On Stage: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ opening at the Forrest Theater

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Dear Evan Hansen

A nice way to combat a heat wave is to spend an evening inside an air-conditioned venue watching a live theatrical performance. Fortunately, there are several good choices — ranging from a new smash Broadway hit (“Dear Evan Hansen”) to a timeless theater classic (“Sweet Charity’).

“Dear Evan Hansen,” which is billed as a “deeply personal and profoundly contemporary musical about life and the way we live it,” is making its Philadelphia premiere at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) August 16-28.

This touring production is being presented by the Shubert Organization in partnership with the Kimmel Cultural Campus.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a musical with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a book by Steven Levenson. The musical follows Evan Hansen, a high school senior with social anxiety “who invents an important role for himself in a tragedy that he did not earn.”

The musical opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in December 2016, after the show’s world premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in July 2015, and an Off-Broadway production at Second Stage Theatre from March to May 2016. The Broadway production will close on September 18, 2022.

Upon opening, the show received critical acclaim. At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six, including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor for Ben Platt, and Best Featured Actress for Rachel Bay Jones.

The show plays to sold-out crowds on Broadway, on its 50-city North American tour and will soon open productions in Toronto and London.

The Grammy Award-winning Original Broadway Cast Recording of “Dear Evan Hansen” was released in February 2017 and made an extraordinary debut on the Billboard 200 — entering the chart at #8, the highest charting debut position for an original cast album since 1961. A remixed cover of “Waving Through a Window” can also claim a rare first for a Broadway show – as a number one hit on Billboard’s Dance Club chart.

Basically, Hansen is a geeky high school student who spends much of his time in front of a computer screen – cut off from the world. His mother is on his case all the time – exhorting him to interact with his peers.

In the summer prior to his senior year, Hansen broke his arm and had to start the school year wearing a cast. His mom suggests that he gets people to sign the cast.

At the same time, Hansen is assigned by his therapist Dr. Sherman to write letters to himself detailing what will be good about each day. His overworked mother Heidi suggests that he ask people to sign the cast on his arm to make friends. Meanwhile, Cynthia and Larry Murphy struggle to connect with their son Connor, a sullen drug user.

The only one to sign the cast was the school bully Connor Murphy – mockingly in big letters that leave hardly any room for other signatures.

Hansen wrote a letter that expresses his loneliness. He printed the letter out in school but Murphy grabed it from the printer tray and refused to give it back.

Days later, Hansen is called to the principal’s office, where Murphy’s parents tell him that their son had died by suicide. They found Hansen’s letter in their son’s pocket, and mistakenly believe it was written by their kid — indicating a close friendship between them. Murphy’s signature on his cast strengthens that belief despite Hansen’s fumbling attempts to explain.

The Murphys invite Hansen to their house for dinner, where he is awkward and uncomfortable, so he tells them what he thinks they want to hear, pretending that he and their son had secretly been best friends.

The plot then deals with how the lie continued to grow.

Hansen spends an increasing amount of time with Murphy’s family — fabricating details about his “friendship” with Murphy. The Connor Project is launched, along with a fundraiser to create a memorial space in an orchard.

The National Tour cast features Anthony Norman as Evan Hansen, Alaina Anderson as Zoe Murphy (Connor’s sister and Evan’s crush), Colleen Sexton as Heidi Hansen (Evan’s sister) and Lili Thomas as Cynthia Murphy.

“I’ve been with the cast for a half-year,” said Thomas, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Ottawa, Ontario.

“I saw this show when it opened on Broadway. I remember I was not performing at the time. I was a mom of two kids, and I was taking some time off.

“It was great to see that something on Broadway was dealing with real parents. It made me excited to be coming back to performing for this tour.

“It really depicted the struggle all parents go through no matter where they are financially. All parents try to do their best. Some do their best and some fail.

“It’s a very communal feeling. The themes are what parents are aware of and accept. And the show highlights acceptance and kind relationships.”

The tour top in Philly will mark the first time either actress has performed on a Philadelphia stage.

For Anderson, this time is the first time she has performed professionally on any stage.

