@ Milkboy Coffee (Center City) 9/16/12

Adult contemporary band Lotus Hill highlighted a night of artists supporting their CD release show on Saturday at Milkboy Coffee‘s Center City locale. The long and narrow 2nd floor venue has been open for about a year and the acoustics are top-notch.
Opening the event was Dylan Andre, a finalist in last year’s America’s Got Talent. Solo on acoustic, Dylan, who is not quite 21 yet and with just a few years of live shows, delivers a simple, emotive style. Among the songs I recall him singing is “Cocky”, which he claims is rather anti-cockiness. In the 30 minute set he manuevered just a bit between verses. Many of his songs are from his life and love experience. He splits time between Philadelphia and Nashville performing and recording. Early in 2013 he will release his first solo album.
The 5-piece band Lotus Hill followed soon after, playing about an hour’s worth of tunes from both of their albums. I had last seen them in June at The Grape Room, as they were just getting into Twitter and fully producing some of the new material. They had also played at this year’s Cape May Singer Songwriter Festival. Tonight, they worked their magic as before. Lotus Hill is at once original and yet so familiar. There’s nothing in their music that would sound out of place alongside comparables like 10,000 Maniacs, Aimee Mann, or the oft-compared Indigo Girls. Kevin Henry on lead guitar and Christine Moll on acoustic wrote most of the material on their prior album “A New Sun”. On the new album, the fan-funded “Shine”, everyone chips, in, including Grammy-nominated producer David Ivory. Though there is the strength of Peggy Carroll-Henry as the primary vocalist, there is really no ‘leader’ in the band, no signature song. They are a band in true definition, working with great chemistry (perhaps the marriages as influences?), fortified with strong songwriting. Among the songs I have enjoyed hearing were the earnest “Bittersweet” and the triumphant “Show Me The Way”, They are songs representing the realities of life, emerging from journeys, reflection without reflective tones; the guitars and dual vocals of Christine and Peggy kept the audience hooked in. The couple of Kevin and Peggy were somewhat animated in style both left and center of the stage, (Kevin prowling large territory a good deal through each song) compared to Christine (acoustic) and John McMullen’s (bass) firm stance on the other side. Their number-one fan Lisa Patti handled merch that included both CDs and plenty of t-shirts. They even decorated the bust of a plaster gent mounted above the merch table with a t-shirt.


VIDEO of Lotus Hill: Stephan Hayes has years of local and regional performance experience, known as part of the beloved and much-missed Stargazer Lily. Stephan is a true storyteller, singing of songs reflecting on life around Pennsylvania, a ghost of recent or distant past here and there, and just being himself. I had never had the chance to know him when he was Steph Hayes and with higher vocal pitch. He mentioned to me that he’s just now getting comfortable with the vocals but sometimes has trouble in parts of songs. He, within a trio, did play one or two SL songs; one song in particular sounded very familiar, maybe a radio single? A few songs into the set after some solo acoustic songs he was joined by charismatic Chris Schutz on a very lovely bass, and the equally mercurial Scooter Best on the drumkit. Scooter is the proprietor of The Grape Room as well as having been Stephen’s drummer in Stargazer Lily. As with Lotus Hill, Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner had a hand in helping create their sound in the studio. One-half of a reunion worked out very well but this was all about Stephan’s sound. Chris showed off his engagement ring to the audience just prior to taking the stage early in the set. Stephan himself had just gotten married this summer. Stephan knows how to craft a good lyric and the right hook to fit along with. There wasn’t much of an audience as there was with Lotus Hill, but for this reviewer it was a real joy to see this trio on stage.

Among those in the audience were Long Island NY songwriter Roger Silverberg, and Wilmington DE music radio jock Mark Rogers.
Postscript: Waltzing along Chestnut Street toward Market, heard one guy belting out the closing lyrics to The Doors “The Crystal Ship”. 2 blocks later, a guy and his girl walk opposite towards me. The guy gives me a slight wave and says ‘hey’. I seem too dazed to respond in kind. Maybe it was the Dale’s Pale Ale. It was $6 and I had maybe half the can in me. Six bucks?? Darned if I don’t pay that much for a can again.More photos? OK. They’re over here


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