Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kalob Griffin Band - Getting Rowdy at Cambridge for Cover Club

Kalob Griffin Band celebrating their Cover Club session at Cambridge Sound Stuidos

The bands of Cover Club have done a great job of bringing out the best Philadelphia has to offer varying from contemporaries such as Strand Of Oaks, The Districts, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, mewithoutYou, the Lawsuits, Cruisr, and Chris Kasper. The classics have been deep with Hall & Oates, Ween, Nina Simone, Boyz II Men, The Dead Milkmen, Joan Jett, all the way to Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.

No matter which end of the contemporary/classic spectrum bands choose from, there's always an "oh yeah, I can't believe he/she/they hasn't/haven't been covered yet. Oft overlooked, Jim Croce is an indisputable favorite no matter where you're from, and fits perfectly for Cover Club as he was born and raised in South Philadelphia and laid to rest nearby after spending most of his 30 years on the planet here.
With a bit of unintended irony, Kalob Griffin Band, who recently announced their break-up, picked one of Jim Croce's last singles before his untimely death. "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" is a perfect romp for the boisterous and rowdy Kalob Griffin Band. KGB brought some friends in to play horns giving the band quite the lively rendition!

Cover Club | Kalob Griffin Band "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" (Jim Croce)

It's funny how things go sometimes. Just a few weeks ago, Kalob Griffin was explaining how the band members stopped living together, so it wouldn't stop being as much fun when they were together as a band. It's hard to imagine things not being fun for these long time friends. Dating back to their days at Penn State University, before their tenure together in Kalob Griffin Band, they were friends first before opportunity brought the current lineup together.

For one last session, the brothers of KGB showed just how much fun they could have! Complete with harmonica and horns, Kalob Griffin Band gave the full treatment to Full Love Vol 1. EP single "Bugle Boy Tobacco." Kalob started off the song by asking drummer Eric Lawry to "give me some Dom" (paying homage to great local drummer Dom Billet (Toy Soldiers, Coin Purse, etc)), before Kalob, John Hildenbrand, Eric, Kevin Trout and the horns took us back to the life changing experience of a sixteen year old.

CoverClub | Kalob Griffin Band "Bugle Boy Tobacco"

Times Runnin' Out to see KGB Live...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Philadelphia Folk Fest For Life - 10 Questions with Folk Fest Lifers

Philadelphia Folk Festival is an enigma. It's actually far away from Philadelphia at Old Poole's Farm in remote Schwenksville, PA. Once you arrive and park, and either walk or shuttle in you pass a sea of cars and a tent city. There are stages off in the woods, there's a whole other world off in the distance in this magical tent city. What is going on? For this blogger who has experienced only about 8 or so sets total at the fest in the last few years, it is a nut that must be cracked. What exactly goes on at this fest? All the local musicians seem to be buzzing about it every summer year.

It was suggested that the only way to get to understand the fest is to ask those who experience it every year. And by every year, we don't mean in the last few years since an adult moved to town. We mean, from people who in some cases, have been going ALL of their life.

With the help of Philadelphia Folksong Society, Root Down In The Shadow invited some "lifers" to share their experiences for us newbies. So, please join in as the lifers walk us through a quick Q&A style guide to folk-fest.

First let's introduce our panel:
Rob Bralow: Co-Chairman of the Merchandise Committe for Philadelphia Folk Fest
Reverend TJ McGlinchey :  Lovers League, A Fistful of Sugar, & Reverend TJ McGlinchey
Kiley Ryan : Chris Kasper, Foxhound, Hezekiah Jones, and more!
Ian Zolitor : Host of WXPN's Folk Show
Lisa Schaffer : Lisa Schaffer Photography

Photo by Lisa Schaffer

Who brought you to your first Philadelphia Folk Festival? How old, who played, etc?

Rob - My parents! Both of my parents volunteered at the Philly Folk Fest, starting in 1978, and brought me 5 months after I was born in 1983. I haven't missed a fest, making this my 33rd festival, even though I am 32. I have no idea who played, but I have been told that as a baby I was passed around by many of the performers backstage.

