On Stage: The Ultra comes to Philly

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Ultra

Anyone who heads to the show on November 16 at the Fire (412 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, 267-671-9298, firephilly.com) expecting to hear a concert by the British hitmakers Ultra might be disappointed.

That band — a British boy band from the 90s that had a major hit with “Rescue Me” – is simply “Ultra.”

The band that is headlining the concert at The Fire is “The Ultra.”

The Ultra — Alec MacGillivray (vocals), Sam August (guitar), Shaq Druyan (drums), Pat Lyons (bass) — is a band from Boston that, according to some, is a band that plays country-flavored rock and, according to others, a band that plays rock-flavored country.

“We’re a band that likes to have fun writing songs,” said August, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Country – rock – pop…we embrace it all.”

MacGillivray, who played football at Bentley College, said, “We’re all from Boston. I had a little writing career when I was in college and then moved to Nashville. Then, I moved back to Boston and put these guys together as my backing band.”

The Ultra was formed in early 2018 when MacGillivray learned he would need to relocate from Nashville to Boston following news of an impending series of jaw surgeries. MacGillivray decided to put together a backing band for his country career and called August and Druyan upon his return to Boston.

“I met Sam for the first time at a Kenny Chesney tailgate,” said MacGillivray. “I knew Pat from middle school. We went to the same middle school. Shaq was running the sound at a club I played in Boston.

“We played under a different name for about five months. Then, I had jaw surgery and was out of commission for six months.”

In late 2017, the four musicians decided to record the new material they had been writing before MacGillivray’s vocal hiatus.

The band released it self-written and self-produced debut EP, “The Ultra,” on iTunes and Spotify (where it debuted in the Top 50 on iTunes charts) and received worldwide pre-orders — and a jump to #9 on Billboard’s Northeast Heatseeker chart.

“We released the EP in February and it did really well,” said August, who graduated from Penn State and played baseball for the Nittany Lions. “We cut it in Shaq’s basement in Boston. It was all self-produced.”

The first show by The Ultra was April 2017 at Bill’s Bar in Boston.

“We went to OL.A. in April and recorded the single ‘Getaway’ and then released the single in June,” said MacGillivray. “We recorded it with producer Courtney Ballard of MDDN Co. Then, we went back to L.A. in July and did three more songs with Courtney.”

The second single from the Ballard sessions was “Look Like Kylie,” which was released in September and received 12,000-plus streams in its first week and has now amassed over 75k streams.

Video link for The Ultra – https://youtu.be/MDwURrKYMIg.

The show at The Fire, which also features Black Tie Stereo, Menace Of The Canvas and The Boardwalk Kings, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at The Fire are Nick Sumner & The Assistance, Goodthief, Idle Kyle, and The Life In You on November 15; Famous & Fallen, Mr. Lisp, Effusion 35, and Weakknees on November 17; and Send Request and Telltale on November 18,

The Brother Brothers

The Brother Brothers chose their name because – well – because they are brothers. The duo features twins Adam and David Moss.

On November 17, the siblings are coming to the City of Brotherly Love to open for I’m With Her at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com).

The Brooklyn-based Americana duo just released “Maryanne,” the second single from its debut album. That album — “Some People I Know” — came out October 19 on Compass Records. Their first single, “Frankie,”  also appeared on Spotify’s Fresh Folk and New Music Friday playlists.

The twins are twins but have never been the type of twins who are always together, dress alike and finish each other’s sentences.

“We’ve been singing together since we were children,” said Adam Moss, during a phone interview last week. “We started the band in March 2016.  A lot of it had to do with timing. We had been pursuing our own interests our whole life.”

David Moss, who plays cello and guitar, said, “I was pursuing a solo career as a singer/songwriter. I was playing support gigs for other acts.”

Adam, who plays fiddle, guitar and banjo, said, “I was shooting for freelance gigs. I was playing fiddle for whoever wanted to use me.”

The brothers, who now call Brooklyn home, are originally from Illinois. Growing up in Peoria (Illinois), they sang along as children to their father’s record collection of the Kingston Trio, the Everly Brothers, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys.

According to Adam, “That’s where we learned to sing harmony and then one thing leads to another. All of a sudden, we could harmonize to anything we wanted to. It was a very natural progression.”

David said, “We were always interested in classical music, so it seemed like the positive route. The idea of playing modern music was presented to us. It seemed like something interesting to do.

“Our last year in college at the University of Illinois, we started a gypsy jazz band called Hot Club of Urbana. It was really fun. Those are cherished memories.”

Adam said, “After we played in Hot Club of Urbana, there was also a bluegrass band in town. They needed a fiddle player for the band. So, I joined and moved to Austin, Texas with the band.”

Two years ago, the Moss brothers joined forces again.

Often leaning towards the darker, moody elements of Appalachian folk and bluegrass traditions, their songs are laden with near-perfect sibling harmonies, compelling writing, and imaginative arrangements.

“Most of them are songs that are written and then we add instruments to them,” said Adam. “We do the songwriting process separately. David writes the bulk of the songs.”

