Michael DellaVecchia
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Michael DellaVecchia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | INDIE

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | INDIE
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"02/16/07: Musician Cooperative Gets New Sounds Out"

By Phaedra Trethan
For The Inquirer

A group of local musicians is trying to start a movement in the Philadelphia music scene, one chord at a time.

There are about 110 musicians who comprise Acoustic Philly, the brainchild of Mike DelVecchia and Josh Larson, singer-songwriters who found that promotion, booking and carving a niche was a lonely and sometimes overwhelming undertaking.

So around February last year, they organized Acoustic Philly, a cooperative that helps artists with their marketing, assists them with getting bookings, and provides support and camaraderie in an often brutal business.

"Philly has the propensity to create families in any art genre," said DelVecchia, a 39-year-old Brooklyn transplant who lives in Oreland, Montgomery County.

He kept bumping into other musicians at shows and they "became conscious of a need to support each other in a bigger context."

"It's about empowering musicians," he said.

On Feb. 24, Acoustic Philly will present a show at the Rotunda with several musicians. The show will not only highlight some of their best acts, but it will welcome immigrants' rights groups to discuss what can be done to help preserve their civil rights.

Larson, 30, who recently completed graduate studies at Drexel University, was frustrated trying to book shows at local clubs before Acoustic Philly.

"If you don't have a studio-quality CD or an established following, club owners won't give you a second look," said Larson, who lives in Northern Liberties. "Now, rather than walking into a venue alone, I can say, 'I have five or six musicians who'll play a show,' and clubs will book you more easily. They figure each act will bring its own following."

Acoustic Philly books showcases and hosts open mikes at local venues, but there's more to it than just getting a gig or lending musicians a sympathetic ear. For a small contribution - usually about $10 - bands or artists also get posters, postcards, CDs featuring their music, and Internet exposure. A typical Acoustic Philly show includes four single-musician or small ensembles, along with two bands. Acoustic Philly then produces the marketing materials and distributes them.

Acoustic Philly also hosts an Internet radio show every Sunday night at 8 at www.radiovolta.org and a podcast at http://acousticphilly.podbean.com, featuring the best of their lineup.

Another place providing Acoustic Philly musicians with valuable exposure: The Folk Show on WXPN-FM (88.5). Show host Gene Shay, a Philadelphia folk icon, is impressed with the group's organization. "[Acoustic Philly] knows how to get artists' music out there and get the artists out there," he said.

"Mike [DelVecchia] is like a gentle giant, and that seems to filter through the group," Shay said. "The casual arrangement he has with his people seems to really work for them."

It's that easy arrangement that makes Acoustic Philly so welcoming to musicians. Katie Barbato, 29, a grad student from Boston who's been performing for 10 years, is one of the group's most established acts. She hosts an open mike on Tuesdays at Lickety Split.

"It's really open to the whole [music] community," said Barbato, who lives in Old City. "Both for artists who are just starting out and others who've been around. There are open mikes where artists can hone their skills and work toward the larger shows."

Club owners and booking agents like Acoustic Philly's concept, too.

Jonathan Hunter owns the Raven Lounge, which hosts Acoustic Philly on Mondays and Tuesdays. He sees it bringing in more acts, and more patrons."[Acoustic Philly] gives people a look at our bar," he said, "and if they come here for that, they'll come back on other nights to see other acts, too."

Joe Lekkas, a booking agent for the Khyber and the North Star Bar, likes the collegiality of Acoustic Philly. The indie-punk venue likes to mix it up, and Acoustic Philly provides a change on Sunday nights. "Everyone's partied out from the weekend," Lekkas said, "so Sundays are a good night for acoustic sets."

Shay, a co-founder of The Philly Folk Festival, is rooting for Acoustic Philly and their hopes for a new movement in the city's music scene: "I want to see them flourish," he said. "It's new blood. And having the camaraderie and support now means a lot to young artists."

Here's something else that should mean a lot to the artists: At a recent Acoustic Philly show at the North Star featuring Heirloom Projector, Mia Johnson, Marc Silver, Paul Edelman, Corrado and Brian Nadav, a group was grabbing a quick smoke outside and raving about new bands they'd discovered.

