By: Krista Doran
I have been writing the “In The Spotlight” segment of the Out On The Town for several years now, and I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting, seeing and talking with so many great bands in this area. I really consider myself blessed to have had these many opportunities to write about all of them. There are some incredibly talented musicians in this area and I am proud to write these stories about every one of them so that more people can appreciate all the hard work they put into their craft. Every so often however, I will feature a band that really grabs my attention because of their true dedication to providing excellent entertainment. That is why this month I decided to feature Steamboat Annie.
Steamboat Annie formed several years ago out of the ashes of what used to be the popular local cover band, Gear. Founding member of Gear and current drummer for Steamboat Annie Johnny Callan, asked his sister Kelly Callan to sit in on some songs after the original line-up had some personnel changes. At the time, a female fronted band was kind of an anomaly, and Kelly brought her dynamic stage presence and strong vocals which really helped to define the band. Not too long after, Johnny met current Lead Guitarist Josh Bornstein while they were both attending Temple University. They were both Secondary Math Education majors, and prior to this Josh majored in music. Johnny recalls; “Josh would often bring his guitar on campus so he could sneak into into a practice room in between classes.” John took notice and approached Josh, asking him about his playing experience. From there Johnny and Josh formed a friendship and Josh auditioned for Gear. Gear eventually evolved into Jinx, and that was when Bassist Mike Laster came on board. After a few really fun years of making music, they parted ways and Kelly, Josh and Johnny went on as a trio to form what is now Steamboat Annie back in 2004. Mike returned to playing a few years later to round out the quartet.
It’s been almost 9 years now since the current line-up of Steamboat Annie formed. As Kelly stated, “We are actually a very tight, dysfunctional family! To see each other that often every single weekend, every single practice and every single gig for this length of time, you either love and respect each other or you fire someone! There is a mutual respect and close bond that we share. We genuinely like each other and we hope it carries over into our performance.” Steamboat Annie plays a great mix of all genres of music; Classic Rock, 80’s music, Pop, Modern Country, Alternative…you name it, they do it! Their show is a super fun ride through all these different genres, with a sound and visual quality that is top notch and professional. They work hard at what they do and their dedication is why they are one of the most popular cover bands on the local scene right now. Johnny explained, “The care and time we put into making music really matters to us. We are firm believers that hard work and dedication trumps gimmicks.” I could not agree more. If you have the talent to back it up, you do not need any type of gimmick and that is one of the many things that sets this band apart from many of the others. Johnny went on to say, “It’s the effort that produces quality. And, at the end of the day, being in a band is about playing music. Our first priority is to always deliver our best performance and that includes a good sound and light production. If you can convey to the patrons that you care about entertaining them, they will engage you and they will return again and again. We have made so many loyal friends over the years and continue to allow us to do what we love. Without them, we’d still be playing in the basement! We are really grateful for their support.”
When you go to see Steamboat Annie live, you will notice the care they put into setting the mood for the audience. They will usually start off with some Classic Rock favorites and sprinkle in some Country and some Contemporary music. After everyone gets settled in and having fun, they turn things up a notch to get people up and moving. Throughout the night they construct a consistently fun and energetic performance, taking much pride in their musicianship and their connection with the audience. Kelly is often regarded as “The Dork” of the band. She is hilarious, quite clumsy and has learned to embrace it. Even after all these years she still gets stage fright! Kelly explained, “I have gotten much better over the years, but it can still grip me from time to time.” Meanwhile, John is “The Rock Star”, Mike is “The Ham” and Johnny is “The Drummer” (no other descriptor necessary!) These different personalities blend so well on stage because they make fun of each other and just have so much fun doing it!
I asked Kelly what she felt is “different” about Steamboat Annie and she told me, “We really ARE family! Josh and I have been in a relationship for 14 years and Johnny is my brother. Growing up, Johnny was always playing in some heavy Metal band and I was the Country girl. We were as far apart on the musical spectrum as you can imagine! Our mom tried time and time again to get the two of us to play together in a band but I hated his Heavy metal music and Johnny would almost vomit at the thought of playing Country! So while he was rocking his long mullet and spandex, I was in my boots singing Reba McIntyre! But fate eventually stepped in and here we are!”
