On Stage: Nalani & Sarina twice as good

Also: Rich Robinson gets past The Black Crowes

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

Nalani & Sarina

Nalani & Sarina

There can be good things about a buzz and there can be bad things.

A buzz at an outdoor picnic can be a bad thing because it probably means that there are pesky insects in the area. A buzz in electronic equipment is definitely a bad thing. A buzz is also something bad if it describes a driver’s mental condition when pulled over at a DUI checkpoint.

In the music world, a buzz can definitely be a good thing — as long as it’s not a buzz coming from a faulty amplifier. Creating a buzz for a music act is the process of building up the act’s fan base, improving recognition and adding to the act’s overall popularity.

Nalani & Sarina, 23-year-old twin sisters Nalani and Sarina Bolton from central New Jersey, have been creating a buzz in the Mid-Atlantic region for the last several years. The duo has performed at a variety of venues around the area — including the Kennett Flash, World Café Live at the Queen and MilkBoy Philadelphia.

The sisters will be pleasing their fan base and adding to it over the next week when they build more of a buzz by playing three shows in the area.

On July 28, they will be performing at Kid’s Day at Cool Springs Park Farmers Market (Cool Springs Park, 10th Street and North Van Buren Avenue, Wilmington, https://www.facebook.com/Cool-Spring-Farmers-Market-103958403032410/). The event, which runs from 5-7 p.m., is free and open to the public.

On August 2, the sisters, who already are experienced vocalists, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists, will visit Chester County to play Family Night at the Eagleview Concert Series (540 Wellington Square, Exton, http://www.ineagleview.com/?p=4203) at 7 p.m.

At the Eagleview Concert Series, a show will be held every Tuesday night now through August 30. The series, which has become a popular summer tradition in Chester County, is also free and open to the public.

On August 4, Nalani & Sarina will play at Pairings on the Parkway (Sister Cities Park, 210 North 18th Street, Philadelphia, http://www.ccdparks.org/sister-cities-park/events/pairings-on-the-parkway2016-11). This BYOB event features singer-songwriter style live music from 5:30-7:30 p.m. each week — and is free and open to the public.

“We were just in the studio again this week and we’ll be in the studio for most of August,” said Nalani, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from the twins’ home Flemington, New Jersey.

“It’s mainly pre-production stuff for our new album. We’re taking a pretty relaxed approach — doing it piece-by-piece…song-by-song. There are no deadlines and that makes it a lot less stressful.

Sarina said, “They’re all new songs — all of them written in the last six months. We had a new approach this time. The songs on our last album were based on personal experiences. This time, it’s other people’s stories — more of a world-wide approach.”

Nalani said, “We did just release a secret link for our fans — a link to a video for one of our new songs. We’ll release it for the public soon. We’re testing the water. It’s more of as pop-rock song that can fit in a lot of genres.”

With roots based in rhythm-and-blues, soul and rock, the sisters create vocal harmonies that only twins can make.

“We’re sonically alike and there is this telepathy,” said Sarina. “We’ll be singing a new song and when one of us gravitates to a harmony, the other knows exactly where to go. We’ve been singing together ever since we were three. Being twin sisters, there was nothing else to do. We started singing professionally when we were 15.”

 The songs tell stories but they still are tight songs — not long rambling stories set to music.

“We’re telling a story and using choruses to look at people’s emotions,” said Nalani. “One of the songs came out of thin air when we were playing in our basement at 2 a.m. one night. The lyrics just came in and it took on this perspective in our lives. It also had a different production aspect — a Beatles influence with weird sounds.

Sarina said, “We’ve definitely become more comfortable in the studio. We’ve gotten used to the studio environment and gotten better with how to handle vocals. We try to recreate how they’re done live. We really emphasized on making vocals different so they can relate to the stories.”

 Nalani & Sarina, who just turned 23 last week, have been making music together for a long time. They list acoustic guitar, piano and ukulele as their main instruments.

“We’re identical twins,” said Nalani. “We graduated early from Hunterdon Central High a few years ago and we’ve been doing music ever since. Actually, we both started playing classical piano when were six and then studied operatic vocals when we were in sixth grade.

“Classical music and opera provided good basics for us. Our mom was a folkie so we listened to a lot of folk music when we were young — great songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. And, we’ve listened to a lot of classic rock.”

The sisters have already released an EP titled “Scattered World” and an album titled “Lessons Learned.”

“After we released our last album — ‘Lessons Learned’ — we just continued to write” said Nalani.

