On Stage: John 5 shows his versatility

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

John 5

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) has a reputation for presenting shows stretching across a wide swath of genres.

This week is a prime example.

The Sellersville Theater will present The Security Project (high level tribute project for the music of Peter Gabriel), Crack the Sky (classic rock bad from the 1960s), John 5 & the Creatures (session man and guitarist extraordinaire), the Iron Maidens (all female Iron Maiden tribute act), the Quebe Sisters (progressive western swing band), Professor Louie & The Crowmatix (The Band tribute act), John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band (1970s rock band), John Cassidy (comedian) and Chris Smither (veteran folk musician from the 1960s).

On May 8, John 5 & the Creatures will headline a show the Sellersville Theater with The Haxans as the tour’s opening act. The tour will also touch down on May 9 in Lancaster County at Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net).

John 5 and his band are currently touring in support of their new album, “Sinner,” which was released October 29, 2021.

“This is my first main tour since the pandemic,” said John 5 during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.

“During the shutdown, I had so much time on my hands. I played a lot of guitar and I wrote a record. I also made a record with Rob Zombie.

“I wanted my new album to be very live sounding. I trained myself to play these songs perfectly from end to end. I made a really cool record.

“I was inspired by the bands of the 1930s and 1940s be very live sounding. That’s why I recorded ‘How High the Moon’ and ‘Georgia on My Mind.’  I wanted to go in the studio and play it perfectly.”

John 5 is a very focused musician.

“I made the record two times,” said John 5. “I first made it last year. Then, I decided to do the record again this year. I tried it and I’m really happy with the way it came out. At the end of the day, it’s instrumental music.”

John 5’s tendency to be a perfectionist can be heard on one of his more recent albums, “It’s Alive!,” which was recorded at the Sellersville Theatre.

“It really came about unexpectedly,” said John 5. “We were at the Sellersville Theater setting up. A guy asked if we wanted to record the show that night and we said yeah.

“I told the band to be careful with their playing because of it. And I told the audience we were recording. We didn’t change the order of the set list. I just told the guys – let’s do a perfect show. It’s such a great place and the people were awesome. Everybody that was at that show is on this record.”

Versatility is also one of John 5’s endearing traits.

He has worked with a varied range of artists, performing as guitarist for some of the biggest headlining rock bands in the world such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, as well as playing session with Paul Stanley, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more.

Slash has called John 5 “one of the most mind-blowing guitarists around.”

John 5 has released 13 solo albums to date and has written music for the likes of Motley Crue, Steve Perry, Ricky Martin and others.

“I love all types of music – bluegrass, rock, country, metal, swing, hard rock,” said John 5. “I love all music. We really have a wide demographic of fans. I’m covering a lot of genres and people really love it.

“When you come to our shows, you’ll see fans of Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, kids who like shredders, adults who are into hard rock and guitar fans. It’s a very diverse crowd. That’s all I want to do – to inspire people.”

John 5’s opening act, The Haxans, are a goth/pop duo featuring Ashley Costello (formerly with New Years Day) and Matt Montgomery (bassist with Rob Zombie’s band). Decked out in creep kitsch high fashion and named after a silent film from the twenties about a 15th-century German guide to hunting witches, The Haxans sound exactly like everything those images conjure.

Video link for John 5 & the Creatures – https://youtu.be/kWVTbOraI5E.

The show on May 8 at Sellersville will start at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $33.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) are Crack the Sky on May 7 and the Iron Maidens on May 10.

The show at Phantom Power on May 9 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at Phantom Power are A Day Without Love and Cory Paternostor on May 12 and Apes of the State and pigeon pit on May 13.

The Quebe Sisters

The Quebe Sisters may be from Texas but that hasn’t kept them from playing a variety of area venues in recent years.

On May 11, The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present a concert featuring the Quebe Sisters on May 11.

Making harmonious music is a natural thing for siblings. There usually is a high level of harmony – onstage and offstage.

Three siblings who get along great onstage and offstage are the Quebe Sisters, who will headline a show Friday night at City Winery.

The Quebe Sisters are a fiddle-centric Western swing group from Texas. The band features a trio of sisters — Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe. Formed in 2002, the band performs fiddle music — Western and traditional Texas style — along with Western swing and vintage country.

“Our last album was our self-titled album in 2019,” said Hulda Quebe, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “It was a starting over – a new phase for the band. Then came 2020 and the pandemic.

“We started working again back in July. The pandemic gave us an appreciation of what we wanted.

“Before the pandemic, we worried about ticket sales. After the pandemic, we didn’t worry about it.

“We did some outdoor shows and some socially distanced shows. We just went out and played and enjoyed the audiences.”

They haven’t returned to recording yet.

“We haven’t gotten back in the studio, but we are working on some arrangements,” said Hulda Quebe.

“For our next record, we would like to go to a studio in Austin –Texas Treefort Studio. It’s where we recorded our last album. It has the most incredible collection of vintage gear.

