On Stage: Steven Wilson’s music tells a story

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Great Valley grad Kevin Manning celebrates new EP release

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

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British progressive rock star Steven Wilson has a wide range of accomplishments. Wilson, who plays two area shows this weekend, has a new album that tells a story of isolation and loss.

In the rock music world — especially the world of prog rock — Steven Wilson is like a Renaissance Man. His list of accomplishments goes beyond impressive. And, his new album “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” is one of the year’s most critically-acclaimed albums.

The veteran British musician/record producer is now touring North America in support of his new disc. The tour will touch down twice in the area — on May 28 at the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) and on May 31 at the Grand (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org).

Wilson’s new album was inspired by a most disturbing story of a young, vibrant woman who passed away in her apartment.

“This album was inspired by a film,” said Wilson, during a recent phone interview from his home in Hemel Hempstead, a small town in England. “It was a documentary titled ‘Dreams of a Life’ and was about Joyce Carol Vincent.

“She was found dead in her London flat. Her body had been there for more than two years. It shows how easy someone can disappear from view in the middle of a metropolis.”

Her story was the inspiration for a musically and thematically inspired album.

“I started working on the album in the summer of 2013,” said Wilson. “It seems each album and every tour gets longer — a year of your life. Halfway through touring for my previous record, I started working on something new. It’s interesting for the band.

“It’s nice to have something fresh. It’s also nice for fans that keep coming back to shows. And, it’s always nice to see how songs do live. There is a chemistry with the audience that you can’t replicate in the studio. Testing songs on the road allows you to explore different possibilities. That’s why we do live albums — to capture that energy.”

Seeing and hearing Wilson perform his new album live promises to be a unique experience.

“The live show is a lot more than just the music,” said Wilson, who is also well-known as the founder, lead guitarist, singer and songwriter of the band Porcupine Tree. “It has cinematic quality quadraphonic sound and a strong element of visuals.

“It’s a multi-media experience. It is theatrical in a lot of ways and that has a lot to do with my love of cinema. I wanted my live show to be a visual experience as well as a musical experience.”

Today’s technology makes the possibilities almost endless.

“What we can do with laptops is so much more than what was possible in the past,” said Wilson. “I have LCD screens I can take anywhere. It gives it that extra ‘wow’ factor. Fans are getting a little blasé about concerts because so many bands are touring. I think you have to give them something extra. That’s why fans come back. Music is at a point where it’s very difficult to blow people’s minds. There is still a lot of work to be done with innovating music with pictures. When I’m writing, I’m hearing the music. At the same time, I’m seeing the music — how it will look. I’ve been fortunate to work with some fantastic filmmakers and animators.”

Video link for Steven Wilson — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=gOU_zWdhAoE.

The show at the Keswick on May 28 will start at 7:30 p.m. with tickets priced at $29 and $49. The show at the Grand will begin at 7 p.m. with ticket priced at $30, $33 and $36.

The Grand will also host Caught Up on May 29 and Will Downing on May 30.

kevin-manning

Kevin Manning

If you’d rather hear a promising new local musician and indie band from America perform on May 28, head down to Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com) to catch a show featuring an “EP Release Party” by Kevin Manning and a set by Seattle’s Ivan & Aloysha .

Manning, who is a native of Malvern and a Great Valley High grad, released his debut EP “Leaving St. Paul” on Trestle Bridge Records on May 26.

“I started playing music a long time ago,” said Manning, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “My sister got a guitar from our cousin. She played it for a little while and then stopped. I found it lying around the house and picked it up. I was 15 and I really got into it. I kept playing and playing — teaching myself by listening to record like ‘Nirvana Unplugged.’ When I was in college, I played in bars around Baltimore.”

Manning played soccer at Great Valley and went to Loyola University to continue with the sport. But, an injury during his freshman year brought his athletic career to a close — and opened the way for his musical pursuits.

“I was mostly doing covers when I was playing during my college days,” said Manning. “When my covers ran out, I started to write original songs. But, I wasn’t really satisfied with what I was doing. So, I took a break from music through my 20s.

“When I was 28 or 29, I started getting back into it because of some of the personal stuff I was going through at the time. Writing was an outlet for me during a very difficult time in my life.

“I was living with my girlfriend Jess and she got terminal cancer and died. I started writing the EP a number of years ago. She was tied to the whole process. She was physically there while I was recording it.

“It’s taken me quite awhile to get to the place where I can put the songs out there. It’s a relief because I held up finishing it for quite some time. Then, I realized it was time to get it done.”

The EP was recorded and produced by Matt Magarahan, a Downingtown based multi-instrumentalist/producer/singer-songwriter.

Manning’s songwriting has been good enough to earn him a number of accolades already. He was the winner of Milkboy’s 2012 Open Mic Songwriter’s Contest.

