Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Black Fox Theatre bringing new excitement to Chicago theater scene

Photo by Grant Terzakis


There is an exciting new addition to Chicago's theatre scene.

After launching earlier this year, Black Fox Theatre,, will present its second production, "The Nerd," from Aug. 9 to Sept. 1 at Athenaeum Theatre's Studio Two, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

Tickets are $25, available at 

I had the chance to talk to "The Nerd" director Mary Reynard and Black Fox Theatre producer Jasmine Ryan about the upcoming production and how Black Fox Theatre came to be.

Interview with Mary Reynard

Q - This is Black Fox's second production. What made you want to do The Nerd as your second show?

This is my first time working with Black Fox Theater. I was excited about directing "The Nerd" because I am a fan of playwright Larry Shue, and I had been looking for a comedy to direct.

Also, having lived through - or should I say having "survived" - the '70s, it is set in a decade of which I am very familiar with and fond of.

Q - Of course, Larry Shue, who wrote "The Nerd," grew up in Glen Ellyn. Do you think that creates additional interest in the play?

Knowing that Larry Shue grew up in this area is inspirational and interesting.  He is one of us.

Q - In staging "The Nerd," what are you looking to do that is different from previous productions of the play? What should people expect from your production?

"The Nerd" was first produced in 1982, when the '70s were still at the forefront of peoples minds. Now in 2013, 31 years have passed and the culture and consciousness of the 70's is quite different from present day. 
Photo by Grant Terzakis
I am directing the classic comedy of the writing within the cultural ethos and mindset of the '70s. So there is really an added dimension to directing and performing it now.  

Q - What do you like about working with Black Fox Theatre as opposed to other theaters?

The actors in this ensemble are all talented, intelligent, wildly imaginative and very receptive. Every direction I have given, every idea I have thrown out has been instantly received and executed. 

That level of receptivity and capability sets them apart. This has enabled me as the director to go even deeper into the material which is not only satisfying but great fun. 

Expect a wild ride with a great ensemble.

Interview with Jasmine Ryan

Q - What were your goals in creating Black Fox Theatre? Do you think you have accomplished some of them? 

Black Fox was really created to produce the works that "slip through the cracks" in Chicago. We found there are some really great shows out there that don't get done because they don't necessarily fit into a niche like "Women Empowerment" or "Theatre of the Absurd."  

We left the door open for new work, established work, musical, comedy, drama, etc. If it's a good work that might not get produced easily somewhere else, it's on our table.  

We've only done two shows so far, but I think we're well on our way to making this goal happen; we've gotten a lot of great response from people and heard a lot of "Oh, I remember this one great play...!"  

As we've gone through the process, we've fallen in love with casting and hiring crew. I think another goal has developed of building a very strong network of people who support each other and giving people as much work as we can.

Q - You also had served as Associate Artistic and Executive director of Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview, and you are also working on your first country music album. Is it hard juggling all your activities? Do you see your work at Black Fox Theatre complementing what you do at Oil Lamp Theater? 

Starting Black Fox has taught me a lot about time management and helped clarify my priorities and my passions.

When Black Fox was first starting I was not only working at Oil Lamp, I was performing there, performing for three children's theatre companies, and working at a gym.  Whew!  

I used to sit down and make all sorts of charts and lists about getting things done, but then I noticed that the things at which I'm really good and the things that most ignite my passion were getting done without cross-referencing timetables.  

I try to make all the work I do complement, though sometimes it's a stretch. I took a lot of what I learned from my position at Oil Lamp over to Black Fox.  

Most importantly, I learned a lot about how I want to treat people and it seems to be working so far - Black Fox has already gotten to work with amazing talents on and off the stage.

All that being said, it's important to note that Black Fox isn't just me. 

Without Megan, Martin, and Keith, we certainly wouldn't be even where we are today. There's a saying I hold dear:  If you're the smartest person on your team, you're in trouble. Thankfully I'm not!
Q - What do you think of the theater scene in the Chicago area and where do you see Black Fox Theatre fitting into that scene? With all the theater options that people in this area have to choose from, has it been hard getting the word out about Black Fox Theatre?

I'm a relative newcomer to Chicago, having been here a little more than three years now. 

One of the first things I noticed about the theater scene here is that there seems to be a great divide between the musical and the non-musical worlds; I see very little crossover between the two when it comes to performers.  