Rev TJ - My parents have been bringing me since 1983. I was two years old. I only remember waking people up as a toddler because I wanted pancakes. I would climb out of my parents tent and go wake up their friend Marie Dolton to make me breakfast. Back then they all stayed in tent camping, they set up their tents around an old parachute.

Kiley - In 1987, I was one month old for my first Fest (thanks, mama & pops!). My folks actually met there in 1976 when my mom was 15 and my dad was 18. They raised me and my two older sisters there. So much of my "Fest family" has become even closer than most of my blood relatives. I think that's a beautiful thing. So this will be my 29th consecutive Fest, even though I'm 28.

Ian - My first Folk Fest would have been in 1985, about six and a half months after I was born. I was brought by my parents with my two year old brother. Unfortunately I cannot recall first hand who played that year. But a couple years back my dad gave my brother and I the Folk Fest posters from the years we were born. It hangs prominently in my living room.

Lisa: My first Folk Fest was in 1996. I was 20. I was house sitting for a friend/co worker who was a volunteer for Folk Fest, and he brought me up for the day. I got a golf cart ride through camping. I didn't know anyone other than my friend, and made sure that was the last year that I only went up for the day. I haven't missed a year since.

2. Did you camp your first year?

Rob - No, my parents camped at a nearby hotel when I was born. The first year I camped was when I was 11, I stayed with a family that had a boy my age. We stayed in the same tent and enjoyed the sounds of the festival around us.

Rev TJ - Yes. We’ve alway camped. Later my parents, their site is called Fortissimo, and their friends would move to heavy camping and after I turned 16 we were allowed to have our own tent campsite. One year, I think it was around 2002, I wandered out of the small campsite that my brother Dan and our friends had built and found a crowd a little further down the hill to hang out with just randomly it seemed. I made some friends and next year began camping with The Old Crow’s Nest who set up next to a site called The Flying Fish. As the years went on we all conglomerated, and even added a Flid to the mix, to create the site FishProcCrow.

Kiley - By all ways & means, I've camped every year. That includes a pop-up trailer (my earliest memories), a cool, smelly old 70's Shasta RV, various tents, and falling asleep in the wee hours in a chair with a guitar or a yellow inflatable raft around the campfire.

Ian - I did camp my first year. My parents were part of “The Patchwork People” campsite. The Patchwork People have become a family to me and I still see many of them throughout the year.

In high school it was time for me and some close friends to flap our wings and fly to our own new site. When I was 17 in 2002, seven or eight of us started “The Pig Folkers” campsite. Over the years it has grown and changed. It is where I continue to camp to this day

Lisa: I have camped from 1997- even through 2 pregnancies I have never stopped.

3. What is the camp like? With out a camp pass you can't enter, but you have to trust that it’s the way to go.

Rob - It's a little like a carnival with lights and sounds and people doing tricks and playing music. It's a little like the biggest family back-yard BBQ you've ever seen, with thousands of people who smile at you and want to hug you and ask how your year was and catch up like no time passed in between. And it's a little like a fair on the Ben Franklin parkway, with each campsite a booth to step up to and see what the game is and have someone hand you a hotdog off their grill. There are places to go at night where it is quiet and you can see the stars and listen to the excitement from afar. There are places where the music never stops and neither does the dancing.

Rev TJ - It’s a tent city, and uptown is all RV and trailers. Some sites build elaborate structures to live under and there’s no shortage of creative campsite names. People are friendly and it seems there is always someone playing a guitar or a banjo no more than ten steps away at any time. Walking around the campsite is one of my favorite night-time activities. There are games and light shows and giant jam sessions. I see people at fest, and particularly in the campsite, that I only see once a year and it’s because even though we may live far away we all come back to the same place to share a magical experience that doesn’t happen quite the same way anywhere else in the world.

