A Natural Connection

Sam Nobles and Katie Dill of Mean Lady, though busy with other projects at opposite sides of the country, find time for their new album

Landscapes, wildlife, human emotion: these were the inspiration for Mean Lady’s newest, aptly-named album, Nature. In February, duo Sam Nobles and Katie Dill released the nine-part album on Bandcamp, keeping pace with their previous pop/hip-hop/psychedelic-meets-rock-and-roll recordings.

“I think Delaware has the most beautiful forests and creeks, and those ideas came through in all the songs, so the title seemed fitting. Don’t even get me started on the butterflies,” says vocalist and musician Dill.

Nobles—keyboardist/bassist/producer—and Dill had been talking about releasing the album for a while, but Nobles says there were instrumentation and production elements that needed to be further developed—and they were on opposite sides of the country.

Dill has lived in Los Angeles since 2014, pursuing improv through comedy school Upright Citizens Brigade (think Kate McKinnon, Delaware’s own Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler). Nobles, back home in Delaware, performs with jazz artist Bruce Anthony every Wednesday at Home Grown Café in Newark and Sundays at Wilmington’s 8th & Union Kitchen, among other locations. He’s also composing for season two of truTV’s Adam Ruins Everything.

So the pair has been occupied with other projects. But since the vocals and early versions of the tracks of what would become Nature had already been recorded before Dill left, in mid-2016 they decided to polish the album. What ensued was a six-month process, but Nobles says sending edited tracks back and forth from Delaware to California wasn’t as complicated as might be assumed.

“I think we both share such a similar music taste, from genres to melody in general, and so we’ve always been on the same page,” he says. “Sometimes when we’re writing, we’ll show each other a three- or four-chord progression and there’s just a mutual feeling and understanding of ‘yeah, that really triggers something,’ We’ve also just been super good buds for a long time.”

They met at a party as teenagers, and began writing and performing together almost 10 years ago as members of folk-rock-bossa—nova group Diego Paulo, which garnered a cult following in Newark. They also played together in the University of Delaware Big Band Jazz Ensemble for four years.

“With both groups, we’d often stick around after rehearsal and share ideas with each other, writing snippets of songs, which eventually turned into Mean Lady,” says Nobles.

The duo signed with Fat Possum Records in 2013 for a one-album stint with a recording of Love Now, and Mean Lady received positive reviews from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork Magazine. Any subsequent releases, such as Nature, are self-released. As of now, the duo doesn’t have any additional recordings in the works; they’re just hoping the new album serves as a soundtrack to a good time with friends and even a sense of nostalgia, says Nobles.

When Nature’s songs were originally written, Dill still lived in Delaware, where she spent a “ton of time” in the woods.

“I wrote ‘Walking Flower’ in the forest, and ‘The Woods’ came from the idea that a relationship or friendship isn’t solidified for me until we have gone on a nature walk,” she says. “I feel most myself in the woods and I want the people I love to experience the beauty of nature with me. It expanded into an idea about how all humans yearn for a connection to nature. I’ve had friends who said the album made them cry. Another said you should listen to it on a sunny day. Glean whatever you want; all art is meant for you to experience it and own it for yourself. I do hope you listen to it on a sunny day, though. I think that person was right.”
Visit meanlady.bandcamp.com to listen to the album.

Go for a Ride

Young and prolific Pat Kane is a growing presence on the local scene. His most recent EP, What If The Stars Are Satellites, was released in January.

Every second Wednesday of the month around 9 p.m., Pat Kane, guitar in hand, walks into Wilmington’s Nomad Bar, takes up a position in the corner of the room, and begins playing his music. Regulars at The Nomad know Kane and his work, but so does almost everyone in the Wilmington music scene.

At the tender age of 26, he has more than 50 songs and nine EPs to his credit, and having just wrapped up his second year in a row playing the Shine A Light On The Queen concert, his fame is sure to grow. But ask him what he thinks about playing music, and the first thing he will tell you is, “It should never be about getting famous.”

As a teen growing up in Wilmington, Kane was inspired to pick up a guitar by a friend who had just started playing. At the time, Kane liked heavy metal music, and the image associated with that genre. Metallica was his favorite band; he liked how aggressive they were. For him, they personified rock and roll.

Then Eric Clapton changed his life.

“I can remember going to a Clapton concert for the first time and just saying, ‘holy shit, this guy gets it!’ Clapton kind of got me to find more music, music with a soul,” says Kane, “I began to dive deep into blues and music associated with blues.”

Since then, he has worked toward finding that sound and transforming it into his own. He started playing as much as possible and learning everything he could. He recalls being a freshman at Brandywine High School and playing gigs five nights a week.

“My music was young back then; I was young,” he says. “It’s changed a lot since I first started playing, since I released my first EP, and so have I.”

