On Stage: Delco’s Chavous celebrates ‘new’ CD release

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Lisa Chavous

Lisa Chavous, who is one of the most respected jazz and blues singers in the Philadelphia music scene, is a Delaware County girl through and through.

She grew up in Sharon Hill and graduated from Darby Township High School. She studied for a career in nursing at a hospital in Delaware County. Now, Chavous is a resident of Lansdowne.

Chavous has a gig on May 15 that she can walk to if she so desires.

On Saturday night, Chavous and the Philadelphia Blues Messengers will headline a show at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, jameyshouseofmusic.com).

“I’m having a CD release party at Jamey’s on Saturday night,” said Chavous, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her Delco home. “The CD is two years old.”

The new CD from Chavous is titled “Breaking Down the Walls.”

“The CD is dedicated to my late husband Michael Hayes,” said Chavous. “He died of cancer in 2014.

“The new album is getting a lot of airplay on WXPN. I’ll be playing a lot of songs from the CD in Saturday’s show.

“We had a tour in Paris in 2019 and two trips to Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico shows were tributes to Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. One of them raised $3,000 for emergency relief in San Juan. Then, the pandemic hit, and everything shut down.”

The pandemic has had an effect on Chavous’ career, but the situation hasn’t been as bad as it could have been.

“I’ve been really blessed,” said Chavous. “I’ve been working throughout. I’ve been working down the shore. I’ve been doing a lot of outdoor shows — even in the middle of winter.

“A lot of venues have been putting up tents. I’ve done shows at the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia, La Porta Ristorante in Media and Anthony’s Ristorante in Drexel Hill.

I’ve played Jamey’s five or six times in recent years. Now, they’ve partnered with Crooked Eye Brewery in Hatboro (www.crookedeyebrewery.com) and I have two shows coming up there – May 23 and June 20.”

Chavous has been singing her whole life.

“I started performing and singing in church when I was really young,” said Chavous. “The, my mom and dad managed me. Eventually, I got calls from agents. So, I started putting bands together – Lisa Chavous and Friends.”

In 1989 she began performing with the group Chapter One in banquet halls such as The Twelve Caesars and the Riviera Ballroom. In 1997 Lisa won first prize while competing in the Temple University jazz station talent contest sponsored by B&V outreach. In 1999 she began forming bands that performed for a variety of audiences. These ensembles eventually became known as Lisa Chavous and Friends.

“My first band was a jazz band. We played a lot of jazz clubs including the Blue Note in New York. I was on the jazz side for a while.

“We were really blessed with being able to book shows at country clubs in Delco. One night, the sax player couldn’t make the show. So, they sent another cat – and it was Byard Lancaster.”

The late, great Byard Lancaster was an alto saxophonist/flutist from Philadelphia who was part of the wave of free jazz inspired by John Coltrane. His music had many cultures in its DNA such as blues, reggae and Afrobeat and he lived in a variety of places including Chicago, France and Nigeria. But he always returned to jazz and his hometown.

After watching Chavous perform many years ago, Lancaster said, “I have recorded with Jonny Copeland, and have known Shemekia Copeland since she was a lttle girl, when I was on the road with her father. I’ve got to tell you the best female blues vocalist to come along since Shemekia is without a doubt, Lisa Chavous.”

This quote came from the musician who discovered Kevin Eubanks, the Roots, and Stanley Clarke.

“A couple years later, I ran into Byard at a blues festival in Media,” said Chavous. “He told me there was a blues band — the Philadelphia Blues Messengers –that needed a vocalist and asked if I wanted to go to Paris. That was in the early 2000s. He opened so many doors for me.

“For me, getting into the blues was a fluke. I was supposed to be going Motown and playing country clubs. Then, blues came in with Byard. I just became an icon in Philly as a blues singer. People wanted the blues and it never stopped. I realized – this music is me.”

Video link for Lisa Chavous – https://youtu.be/3N0iG_x7u44.

