On Saturday evening, The Badlees performed on the “back porch” stage during the Briggs Farm Blues Festival. While many wondered prior to the show how the long time Pennsylvania pop/rock group would go over at this Blues festival, the band left little doubt that they belonged (and should have been on the main stage). Playing as a four-piece fronted by guitarist and chief songwriter Bret Alexander, the Badlees crafted some totally new arrangements of a balanced mixture of originals and covers.
They opened their set with the new song “Vigilante for the Golden Rule”, which will be included on their upcoming double album due to be released in October. This song struck a chord immediately due to its sharp descending riff rock in between the upbeat and catchy, blues verses. The group followed this up with a totally new arrangement of “Memphis Restroom” from Bret Alexander’s 2004 solo album Gentleman East. Especially impressive during this segment was bassist Paul Smith who employed a boogie-blues technique similar to John Paul Jones on early Zeppelin Material.
An extended version of the band’s “Silly Little Man” was performed and featured a long, dueling guitar section with Alexander and the group’s second guitarist Dustin Drevitch. While just about every song featured new or alternate versions, some songs did not work as well as others. These include some extra-twangy versions of “Angeline Is Coming Home” and “Drive Back Home”, which seemed a bit out of place among the rest of the material. But these were the exceptions to an otherwise brilliant set.
Drummer Ron Simasek, who before the show claimed he was not even aware if the band was performing an acoustic or electric set on the back porch, left no doubt about his ability to improvise with an incredible performance that brought down the house (..eh, tent). In fact, the rhythm section of Smith and Simasek were particularly brilliant on this humid summer day of mostly standard blues rhythms.
Some other highlights of the Badlees’ set included updated arrangements of blues and Americana standards, such as Tom Waits’ “Way Down In a Hole” and the long-time band live staple “The Battle of New Orleans”. On two songs, the band was also joined by a other Briggs performing musicians. Vocalist Ed Randazzo came onstage to sing his soulful version of “Didn’t It Rain”, while blues harp specialist James Owens joined the group for a powerful cover of Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher”. The crowd, which swelled well beyond the boundaries of the large tent, were ever more enthusiastic with each performance.
We have seen the Badlees perform scores of times over their career, which is now nearly a quarter of a century old. On Saturday, we expected to find little surprises during their 75-minute set, but were pleasantly surprised by this unique and powerful performance on the back porch at Briggs Farm.
A few weeks ago we were having a record breaking heatwave across the country as well as here in PA. My annual trip to Brigg’s Farm Blues Festival was going on right in the midst of this oppressively warm and humid spell. It was sunny and a steamy 95 degrees when Ed Randazzo took to the Back Porch Stage to kick things off on Friday, July 6th. The stage and seating area was sheltered under the shade of a tent and there was an occasional breeze, but it was still akin to hanging out in a steam sauna. Oddly, the heat didn’t detract from Randazzo’s intense and inspirational performance.
Randazzo just released his second CD, Show and Tell, earlier this year in follow up to his brilliant first CD, See that My Grave is Kept Clean. He sang songs from these two collections as well as some Blues/Gospel classics accompanied by Bret Alexander – his producer and collaborator – on acoustic guitar. Listening to Ed sing is a moving experience. His physical presence is rather diminutive, but his voice commands attention from the very first note. Once you get over the initial surprise of the deep, mellow and emotive sounds coming from this unexpected source, you are drawn in to the music and forget all about the heat.
Later in the evening, while the air was still akin to a steam bath in the cornfields of Brigg’s Farm, blues singer Alexis P. Suter took the stage. After wowing the audience with several songs, she and her band were soaking wet and it wasn’t even raining. She commented that it was “hot as blazes out here” but went on to say ” but I thank God that I am alive to feel the heat.”
So while some people might think of singing the blues as singing about depressing things and situations that make you feel “blue,” what we experienced at this blues fest was music and performances that inspired and encouraged us to look for the positive in every situation.