As he grew older Kane traveled—as far as San Francisco and even Thailand—and played live gigs. As he did, his music evolved.

He’s a musician who lives in the present through his music. “It reflects whatever I’m dealing with at the time that I write and record,” he says. “I draw from what I know and feel.” He describes his music as “psych, blues, and then folk, always in that order. That’s the kind of music that I love to make.”

Since Kane is a solo act—most of the time—so he has complete control over the music he loves to make.
But that also means when he’s recording he has to play all the instruments and record them separately for each song.

He’s not shy about explaining why he doesn’t have a band behind him: “I love playing with other musicians, but I also love having creative control over my music and the more musicians you add the harder it is to keep that same style.”

Kane has an unconventional way of marketing his work. He releases all his songs online via Bandcamp and has yet to ask for money for them. “I just want people to listen to my music,” he says, adding, “if they want to make a donation that’s cool, but just listening to my songs is enough.”

His most recent EP, What If The Stars Are Satellites, was released online in January and beautifully complements his singing, song writing, and guitar playing abilities. The first track, “Be Here Now,” is insanely psychedelic and feels as if Kane is guiding you down the rabbit hole while The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane dance beside you.

His albums are an experience, and Kane suggest a way to get the most out of that experience: “Put some headphones on, smoke some weed and relax,” he smiles. “Listen front to back. Go for a ride.”

Pat Kane plays at The Nomad Bar, 905 N. Orange St. in Wilmington, every second Wednesday of the month. His music can be found at patkane.bandcamp.com.

Cinema Six-pack & a Shot: African Queens & Kings

As we celebrate A United Kingdom, let’s take a look back at a half-dozen films that feature a mélange of African royalty, real and imagined

Queen of Katwe (2016)
Queen in this title is clever wordplay referencing both the leading character, Phiona Mutesi (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga), and her chosen pursuit, chess. Directed by India-born Mira Nair, the movie is a satisfying drama about a young, poor Ugandan village girl’s aspirations to become a chess master. Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o is Phiona’s protective yet supportive mother, and David Oyelowo is her encouraging coach.


The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Forest Whitaker gives a no-holds-barred, Oscar-winning performance as Idi Amin, the flamboyant, mercurial dictator of Uganda in this drama by director Kevin McDonald (State of Play). James McAvoy portrays an impressionable Scottish surgeon who falls under the thrall of Amin’s charisma but then helplessly (and fearfully) witnesses the ruler’s descent into madness and danger. The stellar supporting cast also includes Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, and David Oyelowo.

When We Were Kings (1996)
The kings in this case are monarchs of the boxing ring Muhammed Ali and George Foreman. The Leon Gast documentary, which won an Oscar, explores the 1974 championship bout staged in Zaire by impresario Don King, who branded it “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Of course, boxing fans remember that Foreman was then the champion and Ali the underdog challenger seeking a comeback. It was this fight where Ali employed his “rope-a-dope” strategy to defeat Foreman. Incidentally, it took director Gast 20 years to complete the film.

The Lion King (1994)
Arguably the best animated movie in the modern Disney canon, The Lion King blends a winning score by Elton John and Tim Rice (“Circle of Life,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”) with stunning visuals depicting the African wilderness, and a terrific voice cast. The story of a young lion who must leave home to learn the meaning of true leadership is brought to vibrant vocal life by Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson and Jeremy Irons. Can you say (or rather sing) “Hakuna Matata”?

Coming to America (1988)
One of the few feature films to really capture the young Eddie Murphy’s winning juxtaposition of cockiness and innocence, this John Landis comedy tells the story of a young African prince Akeem and his unroyal adventures in New York City. Accompanied by his servant (played by Arsenio Hall), Akeem disguises himself as a lowly wage earner to find a wife who won’t pursue him only for his wealth and noble birth. Murphy and Hall both play numerous roles (in heavy make-up), joined by James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair and John Amos.

The African Queen (1951)
This Queen is a rickety riverboat piloted by scruffy rumpot Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart). When Charlie takes on a prim missionary, Rose (Katharine Hepburn), as a passenger, the stage is set for a thoroughly offbeat romance, made all the more delightful by its utter implausibility. Briskly and wryly directed by John Huston, this Technicolor fantasy is filled by wilderness adventure, arch dialogue, and a master class in screen acting from Hepburn and Bogart. This film was Bogart’s only Oscar win.

And a shot…appearing at Theatre N, the weekend of March 10:

My Life as a Zucchini (2016) Screening March 10-12
This poignant animated film follows Courgette (French for zucchini) as he experiences a new life at a French orphanage. Eventually, Courgette overcomes his own traumatic past to forge a new family with his fellow orphans and a kindly policeman who befriends him. The stop-motion style provides a buoyant, colorful complement to a story that doesn’t shy away from serious childhood themes: abandonment, disappointment and resilience. Nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award. For a full schedule and more information, go to theatren.com.

