On Stage: Philly’s Cheerleader at Boot & Saddle

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Philly has the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders, a night club called Cheerleaders and Cheerleader.

Cheerleader, which is headlining a show on January 24 at Boot and Saddle (1131 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com), is a Philadelphia band.

The trio, which features Joe Haller, Paul Impellizeri and Josh Pannepacker, is a Philadelphia-based band but not a band with its roots in Philly.

“We moved from Connecticut to Philly a few years ago,” said Haller, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in Philadelphia’s Fairmount section.

“We knew we had to get out of Connecticut. There’s now a whole lot going on culturally there. We had friends in Philly. New York was too crazy for us, so we came here.”

Cheerleader began in 2011 as an apartment-based recording project for friends Joseph Haller and Chris Duran. After a series of well-received Bandcamp singles and EPs, they became a five-piece band, toured the U.S. and U.K., and released their debut album, “The Sunshine of Your Youth.”

“I formed the band with Chris Duran,” said Haller. “We were childhood friends and went to high school together at Canton High in Connecticut. We always had a musical connection, so we decided to form a band.

But things didn’t go quite as expected.

According to Haller, “Toward the end of 2016 — right before the holidays — I had a call with the band, management, and our label and told them I was done. I had hit a wall, just physically and mentally exhausted, and I was at a point where I could not continue to tour. And even if I could, I was not in a state where I would have been able to do the songs from ‘Sunshine’ any justice.”
Haller hung up thinking that was it—and it was, in a sense. What Haller just didn’t realize at the time is that it would lay the groundwork for a new chapter for the band and their eventual rebirth.

After five months of inactivity, Haller began recording demos that pushed into dramatically new terrain — songs that were unsparingly honest and even bleak at times, in stark contrast to the innocent exuberance that characterized his earlier work.

“A lot has happened since the band formed in 2011 – people grow, people change, and priorities shift. It was in everyone’s best interest that we go our separate ways. Chris left a couple years ago, got married and had a kid.”

Cheerleader moved forward as a trio with Impellizeri, Pannepacker and Haller.

“The trio settled in a little over a year ago,” said Haller. “Paul and Josh are dedicated musicians. I found them through my manager and auditions. We also have a drummer — Sean Donaghy – who recorded the album with us and plays with us in local gigs.”

The album is Cheerleader’s sophomore LP, “Almost Forever.”

“We recorded the album in summer 2018 and finished mixing it in January 2019,” said Haller. “It’s been waiting in limbo for a long time.

“It will be released next month on Bright Antenna Records. They wanted music videos for songs. It’s a singles-driven world. So, we released the first single from the album – ‘Bang Bang’ – in May 2019. The second one – ‘Chimera’ – came out in the summer and the third – ‘Everyone’s Wearing Skin’ – just came out.

“We recorded the album in two different locations with producer Chris Coady. We spent two weeks in the San Francisco area at Panoramic Studio in Marin County and then four or five weeks at Sunset Sound in L.A.

“We did all the bass and drums live. We recorded a lot of the stuff with analog gear. Chris Coady is a big analog head.”

Cheerleader’s sophomore disc is very different than its debut album.

“We were pretty obsessed with pop production technique when we started out,” said Haller. “We wanted to be a pop band. Then, we realized it wasn’t what we listened to.

“Our music has gotten a little more psychedelic over the years – more spacey. It has more of a classic rock influence.”

The album will officially be released on February 7 via Bright Antenna.

“I’m so happy the album is finally coming out,” said Haller. “It’s been frustrating to have to wait so long.”

Video link for Cheerleader — https://youtu.be/XqaBiFnPtjA.

The show at Boot and Saddle on January 24, which has Commonwealth Choir as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at Boot and Saddle are Cave People on January 23 and the World/Inferno Friendship Society on January 25.

Moon Hooch

Moon Hooch, an explosive horn-and-percussion trio formed a decade ago in Brooklyn, is celebrating the new year with a new tour, a new album and a new drummer.