Everyone in the band has a pretty impressive background in music. Kelly performed in Bandstand USA in her formative years. She would later take her love of Country music and front the very successful Country act, 90 Proof. During this time, she had the honor to open for national acts such as Kitty Wells, Waylon Jennings & The Gatlin bros. Josh studied guitar with Greg Kettinger and majored in Jazz Performance at Temple University. Josh joined Gear with Johnny and Kelly at the ripe young age of 22 and has been with them his entire professional musical career. Recently, Johnny had the privilege to play at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a part of the DeVry University corporate band. Previous to Gear, Johnny had played in several bands in the Buck County Area including Ask Alic, Instinct and Praz. Mike’s background is in Classical music and some years later Jazz, but he obviously has Rock influences as well. Some of his previous cover and original bands were: Medusa, Bad Manners, Bottoms Up, CopyKat, The Jinx, and Almost Famous. In addition to all of this, Kelly has traveled to Nashville to record her CD of original Country music called, “Kelly Callan, Rust & Rhymes” and explained, “It made a little noise and received some airplay. The CD is no longer for sale in stores, but you can get yourself a copy in the back of the “Steamboat Vannie! They are still available for sale at our gigs, but you better hurry, I only have 999 left…..out of the 1,000!” Recently, they have begun incorporating some of her songs into the sets and have been very well received!
When I asked the band what they wanted everyone out there in OOT Land to know the most they told me, “We believe the music should always be the hero. It’s not about flash or individual glory. For us, we play as a unit and support each other musically. It may not make us different, but it does make us sincere. We recently took over booking ourselves and this is our busiest year to date! It sounds silly to say, but we feel like a new band. We are now fully self-sufficient and we own our own brand. That’s not to say that we do not owe a great deal of gratitude to those in the industry that have offered their support and friendship. We would like to thank The Out on The Town magazine, local radio, open mic nights, local venues and bar owners who continue to promote and support local music, among many others, that help keep us all going. In the end, we are grateful. IT’S ALL ROCK & ROLL AND IT’S ALL GOOD!”
You can catch Steamboat Annie playing pretty much every Friday and Saturday night throughout the year. They travel all over NJ and PA playing at many popular clubs, bars, taverns, private parties and corporate events, or any venue in need of great party music. They will be playing quite a bit down the shore this coming summer at great spots like The Oceanic, The Bayshore Inn, Boardwalk Bar & Grill and several others. You can check out their full schedule and also listen to some music samples at www.reverbnation.com/steamboatannie. Take the time to go see this band, because you won’t be disappointed! Steamboat Annie is: Kelly Callan-lead vocals; Johnny Callan-drummer; Josh Bornstein-lead guitarist and Mike Laster- bassist, lead & backing vocals.
, In The Spotlight
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By: Krista Doran
It’s been 6 years now since “Fish” started playing in the area and what a 6 years it has been for this highly motivated and energetic band!
Fish Out OF Water started out as just a hobby and as Lead Guitarist Brian Kelly explained, “It originally was just meant to be a little hobby/garage band type thing, but over the years we started playing more and more….We found out that we all really loved it, and so we stuck with it to this day!” The band plays a great mix of cover songs and will play anything from Classic Rock and Country to Pop, Dubstep, Hard Rock and even Techno. Their versatile set lists have made them extremely popular and their seemingly innocent “boyish” looks make the girlies go crazy! But because of their great selection of songs and musicianship, they will appeal to every age group, male or female!
I had the pleasure of interviewing lead Guitarist, Brian Kelly a year or 2 ago and I am happy to see that the band is still doing quite well. There are so many bands that come and go in this area, but “Fish” definitely has staying power. I asked Brian to describe a show to me and he explained it like this: “From the very first song, we bring the energy HARD….Girls are dancing, guys are dancing….everyone is drinking. By the time the second set comes, very few people are sitting at the bar, because we have them all on the dance floor. By the third set everyone is singing along! It’s one GIANT PARTY!” I also asked him what was different about the band and he explained, “We put our own “rocked up” spin on all songs we play. For instance, we’ve taken the song “Sweet Caroline” and put a rocked up twist on it. You really just have to see a live show to really understand how exactly we manage to make everything ROCK the way we do!”
If you go to see Fish Out Of Water LIVE, you are going to notice their shows are usually packed…..Everyone is drinking, dancing and having a great time and that’s what they do…They bring the party! They also take the time to consistently learn new music to keep their shows fresh and exciting for their fans. This is a band that really gets the crowd into the music because they all really enjoy the music they play.
I asked Brian what he thought the band would really want everyone to know, and he told me “A Fish Out of Water show is not just a “show”…it’s a PARTY. We want to party with the people that are there watching our show. We don’t just want to perform music as they watch. We want to get EVERYONE involved both during our sets and during our breaks in between sets. It only takes one show and you will be hooked! I promise!”