The Brother Brothers tour as an acoustic duo — David on cello and guitar, and Adam on the 5-string fiddle. With individual storied music careers under their belts, the brothers have finally teamed up to bring their experiences together.

Video link for Brother Brothers – https://youtu.be/0bLTBP9VMnY.

The show at Union Transfer, which also features I’m With Her, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are Ólafur Arnalds on November 15, Los Campesinos! And Adult Mom on November 16, Mitki and Overcoats on November 17, and Jessie Reyez and Savannah Ré on November 20.

UniverSoul Circus

The UniverSoul Circus (52nd Street and Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, 800-345-7000, www.universoulcircus.com), which opens on November 8, will be treating circus fans to a very different experience.

The world-class circus’ performances, which will be held in the UniverSoul Big Top next to the Mann Music Center, blend traditional circus attractions with urban culture, hip hop tunes and world beat music. It’s the lively music that elevates the show to another level.

The UniverSoul Circus is a top-flight live entertainment attraction that has captured the hearts and imaginations of a new generation of families.

Celebrating its 25tht Anniversary, UniverSoul Circus has come full circle in its influence in the international entertainment marketplace – garnering the distinction of being known as a one-of-a-kind, must see attraction.

Since its first performance in 1994, The UniverSoul Circus has presented more than 10,000 performances to live audiences, exceeding 20 million people, and has been seen in more than 60 million households on both local and national television networks. The Emmy-nominated HBO special remained in rotation for more than six years.

UniverSoul connects with progressive, upwardly mobile, urban pop cultures from around the world. It embraces and celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of global cultures and ethnicities into a stellar production that blends circus arts, theater and music.

Celebrating 25 years under the big top, UniverSoul Circus features music, theatrical performances, incredible circus acts and loads of fun. The show features acts from around the world including flashy Caribbean dancers, acrobats and high-flying trapeze artists, mind-boggling contortionists, funny clowns, lions, zebras and much more.

The circus will be in town now through December 2 at its site in Fairmount Park.

Video link for UniverSoul Circus — https://youtu.be/UatZSn1JJbQ.

The show at UniverSoul Big Top will run from November 8-December 2 with early afternoon, late matinee and evening performances. Ticket prices start at $22.

Another multi-date show is running in Center City Philadelphia.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The National Tour of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is being presented now through November 18 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333,www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s 2018-2019 “Broadway Philadelphia” series.

The tour features Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka, James Young as Grandpa Joe and Amanda Rose as Mrs. Bucket.

The story was originally inspired by Roald Dahl’s experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays. Cadbury would often send test packages to the schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions on the new products.

“This is a show about hope,” said Young. “There are some real good lessons in it – like pulling everyone together. The film came out in the early 1960s. It’s pretty iconic. The show stays very close to the movie but has been modernized a bit.

“There is a dark edge but it’s still good for children. We haven’t heard any kids crying out there. The original novel is probably darker, Roald Dahl is a pretty dark writer.

“Audiences like this show because it’s a wonderful story – a story of hope. It has good life lessons. It’s a very joyful, fun production.”

Video link for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – https://youtu.be/x0nN99ljvFk.

The show is running now through November 18 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $25-$139.

Adrian Legg

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Adrian Legg on November 15, Radio Free Honduras on November 16, The Big Jangle – A Tribute to Tom Petty on November 17,  and “Open Mic with guest Kalai King on November 18.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Jeffrey Gaines on November 16 and JD Malone & The Experts on November 17.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110http://chaplinslive.com) will present nxt2normal and Carolyn Cott on November 17.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Joshua Radin with special guest Lily Kershaw long with Matt Santry on November 15, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet on November 16, Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers with special guest Greg Sover Band on November 17, Jesse Royal and Sensamotion on November 18, and Control for Smilers and Newspaper Taxis on November 21.

Valley Forge Casino (1160 First Avenue, King Of Prussia, 610-354-8118, www.vfcasino.com) will have Comedy Club Presents: Maureen Langan on November 16 and “Lights Out: A Tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons” on November 17.

Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547www.burlapandbean.com) will present One Alternative on November 16 and Craig Bickhardt and Thom Schuyler on November 17.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Alan Parsons on November 15, Stephen Marley on November 16, and “Beatles vs. Stones” on November 17.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808www.st94.com) will host Classic Albums Live Performs Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” on November 16, Voyage – Journey Tribute on November 17, Swing That Cat & Hot Club Of Philadelphia on November 18, and “Dead On Live: Best of Europe 72 & More” on November 21.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) hosts Lewis Black on November 15, The First State Ballet Presents: Up Front with FSBT on November 16, The Simon & Garfunkel Story on November 16 and The Rock Orchestra Performs an Evening of The Who on November 17.

The Ben Vaughn Quintet

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) presents Mishka on November 15, Ben Vaughn Quintet on November 16 and 17, and Max Seidman and Brown Sugar on November 21.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, hosts Cody Fry on November 16 and Dirk Hamilton with Georgie Jessup, featuring Don Evans on November 17.

Rrazz Room (6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, 888-596-1027, www.TheRrazzRoom.com) will present “The Amazing KRESKIN Live!” on November 17.

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