On Stage: Stephen Kellogg revels in working solo

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Stephen Kellogg

Stephen Kellogg has always maintained a dual career – as a solo artist and as a leader of his own band. He spent the first decade of the 2000s recording and touring with his band The Sixers.

On June 4, Kellogg is returning to a venue that was the site of one of his first post-Sixers era shows — the Bryn Mawr Twilight Concert (9 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, brynmawrtwilichgtconcerts.com).

“I’ll be playing solo at Bryn Mawr,” said Kellogg, during a phone interview Tuesday as he was returning home to Connecticut after playing several dates in the U.K.

“Most of the summer, I’ll be touring with my band as opening act on the Counting Crows national tour. I do have a few solo shows in the middle of the tour later in the summer, including a show at The City Winery in Philadelphia.

Kellogg’s first seven album releases were solo releases starting with “Invest in Us” in 1994. His albums with the Sixers started with “Bulletproof Heart” in 2004. The most recent was “Gift Horse” in 2011. The singer/songwriter/guitarist’s latest solo release was “Objects in the Mirror” in 2018.

“Last year, we realized that it was time for a hiatus for the Sixers,” said Kellogg, during a phone interview prior to his show in Bryn Mawr in 2013. “Two of the founding members wanted to do something different after 10 years with the band and another guy needed a break from being on the road.

“The last show that the Sixers and I did together was back in November. We played for three hours at Webster Hall in New York. It was a beautiful show. After that, we said goodbye for now.”

Later that year, Kellogg released “Blunderstone Rookery” on Elm City Music. He followed with South West North East” in 2016, “Tour De Forty: Greatest Hits (So Far) Live” in 2017 and “Objects in the Mirror” in 2018.

“I just finished my next studio album,” said Kellogg. “It I s my first studio album in four or five years.

“The album is ‘Keep It Up, Kid,’ and the title track is also the first single from the album. I put the single out two weeks ago. We’ll be putting out a new single every six weeks.”

Kellogg’s release plans follow the model used by many of today’s younger bands – release a steady stream of singles that later become part of an album.

“We’ve been such an old school team in business,” said Kellogg. “This time, we hired a younger guy. The album is all done but I’m going to let it percolate a little longer.

“I like a theme – a framework. The second half of the album is a bunch of the sweetest songs connected with each other – 19 minutes for four-and-a-half songs. It’s called the ‘Postcard Suite’ and it deals with life – with the different stages of life.”

Kellogg’s writing has extended past songs.

“I put out a book – ‘Objects in the Mirror: Thoughts on a Perfect Life from an Imperfect Person’ — a year-and-a-half ago,” said Kellogg.

“It’s a collection of essays about stuff I’ve learned so far. It also has a sense of humor. It was a massive undertaking.”

It’s hardcopy book that is accompanied by an audio book

According to Kellogg, “It’s a collection of essays that explores what it means to be alive. Like Polaroids framing the years of a troubadour and family man afflicted with an excess of self-awareness, these are stories without any clear good guys or bad guys. Instead, in each of these vignettes you will find dysfunctional humans trying to do their best and bouncing off each other in the process. It features a foreword written (and read in the audiobook) by Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz.

Kellogg found a productive way to stay busy during the height of the pandemic – a series of Livestream shows.

“I did seven or eight months of solo Livestream shows,” said Kellogg, who was born in West Chester and grew up in Connecticut.

“It worked out great because I got to interact with my fans. I’d read the names of everyone who bought a ticket for each show.

“It allowed me to get to know my fans in a way I couldn’t do with live shows – to have a connection. For me, connection is very important.”

Kellogg’s fan will have the opportunity experience a similar connection this Saturday in Bryn Mawr. There will be no band — just Kellogg up-close and personal…singing songs and telling stories.

Video link for Stephen Kellogg — https://youtu.be/Vw_OOCA38tA.

The show at Bryn Mawr on June 4 will start at 7 p.m. with Denise Moser as the opening act. Tickets are $

Another Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts show this weekend will feature Cabin Dogs on June 3.

Grant-Lee Phillips

Like most musicians, Grant-Lee Phillips has been champing at the bit to get back on the road and perform live shows for his fans.

Fortunately for him, he has a series of lives concerts on tap – including a show on June 4 at City Winery. Phillips just released his new album, “All That You Can Dream” on May 20 on Yep Roc Records.