Kiley - No matter if you're a nature-lover or hotel junkie, camping at Fest is an experience not to miss. The after hours campground is much less about sleeping conditions and so much more about the camaraderie, campfire jam-wandering, colorful & crazy people-watching, exploring the never-ending and always-entertaining campsites.

It's dressed up in the swank & soul of a bourbon street stroll, with some  hillbilly heart, & down-to-earth trippin' & back-porch pickin'.
The main stage musical line-ups and the late night campground are equal in my book. One just wouldn't be the same without the other.

Ian - If you like music, fun, great people, and parties, then the campground may be for you. If not, you may be in the wrong place. The campground can be a traditional folk circle to an all out rave and absolutely everything in between. The strangest thing about camping at fest is getting acclimated to the pace of it all. You may want to stay up until sunrise because it’s so much fun, but you may be baked out of your tent by the hot August sun by mid-morning.

Lisa: Camping is a whole experience in itself. There are folks that never make it into the concert area. They come to fest for the camping.

4. Rumors are there is just as lively music in the camp as there is outside. How do these start? And how does the “schedule” travel? Is there any campground music etiquette?

Rob - There is a strange combination of traveling minstrels and stationary music makers. There are campsites that always have music going. The Philadelphia Jug Band plays for hours every night. At a crossroad in the campgrounds musicians gather, as if by a kind of magnetism and start playing. I think there is less of a schedule and more of the experienced campers bringing the newest members with them, saying "hey, I know where the music is going to be" and then finding it. The finding is just as much fun as the playing. In terms of etiquette, there seems to be an understanding as to when the playing should move on. Everyone wants to be respectful of others, and everyone wants to include the entire campgrounds in the fun they are having at the same time.

Rev TJ - Hmm, let’s see, give a crowd of people who are, by rough estimate, ⅔ musicians a field to hang out in and see what happens? There are some sites who are known for their jam sessions; Philadelphia Jug Band, The Azzoles, The Roost. A jam can happen anywhere at anytime. Two people who hardly know each other pass on the road and pluck a tune at one another, next thing you know they are new friends and playing songs in the middle of the road for two hours! There is a formal ban on hand drums, though that seems to be ignored some nights when drum circles spring up on the crossroads. Security usually just politely asks them to keep moving around instead of plating themselves in one place for the whole night. Etiquette-wise I think the only rule is to be respectful and kind to one another.

Kiley - As for camp jams, most everything and anything goes. Grab an instrument and wander from one site to the next with open ears & and an open heart. You'll hear everything from John Prine, Bob, Neil, and the Dead to sunrise gospel hour atop the infamous Green Bus (my ma's favorite musical memory), to 8am renditions of your favorite commercial & tv theme songs. Ha.
As for etiquette, I do believe "Wagon Wheel" got the boot in the past years for foul overplay. But no hard feelings. 
Lastly, no "Jam Jacking." This happens when a too-zealous or maybe pompous passer-by gradually takes over the easy-going jam with too much seriousness or ego. Our great friend "Bandleader Bob" once made & staked a sign that read, 'No Jam-Jackers!' Serious as this might sound, it's really become a lighthearted & entertaining joke over the years more than anything.
The sing-a-long crowd that gathers around is half the fun too!

Lisa: Camping music never ends. It starts small and intimate within the camp sites, and once the sun goes down the musicians go on walkabouts and join others in collaborating. At every turn there is a musical jam, drum circle, quiet campfire musical bonding, teachers, students, etc.

5. Do any of the festival performers emerge in the camp?

Rob - I have seen a few. Leif from Tempest in years past, for sure. There are many artists that are local who have been working with the Philadelphia Folksong Society (PFS) for years that I am sure camp in the campgrounds. Rev TJ is an artist who performs at the Philly Folk Fest and I believe has performed at other PFS events. He definitely has been camping at Fest for forever.

Photo by Lisa Schaffer
Rev TJ - Absolutely. I know that Todd Rundgren was hanging at The Roost the year that he played. The guys from the Decemberists were in the campground hanging out after they played. John Flynn has performed many times and is always around the campgrounds. My band Lovers League and Mason Porter always camp together at FishProcCrow.

