On Stage (Extra) JJ Grey and the music of the swamp

By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

JJ Grey

JJ Grey doesn’t hollowly boast about “draining the swamp” but rather brings the music of the swamp to listeners around the world.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Grey and his band JJ Grey & Mofro are known for playing lively southern swamp rock.

On October 21, JJ Grey & Mofro will visit the area for a show at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

Unlike most music acts on tour, Grey is not on the road in support of a new album. The band’s most recent disc was “Ol’ Glory” in 2015.

“I’ve been in the studio but I’m taking my time,” said Grey, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Portland, Maine.

“I’ve been on the road a lot.

“And, Hurricane Matthew wiped out my house last year. We had to lift the house five feet and cut it loose from the slab. They put in four giant steel beams and then tied the house together.

“It’s been slow putting together a new record because it’s been hard to find the time. I’m going to jump back into the studio heavier after this tour.”

From the days of playing greasy local juke joints to headlining major festivals, JJ Grey remains an unfettered, blissful performer, singing with a blue-collared spirit over the bone-deep grooves of his compositions.

The early days of Mofro can be traced back to the mid-nineties when John Higginbotham aka “JJ Grey” and Daryl Hance signed with a United Kingdom label and played shows in Europe as Mofro Magic.

Grey and Hance met in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida while working for an air conditioning company and developed a friendship through music.

Their first band together was a rock band called Faith Nation followed by a funk band called Alma Zuma. The deal with the record label in London fell through, and Grey and Hance returned to their native Jacksonville and formed Mofro.

“I started the band in 1998,” said Grey. “None of the guys who are with me now were there back then when I was doing Mofro. The name Mofro came from what a guy at work called me. I didn’t even have a set band then. A lot of guys have played with me over the years.

“I just stumbled my way into music. I was always doing it but never took it too serious. I never made it my life. I live my life and music just happens. It’s just something I did.

“It’s always felt like something I could do. I just started out singing in cover bands at home. I always had friends with bands that didn’t have a singer so they’d call me. Finally, I just started doing my own thing.”

Grey explained how John Higginbotham became JJ Grey.

“My family used to call ne John John and Grey is my middle name,” said Grey. “Higginbotham was just too long a name. Jerry Reed (Jerry Reed Hubbard) and Ray Charles (Ray Charles Robinson) used their middle names too.”

Video link for JJ Grey & Mofro – https://youtu.be/Tz5LuXmoBsQ.

The show at Union Transfer, which has The Commonheart as opening act, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25.

Another show in Philly on October 21 will feature an act from the other end of the music spectrum – the EDM and trap sounds of KRANE.


KRANE will perform at District N9ne (460 North Ninth Street, Philadelphia, 215-769-2780, http://districtn9ne.com) as the opening act for Party Favor’s “The Tuned Out Tour.”

KRANE is known for his unique take on electronic, hip-hop and dance music. The Northern California native’s jazz upbringing and modern perspective has allowed him to remain a ground-breaking musician.

Since the start of the project, KRANE (born Zachary Krane), had quickly reached bigger heights than planned. After leaving his full-time job, the early days of hosting demos online grew into acclaimed singles, remixes, an album and a celebrated imprint/collaborative series, SESSIONS.

The end of 2015 was met with the release of “TOKiMONSTA” and the single “Put It Down.” featuring Anderson. Other projects include his “Debris” album series in 2016, a wide array of singles

And collaborations with producers Keys N Krates and Ekali.

“I’ve got an album I just finished,” said Krane, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Oakland.

“There are 10 tracks on the album and my set now has most of them in it. People who know my sets and know me as a producer know I’m really productive. My sets always have new and unreleased stuff – half of which people have never heard before.

“I’m constantly producing. I don’t wait for inspiration. It’s important to be always doing something new. Sometimes, it’s the act of doing that that creates the inspiration.”

KRANE’s music is characterized by its variety.

“Inspiration can come from anywhere – from this genre, from an overall song, from a sound design,” said Krane. “All are elements I can make my own.

“I’m always changing. When I first started producing, it was more hip hop. Then, I got into EDM and dance – and trap. EDM is today’s popular folk music. It’s the barrier entry level.

“I listen a lot to minimal music – Arvo Pärt, Max Richter, Steve Reich. I incorporate it into my music. I used to be an animation designer – and I’m a guitar player. As a producer, I just want to play my own music.

“When I’m making my music, I use Ableton. My setup is really minimal – laptop and headphones. I like to be able to work anywhere.”

Video link for KRANE – https://youtu.be/LwJob-mb1Ss.