Sarina said, “We tested all the new songs before we recorded them. We’ve learned that the best way to test a song is by the audience’s reaction. Another test is the way it feels to us as we’re playing it.

“If a song works out well live then we know it’s a good song to record. We go with the mentality that you have to have 10 songs to get one good one. We’re really hard on ourselves.

“We just go and see where a song will take us. We want the song to direct the production. The band that we used in the studio really helped with how the songs sound on the album. We are huge fans of groove and funk and it shows on the new record.”

Nalani said, “We’ve always had funk in our blood. We play shows with just the two of us, it always sounds more singer-songwriter. When we do shows with our band, it gets more funky.”

The sisters’ eclectic taste in music is evident in their set lists for live shows — especially when they include ukulele duets of either AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” or the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

“We really love playing live,” said Nalani. “We’d play eight days a week if we could. We’ve been doing a lot more full band shows lately. Playing with a band brings it up to a whole new level — a lot more energy.”

Audio link for Nalani & Sarina — https://youtu.be/SBpqsaHYaRE.

Rich Robinson

Rich Robinson

Rich Robinson has been touring a lot over the years. He has toured for more than three decades with the Black Crowes, the band he founded with his brother Chris Robinson in Atlanta in 1984. This year, he has been touring with Bad Company as their guitarist.

Robinson is also touring with his own five-piece band — the band with which he just recorded his new solo album “Flux,” which was released on June 24 by Eagle Rock Entertainment. The tour will touch down locally on July 28 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

“We’ve been out on this ‘Flux’ tour for a week-and-a-half and we’re driving somewhere in Pennsylvania right now,” said Robinson, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “We travel all the time.

“We’re playing a lot of the songs from ‘Flux’ along with songs from my other solo albums. We even do some Black Crowes songs. We’re playing a different set list every night. I’ve always done that my whole career.”

Eagle Rock Entertainment has released expanded, re-imagined versions of  Robinson’s solo albums, including “Paper,” “Llama Blues,” “Through A Crooked Sun,” and “Woodstock Sessions” (on CD and colored vinyl), and Record Store Day exclusives of “Got To Get Better In A Little While” (10-inch vinyl) and “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” (seven-inch vinyl). These re-issues served as a fitting lead-up to “Flux.

“I signed with Eagle Rock Entertainment and they were interested in having all my records under one roof,” said Robinson. “In the past, they were all on different labels. This was an opportunity to being them all together. I re-mixed and re-mastered ‘Paper’ and just re-mastered the rest of them. They do sound different now.

“When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, ‘Paper’ was destroyed. I saved the record and got most of the information off the tapes. But, the vocals were gone. I had to record all the vocals again.”

With “Flux,” Robinson presents his most accomplished solo album to date — 13 new, original songs that draw deeply on his diverse roots. To make the album, he returned to Applehead Studios in Saugerties, NY, the Woodstock area recording facility that has become his creative hub.

Robinson’s work at the studio over the years has yielded “Woodstock Sessions,” “The Ceaseless Sight,” and now “Flux.” The new album showcases a rich variety of tempos, tones, and guitar tuning.

“I just write songs and whatever comes out dictates what the record will be,” said Robinson. “I write in the studio. I might come in with parts of songs but the songs don’t really develop until I get in the studio. I like to see how the album unfolds.”

Last year, the Black Crowes broke up after a career that produced eight studio albums and a number of hit singles.

“With the Black Crowes gone, I definitely have more time,” said Robinson. “It has allowed me to re-focus. Now, I’ll be touring the rest of the year. I have a couple more shows to do with Bad Company and then I’ll be back on my tour.”

Video link for Rich Robinson — https://youtu.be/inVnLLmCKQA.

The show at Sellersville, which has Bonnie Bishop, as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $45.

Other shows over the next week at the venue will be Joe Ely and Jack Murphy on July 29, Tresspass — the Music of Genesis on July 30, The B-Side Players (Curtis Mayfield Tribute) on July 31, “In the Bar: Bluegrass Jam” on August 2 and Leftover Salmon and The Congress on August 3.

harpoonerIf you’re looking for “a harpooner,” Indiana and Tennessee probably should be two of the last places you look. When the largest fish in the two areas is a blue catfish, there is little need for harpoons.

But, if it’s Harpooner you’re searching for, two of the top places to look are Bloomington, Indiana and Nashville, Tennessee.

Harpooner is a three-piece rock band that was founded in Bloomington and now calls Nashville home. The group features Scott Schmadeke (vocals, piano, Mellotron, guitar, organ, synthesizer), Max Mullen (bass, background vocals) and Josh Morrow (drums).

