On Stage: Spend some time with Family and Friends

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Family and Friends

For a lot of people, Thursday night is a good time to get an early start on the weekend – a good time to enjoy an evening with family and friends.

This Thursday night is an especially good night to enjoy an evening with family and friends – more specifically, Family and Friends.

On July 20, Family and Friends, a highly energetic rock band from Georgia, will bring their “Felix Culpa Tour” to MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com).

“Felix Culpa” is the title of the band’s debut album which was released back in June. The band — Mike MacDonald, Alejandro Rios, Ryan Houchens, JP McKenzie, Tuna Fortuna, Casey Harper, Nicole Fester — is now on the road in support of its new LP – the group’s first full-length in its six years together.

“Alejandro, JP and I knew each other from high school – Marist High in Atlanta,” said MacDonald, during a phone interview from a tour stop in Chicago.

“But, it wasn’t until we went to the University of Georgia that we really got the band together. That’s where we met Ryan and Tuna. We were all students at the university but none of us were music majors.

“I was doing more of as solo thing on the side. Once we graduated, it was the first time I started writing for a full band. That was back in 2102. The music scene in Athens helped us get going. It’s a very supporting community. And, there are a lot of great venues in Athens.

“After a few months, we did our own house shows. The first year, it was just Athens. Then, we spiraled around the Southeast for a year – and then the spiral grew.”

Family and Friends’ first two recordings were EPs — “XOXO” and “Love You Mean It.”

“For the first two EPs, I was writing on acoustic guitar and bringing it to the band,” said MacDonald. “This time, we wanted to write a full-length based on the way we were playing.

“We recorded ‘Felix Culpa’ last April in Los Angeles at our producer Brad Wood’s studio. Then, we took some of it back to Chase Park Studio in Athens. We released it independently. That’s the route we wanted to take.”

The album features current songs and vintage songs.

“Some of the songs came through the early writing process for the EPs,” said MacDonald. “I do all the lyrical elements. For the album, instead of full songs, everyone brought different ideas and we hashed them out. There is somewhat of a formula for Family and Friends songs. We build the songs.

“Our live show is super energetic – especially with two drummers. On this tour, our live set is 50/50 – songs from the album and songs from our EPs.”

Video link for Family and Friends — https://youtu.be/Q9C-os9OR8Y.

The show at Milkboy Philadelphia, which has Walden as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at MilkBoy Philadelphia are Bumpin’ Uglies on September 21, The Chris Paterno Band on September 22, Shane Smith & The Saints on September 23, Future Thieves and Crouse on September 25, and Shane Dodd on September 26.

Ryan Culwell

Another interesting show will take place across town when the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400) presents Ryan Culwell and Will Hoge.

Last month, Culwell released his new album The Last American via Missing Piece Records and then headed out on tour to support the album while opening for Will Hoge. His previous release was the critically-acclaimed “Flatlands” album in 2015.

“It took a long time to make ‘The Last American’ album,” said Culwell, during a phone interview last week from his home in Nashville, Tennessee. “It took at least a year.

“My friends convinced me to record some songs for the hell of it. I let my guard down and went in the studio and cut two songs. Then, all of a sudden, we were making an album. Next thing I know, we had a bunch of songs. I brought my buddy Neilson (Hubbard) in to produce the tracks.

“We had been recording Southern Ground (Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Studio in Nashville). Then, we went to Neilson’s small studio and cranked out the record. We were working on-and-off for months. A lot of people volunteered a lot of time.

“We were all in a weird place in life and it was good to gather around. It was an accomplishment. I can never repeat the process because I’ve already grown through it. At times, I thought it would never get finished.”

Culwell’s new disc was an accomplishment that didn’t go unnoticed. Instead, it garnered great reviews – including one in which the Associated Press said, “Culwell’s talent is obvious throughout, and the timing feels right for a canon of intelligent, rough-edged songs about the frustration, the yearning, the turmoil and the stress of living at this complicated moment in America.”