The show at District N9ne will start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

On October 22 on the Upstairs Stage at World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com), Christie Lenée will headline the “All Strung Up” show.

Three of the world’s hottest young guitar virtuosos, singers, songwriters and performers have teamed up to tour the states this fall.

Christie Lenée

The show, featuring Christie Lenée (USA), Daniel Champagne (Australia) and Hussy Hicks featuring Julz Parker and Leeza Gentz (Australia), combines the talents of these highly-acclaimed artists.

Lenée’s unique guitar work is often compared to Michael Hedges meets Joni Mitchell and Dave Matthews, delivering profound instrumental compositions with heartfelt, consciously uplifting songs.

Lenée’s new album “STAY,” which was released October 1, is a collection of hopeful, inspiring songs featuring special guest Tim Reynolds (Guitarist from Dave Matthews Band). The album also contains three instrumental pieces produced by the legendary and Multi-Grammy Award Winning Producer Will Ackerman (founder of Windham Hill Records).

Lenée lives in Nashville and was born and raised in Florida. She also spent time living in the Philadelphia area – including Chester County.
“I grew up in Tampa,” said Lenée, during a recent phone interview from her home in Nashville. “I grew up in a performing arts group and got involved in theater and acting.

“I switched to music. I got into to guitar — especially jazz guitar  — when I went to the University of South Florida. That’s when I switched from acting to music.’

“I lived in Philly for about six years. I have family there. I came up to visit my uncle in Malvern right after I finished college. Then, I lived in Devon for a while. Philly is a nice city. After that, I moved to Portland, Oregon, back to Florida and then to Nashville.

“When I first moved to Philly, I put out an album with a choir and big arrangements. Then, when I was still in Philadelphia, I stared performing as a solo act.

“I took a new approach with the guitar. I looked at each string and each fret as a separate voice. That way, I could have multipole parts going on at the same time. I experimented with changing the tuning of the guitar. A lot of it ended up working.

“That’s how I got started in this tapping style of guitar. It gives it a really large sound. There’s a lot going on – but I don’t use a loop pedal. This style was developed out of necessity.

“Still, the biggest part missing was percussion. So, I added a

Toe Kicker Foot Stomp box, which is similar to a kick drum.”

Video link for Christie Lenée — https://youtu.be/cp9zEbl-XQs.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $14.

Noah Gundersen

There will also be a great show on the Downstairs Stage at the World Café Live on October 22 — a show featuring Noah Gundersen.

As a teenager, Gundersen formed his first band, Beneath Oceans, with a few friends from his high school. In 2008, Gundersen produced his first EP, “Brand New World .”

Gundersen just released his third studio LP “White Noise” on Cooking Vinyl America.

The conception of “White Noise” started long before Gundersen stepped into his homemade studio, nestled inside a 1,600-square foot loft on the marina in Seattle, Washington.

“I spent most of the summer 2016 writing – every day writing a lot,” said Gundersen, during a phone interview Froday from a tour stop in New York City.

“I wanted to make a record that felt different from my previous work. It was trail-and-error. I had been stuck on a plateau. I didn’t want to make the same kind of music I’d done in the past.”

Gundersen was ready for a change.

According to Gundersen, “At the beginning of 2016, I walked on stage and was met with a feeling of overwhelming emptiness. I imagined a career playing music I didn’t believe in and was terrified.
After his set, a fellow songwriter expressed a quote to Gundersen from famed choreographer, Martha Graham: “No artist is ever pleased… There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

From there, something awoke in Gundersen.

“I had made confessional songwriter music for years,” said Gundersen. “I wanted to write about different things. I wanted to talk about socio-political things, climate problems, anxiety and fears.

“We’re all going through this very weird time. From an artistic perspective, I felt literation is a cheap way out. I knew there was a better way to go.”

Video link for Noah Gundersen – https://youtu.be/PoPy11YD7lM.

The show at the World Café Live will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.

Can you imagine having hot flashes in 30-degree weather?

The Amazing Kreskin

You might just find yourself sweating in the cold if the Amazing Kreskin told you that you would.

Or, at his suggestion, you might think that your arm is glowing or that you’re a lion in the jungle.

Kreskin, who will be performing at The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on October 22, is one of the world’s best at reading minds and using the power of suggestion.

“This is my third time at Rrazz,” said Kreskin, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in North Jersey. “It’s near Halloween so we’re going to have a ghost sighting – ghosts coming up from the audience to the stage.”

In his stage show, Kreskin deals with audience members and introduces them to the power of his suggestion. He also offers predictions and ends each show with his trademark act – the hidden paycheck trick.