A United Kingdom, A Divided Reaction

Historical biopic, though clichéd, has emotional resonance

In the late 1940s, Prince Seretse of Bechuanaland (a British protectorate in southern Africa that later became the independent Botswana) scandalized both his homeland and its imperial overlord Britain by falling in love and marrying a white British woman, Ruth Williams. A United Kingdom is a new romantic drama based on this little-known moment of 20th century history and starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.

Although the story at its center is compelling, the impact of the film itself suffers because A United Kingdom plays out like virtually every other film you have seen about an unlikely romance in the midst of adversity. That poses an interesting question: Can a movie be based on a true story and still feel like a cliché? The answer, unfortunately, appears to be yes.

That is not to say that A United Kingdom is absent of any virtues. The performances of Oyelowo (Selma) and Pike (Gone Girl) are resonantly earnest; both actors are charismatic, even compelling in their roles. And, they are supported by a rich cast of British and African actors, including Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Vusi Kunene, Terry Pheto and Tom Felton.

As the story takes its characters from London to Bechuanaland and back again, the two contrasting settings are gloriously photographed by Sam McCurdy, capturing with equal beauty the grey-toned austerity of urban England with the yellow and ochre hues of rural Africa. The direction by Amma Asante (Belle) is assured if cautiously paced. Patrick Doyle’s score is appropriately sumptuous and expansive.

Even Guy Hibbert’s screenplay rings with occasional rousing speeches and taut dialogue. Nevertheless, the plotting of A United Kingdom checks off every box of the typical “fish out of water,” cross-cultural romantic drama: violent altercation with bigoted street toughs, check; tearful rejection by hard-hearted parent, check; unexpected hostility from the sisterhood, check; late-night questioning tete-a-tete between lovers, check, check and check. The fact that all of this is biographical doesn’t save it from being sadly predictable.

On the other hand, the geopolitical machinations that overlay this story are intriguing to watch. Because Seretse Khama was the presumptive ruler of a British protectorate, his controversial marriage became a flashpoint in Britain’s relationships with other African countries, most notably apartheid-era South Africa. It is also unique to see the conflict played out in on two continents and within two political realities.

Overall, A United Kingdom is a sturdy, well-made, and satisfying biopic, exploring a fascinating chapter of world history that blends the personal and political. One only wishes that the filmmakers had worked harder to tell this fresh story in a truly fresh manner.

Get Out of Your Seats

Wilmington’s Gozer released its second EP in February

Standing on the small stage of Home Grown Café in Newark in a tie-dyed t-shirt and strumming an unplugged bass guitar is Brian Bruce, known to most people as Octie, for some unexplained reason. He gives a thumbs up to a group of people standing around the bar, and three of them join him onstage.

To Bruce’s right is Erin Silva, to his left Kyle Stawicki, both on guitar. Behind him is Jillian Willis on drums. They all adjust their equipment, give a few sound checks, look around at the people in the restaurant, many of whom are friends, and smile. Together they form the Wilmington band Gozer.

“Hi, we’re Gozer and we’re sorry to anyone about to eat dinner because this is not going to be an enjoyable experience,” laughs Bruce to the crowd, adding, “also, we’re really not a band that enjoys playing to people that are sitting down, so if you could all come up here and fill in this area in front of us that’d be great.”

Heeding the warning, a few diners rise from their seats and walk out the door. Other guests comply with Bruce’s request, moving to the area in front of the stage as sharp chords from Silva and Stawicki blast through the amps, and the aggressive percussion work of Willis vibrates through the bar. Then Bruce’s deep, raspy voice roars through the microphone and the abrasive sound of the band becomes clear. You wouldn’t want to take your grandmother to dinner where Gozer is playing.

That was on Feb. 4, but the band started long before that. Gozer first took form in 2013 at a house show in Wilmington as part of the combined efforts of Willis and Bruce. It wasn’t until last year that Silva and Stawicki joined and helped form Gozer into the four-piece made-at-home machine it is today.

The band still enjoys playing house and garage shows, but not exclusively. Each member is quick to tell you that he or she likes to play bars if the vibe of the place meshes with their style of music. Their tunes are in-your-face, and it’s unlikely they’ll be asked to play on the dance-club-like stages of Deer Park or The Chesapeake Inn any time soon. Your best bet to catch a show would be to check in on their favorite venues, like Home Grown Café, 1984, or Oddity Bar in Wilmington.

“Home Grown is great because we know Joanna (James-Parks, bartender at Home Grown) and she hooks it up with the booking there and I work at Oddity so it’s easy for me to set up shows there,” says Bruce. “We like playing at places that we’ve formed friendships with; we’re loud and sweaty and most people who’re into that stuff really enjoy it.”

