On Stage: We Were Promised Jetpacks flies into Underground Arts

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

We Were Promised Jetpacks

We Were Promised Jetpacks, which is headlining a show on April 14 at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org), is a Scottish indie rock band featuring Adam Thompson (vocals, guitar), Sean Smith (bass), and Darren Lackie (drums).

“The band started back in 2004 when we were in school,” said Thompson, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Portland, Oregon.

Since then, We Were Promised Jetpacks, have released four albums – “These Four Walls” (2009), “In the Pit of the Stomach” (2011), “Unravelling” (2014), “The More I Sleep the Less I Dream” (2018) and “Enjoy the View” (2021). The two most recent LPs are on Big Scary Monsters while the label for the first three was Fat Cat.

Scotland has two major cities and four major football teams. There is Glasgow with Celtic and Rangers and Edinburgh, the capital city, with Hibernian (Hibs) and Heart on Midlothian (Hearts). While Glasgow has produced music acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Donovan, the Fratellis, Bert Jansch, Al Stewart and Primal Scream, Edinburgh’s list of notables includes Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Garbage, Bay City Rollers, Incredible String Band, the Proclaimers – and We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Thompson, Smith, Lackie and guitarist Michael Palmer formed the band in 2003 while attending an Edinburgh high school, where they won a battle-of-the-bands contest with their very first gig. After graduation, We Were Promised Jetpacks relocated to Glasgow, and their sound matured as well, moving from simple song structures and clean guitars to a more ambitious, anthemic approach.

“We released a 10th anniversary edition of ‘These Four Walls’ in 2019 but did no touring,” said Thompson.

“We were doing some shows in the U.K. Then, everything went into lockdown, and we started working on the new album.

“We thought that maybe we’d be able to tour again – but it didn’t happen. We had a European tour cancelled four times and a stateside tour cancelled three times.”

The pandemic hit hard.

“I got married and we live in New York,” said Thompson. “The other guys still live in Scotland. Edinburgh is where we’re all from. We’re a close-knit group.

“When the pandemic arrived, I went back to Scotland. I thought it would be a month or two, but it ended up being eight months. We didn’t see each other for four months.

“When we started recording, we sent files back-and-forth to each other. It was the first time we did that. Usually, we record with live guitars and drums.”

It was a whole different M.O. for the Scottish lads.

According to Thompson, “Writing together this way meant we had to stay in near daily contact to talk about the songs and what we were individually and collectively trying to achieve with them. Even though we were unable to be in the same room, this way of working allowed us to continue to create together and communicate perhaps more directly and efficiently than normal. Having music to focus on during lockdown only reinforced how much we enjoy being in our band together and how important it is that we do it for as long as we can.”

Michael Palmer’s departure also had an effect on the band.

“The whole thing with the new record is that Michael left,” said Thompson. “What he brought to the band; we didn’t have anymore. The new music is a little lighter – a lot more keyboards and synths.

“It was definitely different. I wish it was a little heavier. But I’m glad we went down this path. It allowed us a different way to do recording and we’ll take what we learned. The next one will be heavier.

“Our live set is made up of everything – stuff from all our albums. It’s definitely time to play the new stuff live.”

Video link for We Were Promised Jetpacks — https://youtu.be/uRaQJkIVb_Q.

The show at Underground Arts on April 14 will start at 9 p.m. with Frankie Rose as the opening act.

Tickets are $22.

Cold Weather Company

Cold Weather Company is a New Jersey band.

Guitarist/vocalist Brian Curry is from Central Jersey — North Brunswick. Guitarist/vocalist Jeff Petescia is from North Jersey – Sparta. Pianist/vocalist Steve Shimchick is from South Jersey – Cherry Hill.

The band formed in New Jersey when they were students at Rutgers University.

Cold Weather Company, which has been around for almost a decade, is based in New Jersey – in New Brunswick, the home of the Scarlet Knights.

The band has crossed the Delaware River a number of times to perform. They have played Philadelphia several times – including shows at the World Café Live and Bourbon & Branch.

Now, the talented trio that is known for its vocal harmonies, is returning to Pennsylvania for a show in Amish Country.

On April 14, Cold Weather Company will be one of the first day’s acts slated to perform at the Launch Music Conference & Festival 2022 (Lancaster County Convention Center, 25 South Queen Street, Lancaster, www.launchmusicconference.com).

The band is touring in support of its new album, “Coalescence.”

“We started recording the album in late 2019,” said Shimchick, during a phone interview Wednesday evening from his home in New Brunswick.

“We released it in October 2021. We had an album release party and then shut down a bit because of the pandemic.”

“Coalescence” is the band’s fourth album. Their debut album, “Somewhere New,” was released in 2015 followed by “A Folded Letter” in 2016 and “Find Light” in 2019.

