whatzup2nite • Sunday, June 26

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Things To Do

Auditions for The Rocky Horror Show (Sept. 9-18) — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre production of this rock musical; seeking strong singers/actors, no child may audition under age 15, anyone between ages of 15-17 must be accompanied by parent, 6 p.m. Sunday, June 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, call for audition sign up, 422-8641, ext. 226

National Shows

Weird Al Yankovic — Rock parody at Foellinger Theatre, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $49-$79, 427-6715

Music & Comedy

Blues Jam Hosted byLee Lewis and Friends — Open jam at Checkerz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 6-9 p.m., no cover, 489-0286

Jessica Michelle Singleton — Comedy/variety at Calhoun Street Soups, Salads & Spirits, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $10, 456-7005

Yesterday's Headtrip — Variety at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-5526

Karaoke & DJs

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Stage & Dance

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Art & Artifacts

Alexander Lawrie: A Master Portraitist in Indiana — Works painted during his time in Indiana between 1881-1917, including portraits of prominent figures in Indiana history, especially Civil War generals, Tuesday-Sunday thru Aug. 21, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Art Cislo: Expressions of the Heart of Man — Woodblock and monotype prints convey his fascination with the heart of man in all its mysterious complexities and myriad expressions, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 10, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Elemental Attraction: Works in Iron and Steel by George Beasley and Susanne Roewer — Small and large scale sculptures, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 10, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Paper Airplanes — Over 200 airplanes in various mediums from local artists Tuesday-Sunday thru July 13, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195

Summer of Glass — Annual showcase of brilliantly executed studio glass feat. works by Albert Paley and Davide Salvatore and award winners from 44th Annual International Glass Invitational, Tuesday-Sunday thru Sept. 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467

Featured Events

Fort Wayne Dance Collective Spring/Summer Workshops — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, dates and times vary, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theater classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977, www.ipfw.edu/caa

Live Trivia — Trivia night with live host, 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Duesy’s Sports Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, free, 484-0411

Summer Nights at the Embassy — Live entertainment, cash bar, and local food on the Embassy rooftop, 5-9 p.m. Wednesdays thru Sept. 7, Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, $5,424-6287

Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, call for pricing, 432-8176, academy.sweetwater.com


South Pacific

Arena Wraps Season With a Bang

A community theater can’t go wrong with a season-closing show like South Pacific, as Arena Dinner Theatre has proven. Already sold out before opening night, the production lives up to its reputation. The 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical features gorgeous music, a winning heroine, a suave leading man, a pair of star-crossed young lovers, and an assortment of hilarious supporting characters. It also made waves in the mid-20th century for taking a strong stand against racial prejudice. Set in the New Hebrides Islands east of Australia (now known as Vanuatu) during World War II, the musical centers around Nellie Forbush (Leah Wedler), a spunky Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, who has recently met wealthy French plantation owner Emile de Beque (Aaron Mann). Their romance has blossomed quickly – too quickly for them to really get to know each other. She later learns that he has two children by a Polynesian woman. In 1949, this is particularly scandalous. Meanwhile, Lt. Joe Cable (Jordan Gameon) also falls quickly in love – with a young Tonkinese woman, Liat (Amber Rudolph). Both Forbush and Cable must confront their prejudices head on and decide what is really important to them, especially when Cable and de Beque go on a dangerous spy mission they know they may not come back from. Wedler and Mann have fantastic onstage chemistry together and excellent singing voices, as does Gameon, who sang some beautiful high notes. Wedler also has the chance to show off her dancing skills during the crowd-pleasing second act number “Honey Bun.” That song also showcases the comedic chops of Brock Ireland, who plays the loud-mouthed Luther Billis. Maggie Hunter plays Bloody Mary, the entrepreneurial mother of Liat. Hunter is dynamic in her role, singing one of the show’s most famous songs, “Bali Ha’i” and the more lighthearted “Happy Talk.” The latter song includes some beautiful choreography by Kandi Magner and performed gracefully by Rudolph. Speaking of choreography, the dancing in “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” is so energetic and fun that one of the dancers on opening night was actually kicked in the head (he was fine). The men’s chorus is strong, both vocally and physically, and Tyler Hanford (Stewpot) and Freddy Fuelling (Abner) were particular standouts. Sadly, the women’s chorus in South Pacific has little to do but jog across the stage in shorts, although they do get to back up Nellie in “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.” Erin Bean (Dinah) does have a funny bit when she tries to distract de Beque while Nellie hides in the shower. The set, designed by Therrin Eber, features a real working onstage shower, and the costumes, designed by Jill Bixler, give each character their own personality. Goeglein’s catered dinner includes dinner rolls and butter, broccoli crunch salad, pork cutlet with caper sauce, scalloped potatoes, Caribbean blend vegetables, and lemon cake. jen@greenroomonline.org