“When I won that contest — that got me back into it,” said Manning. “Now, all I’m doing in my free time is writing songs.”

Video link for Kevin Manning — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=rklP8oy2JOs.

ivan & aloysha

Ivan & Aloysha

Ivan & Aloysha started as a duo about eight years ago in Seattle — but neither musician was named Ivan or Aloysha. It featured Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary who met while working on other projects. The name came from two characters of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel “The Brothers Karamazov.”

The duo added musicians over the years and now the band is a quintet that also includes Tim Kim, Pete Wilson and Cole Mauro. After releasing a number of singles and EPs, the band released its debut album “All the Times We Had” in 2013. On May 4, Ivan & Aloysha released its sophomore LP “It’s All Just Pretend.”

“We recorded the album officially last June,” said Tim Wilson, during a phone interview Wednesday morning as the band was en route to a gig in Boston. “But, we were recording and making demos all through 2013.

“It’s a very different recording than our last one. We spent a lot of time on that material and toured a lot. The songs for the new album were written in a shorter amount of time.

“Ryan, Pete and myself contributed songs for the record — pretty much three equal amounts. So, you wouldn’t think it would be as cohesive as it is. But, somehow, all the songs fit together well. There were different writers, different places and different studios. It’s actually pretty good that it turned out so cohesive.”

The success of the group’s debut disc should be duplicated with the new release.

“The album just came out and it’s doing really well,” said Wilson. “We’ve never played these songs live before so the album has a lot of life.

“We’ve played most of the new record in recent shows. On this tour, we’re doing an hour-and-a-half set so we’re playing all of them in show. People have been coming out and singing every word of the new songs. They know the whole record.”

Video link for Ivan & Aloysha — http://www.ivanandalyosha.com/post/we-had-a-ton-of-fun-shooting-out-music-video-for.

The May 28 show at Johnny Brenda’s starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.

On June 2, Hutch and Kathy will visit Philly for a show at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com).

Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com), which is located a few blocks north of Johnny Brenda’s will present theSHIFT on May 29.

TheSHIFT — John Shannon (vocals/guitar), MJ Lambert (drums) and Ben Geis (bass) — is a band with a wide range of music experience.

Shannon has recorded and toured with top-national acts like John Mayer, Lauryn Hill and Ben Harper, while also having composed music and performed guitar for comedian Louis CK’s live specials and hit FX series “Louie.” Lambert and Geis’ musical roots lie deep in the world of hip hop, having backed legends Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick.

theSHIFT

TheSHIFT

TheSHIFT is a power trio that captures all energy and intensity of classic power trios such as Cream, Mountain and the James Gang. It also is a band with a sound that is fresh and contemporary.

“I’m from Pittsburgh and growing up there was cool,” said Shannon, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Boston. “I grew up in the 90s with the Rusted Root movement.

“When I was young, I grew up on rock. I got into jazz in high school and then went to Berklee (School of Music) in Boston. I was into the listening and sensitivity involved in playing jazz. Then, I wanted to come back to playing high-energy rock so I moved to New York.

“I met MJ and Ben in New York. We all were doing different gigs. Te knew me froma previous band. So, we did a show together at the Mercury Lounge. Ther was just an immediate connection. We played again the next day.

“I’ve been playing sessions in New York for a long time. I resonated with the hip hop aspect of what they were playing. Ben comes from a jazz background and hip hop drummers work well in rock-and-roll because they hit hard. A lot of my music requires a strong rhythm section and a strong groove.”

The connection was there immediately but it took awhile for the band to actually come to life.

“”We hooked up a couple years ago,” said Shannon. “Then, I landed a gig in Austraia with a circus and they were working with Big Daddy Kane. So, we put it on hold. I got back in July and we started rehearsing the next day. We had already been booking shows before I even got back.”

A few months later, theSHIFT went into the studio to record its debut EP “7th Direction.”

“We cut the album in September in Brooklyn  and New York City,” said Shannon. “We tracked live and then re-did the vocals. We knocked it out in about four days. I wrote all the lyrics but the music was pretty collaborative.

“Our newer music is even more collaborative. We try to write music that points to a higher reality. We have about 25 songs and they’re all album potentials. We’re looking to have an album with nine of 10 songs and we hope to get back into the studio by mid-summer.”

Video link for theSHIFT — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qEcPULvPTac

TheSHIFT will perform at Kung Fu Necktie on May 29 at 11:20 p.m. Tickets are $5.

savant

Savant

Another interesting — and equally intense — show will also take place in Philly on May 29 when Savant brings his unpredictable live show to District N9NE (490 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com)

Savant is the stage name of Aleksander Vinter, an Norwegian EDM producer/musician.

“I grew up in the very north of Norway,” said savant, during a phone interview last week. “It was way up in the Polar Circle — up where they have the Northern Lights.”

