On Stage: Wild Rivers flows into Eagleview

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Wild Rivers

The Downingtown area has never had to experience wild rivers – maybe the Brandywine Creek overflowing its banks every once in a while — but never wild rivers.

On August 7, the area will get to experience Wild Rivers – a Canadian rock/folk/country band from Toronto, Ontario.

The Eagleview Summer Concerts on the Square at Eagleview Town Center (Wharton Boulevard, Exton, www.ineagleview.com) will feature Wild Rivers as the headline act of Tuesday’s concert which runs from 7-9 p.m.

Wild Rivers — Khalid Yassein (vocals, guitar), Devan Glover (vocals), Ben Labenski (drums), Andrew Oliver (guitar, bass) — has accrued more than 30 million streams on Spotify over the last three years, toured consistently across the U.S. and Canada, and has earned a reputation as a band that makes a powerful, lasting connection with their its fans.

The Toronto-based band draws inspiration from 1970s acts such as Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and Neil Young. The band incorporates these influences with its ability to blend its hallmark storytelling styles with contemporary approaches to melody.

“We started as a duo with me and Devan,” said Yassein, during a phone interview last week from the band’s pre-tour rehearsal at a space in Etobicoke, Ontario.

“We met each other when we were in college at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario in 2013. We decided to do some music together. We began by playing cover songs in small clubs and coffeehouses.

“It went well. So, we started playing our own music and making a name for ourselves. We added the other two members in 2014 when we were making our first album. At the same time, we changed from Devan and Khalid to Wild Rivers.

“We released our first album – ‘Wild Rivers’ – in 2016. Then, we released two singles – ‘Do Right’ in 2017 and ‘Howling’ in 2018.”

Now, the Canadian quartet is touring in support of its recently-released EP – “Eighty-Eight.”

“We started recording the EP in October 2017,” said Yassein. “We sat down and tried to flesh out enough songs to make another record. We did some songwriting in Nashville and some in Toronto. We recorded the EP in Toronto with several producers.

“At first, we rented a dingy basement studio for a month to work up the songs. Then, we brought on our producers. One was a guy from Nashville – Skyler Wilson. We used him to work on the songs we had written in Nashville. After that, we used different producers at6 different studios in Toronto.

“Even though we used different producers, we wanted to make it sound cohesive – and we did. Our long term is to make a full-length, so we wanted to use tis as an opportunity to get used to working this way

“There are five songs on the EP. Early on, there was concern that we’d have a group of five jumbled songs. So, we used just one mixer. The songs were all true to us as musicians. The male/female vocalist is a big part of our songs.

“We finished mixing the album in the winter. With the songs we had, it made sense to do an EP rather than an album. We didn’t exactly have enough songs to put on an album without some of them just being album cuts. It worked out better this way.”

Video link for Wild Rivers — https://youtu.be/BG1MuCIl3cc.
The free show at the Eagleview Town Center, which has Tumbleweeds as the opening act, will start at 7 p.m.

While no admission is charged to attend Eagleview Town Center events, the organizers request that you will bring a canned food item to each event to support their fight against hunger. Food donations will benefit the Chester County Food Bank.

The Dollyrots

The Dollyrots, who are headlining a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, www.kungfunecktie.com), also started as a duo – and, after 18 years performing together, they are still a duo.

The Dollyrots are a husband/wife team and American pop punk band formed in 2000 featuring wife Kelly Ogden (bass, lead vocals) and husband Luis Cabezas (guitar, backing vocals).

The married musicians are now in the final stage of their “Rah! Rah! Radical Tour.” The duo recently released a new limited-edition, half red/half blue vinyl 7-inch single on Wicked Cool Records. The release includes a new Dollyrots original song, “Get Radical,” and their unique take on Rancid’s hit “Ruby Soho.”

“We just put the 7-inch out on Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records,” said Cabezas, during a phone interview Friday as they travelled through New Jersey on their way to a gig in Bordentown.

“Last summer, we did a tour of the East Coast. Underground Garage (Underground Garage is the name of a syndicated show and a satellite radio station created and supervised by guitarist Steven Van Zandt) asked us to do a gig at Yankee Stadium. Dennis, the program director and Steven’s left-hand man, said that Steven was releasing a series of 45s and asked us to contribute. We sent them ‘Get Radical’ and they liked it.

“We’re not a political band. Our whole concept is to have a place to go. Concerts are all about having fun and not worrying about what’s going on outside. People want to have something happy in this life to latch on to.”

Cabezas and Ogden found something to latch on to early in their lives – each other. They’ve been a team ever since going to middle school together in Land O’Lakes, Florida.

The guitarist, whose roots go back to Ecuador, reflected on the band’s origin.

“The catalyst for starting the band happened when we were in high school,” said Cabezas. “I taught Kelly how to play guitar. Then, we stopped playing music in college.

“Kelly was planning on going to medical school. Right before she was to take her GRE’s, we heard the results of the 2000 US Presidential Election. When George W. Bush won, Kelly said – forget medical school, let’s just do a band. We left Florida, moved to L.A. and got an apartment in Koreatown.”