“This is my first professional acting job,” said Anderson, a 23-year-old who graduated from Yale University with a degree in cognitive science.

“I auditioned in 2020 when the tour was getting started. I got the role. We started rehearsals and then the tour stopped before it started because of COVID. When I restarted last year, I was glad they still wanted me for the role.”

Professional acting was not the only thing new for Anderson.

“I didn’t see this show until I was cast for it,” said Anderson, who grew up in Long Island. “The show came out when I was in high school, and I knew it had a lot of hype.

“It’s a very real show. When you’re a teenager, everything seems like very high stakes. Everything feels very life and death.

“In theater, everything is life and death too – the physical distance between the audience and the actors. Theater is very physical. Everything is real time.”

Thomas said, “Audiences really relate to this show. There is a character in this show for everybody to relate to. The message of this show is mainly about connection.”

Adding more teen cred to the “Dear Evan Hansen” popularity, “Stranger Things” star Gaten Matarazzo returned to Broadway as Jared Kleinman in “Dear Evan Hansen” on July 19. Known for his portrayal of Dustin on “Stranger Things,” Matarazzo made his Broadway debut in 2011 in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

Video link for “Dear Evan Hansen” — https://youtu.be/6GzU40h_kO8.

The show will run from August 16-28 at the Forrest Theatre. Tickets prices range from $59-$177.

“Big Spender” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now” are just two of the standout tunes in the award-winning musical, “Sweet Charity.”

The Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting the all-time classic musical as its fourth production run of 2022. The lively comedy “Sweet Charity” is running now through August 28.

“Sweet Charity” is a musical with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon. It was directed and choreographed for Broadway by Bob Fosse starring his wife and muse Gwen Verdon alongside John McMartin.

It is based on the screenplay for Federico Fellini’s 1957 Italian film, “Nights of Cabiria.”

Besides the obvious major change of resetting the story from Rome to New York, the biggest change is Cabiria/Charity’s occupation. Cabiria is a “hooker with a heart of gold.” This had to be softened for American musical audiences in 1966, so Charity works instead as a taxi dancer at the Fandango Ballroom.

In the early 20th century, men could go to dance halls and pay to dance with the woman of their choice, usually for 10 cents a song (thus the famous Rodgers & Hart song “Ten Cents a Dance.”) However, by the1960s, taxi dance halls were not nearly as common. It’s suggested, at least in “Sweet Charity,” that most of the women who were still taxi dancers were willing to do more than just dance, if the price is right.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, where it was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography. The production also ran in London’s West End as well as having revivals and international productions.

The musical was adapted for the screen in 1969 with Shirley MacLaine as Charity and John McMartin recreating his Broadway role as Oscar Lindquist. For Bob Fosse, who directed and choreographed, the film was his feature-film directorial debut.

The production at the Candlelight features stellar performances by Phoebe Gavula on the title role of Charity Hope Valentine. The other main character — Oscar Lindquist – is performed admirably by Jared Calhoun.

Other key performers are Gabrielle Impriano as Helene, Beth Dugan as Nickie, Tess Sinatra as Carmen, JJ Vavrik as Herman, Joe Falcone as Vittorio Vidal, and Rebecca Schall as Ursula March.

The production at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre is directed by Jessica Bostock with choreography by Jody Anderson and musical direction by Christopher Tolomeo.

“Sweet Charity” is running now through August 28.

Tickets, which include dinner, non-alcoholic beverages and free parking, are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Music fans can take a trip back in time at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, uptownwestchester.org) on August 12.

AM Radio Tribute Band

The theater in downtown West Chester will be hosting a show by AM Radio Tribute Band, which is the brainchild of Su Teears and Kevin Burk is exactly what its name implies.

Selections include remarkable renditions of White Rabbit-Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” the Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum,” the Hollies “Bus Stop,” Lulu’s “To Sir With Love,” the Carpenters’ “Close to You,” and The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’.”