When Culwell was making “Flatlands,” he welcomed his third and fourth daughters into the world, only to nearly lose his life working odd jobs just to make ends meet.

According to Culwell, “I see a lot of guys in this business forego relationships and families, and my wife and I decided we weren’t going to do that. I’ve been married almost 14 years and I’m committed to home life — but it takes sacrifice and balance.”

Culwell put touring on a temporary hold to be there for his kids, and in order to help pay the bills, he took on a series of increasingly odd jobs — roofing salesman, landscaper, tree cutter, pedal tavern driver. Each took its toll, and while ferrying drunk bachelorettes around Nashville on an alcohol-fueled megabike was perhaps the most harrowing, it was the tree-cutting job that nearly killed him.

“I was out working by myself when I made a poor cut on a fallen tree and it started rolling at me,” said Culwell. “I ripped my shoulder out of my socket and came within an inch of cutting my face in two that day.”

Through it all, Culwell has stayed focused – as a father and family man and as a top-flight musician.

“On ‘Flatlands,’ it was just me and Neilson cutting the whole record,” said Culwell. “We’d just do a couple hours at a time during off time at his studio. We completed it in one month.

“It was a lot different when we made ‘The Last America.’ I think the new album sounds great. We went in with 50 songs and pared it down – and pared it down. That was the first half.

“On the second half, I was feeling energetic. I wrote ‘I Have a Dream’ on the way to the studio one day. The songs on the album are still in flux. I don’t know if a song is ever done.”

Video link for Ryan Culwell – https://youtu.be/c_bAXTehhrI.

The show at the World Café Live, which also features Will Hoge, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17 and $25.


On September 21, the World Café Live will host Melodime, a Virginia-based band with influences in both country and rock that features emotionally-charged anthems, piano-driven hooks, and energetic guitar solos.
Melodime, which is a fan favorite in the festival scene, features Brad Rhodes (lead vocals, guitar), Sammy Duis (piano, organ, bass), Tyler Duis (drums), and Jon Wiley (guitar, mandolin, dobro).

The band will be rolling out its new album in three EP installments starting with the first single – “Song of the Summer” – which was released on June 29.

“Our first EP – ‘roll-1’ – has four tracks and was released on August 31,” said Rhodes, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Northern Virginia.

“We’re doing the first leg of this tour and we’re going to keep releasing singles until the release of ‘roll-2.’ We had countless brainstorming sessions with marketing and we’re taking a new approach with Spotify. We’re releasing two EPs with four songs each and then we’ll do another four songs and put all 12 of them on the album.”

Melodime has been together for more than 10 years and has more than 10 record releases. The new project takes it to another level.

“Our band started in 2006,” said Rhodes. “Me and Tyler met when we were seniors in high school. A friend knew that Tyler played drums and that I played guitar so that’s how we got introduced. Then, I found out that his brother Sammy played bass and keyboards. We got together played a couple high school battle of the bands.

“We spent the summer after graduation playing and rehearsing. Then, we got on the road and toured a lot. We’ve had some members come in and out over the last six years. Then, we met Jon in 2014 and we’ve had this line-up ever since.”

Now, Melodime is experimenting with a new way to release its music.

“We’re big fans of a full album with full artwork,” said Rhodes. “This was our way of compromising. We want the final product to be a full record. We have most all of it done. We recorded 75 percent of it in Nashville. We did it at Sound Emporium with Marshall Altman as our producer. We’ll wrap it up as soon as we finish the tour we’re on now.

“The EP series feels like a departure. We wanted to have more of a focus. In the past, we’ve been criticized for being all over the place. Our producer on ths project helped us focus. Sonically, it sounds like a band born and raised in Virginia.

“Love is always a big theme. There is also a big focus on loyalty, friendship and hometown. It has more of a positive spin than our last four records. We wanted to do the album in Nashville and that’s why the music sounds more country. But, we’re still a rock band at heart.”

