On Stage: Time for some laughs with Steve Treviño

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Steve Treviño

These days, we all need something to brighten our day – something to laugh about.

Fortunately, there are several comedy shows on the area schedule that are worth checking out. After all, April is National Humor Month.

From April 21-23, Steve Treviño will bring his “America’s Favorite Husband” tour to Philadelphia for a three-night stand at Punch Line Philly (33 East Laurel Street, Philadelphia,http://www.punchlinephilly.com).

“I love that club and I love that town,” said Treviño, during a phone interview Monday from his home in New Braunfels, Texas. “There is history around the corner and casinos across the street.”

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.”

“There are comedians who became comedians because they wanted to be famous,” said Treviño. “I don’t care if I’m famous or not. I just want to make people laugh.”

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. “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 and I don’t do religion,” said Treviño. “I just want people to come out and have a good time and laugh at themselves.

“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. I have a six-year-old son and we try to travel as a family as much as we can.”

Video link for Steve Treviño — https://youtu.be/cLaoACvF9cM.

The shows at Punch Line Philly will start at 8 p.m. on Thursday and 7:45 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Ticket prices start at $30.

On April 21, the Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting the April edition of its monthly Candlelight Comedy Club with Matt Jenkins as the feature, Mike Gaffney as the headliner and Shari Franklin as the emcee.

Matt Jenkins

Matt Jenkins is known for his clean, quick-witted brand of comedy. Quickly becoming known as one of New York’s strongest clean comics, Jenkins uses his diverse background, in combination with solid joke writing and charisma, to give audiences a relatable as well as memorable experience.

“I grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey but went to high school at a private academy in Piscataway,” said Jenkins, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Clifton, New Jersey.

His school days played a role in his pursuit of a career as a clean comedian. Jenkins is a graduate of Timothy Christian School.

“I’ve been into clean comedy right from the start,” said Jenkins. “I went to a super religious school, so profanity and vulgarity weren’t natural to me. And, when I went to comedy class, if you were clean, it was a bonus.”

Jenkins spent a year-and-a-half at a community college as a criminal justice major.

“I started doing standup when I was in college,” said Jenkins. “That’s when I realized I wanted to have a career as a comedian. I took a standup class at the Comic Strip Live in the Upper East Side in 2006.

“After class, I did a lot of open mics to learn the craft. It took five or six years of going out every night.

“After the open mic stage, you get 20-25 minutes. Then, you move to the middle with 30 minutes and think – maybe I can get to 45 or 50 minutes. I’m now at all stages at the same time. I enjoy all forms.”

Jenkins has been seen on NBC and performed at many comedy festivals across the country. He recently recorded a Dry Bar Comedy special that has more than 200,000 views. He has also worked internationally and performed in China, Switzerland, Ireland and Russia.

“I work a lot doing corporate shows,” said Jenkins. “I work a lot of fundraisers and also a lot of private stuff. I like working charity shows.”

With an act the is funny and clean at the same time, Jenkins will find a welcoming audience at the Candlelight Theatre this week.

Video link for Matt Jenkins – https://youtu.be/LC73nHFqHo8.

The Show at the Candlelight Theater on April 21 will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, which include complimentary chicken tenders, iced tea, chips, lemonade and coffee, are $30. There will be a full-service bar open throughout the show.

Proof of Vaccination or negative test required. Masks are required entering and exiting the theatre.

The Candlelight Theater is in the final stages of its second production run of 2022. The interesting Broadway musical “Big Fish” is running now through April 24.

“Big Fish,” which opened on Broadway in 2013 and received three 2014 Drama Desk Award nominations, 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.

“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).

The pandemic had a serious effect on most musicians. Some screeched to a halt for almost two years.  Some slowed down a lot but still kept going a little.

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega, who will be headlining a show at the Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, thecolonialtheatre.com) on April 22, had several irons in the fire and kept moving forward.

Widely regarded as one of the foremost songwriters of her generation, Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has written and recorded numerous songs that have become part of the contemporary music vernacular, including “Luka,” “Marlene on the Wall” and “Tom’s Diner,” an a cappella piece that was remixed by U.K. electronic dance duo DNA and became a major club hit.

Her albums, including her self-titled debut, follow-up “Solitude Standing,” and “99.9F” have sold millions of copies worldwide. Vega was most recently seen in the cast of the Off-Broadway production Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, where her performance earned praise from The New York Times as “brandy-voiced…a delightful, smoothly sardonic presence.”

Vega’s acclaimed one-woman stage show about the life of great 20th-century American writer Carson McCullers, “Lover, Beloved,” recently premiered at SXSW to critical acclaim from Rolling Stone, the Austin Chronicle, the Austin American-Statesman, The Forward and more.