“My tour begins June 2,” said Phillips, during a phone interview last week from his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Actually, it began a few weeks ago in Europe. It was remarkably open over there. I was probably the last masked man in Norway.

“It was an interesting thing to get out on tour after three years at home. It leads to very energetic shows. It’s rejuvenating. I’ll be out for a couple weeks in June – going forward with hope.”

The California-born singer, songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, actor, film composer, and visual artist began his career as the frontman for Grant Lee Buffalo. Named “male vocalist of the year” by Rolling Stone, USA Today called him a “soulful balladeer” while Uncut hailed him as a “distinguished U.S. songwriter.” In 2016, he reprised his role as the beloved town troubadour in the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls.

Phillips’ last two albums were “Widdershins” in 2018 and “Lightning, Show Us Your Stuff” in 2020.

“I only did a little bit of touring with ‘Lightning, Show Us Your Stuff,’” said Phillips. “It came out just before the pandemic. We played City Winery in Philly and that was about it.”

Fortunately, stages are now open for Phillips to play tracks from “All That You Can Dream” – an album that was recorded a while ago and just released two weeks ago.

Understandably introspective, “All That You Can Dream’ is anchored by his empathetic voice and rich acoustic guitar with lyrics that attempt to make sense of an uncertain, anxiety-riddled time, while accepting once-unshakeable things are now fragile or fallible, and using historical references to illuminate modern truths.

According to Phillips, “We’ve experienced some staggering events over the last year or so. When people speak of those things, it’s not enough to simply highlight or underline the headlines of the day. The aim is to tap into the feelings that we share that are trapped beneath our skin—and figure out how we expel those feelings by talking about them.”

Admittedly an adjustment to write at home, a process he was used to doing in the solitude of the road, Phillips was still inspired by movement. He took daily countryside drives with his family, marveling at nature and the landscape, even as his songwriting focused on global events.

According to Phillips, “I found that the circumstances of being off the road and left to reflect on what this time feels like, produced a different kind of song. In some ways, that freed me up to write and record the kind of song that was personal and executed as though it were for an audience of myself alone. That’s freeing.”

Produced, engineered, mixed, and recorded by Phillips at his Nashville home, he is joined on the album by drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant, Alison Krauss) and bassist Jennifer Condos (Ray LaMontagne, Bruce Springsteen) with additional parts on selected songs by Jamie Edwards (keyboards), Eric Heywood (pedal steel) and Richard Dodd (cello).

“The record still feels very new,” said Phillips. “There are some songs I wrote in reaction to January 6. It’s a document of this very strange time.

“I’m going out with a whole batch of new songs. It’s always a puzzle how to get together the best set.

“I play material my audience is familiar with. And people are always eager to hear something new. The set I played in Europe is fascinating in that you can see the through line between old and new.

“It’s always important to me that I’m entirely in the moment. I just have to find a way to transplant me to the present so it’s as if I’m playing the song for the first time. I throw new songs in along with old ones I haven’t played in a while.”

Video for Grant-Lee Phillips – https://youtu.be/10NyiXaxUzs.

The show on June 4 at City Winery, which has Jarrod Dickenson as the opener, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $28, $30 and $32.

Other upcoming shows at City Winery are Gooch & the Motion on June 2, Res on June 3, Miki Howard on June 5, Adam Ezra Group on June 5, Kaki King on June 6, Maddie Pope on June 7 andBombino on June 8.

Pennsylvania has produced many great musicians over the years – more in the jazz, rock and R&B genres than in the blues.

Gabe Stillman

One new exception is blues from Williamsport– blues music delivered by ace guitarist Gabe Stillman and his trio.

Stillman, an accomplished blues guitarist from Williamsport, last played in this area back in January at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com). On June 3, Stillman is returning to the comfortable venue in Delaware County to deliver another evening of high-powered blues music.

“I’ve stayed busy all through the last year-and-a-half,” said Stillman, during a phone call Tuesday from his home in the birthplace of Little League Baseball.

Stillman was busiest during a two-week period in April 2021.

“I went to Austin in April and recorded my first album,” said Stillman. “It was produced by Anton Funderbergh at Wire Recording.”

Funderbergh is top-flight guitarist and the bandleader of Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets since 1978. Their style incorporates both Chicago blues and Texas blues. He is also one of the most respected producers in Texas’ capitol city.