“We play songs mostly from the ’60’s, some from the ’70’s, some older stuff like the Ronettes,” said Teears, during a phone interview from her home in King of Prussia. “We also do some stuff from the ’50’s like Bill Haley & the Comets and Elvis.”

Burk, who is a native of King of Prussia and an Upper Merion High grad, said, “We’re normally a six-piece band and sometimes for bigger shows we’re a seven-piece with an added guitar. There are also times when we add a horn section and play as a 10-piece.”
AM Radio Tribute Band got its start exactly six years ago.

“Kevin and I were on a road trip to upstate New York,” said Teears. “As we travelled north, we listened to the radio until we lost our favorite station.”

Losing reception of AM radio stations is a common thing.

AM broadcasting is a radio broadcasting technology which employs amplitude modulation (AM) transmissions – unlike FM which uses frequency modulation.

AM radio, which is also known as medium wave, covers frequencies from 525-1704 kHz (kilohertz). In the United States, there are clear channel stations which can operate at 50,000 watts 24 hours a day, regional stations which have restrictions on their broadcasting power and local daytime stations with low wattage allowance and limited range.

If you’re driving in Pennsylvania or New York, you can hear powerful clear channel stations from all over the eastern part of the country – stations such as WSM in Nashville, WABC in New York, WCKY in Cincinnati, WGN in Chicago, WSB in Atlanta, WBZ in Boston and WOWO in Fort Wayne.

Listening to regional stations is more difficult. These stations are limited in power and often have directional broadcasting. So, if you exceed your favorite station’s range as you travel, the station fades out and is often replaced by a different regional station.

“When we lost the station we were listening to, we found a station playing all the hits we grew up with,” said Teears. “We toyed with the idea of playing these songs. We started playing them while trying to do things a little left of center.”

Soon, Teears and Burk were assembling a band – a band that became AM Tribute Radio.

The lineup of AM Tribute Radio’s full band features drummer Jimmy Cavanaugh from Norristown, guitarist Danny Eyer (Absecon, N.J.), Bill Sharrow (Collingdale/Spring Mount), vocalist/guitarist Joe Triglia (Lansdale), Teears (Northeast Philadelphia) and Burk.

“Our first gig was December 2014 at the Bridgeport Ribhouse and we’ve had a stable lineup since then,” said Burk. “Our repertoire now is well over 500 tunes. There is so much to pick from.”

Teears said, “This is the music we grew up with. We’re purists. We try to keep it as close as possible to the original.”

Video link for AM Radio Tribute Band — https://youtu.be/an3eLlSQmIw.

The show at the Uptown! Knauer will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

The Uptown! Knauer will offer another trip to the past on August 13 when it presents “Hollywood Nights – The Bob Seger Experience.

The Bob Seger Experience is the ultimate tribute to Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. This nine-piece New Jersey-based powerhouse has set out to recreate everything about Seger and his music, right down to the smallest detail. The band prides itself on continuing the amazing groundwork laid down by Seger over the past 30 years.

Video link for Hollywood Nights — https://youtu.be/X2qJtPAEx_g.

The show on Saturday night will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

Other upcoming shows at the venue are One Alternative on August 18 and Sarah Diamond & the Coal Miners on August 20.

Livingston Taylor

Livingston Taylor has a lot of musical talent – and a knack for longevity.

Taylor, who will be performing on August 13 at Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts (9 South Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com), is a singer-songwriter who made his first album 52 years ago and has released more than 20 more LPs since then.

Taylor has a long history of touring internationally over the last five decades. Taylor has also been a professor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston for more than a quarter-century.

You might think that when the pandemic shut everything down last year, Taylor would put a hold on live performances – that he would stay home and work on recording a new album – and that he would resort to Zoom if he opted to continue teaching. That wasn’t his M.O.

“During the pandemic, I hunkered down and watched the world go by,” said Taylor, during a recent phone interview from his home in Watertown, Massachusetts. “Things slowed mightily.

“Some people were stunningly productive. I’m not one of them. I make music to play for people. I did do some live shows – some in a theater without an audience. It was very hard. It required a certain kind of visualization.