I don't know if that comes more from the performers or companies, but, as it relates to our mission statement above, I'm excited by the idea of being a company that doesn't "discriminate" based on training or the bulk of a resume, per se.  

Perhaps the thing I love most about Chicago theater is that there is a network of people here who are fearless and enthusiastic. They're not necessarily the ones you'll see on all the big stages, some are on stage, some are off, but there are people here who just "get it" when it comes to putting together a production.  

I've been very fortunate to tap into that network and I look forward to continuing to connect such people to the work they want to do.

Our first show was a Midwest premiere, so we faced a lot of challenges getting the word out - an unknown show produced by an unknown company. The actors and the production value were well-reviewed, though, and that started a bit of a grassroots buzz for us.  

It can be difficult to get the attention of a potential audience, but we always approach it in a spirit of cooperation - we partner with other theaters to offer discounts for people seeing both shows, we're doing joint fundraisers, etc.

Q - What productions would you like to stage in the future at Black Fox Theatre? What are your short-term and long-term goals for Black Fox Theatre?

I can tell you two shows that came closest to getting mounted this year were "Rumors" and "Kimberly Akimbo." We've had several people approach us with works both new and established to see about producing them and we love that!

Our shortest-term goal, of course, is to make "The Nerd" a success! After that, we're going to go on a bit of a hiatus to firmly develop our infrastructure.

We dove in to two very different shows that taught us a lot of valuable lessons, so now we want to step back, bring in the remaining team members we need, and really establish our foundation on the back end so we can launch into our next season that much stronger.

Wizard World Chicago to bring out the star power


Last year, those attending Wizard World Chicago Comic Con had the chance to rub shoulders with such celebrities as Lou "The Hulk" Ferrigno, "The Walking Dead" actor Jon Bernthal and "Star Wars" actor Peter Mayhew, who regaled convention goers with stories about playing the lovable Chewbacca.

The star power will continue at this year's convention, which will run Aug. 8-11 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont. Former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman, "Star Trek" and "American Horror Story" actor Zachary Quinto and comic book legend Stan Lee are among the celebrity guests that will appear at the show.

Tickets are available at

Watch this video to hear from some of the celebrities that will appear at this year's show:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Adam Ant will help launch new Chicago music venue

New wave pioneer Adam Ant will help launch Chicago's newest music venue, Concord Music Hall, when he performs there on Aug. 1.

Prominent independent Chicago promoters Riot Fest, Silver Wrapper, and React Presents have come together to help program the venue which will ensure an eclectic array of music, from punk to electronic, indie to hip-hop, funk to metal, jazz to jam bands, and everything in between.

Concord Music Hall’s inaugural fall calendar includes Gogol Bordello, The Disco Biscuits, AlunaGeorge (Live), Capital Cities and Passion Pit DJ sets, Jimmy Cliff, Lotus, Future Rock, Netsky, Laidback Luke, Jason Isbell, EOTO, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, BoomBox, Boys Noize, Less Than Jake, The Misfits, DJ Bl3nd, and official after parties for North Coast Music Festival and Riot Fest.

More information is available at

Monday, July 22, 2013

Austin trio The Please Please Me bringing its original sound to Chicago


With a sound centered around a guitar, drums, a cello and a glockenspie, Austin trio The Please Please Me is  not your typical indie band.

The band,, comprised of frontwoman Jessie Torrisi, drummer Agustin Frederic and cellist/backing vocalist Alissa McClure, will bring its refreshingly original sound on July 30 to Reggies Music Joint, 2105 S. State St., Chicago.

The show starts 8 p.m. and tickets are $5, available at The Please Please Me will then come back to town and will play Aug. 15 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago.

Chicago band Cobalt and the Hired Guns and Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at

The Please Please Me is touring in support of its new EP, "Shake A Little Harder,"  produced by CJ Eiriksson, known for his work with U2, Fastball and Blue October. The album will be available online on Aug. 6. 

I had the chance to talk to Torrisi about the album.

Q - Great to talk to you. How is the tour going? How has the band been dealing with the heat across the country?

Writing to you from the back of the van 2 days in. I'd say night #1 was totally awesome in Denton, Texas. Indie club with three great  bands on the bill and 15 kids ended up dancing onstage with us. 
Night #2 in Bartlesville, Okla., was a little rougher. 

