On Stage: Space Kamp makes return to Lehigh Valley for free show

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Space Kamp

Space Kamp is a music group that started in the Lehigh Valley and now is returning to the Lehigh Valley on July 11 to perform a free show. “Space Kamp’s Summer Shakedown” is scheduled for July 11 at Levitt Pavilion Steel Stacks (101 Founders Way, Bethlehem, www.levittsteelstacks.org).

Space Kamp, a duo that delivers a swirling blend of reggae, hip hop and psychedelic rock, features Oskee (son of Latin GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Cuco Valoy) and Adoo (formerly Adlib, a hip hop artist from Philly).

Oskee and Adoo are also founders of Rebel Hippies, a cannabis culture lifestyle brand and radio show.

“We’ve had Space Kamp since 2017,” said Adoo, during a phone interview Sunday morning. “We were living in Allentown when we met.

“We met just doing some local shows. We were both making music before we started this group and friends introduced us. We had good social interaction – really good connections. We’re inspired by the same things – musically and all around. We’re both cannabis advocates. We’re also advocates for the legalization of psilocybin and psychedelics.

“Musically, we both grew up listening to all kinds of music. A lot of groups tend to listen to only one genre. We pull inspiration from a lot of influences – reggae, classic rock, hip hop, rap with cadence, Latin music, anything from the Caribbean….rock steady, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bob Marley.

According to Space Kamp, “Cannabis is a part of our lives. We’ll continue to advocate for legalization and law reform until every person behind bars is free and records are washed. Everyone deserves the right to not only use cannabis but to grow if they so choose.”

The guys in Space Kamp could be two dudes that entered a time capsule at the end of 1969 (“The Summer of Love/The Year of Woodstock”) and emerged 50 years later – able to hold on to the love-and-peace hippie vibe and, at the same time, adapt to current music (hip hop) and technology (cell phones).

“When we met in Allentown, Oskee was working in music,” said Adoo. “I was doing a lot of tour managing.”

According to Oskee, “I was in a previous group called Cassette Deck Kings with my buddy Gibbs before Space Kamp. Also, I had a solo album that I was making and that took a back burner once we started getting the ball rolling on everything.”

Adoo said, “We had a record released in 2017 called ‘Terpene Station.’ It was us testing the water to see how we meshed together. We did two tours with that record and really got to know each other.

“We made our next record – ‘Electric Lemonade’ – a little over a year ago. We finished it in December 2019 and released it in June 2020. We flew to B.C. (British Columbia) – to Nanaimo – and recorded it there. We had Rob the Viking as the producers and all the musicians were from B.C.

“We recorded nine of the 10 tracks there and then went to San Francisco to record the title track. We recorded it at Hyde Street Studio. It’s a really good studio — and a really historic studio.”

Prior to becoming Hyde Street Studio in 1980, Wally Heider Studio was a legendary studio in the Bay Area known for great producers and engineers (including King of Prussia native Timmy Boyle). In the 1970s, the long list of bands using the studio included Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead, T. Rex, The Byrds and Herbie Hancock.

Space Kamp’s latest record, “Waiting for Summer,” was just released on April 2, 2021.

“For this one, we went back to Marsten House in Philly,” said Adoo. “It’s the same studio we used for ‘Terpene Station.’

Then, we sent it to Rob the Viking.”

Rob the Viking is a highly regarded producer from western Canada and also a member of veteran B.C. hip hop group, Swollen Members.

“We’re always working on new music,” said Oskee. “We’ve been writing a lot over the last two years.”

While Oskee and Adoo joined forces in Allentown, neither is a native of the Lehigh Valley.

“I’m from Philly – from Germantown,” said Adoo. “Then, we moved to Lansdale, and I went to high school at North Penn. Oskee is from the Dominican Republic and New Jersey.”

Oskee said, “I’m from Santo Domingo and came to America when I was five. I ended up in Guttenberg, New Jersey.

“My father was a musician in the Dominican Republic – Cuco Valoy. My brother Ramón Orlando was also a musician there.”

Cuco Valoy is a singer, songwriter, percussionist and guitarist who is versatile in salsa, son montuno, Guaracha and merengue. He began performing Cuban son with his brother Martín, under the name Los Ahijados. Cuco is the father of Ramón Orlando with whom he formed the band Los Virtuosos, which later became La Tribu.

Ramón Orlando Valoy García is a musician, singer, arranger, composer, record producer and songwriter. He has received seven Casandra awards including the Soberano. In 2005, he was nominated for the Latin Grammy Award in the Best Merengue Album category.

“My dad had me take piano lessons when I was six – classical piano,” said Oskee, who obviously came from a very musical family. “My dad wanted me to be a classical musician.

“Instead, I switched to baseball. I played for Quebec City (Capitales) in the Can-Am League and later in Utica, New York.”

The Capitales have been a perennial powerhouse the Can-Am League. Since they joined the league in 2005, they have placed first eight times and only once have finished lower than third place.

When people ask Space Kamp what their genre is, the reply is straight and to the point.

