On Stage: Kid Koala spins into Philly tonight

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Kid Koala

 

Eric San will be performing in Philadelphia on May 17, but you won’t find his name on any venue listings. His fans, however, know that he’s coming because they know he performs under his entertainment alias – Kid Koala.

On May 17, Kid Koala will bring his “Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville Floor Kids Edition” to Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

Kid Koala is a world-renowned scratch DJ, music producer, and award-winning graphic novelist. He has released four solo albums on Ninja Tune including his latest album “12 bit Blues.” He has released two graphic novels — Nufonia Must Fall and Space Cadet. He has also been involved in collaborations such as Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, and The Slew.

The Canadian musician has contributed to scores for the films “Shaun of the Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,’ “Looper and The Great Gatsby.” He has composed music for The National Film Board of Canada, the Cartoon Network, Sesame Street, and Adult Swim. He has also been commissioned to create music for runway shows for Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten.

Kid Koala’s unforgettable live shows range from silly touring turntable carnivals like “Short Attention Span Theater” (featuring turntable bingo) and “Vinyl Vaudeville” (including puppets and dancers) to quiet-time events like “Music To Draw To,” “Space Cadet Headphone Experience” and “Nufonia Must Fall Live.”

The visionary scratch DJ and producer released the “Floor Kids Original Video Game Soundtrack” on April 27 via Arts & Crafts. It is a 42-track project featuring 71 minutes of original instrumental hip-hop and break music from the award-winning video game, “Floor Kids.” In support of the soundtrack, Kid Koala will hit the road with his current touring project is “Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville Floor Kids Edition.”

“Floor Kids” is the breakthrough breakdance battle video game with original music by legendary scratch DJ and producer Kid Koala. The “Floor Kids Original Video Game Soundtrack is a timeless journey across every era of the sound, cycling through silky 70s funk, thumping 80s 808s, granular 90s 12 bit, and 00s synth funk.

An original concept by animator bboy Jon Jon and Kid Koala, “Floor Kids” has captured the essence of what makes breaking an art form unlike any other, blending together sound, style, and movement in a radical blast of freestyle expression.

“It started when I met this animator JonJon,” said Koala, during a recent phone interview from his home in Montreal, Quebec.

“I was working with the National Film Board in Montreal. JonJon was there working on a score for a film and we realized we had a connection. I immediately liked his line styles. His characters had all these quirky details. He brought a stack of paper as thick as a phonebook to my home.

“We flipped through them. There was a character named Noogie doing a swipe. Even just flipping through the pages, you could feel the beat. His concept of timing is all about frames and mine is with beats.

“We started with the same animated shorts that I’d play in my sets. I was collecting crowd sounds. At shows, I’d just play his animation and the crowd would go nuts. Jon Jon was blown away. We thought about where we could take it. We decided to make it interactive like a video game. We wanted to make a game where players feel like dancers and create their own choreography. JonJon wanted to make sure all the moves were authentic.”

Kid Koala is no stranger to forging new paths in entertainment.

“When I was young, I started with turntables around the tine I was playing video games – the first NES console,” said Kid Koala. “I’m into using all-natural sounds – more and more in the last 10 years. I’ve been doing a lot more film work and they didn’t want to deal with the licensing of samples.

“I hadn’t used samples. We knew if we were going to be releasing a game, we didn’t have the possibility to use samples. It was also a challenge to learn how to sue source material.

“I have a record cutter in my studio. I’d cut a single on vinyl. Then, I’d scratch off it, re-assemble it and juggle parts of it. It added to the sound of what I was going for. Vinyl has a sound you don’t get from digital – the crackle, dust and record wear.

“With this project, I wanted to capture an era of break music—70s funk, 80s electro, 90s 12-bit and hip hop, and 2000s synth beat era. I was playing saxophone – I had to reach back to my high school band days. I wanted the tracks to sound like a band. I jammed on upright bass. I played every instrument in the studio – bass guitar, drums, woodwinds, shakers and drum machines.

“This live show has been a five-year project. I’m so ecstatic that it has finally come out.”

Video link for Kid Koala – https://youtu.be/0z6LocBu_CU.

Video link for JonJon Noogie — https://youtu.be/sF5HGauDHUA.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Adira Amram & The Experience, DJ Jester as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Sweet Spirit on May 18 and Mount Kimbie on May 22 and 23.