The band is constantly evolving, and I think we've gotten to that point where we're making so much ambient, electro, low-end noise (between the cello effects & drum triggers), that the set-up-our-shitty PA in 15 minutes and play in the corner of the room thing just doesn't work. That wall of sound comes with its own demands.

In terms of the weather, it's been '80s and rain, which is perfect. After Texas, anything lower than 90 degrees feels like heaven.

Q - Of  course, the band's EP, "Shake A Little Harder," will be released online on Aug. 6. What were your goals for the album and do you think you achieved them?

Yes and no. Yes in that we legitimately exist now. People can find us on iTunes, we have CDs that say the Please, Please Me to sell at shows. We've launched into this world.

No in that the EP was a huge learning experience. In a way, it was after we finished recording that we were really able to reflect on who we feel we are as a band and how to create a sound that hits at the sweet spots of all our strengths. 

While I'm proud of this EP (especially certain tracks like "Dreamin' " and "All Danced Out"), I feel like we have a lot more to give. And now have enough miles behind to know how to capture the authenticity of our personalities in the studio. 

Can't wait to record EP #2 as soon as this tour's done. Expect something way artier, sexier, darker with a New York City soul.

Q - How did you hook up with CJ Eiriksson, who has worked with such bands as U2, Fastball and Blue October? What do you think he brought to the table?

We interviewed about six producers across the country, and all the heavy hitters we could find in Austin. We got lucky that CJ, who has worked with a shit ton of big bands, was open to working with us. 

He's very mild-mannered (originally) and was a super reassuring presence in the early stages of pre-production. And his main instruments are violin, so we felt he could speak the language of cello, and drums which both Agustin and I are. 

He seemed to be the right combination of a lot of things we were looking for. He was interested in working with an indie band, but we felt he could bring a mainstream legitimacy to us as well.

Q - I understand a Kickstarter campaign raised $12,656 so you could make the EP. But I understand that right before you were to make the Kickstarter video, the filmmaker bailed and you had to make a different video than you planned. Do you think in hindsight, things turned out better than you expected? What did you think of the Muppet-like character?

Yes, we got super lucky. I put out a Hail Mary ad on Craig's list because we had no video and were leaving to tour in two weeks. The people who answered are a film collective called Archimedes. 

They do a lot of fantasy and animation stuff so at first we thought we could end up with something weird that was about them not us. Rock bands and puppets don't really go hand in hand. 

But they are incredibly talented and we ended with something way more unique and innovative than would've ever been possible if the original guy had done our video. I thought it was a good way to say, "We're trying to do something different. We'd love it if you came along for the ride."

Q - Jessie, you had previously played for glam bands when you lived in Brooklyn. What was your idea in putting together The Please, Please Me?

My idea was after I moved to Texas, I got real sick real quick of playing Americana music. I wanted to be in a band that I would turn my head and say, "what's that?" if I heard it on the radio or wandered into the right club. 

I wanted to play music that 20-year-olds would like, not just 40-year-olds and above. And I still wanted it to be really well crafted heartfelt songs - but just with more dance and unusual sounds inserted into it. 

Alissa was one of my first friends in Austin and we jammed for fun... so I thought, "I've got to make the cello a big part of this." And then with Agustin, I got lucky - another Hail Mary pass on Craig's list. 

Since he's done sound for tons of huge bands, he has a really deep and technical understanding of how to create that sonic hugeness.

Q - How is the music scene different from the one in Brooklyn? Was it hard making the transition?

It's funny, I constantly hear about bands from Brooklyn and think, "How come I never heard of them when I was there?" For me personally, I didn't feel like there was a scene in New York. 

Maybe there's a million micro-scenes, or maybe the Williamsburg hipster thing just seemed too sceney for me. In Austin, there's more of a small town vibe. Everyone knows everyone, especially since there's so many gatherings, events, resources geared at bringing professional musicians. 

For me, Austin is the perfect incubator. It's been a bit tricky to find what there is outside of the singer/songwriter or country twang worlds, but once you crack that door open, it's great. Clubs like the Mohawk bring in the coolest indie bands from across the country, and we also get to kill it on that stage.

Q - The glockenspiel and cello aren't instruments usually used every day in a band. What do you think they add to the band's sound?

I think they are a key part of the band's sound. They make us sound like us. But it's not a conscious "let's do this" or "add that." It starts with what do we play? what can we throw into the mix? how can we create something that is so uniquely us and close to our hearts that it can't help but come across powerfully onstage? 