“I did a few Zoom shows. That’s truly the definition of ‘phoning it in.’ I also played some outdoor shows in parking lots. I need to see people. I crave it. When I don’t have it, I don’t feel good.”

When it comes to COVID-19, Taylor had it and it didn’t feel good.

“I got COVID a month ago,” said Taylor. “I didn’t feel well so I took a test. The next morning, I did it again and the positive sign was glowing. I had a couple days of feeling poorly — that’s all.

“Now that we’re moving to post-Covid, we have to keep going. When you drive a car into a ditch, you’ve got to get it out and figure out what broke.

“I still think it’s going to take four or five years to work through it. It was an unprecedented interruption in the world’s functioning. No other event has thoroughly stopped the planet like this.”

Taylor is a natural performer, peppering his shows with personal stories, anecdotes and ineffable warmth that connect him to his fans. His relaxed on-stage presence belies the depth of his musical knowledge, and fans might just as often be treated to a classic Gershwin or something from the best of Broadway.

“In my live shows, I do speak about the songs – who wrote them…why they wrote them,” said Taylor.

“It’s always about the idea of making a song – making an experience. I speak about myself – but only in reference to the music not me. A life well-lived is boring.”

Taylor picked up his first guitar at the age of 13, which began a 50-year career that has encompassed performance, songwriting, and teaching. Born in Boston and raised in North Carolina, Livingston is the fourth child in a very musical family that includes Alex, James, Kate, and Hugh. Livingston recorded his first record at the age of 18 and has continued to create well crafted, introspective, and original songs that have earned him listeners worldwide.

“I really like to play and see my music brought to people,” said Taylor. “My first show when I knew my music worked was when I was opening for Joni Mitchell at Boston University in 1969. I was third on the bill behind Joni and Jaime Brockett.

“Jaime had played, and the audience was anxious to hear Joni. In my 20 minutes, I was able to win the audience over. The only thing in my mind was that this works. This was before I started recording. I was writing a lot of songs and testing them to see if it works.”

A half-century later, it’s obvious that it has worked.

From Top 40 hits “I Will Be in Love with You” and “I’ll Come Running,” to “I Can Dream of You” and “Boatman,” the last two recorded by his brother James, Taylor’s creative output has continued unabated. His musical knowledge has inspired a varied repertoire, and he is equally at home with a range of musical genres — folk, pop, gospel, jazz — and from upbeat storytelling and touching ballads to full orchestra performances.

Taylor is a full professor at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught a Stage Performance course since 1989. He teaches young artists invaluable lessons learned over the course of an extensive career on the road. His high-selling book, “Stage Performance,” which was released in 2011, offers those lessons to anyone who is interested in elevating their presentation standards to professional standards.

“I still teach at Berklee but won’t do it on Zoom,” said Taylor. “I’m not going to take kids’ money and not give them a successful experience.

“Also, I’m not going to teach a course masked. I’m teaching stage performance. I’m teaching communication skills. I want to read people’s faces.”

Taylor also has avoided the recording studio.

“There are a couple albums in the pipeline, but no tracks recorded,” said Taylor. “I’m not making records in my garage. Recording the way I want to is an expensive undertaking.”

Taylor sees a light at the end of the COVID tunnel.

“The stopping of society is done,” said Taylor. “But it’s really going to take years to gear this up again. It’s hard to stop the world completely and then get it going again. I am very optimistic for its resolution.”

Video link for Livingston Taylor – https://youtu.be/HKlam3eXSSY.

The show in Bryn Mawr will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts will feature Cris Jacobs Band on August 19, Trout Fishing in America on August 24, and The Dirty Grass Players on August 28.

Grammy Award-winning choir The Crossing gives the Philadelphia premiere performance of Shara Nova’s “Titration” at the Presbyterian Church (8855 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill) on August 13.

The Crossing

The Crossing (www.crossingchoir.org) is an American professional chamber choir based in Philadelphia. The Crossing is conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir.

Many of its nearly 120 commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues. With a commitment to recording its commissions, The Crossing has issued 19 releases and received two Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance (2018, 2019), and three Grammy nominations in as many years.