The Jamie McLean Band

Music fans may not instantly recognize Jamie McLean’s name but there is a better-than-average chance that they have heard his guitar work.

As a guitarist for New Orleans royalty Aaron Neville and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, McLean has toured the world with these two veteran and ultra-popular acts.

McLean, who will bring his band to the area for a show on May 17 at 118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, 610-971-2628, www.118northwayne.com), has been described as a “triple threat.”

His blue-eyed Southern soul vocals ooze raw emotion and his highly-acclaimed songwriting brings it all together.  With hundreds of original compositions to his name, McLean creates a musical gumbo that incorporates New Orleans soul, Delta blues, middle America roots and New York City swagger.

On February 23, the Jamie McLean Band released its long-awaited new album “One and Only.”

“I released my first album on my own in 2006 so I’ve been doing it a good 10 years now,” said McLean, during a phone interview last week.

“We’ve put in a lot of work. In the last five years, it’s developed to a stage where we could go on stage with any band and hold our own. The new album is our eighth release. Our last five records are all really strong.”

McLean solidified his reputation with his work with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

“I was working with my own band and we opened a lot for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band,” said McLean. “They asked me to join their band so I moved to New Orleans in 2001.

“Working with Aaron Neville came later – just the last couple years. He was looking for a new guitarist. He knew my work with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and reach out. He’s such a great talent. I still pinch myself every night on stage with him.

“I left the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on good terms. I knew I wanted to focus on the Jamie McLean Band. But, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has a motto –once a Dozen, always a Dozen.”

McLean has successfully led his own band for years.

“It’s usually the same band,” said McLean. “But, sometimes when touring, I’ll use fill-ins if there are scheduling conflicts with the regular guys. The core group is a trio – Brian Griffin on drums, Chris Andersen on bass and me on guitar.”

That was the nucleus of the musicians that made “One and Only.”

“We recorded the album in Nashville,” said McLean. “Ken Coomer of Wilco produced it and Sam Bush came in and did some sessions with us. We cut it at Sound Emporium studios in Nashville. Another special guest was Jeff Coffin from the Dave Matthews Band. All the songs were my originals except for one co-write with Tim Jones.

“In our live shows now, we’re doing a lot from the new record – and a lot from older albums. I also occasionally do solo shows. Most of the songs are made for a full band but it’s nice to strip them down sometimes.”

Video link for Jamie McLean Band – https://youtu.be/xx7FR-tt3cw.

The show at 118 North, which has the Balkun Brothers as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Other upcoming acts at 118 North are Dynagroove on May 18, Smash Palace and Cliff Hillis on May 19, and Jim Stevens on May 20.

Pollens

This is springtime in the Delaware Valley, so the arrival of pollens is expected.

If you’re a person with allergies or sinus problems, you dread the arrival of pollens. If you’re a fan of smart, catchy indie music, you’re likely to welcome the arrival of pollens – Pollens to be more specific.

Pollens is an indie pop band that formed in Seattle, Washington and now calls Brooklyn home. After going through several lineup changes, Pollens is currently a duo featuring Elizabeth “Emay” May and Jeff Bryant.

The talented twosome is now out on tour – a tour that will bring them to Philly on May 18 for a show at All Night Diner (900 South 47th Street, Philadelphia, https://www.facebook.com/events/222433678322807/)

In conjunction with their tour, Pollens recently released their latest single “$$$_PSA” via  Emerging Indie Bands. The track displays offbeat, conversational delivery, dense polyrhythms, layered themes, drum machines, and dynamic arrangements.

The show on Friday night will mark Pollens’ Philadelphia debut.

“This band has changed a couple times,” said Bryant, during a phone last week from the band’s home in Brooklyn. “Previous lineups have gone out on tour, but this will the first time of this configuration.

“Pollens started when I was in music school – Cornish College in Seattle. The first incarnation was a choral band with composers as the singers. Then, it turned into a real band with drums and instruments. We got up to seven people.”

Pollens began in late 2008 as the composition project of Jeff Aaron Bryant and Hanna Benn, who were both students at Cornish College of the Arts. As Bryant and Benn developed their sound in 2008 and 2009, live shows included drum machines and a rotating cast of vocalists, auxiliary instrumentalists and percussionists.