I mean, Agustin built glockenspiel - weighing in at 50+ pounds - from rusty bars that his band director in high school gave him. And wait 'til you see my log drum. (It will be featured in our upcoming "Exile" video.) I got that on my junior year abroad in Cameroon, Central Africa.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Short-term: survive this tour, have a great time, make some new connections, come home twice as good as we left, and throw a kick-ass CD release party at Stubb's on August 30th.

Long-term: make this our main source of income (juggling 10 jobs gets exhausting), find a bad-ass booking agent to help take us to the next level, and be a band that everyone says, "yeah they're amazing" when we're mentioned.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chicago musician Sarah Marie Young bringing intoxicating voice to Schubas to celebrate new CD

When esteemed composer and record producer Quincy Jones exclaimed "This girl can sing!" after hearing Chicago jazz and soul singer Sarah Marie Young, he wasn't kidding.

Young,, will perform July 31 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, in celebration of her debut CD, "Too Many Februaries." Chicago musician Leslie Hunt also is on the bill.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to Young about the new album and the Chicago music scene.

Q - Your debut album, "Too Many Februaries," will be released this month. What goals did you have for the album and do you think you achieved them? Does the album's title refer to the amount of time put into the album?

My main goal for the album was to record an LP of original songs. I had never recorded a full length album, let alone almost all originals, and I was blessed to be able to do it with great musicians and have access to a great studio as well. 

I also really wanted to start honing in on my sound with this album. So much of my hustling for work in Chicago before recording "Too Many Februaries" consisted of me trying to fit into a genre or style to get the gig, and when presented with the opportunity to make an album, I made a goal in my mind to just sing naturally without thinking about what style that may sound like. 

Being in view of the mountains in Switzerland at Balik Farm Studios definitely helped me achieve that goal!

Q - You were able to make the album after you won the 2011 Shure Montreux Voice Competition as judged by Quincy Jones. What do you think gave you the edge in the competition? Jones said of your performance, "This girl can sing!" How was it hearing those words?

I think the sheer distance traveled from Chicago to Montreux gave me an edge (there were only two of us from the U.S.). Each competitor had to pay for their own travel expenses, which I was able to do so through a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Berne, so I already felt extremely lucky and driven to be able to go. 

I felt fearless, like, "Well, I made it all the way over here, I'm showing out!". I think another part of having an edge was that I was in a European jazz competition, and I was regularly singing jazz with great musicians in Chicago, plus I was in the Monk Competition a year before that with some seriously well informed jazz singers. 

The jazz culture here is so rich and unique to Chicago, and I think I brought that vibe to the competition.    
Q - You grew up singing gospel and are trained in classical music. How did you become interested in jazz music? How would you describe your music?

When I went back to school at Columbia College, I was trying to continue my classical training, but I soon realized that the jazz studies program offered a lot of opportunities to perform - which is what I love to do most, in any genre. 

I knew very little about the art form and fell in love with the connecting and communication that happens particularly in jazz, like all styles of music which have particular attributes that make it that style. There was and still is so much to learn, and I love that! 

I also love the standards. The lyrics and melodies are so meaningful, and then to listen to players give themselves to the music and have the freedom to open up, and then hopefully learn through listening and practice to do that myself is a great feeling. 

I also feel that getting into jazz helped me really appreciate the other styles I like to sing in.

I'd like to think a big part of that sentiment comes through in my music. It is most important to me for the listener to feel something, to connect to the music somehow, be it through emoting the lyrics, or the melody, chord changes, instrumentation or how each musician is interacting with each other. 

So whatever I write, depending on what I am listening to at the time, or maybe what style most of my gigs I have at the time are, usually ends of sounding like that style. "Too Many Februaries" definitely is jazz-influenced, but there is just as much R&B, folk and pop in the tunes too. 

It's hard to pinpoint what it sounds like. And as detrimental as that can be in the music business, I like it that way.

Q - It seems like there is a renewed interest theses days, both locally and nationally, in jazz and soul. Why do you think that this? Are there any bands out there that you especially respect what they are doing?

People want to hear something authentic, something soulful and real. Not to say that other styles besides jazz (which is soul) don't do that, but it's a good place to go to in the midst of super produced mainstream music. 

We all now know you can can put a slick musical product together, package it a specific way, and sell it on a shelf, but I think this renewed interest comes from growing distaste in that shiny product. Life many times is not shiny. 