Vega is now touring in support of her new career-spanning album, “An Evening of New York Songs and Stories” – an album that received glowing reviews from The New York TimesThe GuardianStereogumConsequence of SoundAmerican Songwriter and many more.

“It’s the end of the pandemic so things are starting to come to life,” said Vega, during a phone interview last week from her home in New York City. “The film was made right before the pandemic shut everything down.”

Vega, having long championed independence and not being too restricted by traditional boundaries, has been fascinated not only by McCullers’ story, but by the intensity and aesthetic of the artist.

In this experimental blend of film, theater and music, Vega fictionalizes a talk McCullers gave at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, making it two separate talks at two different points in the author’s life.

During the first, in 1941, she drinks her way through the lecture, revealing messy romances and illnesses. In the second, 25 years later, she confronts her mortality, reminiscing on her novel and play The Member of The Wedding, as well as on her twice-failed marriage and romances with members of both sexes — ending on the credo she forged with her husband. The film features music by Duncan Sheik.

“I was really interested in short stories when I was a teenager,” said Vega. “Back then, I read a short story called, ‘Sucker.’

“Sucker” has been called Carson McCullers’ “apprentice story.” It was written in the mid-1930s when she was 17. “Sucker” was eventually published for the public in 1963.

“I thought – this person really knows how a kid thinks,” said Vega.

McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.
From 1935-1937 she divided her time between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte, North Carolina where Reeves had found some work. There, and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she wrote her first novel, “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” in the Southern Gothic tradition. Altogether she published eight books.

McCullers suffered throughout her life from several illnesses and from alcoholism. At age of 15 she contracted rheumatic fever, which resulted in rheumatic heart disease. As a result of the heart damage sustained, McCullers suffered from strokes that began in her youth. She lived the last 20 years of her life in Nyack, New York, where she died on September 29, 1967, at the age of 50, after a brain hemorrhage.

“When I first read, ‘Suckers,’ I thought it was contemporary,” said Vega. “Then, I found out that it was written by a woman who died in 1967. I started reading her books.

“When I got an exercise at a Barnard College Musical Theater class to come dressed as a person in the arts field and I chose her. I got a lot of information from her book, ‘The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.’”

Vega’s other “recent” project was the album, “An Evening of New York Songs and Stories.”

“I recorded the album in 2019,” said Vega. “It was supposed to come out May 2020.

“I was doing an off-Broadway play and then got a call the call one day in March telling me to come to the theater and get my stuff.

We had to lockdown almost immediately.

“The album was set to come out that May and we had tours planned. All that got postponed. Then, the album was supposed to drop on September 11, 2020, and it just happened recently.

“I did some Livestream shows that fall. We did a few shows last fall – 2021 –but haven’t been able to hit the road since the start of COVID.

“But these are the times we’re living in. We have to adapt – to be aware of what happens and so what we can to make it better.”

Video link for Suzanne Vega — https://ok.ru/video/48196356804.

The show on April 22 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $39.50 and $49.50.

Bees Deluxe

On April 22, Bees Deluxe will be making a return appearance at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) – and making everybody happy…the band’s fans, Jamey and the band itself.

Fronted by British guitar monster, Conrad Warre, with Carol Band on keyboards, harmonica and vocals. Bees Deluxe is grounded by Jim Gildea on bass and vocals and Paul Giovine on drums.

“We’ve played Jamey’s before,” said Warre. “It’s like dying and going to heaven.

Band added, “The people are there for the music.”

Bees Deluxe is an anything-but-basic blues band. Hell-bent on a mission to drag the electric-analog blues of 60’s Chicago, the Blue Note catalog and the funk of New Orleans into the 21st century, the band has created a genre-bending sound it describes as “acid blues.”
Bees Deluxe has won audiences from Maine to the Mississippi with their arresting and highly danceable originals and their innovative interpretation of less-traveled tunes by artists like Etta James, Joe Zawinul, J.B. Lenoir, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Albert Collins and the three Kings.

The musicians each bring their own experience to the mix. Band was recruited from jazz bands that were playing the Boston circuit, notably Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge. Giovine was discovered by the band playing rock and roll in a slew of punk rock clubs in New England and Gildea was drafted by drummer Giovine after sharing the stage with him at several country-bro festivals. Warre was in a high-school band in London with Paul Kossoff of the band Free.

“I’m from London – from Notting Hill Gate, where the riots were,” said Warre. “I wrote Two-Tone music and toured with The English Beat and Joe Jackson. I moved to New York and played a lot at CBGB’s.