“Our music is ‘Rebel Hippies Music,’” said Adoo. “We promote healing and love.”

The Space Kamp guys do more than just “talk the talk.” They “walk the walk” and believe in giving back.

They are advocates of prison reform and federal legalization of cannabis, psilocybin, and home grow. They have donated certain profits to the nonprofit Freedom Grow Forever, which helps inmates incarcerated for cannabis receive commissary. Additionally, they host an annual Toy and Coat Drive and fundraiser for the Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital.
Some bands have developed a base of devoted fans who follow their shows from city to city such as the “Deadheads” (Grateful Dead) and the “Phish Heads.” Space Kamp has the “Kampers.”

Every tour, “Kampers” follow the band from show to show, and the band’s brand, Rebel Hippies, founded by Adoo with co-owner Stoney J, have become a part of the Space Kamp community — from must-have Rebel Hippie concert tees to supporters showing off Rebel Hippie and Space Kamp tattoos and custom artwork.

The Kampers won’t have a two-month stretch of caravan journeys to Space Kamp concerts, but they will have a few special destinations this summer.

In addition to the show in Bethlehem this weekend, Space Kamp will be playing at Musikfest in Bethlehem on August 13 and at the New Jersey Cannabis Festival at the Showboat in Atlantic City on August 22.

Video link for Space Kamp — https://youtu.be/HhWVe8ZWMmY.

Space Kamps Summer Shakedown will start at 6 p.m. on July 11 at Levitt Pavilion Steel Stacks in Bethlehem. Admission is free.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) is definitely a July destination for fans of blues music.

Already this month, the venue has hosted shows by internationally acclaimed blues acts — Clarence Spady (July 2) and Ana Popovic (July 6). On July 10, the headliner will be Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, beloved around the world as reigning champs of the raucous, slide-stoked Chicago sound, have spent more than 30 years cranking out high-octane blues on a series of critically acclaimed albums and in thousands of club, theatre and festival performances around the globe.

With sales of more than 120,000 units under its belt, this legendary band is captured at the top of its game on its latest album – “The Big Sound of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.”

Lil’ Ed is Ed Williams, Chicago-born blues guitarist, singer and songwriter who has risen to fame on the strength of his standout slide guitar work.

“In the last year, I wasn’t working as much as I usually do because of the pandemic,” said Williams, during a recent phone interview Tuesday afternoon from his home in Hawthorn Woods, which is located approximately 40 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.

“I did some acoustic shows and some screenings – low key shows. I actually played a lot and did a lot of screenings but it wasn’t the same as a real live concert. In an ordinary year, we’d play around 200 shows a year.

“During the pandemic, the band got other jobs like delivering food. We do handyman work too.”

Williams’ main job could also be a funky addition to the band’s repertoire – “Car Wash” by Rose Royce.

“I went back and started working at the car wash near my house,” said Williams. “Every time I pull into the parking lot at work, I have that song blaring out of my car’s speakers.

“I do all the different jobs you do at a car wash. The owner wanted to make me the manager, but I had to refuse. I need to have the freedom to go out and play shows.

“About three weeks ago, we started to get shows – one a week or maybe two. This weekend, we’re coming east for the show at Sellersville on Saturday and a show the night before at a blues festival somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania. I also have a few shows coming up in the Chicago area.”

The Big Sound of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials is bursting with Lil’ Ed’s rollicking slide-work and raw-boned vocals on a joyous blend of burning boogies, romping shuffles and heart-stopping slow blues. The ever-ready Blues Imperials continue to be his perfect sidekicks — laying down greasy, percolating grooves with reckless precision.

Lil’ Ed ‘s backing band — The Blues Imperials — are bassist James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton.

“I’ve always used a four-piece band — two guitars, bass and drums,” said Williams, during a recent phone interview. “Kelly, Mike and Pookie are my guys. This is a really tight band. These guys have been with me for about 30 years.”

Williams and his half-brother Pookie Young, received childhood encouragement and tutelage from their uncle, blues guitarist, songwriter and recording artist J. B. Hutto.

“J.B. would come and play for my family,” said Williams. “Slide guitar was the instrument for me because it shimmied. J.B. would play his slide and the 40-watt light bulbs in our house would dim.

“I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12. J.B. would always play songs by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James. The Muddy Waters songs always had a lot of slide guitar. That’s what I really liked a lot.”

It’s been almost 30 years since Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials released their debut album “Roughhousin’” on Alligator Records. The band’s most recent album is “The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials” in 2016.  All of Li’l Ed’s records over the last three decades have been on Alligator Records, a Chicago-based label specializing in blues music.

“Back around 1985, I was playing a North Side club here in Chicago and Bruce (Iglauer, producer and owner of Alligator Records) heard me play,” said Williams. “He invited me to play a couple tracks on a compilation album called ‘The New Bluebloods.’

“I went to their studio and did 15 songs. Then, we kept going. We cut 32 songs in a couple hours. That was where all the songs from ‘Roughhousin’ came from.

