On Stage: Through change and evolution, The Yardbirds keep the music coming

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Yardbirds

Any informed list of the 10 all-time best rock guitarists should – without question – include Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

Amazingly, all three got their starts in the same band – the Yardbirds

The Yardbirds, who are playing the Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) on March 28 are a bit like the Black Knight in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The Black Knight challenges King Arthur who then cuts off the knight’s left arm. The Black Knight continues to fight and loses his other arm. Eventually, he is totally dismembered by Arthur. Still, he keeps going through all the adversity.

Over the years, the Yardbirds have gone through their own continual process of being dismembered. Original lead guitarist Top Topham left and was replaced by Eric Clapton and then Jeff Beck replaced Clapton two years later. It was this line-up that recorded the group’s signature hits “Heart Full of Soul”, “I’m a Man” and “Shapes of Things.”

In 1966, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith left the group. Jimmy Page joined and the band used a double-lead guitar format for a brief while. Then, Beck left, and Page remained – but only for a short while before leaving to form Led Zeppelin.

In 1976, vocalist Keith Relf died in an accident leaving the band with just a pair of original members – drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja. The group seemed to quietly fade into history.

Then, in 2003, the Yardbirds regrouped and recorded their latest album “Birdland.”  The band’s lineup included McCarty and Dreja along with other young British musicians.

Dreja sat out the US spring 2012 tour to recover from an illness. It was announced in 2013 that he was leaving the band for medical reasons and would be replaced by original Yardbirds guitarist Topham. Then, Topham left. On August 12, 2015, it was announced that Boston guitarist Johnny A. would become the newest member of The Yardbirds. He was with the band for a while and then he too departed.

The  Yardbirds’ lineup now features critically-acclaimed original drummer/composer/ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jim McCarty; lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Idan, whose tenure with the band began in 1992; bassist Kenny Aaronson, who has worked with Billy Idol, Joan Jett, and Hall and Oates; lead guitarist Godfrey Townshend, who has performed with rock luminaries such as John Entwistle and Jack Bruce; and Myke Scavone, (who is also lead singer in The Doughboys) on harp, percussion and backing vocals.

“It’s the same line-up we’ve had for a while except for our new guitar player Godfrey Townshend, who is the musical director for the ‘Happy Together’ tours,” said McCarty, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Connecticut. “This is his first time to play with the band. The rest of the guys have been around since 2015.

“We’ve done a fair amount to touring since then – Japan, Europe and six times in the states. This tour is just 14 days on the East Coast and then we’re doing a tour in Germany next. This line-up has been together longer than the original line-up. As far as the original line-up, Chris (Dreja) is still alive but unable to play. Paul (Samwell-Smith) gave up playing years ago. We asked (Jimmy) Page but he was busy.”

The Yardbirds’ personnel may change every once in a while, but the set list with a slew of classic songs remains constant.

“People realize what a great repertoire it is,” said McCarty. “They love to hear this music. It’s hard to put something new in the set list.”

The Yardbirds’ most recent albums are “Birdland,” which was released back in 2003, and “Making Tracks,” which came out in 2013.

“We’re talking about recording a new Yardbirds album — classic bluesy-type thing,” said McCarty. “We’ve thought about getting back in the studio. The chemistry with this lineup is good. There are no egos and they’re all good guys.

“They know the music and it’s quite authentic. We go back to the originals. It is important for us to go back to the originals. That’s the music that the fans have loved all these years.”

For a band that really wasn’t around that long (just over five years in its original incarnation) and never really had a string of monster hits, the Yardbirds left an indelible imprint on rock music.

Taking their name from Jack Kerouac’s writing (“yardbirds” were hobos that hung around railroad yards and hopped trains), the Yardbirds evolved from the Metropolitan Blues Quartet, a seminal British band put together by guitarist Paul Samwell-Smith and vocalist Keith Relf. They added Chris Dreja (guitar), Jim McCarty (drums) and a 16-year old guitarist Tony “Top” Topham to complete the original Yardbirds’ lineup.