The show at Jamey’s on Saturday night will start at 8 p.m. and will also be available via Livestream. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Pay-per-view tickets are $15.

Other shows scheduled for Jamey’s House of Music this month are James Dalton on May 14, Bobby Messano on May 21 and Jefferson Berry on May 22.

The audience at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will be transported more than a half-century back into the past on May 15 when the venue presents “Kiss The Sky…World’s Greatest Tribute To Jimi Hendrix.”

Kiss The Sky

Some tribute bands are a waste of time. Rest assured — Kiss The Sky is the real deal.

Led by Jimy Bleu, who has the age and the experience to look and sound like Hendrix, Kiss The Sky does an amazingly great job of recreating a Hendrix concert – both with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Band of Gypsies.

Bleu and his band were seriously sidetracked over the last 15 months and Bleu had a COVID-19 “double whammy.”

“I had the virus a year ago,” said Bleu, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in New York City.

“For four days, I was contemplating death. I was locked in a fetal position. Something like that humbles you.

“I’d like to be getting the vaccine now, but the doctors have told me to wait a little longer. That was a year ago and I feel fine now. I’m back up chasing women.”

Bleu is also back up and nailing Hendrix guitar licks.

Through meticulous-detailed reproductions in every aspect of look and sound in recreating Jimi Hendrix’s most classic concert and landmark stage show performances, Kiss The Sky presents the world’s most historically accurate Jimi Hendrix tribute show ever. The band is fronted by Bleu, a virtuoso guitarist and former Columbia recording artist, and backed by a cast of world-class touring musicians from the NYC metro area.

Kiss the Sky is the only Hendrix tribute wearing custom made 60’s wardrobes that Jimi and his bandmates actually wore at his most historic concerts and the only Hendrix tribute with stage sets of replica gear and backline rigs accurate to Jimi’s most classic concerts – stacks of Marshall amps, Ludwig drums, and Fender Stratocaster guitars.

When it comes to being exposed to Hendrix’s music and live performances, Bleu has “been there and done that.”

“I’ve been doing a Hendrix tribute since 1968,” said Bleu.

“I was attending The School of Performing Arts in New York back in the 60s – the school that was featured in ‘Fame.’ Jimi and Buddy Miles used to hang out on the steps at the school because Buddy was dating a girl whose sister went to Performing Arts.

“I was doing a James Brown tribute show. I was a James Brown guy since I was in junior high. A girl came to school one day with a big Jimi Hendrix Fan Club button. I wanted to get closer to her, so I joined the fan club.

“Fan club members would get in free at all of Jimi’s East Coast concerts. Soon, we started chasing him around the country. Before I got into Jimi, my favorite guitarists were Jeff Beck and Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner.”

Being a New York music fan, Bleu also got to see Hendrix play at many of the legendary late-night/early-morning post-show jam sessions at Steve Paul’s The Scene – a popular music venue that frequently was the site of amazing jam sessions featuring the best rock musicians from the U.K. and the states.

Decades have flown by and Bleu is still nailing it with his presentation of Hendrix’s music and live performances. Kiss The Sky was named by AXS-TV as the “World’s greatest tribute to Jimi Hendrix.”

“Mike Gotch, the show’s producer, and I have the same vision of presenting Jimi,” said Bleu. “It’s our mission. It’s like being in a Broadway play production. Nothing this intense has ever been done by a tribute band. I do the music, live shows and even lectures on Jimi Hendrix.

“It’s the longest-running tribute artist show. We’re the best in the authenticity. When fans come to the show, they’re shocked. It’s hard to get the Jimi Hendrix sound live because he had problems himself onstage.”

It’s a fact.

The first time Jimi Hendrix Experience – Mitch Mitchell on drums, Noel Redding on bass and Hendrix on guitar – played Philly was at the old Electric Factory in February 1968. The music coming out of the band’s wall of Marshall amps rattled the woodwork. It also buried the needles on the venue’s soundboard and that added to the trio’s already heavily-distorted sound – at times unintentionally hyper-distorted.