Gozer is a loud band, and each show is like being punched in the face and falling in love at the same time. Their sound is the bi-product of a group whose members play in multiple bands, including local groups Fiancé and Tracey Chapstick. Each member brings something different to the table, which helps to form a sound that Bruce describes as “garage or alternative rock,” and Willis jokingly calls “dream rock.”

With members that spend so much time with other bands, one would think the overlapping of sounds and ideas would be a problem, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“I feel like I write guitar parts for this band to mold to the songs that he (Bruce) writes,” says Stawicki. “He writes in certain keys and certain styles of progressions that I couldn’t do with my other projects.”
Says Bruce: “I play drums in all of my other bands. So, this is kind of like my song-writing project. It’s not much like anything else that I do.”

Gozer’s uniqueness seems to be paying off. In 2016 they released their first EP, Gozer, and just a year later they’re excited to release their second, Sick Of Waking Up, on an unconventional format—cassette tape.

“Yeah we’re releasing it on tape under our buddy Rick’s (Martel) label, Euth Group,” says Stawicki. “I feel like tape is more of a possession and it doesn’t come with the overhead of putting out a vinyl. It’s a bit cheaper and it’s something you can hold and have.”

It’s also on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, ITunes, and Pandora for those who want to show support but don’t own a cassette player.

Sick Of Waking Up has been a family project for the band. Each member put in his or her fair share of the work and they all have a huge amount of love for the five songs.

“I think they’re all good,” laughs Bruce.

“Yeah, they all have their own little special bit to me, ya’ know?” says Stawicki with a modest smirk.
Aside from their songs, unique sound and loud, sweaty shows, what is most enjoyable about the band is that the members simply love being Gozer. The good time they have on stage is contagious, and as Willis puts it, “I think we have a lot of fun when we play, and people like that.”

The new EP Sick Of Waking Up is available now. Check out the Gozer Facebook page to give it a listen and for the dates and times of upcoming shows.


5 Questions with Gad Elmaleh

The French comedian will perform at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Feb. 7

Chances are you haven’t heard of Gad Elmaleh. And he kind of likes it that way.

At least for now.

Imagine: a standup comedian who truly enjoys his anonymity; who’d rather you not know his background before you watch him perform; who’d rather you not know that in France he’s considered one of the funniest people alive.

“It’s refreshing,” says Elmaleh of his newly discovered privacy here in the United States. “To just stand somewhere and stare at people with nobody recognizing me, it’s great. Because I get to live the situation, and to experience it, and enjoy it.”

After more than two decades in comedy in France, and with several TV shows and 22 movies to his credit, Elmaleh took the biggest chance of his career: He moved to America.

Here is a guy known as “the French Jerry Seinfeld”; who broke records by selling out L’Olympia in Paris seven weeks in a row; who was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France’s Minister of Culture. And he’s essentially starting over at age 45.

“I worked very hard on the English,” Elmaleh says during a recent phone interview, his voice revealing not only a French accent, but an animated eagerness and, at times, a sober earnestness. “Two years ago, we couldn’t have had this conversation.”

A stranger in a strange land that keeps getting stranger with every passing day, Elmaleh is currently on tour and will be playing World Cafe Live at The Queen on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

“I want to do stand-up,” Elmaleh says. “And what you get from this experience—mentally, physically, emotionally, everything—it’s very hard to find this, and retrieve this, and get this with the cinema. It’s a ride, doing stand-up, a crazy ride [with] risk and pleasure and disappointment and fear and anxiety and reinvention and trying every night.

“Starting over is a big challenge.”

Here, he discusses his passion and why he did what he did—leaving great success behind in his homeland.

O&A: What has been the biggest obstacle for you in coming to America to do comedy, other than having to learn the language?

Elmaleh: I think the language is really not the main thing. Obviously, it’s very hard, and you have to write and translate. And talk in English every day with Americans. And watch TV and [understand] it.
But the really shocking, surprising thing [is playing comedy clubs] unannounced. They have no idea who’s going to be there. It’s just 100 percent Americans who have no idea: “Who is this guy with the weird name trying to do jokes in English?”

And the great thing is I feel I need to earn those laughs. It’s not only that I feel—I have to. Because if I’m not funny there…they’re not going to be nice to me or be like, “Oh, he’s traveling from France, let’s give him a break.” And I love that. It’s a good thing. But it’s also very hard. Because when you bomb, you bomb seriously. It’s humbling.

So when I perform in front of 12,000 [in France] and then I go to the Comedy Cellar in New York in front of 100 people who have no idea who I am, it’s a really, really big challenge. And I love it.