Kiley - Yup, it's always great to run into adventurous performers in the campground. A few years ago, The Decembrists found our site, The Roost, and stayed & played for a while. The more the merrier!

Lisa: I was there for The Decemberists at The Roost. It was an amazing surprise. The Philly local scene being added to the stages of fest started because of camp ground jams. Get the Led Out played Thurs. night a few years ago, they camp with The Fish.

6. Does the camping last longer than the fest?

Rob - Only marginally. The campgrounds are open until Monday morning, the day after the festival. Then everyone has to clear out.

Rev TJ - Only in that people are still in the campgrounds Monday morning packing up and getting ready to go home. Most people are gone Sunday night. Our campsite takes a while to disassemble to we all help out On Monday morning to clean up the field and make sure everyone gets home safely.

Kiley - Yes, the camping at least starts earlier than the festival, and usually lingers around until Monday morning. I really enjoy the dwindled-down, sleepy Sunday night hang.

Lisa: Usually for the volunteers that have shifts after fest ends.

7. Tell us about the magic of the Thursday night Campers/Volunteers only event

Sturgill Simpson - Thurs '14 - Root Down In The Shadow

Rob - It's a great concert. I've been introduced to artists like Jake Shimabukuro at that event. We hand out glow sticks to the children to run around with and the entire campground empties into the small field where the camp stage sits. It really is the kick-off of the festival. Music, dancing, laughing... Magic is the right word for it. And then, when the official concert has ended for the night, the music breaks up into thousands of tiny pieces and spreads through the campgrounds.

Tall Heights - Thurs '15 - Photo by Lindsey Borgman
Rev TJ - It’s a special concert just for the campground and it’s amazing. David Dye brings in some amazing talent for that show. It’s nice because everyone is just getting settled and starting to get into the swing of things. People aren’t tired yet from all the goings-on of the weekend concerts. It’s just a really nice treat for the campers.

Lisa: I do not usually get to this stage in time, as I have to work Thursday night. My fun starts Friday morning.

Lindi Ortega - Thurs '15 - Photo by Lindsey Borgman

8. All-time favorite Philaelphia Folk Festival moment?

Rob - Probably the hardest thing to explain about the Philadelphia Folk Fest campgrounds and Folk Fest in general is that it is home. Stepping onto the grounds of the festival is for me like walking in your front door and having your dog run up to you and lick your face, your kids run into your arms laughing and smiling, and your partner kissing you for the first time after a long day, all at once. There are people who I grew up with, but only saw once a year at this festival. Once I became old enough to live on my own, these people became my extended family. They are my closest friends, the people I would do anything for. All that being said, my favorite moment is probably one of the simplest. I remember being at a night concert, I was probably seven or eight years old, and sitting there listening to Christine Lavin. I was sitting on my father's lap, my mother was holding my younger brother, and we were all laughing.

Rev TJ - For me, it was playing the Main Stage on Friday afternoon of the festival in 2012. I had just put out my first CD that January and joined the Philly Musician’s Co-op to try and get some exposure and support. I played a contest show to compete for a spot to play at the festival and I won the opportunity to play on Main Stage! It was surreal and amazing to be standing front and center on that stage with a 12 piece band behind me ready to play songs that I had written to a crowd of people that I’ve known my whole life. In the audience that day were my parents and all their friends who attend the fest, my brothers and my sister, my niece, my future fiancee, everyone from my campsite, and tons of friends that I have made over the years, not mention the thousand or so people just milling around the concert area. It was fantastic.