“We’re the only show using authentic replica costumes and the same musical gear Jimi used in the 1960s,” said Bleu, “We are the only show that can faithfully reproduce three of Hendrix’s most historic concerts – 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival, 1969’s Woodstock and the 1970 Band of Gypsys’ show at the Fillmore East in New York.

“We’ll be playing Monterey and Band of Gypsies at this show. There will also be a video between sets and then we’ll close with a ‘Best of Jimi’ segment.”

Video link for “Kiss The Sky…World’s Greatest Tribute To Jimi Hendrix” — https://youtu.be/crkiRYpcdMY.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on May 15, which will also be available via Livestream, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 for in person and $15 for Livestream.

The Dawn Drapes

The Dawn Drapes – Michael Sanzo and Daniel Rice – will headline a Soundbooth Sessions show on May 14 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com). It is something they have been waiting to do for a long time – playing a show in a theater in front of a live audience.

“The upcoming show at Sellersville will be the first officially live show we’ve done in a long time,” said Sanzo, during a phone interview last week from his home in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. “We did one socially distanced festival in July last year with a very small capacity.

“We did a Soundbooth Session Livestream at the Sellersville Theater in April. We’ve also done various other Livestreams but this will be our first real live show. The first Soundbooth was stripped own with just me and Daniel. This Friday will be us with a full band.

“We’re definitely a four-piece. Myself and Daniel are the two songwriters and we’ve had a rotating cast behind us. Daniel does guitar and vocals and I do keyboards and vocals. Noah Skaroff plays bass and Keaton Thani is the drummer. Right now, I definitely think of us as a four-piece.”

The Dawn Drapes are a Philly band. Like many Philly bands, they arrived from elsewhere before setting up permanent camp in the Quaker City.

“We started the band in Harrisonburg, Virginia in 2012,” said Sanzo. “Me and Daniel were students at James Madison University. I was a business major, and Dan was a communications major.

“We put the band together at the end of our time there. We hung around there for a year after we finished school and then moved to Philadelphia. We’ve been based in Philly since 2015.

“Through touring, we made a bunch of friends in Philly. It was always a tour stop. We got connected and close with the music scene in Philly. And it’s a good place as a base for touring.”

The Dawn Drapes’ recorded output includes “She” in February 2014, “Let’s Be Strangers” in September 2015, “Slow Spin” in February 2019 and a quartet of singles over the past year.

“Originally, it was going to be a four-song EP,” said Sanzo. “Then we decided to take the four songs and release a single every few months. The first was ‘Facts’ in March 2020.

“We put out ‘Oxygen’ last summer and then ‘You Are the One’ in February this year. The fourth single – ‘How Could I Know’ – was just released on May 7.

“We recorded the four songs at Headroom Studios in East Kensington with Shane Woods as the producer. It was the first time we went in the studio as a four-piece. We recorded the songs over a period of nine months which allowed us to experiment more.”

Woods, a staff engineer at the studio, assisted and engineered many projects at the Headroom (Lithuania, Hop Along, Kississippi, Modern Baseball), and recently produced his own band, Mo Lowda and The Humble.

“Our music has evolved,” said Sanzo. “We started out more as a singer/songwriter duo with two acoustic guitars. Then, we took that initial thing and got a backing band. From 2014-2017, it was a three-piece – more psychedelic, more rock.

“The ‘Slow Spin’ album was just Dan and me. We went back to our roots. We recorded the album in L.A. at Electro-Vox Recording Studios. It was the two of us with L.A. studio musicians and we cut seven tracks in four days. We finished it at the end of 2017 and released it at the beginning of 2019.”

The Dawn Drapes’ set list for the show at Sellersville will span the band’s career.

“We play the new songs and songs from ‘Slow Spin,’” said Sanzo. “We also play a few from ‘She’ and a lot from ‘Strangers.’ We did a lot of them in the previous Soundbooth Sessions show.”