Savant, a multi-instrumentalist singer, songwriter, performer, and producer, has established a very prolific career in just a few years with numerous singles, remixes, nominations for Norwegian Grammys, and 11 full-length albums.

During grade school, he was diagnosed with a series of mental conditions — primarily Aspergers Syndrome along with some autism and ADHD. Vintner had a condition known as “savant syndrome,” which allowed for a remarkable focus and aptitude in a particular talent. For Vintner, the talent was music.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect, a filmmaker, and artist and a musician,” said Savant, during a phone interview last week. “I loved inventing stuff. I started making my own electronic music on my computer when I was 10 or 11.

“I realized I had a lot of stuff to put in my music. Having Aspergers Autism Syndrome, whatever I heard stuck. I’m a very good re-mixer in my head. I can hear a song, listen to the drum part and keep it in my head.

“My mind is really good at stealing stuff and doing something with it quickly. With my Aspergers Autism, I have none too little patience for things. If I do something, I have to do it quickly and finish it. I’m more like a mad scientist.”

Savant’s mind moves at “faster miles per hour” and rarely slows down.

“It’s hard for me to go to sleep if I haven’t done enough during the day,” said the prolific Norwegian music artist. “I need to sit and make music all the time. It’s like a vent. I’m super happy that I fell into music. I can’t stop thinking about music. Right now, I’m making music 24/7.”

Fortunately for Savant, it’s not just quantity that’s there all the time. There is also an abundance of quality.

“I’m not trying to make pop music,” said Savant. “I’m trying to push music boundaries. I want to be that really hard-working guy that inspires people to do their best. And, it’s not about being big now. I want history to look back and say — that’s the Savant guy who did everything.”

Video link for Savant — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=k_EdAXg2XKw.

The show at District N9NE will begin at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.

hutch-&-kathy

Hutch & Kathy

Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster have been two-thirds of the Thermals ever since the band began in Portland, Oregon in 2002. One year prior to the release of the Thermals’ debut album “More Parts Per Million,” Harris and Foster released their “Hutch and Kathy” album.

“We recorded it in our house in 2001 — on reel-to-reel tape,” said Harris, during a recent phone interview. “It was a really cheap record to make. We spent a lot of time on it — working on an eight-track reel-to-reel. Then, we mixed it at a studio on Portland.”

Now, Harris and Foster are touring the album — an album that was originally released on CD by Jealous Butcher Records in 2002.

“The Jealous Butcher label is from Portland,” said Harris. “Kathy and I have made a lot of records that were on vinyl. But, this one was never on vinyl. Jealous Butcher wanted to release it on vinyl on Record Store Day. That was great.

“The album got re-mastered and we added a bonus track — ‘Far & Lonely.’ The album had never been mastered for vinyl. We probably mixed it from tape to DAT back in 2001. We wanted it to be the same record.

“We definitely went back and listened to the original album a lot before this touer. When we play these songs live, we want them to sound as close as possibl;e to the way we recorded them. We had to rehearse a lot because we hadn’t played these songs in 123 years.”

Fortunately, a Hutch & Kathy project doesn’t signify the end of the Thermals.

“We’ll be touring until June,” said Harris. “Then, we’ll start working on a new Thermals album. Most of it has already been written. We’ll be recording it in Portland this summer.”

Video link for the Thermals — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MtrfbXWDAQ0

The show at Boot & Saddle will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

“The Lion King,”, which features music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, is running now through June 14 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org), as part of the Kimmel Center‘s “Broadway Philadelphia” series.

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.

Video link for ‘The Lion King” — https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=-pgZtzDj_7o.

Tickets for “The Lion King” range in price from $28.50-$108.50.

“Steel Magnolias” will run through June 21 at the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) beginning on May 9.

The Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Rolling Stones tribute band Satisfaction on May 29, Joe Scheller and Sam Kwietniak on May 30 and One Alternative on May 31.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Bizzy along with Kerv on May 29, Joe Taylor, Eric Reavey and Carolyn Cott on May 30 and an Open Mic featuring Atilla Vural on May 31.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Alejandro Escovedo with Tommy Conwell on May 28, George Porter Jr. (of The Meters) & the Runnin’ Pardners with Ikebe Shakedown and You Do You on May 29, The New Orleans Suspects and Weird Hot on May 30 and the Philadelphia Songwriters Project: Final Showcase on May 31.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Jesse Terry and Sarah Peacock on May 28, Christine Havrilla with Andrea Nardello on May 29 and Session Americana with Tom Brosseau on May 30.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Bruda, Groove Merchants and the Dave Spencer Trio on May 29, and Heston along with Street Greek on May 30.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will present Livingston Taylor with Stephen Kellogg on May 30.

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