Bonnie Garlick, a 25-year-old from the Northeast, was particularly impressed by Marc Silver's band and Corrado, a four-piece group with a garage-rock sound that screams college radio: "I would totally follow them to other clubs!" she gushed.

And that's the kind of support that musicians could really use.

Acoustic Philly

The group will host its second festival from 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Feb. 24 at the Rotunda, 4012 Walnut St. It will spotlight immigrants' rights and welcome local activists, including the American Friends Service Committee, Darfur Alert Coalition, A Day Without an Immigrant, Foundation Arts and the Philadelphia Independent Media Center.

Scheduled to appear are Corrado, Brian Nadav, Mountain Man, the Ladykillers, Ron and Eric, Parsnip Revolt, Cray Rail, Unlikely Cowboy, Dani Mari, Dan Collins, Nick Ludovico, The Sisters Three and other Acoustic Philly acts. Tickets: $5. Information: www.acousticphilly.com.

Acoustic Philly hosts a rotation of shows at several local venues: first Sundays at Fergie's Pub, 1214 Sansom St.; second Sundays at the Khyber, 56 S. 2d St.; second Mondays (open mike) and third Thursdays at Tritone, 1508 South St.; first, third and fourth Mondays and every Tuesday (open mike) at the Raven Lounge, 1718 Sansom St.; Wednesdays (open mike) at The Dive, 947 E. Passyunk Ave.; Tuesdays (open mike) at Lickety Split, 401 South St.; Tuesdays at WQHS.org; Sundays at 8 p.m. at Radiovolta.org; and podcasts at http://acousticphilly. podbean.com.

- The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 16, 2007


"01/11/07: Music Pure and Simple: Acoustic Philly"