Video link for Melodime – https://youtu.be/Y-Uz6KLos0k?list=PLPSYej9q9WvlrduGizPkFyx48srbJ1_vJ.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Brent Shuttleworth as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are The Jayhawks on September 21, Nothing Wrong on September 22, Steven Page Trio on September 24, Paul Thorn and Gina Sicilia on September 26 and Fickle Friends on September 26.

Jesse Terry

For years, Jesse Terry’s touring “entourage” consisted of him, his guitar and a small car to get him from town to town.

All that has changed now.

When Terry heads out for shows this weekend, he will be joined by his wife Jess Terry, his dog Harrison Terry, and his infant daughter Lily Grace Terry, who was born on August 14.

“This will be the first time I’ll be going to shows with my family,” said Terry, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Stonington, Connecticut. “I traded in my car for a minivan so I’m ready to go.”

On September 21, Terry will co-headline a bill with Lizanne Knott at The Underground (408 West Main Street, Lansdale, 215-206-2801, http://underground.roundguysbrewery.com).

It will be a warm-up for the “On The Road & In The Round Tour” which will take Terry, Knott and Michael Logen to venues around the British Isles.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Terry. “It’s an amazing tour but it’s a long one. It will be hard to be away from my family for so long.

‘We’ll be in the U.K. for one month starting in Northern Ireland and then going thorough Scotland and England. Lizanne really resomnates with audiences over there. They love her music.

“I’m looking forward to the Pennsylvania shows – Lansdale on Friday and Pittsburgh on Saturday. I’ve only played a few shows since I became a dad. I feel like it’s the starting of a new adventure.”

Terry is an internationally touring, award-winning singer-songwriter whose intimacy with audiences, sincerity, and approachability has solidified him as a favorite at festivals and live venues nationwide.  He has five full-length albums – “The Runner,” “Empty Seat on A Plane,” “Stay Here With Me” and the recently-released “Stargazer” and “Natural” LPs.

“We released ‘Stargazer’ in September 2017,” said Terry. “Then, I released ‘Natural’ earlier this year.”

“Stargazer” was a defining record in Jesse’s career, unencumbered by the need to fit into a specific genre while emulating instead the artists and recordings that formed such an indelible impression on him as he was finding his own way early on.

“Stargazer” is an aural spectacle of sorts — filled with rich arrangements and a genuine sense of celebration.

“‘Stargazer’ came out on September 15,” said Terry. “It’s been doing great. It’s my first international release and now I’m getting press and radio play around the world. I was on the tour of the U.K. a few weeks ago and heard one of my songs on BBC Radio. That was really exciting.

“I’ve been really busy trying to finish these albums. I was making two at the same time. ‘Stargazer” is a full band album. It’s more of a rocking, ‘Abbey Road’-inspired production with a lot of guitars and a string section. It’s much more rock-and-roll.

“Stargazer” is Terry’s most ambitious album to date, a lushly orchestrated collection of timely new songs centered around finding hope in a seemingly hopeless time, picking resilience over recrimination, and optimism over oblivion.

“Stargazer” was produced with multi-instrumentalist collaborator Josh Kaler in Nashville’s EastSide Manor Studios with renowned composer Danny Mitchell adding string arrangements.

“This album is a bit of a departure for me,” said Terry, who was the Grand Prize winner of The John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the CMT/NSAI Song Contest.

“Having a string arrangement is really exciting. It’s always the music I’ve loved most – Beatles, Jeff Lynne, ELO, Brian Wilson. I wanted to make an album that took me back to the music I loved when I was young.

“I didn’t want to make a sleepy songwriter record. I just wanted to make a rock and roll record – a big record. I wanted to do something different from what I had done before.

“I write on acoustic guitar. So, to have a symphony behind the songs is really fun. And, performing live, it’s always fun to take the songs back to their acoustic form. These songs can be played solo, as a duo or with a band. It all works.

“We enjoyed using the studio as an instrument. Watching Nashville session players do their parts was so amazing – so beautiful. I did the whole album in Nashville from January to May. It took a while We spent a lot of time on it – a lot of 12-14-hour days.