“That studio has the sound we want. We did everything live – usually in just a few takes. We didn’t record analog. We wanted to but our engineer suggested not to.”

The sisters are pointing toward a return to Treefort sometime soon.

“The good thing about being at home is that we’ve been working on writing,” said Hulda Quebe. “I bought a guitar and started teaching myself. Hopefully, we’ll be adding different instruments just working on our songs.

“We’ve had the good fortune of working with Duffy Jackson. He blew the doors off for us. With him, we’ve been diving into the art of swing – learning how to be a swing band. We want to carry on his vision of getting people to understand swing bands.”

When the Quebes (rhymes with “maybe”) take the stage, the triple-threat fiddle champions play and sing in multi-part close harmony. The trio’s vocal and instrumental performances are authentic all-Americana.

“My sisters and I started playing music for fun,” said Hulda Quebe. “We grew up in Krum, Texas. We never thought we’d play music professionally as fiddlers. We just played little Suzuki violins. It was fun.

“Then, our teacher encouraged us to enter a fiddle contest. We ended up quitting playing violin and stared fiddling. We started taking lessons and our teachers saw the potential. That’s when we started competing in fiddle contests.”

When Hulda, Sophia and Grace were ages 7, 10 and 12 in 1998, they attended their first local fiddle competition in nearby Denton, and decided fiddling was what they wanted to do. The sisters earned solo and group accolades early on — winning state and national championships in their respective age groups in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

“Our teachers were Sherry McKenzie and her husband Joey McKenzie, who was a professional fiddler,” said Quebe, the youngest of the three.

“They gave us music to listen to — western, jazz and country. The three of us would sit in the same room and take lessons together. We’d all learn the same kind of material and we kept progressing at the same level. We learned about chords and arranging. Soon, we were playing gigs.

“Since then, we tour all the time. Tours range from a week to a month or more. We’ve been coming to Pennsylvania for a long time. Some of our earliest shows were in Pennsylvania. We love touring. It’s been great to see so much and to meet so many wonderful people along the way.”

Video link for the Quebe Sisters — https://youtu.be/QANZnAKDvc8.

The show at Sellersville on May 11 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $21.50.

The HawtThorns

When the HawtThorns — Johnny Hawthorn and KP Hawthorn (formerly Kirsten Proffit) — headline a show at the Dawson Pub (100 Dawson Street, Philadelphia, dawsonstreetpub.com) on May 7, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Johnny.

“I’m from the Philly area,” said Johnny, during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “I’m from Warminster and went to Archbishop Wood. I spent my senior year in Tampa. Then, I moved from Tampa to L.A.”

KP, meanwhile, was already in California native.

“I grew in California,” said KP. “My family lived in Santa Cruz.”
The country rock duo, which now lives in East Nashville, is touring in support of a new album, “Tarot Cards & Shooting Stars.”

“Johnny and I happen to be rehearsing today,” said KP. “We have a little studio that we built when we moved here in 2020.”

Johnny said, “It’s nothing too fancy. We tore the garage down and built a studio. We do most of the guitar stuff here –guitar, amps and pedal steel.”

The HawtThorns’ first album was “Morning Sun,” which was released in August 2019 by Forty Below Records. “Tarot Cards & Shooting Stars” was released February 25, 2022 – also on Forty Below Records.

The duo’s chemistry reaches a new peak with “Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars,” the pair’s second collection of country-rockers, acoustic ballads, and southern soul songs. Written and recorded during a global pandemic that brought the HawtThorns’ touring schedule to a halt, it’s an album the finds its creators counting their blessings and finding silver linings during an otherwise dark time.

Recorded in both L.A. and Nashville, it nods to both sides of the group’s geographic and musical roots. The Nashville sessions took place in KP and Johnny’s home studio with cicadas chirping outside the studio doors. The southern culture and Tennessee humidity seeped its way into the music itself, adding gospel-soul grit to the duo’s sound.

“We did all the album ourselves with Steve Berns co-producing,” said Johnny. “We recorded most of it early last year.

“We were staying with our friend Steve in L.A., and he said – let’s make a record. We had a lot of solid songs on our iPhone. Within days, we had all the basic tracks done.

“We brought it home in May and finished it. We use Logic in our home studio. Then, the album was mixed by Mark Niemiec.”

Before forming their band in Los Angeles, the Hawthorns both enjoyed acclaimed careers of their own, leaving their marks upon the intersecting worlds of rock, country, and pop music.

KP, who launched her solo career with 2006’s “Lucky Girl,” is a singer/songwriter record whose tracks found their way onto TV shows like Friday Night Lights and Dawson’s Creek. By 2012, she was also touring the country as a member of Calico.

As a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, lead guitarist, and record producer, Johnny had already performed with bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Everclear by the time he crossed paths with KP at the Cinema Bar in Culver City, California. He also had released three albums as a solo artist.

