said Ashley Park, who plays Cinderella’s stepsister Gabrielle. “It’s very much the same story but I think it’s easier to follow. The characters are more accessible. The theme of this show is rooted in kindness. Cinderella is a modern-day heroine.”

While there is a less-than-loaded schedule for live music in the area on Thanksgiving night, there is a full slate for the upcoming week.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will present Pat Wictor and Toby Walker on November 28 and Jim Boggia with Ladybird on November 29.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) is hosting Chaz and Lonnie Comedy on November 28 and D. Poole performing in a Dillan McCants Benefit on November 29.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427- 4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Irene Molloy, Andrea Nardello
and Kicking Down Doors on November 28, the John Grecia Band and Drew Nielands on November 29 and Hannah Holbrook, Ayo Awosika and Hillary Reynolds on December 3.

Melodies Café (2 East Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, 610-645-5269, www.melodiescafe.com) will have Vocal Motive and Momonita on November 28 and the Eighth Annual “Evening of Thanksgiving” with Craig & Aislinn Bickhardt and Beaucoup Blue on November 29.

The schedule for the World Café Live at the Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 302- 994-1400, www.queen.worldcafelive.com) includes US Rails and Nik Everett on November 28, Wilmo Rock Circus 2014 on November 29 and Everclear’s Art Alexakis on December 3.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Jim Brickman on November 29.

Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) features Hot Jam Factory, Jesse Baker Band, The Skiffs, Heart For Hire and Flower Garden on November 28, Vinyl Theatre, The Separators and Casual E on November 29 (in the Lizard Lounge) and Burnt Sienna on November 29 on the main stage.

Tellus 360 (24 East King Street, Lancaster, 717-393-1660, www.tellus360.com) will host Aortic Valve on November 28 and The Local Openers with Dietrich Strause on November 29.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present NRBQ along with Miss Tess & The Talkbacks on November 28, Almost Queen on November 29, the Glenn Miller Orchestra on November 30 (1 p.m.), Gary Hoey along with Blue Wave Theory on November 30, George Winston on December 1, Bill Monaghan on December 2 and Paul Byrom on December 3.

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