Jen Poiry-Prough

Weird Al Yankovic

Always Ahead of the Curve

It all began with an accordion. There aren’t many tales of the rich and famous that begin that way. But in the case of Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic, it’s a fact. Native Californian Yankovic took accordion lessons as a kid and then stunned audiences at open mic nights with his renditions of such hits as “Theme from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’” A big break in the career he didn’t know he was pursuing happened when radio host Dr. Demento visited his high school. Yankovic slipped him a cassette tape of his parody songs and Demento immediately featured one of them on his popular show. Reached by e-mail, the 75-year-old Demento wrote that he “had no idea in 1976 that (Yankovic) would go on to achieve as much as he has. “His career developed in a series of gradual stages,” Demento wrote. “When ‘Eat It’ hit in 1984, people thought he was an overnight success. But he’d been quietly building a career for eight years by that point – step by step, getting a little better and more popular each year. He has always been in it for the long haul, working very hard at his craft all along ... and every year it seems he discovers something else that he can do, and does it brilliantly.” These days, Yankovic qualifies as a “superstar musical parodist.” There may be more improbable things for a person to be in 2016, but it’s hard to think of what they are. Yankovic performs on Sunday, June 26, at the Foellinger Theatre. In a phone interview, Yankovic admitted that his current success was not something he envisioned or even strove for in the late 70s. “Certainly nobody, including myself, thought that I would have a 30-year career doing this,” he said. “I had more faith in myself than the record labels did. Early on, they all said, ‘Oh, you’re really clever. This is brilliant stuff, but, you know, this is novelty music. You’ll be lucky to have one hit, and then we’ll never hear from you again.’ “As a result, nobody wanted to sign me,” Yankovic said. “They said, ‘We want to sign artists that are going to have long careers.’ So my career is sort of the ultimate irony. I’ve lasted a lot longer than most of the people they were signing back in the 80s.” Writing song parodies the way Yankovic has done it for three decades is no walk in the park or piece of cake or walk in the park while eating a piece of cake. Yankovic doesn’t just write great parodies, according to Texas A&M professor Salvatore Attardo, editor-in-chief of Humor, the journal for the International Society of Humor Research. Yankovic is also an astute reader of the cultural zeitgeist. “He’s also very good at spotting the trend,” Attardo said. “You can literally do a history of contemporary pop music by looking at what Weird Al parodies.” For example, Attardo said, Yankovic’s parody of Nirvana became a hit just as grunge was being defined and embraced nationally as a new musical genre. “That’s why I think his success has been prolonged,” he said. “He keeps being ahead of the curve.” Yankovic confirmed that writing parodies has never been as easy as just riffing off whatever songs he fancies. He has always had to try to choose songs that people won’t be thoroughly sick of in any form by the time his albums come out. “That was always a tough trick to pull off,” Yankovic said. “I would have to think, ‘Well, will people be okay hearing the parody of this six months from now?’” In a sense, the parody has to sound almost as fresh to listeners’ ears as the original song once did. Further complicating matters has been Yankovic’s insistence that every parody he creates is approved beforehand by the original songwriter. Yankovic said there are both personal and professional reasons for this. “Ethically, I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I like to respect the wishes of the original songwriters, and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to hang around the business as long as I have. I don’t burn bridges. I don’t step on toes. I want to make sure that these people – these creative people, my peers – are treated with as much respect as possible. “The more practical side of it is the fact that we live in a very litigious society,” Yankovic said. “Even though, by all rights, I should be able to do whatever I like parody-wise, anybody can sue anybody for any reason at any time in this country. I just don’t want to be the object of somebody’s rage in court.” Yankovic has a reputation as a nice guy, but he also has a reputation as a savvy businessman. The goofiness of his songs belies his drive and determination. He made a decision several decades ago that some might have considered counterintuitive: He put together the best touring band he could find. Most musical parodists tour in troubadour fashion, and no one would have batted an eye if Yankovic had decided to keep things in concert as simple as an accordion and backing tracks. But Yankovic never wanted to go that route. “Having a live, high-energy show has always been part of what I’ve done,” he said. “I don’t know how important it is to other people. It’s always been important to me.” Yankovic said his band has “amazing chops,” which isn’t surprising when one considers how many genres it has to cover. “It makes me sad sometimes when people say things like, ‘Oh, they’re a comedy band’ like they’re denigrating them,” he said. “As if that means they don’t have killer talent when, in fact, the opposite is true.” Yankovic recently left Sony Music Entertainment and its many labels for the great, self-directed unknown, and he said he is still exploring all the resultant possibilities. “What I’m excited about is the fact that I’m not beholden to anybody,” he said. “I don’t owe anybody anything. My record label has always been very nice to me over the years and, with only a few exceptions, they never forced me to do anything. But I always kind of felt like I had like a 30-year mortgage.” Yankovic appreciates the fact that he no longer has to ask for permission when we wants to collaborate with somebody, and those collaboration offers have been numerous in recent years. Yankovic tends to pop up in all the hippest places: Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, The Brak Show, Yo Gabba Gabba!, The Aquabats! Super Show! and Comedy Bang! Bang! among them. He has become something of a comedic elder statesmen and that fact tickles him immensely. “It’s really wonderful for me because for the first decade or two of my career I kind of felt like I wasn’t getting a lot of respect from my peers and my community,” Yankovic said. “But now I’ve become sort of this person that a lot of people have grown up with, including a lot of comedians and a lot of executives and a lot of people running studios. All of a sudden they’re giving me the opportunity to do things that I wasn’t given the opportunity to do when I started out, so it’s really nice. A whole generation has grown up, they rule the world and they’re bringing me along for the ride.” Not all artists who had corporate help achieving their fame thrive after they decide to go it alone, but it’s hard not to feel confident about Yankovic’s chances. Yankovic may be a “mere” writer and performer of novelty songs, but the way he has gone about things has been nothing less than visionary. Arrardo describes Yankovic as the first internet comedian, even though his first big successes predated the internet by more than a decade. “He’s really sort of the ancestor of now,” he said. “You have these little videos, most of them with elements of parody, that are done with very cheap production. You can say that he invented the genre.” Yankovic said he’s not really sure what he’ll be doing after the current tour wraps up, and he doesn’t seemed at all worried about it. “I’d like to continue doing everything I’ve done in the past and do it better,” he said. “I’d like to keep doing more music and more videos. I’d like to do more TV and more movies, if possible. I’ve been toying with the idea of possibly writing or collaborating on a Broadway musical. That’s on my list of things I’d love to do. “It’s sort of the big question mark,” he said. “After this tour there’s a big open spot on my calendar. It might mean me being busy with some other projects, or it might be me just enjoying quality time with my family. We’ll see what happens.”

