On Stage: Female rock pioneers team up

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Cherie Currie and Brie Howard-Darling

In the 1980s, there were many all-female rock bands that wrote music, sang the songs and played their own instruments – acts such as the Bangles, the Go-Go’s, L7 and the Lunachicks.

The groundwork for their success and acceptance was laid a decade earlier by two bands who made huge inroads into the male-donated world of rock music – the Runaways and Fanny.

Fanny was an American rock band, active in the early 1970s. The band was one of the first all-female rock groups to achieve critical and commercial success, including two Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles. Brie Howard-Darling was the original drummer in the group’s predecessor band, The Svelts, but returned to play on the group’s final album, Rock and Roll Survivors in 1974. 

The Runaways were an all-female teenage American rock band that recorded and performed in the second half of the 1970s. The band released four studio albums and one live set during its run. Among their best-known songs are “Cherry Bomb,” “Hollywood,” “Queens of Noise” and a cover version of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll.”

Three of the Runaways went on to have highly successful solo careers – Cherie Currie, Lita Ford and Joan Jett.

Fast forward to 2019 and two former members of these bands have teamed up to form a potent musical collaboration that has just released an album and is currently on tour.

On November 16, that tour featuring Cherie Currie and Brie Darling touches down in the area for a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Currie and Darling were ’70s icons who got the headlines. But they didn’t always get the credit they deserved as strong women holding their own and forging new ground in a rock and roll playing field then dominated by old-school masculine mores.

While Currie and Darling had a mutual admiration society, the two didn’t meet until 2017 when Darling reached out to Currie to contribute vocals to “Fanny Walked the Earth,” a reunion album from the trailblazing Fanny, the first all-female band signed to a major label (Reprise) in 1969.

Now fierce friends and cool collaborators, they’re singing together on the new album, “The Motivator,” which was recently released on Blue Élan Records.

The 12-song album features nine classic covers by bands including T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Wonder, and John Lennon, plus three powerful new originals, including the tough rocker “Too Bruised” and the topical “This Is Our Time.”

“I was making a record with two of the women from Fanny,” said Darling, during a recent phone interview. “I thought it would be nice to have a women’s group like the Bangles, the Go-Go’s and Fanny.”

In 2016, Darling joined a live performance by her former Fanny bandmates – sisters June and Jean Millington. This inspired the formation of a new band called Fanny Walked the Earth.

An album of all-new songs with the same title was released in March 2018. The album marks the first time June, Jean, and Brie all recorded at the same time in over 40 years.

“We released the album and got good response,” said Darling. “Unfortunately, we were unable to support it because Jean had a stroke.”

The album featured appearances by rock legends Currie, Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, Genya Ravan, Patti Quatro and Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson of The Bangles.

“Singing on ‘Fanny Walks the Earth’ was great,” said Currie. “I sang on ‘Gimme Shelter’ with Brie. We just thought we sounded really good together.”

Darling said, “Cherie and I have a lot of history in common. She invited me to play in the Cherry Bomb Charity Project. We feel the same as we did when we were in our twenties. We wind each other up.”

According to Currie, “The women in Fanny are like queens to me. They started all of it. They cracked that door and made it possible for us to believe that we could do it too.”

Fanny’s roots go back to the mid-1960s.

“I first started with Jean and June 1966,” said Darling. “We had an all-female band called the Svelts. That band became Fanny.”

After she left Fanny in the early 1970s, Darling stayed active in the music business. She has recorded with such artists as Carole King, Ringo Starr, ELO, Keith Moon, The Temptations, Jimmy Buffett, Melissa Manchester, Janiva Magness, and Glen Campbell. She has been a band member of American Girls and Boxing Gandhis.

Another of rock’s iconic figures is Currie, who was the lead singer of the Runaways. The five teenage girls from Southern California formed one of the first American all-female hard rock bands and then recorded four studio albums during their brief career.

Currie was the Runaways’ front woman — a wispy young blonde who belted out the lyrics while the band created a wall of sound behind her. Currie left the band late in 1977 and the group eventually dissolved two years later.

After she left the Runaways, Currie recorded several solo albums as well as an album with her twin sister Marie Currie. She also appeared in a number of films — including “Foxes” with Jodie Foster and “Parasite” with Demi Moore. Then, she carved out a highly successful career as a chainsaw artist working with wood sculptures.

Fortunately for music fans, Currie decided that making music still was important to her. In 2013, she began working on new music and assembled her own band. That resulted in an album called “Reverie” that came out in 2015. It also got Currie interested in going out on the road again.

“That was my vindication tour,” said Currie. “Every tour will be a vindication tour. I’ve worked hard all my life and have done very well as a chainsaw carver from the San Fernando Valley. But I love performing more than anything else.”

Now, she is kicking ass on the road with Darling – rocking out and playing songs from a sparkling new album.

“The Motivator” was produced by Grammy-nominated producer Dave Darling, who also is Brie Darling’s husband and former bandmate in Boxing Gandhis.