“The theme of the album is that you can pick your own universe and the effect you have on the world. This record is a deeply personal record – very vulnerable. But, it’s not as introspective as my previous records.”

“Natural” has a different vibe,

“‘Natural’ is like the title – more down-to-earth,” said Terry. “There are dueling ukuleles and a standup bass – and gorgeous female voices.

“I actually recorded ‘Natural’ first. Then, I went to New Zealand to visit my family. After that, I came back and recorded ‘Stargazer.’ Both records were made with pretty intense pressure and very long hours.”

Terry spends much of his time on the road — playing shows for his fans.

“I’m getting back into writing,” said Terry. “For me, it’s a cycle. The recording process for ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Natural’ was so intense – emotionally and financially. You spend a long time on the road just getting into the black.”

On September 7, Lizanne Knott released her fifth studio album “Anthology” via Transoceanic Records.

Lizanne Knott

Knott, an Americana singer/songwriter, has been writing in various forms since she was a kid. Whether in songs, poems, or stories, writing has “always been a kind of release and a way to get me through some very trying times in my life,” she confesses.

Those times have included growing up in Pennsylvania, leaving home at 15, marrying twice, raising four daughters, working with horses, making four albums, touring the UK, and more. And it all finds its way into and through Knott’s writing.

According to Knott, “Songwriting brought me to a realization that it’s what I was meant to do. I think most of us would like to change the world, to have an impact. Early on, I felt that I could reach people, maybe bring some consciousness or release into the heaviness of their day, even with a very sad song—or maybe more so. It gave me a place to feel safe in the direction I was going.”

Video link for Jesse Terry – https://youtu.be/FijgXjG77yA.

Video link for Lizanne Knott — https://youtu.be/vzveKgyJAmk.

The show at The Underground will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18.

This weekend, it’s time once again for the Ladybug Festival and, at the same time, it’s time for the inaugural staging of the event.

Back in July, the “original” Ladybug Festival celebrated its seventh anniversary in downtown Wilmington. On September 22, the first ever “downstate” Ladybug Festival will be held in Milford, Delaware (North Walnut Street, Milford, https://theladybugfestival.com).

The free one-day will run from 3-9 p.m. and feature 40 acts at 17 venues.

Headline acts on Saturday will be Nalani & Sarina and Vanessa Collier, a jazz/blues sax player from Chadds Ford. Nalani & Sarina will also be performing a free show on September 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Hotel DuPont (42 West 11th Street, Wilmington, Delaware)

Nalani & Sarina

Nalani & Sarina have been building a huge fan base in the Mid-Atlantic region for the last five years. The duo has performed at a variety of venues around the area — including Kennett Flash, the Eagleview Concert Series in Exton, World Café Live at the Queen, and the Ladybug Festival. The highly-talented twins, who are in their early 20s, have already established themselves as top-flight vocalists, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists.

They have self-released several well-crafted albums and singles. Now, they are ready to take it to another level – with a sparkling new album called “The Circle.”

“The album dropped May 11,” said Nalani Bolton, during a phone interview last week from her home in central New Jersey. “It’s on our own label – Telepathy Records – and is distributed by Kobalt (a label servicing company that handles publishing, licensing and other services).

“It took about two years to complete the album. We’ve been getting great responses. It’s great to actually hear people respond after waiting so long to get the album out.

“We just kept writing songs – songs that kept changing. We record with our engineer Julian Herzfeld and Greg Thomas at Julian’s studio in Wayne and also at Carriage House Studio in Stamford, Connecticut.

Sarina Bolton said, “We’ve been recording a lot. We’ve taken a pretty relaxed approach — doing it piece-by-piece…song-by-song. There were no deadlines and that made it a lot less stressful.

“With the songwriting, 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. It’s observational writing geared to people our age.

“It’s a combination of first person and third person. We’re writing about people our age – observing other people’s stories. It’s like a story about kids’ lives from their early to late 20s – love, first relationships, work.