Topham was pressured by his parents to return to school and a then unknown British blues guitarist named Eric Clapton replaced him. Clapton was the first of three “Guitar Gods” to handle lead guitar duties for the Yardbirds. His tenure lasted for one very blues-oriented studio album and a live album of the band backing blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson.

The Yardbirds’ final guitarist was Jimmy Page, who was with the group for one album. Page then formed the New Yardbirds — a band that was the embryo of Led Zeppelin.

Most of the Yardbirds’ groundbreaking music came during the three-year period when guitar master Jeff Beck was the group’s lead guitarist. Beck’s innovative and emotive style of playing stretched the boundaries of traditional rock and opened the door for new improvisational and experimental aspects of rock and roll.

“The original band was together for five years,” said Dreja, during a previous phone interview. “But, it felt like 20 years with all the miles traveled and music played. It started to fade around 1968.

“After we did the last tour with the ‘Little Games’ albums – which was a good tour — Jimmy and Keith wanted to come off the road. Then, Keith and Jim left to form Renaissance and Page went to Led Zeppelin. Paul had left a while before. I had already started my career as a professional photographer. So, I went to New York and learned the craft of studio photography.”

Dreja and McCarty brought the Yardbirds back to life in 2003. Now, with Dreja sidelined, it is up to McCarty to carry the banner.

Video link for the Yardbirds (1965) — https://youtu.be/HU5zqidlxMQ.

Video link for the Yardbirds (current) — https://youtu.be/PYnkPBnn4mg.

The show at the Colonial Theater, which has Greg Sover as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $28.50-$44.50

Take a talented jazz/rock/avant-garde guitarist, one of the best bassists in rock and a highly-respected drummer, put them together onstage for an evening of complex compositions that have room for improvisation, and you have the formula for the show on March 28 at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com).

Mike Baggetta

On Thursday night, Ars Nova Workshop is presenting a concert featuring guitarist Mike Baggetta, bassist Mike Watt and drummer Stephen Hodges at the popular club in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.

Baggetta, a veteran New York musician, is versatile enough to go from swinging modern bop chops that flow like John Abercrombie to whammy bar pedal steel licks influenced by his first guitar hero, David Torn. The trio also features Hodges (Tom Waits, Mavis Staples, David Lynch) and Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, whose wide-ranging career spans work with Iggy Pop and the Stooges and fIREHOSE.

The music they create together is billed as “utterly unclassifiable — calling it post-genre-improv-jazz-rock may come close, but still doesn’t even begin to touch on the wild electric textures Baggetta’s guitar alone brings to the table.”

This show celebrates the release of Baggetta’s new album, “Wall of Flowers” (Big Ego), featuring Watt and legendary drummer Jim Keltner.

My friend Chris Schlarb, who owns Big Ego Records, asked if I wanted to do a record for him,” said Baggetta, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon s the band travelled from Minneapolis to a show in Chicago.

“I wanted to do something different from anything I had done before. We recorded the album in June 2017 at Big Ego’s studio in Long Beach. The album just came out a few weeks ago.”

Baggetta’s singular and very personal musical style seeks to blur the lines between composition and improvisation, while connecting a wide range of musical genres that influence him. He has earned accolades from the press that call this approach “…beguilingly atmospheric…” (Time Out New York) and that “Baggetta’s music is quietly transgressive… Even when he plays a lot of notes, his playing can sound almost static, as though ideas were being snagged out of thin air.” (Hartford Courant)

Baggetta’s latest album “Wall of Flowers,” is already garnering massive attention. It features a reimagining of his music alongside an unlikely but bound to be legendary rhythm team.

“We made the album in just one day with me, Watt and drummer Jim Keltner,” said Baggetta. “I did have a lot of songs I had written before the session, but we ended up using only two of them.