Steve Penhollow

Joe Bachman & the Tailgaters


Joe Bachman and The Tailgaters have a reputation for being (a) “probably the best party band in the world” and (b) an act with a conscience. Bachman, the son of an Army vet, has made supporting U.S. troops one of his main missions in life. Hence “A Soldier’s Memoir (PTSD Song),” his 2014 hit which has been used over and over again in therapy sessions organized to help returning veterans adjust to life back home, and has become an anthem bonding not only servicemen and women but fans eager to get behind them. Bachman and his band – Chris “Oz” Ferrara, Tyler James, Brian Walsh and Ryan Burdette – will be performing in the parking lot of the Wagon Wheel Cafe in Warren Friday, July 1 at approximately 8 p.m. as part of the Salamonie Summer Festival. The Tailgaters are no strangers to the big stage. They’ve opened for such rock and country luminaries as Florida Georgia Line, Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels, the Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox 20. Clearly, they’re a versatile outfit. They’re also devoted to showing their audiences a good time, so get out your coolers and throw down the tailgate. “If our songs and shows can help someone have a happier day,” Bachman says, “that’s all I care about.”

Deborah Kennedy

Moonshine Bandits

The Inventors of Blucore

Music that combines country and hip-hop calls to mind that old Reese’s commercial where a guy walking down the sidewalk eating a candy bar collided with a guy walking down the street eating out of an open jar of peanut butter. Do not ask why a guy would walk down the street eating out of an open jar of peanut butter. It’s just what everybody did back then, you young whippersnappers. The people in those commercials always decided by the end that they loved the combo, but that isn’t always how country-rap is received. Just ask Dusty “Tex” Dahlgren, one-half of the duo known as Moonshine Bandits who perform a free show at Brandt’s Harley Davidson in Warsaw on July 2. In a phone interview, Dahlgren said the band’s early performances could be contentious. “Oh man,” he said. “ I can remember our first few shows. We were booed. We were booed off the stage. They would listen to the sound and wait ’til it was over and then, all of a sudden, they’re first in line asking for autographs. That really did happen. Obviously, there were a lot of obstacles we lived through.” In truth, Dahlgren isn’t too fond of the country-rap label either. And he is even less fond of “hick-hop,” that possibly prerogative tag that was undoubtedly cooked up by a music industry executive or music journalist (back when we had music industry executives and music journalists – and a music industry). Dahlgren said he grew up listening to West Coast rap, and his main bandmate, Brett “Bird” Brooks, grew up singing in church. They both grew up loving country. Despite the fact that they have successfully combined all those influences into a confident sound, however, Dahlgren said that he doesn’t want the Moonshine Bandits to be pigeonholed. Tex and Bird have, therefore, come up with their own term for the music they perform: blucore. “It stands for ‘blue collar rebel music,’” Dahlgren said. You may intensely dislike one or both of the genres that mainly make up “blucore,” but you can’t deny that Tex and Bird’s music is a lot of fun. Every effort the Moonshine Bandits have made on their own behalf since forming in 2003 has been of the grass-roots variety, and one of the more delectable fruits of those labors ripened last year. The duo was able to purchase a tour bus. “It was huge for us,” Dahlgren said. “We started off touring in a Ford 150 pickup across America. All of our merchandise is in the back and, at night, you have to load all of the merchandise into the hotel room just so it doesn’t get stolen and then load it back into the truck in the morning. We went from that to a 1982 van all the way up the ladder.” Dahlgren said the band’s bus has “12 bunks, a flat screen, a PlayStation – everything you can think of. “Unfortunately, “ he said, “it just broke down on us in Arizona. The problem with owning a bus is that it’s worse than owning a boat.” Dahlgren said the band’s fans, called Shiners, are passionate. Sometimes bewilderingly passionate. There’s a mug shot floating around the web of a guy with a black eye and a Moonshine Bandits tattoo on his forehead. A Shiner with a shiner. “It is crazy what happens,” Dahlgren said, laughing. “It’s hard to explain.” Dahlgren said the band thinks of its fans as family. “We call them family because they’re the reason why we’re going up the ladder,” he said. ‘When we go out after the show, we pride ourselves on meeting the family. We don’t stay on our bus. We go out there and we hear their stories. Because that’s inspiring for our songwriting.” Asked about the future of the band, Dahlgren goes far-flung. He said he thinks about legacy. “When we’re gone and this thing really takes off for some of the younger guys,” he said, “I would just like to be recognized as, you know, ‘Hey, this is one of the guys from the West Coast that started this movement and it’s still around.’”