Music . . . pure and simple

By Brian Rademaekers
Times Staff Writer

Nestled beneath a cluster of grand and ancient oaks in a far-off corner of the city, there is a little bar in a stone building far older than the country itself. Just about every night of the week you can find local musicians there, bearing acoustic guitars, fiddles, penny whistles, banjos, and other instruments of inconspicuous volume.
Good beer is served at a fair price. Patrons still smoke freely, and you can always find someone to strike up a conversation with. To preserve the sanctity of the place, I won’t mention its name, but it is a beautiful sight — humble, hushed, and always off-the-cuff. The musicians who gather there don’t do it for the prestige — there are rarely more than 10 people in the room — and money is a non-issue.
One could reasonably presume, then, that the act is one born out of little more than a love of music, a rare thing in this age of celebrity and glitz.
Until last year, this scene was one of the few places where you could find good acoustic music year-round in the city. There were always a few nights at the Tin Angel in South Philly and the shows booked by 88.5 WXPN at the World Café in University City.
But outside of that, most live acts took place on the periphery, in places like Voorhees, N.J., and Ardmore. And the biggest show of the year — the misleadingly named Philadelphia Folk Festival — takes place in the green hills of Schwenksville, a full 20 miles outside of the city’s northernmost limits.
Even then, the acts at this show often are more akin to the fodder of Christopher Guest’s 2003 folk music mock-umentary film, A Mighty Wind, than they are to the flourishing neo-folk scene that has grabbed the attention of new fans across the country.
But in and around Philadelphia, there is a growing host of fresh, young musicians who follow in the footsteps of greats like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Their songs carry stories that speak of timeless human struggles and strike at the political folly of the day. And they have latched on to the growing movement of nationally acclaimed artists like Devendra Banhart, Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom, and are giving new life to the art of the acoustic act.
Yet, despite this rich and burgeoning scene, for those who live in the city, finding a steady stream of acoustic music has been a bit like finding a radio station that still plays the talking blues of Woody Guthrie.
Enter Acoustic Philly — a collective of Philadelphia folkies representing the new guard that has mushroomed into a nearly 100-member movement in less than a year’s time. The group has already established a network of venues and open mics, bringing local acoustic musicians to places like the El Bar, Crazy Fish Saloon and the Rocket Cat Café.
Even the Khyber — known as a haven for punk and electric acts — has broken down and taken on an Acoustic Philly show each month. Other popular venues to host AP shows include the North Star, Tin Angel and Tritone, to name a few.
Mike DelVecchia, a longtime musician and one of the founders of AP, said the group was long overdue in a city rife with working-class artists.
"There are great musicians in Philadelphia who, if they were to live in another city, would probably receive much more attention and be able to book shows on their own," said the 39-year-old DelVecchia, who has played music in the city since the 1980s.
He launched the group last February with an acoustic festival at the Rotunda, at 4014 Walnut St., and has steadily gained new musicians since. The group now puts on about 10 shows a month at venues across the city.
While DelVecchia is a big fan of the six-decade-old Philadelphia Folk Song Society and its yearly festival, he said that too often acoustic musicians aren’t able to book shows because they have no one to represent them.
Using AP, he and other young acoustic musicians have been able to make the Philadelphia folk scene audible again by persuading club owners to open their doors to the new generation of singer-songwriters.
AP takes a small fee — usually about $10 per band — to promote shows with posters and CDs showcasing the music. What the musicians get in return is a chance to play at venues previously off-limits. Membership also includes airtime on the collective’s weekly online radio show, and a profile and link on the Acoustic Philly Web site.
"We are creating fans that weren’t there before," said DelVecchia.
Acoustic Philly has even gained endorsement from Gene Shay, a local legend on the folk scene, WXPN radio personality and founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
"I don’t know of any group exactly like it," Shay said of AP. "It’s like a big family tree."
Shay made his foray into folk music in the early 1960s, when he helped to bring the first Bob Dylan show to the city. The longtime folk promoter sees AP as an important group that is bringing to light the growing number of acoustic musicians in Philadelphia. He helped kick off the first festival at the Rotunda and has hosted AP acts on his weekly radio show.
While Shay sees the Philadelphia Folk Song Society’s role as preserving traditional folk music, he sees AP as a group filling a different niche — one that represents what he calls "third- and fourth-generation" folk musicians.
"If you asked people from the sixties like Bob Dylan who their influences were, they would tell you Woody Guthrie or Leadbelly. If you ask the guys who are in DelVecchia’s group, they’ll tell you Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, or even Sufjan Stevens," Shay said.
For Kurt Unterkoefler, a local musician and booking agent for the Hinge in Port Richmond, AP has been a boon.
"Before, if you were just playing your guitar, you were often stuck playing in cafes," Unterkoefler said. "Being in Acoustic Philly, I have been able to get into venues that I would have had to beg my way into before."
Like many AP members, Unterkoefler also helps to coordinate shows for other artists and hosts the monthly show at the Khyber.
Looking to the future, DelVecchia hopes to nurture the growing Philadelphia folk scene and revise what people think of as the "Philadelphia sound" into something with a more roots-based feel. Philadelphia, he says, is quietly harboring a music scene that is the folk equivalent of the "grunge" movement that erupted from Seattle in the 1990s.
Philadelphians will get a chance to soak up that sound en masse at AP’s third festival, to be held at the Rotunda on Feb. 24 and at any one of their many shows before then.
For DelVecchia, that is what matters most: getting musicians out and into venues where they can show crowds what Philadelphia has to offer. ••
To check out the various show dates, the weekly online radio show, AP member profiles and links to their personal Web sites, check out www.AcousticPhilly.com
Reporter Brian Rademaekers can be reached at 215-354-3039 or brademaekers@phillynews.com
- NorthEast Times, Jan. 11, 2007


"01/11/07: Acoustic Philly Takes Over The North Star"