“I signed with Alligator Records then. Bruce and I shook hands and we’re still together 30 years later.”

Williams has started working on his next album for Alligator, but no release date has been set.

“I kind of write as I go because I write about things that I see or little things people say,” said Williams. “A good example is my song ‘Icicles in My Meatloaf.’ My wife had made meatloaf — some of it was for dinner and she froze the rest for later.

“When she defrosted it and served it, it wasn’t heated up all the way. My mother-in-law started to eat it, came across a part that was still frozen and said — there’s an icicle in my meatloaf.

“You get that kind of vibe going. I look around me. I try to focus on what’s going on around me in the world — all the things that happen in everyday living in all our lives. That’s why people relate to my songs.

“I have a little studio in my house. I’m always sitting down plucking on my guitar. I get a groove going and then decide if it’s a heavy song or as happy song.”

In 2013, the band was awarded the Living Blues Critics’ and Readers’ Awards for Best Live Performer. The band won this same distinction in the 2012 and 2011 Living Blues Critics’ Poll. The group won the coveted 2009 Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year, the same honor they received in 2007.

In his live shows, Williams presents fans with an overview of his career — and a heavy dose of the blues.

“I’ve got so many songs that I can play,” said Williams. “Every show, I try to mix up the material — old songs from 25 years ago along with newer songs. I also throw in some covers — Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Elmore James — all the good ones.

“I’m always working on songs – trying to find new material.

“I am hoping to get in the studio sometime soon. I’m probably going to have 20 songs ready. I talked to Bruce, and he said we’ll go back in the studio soon. Right now, it’s still up in the air.”

Williams comes to the blues naturally. He was born in Chicago on April 8, 1955 in the heart of Chicago’s tough West Side and grew up surrounded by music. His uncle J.B. Hutto, taught him how to feel, not just play the blues.

Harris and Young spent their teen years making music together, and in 1975 formed the first incarnation of The Blues Imperials.

They played their first gig at a West Side club called Big Duke’s Blue Flame, splitting the $6 take four ways. Over the next few years, the group played every club in the neighborhood but still needed day jobs to pay the bills. Harris worked ten hours a day as a buffer at the Red Carpet Car Wash while Young drove a school bus.

Through relentless touring, the group became tighter with each performance. The band’s spontaneous live show became legendary among blues fans worldwide.

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials have played the Chicago Blues Festival, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival, The Tampa Bay Blues Festival, The San Diego Blues Festival, The Pennsylvania Blues Festival and dozens of other festivals around the country.

They also have performed at festivals in Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Japan, Australia, India, Turkey and Panama.

“I’m a fun bluesman,” said Harris. “A lot of blues songs are sad. Me – I’m a happy blues player.”

Video link for Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials — https://youtu.be/B2A6p9OA-EY.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on July 10 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 to attend the show in person. It will also be available via Livestream. Tickets for the Livestream presentation are $12.50.

There are just two weekends left to catch a performance of “Beehive: The 1960’s Musical” at the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org). The show will end its run on July 18. 

The members of the all-female cast ask audiences to join them for this rollicking musical tribute to the ladies who left their mark on the music of the 60s. With big voices and bigger hairdos, “Beehive” will have audience members dancing in the aisles and singing along with many of the iconic songs from the past. 

The show, which was created by Larry Gallagher, is a celebration of the powerful female voices of the 1960s. This musical review will transport audiences with timeless hits such as “Me and Bobby McGee,” “My Boyfriend’s Back”, “Be My Baby,” “Son of a Preacher Man”, and “You Don’t Own Me”.

There are six performers in the cast at the Candlelight – Macy (Macy Chaplin), Tiffany (Tiffany Dawn Christopher), Phoebe (Phoebe Gavula), Tiara (Tiara Greene), Jenna (Jenna Kuerzi) and Kaylan (Kaylan Wetzel).

Wetzel is familiar with the songs in the show – but she didn’t grow up with them.

“This is the music from my mom’s era,” said Wetzel. “She grew up in the 1960s. And my father too – he loved the Beatles.”

“Beehive: The 1960’s Musical” is running now through July 18. Tickets are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12). All seats are reserved.

Wynonna Judd

City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia) will present Wynonna Judd on July 14.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) hosts Nick Perri and the Underground Thieves on July 8, Donovan Frankenreiter on July 9 and Nicole Atkins on July 10.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, jameyshouseofmusic.com) presents Sir Rod & the Blues Doctors on July 9 and Songwriters in the Round with Michael Braunfel, Kyle Swartzwalder and Larry Ahearn on July 10.

Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia, 215-606-6555, http://www.punchlinephilly.com) will present Carmen Lynch from July 8-10, Sex Dwarf on July 11, Nacho Mic on July 12, Philadelphia Comedy Academy on July 12, Hilarious Colombian Americans on July 13, and Jermaine Johnson on July 14.

Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, philadelphia.heliumcomedy.com) will feature Brian Regan from July 9-11.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-0 648-4102, www.AMTshows.com) will present The Original Coasters and Charlie Thomas’ Drifters on July 11.

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