Steve Penhollow

Travis Tritt

Livin’ a Country Song

The details of Travis Tritt’s love life read like something straight out of your favorite country song. First, and almost predictably, he marries his high school sweetheart. While he works long hours with an air conditioning company, she slaves away at the local Burger King, the two kids just doing the best they can to get by. Two years later, and again, predictably, they divorce, and Tritt, a freshly minted 21-year-old now with alimony payments, takes up with a woman 12 years his senior. That marriage, whose dissolution will serve as the inspiration for his hit, “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares”) lasts a little longer than the first, with Tritt signing divorce papers from wife number two shortly after inking his record deal with Warner Brothers. Finally, in 1997, Tritt marries his true love, Theresa Nelson, with whom he later has two sons and a daughter. As so often happens in a good ballad, what begins in drama and divorce ends in happily ever after. And Tritt, whose early working life had him doing time not only at that air conditioning company but as a salesman in a furniture store and a clerk in a supermarket, can now rest easy on his country laurels, which include seven certified Platinum albums, two Grammys, four CMAs and an enviable lifetime membership in the Grand Ole Opry. Not that he’s been tempted to slack at any point in his nearly 30-year-career. Quite the contrary. Tritt, who will take the stage at the Foellinger Theatre Friday, July 1, is a road warrior, touring the U.S. and Canada almost constantly, treating fans to live versions of his greatest hits, not to mention some of his lesser known but still beloved songs about what it means to a bona fide country singer-songwriter in a world often dominated by a crowd of empty cowboy hats. Tritt taught himself how to play guitar at age eight, inspired by hearing his church choir sing Ray Stevens’s “Everything is Beautiful.” A prodigy, he started performing for fellow students at his school and joined his church band, his parents having sprung for a better guitar when they saw he was serious about his art. At first, Tritt stuck to covers, but during high school he started writing his own songs, and one in particular, “Spend a Little Time,” written about an ex-girlfriend, caught the ear of his buddies. Convinced of his talent, they encouraged him to stick with it. His parents were a bit more conflicted. His dad thought Tritt’s interest in music was just a hobby. He was sure his son would never be able to make a living playing guitar. And Tritt’s mother wished he would stay on the Christian music side of the fence. But Tritt was pure country from the very beginning. It was right there in the title of the demo Tritt worked on with Warner Bros. records executive Danny Davenport: Proud of the Country. Tritt couldn’t hide his pride in the genre he loved so much. He didn’t want to. And, as the coming years would prove, he didn’t have to. Warner Bros. Nashville division signed Tritt in 1987 on the strength of the songs on Proud of the Country, but the contract came with a caveat: he’d only get an actual record deal if one of three released singles became a hit. The Warner Bros. folks need not have worried. All but one of the demo’s songs went on to be a chart-topper, resulting in Tritt’s 1990 debut, Country Club. The title track, which spent 26 weeks on the Hot Country Singles and Tracks charts, tells the tale of a pickup-driving, beer-swilling country boy who dares to make the moves on a country club girl. Said girl is almost affronted by the boy’s advances. “I’ll have to pass,” she says, “’cause only members are allowed in here.” In Tritt’s hands, however, being a member of the country club means dancing like a fool on a Friday night and bouncing around in back lanes in worn out jeans. It means Dixie cups and roadside pubs and hard-won games of pool. And it’s all about attitude. Country boys go for it. They embrace fun over fussiness, value good times rather than the right address, and they aren’t about to let snobs stand in their way. Tritt became a member an exclusive club himself, joining the so-called Class of ’89, a group of country boys that dominated the charts in the late 80s and early 90s. Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Alan Jackson were his wildly popular classmates. “Country Club,” as well instant hits “Help Me Hold On,” “I’m Gonna Be Somebody” and “Drift Off to Dream,” earned Tritt his record deal, and in 1990, Warner Bros. released his debut full-length, Country Club, which, in turn, garnered him a legion of fans, an Horizon Award nom from the CMAs and the Top New Male Artist win from Billboard. The very next year he put out his sophomore effort, It’s All About to Change, and he couldn’t have been more right. The album sold 3 million copies and went on to triple Platinum certification. It also lassoed him a tour with country legend Marty Stuart. The brothers from another mother recorded two hit duets – “The Whiskey Ain’t Working” and “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (for a Long, Long Time)” – and have toured together several times. Tritt is known for his mainstream country/Southern rock style, crystal clear in early singles like “Nothing Short of Dying,” “Bible Belt” and “Anymore,” but also in his later work, which, in some critics’ minds is his best. T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof, The Restless Kind, No More Looking over My Shoulder, Down the Road I Go, Strong Enough, My Honky Tonk History, The Storm and The Calm After might not have registered as high on the Richter scale as **It’s All About to Change**, but the albums and their top tracks – “Can I Trust You With My Heart,” “Best Intentions,” “The Girl’s Gone Wild,” to name a few — reveal an artist with a lot to say and miles to go before he sleeps.