“Some of the songs were used were compositions and some were free improvisations. We just improvised for three or four hours. Later, I went back and chopped some of the improvisations. I like that the music blurs the lines between compositions and improvisations.

“We all get along great – been though we had never met each other before that day. They were wonderful people to work with. They are legendary musicians with the great ability to listen and react. If you’re playing with really great musicians, you can’t go wrong.”

Keltner, who is described as “the leading session drummer in America,” is well known for his session work on solo recordings by three members of the Beatles, working with George Harrison, John Lennon (including Lennon solo albums, as well as albums released both by the Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono), and Ringo Starr. He has worked with everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Todd Snider to Bob Dylan.

Hodges is an American percussionist and composer. He is best known for his work with Mavis Staples, Tom Waits, Mike Watt, T Bone Burnett, Rick Holmstrom, and film director David Lynch.

Watt is a bassist, vocalist and songwriter. He is best known for co-founding and playing bass guitar for the rock bands Minutemen, Dos, and fIREHOSE. He is also the front man for the supergroup Big Walnuts Yonder, a member of the art rock group Banyan and involved with several other musical projects. From 2003-2013, he was the bass guitarist for The Stooges.

“When the album came out, we were getting ready to tour,” said Baggetta, a New York City resident who grew up in Agawam, Massachusetts. “Jim doesn’t travel anymore. I asked Watt to find another drummer. He said – get Stephen Hodges…right now, he has time off from playing with Mavis Staples.

“In our live shows, we’re doing a bunch of tracks from the album, some improvisation and a couple songs from Watt’s classic album ‘Contemplating the Engine Room.’ It’s about a 75-minute set.”

Video link for Mike Baggetta – https://youtu.be/wTh3J6jKHQ4.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Another upcoming Ars Nova show is Boneshaker and Jajouka Baraka on April 1.

George Stanford

When George Stanford headlines a show at The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) on March 29, it will be a homecoming for the talented singer/songwriter.

Stanford graduated from Harriton High School, attended Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and was a driving force in the Philly-based band Townhall. The multi-instrumentalist relocated to the West Coast in the mid-2000s but still has a fondness for the Philadelphia area.

“I’ve been in L.A. for 10 years,” said Stanford during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I moved to L.A. because of the music business and its proximity to the film business. I got there and signed a record deal. Now, I live in Hollywood with my wife Nikole and our boys Arrow and River.”

Stanford is coming back with a new EP. But it is not a support tour for the new release.

“This is just a hometown one-off,” said Stanford. “I’m going back to L.A. to score a short film. I’m doing film work whenever I can. I’ve already done a handful of feature films.

“I just put out a solo EP called ‘Alone at the Pilgrim.’ I recorded it in a huge, old, empty closed church. Acoustically, it sounds wonderful. I’d been looking for a space like this for a while. I wanted to record in a big space – to play stripped-down songs in a big, big room.

“I brought in Tim Sonnefeld, who has MilkBoy Studio in Philadelphia. He brought the recording equipment we needed – especially great mics. And I brought my ProTools gear. We did it about three months ago.”

The EP has five songs – each of which has an accompanying video.

According to Stanford, “These solo performances were captured beautifully. It’s small and simple, yet very big all at once. Our goal was to convey my music in a unique and intimate way, putting listeners right there in that incredible spiritual space with me.”

Stanford took advantage of the session to record more than just the five songs on the EP.

“I recorded an album’s worth of songs,” said Stanford. “I wanted each song to have a video and we only had time to track five videos. It has four originals and one cover. I did a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ to pay homage to one of my influences.

“I’ve been writing in bite-size chunks. Generally, I’ve just been releasing singles. The EP dropped two months ago. This show on Friday will be a reflection of the EP because it will be a solo show in Manayunk. I have a lot of musician friends in Philly and usually do band shows when I’m here. So, this show will be special.”