By 2010, Pollens had expanded to become a six-piece band. Other members include Adam Kozie, Kelly Wyse, Whitney Lyman, and Lena Simon. The band became a seven piece with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Mike Sparks in 2013.

Pollens self-released an eponymous EP in 2010. Their full-length album “Brighten & Break,” produced by Charlie Smith of Throw Me the Statue, was released in 2012 on Tapete Records. In 2015, Benn left Pollens, seeking to focus on her solo work, while Bryant relocated to New York City.

“We made the ‘Brighten & Break’ album and soon after that, I moved to L.A. for grad school,” said Bryant. “After that, I moved to New York. I would go back to Seattle to do festivals with the band, but New York was my base.”

Soon after his move to the Big Apple, Bryant recruited Elizabeth May for the current duo line-up of Pollens. The release a new EP titled “Mister Manufacture” on October 27, 2017.

“I started doing theater work here in New York and that’s how Elizabeth and I met,” said Bryant.

“We were doing an operetta. I wrote and she performed. It was in 2104 and the operetta was called ‘At the Rich Relatives.’ It was an anachronistic operetta. We also did another one about the internet at TLDR in 2014. The band now has theater influence.”

May said, “As a duo, we’re only a year into this. I’m from South Carolina and I came to New York to follow my dream.

“I started out as an actor. After graduating from the University of North Carolina—Greensboro, I move here. Once in New York, I decided that I liked making music and doing my own projects netter than being in other people’s productions.”

Around this time, Pollens’ music was going through a transmutation.

“At first, I felt beholden to try to cover my own music,” said Bryant. “The old ensemble was really different. It had a different personality and the songs were written for different people.

“So, we had to figure out what we wanted to do as a duo. We kept the name Pollens because it’s always a continuation of my ideas. Even though I’ve been working on this for a while, it still feels like it just started.”

May and Bryant function well as a duo.

“We record ourselves,” said May. “We have our own setup using Ableton. We’re always writing and recording – thinking about doing short format things.”

Pollens is a New York band. Its sound incorporates percussion and shouting, samplers, noise, ecstatic readings of boring lists, stupid dance beats, and wild drumming. Low-art, normal stuff, downtown theater, subway commutes, more lists, your telephone, transmission noise, gestures, and physicality are all part of the influences.

Bryant and May’s lyricism often features ‘lists’ that pique listeners’ curiosity.

Pollens belong in a world where guitars are not needed, lyrics come off as ‘lists’ to be shouted, not sung, and songs lie on a bedrock of intricate, yet visceral percussion.

According to Pollens, their latest single,“$$$_PSA”, focuses on a “few flavors of moneyed people — their entitlement, the space they’re taking up on the train, their shoes and conversations, and every so often we hear someone else making an announcement.”

“In our live shows, we use samples and EMay has some vocal effects,” said Bryant. “I play my percussion pads and we both sing. This is our first time to play Philly and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Video link for Pollens — https://youtu.be/R-MXqC6IthE.

The show at All Night Diner, which has Zenizen and Aphra as openers, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.

The Claudettes

On May 18, The Claudettes will bring their audience-rousing live show to the area when they headline a show at Bourbon and Branch (705 North Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-238-0660, bourbonandbranchphilly.com).

Pianist Johnny Iguana formed the Claudettes, who feature Berit Ulseth on vocals, Zach Verdoorn on bass guitar and vocals and Danny Yost on drums.

The Claudettes’ new album “Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium” just came out on March 23 via Yellow Dog Records. It was produced by Mark Neill from the band Black Keys. The band recorded in Georgia for 10 days, tapping Neill’s vast knowledge and collection of vintage equipment. Neill, who shuns the practice of building tracks in Pro Tools, had the band play again and again until “THE” take arrived. Marxophones, mellotrons, fuzz pedals and percussion helped finalize Neill’s sonic visions.

The Claudettes combine the Chicago blues-piano tradition with the energy of rockabilly and punk and the sultry sound of ’60s soul-jazz to create a thrilling new spin on American roots music.

According to Downbeat Magazine, “The Claudettes hit listeners upside the head with a mash-up of Otis Spann blues, Albert Ammons boogie-woogie, Ray Charles soul and “Fess” Longhair New Orleans R&B.”