Elmaleh has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Photo Jon Asher
Elmaleh has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Photo Jon Asher

O&A: When you were on the Jim and Sam Show [featured 8-11 a.m. on Sirius 206 and XM 103], Jim Norton—who has 26 years of experience in comedy —was talking about how after a bad show he questions himself. And this is a veteran comedian questioning himself. Is it like that?

Elmaleh: You know, it’s both. Because I have this thing in the back of my head all the time that says you have nothing to lose. What’s the worst-case scenario? “Oh, that guy with the bad accent was not funny?” It’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It’s a little painful. But it’s not that bad.

Just go home, and I write and rewrite. And listen to my sets, because I record every single set. But I’m lucky that I already made my career in France and made my money and earned my life and had my kids and all that. If I had to struggle and make a living with the standup comedy in the U.S., starting over, I would die. It would be impossible for me.

O&A: There’s this comparison to Jerry Seinfeld. People have been calling you “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Does that work for you?

Elmaleh: I think it’s kind of lazy to compare people. But it’s good when they compare you to the right person, the person you admire. I do observational comedy…And [Seinfeld and I] have been connected even before we met. Then we became friends, and I went on his show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I open for him often. I travel with him. He comes to Paris sometimes, and performed in Paris in English one night, which I helped arrange.

I always say as a joke, and also to him, that they can compare me to Jerry Seinfeld the day that he performs an hour in French.

O&A: What was that day like, when you did Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Seinfeld? It looked like you had fun. Had you two met before that?

Elmaleh: Yeah, we were friends before. He was really interested in my challenge. He doesn’t understand why I need to come to America to do this. He always makes fun of me and says [in animated voice], “It’s like if you say, ‘OK, I’m going to go to Italy and start a pasta factory, and then I’m going to go to Germany and start building cars!”

And he’s making fun of me and he says, “You know it’s standup comedy. You’re from France. You should stay there.”

But I want him to understand… standup comedy was born in the U.S. If you play soccer you want to be with the best team. If you play baseball, you want to be in the city where baseball is No. 1. So I came to New York.

O&A: You were in the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris. You played the detective. And a theme in that movie was that people kept looking back in the past for a golden age. Everyone was looking back into the past. That said, when was the “Golden Age of Comedy” for you? Were there comedians that inspired you? Or would you say now is the best time for comedy?

Elmaleh: It’s funny, because I’ve been inspired as an artist not only by comedians. And it’s really interesting how you can be inspired by different role models that are not necessarily comedians.
The shock that I had when I saw Charlie Chaplin, when I was a kid. And the movie was The Kid. I was a little boy in Casablanca, Morocco. It was a shock. It was really an important moment for me.
Also, I don’t know why, but I also immediately thought of Frank Sinatra. I don’t know why. When I put on a song from Sinatra, it’s not only the music that I hear, I hear a whole time. A time, an epoch, a way of life.

There’s a whole atmosphere. There’s a whole environment. And if I could go back in time, I would really love to attend one of his concerts, and hang out with him, and [see] him hang out with the Rat Pack. There’s something really classic that I’m nostalgic about. Maybe I’m just getting old, but that’s what inspires me.


Cinema Six-Pack & A Shot

Six films that fool around with clocks and calendars

In celebration of the observance of Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, why not explore some cinematic time-traveling or time-twisting of your own? These movies will keep you preoccupied while we wait for spring.

Groundhog Day (1993)
This priceless romantic comedy is the perfect vehicle for the off-kilter persona of its star, Bill Murray. Murray plays Phil Connors, a jaded TV weatherman who gets mysteriously stuck in an ever-repeating day while covering the annual groundhog festivities in Punxsutawney, Pa. Phil (the guy, not the rodent) goes through a hilarious evolution of attitude and behavior toward the quaint townsfolk while also pursuing a liaison with his attractive but reserved producer (Andie McDowell).

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
You could almost characterize this military sci-fi thriller as Groundhog Day with warmongering aliens. Tom Cruise plays a glib public relations guy for the allied earth forces as they face a daunting off-planet enemy. He, too, gets stuck on the same repeating day as he tries to figure out how to be an actual soldier and perhaps even defeat this overwhelming alien force. Although Cruise is surprisingly effective in this role, the star of the film is a buff and battered Emily Blunt as our side’s genuine kick-ass hero.

About Time (2013)
From writer-director Richard Curtis, the feel-good tearjerker mind that brought us Love, Actually, comes this romantic dramedy. Domhnall Gleeson stars as a young man who discovers he has a genetic ability to travel in time, and he uses that skill to adjust some areas of his past that have been disappointments, specifically the lack of a girlfriend. But, in true movie fashion, time travel can have unintended consequences. Will all the mistakes get cleared up by the end credits? What do you think?