“I found Carol playing jazz at Ryles Jazz Club in Boston. I got Paul in the band because he knew who Bernard Purdie was. Jim was a friend of his and they played country blues together.”

Bees Deluxe has played with Ronnie Earl, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Matt Schofield, Roomful of Blues, Walter Trout and David Maxwell. The four-piece band celebrates the music of B.B. King, Robert Cray, Albert King, Tinsley Ellis, Freddie King and others.

So, the band’s background includes blues, rock, English ska, punk rock, jazz and country rock. Its current sound is all of that – and none of that.

“Our sound is more modern – more progressive – more edge,” said Band.

Warre, who is a British football fan and supporter of the Arsenal Gunners, said, “The communality is acid rock and blues. So many bands play the same songs the same way every night. When we play, we stretch it out and change it always. Arrangements are made up on the fly.”

Bees Deluxe push the limits of the blues, color outside the lines of convention, and do it with impeccable musicality, originality, and a touch of insanity.

“This kind of music appeals to fans of all ages – if they get to hear it,” said Warre. “We’re at our best when people are dancing.”

“Or if they’re hooting and hollering,” added Ware. “We adjust our music to the audience. If it’s not a dance crowd, we can stretch it out.”

Hooting, hollering, stretching it out, dancing, jamming – expect a little bit of everything from the crowd at Jamey’s on Friday night.”

Video link for Bees Deluxe – https://youtu.be/vcl0t_Ux26g.

The show on April 22 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Other shows at Jamey’s this week are “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio on April 21, The Billy Price Band on April 23, and “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings with Maci Miller on April 24.

Roomful of Blues

On April 22, Roomful of Blues will return to the area for a show at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia). Last August, the Rhode Island-based band with a recording career that has lasted longer than 50 years and resulted in more than 20 albums, played at the Sellersville Theater.

“Stuff is starting to come in,” said guitarist/bandleader Chris Vachon, during a phone interview Monday from his New England home. “We got new management and gigs are trickling in.”

The band has toured worldwide and has treated fans around the world to its unique blend of a variety of music genres including rock and roll, swing, R&B, boogie-woogie, soul and a number of different blues styles.

Roomful of Blues has received five Grammy Award nominations and seven Blues Music Awards, including “Blues Band Of The Year” in 2005. The Down Beat International Critics Poll has twice selected Roomful of Blues as “Best Blues Band”.

Over the years, more than 50 different musicians have been part of Roomful of Blues’ line-up, including vocalist/guitarist Duke Robillard, vocalist Lou Ann Barton, keyboardist Junior Brantley and trumpeter Fred Jackson.

Roomful of Blues is currently an eight-piece unit featuring guitarist/bandleader Chris Vachon, Rich Lataille (tenor and alto sax player), Alek Razdan (baritone and tenor saxophone), Rusty Scott (piano, Hammond B-3 organ), Carl Gerhard (trumpet), John Turner (bass), Phil Pemberton (vocals) and Chris Anzalone (drums).

Roomful of Blues’ first album was an eponymous release in 1978 and the most recent is the “In A Roomful Of Blues” LP.

“Our last album was right when the pandemic started,” said Vachon.

In A Roomful Of Blues,” the band’s sixth release on Alligator Records, features 13 wide-ranging songs, including 10 band-composed originals — more than on any previous Roomful album. Eight songs were written or co-written by Chris Vachon (including one authored with vocalist Phil Pemberton) plus one each by sax player Alek Razdan and keyboardist Rusty Scott.

The album features a real variety of music styles — soaring blues, zydeco twists, late-night ballads, Latin-tinged funk and a touch of vintage, fifth-gear rock ‘n’ roll.

“The album came out on March 13, 2020– Friday the 13th – right when COVID hit,” said Vachon. “COVID was tough on us. Nobody in the band and its family got it but we were pretty much out of it for a year-and-a-half. We couldn’t have any gigs.

“We’ve always done a lot of weekend stuff – mainly because there’s not much going on during the week. Our shows are mostly Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t know how many we do a year. It’s a pretty good amount. Half the guys in the band are from Boston and half are from Rhode Island. It’s also hard to get together because people have families and other responsibilities.”

Roomful of Blues is getting back in the groove of live performances this summer. This weekend, the band has a pair of New Jersey shows sandwiched around the Sellersville date followed by a close-to-home show in Norfolk, Connecticut. They finish the month with gigs in Maine and Boston.

“We’re playing half the new album in our current live show,” said Vachon. “We change it up every night. For example, we’re playing a blues cruise later this year. We have three shows so we can’t play the same stuff over again.