The new work delves into feelings of joy, rage, and determination, told through songs by singer-songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Shara Nova—the composer of one of The Crossing’s acclaimed Carols after a Plague, also known for her work as My Brightest Diamond.

Nova writes of her new work, “‘Titration’ is an hour-long choral song cycle which examines difficult emotions like fear, sorrow, disgust or rage through the lens of the nervous system and utilizes body-centered practices that develop one’s capacity to calm oneself when such emotions arise. In these times of conflict and crisis, how can we feel more, rather than less?”

This music is greatly influenced by the Somatic Abolitionist body of work and practices of Resmaa Menakem.  Additional influence for this work comes from polyvagal theory author Deb Dana, Somatic Experiencing therapy, Alexander Technique, as well as practices learned from Qi-gong teacher Master Chunyi Lin and Laughter Yoga.”

Audience members are invited to a pre-concert discussion with conductor, Donald Nally, and composer, Shara Nova, in the Burleigh Cruikshank Memorial Chapel at 3:00pm, followed by and a post-concert picnic in celebration of the choir’s first concert in their home city in August.

The song list for “Titration” includes Freeze State, Safety in Peril or Calm, What’s The Vibe, Vagus?, Titration 1, How do I keep on feelin’ in this mean, mean world?, Emotion Wheel, Patterns of Protection, The Grief of Which I Rarely Speak, Titration 2, Turn Ya Head Around, Imagine A Favorite Place, I Seek To Change, Yes / No,  I’m so Mad I Could Spit Nails, Ntice Sensations, Pulses and Titration 3.

The performance on Saturday will start at 4 p.m. Ticket prices start at $20.

Music fans know that Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) is a prime destination to hear folk, jazz and blues music every Thursday through Sunday.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

The headline acts this weekend are Alvin Frazier on August 12 and Mike Younger on August 13.

Younger is touring in support of his latest album which is actually an older album recorded when he was much younger.

In 2017, Younger was able to reclaim the recordings he made in Memphis in 2001 and began the long process of completing the production of “Burning The Bigtop Down” and cleaning up unresolved issues surrounding the record.

With the August 2021 release of “Burning The Bigtop Down,” Younger’s long journey to recover his lost work has come full circle.

Younger was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the talented singer/songwriter eventually made his way to New York City in the early 1990s.

“I came to New York in 1992,” said Younger, during a phone interview Monday from Watertown, New York.

“I had been living in Toronto and was a developing singer/songwriter. I loved the folk music that came out of Greenwich Village in the 60s and 70s. I wanted to see if there was a continuity from then to the scene in the 1990s. I went to New York to see if I could find a circle of artists.

“I was in Toronto in 1991 – in Kensington Market. I was making my way playing music there but there is no city like New York City.”

It was years later, while performing live on WWOZ in New Orleans, that he caught his first break with a music publisher who heard the broadcast.

“I was living in New Orleans when I got signed to a publishing deal,” said Younger. “John Sinclair was a radio host and invited me to play on his show. I played a few songs and, right after that, a publisher form Nashville called the station. Next thing I knew, the publisher came to New Orleans and I signed with them.

“Soon after, I went to Nashville to record some demos. Some of them ended up with Rodney Crowell. The songs caught his attention and he called and said he wanted to produce me.”

When Younger signed his first record deal with Sounds Unreel, Crowell stepped in as producer, and together they recorded “Somethin’ In The Air” in 1999.

“For my second album, the label wanted me to meet with Jim Dickinson, who had just finished producing an album for Bob Dylan” said Younger.

“I took a meeting with him, and he said that a batch of songs I had written were really authentic. He brought his friends in to work on the record. When he said who the backing band was, I was terrified and excited.”

The original Memphis sessions featured rock legends Levon Helm on drums, Spooner Oldham on keyboard and organ, David Hood on bass, Jim Dickinson on piano, and his son Luther Dickinson on electric guitar.

“On Day Four of the sessions, we were working on songs 10 and 11,” said the talented Haligonian. “The vibe in the studio had changes. Jim got a call from the label in L.A. telling him that they put the whole thing on ice – that my project was going to be shelved.