Rather than attack the blues with one or two guitars, the Claudettes brandish a piano instead. But the Claudettes have created their own fanatical fusion of blues and soul-jazz – sort of like Ray Charles on a punk kick.

“We just finished a new album,” said Iguana, during a recent phone interview from his home in Chicago. “It took a while to figure out who was going to put it out. The album is a throwback – very 60s sounding.

“We recorded it with producer Mark Neill at Soil of the South studio in Valdosta, Georgia. We used all analog gear and then Radar to take it digital. It’s got a warm sound with a lot of low end, acoustic instruments and vintage reverb. It doesn’t sound like it was produced by a modern indie-rock record.”

The Claudettes have created their own genre.

“The Claudettes blazed a new trail masquerading as a blues/roots bands but it’s a punk band at its core,” said Iguana. “We can play a punk bill as a rock band or a different bill as a blues band. The Claudettes really put a lot of heart in our live show. We combine musicianship and humor. We have a stage setup that converts the stage into a mini-tavern – a reality check built into our stage show.”

On stage, Claudette’s drink specials scroll across LED displays pinned to the band’s shirts (e.g. “$5 domestics on Sunday with dinner and Champagne purchase,” “MONDAY NIGHT: DESIGNER NIGHT! You design shot, I design price”).

The Claudette’s have a strange history – and an interesting story behind their name.

“Michael Caskey, a drummer from Chicago, and I had a piano-and-drum duo,” said Iguana. “We called a place called Claudette’s Bar in 2010 looking for a gig in between Chicago and St. Louis. Claudette booked us into her bar in Oglesby (Illinois) and fell in love with the band.

“So, she hired us as her house band and put them. That drummer’s wife had a baby so we hired a new drummer and then expanded to a four-piece. Since then, we’ve done a ton of shows.”

The show at Bourbon and Branch will be a homecoming for Iguana.

“I was born in New Jersey and grew up in the Philly area,” said Iguana. “I graduated from Upper Dublin High School and the University of Pennsylvania.

“Then, I moved to New York City where I worked in publishing and played piano. I began meeting blues musicians and playing in blues bands. I met Junior Wells in Chicago and played piano in his band.”

In addition to touring internationally and recording six albums with his cult-favorite rock band oh my god, Iguana has played live or recorded with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Lil’ Ed, Carey Bell, Billy Boy Arnold, Lurrie Bell, John Primer, Billy Branch, Carlos Johnson, Sugar Blue, Dave Myers and Eddie Shaw.

Video link for The Claudettes – https://youtu.be/6UomSubUtNY.

The show at Bourbon and Branch, which has The Rectors as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Another show this week at Bourbon and Branch will be Priscilla Renea on May 22.

Jim Kweskin

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present “Mason Porter and Friends present the 5th Annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash!” on May 18, Jim Kweskin on May 19, and Open Mic with Guest Host Julia Johnson on May 20.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Porter & Sayles on May 19, Steve Pullara on May 20, and “Bob Dylan’s 77th Birthday Show” on May 23.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Terrapin Flyer featuring Melvin Seals with special guest Steal your Peach on May 17, Donna the Buffalo with special guest Yarn on May 18, Flightschool: 10 Year Anniversary on May 19, and Countdown to Ecstasy with special guest Downingtown School of Rockon May 20.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present

Chris Trapper with Mary Scholz on May 18, and Callaghan with Julia Mark on May 19.

The Candlelight Theatre is presenting the hilarious comedy “Boeing Boeing” now through June 24.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evening (doors, 6 p.m.; show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (doors, 1 p.m.; show, 3 p.m.). There is a Thursday evening performance June 14 and two Wednesday matinees, May 16 and June 6. There are no performances Memorial Day weekend, May 25 – 27. All tickets include dinner and show and are $63 for adults.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on May 18, and Pink Martini on May 19.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will host The Mersey Beatles onMay 17, Doyle Bramhall II on May 18, The Everly Brothers Experience featuring The Zmed Brothers on May 19, The Ballroom Thieves and Abbie Gardner (Of Red Molly) on May 20 and “Sail On: The Beach Boys Tribute” on May 23.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will have Paula Poundstone on May 19, Arlo Guthrie’s Re:Generation Tour on May 20.

 

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