Midnight in Paris (2013)
Gil, a restless, nostalgic American writer (Owen Wilson), is discontented with the crass realities of modern life. While on vacation in Paris, he accidentally stumbles down a back street and into the city’s storied past. There, he meets such literary luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Scott Fitzgerald, and discovers, to his surprise, that his heroes are equally discontent with their era, which he has idealized. An amusing yet poignant critique of misplaced romanticism about eras gone by.

Back to the Future II (1989)
Although it lacks some of the genuine surprise of the first installment, this sequel is certainly more inventive in its mash-ups of 1985, 2015 and 1955. When the future changes the present, Marty must go back to the past again to try to fix things while avoiding running into his former time-traveling self (trust me, it works better than it sounds). The movie integrates the dual storylines in a clever fashion, especially when you consider that it is all done without the benefit of modern CGI technology.

Interstellar (2014)
Set in a plausibly dystopian future, astronauts on a barren, decimated Earth must travel through a wormhole to seek other planets capable of sustaining human life. The time-bending aspect of this dense sci-fi film doesn’t emerge until late, but it adds a metaphysical frisson to what could otherwise have been a rather straightforward space saga. Interstellar has a lot, maybe even too much, on its mind, but in the deft hands of director-co-writer Christopher Nolan, the movie is more thought-provoking than it is pretentious.

And a shot…coming to Theatre N in February.

Sing Street (2016) Screening Feb. 24-26
Conor, a sensitive, lovelorn teenager in 1980s Dublin, decides the best way to capture the attention and, better yet, the heart of a mysterious girl is to start a band. Writer-director John Carney has demonstrated an affinity for stories of aspiring musicians; his previous features include Begin Again and Once. In this outing, he has the immeasurable help of his appealing young lead, Ferdia Walso-Peelo, supported by Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy and a smashing ‘80s soundtrack featuring The Cure, Duran Duran, A-Ha and Spandau Ballet. For a full Theatre N schedule and more information, go to theatren.com.

All In the Timing

Davey Dickens Jr. picked up a guitar six years ago. Next month, his band releases its debut album.

It’s funny how much difference five years can make in a person’s life.

Take local country musician Davey Dickens Jr. for instance. It wasn’t until 2011, when Dickens was 32 years old, that he started playing guitar. Yet, just five years later, in March 2016, he found himself in one of Wilmington’s most esteemed recording studios, performing and recording his songs with some of the area’s most seasoned musicians—members of the then newly formed Davey Dickens Jr. and the Troubadours.

“I’d never stepped foot in a studio, ever,” Dickens says, his voice betraying amazement at where he is today: His band releases its debut self-titled album on Feb. 16 at World Cafe Live at The Queen.

The album features eight songs penned by Dickens and touches on life’s challenges as well as some of its joys. Montana Wildaxe co-founder and guitarist Kurt Houff encouraged the project early on.

“Kurt and I got to be pretty good buddies,” Dickens says. “He started coming up to the house, and we did a couple of song-writing sessions. [Then] we started playing out a lot as The Troubadours.”

The Troubadours came to include a former bandmate of Dickens, Dave Van Allen, on pedal steel, along with Houff’s fellow Montana Wildaxe bassist Tony Cappella and former Caulfields drummer Ritchie Rubini, who did double-duty as producer during the band’s sessions at Studio 825 last year.
“I’m so blessed to have such a force,” says Dickens.

For Dickens, those blessings included attracting the interest of Johnny Neel, famed keyboardist most known for his time with The Allman Brothers. After getting a copy of Dickens’ material, the Wilmington-born Neel agreed to return to his native state to play on the album.

While Dickens is somewhat amazed at the band’s success, he isn’t resting on his laurels. “We’ve got a lot more material,” he says.

Davey Dickens Jr. and the Troubadours play Upstairs at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Feb. 16. Advance tickets are $10 and include a copy of the new album plus a band t-shirt. More details at worldcafelive.com.

Tuned In

Not-to-be-missed music news

Classical Guitar Performance by Duo 220 Set for Feb. 25

Hailed for their technique and musicianship, classical guitarists Adam Larison and Andrew Stroud of Duo 220 have established a firm position in a newly emerging generation of guitar ensembles.

The Wilmington Classical Guitar Society is hosting a performance by the duo at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant (503 Duncan Rd., Wilmington) on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m.

Duo 220 strives to create programs that are new, fresh and accessible through a mixture of both standards and lesser-known works in the guitar duo. Admission is $10 for students, seniors and WCGS members and $15 for general admission, available at the door or online at wilmingtonguitar.org.

Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles

Join an intimate evening performance with Cory Henry and his band, The Funk Apostles, on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Clifford Brown Performance Center. Henry is a 29-year-old Brooklyn-born songwriter, organist, pianist and music producer well-versed in jazz, gospel and funk. He has toured with Bruce Springsteen, Michael McDonald, P. Diddy, Boyz II Men, Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin and has released two albums, First Steps (2014) and The Revival (2016).