“We recorded in November and December last year,” said Darling. “We did it pretty quickly.”

Currie said, “We did most of the vocals at Dave and Brie’s studio at their house – The Compound. We also did a lot of music and overdubs at Clear Lake Studio in Burbank.”

Currie’s fans definitely need to feel grateful that his project came along when it did.

“This project has been important to me because I was ready to leave the business,” said Currie. “I just wanted to be a chainsaw artist – but the universe said ‘No.’ I’m still doing chainsaw, but my poor clients have had to wait for ages.”

Based on the reception Currie and Darling’s project has received so far, those clients waiting for carved wood might have a really long wait ahead of them.

Video link for Cherie Currie and Brie Darling — https://youtu.be/PNee6mthSac.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has The Droogettes and Vixen 77 as the opening acts, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

A lot of nationally and internationally acclaimed music acts have performed shows in West Chester over the years.

West Chester University has hosted concerts by acts such as Minas, Steven White and even The Kinks. That’s right, the Kinks performed a concert at WCU’s Phillips Memorial on their “Sleepwalker Tour” in 1977.

Danny Beissel

The Note, a now-defunct cub that was owned by Bam Margera, hosted a slew of shows by acts such as The Wonder Years, The Donnas, Fastball, dada, Local H, the Dead Milkmen, August Burns Red, Aaron Carter, Eve 6, Bernie Worrell, Rusted Root, and even actress Juliette Lewis and her band – Juliette and The Licks.

On November 16, another musician with national caliber credentials will perform in West Chester.

On Saturday night, Danny Beissel will perform in concert at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (236 North High Street, West Chester, https://uptownwestchester.org).

If you look at Beissel’s long and varied resume, you’ll quickly notice that the Philadelphia rocker has performed and recorded with many of rock music’s all-time greats.

Beissel has spent the past decade performing with such musical stalwarts as Jeffrey “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), Barry Goudreau (Formerly of Boston), and James Burton (Elvis, Ricky Nelson).

The concert at the Uptown will be another of Beissel’s “pre-release’ shows for his soon-to-be-released album, “Featherborn.”

“I haven’t really put the album out officially,” said Beissel, during a phone interview last week.

“I’ve had the vinyl for sale at my shows bit I didn’t want to push the digital. A lot of things got put on hold so it’s still up in the air. I think there will be a soft radio release before the end of the year.”

The album features a bunch of tasty songs that show Beissel’s talent and versatility.

“For ‘Featherborn,’ I used one bunch of musicians in the studio when I was making the album,” said Beissel. “For my live shows, I just put guys together. I use different cats in different towns. Now in Philly, I’m playing with all my friends from the area.”

Joining Beissel on stage for the Uptown performance are Mike Czimback on drums, Conrad Korsch (Rod Stewart Band) on bass, Leroy Romans (The Wailers/Third World Band) on keyboards, Aubrey Toone on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Tommy Zamp on guitar.

The first record from his new project “Featherborn,” the album is described by Beissel as a “the culmination of his musical voyage” after fronting such super-star bands as The American Vinyl All Star Band, which featured current and former members of Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Boston, The Wailers and Fosterchild (with members of Candlebox, Tantric, and FUEL).

The album was recorded at the iconic Blackbird Studio in Nashville with veteran engineer John McBride (Martina McBride, Stevie Nicks, Garth Brooks). It features two founding members of Train — Charlie Colin on guitar/bass and vocals and Scott Underwood performing double duty as drummer and producer.

What elevates “Featherborn” to the level of an all-star project is the first-class special guest appearances by friends and former bandmates including Baxter, and Brian Quinn, who is Candlebox’s lead guitarist.

Inspired by Elvis Presley at an early age, Beissel started his musical journey fronting The Elvis Experience, a band dedicated to preserving the Presley’s integrity through music rather than theatrical stage performances

“Elvis got me into music,” said Beissel, who grew up in Philly’s Frankford section and graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School. “I didn’t try to impersonate Elvis. Instead, I tried to capture the essence of Elvis.

“I was always attracted to music and started playing guitar when I was young. I was also into acting and performed at Fringe Festival events. I studied method acting – the Meisner technique.”

The Meisner technique is an approach to acting which was developed by the American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner. The focus of the Meisner approach is for the actor to “get out of their head,” such that the actor is behaving instinctively to the surrounding environment.

In the IMDb online database, Beissel’s biography states, “Danny Beissel is an actor and director, known for “Conspiracized” (2003), “Blush” (2018) and “September 12th” (2005).”

“The Elvis Experience started in 1995,” said Beissel. “I stopped it around 2001 after I had played Graceland. That’s when I started writing my own music instead of just playing someone else’s music.

“My first original band was The Daze and we only lasted for two shows. Around that time, I met Brian Quinn down on (Philly’s) South Street. He and I started playing together. Then, we started writing together. Kevin Miller left Fuel and hit up Brian to join his new band Fosterchild.”