In 2003, the Dollyrots self-recorded and released an EP – “Feed Me, Pet Me.” They appeared in a Hewlett-Packard advertisement featuring the song “Feed Me, Pet Me,” which led to a publishing deal. A little while later, the band recorded its debut studio album “Eat My Heart Out.”

Since then, the Dollyrots have released seven albums – “Because I’m Awesome” (2007), “A Little Messed Up” (2010), “The Dollyrots” (2012), “Barefoot & Pregnant” (2014), “Love Songs, Werewolves & Zombies” (2014), “Family Vacation: Live in Los Angeles” (2016) and “Whiplash Splash” (2017).

“Whiplash Splash” is available on CD, aqua-blue vinyl, and digitally on the band’s own label Arrested Youth Label with distribution via MVD Entertainment Group (an internationally-acclaimed distributor which is located in nearby Pottstown).

“We tried to record an EP’s worth of songs before this tour,” said Cabezas. “We’re doing a Patreon campaign for funding (https://www.patreon.com/thedollyrots) and we have two videos done. All of our albums have been crowdfunded. In the past, we’ve used Kickstarter and Pledge Music. Ideally, we’ll have our next album out in spring of next year.

“On this tour, we’re playing songs from all the way back to our first record. We try to play something from every era.”

Video link for the Dollyrots — https://youtu.be/52F7uxLAbmA.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has This Kills Me and Teenage Bigfoot as opening acts, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

It’s not that common for music acts from Australia to perform in Philadelphia. It’s rare when two music acts from Australia play gigs in Philly within a week of each other.

But, that’s what’s happening now.

Kara Grainger

On August 3, Castlecomer visited Philadelphia for a show at Kung Fu Necktie. On August 8, Kara Grainger will headline a pair of shows at Chris’s Jazz Café (1421 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, www.chrisjazzcafe.com).

Grainger, a blues-oriented singer-songwriter-guitarist, and Castlecomer, an indie rock band, are transplants from Down Under who now live in L.A. Both are from Sydney, the state capital of New South Wales. Not only that, they both hail from the Inner West area of Sydney. But, as of yet, their paths have still not crossed.

Grainger grew up in Balmain, a suburb in the Inner West, and started playing guitar when she was a teenager. After playing in various bands around Sydney for a while, Grainger relocated to Los Angeles in 2008.

“The type of music I play – blues, Americana, singer-songwriter – is bigger here in the states than it is in Australia,” said Grainger, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Wheeling, West Virginia.

It didn’t take long for Grainger to establish roots in America and begin developing a fan base. With sultry, mesmerizing vocals, engaging songwriting talent, and fiery slide guitar work, Grainger’s skills continue to attract new listeners – and please older fans.

In 2011, the inspired “LA Blues” was recorded live at Studio City Sound. In 2013, Kara released “Shiver and Sigh” through LA label Eclecto Groove. The album was produced by Grammy award-winning producer David Z and featured some of LA’s finest musicians, including Mike Finnigan, Hutch Hutchinson, James Gadson and Kirk Fletcher. In 2012, she toured Japan with The Swampers and Donnie Fritts, the infamous house rhythm section for Fame Recordings in Muscle Shoals.

Grainger is now touring the states in support of her latest release “Living With Your Ghost.” The album was co-produced by legendary New Orleans musician/producer Anders Osborne who also lends his soulful guitar and vocal skills to the project. The album was made in Austin, Texas at the Wire Recording Studio and features Ivan Neville, bassist Dave Monsey and drummer JJ Johnson (who also is a staple member of the Tedeschi Trucks Band). The record also features The Texas Horns.

“We decided to record in Austin because of a great engineer – Stuart Sullivan at Wire Recording,” said Grainger. “JJ is an old friend. I called him and, surprisingly, he was available. Anders brought Ivan Neville with him. And, I got Anders to play rhythm guitar on the whole album. He was a fantastic producer.

“It was a great recording process – a lot of clarity. We did a week of tracking with the whole band and then another week of overdubs. After that, we spent about a month mixing the album.

“A lot of the stuff we did live in the studio made it to the album. A lot of the guitar solos are live. We all did it in one big room. We even did some of the acoustic tracks that way.”

“Living With Your Ghost” is a real gumbo of different emotions. There’s plenty of reflection on the passed and a yearning for people that have come and gone which you can hear in the title track “Living With Your Ghost.” Another key topic dealt with the struggle of love and life on the road as a traveling musician.

“I’d say it’s a collection of songs that I had worked hard on finalizing for a year,” said Grainger.

“It’s reflective – looking back so you can look forward. My lyrics are honest. The common thread in the songs was reflection and introspection – reassessing what it’s all about.”

When most singer-songwriters deal with topics like this, they tell stories while gently strumming an acoustic guitar. What sets Grainger apart is that she delivers her lyrics in a sultry, emotive voice accompanied by powerful electric guitar – including some outrageously good slide guitar playing.

Video link for Kara Grainger – https://youtu.be/xF07XstrflE.

The shows at Chris’s Jazz Café will be at 8 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 per show.

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