Stanford honed his musical skills at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. The multi-instrumentalist abandoned the academic world midway through his tenure for a life on the road with eclectic Philly rock act Townhall — a relationship that lasted five years.

When Stanford first moved to Los Angeles in 2006, he landed a record deal with Epic Records and then moved to Smash/Mercury Records the following year. He moved back to Philadelphia, and released his debut album, “Big Drop,” in June 2008. It was preceded by an EP and the lead single “My Own Worst Enemy,” which was featured on VH1’s “You Oughta Know” program.

After his departure from the label, he formed his own independent label gbones Music and released the EP “Roll Away” in 2010 which featured his biggest single to date, “Meet Me in L.A.” He followed it up with the “Las Palmas” EP in 2012 and an artist residency at The Piano Bar in Hollywood.

His second studio album, “Something Better” was released in 2014, and featured the track “Happy As You Are,” which was featured on Amazon.com’s “Artists on the Rise” series. In 2015, he worked on the soundtrack to the feature film “The Grace of Jake” starring Jordin Sparks and Michael Beck and followed with songs on a number of other film scores.

In 2017, Stanford continued to tour in addition to releasing three more singles – “Better Man,” “Future Classic” and “Moving On.”  In 2018, his song “Magic Hour” received placements in the television series “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” and “Chicago P.D.” In May 2018, he released a single called “Holding On.” His next release was “Alone at the Pilgrim.”

Growing up in Narberth, Stanford’s music tastes as a teen were helped along by the owners of Shady Dog Records, a shop in Narberth that sold used and new albums and CDs and specialized in rare discs.

“Those guys – Dave and Mike – were great,” said Stanford. “They really helped their customers discover new music – including me. I bought my first Bob Marley album there.”

Shady Dog Records is still going strong – but not in Narberth. Like Stanford, the shop moved west – not to Southern California but to Berwyn. The owners are still are turning on people to new music at their current location at 638 Lancaster Avenue (610-644-1160) and online (shadydogrecords.tumblr.com).

“I’m looking forward to playing in Philly again,” said Stanford. “My last show there was last year at the Ardmore Music Hall. I played that show with a full band. This show will be just me and my songs.”

Video link for George Stanford — https://youtu.be/RBuG97fkGHY.

The show at The Locks at Sona, which has Jena Nichols as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are Peter Mulvey with special guests Lizanne Knott and John Smith on March 28, Steve Forbert on March 30 and Tracy Bonham & Blake Morgan on April 3.

The Rrazz Room (6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, 888-596-1027, www.TheRrazzRoom.com) is a music venue located inside the Clarion Inn & Suites. After this weekend, the Rrazz Room will become a music venue that used to be located inside the Clarion Inn & Suites.

Suede. Photo by Carol A. Hill.

The owners are looking for a new venue to host their club. This weekend will mark the final two Rrazz Room shows in its current incarnation.

On March 30, “Chaslyn Sweetwood presents Les Adieux Revue” will be the venue’s final presentation. On March 29, Rrazz Room favorite Suede will perform and bid farewell to one of her most-loved places to perform.

“This closing is unfortunate,” said Suede, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her Massachusetts home. “It’s a really wonderful venue.”

Suede, a veteran entertainer who is billed as “a cross between Adele, Diana Krall and Bette Midler,” has performed many memorable shows in the comfortable music room in New Hope.

According to Suede, “So. The short version is — RRazz Room New Hope is closing in this venue. This weekend’s shows are the last scheduled.

As far as I know, owners Robert and Rory are seeking another New Hope area venue, but I have no idea how that’s coming along.

“Too bad, really — the RRazz Room in the Clarion is a great room to play. I’ll miss it. Personally, my fingers are crossed that a new agreement can be reached that makes sense for the RRazz owners. And I REALLY hope New Hope doesn’t lose the RRazz Room generally. Robert and Rory have brought in some great, even world class, entertainment.”