Video link for The Dawn Drapes — https://youtu.be/ZLyZhLesOyY.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on May 14, which will also be available via Livestream, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19.50 for in person and $10 for Livestream.

Many of the featured entrees on the entertainment menu this weekend will be comedy shows with a trio of top-flight national acts coming to Philadelphia – Correy Bell, Steve Treviño and Jeff Dye.

Jeff Dye

Jeff Dye lives in Sherman Oaks, California and looks like he could be a typical “Valley Dad” with a cheerleader daughter and a soccer-playing son – both of whom are college-bound on academic scholarships.

But looks can be deceiving.

Dye, who will be headlining at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, philadelphia.heliumcomedy.com) from May 13-15, is none of the above (except the part about living in San Fernando Valley).

“I’ve always been the silly funny guy,” said Dye, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in L.A.

“I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t smart. College wasn’t a choice. So, I was the class clown.

“When I was in second grade, the teacher would ask a question and I’d mumble a funny answer to Joseph Garrol, the kid sitting next to me. He’d repeat it and get a laugh. It happened again and he got a laugh. I realized I should just say it out loud and get the laugh myself.

“At first, I was saying things that were hilarious to kids – but no-one else. I have dyslexia so my brain worked differently – even when I was trying to be serious.”

Now, Dye is a nationally touring comedian, actor, host, prankster and Bigfoot enthusiast. Raised in Seattle, this class clown started doing comedy at Giggles Comedy Club right out of high school and was first nationally recognized on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” where he finished third after only three years into his comedy career.

“I started by doing open mics at Giggles,” said Dye. “I was horrible for the first four or five months. But, even when I was bombing, I loved the attention.

“I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the book, ‘The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom,’ and read the entire book that day. I was funny, but I wasn’t doing it right. I read the book, used it that night and got laughs.

“You can teach people formulas but if the person isn’t funny, it’s not going to help. The funny was always in me, but I didn’t know how to make people laugh when I was onstage.”

Dye combined funny and formula and found fame and fortune.

Dye first gained popularity from headlining hundreds of stand-up comedy shows around the country and went on to host popular MTV series “Money From Strangers,” “Numbnuts” and “Girl Code.” He was also the host of MTV’s “Club New Year’s Eve 2013 Live from Times Square” and appeared on Comedy Central’s “This Is Not Happening.”

Jeff can be seen as the lead in Dierks Bentley’s award-winning music video, Drunk on a Plane. Jeff was a special correspondent for Spike TV’s Comic-Con All Access 2014. In January 2015, he supported the Seattle Seahawks for ESPN’s Enemy Territory.

The Seattle native starred in NBC’s comedy adventure series “Better Late Than Never,” which followed the travels of Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman as Jeff created for them the adventure of a lifetime.

He finished third on “Last Comic Standing” and had his own “Comedy Central Presents” special. His album, “Live from Madison,” took off on Sirius XM and was a Top 10 album on the Billboard Comedy Charts.

“I had my first headline gig at Giggles in 2005,” said Dye. “It was great. Just to see my name on a marquee was amazing.

“Comedy is a living thing. I’m always coming up with new things. I open and close with proven things and try to squeeze the new things in during the middle of the set.

“I’m always writing. It takes a long time to write a joke. I love talking about women, about life and about what is going on in society. I’m always trying to be positive.

“I’ve played Philly two times before. One was when the Phillies were playing a home game against the Yankees in the World Series and I had eight people at the show. The next time, I packed out, but it was a one-night shows. This the first time I have a multi-night headline and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Video link for Jeff Dye – https://youtu.be/WC20hnlzypc.

The shows at Helium will start at 8 p.m. on Thursday and 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Ticket prices start at $36 for a two-person table.

Other shows this month at the Helium Comedy Club are Lindsay Boling on May 16, Todd Glass from May 20-22, Rich Vos on May 26 and Darren Brand from May 27-30.

Correy Bell

Correy Bell will headline a show at Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia, www.punchlinephilly.com) on May 13 and then immediately leave town.