“Johnny and I ran in the same circles,” said KP. “I always liked him, and he always liked me. We met eight years ago and got married five years ago.

“For quite a while, he had his own thing going and I had Calico. I didn’t want to do anything until Calico ended. When Calico stopped, Johnny and I started working together. We got into our own project and started writing together.”

That led to the release of “Morning Sun.” Produced by Eric Corne (Sam Morrow, Jaime Wyatt), with some songs produced by Steve Berns and KP, “Morning Sun” is an amped-up Americana album.

“We went in the studio with producer Eric Corne from Forty Below Records,” said KP. “We recorded five songs and finished those at Fitting Room Studio in West Hills.

“Then, we did more recording at King Size Studio in Atwater Village in East L.A. That’s a really cool studio. We recorded everything live. We went through an old soundboard from the 1970s and into ProTools.

“Eric mixed most of what we recorded. It took about nine months altogether. Even though we had sessions at different times in different studios, it was easy to keep it consistent. Johnny and I are connected. And Eric did a great job with the mixing.”

Songs from “Morning Sun” and “Tarot Cards and Shooting Stars” make up most of The HawtThorns’ set list on this tour.

“The live show has really come alive,” said KP. “We’re really connecting with the audience.”

Video link for The HawtThorns –https://youtu.be/j1HqkRdaBqA.

The show on May 7 at Dawson Pub will start at 8 p.m.

The concert at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com) on May 8 will have a distinct Northern Ireland vibe.

Gareth Dunlop

The headliner is Foy Vance, a vocalist/guitarist/pianist from Bangor, County Down. The opening act is Gareth Dunlop, a vocalist/guitarist/pianist from East Belfast.

“I don’t have a band with me for this tour,” said Dunlop, during a phone interview Wednesday morning, a day after he flew in from

Northern Ireland.

“I’m on my own for these shows. I’ll be playing guitar and some piano and singing my songs. I’m also playing in Foy’s band.”

Vance has toured as a support act to British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and his music has been featured on numerous TV shows.  His most recent album, “Sings of Life, was produced by Dunlop.

Dunlop has been recognized as an accomplished talent ever since the BBC tipped him as ‘one to watch’ in 2010 when he was not long out of his teens. In the decade since he has released several singles, a handful of EPs and one album that have been musically eclectic yet have all showcased his highly soulful voice, with several of his songs going on to be used in the hit TV series ‘Nashville’, other shows (‘Lucifer’, ‘This Is Us’, Bones’, ‘Suits’), movies (‘The Best Of Me’, ‘Safe Haven’) and commercials (Disney, Subaru).

Inspired by icons such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits and Pink Floyd, Dunlop picked up a guitar and soon began performing covers and original songs in live venues around Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In 2011 he won a “Young Songwriter of the Year” award in Belfast that not only earned him an invite to collaborate with seasoned writers in Nashville, an experience he has repeated many times since, but it also enabled him to tour the US extensively.

“I didn’t grow up around musicians,” said Dunlop. “When I was around 13, I was flicking through a catalog magazine, and I saw a guitar – a Stratocaster copy. I pestered my parents to get me one. They thought it was another phase like the skateboard a year earlier.

“When I started playing it, I felt this power. I loved playing and then I got into lyrics – hard rock songs. Then, I got into the singer/songwriter phase. Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks’ was a major influencer and I started writing my own songs.

In 2011, I played in the Belfast Nashville Singer Songwriter’s Festival and that got me a trip to Nashville. I was performing at the Bluebird Café in Nashville and got approached by a publisher. I didn’t even know what that was. I signed a publishing contract with with Moraine Music and Nettwerk Music Group. A little while later, I went back to Nashville and started writing for TV shows. I was going back-and-forth between Belfast and Nashville every month.”

Gareth’s debut recording was the “Devil Mocks Me” EP in 2011. He followed with the “How Far This Road Goes” EP in 2014 and the “Pieces” EP in 2017.

“With ‘Devil Mocks Me’ I got a chance to work with a great producer – Brent Maher,” said Dunlop. “It was a strange thing for a boy from East Belfast.”

Maher, who lives in Colorado, is an engineer and producer. He engineered classic recordings like Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and the 5th Dimension’s “Age of Aquarius” and produced all of The Judds’ albums.

Dunlop’s latest album is “Animal,” which was released earlier this year.

“The silver lining of the pandemic is that it allowed me to be home for a long time and to spend time with my kids,” said Dunlop.

“I had bones of a new record. When gigging started to go away, I put it on as shelf. When I went back to it, some songs didn’t stand up. I took away four of them and then decided to keep one – ‘Right About Ready.’ I feel like I wrote that song about 20 times.”

Video link for Gareth Dunlop – https://youtu.be/JB_9s-xEOtw.aaa

The show on May 8, which has Foy Vance as the headliner, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $23.

Other upcoming shows at the TLA are Aly and AJ on May 6, Lucius on May 7, Omar Apollo on May 10 and Sevendust on May 11.

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