Fosterchild was formed in 2005 by drummer Kevin Miller and guitarist Brian Quinn soon after Miller’s departure from Fuel and Quinn’s resignation from Octane. A few years later, the band’s line-up was Beissel (Voice/Guitar), Quinn (Guitar/Vocals), Mike Vlaanderen (Bass/Vocals) and Bobby Pirylis Jr. (Drums/Vocals).

Next up for Beissel was the American Vinyl All Star Band. This band features celebrity members from some of the most popular groups in history ranging from the 1960s to the 2010s – Skunk Baxter, Barry Goudreau (Former member of the band Boston), Tim Archibald, Leroy Romans (The Wailers/Third World), Robert “Mousey” Thomson (James Brown).

The all-star band has shared the stage with rock luminaries such as Steven Tyler, Robin Zander (CheapTrick), Rick Derringer (McCoys), James Montgomery, Cliff Williams (ACDC), Slim Jim Phantom (The Stray Cats), Hugh McDonald (Bon Jovi), Ronnie Vannucci (The Killers).

“In 2012, I went to see the American Vinyl All Star Band in Fort Myers, Florida,” said Beissel. “I joined them a week later in Utah. I was singing all their hits from all their bands.”

Now, Beissel is focusing on Featherborn and his new album of the same name.

According to Beissel, “This album is extremely personal to me as these are the songs I’ve been waiting to record and the players I’ve been waiting to record with.”

Video link for Danny Beissel – https://youtu.be/SNia3nTUew8.

The show at the Uptown will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $45.

David Broza and the Trio Havana

David Broza, who will headline a show on November 17 at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia/), is one of Israel’s most important recording artists.

Performing with Broza on stage Sunday night will be Trio Havana – Manuel Alejandro Carro (aka Mannya), a Cuban-born singer-songwriter and master percussionist with a style firmly rooted in Latin Pop; Yuniel Jiminex “Elguajiro, a master tres guitar player from Santa Clara, Cuba; and Jorge Bringas, renowned bassist from Havana, Cuba, who played previously with Albita Rodriguez and the late Celia Cruz.

Broza is considered one of the world’s most dynamic and vibrant performers. From his whirlwind finger picking to Flamenco percussion and rhythms, to a signature rock and roll sound, Broza’s charismatic and energetic performances have delighted audiences throughout the world. Broza’s music reflects a fusion of the three countries in which he was raised: Israel, Spain and England.

More than singer/songwriter, David Broza is also known for his commitment and dedication to several humanitarian projects, predominantly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since 1977, when his hit song “Yihye Tov” first hit the airwaves, Broza has been working to promote a message of peace.

The song’s lyrics — roughly translated as “Things Will Be Better” struck at the heart of the issue – that people all over the world want peace. Now with a string of multi-platinum albums, Broza still strives to hone this message.

Broza continues to tour and record with music luminaries from around the globe. In 2007, a concert at Masada featured Broza with special guests Jackson Browne and Shawn Colvin. He also has appeared as a guest and shared the bill with Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and many more.

Further explorations led him to become absolutely hooked on the Afro-Cuban sound. Introduced by flutist Itai Kriss, Broza first met Trio Havana at a private event in New York and was stunned by their versatility.

By the end of the evening they were jamming together and found a special magnetism in the sweeping rhythms. Combining the Cuban sound with Broza’s Spanish guitar and songs sung in Spanish, Hebrew and English proved a rich common ground that connected naturally.

Six months after meeting, Broza and Trio Havana began touring the U.S. The result has been pure magic: every show is a mystery, a dance and romance expressed through pulsing rhythms and sweet melodies, resulting in uplifting, energetic performances that leave audiences delighted and exhilarated. 

“I really like Trio Havana,” said Broza, during a phone interview last week from his home in New York City. “We hit it off when we met a year ago. We keep playing together and we keep improving.

“They play traditional Cuban instruments – tres, bass and percussion. I heard them playing in New York and loved them. I asked if I could sit in with them and I did. I was finishing my contract with previous musicians after four years and was looking for something new.

“My music is pop-rock and I come from Israel, When I started playing with the musicians in Trio Havana, it was so musical. I fell right into it.”

Israeli pop-rock and traditional Cuban music is not a combination you’d expect to find anywhere. But Broza found it and it’s working well.

“With Trio Havana, there is real musicianship there,” said Broza. “It’s a very warm sound. It feels natural.”

There is also a Spain-Cuba connection.

“I lived for a long time in Madrid, so I’m influenced by flamenco music,” said Broza. “But I’m not a flamenco artist. My influences are Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and folk-rock artists like Joni Mitchell.

“Performing with Trio Havana, the music is more Afro-Cuban. I sing and they sing along with me. I speak Castilian Spanish from Madrid and they speak Cuban Spanish from Havana. Still, we have no problem communicating. The Spanish I speak – Castilian – is spoken everywhere.”

And, more importantly, they communicate musically, and music is the universal language.

Video link for David Broza – https://youtu.be/AnrL2HO04MY.

The show at City Winery will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $55, $69, $65 and $75.

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