“I had a six-record contract and I had to fight to get freed from it. I finally got my release after two years – but it took me 17 years to get my tapes back.”

The tapes from that session fell into legal limbo and were lost for almost two decades.

“In 2012, Levon Helm passed and then Jim Dickinson died a few years later,” said Younger. “Then, Jack Holter, the owner of the label passed away. I contacted Dawn Hopkins, who was Jack’s partner, and she found the tapes for me.

“Seventeen years later, I finished the sessions. As soon as I got possession of the tapes, I started making arrangements to finish it. The tapes had to be baked. I used Ray Kennedy, who is a master of dehydrating tapes.

“I had to dig into the tapes to see what needed to be fixed. I added horns and rewrote some of the songs. I had waited 17 years and wanted to put my best foot forward.”

Finally, after a long challenging struggle, Younger’s highly acclaimed album, “Burning The Bigtop Down,” was released August 27, 2021.

“What was I feeling when it finally got released,” said Younger. The feeling was a liberation from a long, difficult, painful journey. I was happier than a dog with two tales.”

Video link for Mike Younger — https://youtu.be/NU7ZQmNii50.

The show at Jamey’s on Saturday will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

The “Thursday Night Jazz Jam” and the “Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” are regular features on Jamey’s calendar while Friday and Saturday night shows feature national and regional acts.

Jamey’s has started a popular “Guest Singer Series” featuring many of the best singers in the region performing a set from 7-8 p.m. with the backing of the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

This week’s featured performer on August 11 will be Lorraine Barrett. The show will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

“Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam” is a favorite of Jamey’s regulars because Reilly and his band the Philly Blues Kings (www.phillyblueskings.com) are the performers each week.

The Philly Blues King are a veteran outfit comprised of David Reiter on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Maci Miller on vocals, Bill Marconi on drums and vocals and Reilly on bass guitar. They have performed together for 15 years (except for Miller) and are the house band for Jamey’s House of Music. They are well known for tight, jazz inflected classic blues.

Reiter performs on a seven-string guitar and Reilly plays a fretless five string bass and that sets the group above the ordinary. The three veteran musicians have each spent decades playing the blues professionally and have backed many well-known national artists. Maci Miller, an internationally recognized jazz singer based in Philadelphia, joined the Blues Kings and quickly established herself as a top-flight front woman.

Video link for Philly Blues Kings — https://youtu.be/bAnBVLc7Wsg.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music on August 14 will start at noon. Admission is free.

Curtis Salgado, who will be headlining 118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) on August 13, is another artist touring in support of a “new” album that was recorded a while ago.

Curtis Salgado’s latest Alligator Records release, “Damage Control,” which was releasedmid-2020, is being hailed as the best of his long career. Produced by Salgado, “Damage Control” is packed with soul-searching, street-smart, vividly detailed, instantly memorable songs.

“I started making the album several years ago and finished in February 2020,” said Salgado, during a phone interview Monday from the back of a tour van heading to his next gig. “It should have come out in 2020. Then, COVID-19 crawled onto the shores of Everett.”

Everett, which is Salgado’s hometown, is the county seat of and the largest city in Snohomish County, Washington.

On January 19, 2020, a man who had returned home to Snohomish County after traveling to Wuhan, checked into an urgent care clinic after seeing reports about the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control announced on January 21 that the man had tested positive for COVID-19.

With “Damage Control,” Salgado has created what he calls “a rock ’n’ roll record with lyrics that hit.” The album was produced by Salgado and recorded in studios in Tennessee and California with three different groups of world-class, road-tested blues and roots musicians. The LP has 13 songs — 12 originals and a raucous cover of Larry Williams’ “Slow Down” (famously covered by The Beatles).

“I used three different studios with four songs each except for five in Nashville,” said Salgado. “I also did some work with Wayne Toups in New Orleans. All the vocals were done in L.A. and the horns were done in Portland (Oregon).