“This will be my first time to play Punch Line,” said Bell, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home in Chicago’s South Side.

“Actually, it will be my first time to play Philly. I’m doing Philly for one night and then heading to Atlanta to start my tour with Mo’Nique.”

Bell and Mo’Nique have had a strong bond for several years.

After getting Mo’Nique’s attention on Instagram and being given an opening spot for her during her first night of a run at the Chicago Improv, the two women felt a connection right away.

“I opened for Mo’Nique at the Chicago Improv,” said Bell. “It was supposed to be one night. After that show, she asked me to finish out the weekend and then she brought me on tour with her.

“I got into comedy on a dare. That was back in 2013. Just Nesh was hosting an open mic at Karma in Chicago and she dared me to go onstage.”

Just Nesh is the stage name of comedian Taneshia Rice. She will be appearing at Punch Line Philly on May 30.

“I had to go on after a great headliner – Nick Lewis,” said Bell. “It was sink-or-swim. I got onstage and told the stupidest joke I ever told.

“A couple people laughed, and I got the bug. Nick said to me – you’re funny…how long have you been doing standup? I told him it was my first time. Him saying that was all I needed to hear.”

Bell recalled that first joke – “I said I have to find new friends because my current friends are super uppity. They ask for bottled water with a glass of ice. Where do they think that ice comes from?”

A few laughs and a compliment from a veteran comic — Bell was already hooked.

“After that first week, I kept going to the club for open mics every Monday,” said Bell, who is also the mother of five children. “Then Just Nesh started dragging me around to other open mics where I’d tell the same stupid jokes.

“It was literally like a drug. I wanted to just keep going. I wanted to be onstage. I was fearless. I knew I had the gift, and it was more about the mechanics.

“Within nine months in comedy, I was chosen to be in TruTV’s Laff Tracks in 2016. That was my first TV appearance. It was my first time to go from local to national. I did two seasons of TruTV’s Laff Tracks before I ended up being a part of “Mo’Nique & Friends” Showtime Special.”

Bell fell in love with the world of comedy and the love was reciprocal.

“In comedy, you have to be more than funny – you have to be likeable,” said Bell. “I have good stage material. I just talk about me and my life. It’s not stock material. I birth most of my set onstage – in the moment. My comedy is fearless, funny and believable.”

Video link for Correy Bell — https://youtu.be/QQmPEhssxzY.

The show at Punch Line Philly will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $32.

Steve Treviño

Steve Treviño will bring his “I Speak Wife Tour 2021” to Philadelphia for a two-night stand at Punch Line Philly on March 14 and 15.

From making friends laugh as a young kid in elementary school to selling out comedy shows across the country as a headlining comedian, Treviño has quickly become one of the country’s hottest comedians and “America’s Favorite Husband.”

Treviño landed in the Nielsen Top 20, with his first Showtime comedy special, “Grandpa Joe’s Son,” released a second special, “Relatable,” on Netflix. His latest special, 2019’s “‘Til Death,” features Treviño offering up a brutally honest, yet relatable take on the day-to-day joy of marriage, kids, and living life with your best friend.

“When I was young, my family was always performing and I told jokes to the family,” said Treviño, during a phone interview last week while vacationing in Cancun, Mexico.

“I’d make comments about the family. In my family, being funny was a badge of honor.

“I always wanted to be a comedian. I just had to figure out a way to do it. My cousin moved to Dallas and was living next door to the Improv Comedy Club.

“When I was 19, I moved to Dallas to live with him – next to the Improv. The management there found me hanging out and I started working for them – bartending, working the door, answering phones, waiting tables. I started performing at open mics and got to the M.C. level pretty quickly. Then, I went from M.C. to feature within a year.”

Treviño, who lived in South Texas, actually had his start in comedy prior to his move to Dallas.

“Before I went to Dallas, I opened for Carlos Mencia when I was 18,” said Treviño. “He was coming to Corpus Christi. I skipped school to go to the radio station to meet him. He liked me and let me open for him at his show at the Harbor Playhouse. After I moved to Dallas, things went well, and I started touring full-time when I was 21.