Deborah Kennedy

Aaron Mann

Always Working Both Onstage & Back

By Jen Poiry-Prough Fort Wayne’s current crop of ultra-prolific actors who perform in back-to-back shows includes Fort Wayne native and professional actor Aaron Mann. He’s a self-described perfectionist who is just as happy working quietly by himself backstage as he is performing onstage. “As a young person I was incredibly shy and kept to myself,” he says. “In many ways that is still very true. If I’m outgoing and interactive with anyone, that usually means I’ve grown to trust them. There’s a very limited number of people who get to meet that me.” As an introvert, he doesn’t consider himself a born performer, but he does come from a very musical family. His mother sang at weddings from the time she was a young teenager. His father is a self-taught guitarist who, in turn, gave him the basis for his guitar studies. His brothers played clarinet and saxophone. Even so, as a child he gained experience in front of large groups as an altar boy, choirboy and church guitarist at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church. “I enjoyed the traditional and formal elements of the service,” he says. “Contributing to something sacred and sharing my gifts became something that made me proud and satisfied with myself. To do good work is a great honor.” His father, an electrical engineer, instilled “a lot of discipline” in him and his two brothers, and he attributes his “unique work ethic” to his influence. Meanwhile, his mother’s support and encouragement, he says, inspired him “to never give up and to try exciting and interesting projects.” Both she and his grandmother fostered in him a love and appreciation for musical theater. His interest in performing in that capacity was sparked when his grandmother took him to a production of The Mikado at First Presbyterian Theater in 1999. “I was my grandmother’s little date and wore a jacket and tie,” he says. “It’s a habit I try to maintain to this day.” Mann performed in his first musical (“a show about baseball called The Inside Pitch”) in the fourth grade at Price Elementary. His first play was as a high school freshman at Elmhurst: the Woody Allen comedy Don’t Drink the Water, directed by Kirby Volz. “I was a little nervous but mostly excited to audition,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into being mixed in with a bunch of upperclassman.” His natural talent came through and he was cast in a supporting role, complete with a comedic monologue in which his character believes himself to be both of the Wright brothers.   The experience was “electrifying” and opened up a new creative outlet for the teenager. “After that I was involved with as much theater as possible for my high school and in the community,” Mann says. “I once participated in nine shows in a single season. I learned about dinner theater catering, volunteering for ushering, crewing shows, carpentry and design. I was in high school when I realized that I enjoyed just about every element of the craft.” He attended IPFW where he earned a B.A. with Academic Distinction in theater with an emphasis on acting. However, he still found himself just as enthralled with the behind-the-scenes aspects of theatre. “I absorbed as much as I could about the technical world,” he says. “IPFW really helped me understand the fundamentals – set and costume construction, paint treatments, hanging and focusing lights and scenic design. My work-study job for four years was constructing costumes, but in summer stock [in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania] I was always stereotyped as a carpenter. I welcomed that experience as another way of rounding out my training.” He says his education at IPFW also advanced his acting by giving him “exceptional opportunities, film workshops, two regional tours, challenging auditions and rigorous class work.” After graduation, he moved to Virginia and found immediate work as a scenic designer, technical director and props master. He also had plenty of professional opportunities to utilize his musical skills by playing guitar for productions of Godspell, Grease! and Working (the musical). Mann’s first professional acting experience was as one of three acting interns at Wayside Theatre in Middletown, Virginia. “For one year I performed in many shows,” he says, “but also found myself building in scenic and costume shops. I learned a little about administration as well.” Athough he was offered the position of general manger at a new theater, he decided to stay at Wayside as the theater’s resident properties master. “Designing props seemed like the perfect bridge to my background with carpentry and stitching,” he says. “I loved it. I’m very detail-oriented and somewhat of a perfectionist in my work.” In 2011 Mann was cast in the Midwest tour of the Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s longstanding and prestigious annual production of A Christmas Carol. After the tour, he returned to Omaha where NTC was based. There, he designed sets, became an interim technical director and performed as a musician and actor for a sketch comedy group as well as acting in two Shakespeare festivals. “It was a very exciting time,” he says. He also discovered a new passion: children’s theatre. He set up a residency at the Rose Children’s Theatre (also known as The Omaha Theatre Company), which produces major national tours and high quality educational entertainment. “I thought I would just commit to one contract there and find another city to bounce to,” he says, “but the Rose continued to be very good to me.” Nevertheless, theatereducation beckoned. “I landed my dream job for an organization called WhyArts?” he says. “Their purpose is to provide creative activities and outlets for any under-served population in the community. They frequently partner with The Kennedy Center and many other programs to enrich the lives of so many. I worked closely with diverse demographics – elderly, youth, impoverished, special needs and even a group where language was the only obstacle hindering our journey together.” Now back in Fort Wayne for the past three years, his attention to detail got him a job at Allen Plastics Repair, a company that produces such things as fire truck bodies and galvanizing tanks, as a quality control specialist. “I take a lot of pride in being one of the last people to check a product before it ships,” he says. Mann’s attention to detail informs his stage work as well. “I try to be very precise and intentional with my choices,” he says, “even when it may appear I’m not making any.” Those choices might be to stand in an uncomfortable or awkward position if he feels it lends itself to the character’s portrayal or simply through a particular vocal variety. “It’s counterintuitive to both be precise and to also challenge yourself to continue making discoveries throughout rehearsals,” he says. “It’s a lovely and rigorous process.” Mann’s perfectionism doesn’t extend past his own performance, however. “I’m only hard on myself,” he says. “Every actor has a journey specific to them and it is my job to attempt to reassure and encourage them only when appropriate.” No matter the age or level of experience of the actors he shares the stage with, Mann says he treats everyone with the same level of professional respect. Meanwhile, he shares the benefit of his own vast experience with his cast mates if they’re interested – particularly the kids. “One of my favorite things in doing shows with younger actors is the process of passing on healthy knowledge and theatre etiquette,” he says. He grew particularly close to his Mary Poppins co-stars who played his son and daughter, helping them with their British accents and “creating a silly and positive atmosphere to relax any anxiety they might have been experiencing in a show with loud and boisterous adults. It’s important to take the time to engage them with positive energy and kindness. These experiences inform me of my destiny to stay involved with theatre education.” At the same time, he say