It's gritty and messy and sad and happy and crazy all at the same time, and any style of soulful, organic music can get that point across. People are on to that…yet as an artist how do I balance my desire to make music my life's work and also make money - sell a product - to live? I could go on and on.

I really respect artists like Janelle Monae, who seems to be making it mainstream and is refreshingly original.

Q - Do you have any favorite places to perform? What other Chicago-area musicians have you enjoyed working with?

I love to perform at M Lounge in the south loop. It's an intimate martini lounge that was one of my first gigs in Chicago. 

I also like playing at Webster's Wine Bar, which also has a cool vibe. Both of those places have really nice and welcoming management/staff, which makes all the difference as a working musician. 

Lincoln Hall and Schuba’s have amazing sound systems and are beautiful venues, so as little as I get to play there, I would have to include those venues as two of my favorites.

As for Chicago area musicians, there are so many. Of course the guys in my band, Stu Mindeman (a co-writer/arranger for many of my tunes), Neal Wehman, and Bryan Doherty, whose band Hood Smoke I sing in, plus the guys on the album - Pat Mulcahy, Makaya McCraven, Tim Fitzgerald, Victor Garcia and Scott Burns. 

I LOVE working with Tom Vaitsas, George Fludas, John Barbush as well as the Hood Smoke guys Rob Clearfield, Mike Caskey and Chris Siebold. Singing with other local vocalists is also the best! 

For singers I've really enjoyed working with Allison Orobia, Leslie Beukelman, Bethany Hamilton, Ashley Stevenson, Chas Kimbrough and Mike Harvey. OK, now I feel like I'm writing liner notes.

Q - Where do you see yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene? What do you think separates the Chicago music scene from other music scenes around the country?

I wish I had a definitive answer. I'd like to see myself branching out of the jazz scene and getting into the local indie scene and the R&B circuit with my original music.

The Chicago music scene is a working one. It's competitive, but it is far more supportive in my opinion, which I think separates it from other music scenes. 

I don't think it's as cut throat as other big city music scenes. I feel like the Chicago scene can be more nurturing than cold because of the other artists on the scene, and as a musician I've met and formed friendships with other musicians but more importantly, down to earth, good people. 

Other musicians in all genre circles here want to check out the music and support it, which is why music in Chicago thrives. Sometimes it doesn't seem like it's thriving, and even when it feels crappy and barren, there is still a sense of camaraderie.

Q - Do you have any dream collaborations? What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Dream collaborations in no particular order (living):
Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Janelle Monae, Robert Plant, Harry Connick, Jr., and Herbie Hancock.

My short term goals are putting on a successful record release show, making sure my car makes it through the summer, and continuing to write music for a new album. I also want to be better at the business side of things and try to make a name for myself on some other Chicago scenes and beyond.  

As for long term goals, it truly depends on how I'm thinking about life. I of course want to be happy and spend quality time with my family and friends, eat healthier etc..

I also want to continue to have a career in music- not just sustain it, but build and grow my career, continue to nurture my art and make something good that allows me to do the former long term goal. 

I'm hesitant to say what that looks like in the long term, but I'm happy to say that right now, things are looking up.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Blues musician Donald Kinsey keeps moving forward


Gary, Ind.-born Donald Kinsey has never forgotten his blues roots.

Kinsey's dad, the late Lester "Big Daddy" Kinsey, instilled the blues in him and his brothers, Ralph and Ken, who would later join forces to form The Kinsey Report.

Donald Kinsey,, took a musical detour after hooking up with reggae legends Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. These days, he is with his brothers again on stage, and The Kinsey Report is working a new album, the band's first since 1999's "Smoke and Steel."

The Kinsey Report will perform July 19 and 20 at Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted, Chicago. Tickets are $15, available at

I had the chance to talk to Kinsey about his illustrious career and his current activities.

Q - Is it still special playing with your brothers?

Oh, yeah, without a doubt.

Q - What makes it so great for you, being with your brothers on stage?

A lot of times when we play, I reflect back on when we were all kids, and the sacrifices my parents made in order for us to be able to do what we do.

The fact that we're still doing it and honoring our father, it's a good feeling, you know.

Q - At your shows, do you see a lot of longtime fans?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. That's one of the greatest things, you know.

It's been an awesome feeling to see people who have been following the music. It's really something to be thankful for.