“I moved to L.A. I was opening for Carlos. He got a TV show, and I was invited to be a writer for the show. That was in 2004, I wrote for the pilot and the first season.”

Since then, he has become one of the country’s fastest rising comics and has been viewed more than 175 million times as of 2020 while amassing nearly one million total social media followers. He had sold out shows all over the country and headlined specials for Amazon, NETFLIX, Showtime, and most recently, a pandemic comedy special, “My Life In Quarantine.”

“In 2005, I became a headliner when I was living in L.A.,” said Treviño. “I made The Comedy Store my home. I was in L.A. for 14 years. I lived in West Hollywood and Studio City and Van Nuys. In 2016, I decided to move back to Texas.”

After years of playing 250 shows a year around the world, his career trajectory was interrupted by the pandemic shutdown.

“I was probably unemployed for four months,” said Treviño. “I used to do six-to-eight shows a week for 40 weeks a year. Last year was cut in half. This year, we’re getting back. Things started to open up in Texas. We opened at 25 per cent capacity and everybody was spread out.”

Treviño looks to find humor in all walks of life and has an everyman quality that endears him to audiences by fitting right into their families. Among many skills, he can “speak wife” fluently. He takes pride in the fact he is “not allowed to make [his] own decisions,” as any good husband should.

According to Treviño, “My goal is to make sure that everyday married men can laugh at themselves. Life wasn’t horrible for me. I didn’t have this crazy struggle. I’m just an average married man madly in love with my above average wife—and I want to make her happy. I think that translates to the audience. My narrative is I’m a normal dude trying to be a good spouse and father, just like you.”

Trevino puts on performances that can go from club stage to network TV and not have to worry about network censors.

“My show is politics-free,” said Treviño. “It’s lecture-free. I talk about me and my wife. We even have a podcast we started during quarantine – a weekly journal of what we’re dealing with personally.”

Video link for Steve Treviño – https://youtu.be/i1NwrpibqFY.

The shows at Punch Line Philly will start at 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. each night.

Tickets are $32.

O.K. – you’ve got music and comedy options. What about live theater?

While there are increasingly more options to see and hear live music around the area, there is still only one option to enjoy a live theatrical show and that’s at the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org). The Candlelight’s production of “Clever Little Lies” will be presented every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 23 with an added matinee on May 19.

An expertly crafted situation comedy about marriage, infidelity, and the deceptions necessary to cover one’s tracks…until one by one they begin to unravel. Written by Joe DiPietro (winner of two Tony Awards for “Memphis”), “Clever Little Lies” is a hilarious exposé of the relationship between husbands and wives, parents and children and unintended consequences.

The play is a four-character show featuring Tom Hornung as Bill, Sue Hornung (his wife in real life) as Alice, Hallie Hargus as Jane and Max Redman as Billy.

“One of the most attractive things about this play is that there are no good guys and no bad guys,” said Hargus, a native of Lexington, Kentucky. “Everyone is a fully human person. You see their good sides and you see their flaws. It’s a comedy but it can be heavy at the flip of a switch. It deals with some heavy topics – love, fidelity, relationships.”

The show starts with the revelation that Billy is having with a hot, sexy affair with a 23-year-old personal trainer at his gym – a beautiful upbeat girl named Jasmine. It then gets more complicated and involves his dad and his mom as well as his wife.

Moving forward during the pandemic has forced the Candlelight to make many changes.

Masks covering the nose and mouth must be worn at all times except when you are eating or drinking, and everyone’s temperature will be taken with a contactless thermometer when they enter the building.

There are fewer tables than pre-pandemic and more widely spaced tables. Servers and staff will all wear a mask and gloves.

If you want to see a funny play presented well by a professional cast in an ultra-safe environment, consider a trip to the comfortable theater in Arden.

“Clever Little Lies” will run now through May 23. Tickets are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12). All seats are reserved.

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