Jen Poiry-Prough

Expanding Man

A Handful of Aces

Bob Bailey has just two rules for his outstanding band, Expanding Man. Rule No.1: no drama. Rule No. 2: no rehearsals. For some bands, the second rule might make the first harder to follow. Confusion over how to play an unrehearsed song for the first time on stage in front of a room full of people has driven many lesser bands to apoplexy. That’s not a problem for Expanding Man. Outside of perhaps the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, you won’t find a group of more seasoned musicians. Then again, an orchestra is unlikely to tear into an unrehearsed Beethoven piece on a whim. Wing a curve ball at Expanding Man and they’ll smack it right back at you. Individually the band members – Bailey on guitar and vocals, Mitch Gallagher on guitar and vocals, Matt Schuler on bass and vocals, C. Brent LaCasce on keyboards and vocals and a drummer to be named later (Nick D’Virgilio held that spot until recently) – have delved into just about every genre imaginable, from jazz to metal, prog-rock to country. As Expanding Man, they focus on blue-eyed soul, rock and country from the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s: Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, The Doobie Brothers, Boz Scaggs, Hall and Oates, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Robben Ford, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band, etc. “Mitch and I came up with the rules,” Bailey said. “Show up at the gigs, know the tunes. We’re in this to have fun, man. The reason why we do this is not for money, not for adulation; it’s not for anything other than for us to have a helluva good time and play some great music with some great musicians. That’s why this band exists. It is all about the music and having a great time. And these guys are all ace musicians. I’m the biggest hack in the band.” Bailey’s definition of the word “hack” is not to be found in any dictionary. Nor, I’d guess, was he implying that his bandmates are hacks but to a lesser degree. Far from it. To begin with they all come from either education, session work or active touring backgrounds. In some cases all three. Bailey spent his 20s playing with country and rock bands from California to Yuma to Florida and back to Indianapolis, his hometown, where in the 90s he joined Carl Storie’s band, which for a time also included drummer Dane Clark, John Mellencamp’s longtime drummer. Storie was the lead singer for the Indy-based Faith Band. Their 1980 hit “Put on Your Dancin’ Shoes” is part of the soundtrack of 80s rock radio. Bailey also started doing a lot of session work first as a vocalist, then as guitarist. He currently heads the U.S. sales and marketing division of Boss, the guitar equipment manufacturer. Gallagher is a composer, author, editor and all-around guitar wizard. He puts all those talents to use in his day job as editorial director for Sweetwater. And if you want to learn how Hendrix or Clapton or Page got their guitars to sound the way they did, Gallagher’s your man. Bailey said playing with Gallagher is a treat because he knows how to play with another guitar player. “Mitch and I work really, really well together,” Bailey said. “Finding Mitch and adding Mitch to the band was a great thing. He is a phenomenal player.” That can be said of every current member of Expanding Man. Schuler, also currently employed at Sweetwater, has a background in education and training. He worked for Yamaha, the instrument company, for years. His claims to fame with Expanding Man are his ridiculous vocal range (think Julie Andrews merged with Issac Hayes) and his knack for finding the groove in songs he’s never played before. “He’s great at sussing out what a song really is,” Bailey said. LaCasce spent more than two decades as a vocal instructor with the prestigious Freyburg Academy and at the University of South Maine. Prior to his teaching career, LaCasce toured with the U.S. Army Band playing piano and trumpet. He too is a veteran of Sweetwater. He currently works for keyboard manufacturer Roland. Bailey said adding LaCasce was the final piece of the puzzle. And whoever ends up taking D’Virgilio’s place behind the drum kit has his work cut out for him. D’Virgilio tours with Tears for Fears, played with Genesis post-Collins, led Spock’s Beard, played with Kevin Gilbert’s Toy Matinee and was the musical director for Cirque du Soleil. Just Google him. But mere pedigree is not enough to describe the depth of Expanding Man. Bailey started the group about five years ago after seeing a New York Rock and Soul Review concert. With Walter Becker and Donald Fagan of Steely Dan, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs on the bill, the show reaffirmed Bailey’s love of blue-eyed soul. “My passion has always been that music, you know Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, that kind of stuff,” Bailey said. “So the idea was to put a band together in Fort Wayne and do that kind of music, which really nobody was doing at the time. It started out as a trio because that’s all I could find. I found a drummer and a bass player, and we just kind of plugged our way through it. It’s evolved to where it is now.” Expanding Man have for a while now made the lounge at Don Hall’s Guesthouse their home for one weekend a month. It is a wonderful thing, an unexpected treat to wander into the bar, with its dark wood and deep half-moon booths and have your ears treated to a band of this caliber. It’s like the scene in the Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood find Mr. Fabulous and that wonderful band dressed in blue velvet tuxes and playing in some restaurant. “I’ve had numerous people come up to me and say ‘I can’t believe this band is at the Guesthouse,’” Bailey said. “‘You guys are great.’ I say ‘thanks. Tell your friends’ and they say ‘no! If I tell my friends I won’t be able to get in here. This is kind of like our little secret.’” Not only is the band exceptional, the sound is close to perfect. But I guess that’s what you expect from a bunch of guys who earn their living making musicians sound great. “The band understands this thing called dynamics,” Bailey said. “We know how to bring it down and get out of the way of the vocals, when to lay into it and when to back off. So the band kind of mixes itself pretty well from the stage. And we have good equipment. But we also have a guy out front with an iPad who discretely mixes the band. Most people won’t notice if you have a good sound man, but they will notice immediately if you have a bad one, or none.” Expanding Man are simply a joy to listen to. They stay true to the songs they cover, and they cover stuff that hasn’t been played to death on the radio. “You’ve got to give people a reason to walk through the door,” Bailey said. “Give them a product. Give them something that’s really good. Give them something that’s not like everything else that’s out there. No slam to anybody, but if you want to go hear ‘Mustang Sally’ or ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ there’s probably 30 bands on any given weekend that you can go hear play ‘Mustang Sally’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’ And that’s great. “We want to do something different. We want to offer an alternative in Fort Wayne.” Expanding Man do just that. And without drama.  