Acoustic Philly takes over The North Star

By Brian Rademaekers
Times Staff Writer

Last week, I wrote about Acoustic Philly--- a new collective of Philadelphia's acoustic musicians just under a year old. Founded by local musician/writer Mike DelVecchia and several other musicians, AP works as a type of musical co-op, where area folkies band together to book and promote shows in venues all over the city. You can check out the 100+ artists online at www.acousticphilly.com, where you will find show dates, member profiles and links to individual artists' Web pages, and way too much long hair.
But there is also a much better way to check out what Acoustic Philly has to offer. Tonight at the North Star, Acoustic Philly will be putting on a bit of a modern-day hootenanny if you will--- although it is not as nerdy as all that.
Playing throughout the evening will be a total of six local musicians. Their syles, sounds, and subjects vary wildly. Some are solo singer/songwriters. Some have full bands. There are old-timers and there are fresh, young faces. Some acts are well-oiled, others have only played together a few times. But together, they represent the kind of eclectic mix of musicians that Acoustic Philly has been bringing together.
One of the bigger names on the bill is Marc Silver, who will be playing with his band. Silver experimented with instrumental jazz for years, but recently crossed over into the singer/songwriter realm with his deput album, "Stonethrowers." A big man with a beard, Silver employs a smattering of what he describes as "mountain stage" instruments such as acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, fiddles and hefty upright bass. Lyrically, Silver brings in songwriting with the straightforwardness of early Dylan and the warmth and authority of Johnny Cash.
Another favorite is Heirloom Projector, a local four-piece folkrock band defined by the scratchy voice of Erin Douglas.
Douglas comes off as a rough prototype of Bjork. Her highly charged and emotional presentation is backedby soothingly rolling guitar licks, harmonica interludes and soft drums. For only playing together since early fall, these four have gone huge distances in finding an incredible and unique sound.
For those who like their acoustic music more on the sparse side, Mia Johnson, whose 2004 album, "Driver" earned her a special place in the Philly music scene, will be doing her own set. Johnson's voice is irresistably sweet and her phrasing makees for some witty and clever songs. Although it is hard to get tired of "Driver," you can expect to hear a nice chunk of new works.
Other artists include the Springsteen-esque Americana folkrocker Paul Edelman, Corrado--- a more rock-oriented band with palpable jams and Brian Nadav and Co.
When you are dealing with a group of more than a hundred artists, it is hard to call only a half dozen the cream of the crop, but these six certainly promise to offer a top-notch night of entertainment.
For $8, you have to admit you are getting your dollar's worth.
Stop by The North Star tonight and get a taste of the new folkies in town. If you can't make it tonight, check out the Web site (www.acousticphilly.com) for one of the many Acoustic Philly shows scheduled over the next few weeks.
It's good stuff.

COME SEE THEM PLAY:
Who: Acoustic Philly
What: Six excellent areae artists including: Mia Johnson, Heirloom Projector, Marc Silver, Corrado, Paul Edelman, and Brian Nadav.
When: Tonight, 9 p.m.
Where: The North Star Bar, 27th and Poplar streets. Tickets are $8. - NorthEast Times, Jan. 11, 2007


"12/22/06: The Week That Was: Dan Collins, Acoustic Philly"

By Brian X. McCrone

Philadelphia: Dan Collins has been finding it easier and easier the last year to get gigs at the city's hip music clubs
And he gives credit to his association with Acoustic Philly, a cooperative of about 100 musicians that formed because bascially, it's easier to book shows collectively than individually.
Collins, 31, is one of Acoustic Philly's core producers, hoping to turn it into a network connecting talent, club owners and audiences for easier access to better music.
He talked with Metro yesterday about casinos, Eakins and Iverson.
Q: Two casinos/slots parlors were approved for the Delaware Riverfront. Can you name a single person under the age of 30 who would be excited by a night of playing slot machines?
A: Probably, but most of the people I know and are associated with are really fighting that. Most are opposed because we didn't feel it would be good for the neighborhood... So, the short answer is no.
Q: OK, but would you consider an offer to be a lounge singer if the deawl was sweet enough.
A: Only if the Godfather asked me.
Q: Have you ever heard of Thomas Eakins' "The Gross Clinic."
A: No.
Q: Oh. It's a $68 million painting that hardly anyone ever sees at Jefferson's Alumni Hall.
A: Oh, OK.
Q: What's the most you ever paid for a work of art?
A: The most I ever paid was 50 bucks and that was from a friend of mine, Jessica Waterson from Maryland. I bought the work because it's brilliant work. If I had $68 million to throw around, I'd throw it her way.
Q: Where is it hanging?
A: Right on my living room wall.
Q: More people have probably seen that then.
A: Yeah, more people might know who Jess Watson is than Eakins.
Q: Now that Allen Iverson is no longer with us, is there any sports team in Philadelphia left worth watching?
A: I'll always watch the Phillies no matter how many times they break my heart. The Phillies are always going to be my team. They're not as mediocre as they've been in the past.
Q: What's your favorite Christmas song to play?
A: "Christmas in Killarney." That's a good Irish tune. Another is "Greensleeves."
Q: What's the most annoying?
A: It's funny because we have cable radio where we work and there's so much annoying stuff. It's hard to name just one. - The Metro Paper of Philadelphia, Dec. 22-25, 2006


"09/20/06: Gene Shay Reflects on Festival and Folk Scene"

Gene Shay reflects on festival and folk scene (Excerpt)

By Nathan Lerner
Special to the Press/Review

[Gene] Shay observed, “There is more electric or amplified music than ever before and the singer-songwriter population has grown huge—almost pushing traditional music and honest-to-God folk singers back into the shadows.”