Kiley - These memories are hard to narrow down. Recently, one of my most favorite moments was playing on the main stage with my dear friend & musical partner in crime, Chris Kasper. I looked down in the front row and saw my parents and their friends holding each other, crying and swaying to the music. That was a pretty magical moment. Less for me, and more so thinking about them. It felt like it all came full circle. While neither of my parents play, they raised me around the festivals, campfires jams, and music my entire life, and always supported it whole-heartedly, through thick & thin. They instilled that love for music in me from the very start. I'll be forever grateful for that.
A main reason, aside from the music, that Fest will always hold a sacred place in my heart, is the memorials that have taken place there. Nine years ago, we played Ripple beneath the Green Bus for my oldest sister, Leah. It was a place of sorrow and healing, powerful & uplifting love from friends old & new like I've never known. Last year was a similar sight, but for my beloved friend, Bobby Dango, and our beautiful musician brother, Dante Bucci.

Lisa: They are all great moments. Seriously! Probably the moment I walk into the camp ground on Thursday night. It feels like home.

9. All-time favorite Philadelphia Folk Fest musician/band?

Rob - This is always the worst question for me, because I really enjoy discovering new music. Last year Ten Strings and a Goat Skin really caught me. But if I were to say all-time, it would probably have been Ani Difranco, simply because of the revelry of people that she brought in to see her play. That night I think I watched the crowd more than I listened to the music.

Rev TJ - Big question. Let’s see. Richie Havens playing ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’ was pretty great. I’ve seen Arlo Guthrie who knows how many times, as well as Pete Seeger. Seeing Taj Mahal is always fun. For me it’s the most fun to see my friends up there doing their thing. I think the first of my friends to play the fest was Hezekiah Jones or the Wissahickon Chicken Shack. After that I’ve seen plenty of friends on the bill including Dante Bucci, Dani Mari, Griz, Chris Kasper, Amos Lee, No Good Sister, US Rails, and just a ton of others I can’t recall at the moment. And as always it’s an honor to perform. I’ve played the past three years. In 2012 as Rev TJ McGlinchey, in 2013 with Dani Mari and with my band again, in 2014 with A Fistful of Sugar, and in 2015 with Lovers League. This will also be the 3rd year of my ukulele workshops.

Kiley - Levon Helm and his band a few years back. Speechless even still just thinking about it.
Last year, Loudon Wainwright III. Both of these performances brought on tears.
Two years ago, Dante Bucci took out his musical saw during the day by our campsite. Usually I'd think of the saw as being a quirky, fun instrument, but not in the hands of Dante. He played 'Over the Rainbow' and silenced the group. It was so gentle, effortless and gorgeous that it made us well-up. I'll never forget that moment. Only to be followed with a flawless rendition of "Tequilla!"

Lisa: Such a hard question. Maybe Moxy Fruvous. Maybe The Wood Brothers, Maybe Old Crow Medicine Show, Maybe Get The Lead Out, Maybe seeing my friends on stage every year. Maybe Get The Lead Out, all of the above.

10. Who are you looking forward to this year for Philadelphia Folk Fest ‘15

Rob - I have no idea. Really, except for the headliners, I haven't really looked into the music, I've been too busy. Usually I try and at least listen to a bunch on some of the streaming services before I get to the festival, but this year my wife and I had a baby, our first. Andrew, named after my father who volunteered and was at one time President of the Philadelphia Folksong Society, will be coming to his first Fest this year. The three of us are going to be camping and the entire family, including grandparents, will be at this year's fest to enjoy the music and the newest addition to the family.

Rev TJ - It’s always a treat to see Arlo play. I’m also excited to see Shakey Graves. Lyle Lovett should be great, too. And Hoots and Hellmouth.

Kiley - It'll be a long-winded special treat to watch Arlo sing "Alice's Restaurant." I think I'll be craving cranberry sauce & stuffing, though, thanks to XPN's Thanksgiving Day tradition!

Lisa: I never research the bands playing nor look at the line up until I get the program. I get excited to see new music at Fest. They really do a great job at booking the very best musicians you may or may not have ever heard of.

