On Stage: Mancari offers new treats for the ears

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Becca Mancari

People have many different preferences when it comes to music listening tastes.

Some prefer the ultimate familiar. Just look at the popularity of radio stations with oldies or classic rock formats.

Some prefer current music – again with a sense of familiarity. So many EDM acts and modern rock bands adhere to a pattern – an act will introduce a new production technique such as Auto-Tune or a music vibe like grunge and hundreds of acts become immediate imitators.

And, some music fans prefer music that is fresh – songs that push limitations and move past genre boundaries – music that provides new treats for ears.

One of the new artists who falls into the third category is Becca Mancari, who has just recorded a beautifully adventurous album.

On October 6, the Nashville-based singer and songwriter will release her debut album “Good Woman via Gold Tooth Records.

Music fans will have the opportunity to hear Mancari’s new songs when the talented singer-songwriter-guitarist visits the area on September 13 for a show at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

It takes less than one minute of listening to the opening track “Arizona Fire” to realize that there is something special about “Good Woman.” A unique, almost-industrial intro leads into Mancari’s sinewy vocals and then atmospheric steel guitar by Blake Reams supplements the hazy-but-still-country sound.

“This is my first real album,” said Mancari, during a phone interview last week as she traveled from Nashville to a gig in Asheville, North Carolina.

“It took a while but it was worth waiting for. I started recording last May and then had some complications. It wasn’t wham-bam. It took a year in the studio with Kyle Ryan producing it.”

Rolling Stone Country recently named Mancari one of 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know and called her music, “The spacey soundtrack for sunbaked afternoons, full of atmospheric Americana, hazy folk-rock and songwriting that drifts, drawls and draws you in.”

Born in Staten Island, NY, to an Italian-Irish preacher father and a Puerto Rican mother, Mancari has spent time working as a janitor in South Florida, writing songs with train hoppers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and traveling to India seeking spirituality.

Mancari’s debut is hauntingly lonesome, with dust cloud swells of electric guitar and don’t-look-back lyrics that reveal scenes from Mancari’s well-travelled life.

“I actually grew up in rural Pennsylvania,” said Mancari. “It was a little town near Harrisburg. I went to Harrisburg Christian School and even played soccer there. I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida when I was 16 and graduated high school there.

“My parents were involved in ministry work and non-profits so we traveled all over. We were in Africa for a while. Between the ages of 18 and 23, we were living in Zambia and Zimbabwe.”

Mancari’s travels introduced her to an amazing variety of music. For example, her time in Harare, Zimbabwe introduced her to the mesmerizing music of African music legend Thomas Mapfumo, “The Lion of Zimbabwe.”

“I moved to India when I was in my early 20s,” said Mancari. “I’ve always been really interested in learning from other cultures. I spent a lot of time wandering.

“I went back to West Palm Beach and worked as a janitor in my old high school. That was one of the best times in my life. I did my job and then went to the library and just read. And, it was near the ocean.

“I went to Nashville in September 2012. I just got in my car and moved to the city. I’ve been living here ever since.”

Once she had relocated to Music City in Tennessee, Mancari has been writing songs that blur the lines between genres as well as sharing shows with artists like Hurray For The Riff Raff and Natalie Prass.

Mancari never backs away from challenges. As a gay woman in the South, she has found a way to balance her sexuality with her spiritual background – an avenue to travel a trail that frequently divides people.

“I’m in a generation where being gay was really taboo,” said Mancari. “I’m really thankful for this generation where it’s more normalized. I think I’ve been a role model of sorts.”

The release of “Good Woman” should open more doors for Mancari. The album is hauntingly lonesome and warm and embracing at the same time.

According to Mancari, “Our hope is that we’re doing something that respects the roots but also has space and the galaxy in it.”

Mancari doesn’t push the boundaries. She steps beyond them and pulls them out to her. The results are very refreshing.

Video link for Becca Mancari – https://youtu.be/nFf-NZsFFWk.

The show at the World Café Live, which also features Birdtalker, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Brian Fitzy

At the same time Mancari is performing on the Upstairs Stage at the World Café Live, Brian Fitzy will be playing the Downstairs Stage as the opener for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons.

Brian Fitzy, a.k.a. Brian Fitzgerald, graduated from Coatesville Area Senior High. He then attended West Chester University and graduated in 2007 with a musical performance/classical violin degree.

His new disc “Hard Times for Dreamers” was just released in May.

Video link for Brian Fitzy — https://youtu.be/Axindik9aXY.

Music fans heading to Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com) to hear Mondo Cozmo’s show on September 13 would do well to get there early enough to hear the opening act perform.


Like Mancari, Flagship is another music act based in the South. But, that’s where the similarities end.

Flagship is an American rock band from Charlotte, North Carolina. The group features Drake Margolnick on vocals and guitar and Michael Finster on drums.

According to its website, “Indie rock duo Flagship set out on a mission to make music that stirs up feelings, creates an atmospheric vibe, and makes you feel an array of emotions amidst a moving soundscape of timeless rock and roll.”

“We got together in 2011, said Finster, during a phone interview last week from his home in North Carolina’s “Queen City (Charlotte).

“We were in different bands and we knew each other from being in the music scene in Charlotte. We both liked the same type of music. We jammed a little and it clicked. It really wasn’t that hard.”

Flagship’s eponymous debut album was released in October 13 on Bright Antenna Records. Recently, the band released its sophomore album “The Electric Man” on the same label.

“With our songwriting, every song is different – Drake, me or together,” said Finster. “We actually started writing for the album about four months before we went into the studio.

“We also had some older songs that rake wrote. It was about time to make a new record. We went in the studio with 22 demos, got with Joey and it went from there.”

The album was produced by Beck’s longtime drummer Joey Waronker, who has been producer for such acts as Brandon Flowers, Yeasayer, Atoms for Peace and Air. He also played in Atoms for Peace and later version of REM.

“We met Joey a few years back,” said Finster. “He’s an amazing producer.

“We recorded a lot of the album at a studio in Burbank, California called The Bank and then did overdubs at home. We tried to pick the songs that were the best songs. When we started recording, connections were made.”

The album reaches emotional depths via atmospheric rock with passionate vocals, pop-minded melodies, rapturous orchestral soundscapes, and themes that run the gamut from love and loss to fear and despair to hope and happiness.

According to Finster, “Making people really feel something when they listen to our songs has always been important to us. I don’t think of music in terms of a lyric or a note or a beat.

“It’s more about the feeling it conveys, whether it’s absolute joy or that kind of feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. I love it when a song can take me somewhere, and I think we achieved that on this album more than ever before.”

“The Electric Man” marks the first full-length Flagship release as a duo. The band’s first full-length album came out when they were a full five-piece band.

“The difference between our two albums is that there were less people making those album – less cooks in the kitchen,” said Finster.

“I think it’s a good step forward. It’s just easier to get things done as a duo. We both play several instruments and it allowed for more creative flexibility.

“It also opened more doors because were able to use more technology and add electronic stuff, like different synths and vibraphone and samples, which gave it more texture and layers.”

Sometimes, less is more. Listen to Flagship (circa 2017) and hear them prove the point.

Video link for Flagship – https://youtu.be/KipHeHb5n3Q.

The show at Union Transfer, which also features Illinois and Mondo Cozmo, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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