“When I write songs, I first get bones – the chord changes – and then it’s the sidemen. I have an idea. Then, I give these guys the bone and they put in the meat and the muscle.

“We made a great album. The songs were all written by me – some with friends. My strength is that I know how to put together what I have in my head.

“I’m always writing. I now have 16 finished songs – enough for a new record. Maybe I’ll write a few more. I’m a blues soul singer – singer/songwriter, R&B, rock, soul, blues, gospel.”

With a career spanning 40 years, Salgado is a one-of-a-kind talent whose music is as compelling as his story.

From co-fronting The Robert Cray Band to leading his own band (and recording nine solo albums) to helping transform John Belushi into “Joliet” Jake Blues to touring the country with Steve Miller and Santana, he is a true musical giant. NPR calls him “a blues icon” with a “huge voice.”

Salgado earned a reputation for high-intensity performances and a repertoire inspired by his encyclopedic knowledge of soul, blues and R&B music. He won the 2010 Blues Music Award (BMA) for Soul Blues Artist of the Year and went on to win the award again in 2012 and 2013. In 2013 he also won the coveted BMA for B.B. King Entertainer of The Year and also won Soul Blues Album of the Year for his Alligator debut, Soul Shot.”

Just like the old blues and R&B artists that provide inspiration for Salgado, the hard-working musician spends a lot of time on tour.

“With the road, nowadays we’re a rolling record store,” said Salgado. “There are no record shops anymore — except for a few little mom-and-pop shops.  I’m signed with Alligator Records and that helps a lot to get my music out there.

“I’m 68 now and I’ve been doing this my whole life. It’s funny. When you’re on the road, you want to get off the road. Then, when you get off the road, you want to go out again. It’s a hard job but it’s a job I love to do.”

Music has been a big part of Salgado’s life ever since he was really young.

“I was really blessed with a mother, father, older brother and sister who were all into music,” said Salgado. “My mom and pop were into jazz music. My mother could play a pretty wicked stride piano.

“The music they were listening to — Count Basie, Fats Waller, Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, Ray Charles, Fletcher Henderson, Joe Williams — was stuff that really caught my auditory nerve. I was so immersed into it. I was doing sixth-grade book reports on the history of jazz, and I’d bring 78s into play along with them.

“In kindergarten, it was also pinned to my chest that I could sing. I took to singing like a duck to water. Then, I discovered Little Walter and that completely blew me away. His music was what inspired me to learn to play harmonica.”

Salgado must have some feline characteristics in his DNA – at least the “nine lives” part.

Salgado has always lived life to the fullest, but he’s also faced adversity and had to overcome multiple health challenges. He battled back from liver cancer in 2006 and lung cancer in 2008 and 2012. In March 2017 he underwent quadruple bypass surgery.

“I’ve had cancer four times,” said Salgado. “It’s a non-aggressive cancer that can’t be killed. It went from my liver to my lung. It seems to come back every five years. I’ve also had Hepatitis C, a heart attack and bypass surgery because the major arteries were gone.”

Like the Energizer Bunny, Salgado just keeps going and going. From a cat standpoint, he still has three or four lives still in the bank.

“It’s all about survival,” said Salgado. “And I’m a survivor.”

Fittingly, one of his recent videos is for a song titled “The Longer That I Live” with the recurring line, “The longer that I live, the older I want to get.”

Video link for Curtis Salgado — https://youtu.be/ikRzUBWoUIY.

The show at 118 North on August 13 will start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18.

Another act from the Pacific Northwest will be playing a show in Philadelphia this week.

Hotel Mira, which is headlining a show at Silk City (435 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) on August 14, is a rock band from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The band was formed by vocalist Charlie Kerr in 2007 and has gone through many changes over the last 15 years – name changes and personnel changes.

The band was originally known as The Beauties, but due to a name conflict with an existing band, changed its name to Japanese Girls. However, upon realizing it caused difficulty when searching for the band online, they used the disemvoweling JPNSGRLS.

As JPNSGRLS, the band released one EP – “The Sharkweek EP” in 2013 – and two albuns – “Circulation” in 2014 and “Divorce” in 2016.