“I met Anton at the International Blues Challenge a couple years ago,” said Stillman. “I’ve been a fan of his since I was a teenager. He’s in my top 10 list of blues players. And I loved his production work with other people.”

Stillman’s album, “Just Say the Word,” was released in August by the Vizztone Label Group.

“It’s a 15-song album – 13 originals and two covers,” said Stillman. “The covers were Bill Withers’ ‘Friend of Mine’ and Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘I’ll Take Care of You.’

“When the album came out in August, it debuted at Number 10 on the Billboard Magazine Blues chart. It was also named one of the top blues albums of 2021 by Roots Music Report.

“I brought my rhythm section Bassist Colin Beatty and drummer Ray Hangen – down to Austin. In the studio, we used Taylor Streiff, a piano player from St. Louis, Austin’s Texas Horns and had Sue Foley and Anton playing guitar on one track.”

It was a big step forward for Stillman, who has been studying guitar for almost a decade-and-a-half.

“I started taking guitar lessons when I was 11,” said Stillman. “I’m 25 now so I’ve been playing for 14 years.

“When I started out, I wanted to play heavy rock and heavy metal. Listening to guitarists in those genres, I realized that their playing was very fast and technically complicated. A teacher told me to learn rock by getting into the blues.

“So, I started listening to a lot of blues guitarists like B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Elmore James. I was also listening to guitarist such as Duane Allman and Derek Trucks. I realized – hey, I can do this. I got hooked on blues and R&B – and jazz. When I was 13 or 14, I started to perform live.”

A key stage in Stillman’s development came at the Uptown Music Collective in Williamsport.

For 20 years, the Uptown Music Collective has been providing exceptional modern music education grounded in traditional educational principles. Its programs engage students through an emphasis on modern genres including rock, pop, soul, blues, country, R&B, and funk.

“I studied at the Uptown Music Collective when I was younger,” said Stillman. “I also taught there after I got out of college.”

Stillman spent his college years in Boston where he got a degree in “Professional Music” with an emphasis on guitar performance and songwriting.

“I started my band in 2015 after graduating from Berklee,” said Stillman, whose honors include making it to “Final Eight” of the 35th Annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis Tennessee.

“My band has been primarily a trio but at the Blues Challenge, I made it to the finals with the addition of a harmonica player in the group.

“My bass player Colin Beatty, who is also from Williamsport, has been with me the whole time. We’ve had different drummers come in-and-out. Right now, our drummer is Ray Hangen from Buffalo, New York.

“With the trio, we play mostly blues and American rock. There also is a little mix of R&B in there.”

Video link for Gabe Stillman — https://youtu.be/QGIJgb51Kw8.

The show at Jamey’s on June 4 will start at 8 p.m. with the kitchen opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 online advance and $20 at the door.

Jamey’s House of Music will host Terre Roche along with Lisa and Lori Brigantino on June 5, THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM featuring Denise Montana on June 2 and SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM featuring the Philly Blues Kings with Maci Miller on June 5.

Blues fans can keep the vibe going with an all-day blues event on June 4.

The 2022 Chester County Blues Barbecue will be held on June 4 at Wyndsor Farm (2550 Ridge Road, Elverson, http://www.chestercountyblues.com).

The 11th annual staging of the event, which is sponsored by the Coventry Lions Club, is slated to run from 2-7 p.m.

The festival is featuring four headline blues acts –Voodoo DeVille, Slidewinders, Nate Myers and the Aces and Rick Estrin & the Nightcaps.

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats

Award-winning San Francisco Bay-area blues band Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, two-time winners of the prestigious Blues Music Award for Band of The Year, will headline the Chester County Blues Barbecue on June 4. Their latest Alligator Records release is 2019’s “Contemporary.”

The combined talents of blues harmonica virtuoso and sly, soulful singer Estrin, guitar mastermind Kid Andersen, keyboard wizard Lorenzo Farrell and drummer Derrick “D’Mar” Martin take Estrin’s inventive, original songs to new and unexpected places.

“Contemporary” explores some different sounds, instrumentation and grooves from their previous releases, as the band continues to reinvent traditional blues styles.

“Contemporary” features 12 wise-cracking, foot-stomping songs, including nine by Estrin (one co-written with Andersen), one each by Andersen and Farrell, and one obscure cover. The album was produced by Estrin and Andersen and recorded at Andersen’s now famous Greaseland Studio.