“We always mix it up. We’ve got a lot of stuff from over the years. We’ve got so many albums, it’s hard to just pull one out. We try to keep some variety there with tempos and beats — trying to mix it up.

“What I like to do is have a variety of stuff, so people aren’t listening to the same beat repeatedly. It’s more of a journey instead of 10 shuffles in a row. And we do a fair amount of covers — not familiar stuff but rather mostly obscure stuff that no-one knows.”

There likely won’t be any covers from the band’s latest album. “In A Roomful Of Blues” is almost completely originals.

“Bob Moulton and I wrote seven songs together and another where we texted back-and-forth,” said Vachon. “I brought the songs we worked on, and the other guys played on it at my studio – which I just closed down.

“The rest was done in a studio in Connecticut – Power Station Northeast in Waterford. After that, I mixed it all at my place.”

Not many bands stay together for more than 10-15 years. Very few make it past 25 and passing a 40th anniversary is almost unheard of. Roomful of Blues celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 and its roster has featured more than 55 members in 54 years.

The current line-up is the most stable. Pemberton has in the band for almost 15 years. Lataille is a founding member and has been in the band since 1970. Chris Vachon has been around since 1990. The “new kid on the block” is Razdan who joined between the last two albums.

“The reason for our longevity is the music we like to play,” said Vachon. “We’ve had our ups and downs. Some years we’ve toured more than others. We currently play about 150 shows a year. The band keeps getting new fans and there are a lot of older people who have been listening to us for years. For young people, their only exposure to us has been at festivals.

Video for Roomful of Blues — https://youtu.be/jx4Bd9FOrNc.

The show at the show at City Winery will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $20.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are John Waite on April 21, Richard Lloyd on April 22, and Joe Matarese on April 23.

On April 27, music fans can get a taste of the old and a taste of the new when the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents a concert featuring Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and In the Valley Below.

Formed in just over 10 years ago, In The Valley Below — Jeffrey Jacob Mendel (vocals, guitar) and Angela Gail Mattson (vocals, keyboards) –made their full-length debut with 2014’s critically acclaimed album, “The Belt,” which featured the worldwide hit single, “Peaches.” The track reached the Top 20 on Billboard’s “Alternative Songs” chart, prompting high profile TV performances on CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” and TBS’ “Conan.”

After three years on the road — including headline tours, festival sets at such global events as Reading/Leeds, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Pukkelpop, and Rock En Seine — and support runs alongside Cold War Kids, Tricky, and The Airborne Toxic Event, Mendel and Mattson relocated from Los Angeles to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Once established in the Midwest, the duo built a full studio in a 100-year-old house. There they crafted their groundbreaking sophomore LP, “The Pink Chateau,” released on Bright Antenna Records in 2019.

“The Pink Chateau” also existed as a feature length erotique film hailed by Brooklyn Vegan as “a dreamlike diorama of interconnected musical vignettes inspired by vintage French erotica and the faded colors of 1970s films.” A multi-media tour followed which saw In The Valley Below presenting “The Pink Chateau” in cinemas across America, accompanying their film by performing its score live over wireless headphones.

The band has also released four EPs — “In the Valley Below” (2011), “Man Girl” (2014), “Peaches Remixes” (2014), “Elephant” (2017) – and five singles — “Peaches” (2013), “Neverminders” (2014), “Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)” (2017), “Rise” (2019) and the just-released “Lie With Me.”

“With ‘Lie With Me,’ the song has been bouncing around in our tank of songs for a while,” said Mendel, during a phone interview as the band was en route to Orlando, Florida for Friday night’s tour opener.

“We’d just pull it up now and then. We pulled it up again about a month ago. It was just a matter of us being comfortable with the song.

“We recorded it at home in our basement. We built a home studio using ProTools and do all our recording there. We finished recording the single two months ago and mixed it right after.”

Even with a studio of their own, the band has only issued two albums.

‘It’s been three years since our last album,” said Mendel. “We’re always writing songs. We definitely have enough material for an album but we’re focusing more on singles. We might start working on an album later this year.

“We did a whole national tour with the movie all around the country. We’d play the album live in the theater and it would go directly into wireless headphones given to the audience. It was a different experience and it worked well.

“For our shows on this tour, it’s a mixture of songs from ‘The Belt’ and ‘The Pink Chateau’ along with some new stuff including ‘Lie With Me.’”

Video link for In The Valley Below – https://youtu.be/bFJBlhNGeCM.

The show on April 27 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $35-$65.

Other upcoming shows at the Keswick Theater are Aimee Mann on April 21, Felix Cavaliere and Mickey Dolenz on April 24, and Lindsey Buckingham on April 25.

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