Suede’s website offers the following descriptive passage of the versatile entertainer — “One part Rat Pack, one part Rosie Clooney, Suede is the “Diva la Difference” – sassy, smooth and simply intoxicating. Think sophisticated pop/jazz, think naughty blues with a sizzling trumpet, think love songs that will make you swoon. Think funny, think wow — what a set o’ pipes!”

Pop/Jazz/Blues phenom Suede plays piano, guitar and trumpet, but voice is her first instrument and entertaining is clearly her first love. She is a consummate entertainer and song stylist among the likes of Tony Bennett and company.

“I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to be a musician,” said Suede. “I’m a musician. This is what I have to do.”

A native of Nyack, New York, Suede knew early on that she wanted to make singing her life. Her natural talent wowed friends and family throughout her childhood, culminating in her first bar gigs while still in high school.

Completely self-taught until her college years, Suede then began formal training in classical voice and trumpet. She obtained a Bachelor of Music degree before launching her musical career shortly after graduation.

“Three decades plus and I’m still making my living through music,” said Suede. “There are times I think – how am I still doing it? It’s the best drug I’ve found. There’s nothing better than rehearsals with my band or getting on stage to perform for people.

“I was a kid that was fascinated with musical instruments. I wanted to learn piano in house. Then, I’d sneak into my older brother’s room and play his guitar and clarinet. I also learned to play bugle when I was young.”

The RRazz Room is a favorite club for this world-touring singer and multi-instrumentalist and Suede is a favorite of The Rrazz Room’s as well. She returns to the venue one last time with her pals and fellow musicians Tomoko Ono on piano and Amy Shook on bass.

“These are really great musicians,” said Suede. “Tomoko Ono is from New York and is a member of the Diva Jazz Orchestra. Amy Shook is a very talented bass player from Washington, D.C.

“I play piano, guitar and trumpet but in live shows, I usually leave the piano to the band. Voice is the primary focus for me. I’ve always approached it as an instrument. I sing words in a certain way.

“I usually perform live with at least piano and bass – piano, bass and drums if the budget will allow. What I really love is when I can play with a 12-piece band in New York clubs.”

Suede retains anonymity with her mono-syllabic stage name.

“There were some complications with the name because there is also a band from England called Suede,” said Suede. “But I had it first and we’ve been able to work it out with mutual agreements.”

Suede has been making albums and DVDs since 1988 but her live show has always been her forte.

“My show has a general similar feel to it no matter where I go,” said Suede. “It’s a popular jazz and blues mix – a real combination of styles. I’m an actual scat singer. It’s a lot of fun – a lot of improvisational stuff…and a few tear-jerker ballads

“My intention is to always have the show be very inclusive. There is a lot of humor in my show. I want to feel connected and to give the audience an evening of entertainment. I want to take my audience on a ride. It’s all about the connection.”

Video link for Suede — https://youtu.be/PXK-EREQWck.

The show at the Rrazz Room March 29 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and $50.

Beat Circus

If you have broad tastes in music, then Beat Circus is a band you’ll probably enjoy – especially when it plays live on March 29 at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Beat Circus is a band from Boston fronted by the multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Brian Carpenter, who has been its only constant member since its inception. Beat Circus bridges a number of disparate genres ranging from cowpunk to “spaghetti western” and giallo scores.

Carpenter’s broader resume includes recordings and performances with Swans, Kronos Quartet, Colin Stetson, Marc Ribot, and Roswell Rudd, and collaborations with producers Martin Bisi (Dreamland, 2008), Sean Slade and Bryce Goggin (Boy from Black Mountain, 2009). Carpenter is also currently working on a new album with Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet re-imagining the music of Louis Hardin, aka Moondog.

Beat Circus’ songs are characterized by lush arrangements, eclectic instrumentation, and Carpenter’s lyrical themes of love, death, religion, and American mythologies. The music draws heavily from all sorts of genres including experimental music, modern classical, cabaret, circus music, Appalachian string music, bluegrass music, old-time music, Southern Gospel and funereal music.