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert begins promptly at 7:30. Early bird tickets are $20 through Feb. 5 and $30 after. Tickets are available at ccacde.org.

The Arts at Trinity

On Saturday, Feb. 18, at Trinity Episcopal Church (1108 N. Adams St., Wilmington), The Arts at Trinity presents a performance by the Mid-Atlantic Chamber Music Society as part of its 2016-2017 music series. Admission is free. Donations are accepted. The performance is at 7:30 p.m.

Open Mic Night

The Music School of Delaware hosts a bi-monthly open mic night on the second Thursday of every other month, beginning in February. On Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wilmington branch – 4104 Washington St.—the event will include professional-grade equipment for artists: drum set, grand piano, electric piano/synth, guitar/bass amplification available upon request, microphones, PA system and monitors. A complimentary recording of the performance is available to all participants as well as an after party. The event is free.

Thrones in the Round in Philly

The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is coming to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sunday, Feb. 26. It will mark the first time an orchestral concert like this will be performed in the round.
The performance is expected to be massive in terms of sound, size, and visuals, sure to mirror the Emmy-winning show’s stature. Innovative music tour production and video technology will take the audience through the seven kingdoms of the Game of Thrones universe.

The Travel Songs Foundation

Delaware band and creative organization Travel Songs recently established a nonprofit, The Travel Songs Foundation, and launched its first project: preserving instrument-making in Peru’s Andean region.

In 2013, the band—now foundation—broadened perspectives with a successful Kickstarter campaign that funded the group’s first award-winning documentary, Travel Songs: Peru.

Now, the Travel Songs Foundation takes things a step further, and is chartered under the Delaware Community Foundation with the mission to connect cultures through music. Funded by grants and tax-deductible donations from its supporters, the foundation fulfills its mission by producing documentaries and other multimedia about music and culture from around the world. Paired with each film project, the foundation identifies a critical need in a host country’s local music or culture and launches a charitable initiative.

The first initiative for the foundation launched mid-January in Cusco, Peru, and is called The Sabino Luthier School. While filming in Cusco in 2013, the team met and interviewed a Peruvian instrument maker named Sabino Huaman, who expressed a fear that his trade, which had been passed from generation to generation within his family for more than 100 years, would soon disappear.

In launching The Sabino Luthier School, the foundation hopes to help preserve this local art. By the end of this year-long intensive training course, students at the school will possess the general skills to be able to construct traditional Andean instruments, and will have the training to pursue building or repairing string instruments as a profession.

The project covers full day courses every Saturday in 2017, all travel and lodging for the students, a course instructor wage for Huaman, as well as the cost of all tools and materials. The Travel Songs Foundation will also provide equipment and training to a local videographer (Huaman’s son) to document the students’ progress throughout the year.

For updates, visit travelsongs.org.

melomanie-group-2015Mélomanie February Series

Mélomanie will present provocative pairings of early and contemporary works in innovative chamber music on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 4 p.m. at CAMP Rehoboth (37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach) and on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. at The Delaware Contemporary (200 S. Madison St., Wilmington). Parking is free onsite and a reception follows the performance. These concerts feature the premier of “Just a Regular Child” by Delaware composer David Schelat and collaborations with two guest artists, violinist Daniela Pierson and cellist Todd Thiel. The repertoire also includes works by Couperin, Guignon, Bartók and Corelli.

General tickets are $25, and $15 for students ages 16 and older. For children through age 15 admission is free.

Purchase tickets online at melomanie.org, at the door, or at 764-6338.

Another All-Star Extravaganza

The Shine A Light concert series continues March 4, with a spotlight on 1977. The fundraiser once again features scores of the area’s top musicians.

67 musicians representing 83 bands
1,240 rehearsal hours
126 volunteers
38 songs
Countless creative collaborations

And that was last year.

The Shine A Light On The Queen concert series has been a hit with the public from the outset, and this year’s event, The Shine A Light on ’77, promises to exceed those numbers on its way to another sell-out and another lucrative fundraiser for the Light Up The Queen Foundation.

Set for 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington, the concert will once again bring together an all-star musical lineup of scores of the most popular and revered singers and musicians in the Wilmington area. They’ll be celebrating the music of 1977, when punk and disco were bursting into full flower, signaling a new wave in pop music.

One change fans will note this year is the March date. In previous years, the concerts took place in February, when the chance of inclement weather was a greater variable. In 2015, a stifling blizzard hit the area on the day of the show, rendering many roads impassable.

Yet, says bassist Betty Bullington, “It was a full house. You never would have known the weather was so bad outside.”