The sun has been bright and the skies have been blue, but for me it didn’t feel quite like summer until Thursday, June 14th. You see, at the beginning of almost every summer in recent memory I have seen Pennsylvania’s best kept secret, Darcie Miner, perform. So it was not until I saw her on Thursday with guitarist Jimmy Patton on the lawn in front of the Cocoa Beanery coffee shop in Hershey, PA that it really felt like summer had arrived.
This is my first summer in three years in which I am not romantically linked to anyone, and Miner’s songs about heartbreak and broken relationships spoke to me with a fresh voice. Two summers ago when I was on a ‘break’ with my past girlfriend, I thought I completely understood the meanings behind Miner and Patton’s work on their fantastic 2009 album Loneliness Anonymous (read my review of that here). This is a mistake many people make with good music. We’ve all heard a song so much we believe we’ve mastered it, and then we hear it somewhere down the line and new layers of understanding reveal themselves. It is a testament to Miner’s talent that her songs sound better every time I hear them. It also points to the problems with a lot of today’s modern pop music; much of it has little to no depth, while bands such as Rush, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd continue to be revisited, talked about, and discussed. OK, I’ll hop off of my soap box and return to the review at hand.
This was the first time in nearly a year since Darcie Miner performed live and it did show at times, with some hesitations, false starts, and Darcie’s own admittance to using lyric sheets to guide her along. There were also a few technical difficulties during the two-set performance, but none of this really affected my enjoyment of the show and Miner played off the problems with humorous comments and witty banter. She has a naturally good stage presence, which can easily cover up mistakes or instrument malfunctions.
Since this performance did not include a full band one would naturally think some of the songs from Loneliness Anonymous would not sound quite as textured. On the contrary, one of my favorite songs from that album, “Rollerskating Song” sounded great despite the lack of synthesizers and other instruments that make up its bulk. All of the songs sounded pretty good bare bones with her on acoustic and Patton on electric or steel guitar. There were also a few fun covers such as “Breakdown” by Tom Petty in which Miner’s soulful voice added a new layer to the classic. Before that, “Found Out About You” by the Gin Blossoms was a happy surprise that brought the audience back to the nineties with a steel guitar twist. A “Life Lion” helicopter disrupted the wonderful song “24”, but it was still a great listen and just a minor bump in the overall great ride. Another of these bumps was quickly fixed thanks to Mr. Patton who saved the fantastic tune “Somerset” when he jumped from behind his steel guitar to fix some wires. The true gem of the evening was a song that I believe was called “Westward Bound”, a track that did not make it onto Loneliness Anonymous but after one listen it was clear that the song could have fit perfectly well on the album.
Besides being a great multi-instrumentalist and performer, Jimmy Patton (“JP”) is a top notch producer. This is immediately evident upon listening to Loneliness Anonymous, which has a sound as good as (or better than) any major label release. Since that album in 2009, Patton has built a brand new studio of his own design in Mount Joy, PA and new material by Patton and Miner is greatly anticipated.
The show itself was put on by The Hershey Center for Applied Research, who have scheduled talented musical acts in conjunction with the weekly Farmer’s Market in Hershey every Thursday night during the summer. These performances will raise awareness for the H.C.A.R. which is working to further study in the fields of life sciences, cancer, medical devices, green technology, and nanotechnology. As always seeing Miner and Patton play was a complete joy and put me in the mood for the upcoming summer.
With a playlist that transcends many rock sub-genres, a lead vocalist role that is ever-revolving throughout the show, and a solid edge of melodic rock, Wired performs a solid and entertaining live act. The band performs covers from Elvis Presley to Kid Rock, from Lynard Skynard to Smash Mouth and various acts along the rock pantheon in between.
Based in Newport, PA, the band is anchored by a husband and wife team of guitarist John Miller and keyboardist Sandy Miller. The band was formed about four years ago and consisted as the same five-piece group until last July (2011) when Phil Brosius took over as lead guitarist. Brosius, has performed in a variety of Central Pennsylvania bands throughout the years, including Silver Creek, China White, No Way Out, Shovel Head, Spent, Jezebel Sons, and The Resonators. He is currently composing some original songs for a future project.