The tour began on January 22 in Hartford, Connecticut and the U.S. portion concludes February 22 in Washington, D.C. A massive six-week European phase starts in Brussels, Belgium on March 11 and wraps up in Prague, Czech Republic on April 25.

The third stop on the stateside tour will take place on January 24 at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com).

The new album — “Life on Other Planets” – officially dropped on January 10, 2020. The band’s new drummer arrived two weeks prior to the album’s release. Prior to that, the Moon Hooch line-up featured Mike Wilbur (horns), Wenzl McGowen (horns) and James Muschler (drums).

“Our new drummer is Ethan Snyder,” said Wilbur, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

“This is our first tour with him. He just joined about a month ago. James, Wenzl and I had been together for about 10 years, but James recently decided the road wasn’t right for him. Ethan and I have been playing together for about 12 years.”

With the nucleus of Wilbur and McGowen, Moon Hooch has released four albums –“Moon Hooch” (Hornblow/Palmetto, 2013), “This Is Cave Music” (Hornblow/Palmetto, 2014), “Red Sky” (Hornblow/Palmetto, 2016) and the new one.

Saxophone players McGowen, who is from the Canary Islands, and Wilbur, a Bostonian, and drummer Muschler, a Cleveland native, met in 2009 when they were in school at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. But they didn’t start playing together until the summer of 2010.

In 2013, the three New School grads took their jazz jobs and merged them with house and dubstep beats to create a maniacal dance hybrid they call “Cave Music.” By the time they cut “Red Sky,” they were mixing elements of indie rock, virtuosic jazz and pulse-pounding electronic dance music with a DIY spirit.

Recorded in a series of stunning, single-take performances, “Life on Other Planets” may be the purest distillation yet of the double saxophone and drum trio’s sound. The nine tracks on “Life on Other Planets” mix elements of jazz, punk, funk, and EDM to create the latest chapter in “Cave Music.”

When they initially headed into the studio in Winooski, Vermont, the three veteran musicians planned on creating a heavily produced and composed collection more along the lines of their previous full-length album, “Red Sky.” Instead, they recorded everything live over the course of a week.

“We made the album in May 2019,” said Wilbur. “We had Dan Rome produce it and we cut it at his home studio near Burlington, Vermont. We recorded all the tracks live – one take and all to tape. Dan really worked a lot on the mixing. He spent a lot of time getting it as close to perfection as he could.

“We decided to use some improvisational sections of our sets that hadn’t been recorded before. We went in with a skeleton for the song. There is a form that we were improvising in live shows.

“When we were recording, the form remained the same – same key, same tempo, same length of time. But the improvisation was different. Those earlier tracks are definitely pretty open. When we play live, we take a lot of chances. We’re all jazz musicians and we like to stretch it out.”

The band had such a deep relationship with the songs that one take was all they needed.

According to Wilbur, “When we got to the studio, we just felt inspired to record these live pieces we’d been performing for so long. We never really consciously wrote these songs, and we never really consciously planned to release them, but we loved playing them and we realized they were something the fans were really excited about.”
Video link for Moon Hooch – https://youtu.be/JglcDEWowk8.

The show at the Ardmore Music Hall, which has Sungazer and Horizon Wireless as openers, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $15.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are “Songs To Fill The Air: A Robert Hunter Celebration” on January 23, “An Allstar Tribute to Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ featuring Bakithi Kumalo” on January 25, and Blackalicious on January 26.

On January 23, northern Delaware will be the place to go for a pair of interesting options for live entertainment.

A Mother’s Rite

The Delaware Art Museum (2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Delaware, www.delart.org), will present “A Mother’s Rite,” the Black Iris Project’s groundbreaking solo ballet on January 23 at 6 p.m.

Founded in 2016 by choreographer Jeremy McQueen, The Black Iris Project is a ballet collaborative and education vehicle that creates new classical and contemporary ballet works that celebrate diversity and Black history. “A Mother’s Rite,” which is set to Igor Stravinsky’s iconic composition “Rite of Spring,” is a moving 38-minute solo performance about how a mother copes with the loss of her child to a racially motivated murder by police.