For the full schedule click here

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Getting to know Lou during the Key Session / Cover Club Session Collaboration

Cover Club started as one of those "let's see where this goes" types of projects. We started with a friend's studio in Newtown, Pa with Break Neck Studios to showcase some favorite bands. While the goal of the project has always been to share the Philly music that we love so much, it has been a great opportunity to share our affinity for our favorite studios and sessions. We've worked with Nomad Recording Studios, Kettle Pot Tracks, and Cambridge Sound Studios; while making stops in Fairmount Park, the Sluice Box, MilkBoy, Church of Kong, and more! We'd be terribly amiss if we didn't take the opportunity to work with John Vettese of WXPN's The Key for a chance to collaborate for a Key Session - Cover Club edition!

Slight problem though, John is such an avid supporter of the Philly local scene, it's tough to find someone he hasn't already worked with. On top of that, how do you pick from the list of people he's on deck to work with next?

When Lou came up on the list, they were an obvious choice as someone people need to hear, and a band that would be quite intriguing to see who and how they'd cover!

According to Tess Emma of Lou, “We chose Chamber Choir because Pine Barons is easily my favorite local band right now, and how can you not love that song? Also, they are all super nice dudes who deserve everything they're accomplishing. It was a fun song to cover, they write some gnarly tunes for sure. "

Cover Club | Lou "Chamber Choir" (Pine Barons)

WXPN's Key Sessions have been a great way to get to know current bands for quite a few years now in Philadelphia. One band we've really wanted to get to know more about for some time now has been Lou. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Lou was a featured performer on the Tri State Indie awards showcase this spring. When we had the chance to connect with John Vettese for a Key Session / Cover Club collaboration, we took advantage of the opportunity to get to know Lou. After they recorded their cover of Pine Barons "Chamber Choir" to start off their set, they got down to business with some of their own tunes!

While the Key Session is a few tracks, each Cover Club session features one original track to go with their cover. For Lou, they chose to showcase new track "Grains." Tess Emma explained, "We chose Grains because it was the first song that we wrote together that we felt really showcased what we were going for dynamic wise. Originally we had been using a lot of Tess Emma songs and putting a twist on them. But, when we started writing new material we became somewhat lost about the direction we were going with. I wrote "Grains" and brought it to practice and we all just clicked on it and turned it into something we all really loved.

Cover Club | Lou "Grains"

The session was recorded in late June by at John Vettese with Rachel Del Sordo and Drea Rose at WXPN‘s World Cafe Live Studios. Video done completely by Bob Sweeney from camera work to edits.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pine Barons Punk Out At Cambridge Sound Studios for #CoverClub

This week for CoverClub we get to be extra excited. This week, Pine Barons are playing our favorite festival: XPoNential Festival and they have a great cover for us to share!

Cover Club | Pine Barons "January 1979" (mewithoutYou)

Now based in Philly, these New Jersey exports weaned on mewithoutYou in high school. It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright was out at the time, but it was Catch for Us the Foxes that the fellas gravitated to. For Pine Barons they all agreed "it's different from our band and so fun to play. It encompasses being a high school student and wanting to yell. Plus a song we can all agree on"

During their #CoverClub session, when they recorded the amazing cover of mewithoutYou's "January 1979" they also treated us to a studio version of "Clowns."  Expected to be part of a full length album, being recorded in Head Room Studios in Spring of '16, this session version got the full treatment at Cambridge Sound Studios.

Cover Club | Pine Barons "Clowns"

Check out & Download all of the Season 3 tracks so far!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Haunted: Haunt the House play the Root Down In The Shadow HQ House Show

For those of you that didn't see the invitation to the Root Down In The Shadow HQ House Show with Haunt the House, Dan Blakeslee, and Kettle Pot Black: Sorry, watch the video below to see what you missed.

For those of you that did see the invitation, but chose not to come.  You might not want to watch this video... And I told you so.

Haunt the House, "Vampyre" live from RDitS House Show 7/13/15 from Michael Batchelor on Vimeo.

Check out more tunes by the band here and keep an eye out for more tour dates. Meanwhile, they're playing Newport Folk Festival on Friday!!