“The songs are about what life is like for people our age. But, people of all ages can relate to these songs. We’ve had older people tell us that they can identify with these songs.”

Nalani said, “The vibe of the album is very mature. We think the sound and the material has matured. Our early stuff was all about relationships. Now, we are more worldly. We look at the world the way it is today – especially for people our age. We always like to challenge ourselves.”

The twins found the bulls-eye with the first single from the album — “Young and Inexperienced.”

Nalani & Sarina were featured in the New York Post about their new single, “Young & Inexperienced”.  They appeared in the Business section of the paper in an interview with MarketWatch about their single with the headline “‘Loan’ Them Your Ears: Troubadours of Youth Woe$”.

MarketWatch featured Nalani & Sarina in an article entitled “Millennial sisters who never went to college write anthem on the evils of student debt.” The article focused on their latest single, “Young & Inexperienced” — offering insight in writing the song. The Hunterdon Democrat did an article on Nalani & Sarina featuring the pair on the front two pages of the paper. With the write-up entitled, “Sisters Pen Song About Struggles of Today’s Youth.”

More impressively, Billboard featured Nalani & Sarina and their new single, “Young & Inexperienced” on its website in a praiseworthy write-up written by Thom Duffy.  He highlights their songwriting and titles the article as “Nalani & Sarina’s ‘Young and Inexperienced’ is an anthem for the student-debt generation.”

“Our new single was featured in Billboard,” said Nalani. “It was really awesome to see the single up there. We’ve also had some stuff on SiriusXM.”

“Young & Inexperienced” got spun on Debatable on SiriusXM’s The Volume. Last week, Nalani & Sarina were the featured guests on SiriusXM’s The Spectrum for “Kick Out the Jams,” with legendary rock critic Dave Marsh asking them about their new record, their songwriting inspiration, and even aired some of their new tunes.

Nalani said, “With the single’s topic, it wasn’t our intention to capitalize on a situation that’s going on. We just wrote it from what we were observing. The world has changed completely with college and jobs. People look at our generation as young and inexperienced. A lot of people in our hometown are recent college grads who are having trouble finding jobs.”

The sisters graduated from high school with honors but never looked to continuing their education on in college.

“We graduated early from Hunterdon Central High a few years ago and we’ve been doing music ever since,” said Nalani.

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

“We’re identical twins,” said Nalani. “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.

“We always have the funk. It’s impossible for us to keep the funk out. 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 funkier.

“We’ve been finding ways to combine all our styles. With this record, we’ve meshed the styles. The last song we wrote was ‘The Circle’ and ten we knew it was time to stop. The album had a cohesive theme – beginning, middle. We’ve started writing songs for the next album but first we plan on working this album to its full potential.”

Video link for Nalani & Sarina – https://youtu.be/77tnYL-htDc.

Amanda Nolan

Some of the other featured acts at Ladybug are Joy Ike, Lili Añel, Hotsy Totsy, Terretta Storm and West Grove’s Amanda Nolan.

The show at the Hotel DuPont, which is free, will run from 6-8 p.m.

The Ladybug Festival, which is also free, will run from 3-9 p.m.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Hubby Jenkins (of Carolina Chocolate Drops) on September 21 and Leigh Nash (of Sixpence None The Richer) on September 22.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have The Walkabouts, Haywood Trout and Chris Kudela on September 21.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will host Nils Lofgren Acoustic Duo with special guest Skip Denenberg on July 20 and Michael Nesmith and the First National Band on September 22.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Railroad Earth on September 20, Dead Milkmen on September 22, Marco Benevento on September 22, Splintered Sunlight on September 23 and Israel Vibration on September 24.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) will present Laura Shay on September 21 and Cassidy Catanzaro and Robinson Treacher on September 22.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Celtic Thunder on September 21.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will have Karla Bonoff and Julia Othmer on September 20, Jay Mohr on September 21, Ric Emmett on September 22, andBadfinger’s Joey Molland on September 23.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) will present Sarah McLachlan on September 20.

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