According to McQueen, “I was first inspired to create ‘A Mother’s Rite’ when I attended a Solange concert at Radio City Music Hall. Solange was performing a song called ‘Mad’ and started to increasingly appear physically and emotionally distressed.

“As I was watching this almost ritualistic shedding of pain, I started to think about what I and Black Americans have the right to be mad about and I started to think more and more about the senseless killings of Black men and women across our country. ‘A Mother’s Rite’ is choreographed to illustrate a side of the story that is often kept very private, one that the public is not often exposed to.”

The Museum is offering “A Mother’s Rite” in conjunction with its participation in One Village Alliance’s “Raising Kings 2020,” a week of events through January 25 around Wilmington that are focused on empowering young Black men and their families.

During the first half of the public performance on January 23, ensembles of local dancers from both Pieces of a Dream, Inc. and the Christina Cultural Arts Center will perform. This will be followed by a brief intermission, then Black Iris Project’s 38-minute solo piece “A Mother’s Rite.”

Video link for “A Mother’s Rite” — https://youtu.be/QXd0DTsnqRc.

The program featuring “A Mother’s Rite” will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students with a valid ID, $20 for Museum Members, and $25 for Non-Members.

If live comedy is more to your liking than a dance performance and you’re looking for a show Thursday night, then plan a short trip just over the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line to the Candlelight Dinner Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org).

Most of the time, the Candlelight Dinner Theatre is just what its name implies. It is a theater that specializes in high-quality plays with talented casts and, at the same time, a dinner theater with a sumptuous buffet.

But, one night each month, it becomes something entirely different. It becomes the Candlelight Comedy Club.

Dena Blizzard

This month’s Comedy Club night is scheduled for January 23 with veteran comedian Dena Blizzard (a.k.a. One Funny Mother) as the headline act and Matt Jenkins as the opening act. The show’s emcee is Tony Parlante.

Blizzard is known as the “Target Mom” from her Back to School Rant (150 Million views) and Chardonnay Go (24 Million views) viral videos. She is a comedian and mother of three who has written and starred in her Off-Broadway show. She also created “Chardonnay Go, The Board Game for Wine Lovers, Moms and Other Shameless People” and was a “LIVE with Kelly” Top 5 Co-Host Winner. 

Blizzrd (www.facebook.com/onefunnymother) has served as the Official Host of the Miss America Pageant Preliminaries for 10 years, as co-host with Anderson Cooper and has had her own talk show on NJ 101.5 FM. In her free time, Blizzard enjoys making videos about wine and drinks in her living room every week on her Facebook LIVE show, “Tipsy Tuesday.”

Jenkins is known for his clean, quick-witted brand of comedy. He uses his diverse background in combination with solid joke writing and charisma to give audiences a relatable as well as memorable experience. He just taped a new Dry Bar Comedy video and is the author of the book “Now I’m Booked Everywhere.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the show at the Candlelight Comedy Club. Tickets are $30 and include complimentary light fare buffet, cash bar, and free parking.

The Candlelight Dinner Theatre’s main production – the hit musical “Cabaret” – is running weekends now through February 23.

Burnt Sugar

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber on January 24 and “ACT Players Presents BROADWAY MOMENTS” on January 25 and 26.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will present “TERRI CAMILARI NEW CD “OLD HOUSE” LISTENING PARTY & PERFORMANCE” on January 24 and JD Malone on January 25

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will have Haxon, Pandemic, Relapsed and Aberrant Light on January 25.

Living Room at 35 East (35 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, https://thelivingroomat35east.com) will host Nashville-Philly NSAI Songwriters In the Round with Debra Lee, Liz Miller, Julieann Ott, and Bonnie Warren on January 24 and Suzanne Dee Trio with Don Wilkins on January 25.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) presents Richard Lloyd Band (of Television) on January 23, Billy Walton Band on January 24, Dave Patten & the First Cut on January 25 and Man About a Horse Duo on January 26.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Artie Lang on January 24, Steven Wright on January 25.

The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577, www.thegrandwilmington.org) is hosting Richard Thompson on January 24.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) hosts The Duvets on January 24 and the Michael Spear Duo on January 25.

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