Bassist Eric Spotts performs lead singer duties on a couple of songs and provides a solid rhythm throughout the show, especially on the centerpiece “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home”, originally written by Grand Funk. Spotts also currently performs in the power trio B.B Rock & The Ringers as well as the hard rock outfit Iroquois Confederacy. Drummer Tom Sikorsky rounds off the lineup, providing a solid backbone to the band’s sound.
In all, the band puts on an entertaining performance with enough familiar material to get you dancing along with enough unusual material to keep things interesting. Look for Wired performing through Central PA in the near future.
The Hooters owned the Philadelphia music scene in the mid 1980’s. This was no small accomplishment in a city rich in musical history, from jazz to rock to soul, but this band worked hard and took no sector of their audience for granted. They expanded beyond the typical night club scene and tapped the high school market in the Philadelphia area by performing for kids too young to get into clubs but with plenty of enthusiasm. Soon Hootermania swept across Southeastern Pennsylvania. But far more important than their popularity was the music this band composed and performed, fusing 1980s pop/rock with elements of reggae, ska, and folk, and the edge of unique instrumentation including that weird instrument which gave the band their name.
The band formed in the wake of a 1970s cerebral trio called Baby Grand, which had limited success with their two studio albums. Keyboardist Rob Hyman had met guitarist Eric Bazilian while they were both science majors at the University of Pennsylvania, but soon these Ivy Leaguers would choose music over more traditional (and lucrative) careers in chemistry and medicine. With the dissolution of Baby Grand, Hyman and Bazilian worked on forming a more mainstream band as well as started composing new material.
The Hooters were formed as a five piece in 1980, with guitarist John Kuzma, bassist Bobby Woods and drummer David Uosikkinen joining Bazilian and Hyman. They took their name from the nickname for the melodica, a unique type of keyboard harmonica which originated in Germany. Starting on July 4, 1980 the band spent the next two years playing everything from clubs to high schools and appearing on local television shows around Philadelphia and other areas of the East Coast. During this time, the band recorded several tracks to be released as singles including “Man in the Street”, “Fightin’ on the Same Side”, “Rescue Me”, and “All You Zombies”, and started to receive significant airplay on prominent rock stations.
During this time, the band was managed by Hyman and his girlfriend. The climax of this early era of the band came on September 25, 1982, when The Hooters opened for rock legends The Who during one of their farewell tour shows at JFK Stadium. However, the group decided to separate in early 1983 as Hyman grew tired of managing in lieu of composing and the rest of the band began to burn out from constant touring.
That same winter, Bazilian and Hyman were enlisted by another Penn classmate, producer Rick Chertoff as session players on an album he was producing for a young singer/songwriter named Cyndi Lauper. Bazilian played bass, saxophone, and added vocals to the album, which would become the Grammy winning album She’s So Unusual. Hyman played keyboards and co-wrote the international smash hit “Time After Time”, which was also nominated for a Grammy. Following this hugely successful project, Bazilian and Hyman decided to give The Hooters another try in late 1983.
Uosikkinen returned on drums but Kuzma and Woods had moved on to another band and were replaced by John Lilley on guitar and Rob Miller on bass. Club owner Steve Mountain was brought in as full-time manager, leaving Hyman and Bazilian free to concentrate on the music. The reformed band immediately started work on their first album.
Amore contains the original versions of several songs that were re-recorded for the band’s major label debut, 1985’s Nervous Night, such as “All You Zombies”, “Hanging On a Heartbeat”, and “Blood From a Stone”. These original versions have a pronounced ska bounce and the production is not overpowering, there is a distinct live show energy. Upbeat and danceable rock that used keyboard/synth sounds were all the rage in the early 80’s, but The Hooters surrounded them with guitar, mandolin, real drums (from a drummer who hits ‘em really hard), and vocals from guys who can carry a tune but don’t have “perfect”, processed voices. These were the Hooters and their signature sound owned that term long before before it became synonymous with calendar girls in tight t-shirts serving chicken wings to drooling patrons adopted the same name.