He emphasized, “Song writing coops like Dena Marchiony’s Philadelphia Songwriters Project and Michael DelVecchia’s Acoustic Philly organizations are bringing young, creative music makers together—And tying them together with a network of venues that seem eager to put a spotlight on music. Even traditional music is finding more outlets in house concerts and clubs like the Mermaid Inn, which now hosts a regularly scheduled Sea Chantey night along with the long time Song Circles that have brought so many young singers to prominence—Tom Gala, Jenn Schoenwald, Bill Hangley and more.” - Weekly Press of Philadelphia, Sept. 20, 2006


Discography

Founder of the Following Acoustic Philly Showcases:

First Sundays at Fergie's (hosted by Josh Larson)

Second Sundays at Khyber (hosted by Kurt Unterkoefler)

Second Mondays Open Mic at Tritone (hosted by Dan Collins & Dani Mari)

Third Thursdays at Tritone (hosted by Dan Collins & Dani Mari)

First & Third Saturdays at Doc Watson's (hosted by Ezra Sherman)

First, Third and Fourth Mondays at the Raven Lounge (hosted by Tom Rader)

Every Wednesday AP Open Mic at The Dive (hosted by Josh Larson, Mike DelVecchia)

Every Tuesday AP Open Mic at the Raven Lounge (hosted by Todd Chaefsky)

Every Tuesday, AP Open Mic at Lickety Split (hosted by Katie Barbato)

Every Tuesday Evening, WQHS.org (hosted by Mike Murphy)

Every Sunday Evening, Radiovolta.org (hosted by Nick Ludovico, Dan Collins, Dani Mari, Alyssa Jean)

Podcast: http://acousticphilly.podbean.com (Rebecca and Steve Vlam)

Photos

Bio

One of the two co-founders of Acoustic Philly and its first executive director, Mike DelVecchia has been performing his songs for over 23 years, ever since his hard-rock band, Mystical Children began playing clubs in Brooklyn, New York. "Being a saloon singer and cafe crooner means taking what you love and hate about yourself--- including hearing your own voice--- and turning it into art, which is the most challenging, rewarding art I've ever done." Successful as a playwright and actor, painter and journalist, Mike brought what he learned in those fields (he is also the founder of the arts newspaper Philadelphia Arts Writers) to Acoustic Philly (AP), pushing into prominence by converting Philadelphia acoustic acts and bands into "arguably the largest music collective in Philadelphia" (Metro Paper, 2007), nailing down monthly and weekly series in seven venues (such as the Khyber) during his tenure with AP and creating and promoting two highly successful festivals, the latter benefiting immigrants rights reform in February, 2007, featuring over 35 local acts. WXPN DJ Gene Shay said, ""Mike [DelVecchia] is like a gentle giant, and that seems to filter through the group. The casual arrangement he has with his people seems to really work for them." (Philadelphia Daily News) Mike's open mic at The Dive of South Philly spotlighted one of the places where audiences could catch Mike's songs for a year and a half, as well as other local venues. Mike is also a big supporter of Autism acceptance, accepting donations at his shows for The Autism Acceptance Project, a group in Canada; in return for $10 donations, donors receive a free bottle of the wine that has been made by the DelVecchia family for centuries. "And they also get a ton of my songs." "The intense complexity of Mike DelVecchia's songs is matched only by his passion for transforming Philadelphia into the epicenter of the East Coast music scene." (Play Philly, 2007)

More:

Founder and founding executive director of Acoustic Philly:
Acoustic Philly is a grassroots music cooperative that is pioneering a rebirth of the Philadelphia acoustic music scene. Comprised of more than 100 local artists, Acoustic Philly produces entertainment showcases at venues throughout the city, such as the huge semi-annual festival held at The Rotunda every six months.