Mark Hunter

Summer Nights at the Embassy

Great Views, Music on Embassy Roof

The Embassy Theatre is one of Fort Wayne’s most beloved and historic treasures. The story of its once-certain demise, it’s salvation from the wrecking ball and its restoration to become one of the most beautiful venues in the country is now legendary. Along the way, a new generation has come to love attending concerts there, not to mention some of the many special events (silent film screenings, Down the Line, the Festival of Trees) which bring audiences of all ages to the theatre. The surest way to assure the future of something is to keep it relevant to the masses, and the good people at the Embassy have done that remarkably well for decades now. Better yet, the Embassy refuses to rest on its laurels and has now beautifully restored the Indiana Hotel adjacent to it, providing a beautiful setting for everything from meetings to workshops, holiday parties to weddings. The rooftop also provides some of the most beautiful views of our revitalized downtown, and if anyone hasn’t seen that view firsthand, it’s worth a few minutes of time to check out the photos on the Embassy Theatre’s Facebook page. Now, with all of this lovely renovation complete, the Embassy is bringing another draw to the downtown summer landscape. With Summer Nights at the Embassy, the theater is hosting weekly concert performances on the newly dubbed Parkview Health Rooftop, a chance to listen to music, enjoy the cooler evening air and get a look at the city below. The Wednesday night series began May 25 and upcoming performers include the B45s (June 8) and David Todoran (June 29). Several local food establishments are also participating (including Bravas dogs on June 15) making it a great chance to enjoy summer with music and great food. The first Summer Nights performance with Legendary Trainhoppers sold out, so if you want to see one of these performances, visit Ticketmaster or the Embassy box office pronto. Other Wednesday performers are still to be determined. That info will be available soon, so stay tuned. Tickets for Summer Nights at the Embassy are available via ticketmaster.com, by calling 800-745-3000 or by just showing up at the box office (my personal favorite). See you up on the roof! michele.whatzup@gmail.com