With the independent release of Amore selling over 100,000 copies regionally and a radio contest to have the band play at your high school receiving millions of enties, the major labels were paying attention and the band was soon signed by Columbia Records. Unfortunately, around the time when the band was getting ready to sign, Rob Miller was seriously injured in a car accident and had to drop out of the band. Andy King, from the Delaware band Jack of Diamonds, was recruited as the band’s new bass player and completed the lineup that would take the band through the heart of their mainstream success.
The music was the core of the band’s appeal, but Steve Mountain’s marketing was crucial to their success. They enlisted the help of a fashion consultant, a personal trainer (Pat Croce, who trained some of Philly’s finest professional athletes and eventually became owner of the 76ers), and for the stage and publicity photos, each Hooter had a primary color – Bazilian always in black, Hyman in light gray or white, Uosikkinen in Yellow, Lilley in red and King in blue. During shows, when the lights came up, they all wore old west style dusters in their assigned color, it was a very cool image that went with their music. While it was surely a gimmick, it wasn’t over the top and certainly not something to look back at in embarrassment 25 years later.
Image was important at this stage as they were marketing themselves (all the members were in their thirties) to a much younger audience. The album was good, but the live shows were what kept the fan base growing. The band toured as the opening act for Squeeze and at one show, The Hooters were so well received that they played about two minutes over their alotted time before the power was cut and their set ended abruptly. Rumors circulated that it was a member of the headlining band who pulled the plug in a fit of envy.
While Nervous Night was the product of slick production by Chertoff, the songs themselves remain true to the roots established on Amore – driving reggae influenced rhythms and interesting arrangements with traditional folk influences. Reggae and folk are not usually closely associated, but the Hooters managed to blend them into their own version of pop/rock. The new, six minute version of “All You Zombies” was the lead national single from the album and, although it failed to reach the Top 40, endures as one of the group’s signature songs to this day. The three following singles from Nervous Night each did reach the Top 40 – “And We Danced” released in late 1985, with “Day By Day” and “Where Do the Children Go?” released in early 1986.
This was the absolute zenith of the band’s popularity and they were involved with some of the historic concerts of the era. On July 13, 1985 they were the opening band at the Philadelphia Live Aid benefit concert, performing for an international television audience. On May 18, 1986, they participated in “America Rocks”, the concert portion of the 1986 celebration of the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Then on June 15, 1986, The Hooters participated in a benefit concert on behalf of Amnesty International, before a packed Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The band also embarked on an international tour including several dates in Australia.
After two years of extensive touring, The Hooters returned to the studio to record One Way Home, co-produced by Chertoff, Bazilian, and Hyman. The album was heavily folk and Americana influenced and a testament to the Hooters desire to put the music first. It was a marked departure from the pop sound of Nervous Night. This makes sense since the Hooters had just been on tour and were discovering new influences and instruments along the way. It includes an updated version of “Fightin’ On the Same Side” from Amore – still upbeat but with a slower tempo and the addition of an accordion. “Karla with a K” is about a hurricane written while on tour in Louisiana, while “Johnny B” is a haunting song about fighting addiction with an outstanding guitar solo and harmonica accents. This latter song is very popular to this day with the band’s German fans. “Hard Rockin’ Summer” was inspired by a group of “heavy metal” kids who would hang out outside the band’s rehearsal space. Although One Way Home did not enjoy the mass commercial appeal of its predecessor, it did open up the European market for the band due to the popularity of “Satellite” across the Atlantic. In fact, after the band performed the song on Britain’s Top Of the Pops in December 1987, they were privileged to meet their idol Paul McCartney. A month earlier, on Thanksgiving night 1987, The Hooters headlined a show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, which was broadcast live on MTV and Westwood One radio network simultaneously, perhaps the absolute pinnacle of their American success.