The band is touring in support of its debut album “Rose Park,” which was just released on June 24. The tour brings the trio to Philly for a show July 28 at Ortlieb’s (847 North Third Street, Philadelphia, 267- 324-3348, www.ticketfly.com).

“We all worked at an Italian restaurant in Bloomington,” said Schmadeke, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from a tour stop in New York City. “All our previous bands played together at shows when we were students at Indiana University. When those bands broke up, we got together and began playing together.

“We did a lot of house shows — every week. We built a pretty good following that way. The first actual Harpooner gig was in 2013. We were a four-piece when we were in Bloomington. When we decided to move to Nashville, our old guitarist moved to L.A. with his other band.”

In recent years, Nashville has become a Mecca for fledgling indie-rock band and young singer-songwriters.

“We moved to Nashville because there is a great music scene here,” said Schmadeke. “We get to play with a lot of other good musicians. We’ve been travelling with our own string section –twin fiddles. They’re couple who moved to Nashville from Austin, Texas. They’re my roommates now.

“We started recording ‘Rose Park’ in 2015. After we moved to Nashville, we went back to Bloomington to record the album. Our friends had just opened an analog recording studio called Blockhouse and they invited us to be the first to record there. We were the guinea pigs.

“We were up there four days a month for 10 months — tracking and mixing the record. We did it all to tape. We set up live in the studio and did piano, bass and drums live. After that, I overdubbed vocals, guitar and some additional keyboards.

“The nice thing with this band is that the three of us have musical tastes that are entirely different. I do all the songwriting. Some of the artists I like are Carole King, Paul McCartney, Leon Russell and Jeff Lynne.

“I’m writing more now that the album is released. It was weird. I really couldn’t start writing new songs until the album was almost out. In our live show, we’re doing a lot of songs from ‘Rose Park,’ a couple new ones and one cover.”

Video link for Harpooner — https://youtu.be/415yma5pYvg.

The show at Ortlieb’s, which starts at 8 p.m., also features Pine Barons, Telepathic and Tangiers. Tickets are $10.

the Li Daiguo/Rick Parker duo

the Li Daiguo/Rick Parker duo

On July 29, there will be shows around the area to sate almost any musical appetite — international experimental jazz (Li Daiguo and Rick Parker), hard rock (Gemini Syndrome), 80’s era MTV pop (The Romantics), a Grateful Dead/Allman Brothers tribute band (Old Soul Revival) and veteran singer/songwriter (Slaid Cleaves).

Li Daiguo and Rick Parker together form a duo that is billed as “A two-headed ancient, science fiction, pharmaceutical entity casting shadows in Brooklyn and Dali commingles sounds of the trombone, cello, pipa, voice and a variety of electronic remedies to create audio healing potions.”

On July 29, the Li Daiguo/Rick Parker duo will perform in concert at Vox Populi (319 North 11th Street, Philadelphia, 215-238-1236,  http://www.museumfire.com/events).

The duo has had performances and recording sessions over the last two years in both New York City and Dali, a small city in southwest China. The result was the Parker and Li’s debut record, “Free World Music,” on Brooklyn’s Very Special Recordings and the eleven2eleven record label.

“The album came out on July 8,” said Parker, during a phone interview Monday evening from his home in New York.

“I’ve been going to China a lot with my wife Marcella Szablewicz, who has gone there as part of Pace University’s Mandarin media study. I’ve been performing there — mainly in Shanghai and Beijing — doing standard jazz with western musicians.

“Going all the way over there, I wanted to connect with Chinese musicians. Peter Scherr knew Li and introduced us in 2014. After Daiguo and I checked out each other’s music, he suggested that I come to Dali. We only performed just one show but we did a lot of rehearsals prior to the show. After the show, we did a recording session he next day.

“The last three tracks from the album — ‘golden age of neuroscience = next phase of human mythology,’ ‘the city’s glory was defined not only by every citizen wearing silk robes, or by their seamless melding of modern technology with the human body, but by the compassion that emanated from the design of their matching stilettos,’ and ‘a steady heartbeat is the sound of death’ — were from that session.”

Later that fall, Li travelled to New York where the two creative musicians spent another day in the recording studio and performed concerts at Manhattan Inn and Trans-Pecos.

In the summer of 2015, they were invited to take part in a week long composition residency at COART in Lijiang, China which culminated in a concert of the music they created together during that week.

“That was a great situation that Daiguo organized,” said Parker, who graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in economics and New York University with a master’s degree in music.