Q - Talking about your dad, Lester "Big Daddy" Kinsey, what was it that he gave you that made you want to be a musician?

You know, my dad and my mom, they were both born in Mississippi. Those were his roots, growing up in the Mississippi Delta.

And he made sure we knew about his roots. Every summer, from the time we were in elementary school, he would take us down to Mississippi and we were stay with my grandparents.

My dad would take us to places where he grew up and roads he walked down. He would just show us his playground down there, and my mom as well.

This was where the blues were born, and that's where my dad got the first taste of the blues. To tell it in his own words, he snuck out of the house one day, and went to a little juke joint, and heard Muddy Waters for the first time.

He tried to remember that sound and what Muddy was doing until he could get back to the house and grab his guitar and try to reproduce that sound. It just captivated him.

Him and my mom, they got married, and they came north. They were married for seven years before they had any kids, and they wanted kids really bad.

And then God blessed them with three kids. It was like a dream come true for my dad that he had sons.

He put me in his lap and put the guitar strap around my neck, and started showing me about the guitar and stuff. And my brother Ralph, he was taking the butter knife and tearing up all the chairs, so he turned out to be a drummer.

And then Ken, my younger brother, he was seeing this all growing up. When Ken was born, Ralph and I were doing shows with my dad. We were 10, 11 years old.

Fridays and Saturdays, we would play at the Elks Club or somewhere, and then on Sundays, would play at church. That was my life, all the way until I came out of high school.

When we play today, I think about all of that. I think about all those nights of rehearsal, and musicians that my dad would invite over to the house and show us things, and all the after hours clubs that he would sneak us into.

My dad introduced us to people like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and I had the pleasure of working with Albert King at the age of 17.

Q - When you were playing with your dad's revue, you became known as "B.B. King Jr." That must have been quite the honor. Did that go to your head?

Oh, no. I listened to a lot of B.B. King. Back then, radio played more blues. B.B. King would have a hit record out every other month, you know what I mean?

What happened was, we played this club in Memphis and met this lady who was somehow related to B.B. King. She suggested to my dad, "You should call that boy B.B. King Jr."

Q - You were hired to go on the road with Albert King at the age of 18. Was that overwhelming? Was that a dream come true for you?

It was the way God wanted my path in life to go. I knew from the age of 16 that I wanted to commit to music.

When I got out of high school, I went to get a job at the steel mill. I wanted straight days and to be off on the weekends so I could rehearse and do shows on the weekend.

It got to the point of where they wanted to take me off day shift. My dad told me to do what I wanted to do, so I quit the steel mill.

It wasn't long after that that we were playing a show in Gary, and Albert was in town, and he asked my dad about me going out on the road as his rhythm guitar player. It all happened so fast. I was with him about six months, and then I became his band leader.

He told my dad, "Big Daddy, don't worry about him. I'll treat him like my son." It was to the point that he was actually introducing me as his son in some places.

Q - What did you learn from the experience?

Oh, man, I learned so much. Being a band leader is a big responsibility and a very disciplined position.

There's a lot to that position. It touched my life in a lot of ways, not just musically.

He trusted me. He knew that I was there for him. I wasn't just there for the job that I was hired for. It was more than that.

This was in the early '70s, and I got the chance to do shows with Freddie King and Professor Longhair, and also it took me around the world. It was a heck of an experience at age 18.

Q - Was it hard making the switch from blues to reggae?

Not really, because of my gospel roots. Playing in my grandfather's Pentecostal church, music was very much part of the church.

Reggae music has a more gospel feel to it, at least the music I was introduced to.  It had a more spiritual message and spiritual consciousness.

The thing that I had to really kind of work on was the downbeat, the drop of the beat. I wasn't used to that. But the spirit of the music and the flavor and the soul, I had that.

And I think that's what they were looking for in me, my bluesy style, my bluesy gospel style of playing.

Q - I understand that you introduced Bob Marley and Peter Tosh to rock 'n' roll, and then Peter Tosh went on to do a version of "Johnny B. Goode."

That's my arrangement. I love doing that kind of stuff.
For Peter to do it, it had to totally become Peter's song. I could see it fitting Peter's image. It's just talking about a kid that wants to be successful playing his guitar, playing his music.

The bass line came to me, and the vocal melody came to me. I wanted to see the music be successful. Reggae at the time was just coming into America. Eric Clapton had did "I Shot the Sheriff" and all that stuff.