For its first three years, the series was a musical tribute to The Rolling Stones. Two years ago, organizers switched gears and decided to fete the music of 1975. It was a 40th anniversary retrospective on what concert co-producer and performer Rob Grant describes as “a time when some of the best music was being made.”

“Besides, we ran out of Rolling Stones songs and, let’s face it, the ‘70s were cool,” he says.
“It [will be] a really big mix of funk, folk, disco, good old country and badass rock and roll,” says Shine A Light performer Davey Dickens Jr. about this year’s show. “There was a lot of stuff going on in 1977—and the 1970s as a whole—musically.”

A Worthy Cause

Grant, who sits on the of the Shine A Light Planning Committee, also performs at the event. He says it gives him and other musicians “an opportunity to play some great music with really talented musicians and performers while also knowing we are helping a worthy cause.”
“The Light Up The Queen Foundation began in 2011 with a single arts education program and has developed and diversified over the years,” says Tina Betz, the Light Up The Queen Foundation executive director.

“The concert is by far the biggest fundraiser for the Foundation, pulling in approximately a half million dollars in its six-year run. The money raised has benefitted over 10,000 young people through musical arts programs,” she adds.

The foundation also provides education on social issues and healthy living, along with education through music and art.

“The concert for the Light Up The Queen Foundation is a truly worthwhile event in a city constantly struggling with their arts programs,” says Joe Trainor, who is seen by many as a leader in the area’s music and theater scene. Trainor has organized many tribute concerts for bands such as The Eagles, Queen and Genesis, outside of his own extensive oeuvre of original work. When asked for one word to describe the event, he didn’t hesitate: “Community.”

“This event brings people together and provides an opportunity to play with others you don’t normally get to play with,” he says, adding that this spirit of community forces everyone to “up their game.”
Trainor enjoys the wider palate the tribute to an entire year offers versus celebrating a single band’s repertoire, because the gamut of music is both a challenge and a change of pace. Other musicians share that view.

“There are no songs we wouldn’t want to play [on the playlist],” according to Tony Cappella, the troubadour bassist from Montana Wildaxe, who also performs with approximately a dozen other bands. “If anything, it gives us a chance as musicians to step out of our comfort zones. We love new challenges and styles.”

Cappella’s own musical career began a few years before 1977. “There is a really good chance I might be playing on a song I haven’t played on in 40 years,” he laughs.

For the performers, the journey to the night of the show rivals the actual show.

Performers jamming at last year’s concert. Photo Joe del Tufo
Performers jamming at last year’s concert. Photo Joe del Tufo

“In a way, the show itself is a bit anti-climactic for the musicians,” says Lew Indellini, lead singer of Special Delivery. “Don’t get me wrong, we love performing for this event, but the meetings, discovering the playlist, the rehearsals and collaborating with some of the most accomplished musicians in the area is one of the best parts of this event for us.”

No Egos

“It’s great to have helped invent something all the performers look forward to,” says Shine A Light Committee member and event co-founder Kevin McCabe, “especially since I’ve looked up to many of these musicians for such a long time.”

Despite the high level of musical accomplishment of the individual performers, “there is no ego” involved, according to McCabe, who also performs. “Everyone has a lot of respect for one another.”

Last year’s show ran much longer than the intended three hours. At the first musicians’ meeting for this year’s show, Grant emphasized quicker change-overs between songs. Singer Dan McGowan and guitarist Mike Petrillo discussed additional production value.

“We believe adding more production value will enhance the experience for the audience,” says Petrillo.
The meeting also was an opportunity for “rookie” musicians—most of them younger—to meet the rest of the members.

“I couldn’t believe how passionate everyone is,” says Samantha Poole, who will be performing at her first Shine A Light event.

“The gig itself is one thing, but the relationships you develop are very special,” she says. “My father used to play in The Sky Band with Nick Bucci when I was 10 years old. I’ve performed onstage with Nick since then, but it will be amazing if I get to perform with him at this year’s event.”

Poole’s father will be in attendance, making it extra special for her.

Newcomer Pat Kane, the wunderkind 20-something guitarist, may be the youngest performer at this year’s event. He will share the stage with some of the “silverbacks”—the musicians who are his grandparents’ age.

“It would be great to continue to add more young musicians and singers each year,” says Poole, to continue what has quickly become a tradition and centerpiece event of the local music landscape.
The Light Up The Queen Foundation “helps feed and cultivate the local arts,” says Betz, “by bringing music to young people who may, one day, be up on that stage themselves performing in a Shine A Light event.”

Tickets are available at the World Cafe Live website, WorldCafeLive.com. General admission is $60 and a limited number of VIP tickets are available for $250. Kathleen Ford, the Shine A Light Committee chair, says a portion of the price of the tickets is tax deductible. “But,” she adds, “don’t hesitate, because they are going quickly.”