“Our first two albums were recorded in my dorm room and at Brian’s house in North Brunswick,” said Shimchick. “Some of it was done when we got an apartment in town. The Rutgers community gave us a lot of support.

“We started recording with Garage Band and then moved up into Logic Pro. Our third album was the first we did in a real studio. It was a long time coming a d it helped elevate our sound.

“We recorded it at a studio called 816 with Pat Noone as producer and engineer. All of our albums were mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music.

“We started recording ‘Coalescence’ in late 2019. During the pandemic, a lot of it was done by remote. There are 10 songs and, for the most part, all of them had foundations pre-pandemic.”

Cold Weather Company was formed in 2013 after a serendipitous meeting on a park bench at Passion Puddle on the Cook Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

“Brian and Jeff met in 2011,” said Shimshick. “They met randomly on a park bench on campus. They noticed that each had the same guitar case, and one was wearing a t-shirt of one of the other’s favorite bands.

“In 2012, I met them at an open mic on campus. Jeff introduced me to Brian and the three of us started jamming.

“They had looking to become a band and I was the third part. Our first show was in November 2013 at the Rutgers College Avenue Student Center.

“Our first show off campus was in early 2014 in North Jersey. Then, we started playing regular gigs in Asbury Park and, eventually, New York City.”

Since then, Cold Weather Company has performed shows in more than 50 cities in 17 states. Tonight, they’ll add a gig in Amish Country to that list.

Video link for Cold Weather Company — https://youtu.be/rTJP_Vg_wEE.

Cold Weather Company’s performance on April 14 is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.

The Launch Festival will run from April 14-17.

Other upcoming shows at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org) are Adult. on April 15, Hurray for the Riff Raff on April 16, Mile High Club on April 18, Dance With the Dead on April 19 and Homeshake on April 20.


Two-and-a-half years ago, HumblemanBand, one of the Philadelphia area’s longest-running rock bands, released its most recent album, “Beautiful Day.” The album officially dropped with a “HumblemanBand CD Release Party” at Rittenhouse Soundworks in November 2018.

On November 2019, HumblemanBand played a special area show at its favorite local haunt — the Mermaid Inn in Germantown. Little did they know it was to be their last show for an extended period of time.

Now, after a long layoff caused by COVID-19, HumblemanBand is hitting the stage again. On April 15, the band is headlining a show at Dawson Street Pub (100 Dawson Street, Philadelphia,www.dawsonstreetpub.com.) The band will also return to the venue for a show on June 18,

“The HumblemanBand was formed in 1999,” said guitarist/songwriter/vocalist/founding member Charlie Cooper, during a phone interview from his home in Germantown. “I was in a band with our drummer Buck Buchanan. Three of us were living near each other in South Philly and we gradually picked up people.

“The third guy was bassist Bruce Koch, who just died two years ago from a stroke. That was a real loss – as a friend and as a bandmate. We weren’t sure we were going to pick up the pieces. We were using hired hands to fill in. We then added a permanent bass player – Boz Heinly, who lives in Plymouth Meeting.

“Now, there are five of us in the band and we get along really well musically and as friends. We have a lot of respect for each other.”

The band also has had respect for COVID-19.

“When COVID shut down things, we shut down,” said Cooper. “I was just laying low – playing guitar. We started up again in September 2021, but that didn’t last long because of omicron.

“I went through a dry period during lockdown. Then I got introduced to ‘The Artist’s Way.’ You have to do writing exercises every day and it helped. I ended up writing three new songs.”

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” is a 1992 self-help book by American author Julia Cameron. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. The program is focused on supporting relationships in removing artistic blocks and fostering confidence.

“Things were chugging along and then our previous vocalist Kim Epson decided she wanted to do things elsewhere,” said Cooper. “So, we got a new singer.”

The band’s current lineup includes Wain Ballard on guitar, Katie Tuner Drake on vocals, Heinly on bass, Buchanan on drums and Cooper on vocals and guitar.

“We seem to have a cycle of putting out an album every five years,” said Cooper.  “We put out an album a few years ago called ‘Least Bad of Humbleman 1984-2009.’ That album was a 25-year compilation starting with our days in 1984 as a punk band called The Proles.

“Our most recent previous album was ‘Late Bloom’ in fall 2015 was self-produced – and mostly D.I.Y. “‘Beautiful Day’ was also self-produced – and also mostly D.I.Y. We recorded the album ourselves in our rhythm practice space and then did solos and vocals in my living room. For our previous album, we used CakeWalk. This time, we used REAPER.”

REAPER is a complete digital audio production application for computers, offering a full multitrack audio and MIDI recording, editing, processing, mixing and mastering toolset.