Since 2005, Carpenter has been developing a “Weird American Gothic” trilogy of concept albums, starting with “Dreamland” (Cuneiform Records, 2008) and followed by “Boy From Black Mountain” (Cuneiform Records, 2009) and “These Wicked Things” (Innova Records, 2019). The band’s debut album was “Ringleaders Revolt” (Innova Records, 2004)

“These Wicked Things” also features an 18-page graphic novelette by renowned Croatian artist Danijel Zezelj, best known for his live paintings, multimedia, and collaborations with DC Comics/Vertigo.

Carpenter formed Beat Circus in 2002 shortly after his arrival in Boston and since then, he’s been the ensemble’s guiding light and sole constant member. The current line-up features Carpenter, vocals, guitar, harmonica, organ; Abigale Reisman, violin, vocals; Emily Bookwalter, viola, vocals; Andrew Stern, guitar; Alec Spiegelman, reeds; Paul Dilley, bass; and Gavin McCarthy, drums.

“These Wicked Things” began in Berkeley, California when Carpenter was commissioned by the Berkeley Repertory Theater to compose music and lyrics for Dominic Orlando’s play “The Barbary Coast” in 2014.

Based on the true crime book by Herbert Asbury (Gangs of New York), “The Barbary Coast” detailed the violent rise of San Francisco in the late 1800s. The play centers around Joaquin Murieta, the real-life inspiration for Zorro, a Mexican who went on a notorious revenge spree after his wife Rosita was killed by gold miners. Two versions of “Rosita” and some incidental music from the play are included.

“We recorded ‘These Wicked Things’ in 2016 – and some of it even before that,” said Carpenter, during a recent phone interview from his home in Arlington, Massachusetts. “Some of the songs were based on a play we were commissioned for. Only a few of those songs made it to the record.

“The play came from out of the blue. I got a call from a DJ at KALX at University of California-Berkeley. He said he was a dramaturg and a fan of Beat Circus. The play was based on Herbert Asbury’s book ‘The Barbary Coast.’ I was excited to do it. ‘The Barbary Coast’ was set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush ear. That project started the Beat Circus ball rolling again.”

After recording “These Wicked Things” with Beat Circus at the legendary Q Division Studios in Boston, Carpenter flew out to Tucson, Arizona to mix the record with esteemed producer Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Neko Case, Giant Sand). Carpenter worked with Schumacher previously on his singer/songwriter outing “The Far End of the World” (2015, Accurate).

Special guests on These Wicked Things include trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela of Calexico, bass saxophonist Dana Colley of Morphine, and guitarist Stephen Ulrich of the NYC guitar noir trio Big Lazy.

“These Wicked Things” is the band’s first release in 10 years, following “Boy From Black Mountain” in 2009. During this period, Carpenter released four albums with Ghost Train Orchestra in Brooklyn, NY, and a debut album with Brian Carpenter & The Confessions.

“I had started this trilogy of records in 2006,” said Carpenter, who grew up in Florida before relocating to Massachusetts. “This was a way to finish it.

“The original idea of the trilogy was to take American folklore re-imagined and use it as a backdrop. The first part was influenced by American circus and a lot of trips to Coney Island. The second part was influenced by Southern Gothic literature.

“My mom’s family was from Birmingham and my dad’s family was from the Florida Panhandle. The third part was always supposed to be the ‘Wild West.’ So, this play fit right in. The record covers a lot of ground – cow-punk, spaghetti westerns, mariachi.

“Beat Circus was on hiatus for almost 10 years. The rhythm section is the same as the last record, but the rest of the band is new. The live show is mostly new stuff. I’m just doing this tour and then I’ll be working with Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet.”