According to Estrin, “’Contemporary’ is the most fully realized expression of who Rick Estrin & The Nightcats really are and what we’re capable of as a band. Recording at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio, we all had so much fun and were so relaxed, the ideas just started pouring in from all sides. I really expect this record to blow some minds.”

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats have performed at festivals and concert stages from San Francisco to Chicago to New York, and everywhere in between, plus tours of the United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Poland, Australia, Israel, Estonia and Russia. Over the years, Estrin has won a total of seven Blues Music Awards, including awards for Song of the Year, Traditional Male Blues Artist, Instrumentalist—Harmonica, and twice, the prestigious Band Of The Year (for Rick Estrin & The Nightcats).

For more than 30 years and nine albums, Estrin fronted Little Charlie & The Nightcats, flawlessly combining his songs, vocals and harmonica with Little Charlie Baty’s one-of-a-kind guitar excursions. The band won international acclaim and toured the world repeatedly.

Tickets are $15. Food, refreshments and beer will be available for purchase from vendors on site. Admission ticket does not include food and beverage.

The Blues Barbecue will be held June 4 — Rain or Shine. There is a large tent for shelter and attendees are welcome to bring their own canopies.

The Candlelight Theater is in the middle of its third production run of 2022. “Clue On Stage” is running now through June 26.

“Clue: On Stage” is adapted from the Paramount Pictures film written by Jonathan Lynn and the board game from Hasbro, Inc. written by Sandy Rustin.

It’s a dark and stormy night, and you’ve been invited to a very unusual dinner party.

Each of the guests has an alias, the butler offers a variety of weapons, and the host is, well . . . dead. When their host turns up dead, they all become suspects. Led by Wadsworth the butler, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, and Colonel Mustard race to find the killer as the body count stacks up.

The play is a hilarious farce-meets-murder mystery that will leave both cult-fans and newcomers in stitches as they try to figure out…WHO did it, WHERE, and with WHAT!”

“Clue On Stage” is a madcap comedy that will keep audiences guessing until the final twist.

“Clue On Stage” is running now through June 26 at the Candlelight Theatre. Tickets, which include dinner, beverages and dessert, are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting Better Than Bacon on June 3.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Mark Unruh on June 3.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Digable Planets on June 2, A Philadelphia Tribute to Led Zeppelin on June 3 and Sister Hazel on June 4.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Amanda and Teddy on June 2, Popa Chubby on June 3, The End of America on June 4, Jefferson Berry on June 5 and Scott Sax and Suzie Brown on June 8.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will host Tommy James on June 3, Tom Kiefer on June 4 and Abbafab on June 8.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Billy Bob Thornton on June 2, Ides of March on June 3, Awaken on June 4, and Brother Jocephus and the Love Revolution on June 5…Steve Forbert on June 11.

Brooklyn Bowl (1009 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.brooklynbowl.com/philadelphia) will have Metalachi on June 2, Splintered Sunlight on June 3, Sugar Honey Ice Tea on June 5 and Stand Atlantic on June 8.

The Xcite Center at Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, 888-588-7279, https://parxcasino.com) will present Andrew Dice Clay on June 2.

Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) hosts Mansionair on June 2, T-Pain on June 2, Small Town Murder on June 4 and Last Dinosaurs on June 5.

Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, https://annenbergcenter.org/events) will present Momix from June 2-4 and Chaka Khan on June 8.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) presents Lanco on June 2, Jim Norton on June 4, Devon Allman on June 5, and Apollo Suns on June 8.

The Met (858 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://themetphilly.com) will host Russ on June 2, Chelsea Handler on June 4 and Sigur Ros on June 7.

World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will have Secret American on June 2, The Goodbye Party on June 4, and The Moth on June 7.

Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com) is hosting Dying Fetus on June 4, mxmtoon on June 5, Adekunle Gold on June 6 and Juno Birch on June 8.

Mann Music Center (Mann Center, 5201 N. Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-566-7900, http://manncenter.org) is presenting Lake Street Dive on June 3, Roots Picnic on June 4-5 and Rufus Du Sol on June 7.

Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,

www.johnnybrendas.com) presents Willis on June 2, Jordana on June 3, Jesse Malin on June 4 and Blue Hawaii on June 8.

Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com) hosts Kurt Vile on June 3-4 and Welcome to Night Vale on June 8.

Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org) will have Wet on June 3.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, www.AMTshows.com) is hosting Kenny G on June 2.

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