But we were still breaking ground trying to bring this music forward. We were still looking for some type of commercial appeal that could break this music through.

And that version of "Johnny B. Goode"  became like one of MTV's most 100 played videos. It was really a trip, man.

I'm thankful for having been a part of that era, and helping to bring that music forward. Bob and I, we got to be really close.

One night after a show at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, I was showing him some old blues stuff, and we were singing some old Temptations harmonies. Bob was trying to sing a blues melody.

We just got a chance to really bond. Down in Jamaica, he would come and pick me up in the morning and we would go running on the beach. It was about being healthy.

Hooking up with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, I saw another side of music. I saw something other than "Rock Me Baby." 

I'm just thankful to be where I am today, with my family and my brothers.

Q - So you guys have been working on new songs? What should people expect from the new album?

What we are going to do first is release like a four song EP, and then a full album will come out later in the year.

I think that people will find it consistent to where we are at. We play our blues hard and soft, and we rock it up and everything. It is The Kinsey Report style.

Q - You were talking about Bob Marley earlier. What did you admire about him?

Him and Peter Tosh both, I admired the fact that they spoke for people's rights.

They also tried to bring people together as they talked about one world, one love. I feel very blessed to have been part of that. 

They had a purpose, and they were on a mission.

Q - Besides The Kinsey Report's new album, do you have any other projects you would like to work on? 

I want to do a reggae tribute album. Reggae is definitely in my blood.

And also I want to do an acoustic album of some blues and roots music and stuff like that. I love being creative.

It keeps me young. Music is medicine, music is healing. Music is a very powerful thing.

Hopefully I can contribute to bringing some peace and awakening. And just make someone feel good, make them feel a little better.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chicago musician Frank Bang back with force after musical hiatus


After taking a four-year musical hiatus, Chicago musician Frank "Bang" Blinkal - he now goes by the stage name Frank Bang - is busier than ever these days. 

Bang,,  has been touring with Otis Taylor on his European tour. Bang and his band The Secret Stash also recently released a new album, "Double Dare."

Bang on July 20, he will perform in front of a hometown crowd when he plays as part of the all-day Vans Warped Tour at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park.

Tickets are $47.50, available at

Bang's blues roots are deep. He was once a member of Buddy Guy's band, giving him the opportunity to play alongside other musical legends like Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. 

I had the chance to talk to Bang about his illustrious career and his current activities.

Q - How is the tour going with Otis Taylor?

Well, Otis and his entire band are great musicians and his sense of family, (which carries over from Cassie his daughter being in past bands), is overwhelming. He is teaching me a lot about the core, the family on the road.   

Which I am not new to,  just more in tune with now, after 13 years of being a father myself.   Show wise, his style is so different. I am having a great time as a musician. 

It is a beautiful and powerful show. I saw a man in Lithuania so happy he was holding back tears, till the joy overwhelmed him and he started to cry. Powerful stuff.

Q - How do the audiences compare with those in the United States?   

I am a music lover first then a musician. In the states, music lovers are the minority. Overseas, people really celebrate the arts.

So as a musician, it's truly a joy. I know the travel can be hard, but I just try to embrace it and enjoy the ride.    

Q - Was it strange celebrating 4th of July in Lithuania?

Well, you know that old song, if ya can't be with the one you love, love the one your with. 

The folks in Lithuania took us on the Fourth of July to a Lithuania /American 4th of July party. And while the fireworks were a little different, I couldn't help but appreciate our freedom in the states, while being in a country that's only enjoyed its independence from Russia for a couple decades.

A great culture that I'm so glad I got to experience.

Q - It's a busy month for you. You will be playing in Tinley Park July 20 as part of the Vans Warped Tour. That festival is typically associated with punk bands. Do you think it will be hard to connect with concert goers?

We are the punks on the Warped Tour. I'm just gonna bring it hard like we do every night.
I really want the Secret Stash to grow. We could play a different set each night.  

So I dig being on shows/tours where we are the different act. And I'm here to tell ya, we can bring it as hard as anybody.

Q - It's also been a busy year for you. "Double Dare" was released in May after you recorded it in 2009. Was this just the right time to release the album? What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?

I'm a big believer in that everything happens for a reason. And so the timing of "Double Dare" coming out now works for me. I told everyone who asked me when I going to start playing again that I would once I found the right manager, booking agent, etc.