Fran Smith, Jr. replaced Andy King on bass prior to The Hooters third and final release for Columbia, 1989’s Zig Zag, a politically charged album which dealt with some of the issues of the day, including the Tienanmen Square massacres earlier that year. The album features “Beat Up Guitar”, which became an anthem for Philadelphia music. It also contains the band’s rendition of the traditional folk song “500 Miles”, which became an international hit, further broadening The Hooters appeal overseas. However, Bazilian later confessed that this was his least favorite album, calling it the “what on Earth was I thinking album” and further stating;
“…we had come off of our second big tour, we were a rock and roll band and we were kicking ass live, and we should have made a major rock and roll record…”
In the summer of 1990, the band participated in Roger Waters‘ The Wall, Live in Berlin concert, backing up Sinead O’Conner and members of the classic group, The Band for the song “Mother”. As the new decade dawned, the band’s popularity in Europe continued to grow as it inversely subsided in the U.S.
Violinist/guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Mindy Jostyn joined the group in early 1992 and stayed on through their 1993 album Out Of Body, released on MCA Records. The album was co-produced by Joe Hardy, and recorded in Memphis, TN. The recording process for this album was significantly different than their traditional practices as Hardy took tracks directly from the demo tapes and employed a practice of “commit and move on”. As a result, the album was recorded in just four weeks, whereas previous albums by the band had taken several months to record. One of the songs on the album, “Private Emotion,” would later go on to become an international hit single for Ricky Martin in 2000, while “Boys Will Be Boys” was co-written by Cyndi Lauper who also provided vocals, returning the favor a decade after Bazilian and Hyman contributed to her debut album.
While not a commercial success in the United States, Out Of Body found a large audience in Europe, especially in Sweden and Germany, and the band set out on a world tour for the first time as a six-piece. Some of these shows were recorded for the band’s initial live album (American release called The Hooters Live, international version Live In Germany) the following year. Soon after, the band would enter an extended hiatus period which would last nearly a decade between live tours and fourteen years between Hooters studio albums. The band members decided to take a much needed break and concentrate on various solo projects as well as spending some much deserved time with their families.
In early 1995, Bazilian and Hyman again worked on a Chertoff-produced studio project, the debut album by Joan Osbourne called Relish. Eric wrote the worldwide hit “One Of Us”, which was originally not intended for Osbourne, but became a Grammy-nominated international hit for the young singer. The album itself went triple platinum and reached the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. Sony released the band’s long awaited compilation album entitled Hooterization – A Retrospective in 1996. This features songs from The Hooters three Columbia releases in the late 1980s, along with some previously unreleased material such as Hyman’s version of “Time After Time” and a live version of The Beatles’ “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”.
The songwriting team next moved on to compose what was planned to be the next Hooters album, but ended up being something quite different. Largo would end up being a quasi-concept album with Hyman providing the bulk of musical direction. The impressive Largo ensemble includes David Forman, Cyndi Lauper, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne, Carole King, Willie Nile, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band, as well as members of the Chieftains. Unfortunately, this gem of an album got lost in the shuffle during the corporate merger involving Polygram Records and was all but out of print within a few years (as of 2010 however, mp3 downloads of Largo are now available at Amazon.com).
Eric Bazilian left the Largo project before its completion and, as the new millennium approached, he would focus on writing and performing solo work. In 2000, he released his impressive solo debut, The Optimist, which is a solid rock effort stacked with well-composed tracks. Bazilian released the album on newly-formed independent label, Mousetrap Records.
Bazilian would release a second solo album, A Very Dull Boy, in May 2002. While the band was on their extended hiatus, Bazilian and Hyman scored anther international hit when Ricky Martin covered “Private Emotion” (originally released on Out of Body) for his Grammy-nominated self-titled debut album in 2000. The song became a top ten hit for Martin in five countries.
The right opportunity arose for a full Hooters reunion on November 21, 2001, when they performed at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia for one show celebrating the 20th anniversary of disc jockey Pierre Robert at local rock radio station WMMR, the first major station to ever play The Hooters back in the early 1980s. The band next reunited for a 2003, 17-city tour of Germany, where they were still very popular. They went on two European tours in 2004 and 2005, extending to cities in Switzerland and Sweden. During these tours, the band wrote and performed many of the songs for what would become their first new studio album by The Hooters in 14 years.