“It was a big art center. They put us up for a week to compose all day long — three sessions that were two to three hours long. Then, we presented the compositions at the end of the week. Some of those compositions are in our live show now. We’ve been integrating the Lijang stuff with our recorded material –incorporating sound concepts.”

Both musicians have established their own successful careers.

Li Daiguo (李帶菓) is a major figure in the experimental traditional music world in China and abroad. The multi-instrumentalist has performed solo concerts on cello, pipa, throat singing and beat boxing in France, Switzerland, India and all over China. He has also composed for the Guangzhou Modern Dance Company, Guangzhou Ballet Company, Nobu Khan Malaysian Butoh Dance festival and has released numerous recordings on his own.

Parker’s music combines jazz, experimental, electronic and rock and features his trombone playing augmented by electronics and synthesizers. He leads several groups including the Rick Parker Collective (jazz quintet) and Little Worlds (trio). Parker has worked with such notable musicians as Tim Berne, Mingus Big Band, Wu Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah, DMC and Ximena Sariñana.

“A lot of the compositions Daiguo and I have written are very open and sound different every time we play them,” said Parker.

Video link for the Li Daiguo/Rick Parker duo — https://youtu.be/21Zd9t6zmzc.

The show at Vox Populi, which also features Fursaxa and Hallowed Bells, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7-$10 sliding scale.

More than half the metal bands that tour America each year skip Philadelphia when they are putting together their itineraries. Fortunately for metal/hard rock fans in eastern Pennsylvania, a lot of these bands hit the area for a show at the Chameleon Club in downtown Lancaster.

Gemini Syndrome

Gemini Syndrome

On July 29, the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) will host a show by the veteran West Coast hard rock band Gemini Syndrome, which is based in Los Angeles, features Aaron Nordstrom, Brian Steele Medina, Alessandro Paveri, Daniel Sahagún and Charles Lee Salvaggio. The band will release its new album, “Memento Mori,” on August 19 via Another Century. The soon-to-be-released disc is a follow-up to the quintet’s 2013 debut “Lux.”

“We had our first gig back in 2010,” said Nordstrom, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from a tour stop in Pittsburgh. “Brian and I lived in L.A. since 2000. We were in similar circles with mutual friends but never met until 2009. I’m from Chicago and had moved back there for a few years. Then, I happened to be in L.A. when they were looking to form a band.

“I had played in OTEP for a couple years. After I left that band, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then, this opportunity came up. I joined with them and then went back to Chicago and wrote 14 songs in six weeks. Those songs were used on our six-song EP. In 2012, we went in the studio in L.A. and recorded ‘Lux.’

“After that, we did a lot of touring — including the Avatar Tour and Shiprocked 2014. In March 2015, I started writing songs for ‘Memento Mori.’ We spent a lot of time in L.A. working on the songs for the album.

“Then, we went to The Hideout Recording Studio in Las Vegas to make the album. We did the whole record in seven weeks. We were doing six days a week — 12-14 hours a day. Moist of the lyrics are written by me. The music is more a collective.”

Gemini Syndrome’s current line-up features two recently-added replacement guitarists — Sahagún and Salvaggio.

“The two new guys weren’t there for the recording of the album,” said Nordstrom. “But, we were able to get them to come in and do some lead guitar stuff and some vocals. What they brought to the table was stuff that I would have never thought to do. We met through mutual friends and it’s worked out great.”

Both album titles are in Latin. “Lux” is the Latin word for “light.”

Nordstrom said, “The phrase ‘Memento Mori’ means ‘Remember, we die,’ or more accurately, ‘Remember, you must die.’ It’s a reminder to all of us about our mortality.

“ The difference between ‘Lux’ and the new album is that ‘Memento Mori’ is a little darker lyrically. Some of the music is darker too. And, it’s more mature musically.”

Video link for Gemini Syndrome — https://youtu.be/kUHsY6gPCys.

The show at the Chameleon Club, which also features Stitched Up Heart and 9ELECTRIC, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

The Romantics

The Romantics

The Romantics, who are performing on July 29 at Musikfest Café  (101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, 610-332-3378, http://www.steelstacks.org/),  are a power pop band that formed in Detroit in 1977.

The band’s music found a home on MTV and the quartet had a number of hit singles in the 1980s.

Even if you’ve never heard of The Romantics, you’ve heard their music — no matter how old you are. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t recognize the song “What I Like About You.”