JPNSGRLS debuted “Divorce’s” first single “Bully for You” exclusively via the PopMatters website in April 2016, with wide release set for April 15. PopMatters said that “Bully for You” is “an empathetic expression of male sympathy over the everyday misogyny that women must face.”

Kerr’s statement on the song was that it is “an observational protest song about the ceaseless, unfair treatment of women from the point of view of a cisgendered man.”

Then, JPNSGRLS morphed into Hotel Mira and released the “Hotel Mira EP” in 2018. The eponymous EP, released in August 2018, was the first with the new three-piece line-up of Kerr, Colton Lauro and Mike Noble.

The 2022 lineup of Hotel Mira features Kerr (vocals), Clark Grieve (guitar), Mike Noble (bass), and Cole George (drums).

“The current lineup has been together four or five years,” said Kerr, during a phone interview Monday from a tour stop in Columbus, Ohio.

“Prior to the name change, everybody else in the band had quit. One-by-one, the members told me they quit. I said, ‘that’s cool, I’m going to keep going.’ I always wanted to change the name.”

Next up was the “Perfectionism” album. The LP, which was released in 2020 and produced by Juno Award and Grammy Award-winning producer Eric Ratz, spawned several singles and a slow burn sleeper airplay hit – “This Could Be It For Me.”

“We recorded both the EP and album at Light Organ Studio,” said Kerr. “The EP was produced by Dave Schiffman and the album was produced by Eric Ratz.

“The album was released on Valentine’s Day 2020 and then COVID hit. We had a lot lined up – but everything plays out the way it’s supposed to.

“A lot of people made ‘Perfectionism’ the album they listened to during lockdown. We started a TikTok account, and the music did well. We gained a lot of fans through digital busking.

“It was really cool in an accessibility way. We also did a couple of Livestream shows. It’s nothing like the real thing but, at that time, it scratched an itch.”

Now, there is a new single from Hotel Mira.

Produced by Ryan Worsley (Dear Rouge, Monowhales) and mixed by Tony Hoffer (Phoenix, The Kooks), “Fever Pitch” is the first taste of new music from Hotel Mira following 2020’s acclaimed “Perfectionism.”

As it was in the beginning and as it is now, Hotel Mira is Kerr’s band.

“I usually do most of the songwriting,” said Kerr. “I try and start with melodies and then try to put lyrics over the melody. Lyrically, it can be pretty stream of consciousness. I find the story as I go.

“We did a small Canadian run in late 2021 and we’ve been touring the states for the last two-and-a-half weeks. We just passed the halfway point of the tour.

“It feels like a support tour for ‘Perfectionism.’ We also decided to throw in a couple older songs on this tour – including a few from ‘Circulation’ and ‘Divorce.’ This will be our first time to play Philadelphia so we’re really looking forward to it.”

Video link for Hotel Mira — https://youtu.be/gViyLBjUv9k.

The show at Silk City on August 14 will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.

The Colonial Theater (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, thecolonialtheatre.com/events) hosts Jon Lovitz on August 13.

The Sound Bank (119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, www.soundbankphx.com) will have The Jake Joyce Band and The Paul Waltz Band on August 12 and the Balkun Brothers and Ben Brandt & The Soul Miners Union on August 13.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is presenting Tret Fure and Heather Mae on August 19, Sugar Lime Blue on August 20, and The Real Diamond on August 27.

Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net) will have The Hyperpop Experience on August 12 and A Giant Dog on August 13.

The Rose Tree Summer Festival (Rose Tree Park, Route 252, Media, www.delcopa.gov/departments/parks) will host Basic Cable on August 12, Lonnie Shields Band & Jesse Loewy on August 13, and Land of Ozz on August 14.

Concerts Under the Stars (Upper Merion Township Building Park, King of Prussia, concertsunderthestarskop.com) will present Dave Hause & The Mermaid on August 14, Steal Your Peach on August 19, Devon Gilfillian on August 25, Brett Dennen on September 14, David Bromberg on September 23, and The Wailers on September 30.

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