In October 2006, recording began at Hyman’s Elmstreet Studios, which he had built in suburban Philadelphia in 2002. The result was Time Stand Still, released in Europe in 2007 and the U.S. in early 2008. The album contains many qualities of projects worked on during the long hiatus, including the Celtic influence from Largo and the high-level pop/rock from Bazilian’s solo efforts (“Until You Dare” from Bazilian’s The Optimist was remade for this album). The album also includes the beautiful ballad “Ordinary Lives”, along with its share of retro material, “I’m Alive”, a cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”, a hidden track called “White Jeans”, and the album’s title song. As Hyman stated;
“…a key line in the title song is ‘if I had a way to make time stand still’ and in many ways, it really describes our efforts to make music and keep this little band of ours alive all this time…”
After another European tour in 2007, The Hooters returned to their hometown of Philadelphia to play two shows at the Electric Factory during Thanksgiving week. As a teenage rock fan in the late 1960s, Bazilian would attend shows at this venue and take pictures of the bands to sell later, often back to the bands themselves. For the Hooters 2007 shows, the fans in attendance received a free advance copy of Time Stand Still, which was not officially released in the United States until February 5, 2008. Back at work in the Spring of 2008, the band again entered Elmstreet Studios to begin work on a new album, accompanied by violinist Ann Marie Calhoun. They recorded acoustic arrangements of 12 previously released songs and combined these with live material from the Electric Factory shows for the double-CD Both Sides Live, released in November 2008.
On October 23, 2009, in one of the last concerts at the historic Spectrum in Philadelphia, The Hooters played along with other local legends Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates. 2010 saw the release of the EP Five By Five, the most recent release by the band.
In 1985 at Kings College in Wilkes Barre, PA a young high-schooler trapped in the rural mountains had finally gotten to see the band she had become a fan of a few years earlier. She introduced her friends to their independent Amore album, but all of her “Hooter” experience was strictly of the vinyl variety up to that point. When the band hit the stage, there was instant energy and nothing ever hit her like the electrical charge of this band. The band worked so hard on that stage as if it were the most important show they ever performed. They didn’t stop moving, the timing and musicianship were outstanding and they looked like they were having as much fun as the audience. This was the magic of The Hooters.
The signature sounds that have defined The Hooters for over three decades would not be possible without the rhythm section laying down those ska and reggae beats. While there have been several bassists in the band over that time period, and even a percussionist for a short time in the early days, the constant through it all has been Dave Uosikkinen, who has been with the band since its inception in 1980.
Dave’s distinctive drumming is the backbone of The Hooters sound. To put it bluntly, he hits those drums hard and with an intensity that keeps the sound loud and right up front. His style was especially refreshing within the context of the 1980’s, when many popular bands were using more electronic or treated drum sounds to replicate an effect that only a true drummer can produce. While electronic drums can keep a steady beat, they are not a satisfying substitute for the nuances of the real thing.
I’m very been a Hooters fan since the beginning (even before the crayon-colored stage image) and I remember how I was drawn in to the sound of the band’s debut album Amore by Uosikkinen’s drumming, which provided a perfect canvas on which the unusual instrumentation of the other band members were given room to explore. From the reggae/ska of the original “All You Zombies” to the pure pop-beat of “Hanging On a Heartbeat”, the drummer did not miss a beat on the band’s impressive independent debut.
Aside from playing with The Hooters for years, Dave has been a teacher, entrepreneur, and session musician. His current project, In The Pocket: The Essential Songs of Philadelphia, pays homage to some of the great songs from Philadelphia bands by re-recording songs that were written or performed by Philadelphia artists of the past. The project includes live performances with a revolving lineup of Philly musicians. Proceeds from this project benefit the Settlement Music School.
When Dave is not teaching or touring with The Hooters, he has built a solid reputation as a session drummer. In fact, thanks to the digital age, you can have Dave add his drumming to your song, for a flat fee, through his web service DaveUDrums.com.
Despite the stellar drumming, he may be best remembered for being that guy in yellow pants walking on his hands in the “Day by Day” video, which is quite unfortunate because he should, in reality, be heralded as a solid and consistant drummer.