“What I Like About You” has become a staple of modern rock that is often played at sporting events, parties and at bars and clubs.The song has also been heard promoting products, services and institutions including the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, Budweiser, Barbie toy dolls, SeaWorld and T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants.

The catchy pop tune was also featured in TV commercials for Hampton Inn, Esurance, Papa John’s Pizza, Toon Disney and Toyota. It was also included in the films “Richie Rich,” “Freaky Friday,” “Shrek 2,” “Surf’s Up,” “Marmaduke” and “Open Season: Scared Silly.”

“What I Like About You” was voted #97 on VH1’s television special “The 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s.” The song is featured in the video game “Donkey Konga” and was used in trailers for the video game “Family Guy Video Game!” and the film “Stuart Little 2.”

The Romantics’ original lineup included lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and harmonica player Wally Palmar, lead guitarist and vocalist Mike Skill, bassist and backing vocalist Rich Cole, and drummer and lead vocalist Jimmy Marinos.

“We still have three of the original members from Detroit,” said Still, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, “And, we have a new drummer — Brad Elvis.”

The Romantics have survived — and thrived — despite a number of roadblocks along the way. One of the biggest roadblocks could have been disastrous but turned out all right.

In the late 1980s, the Romantics discovered that their managers had been misappropriating the profits earned by the band from its records and live performances. Additionally, “What I Like About You” had been licensed for use in television commercials without the band’s knowledge or approval.

“Consequently, The Romantics filed a lawsuit against their management in 1987, and the legalities involved prevented the band from recording new music until the mid-1990s.

“We continued to keep playing,” said Still. “The lawsuit kept us going. We still recorded a few things but to release something and deal with a new label wasn’t a good idea at that time. Still, we just kept the band going and never stopped.”

The band’s roots go way back.

“I grew up with the original drummer Jimmy Marinos,” said Still. “I played with him in a band when we were in high school. And, Wally went to school with Rich. We started this band and, at the same time, would go to shows by other Detroit bands like MC5, Bob Segher and the Stooges and hang out with them.

“We were just jamming. Then, around 1973, we got the urge to go to New York. We put some songs together, loaded up the truck and headed to New York. Before long, we were playing clubs like CBGB’s.

“Then, we headed back home. We heard the Flaming Groovies and I said to our drummer –we can do this. We played straight rock and roll like the Jam and the Groovies and we wanted to write original songs.

“All our predecessors in Detroit wore suits and ties. So, we went to thrift shops and got 50s/60s clothes. We got an offer to open for MC5 and we wore these orange 60s suits. We wore them and we were all over the stage like the bands in London. We got asked by the venue to come back two weeks later and we opened for Mink Deville.

“Our first big show was at the Pontiac Silverdome when we were the opening act on a bill that featured Peter Frampton, the J. Geils Band and Steve Miller. We went on at 6 p.m. There were only a couple thousand people in the stadium that early but it was still an amazing experience.

“People from Nemperor Records saw us and got in touch with us. We signed with them and released our first album in 1980. ‘What I Like About You’ was written in 1978 and finished in 1980. After that, MTV was a big part of our success.”

Video link for The Romantics — https://youtu.be/Rqnw5IfbZOU.

The show at Musikfest Café will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $27-$39.

Old Soul Revival

Old Soul Revival

Old Soul Revival a band that specializes in recreating the music of the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers will perform at Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) on July 29 at 8 p.m. On July 30, the venue will present Arden Kind, 46 Sherman and Shooting Shark.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host singer/songwriter/storyteller Slaid Cleaves on July 29 at 8 p.m. On July 30, Steel City will present “Phish vs. The Dead with Michael Borowski and Mike Miz.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will feature Nathan Allebach, Elk Embassy, and MIM on July 29 and Aaron Ferguson on July 30.

ardmoreThe Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Digable Planets and Camp Lo on July 28 and 29; A “Jerry Week Celebration” Remembering Garcia’s birthday with Splintered Sunlight (Grateful Dead Tribute) and Tom Hamilton (JRAD / American Babies) — acoustic set and sit-in on July 30; Sarah Jarosz and Donovan Woods on July 31; and  Kaleo on August 2.

Doc Watson’s Public House (150 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, 610-524-2424, docwatsonspublichouse.com) will present MGK House Band Competition on July 29 and Civil Discard on July 30.

Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, 610-354-8118, www.vfcasino.com) will present Crazy in Stereo at Valley Beach on July 30.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents George Thorogood and the Destroyers on August 2 with the Mike Eldred Trio as the opening act.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting the classic musical “Music Man” now through August 27.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $59 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

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