Video link for Beat Circus — https://youtu.be/lsQEaQNVI7U.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which also features Gringo Motel, and The Rectors, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Other upcoming shows at Kung Fu Necktie are Lucifer on March 28, Mike Mains & The Branches on March 30, Surfer Joe on March 31, Something Like A Monument on April 1, Bad Sandy on April 2, and Good. Clean. Fun on April 3.

Ali Awan

Like so many musicians, Ali Awan, who will perform on March 29 at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org), got started in music by being exposed to music listened to by parents and relatives.

“I always loved music,” said Awan, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Abington.

“My mom always listened to good music classic divas like Aretha Franklin and Beyonce and good rick-and-roll like early Aerosmith. When I got a little older, I was exposed to other music by my uncle Mahmut, who was a Deadhead and a fan of Lou Reed.

‘Once I was 14, me and my friends would go in town. There was a place in Philly called Halfway House that had concerts. I saw my first show there.

“We had a guitar at the house, and it had a little amp. I took guitar lessons for a couple years. After that, I was just learning songs off of records and watching live footage. I started taking seriously when I was 16 and started a punk band called Ballistik. Our first show was at Halfway House.”

Things kept progressing at a steady rate.

“I was always writing songs,” said Awan, an Abington High grad who is now 26. “I decided to get my own band and be the main songwriter about eight years ago I had been writing songs and didn’t want to be just a guitar player in a band. Over the last two years, I’ve been writing music under my own name.”

On 2017, Awan, whose family’s roots are in Turkey, released his first two singles – “Citadel Blues’ and “Last Resort.” He followed with another pair of singles in 2018 – “Beyond the Valley” and “Be a Light.”

“When I started releasing singles, WXPN began playing them,” said Awan. “Then, I started to get asked to play shows around Philly. At first, I didn’t have enough songs. That’s why I wrote ‘Beyond the Valley’ and ‘Be a Light.’ Now, I have plenty of songs.”

Awan released “Butterfly” on February 22.  The seven songs on the EP were written and produced by Awan (who also plays guitar), engineered by Joshua Aaron Friedman and feature performances by Kirby Sybert (Kirby & the Vibe Tribe, Mo Lowda and the Humble) and Daniel Rice (The Dawn Drapes) on electric guitar, John Coyle (Catbite, Insignificant Others) on bass, Keaton Thandi on drums, Sean Hur (Ruby the Hatchet, West Kensingtons) on organ and Marc Pikulski on tambourine.

“We recorded the EP at Hi5 Studio, which is located in Philly at Fifth and Girard,” said Awan. “We were in the studio for five days.

“Since then, we’ve played a lot of Philly shows and just did SXSW this year. I’m going to be doing some New York shows soon. Right now, we need to tour and grow organically.”

Video link for Ali Awan — https://youtu.be/toBAbxKlgEc.

The show at Underground Arts, which also features RFA, Secret American and Ritual Talk, will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at Underground Arts are Ramallah on March 28, and Black Audio on March 30.

Another Abington High grad will be performing in the area on March 29 when AHS alumni Steve Berlin and his bandmates in Los Lobos headline a show at the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com). The Keswick will also present “Ruben Stoddard Sings Luther Vandross” on March 31.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present “Broadway Sing Along Night” hosted by Calabrese Performing Arts on March 29 and The Dukes of Destiny on March 30.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host “Open Mic Night” on March 28, and Betterducks with special guest Cookie Rabinowitz on March 30.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Space Donkey and the Moonbouncers, Pet Lizard, and Kings Arms on March 29.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present The Soul Rebels with special guest Rakim on March 28, Jah People + Big Mind + CRUCIAL on March 29, Breakwater + Instant Funk on March 30 and Antonio Sanchez & Migration along with Nels Cline/Chris Lightcap Duo on April 3.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents Jersey Corn Pickers and Boulevard Express & The Cheddar Boys on March 28, Pete Correale with John Ager on March 29, David Archuleta on March 30, Michael Glabicki on March 31 and Jackopierce with Chapell on April 3.

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