And I did, and technically I'm starting over after four years off, so it's all good. I am a little blown away that every song on the record has gotten airplay.

Eleven songs were liked enough by radio to be selected by the station and played. I mean, who does that? That was something I never dreamed of.

My goals were to start my career over the right way, and I think we are doing that, so yeah mission accomplished, now let's keep getting better at everything and get ready for the ride.

Q - I understand that you were considering hanging it up as a musician after recording the album. What made you change your mind? Do you view "Double Dare" as a comeback album?

Q - What changed my mind was my oldest son, who grew up with his dad the musician, and folks who reached out to me to let me know my music helped them.

Once a couple folks made connections like that with me, it was on.  And yes I do consider it a comeback , even thought I was home all the time, and I didn't really go anywhere but home. 

I needed to empty the cup of 20 odd years of being on the road. Now I am so grateful to be back doing what I love to do

Q - Of course, you have a deep connection with Buddy Guy. You started out as a doorman at Buddy Guy's Legends, and would play together after hours at the club with Wayne Baker Brooks. What were those days like and what did you learn from the musicians that graced the stage at Buddy Guy's? 

I smile the biggest smile whenever I think of the good ole days at Legends, even when a couple of guys who took over for me and my brother kind of black balled me in a weird twisted way.  

When they got fired, I started hanging round again, and I'm glad I did. The stuff I learned from the musicians I met is so ingrained in me. 

I could write a book just about the old place and the wonderful folks who took me under their wing, if you will. So many great memories , I was made into who I am because of the old 754 S. Wabash club

Playing with Buddy Guy was my dream job, and I would still be there if I could of been. I just loved it so much. 

Q - What was your reaction when Buddy Guy asked you to join his band? What did you learn from the experience, and playing alongside Guy and other legends like Carlos Santana?

What can I say about Buddy? He is my musical father, even helped me learn how to be a dad, brother, etc. and be a musician.

Playing with Carlos Santana a couple times was by far my favorite Buddy Guy experience. I had to pick him up off the floor when he started bowing to me.

I was like, there is  NO WAY  CARLOS SANTANA is allowed to bow to me. He hung with us a couple times and he is a true beauty,  playing and talking to Robert Plant about how we were to get a hold of Hubert Sumlin.

I mean ya can't make this stuff up,  and it was like that all the time in Buddy's band.   

Q - Where do you see yourself fitting into the blues scene? What other artists out there, blues or otherwise, are you listening to these days?

Well Eric, I honestly don't think of me and my band as blues. I personally think I play music that comes from the blues, but I feel I'm a blues rocker maybe, without the 10 minute guitar solos. 

When we get lucky enough to play on those kind of shows, it's the same mind frame as playing Warped Tour, we're gonna bring it hard.

Johnny Winter's manager, Paul Nelson, told me Johnny liked us because our band brings it hard every night like folks did it in the old days. 

As far as what I'm listening too, well I'm digging deep into Otis Taylor, which is awesome because I really dig his diversity.

I love the new CD by Jason Isbell and the new Ryan Bingham.

I can't enough of the new ZZ Top and Dale Watson albums, and that Willie Nelson disc, "Heroes," is freaking amazing and his son, wow.

I'm also really digging the New Ben Harper/Charlie Musselwhite disc and we would have killed with them on a double bill. 

Someday I will make a blues record. It's something I really want to do, with the right guys and the right songs. 

Q - Are you working on new music? When can people expect a new album? Do you have any dream collaborations?

I am always writing. For me it's a constant, like a painter looking at the fine details of the world around him before he sits down and puts his vision to canvas.

I have a lot of songs, and have even been playing one or two of them on acoustic from time to time at our shows. I want to keep finding more Daniel Johnston songs to do.

I love having my own label. It's probably not the smartest thing to do, financially, but it does allow me to do whatever I want to do.

I also love working with my producer Manny Sanchez, so we will be doing more of that in the future.

If I could do any collaborations, my god the list would go on forever, but let's see...Warren Haynes, Larry McCray, Ben Harper, Dale Watson, Willie Nelson. 

I really would love to be produced by Warren someday, as well as produced by Doyle Bramhall II.

Q - What are your short-term and long-term goals?

My short term goals are to be back playing to people every night, and making connections with music lovers. 

My long term goals are to watch my kids grow up and be with my lovely woman, for the rest of my life, while carving out a place for me in this crazy world of music