Michele DeVinney

All Fired Up

Reunited Brothers

When Mark Magdich left the successful band Brother, he quickly began to suffer remorse. Not that he necessarily regretted his decision, but he did miss playing with his two brothers who had given the band’s its name. His brother Chris shared that desire to play with his big brother again, and together they sought to find a new way to make music. “I retired from Brother in 2014, and since then I’ve dealt with a few health things, cancer and back surgeries,” says Mark. “But I really missed playing with my brothers, so I said to Chris, ‘Let’s go find a couple more dudes to join us.’” Those dudes – guitarist Brian Kinerk and drummer Beto Magana – are no strangers to local music fans. Mark called them to join the band, and Kinerk, who has known Mark since they were both youngsters, was quick to sign on. “I’ve known Mark since I was 17 years old,” says Kinerk. “I know he’s a great player, and he’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known.” Magana, who was then with the band Sum Morz, was somewhat more reluctant. “Beto was my first choice,” says Mark. “But he was happy with Sum Morz, and I totally got it. In the meantime, I called a couple of other people, but Beto gave me a call and said ‘I’ll take it.’” The foursome met at Cheddar’s last September, mostly to see how they all got along together and found an immediate rapport, primarily because they all had the same vision for what their new band – All Fired Up – would be. “I just want to get out and have some fun,” says Magana. “When we get together it’s like we’re kids. We’re like 15-year-olds getting together and goofing around. We love to play together. There’s no sense of competition among the four of us. We’re just doing what we love and having fun.” “We all have the same sense of humor,” adds Chris Magdich. “We can be in the middle of rehearsal and just look at each other and fall down laughing. We work hard and take our music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.” The connection among the players went beyond clicking personally. It was also apparent that they knew what they wanted to band’s sound to be. “I grew up playing this kind of music,” says Kinerk. “When we sat down to decide what we wanted this band to be, there was no variation. We all had the same idea.” Mark Magdich says those who know Brother can expect a similar sound from All Fired Up, but a more pop-oriented variation on that theme. “Our goal is to keep the dance floor packed every single minute,” says Mark. “We have about 40 songs we’re doing right now, and there are a few metal songs – but really more pop metal like Judas Priest. We keep adding songs to our list too.” There’s also a hope that eventually All Fired Up will be featuring original material as well, and hopefully in the not too distant future, a CD will be possible. Making a growing set list of covers and the hope of new material possible is the band’s professionalism, something each member appreciates. “We’ve all been in situations where there’s a lot of BS,” says Chris. “Here, we’re all a little older, and everybody is prepared and on time for rehearsals. Every time there’s a rehearsal, everybody comes ready to work.” Kinerk echoes those sentiments, saying that “it’s the band’s work ethic that I really like. I’ve been in other bands where that hasn’t been the case …” “Where someone is always late,” says Magana, finishing Kinerk’s sentence. “Where there’s a lot of drama and baggage. And with this band, everything just fell into place.” At the core of that cohesiveness are the Magdich brothers, both of whom are just happy to be working together again. “Mark and I are best friends,” says Chris. “Besides being in a band together, we work together at Sweetwater. Even when Mark was in California and I was here, we talked more on the phone than we talked when we were growing up. There are a lot of times when he and I know what the other one is thinking without it being said, but it’s also like that with the four of us on stage. We’re becoming like a family that way too, where we can just look at each other and know what the other one is thinking.” With a few gigs already under their belt, All Fired Up look to expand their horizons and should build their fan base significantly this summer when they open for Night Ranger at the Three Rivers Festival. Mark Magdich recalls when Brother played at the Whammys and their Facebook page received 500 hits that night and the next day. He’s hoping for a similar boost to their Facebook page from their gig opening for a national act, but he says he’s also happy playing smaller venues too. “At this point I think we are primed,” he says. “We’re locked and loaded, and we’ll do anything. We’ll play a 50-seat bar and be happy because that’s really a lot of our roots. I love that connection with the audience. I really think right now that the sky’s the limit for this band.”

Michele DeVinney

Secret Mezzanine

Passing Dreams

The sounds of the space age in the intro that kicks off Secret Mezzanine’s Passing Dreams hint at a modernist ambition in the duo’s music, and the album’s track listing, with song titles like “Electron,” “Diode” and “First Derivative Rule,” suggest that there’s some physics/math geekery afoot as well. But the music of Cai Caudill and Rob Greene is anything but cold and high-tech. Instead, there’s a thread of easy traditionalism that runs throughout the album’s eight tracks. The foundation of the album is the duo’s guitar work, most often a spritely acoustic interplay that keeps the songs moving at a brisk clip. Those familiar with the duo’s covers know their fondness for the Black Keys, but here Secret Mezzanine forego that band’s trademark distortion and grit for a cleaner sound. Similarly, where the vocals on Passing Dreams are often reminiscent of a 90s-grunge-rock moan, they never slip down to that genre’s level of despair. Instead, Secret Mezzanine often jump back a generation and dig up earlier influences, throwing in 60s-style wah-wah or reverb effects to create a vintage atmosphere that meshes nicely with their fresh song structures. That the duo can make their music seem so firmly aware of the 20th century while still featuring the occasional ukulele speaks to the versatility of their musicianship. (Evan Gillespie)

Evan Gillespie


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