At the conclusion of his show, Kreskin leaves the building and the audience decides where to hide his paycheck. When he returns to the building, his task is to find the hidden check. If he fails to find it, he doesn’t get paid for the show.

“The check test is always popular with the audience,” said Kreskin. “I’ve been very successful with it. I’ve only had 10 fails out of more than 6,000 attempts.”

Finding his evening’s wages hasn’t always been easy for him.

According to Kreskin, “There have been a lot of strange hiding places I’ve had to find over the years. One time, I was performing at a press reception for over 100 people in Las Vegas.

“I walked up to a man in a gray suit and asked him – do you have an artificial leg? They had hidden the check in the knee joint mechanism.”

Kreskin also is famous for his predictions – most of which are right on the money. On Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Kreskin predicted the 2012 United States Presidential Election — 18 months before Election Day.

He’s also picked Super Bowl winners. As revealed on Fox television for the 2016 Super Bowl, Kreskin made three predictions. He foresaw the deciding quarter of the game, the winning team, and the game’s final score.

With a showman’s flair, a comedian’s wit, and the capacities of a bona fide mentalist or thought reader, The Amazing Kreskin has, for six decades, dramatized the unique facets of the human mind — his own. His very name has become an integral part of pop culture throughout the world.

During the past fifty years Kreskin has had a television series, his own board game by Milton Bradley, 20 twenty published books, and a major motion picture inspired by his work.

In 2014, Kreskin mentally trained three up-and-coming boxers to victory. One of the winners was Heather “The Heat” Hardy who went on to win the WBC International Junior Featherweight Championship of the World.

“With Heather, I taught her how to look for the punches,” said Kreskin.

Through the years Kreskin has received worldwide recognition for extraordinary predictions, often dealing with international affairs, and sports. Call him a clairvoyant, a mind reader or a mentalist but don’t call him a hypnotist.

“I don’t get people to do things through hypnotism,” said Kreskin. “I have dedicated part of my life to showing that hypnotism doesn’t exist.

“I believe that there is a legitimate phenomenon called the power of suggestion. I use power of suggestion to get all kinds of crazy responses. And, the people aren’t play-acting. As a mentalist, the most important part is dealing with how people think.”

From his early experiments, Kreskin developed a theory that, in most cases, the phenomena of thought transference can be explained as a kind of hyperaesthesia –an almost unconscious raising of the threshold of one’s senses to a degree far exceeding one’s everyday feelings.

When the Amazing Kreskin performs his show at the Rrazz Room, the audience can expect predictions, funny sketches, clear-cut displays of the power of suggestion – and a lot of fun.

Video link for The Amazing Kreskin – https://youtu.be/Jdz6ihhObJk.

The show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will start at 1 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $40.

The Cash Box Kings

The Cash Box Kings play the blues the way the music should be played – straight-forward and with feeling.

On October 22, the Cash Box Kings will perform as part of the Bucks County Blues Society’s “Afternoon of Old School Blues” at the Terchon VFW (1315 Hardy Street, Edgely, http://www.buckscountybluessociety.org) to promote their raucous Alligator Records debut, “Royal Mint.”

Known as one of the finest purveyors of vintage Chicago blues with a modern twist, The Cash Box Kings deliver a potent mix of tough vocals, powerhouse harmonica and stinging guitar.

Joe Nosek founded The Cash Box Kings in Madison, Wisconsin in 2001 and, since 2007, has co-led the band with the charismatic, larger-than-life vocalist Oscar Wilson.

“‘Royal Mint’ was released in June,” said Nosek, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Madison, Wisconsin.

“We recorded it over a year-long period in 2016. It was the first time in a while that we didn’t record our album in Chicago. It was recorded in Madison and mixed it in Chicago.

“Mark Haines, our drummer, is also a recording engineer. He built his studio in Madison with all analog gear. We recorded live in one room to tape.”

Nosek and his bandmates knew the sound of the blues is better real that doctored up with technical advances.

“We decided to go back in time and do it old school,” said Nosek. “We had two live performance LPs and the rest were done in studios with minimal overdubs.

“We took our time making the new album. It was more important to retain a real feel. Going to tape elevates the game – you know it’s rolling.

“We did four different recording dates over the course of a year. Some of our originals were written as we were recording them. Even though we recorded in Wisconsin, we’re a Chicago blues band. Our sound and approach is rooted in traditional Chicago blues.”

The genius of The Cash Box Kings is their ability to capture the infectious spirit of classic blues with a dash of Memphis-drenched rockabilly and meld them with contemporary lyrics that stand side by side with the old school songs that they revitalize.

Video link for The Cash Box Kings – https://youtu.be/Jp3rotfk2x8.

The show in Bucks County will start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18.

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