“We spent most of this year making the new album,” said Cooper. “After finishing recording it ourselves, we sent it out for the mixing. We had Scoops Dardaris do it. We were extremely happy with the mixing.

“We mastered it at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown. Jim Hamilton, a percussionist and tap dancer from the Kensington area of Philly who toured with Boyz II Men, put the studio together. He’s a terrific talent – and he knows an amazing amount of people in the music world.”

HumblemanBand, a rock quintet that is socially conscious, features songs that band members have written and arranged – songs with lyrics inspired by current events.

“We went out to Standing Rock (Indian Reservation) in North Dakota,” said Cooper. “That inspired a brand-new song – ‘AIM ’21.’ The title stands for ‘American Indian in the 21st century.’

“On ‘Beautiful Day,’ Kim wrote two songs, we did two covers and I wrote the rest. The two covers were songs by the late Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ and ‘Alien.’ Gil Scott-Heron was a very influential voice in music and activism and most-known for his song ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and his poetry.

HumblemanBand, like Scott-Heron, has consistently delivered social commentary and positive messages, often with humor and a light touch, using spoken word lyrics, and generally delivered with dance beat arrangement. His influence upon the band has been strong.

Video link for Humbleman Band – https://youtu.be/01Clk69MaAU.

The show at the Dawson Street Pub, which has Emmett Dreuding Band as the opening act, will start at 9 p.m.

Like the Kimmel Campus in Philadelphia (Academy of Music, Miller Theater, Forrest Theatre) and The Grand in Wilmington (Grand Opera House), the Candlelight Theatre (Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.com) usually has a season schedule featuring an array of proven hits such as “Mamma Mia!,” “Rent,” “Oklahoma,” “Hairspray,” and “Sweet Charity.”

Big Fish

The Candlelight is doing theater fans a big favorite this month by presenting a hit Broadway musical that has never been presented in this area before.

“Big Fish,” which opened on Broadway in 2013 and received three 2014 Drama Desk Award nominations, is running at the Candlelight now through April 24.

“Big Fish” is a musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by John August. It is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions,” and the 2003 film “Big Fish” written by John August and directed by Tim Burton.

“Big Fish” revolves around the relationship between Edward Bloom, a travelling salesman, and his adult son Will, who looks for what is behind his father’s tall stories.

The story shifts between two timelines.

In the present-day real world, 60-year-old Edward Bloom faces his mortality while his son, Will, prepares to become a father himself. In the storybook past, Edward ages from a teenager, encountering a Witch, a Giant, a Mermaid, and the love of his life, Sandra.

Will has grown up with the incredible, larger-than-life stories from kissing a mermaid, to encountering a witch, to befriending a giant and meeting Will’s mother in a circus.

Will, who is about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales. The stories meet as Will discovers the secret his father never revealed.

Bryan Jeffrey plays the role of Edward Bloom and Tiffany Dawn Christopher plays the role of Sandra Bloom. The two recently preformed together in major roles of the Candlelight’s production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” In the current Candlelight production, Brennen Savon plays the role of Will Bloom.

“Bob Kelly (Candlelight’s Artistic Director) had mentioned to me that they were going to do ‘Big Fish.’” Said Jeffrey, during a phone interview last week from his home in Philadelphia.

“I had seen ‘Big Fish’ several times on Broadway – and I saw the film. I said, I’ll submit (an audition). I didn’t know who I would be.

“They called and said – come in for Edward. I couldn’t remember which one was Edward. I got in there and realized it was the lead role.

“Then, Bob Kelly called. I thought ensemble or understudy, but he offered me Edward Bloom. It was like a surreal moment. It really hit me on the first day of rehearsal.”

Having Jeffrey as Edward was a groundbreaking move.

“I was the first African-American lead in the show,” said Jeffrey. On Broadway, the original Josephine – Will’s wife – was black. But the family has never been black.”

It proved to be a good move on Kelly’s part – having a black family and having Jeffrey in the lead role.

“I love the ambition and determination Edward has,” said Jeffrey. “He is confident in who he is – confident but not cocky. He says – I know I can do this and he’s a man of his word. He’s a real-life superhero.”

The role of Edward Bloom is not an easy role to play.

“One of the biggest challenges is the age,” said Jeffery. “One minute I’m young and then I’m old and then I’m in college. I get older and then get younger.

“Another big challenge is being on stage 90 per cent of the time. I have no real break. I’m always singing or saying something. And every show, I have to go through this emotional roller coaster.”

It’s a challenge but Jeffrey meets the challenge head on – and succeeds (as does the rest of the cast).

“Big Fish” is running now through April 24 at the Candlelight Theatre. Tickets,  which include dinner, beverages and dessert, are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

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