Fish Out Of Water is: Gary Smith – Lead Vocals; Santiago Cannon – Bass/Vocals; Brian Kelly – Lead Guitar/Vocals; Aaron Van Allen – Lead Vocals/Guitar and Tim Burns – Drums.
You can see the band playing at some great local spots including Rho (formerly Katmandu), various shore points and casinos, Havana in New Hope, Mad River Manayunk, Finnegan’s Wake, and they are doing a vertical every Sunday at Sweeney’s Saloon in NE Philly. Go check them out because I know you are going to enjoy it! See www.fishoutofwaterband.com for the complete schedule.
Categories: In The Spotlight
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By: Krista Doran
Here at the OOT, we feature many great bands and musicians from the local area throughout the paper, but the “In The Spotlight” segment is reserved for the best. I don’t often get to choose the bands I write about, but when I do I choose carefully. I am very proud to write this issue’s article about a band that has been on the scene many years now and who is truly and exceptionally talented.
A few years back I met local musician, Michael Eli. At the time, I was booking several rooms in the area and he had sent me some recordings of his band. I had been working with many other bands at the time, but as soon as I heard these recordings, I was blown away. Everything about this band stood out and I have kept in touch with Mike ever since. I am a fan myself, and you will be too, once you hear them. The band I am referring to is Soul Custody!
I spoke to Mike, who is a very humble and hilarious guy. Mike explained to me that the band actually formed “by accident.” About 10 years ago, Mike had moved back home to Philly after living in Los Angeles for 15 years. He started out just doing some solo shows and after a while started working with several different area musicians as a duo. One of the musicians he met along the way was Ed Wall and this is where the current band began. A short while after, Mike’s lifelong friend and bass player Barry Cary started to come and sit in on bass. Things were sounding so good that they decided to call on drummer Steve Shupsky. Things were sounding great and the guys all felt the band needed one more component. Mike told me, “Barry and I had seen this amazing guitar player on and off for years and every single time, he just blew us away. Well what do you know, we wind up with him filling in a gig where we needed a 5th musician and we had such a blast that, the rest as they say, is history. We’re still in shock that we have John Bushnell in the band!”
Soul Custody has been impressing music lovers of all kinds now for over 7 years. They have been able to effectively infuse Soul into the Rock songs they play, as well as Rock into the Soul songs. I asked Mike to explain the kind of music they played and he said, “I think it was Duke Ellington that said ‘There’s only two kinds of music. Good music and bad music’. Mostly I’d say we cover Pop music. Some Rock. Some Soul. Some Blues. It’s a very energetic and danceable fusion of music. We do our best no matter what genre or style we’re playing, to play Good Music … In addition to playing anywhere from 4 to 8 public shows a month, we also do a lot of private work where we can also play Jazz, Country, or some current Top 40, by request. Some highlights include: Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Gavin DeGraw, Journey, Train, The Police, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Black Crows, Top Petty, Cheap Trick, Beatles, Aerosmith, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Queen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jack Johnson etc.”
The kind of music that you will hear at a Soul Custody show is pretty eclectic. Mike explained, “We’ve built our band on songs that we love. Luckily for us, they turned out to be songs lots of restaurant and bar goers also love. So we really get into our shows. No need to fake it cause we truly LOVE the songs we do and LOVE playing together in this band.” And this is evident, people. I have seen them play, and the chemistry is awesome between all members, whether its the duo, 4 or 5 piece. Each band member has been playing since childhood and have all been working musicians their entire lives. Ed and John teach in addition to playing in the band and Barry is an Audio/Video engineer. All members have toured and worked with many bands big and small, but of course, Mike’s humility wanted to avoid the name dropping. He is such a cool dude. Mike does a lot of audio recording and editing, as well and writing and producing original music. He told me about his band, “I can tell you that I get to experience hearing and seeing these guys play all the time. And I still catch myself smiling at what these guys do night after night. These guys are all excellent musicians.” Mike is right. I have to agree with that statement 100%.
When you go out to see Soul Custody in action (which I highly recommend), you will see for yourself how engaging and fun they are. They’ll start many shows off as a duo and play some more mellow instrumental stuff and will then gradually kick it up as the night goes on. They can accommodate any room, too, whether a duo, 4 or 5 piece is required. The duo covers all kinds of great songs by Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Jason Mraz, Bob Dylan and even Pink. They also mix some Soul and Jazz into their duo shows. The 4 piece version is funky and fresh and will keep everyone dancing all night. The 5 piece version adds a more guitar driven sound. Add in some horns wherever needed and it’s an even bigger sounding band! They even do some originals and in fact, they expect to be playing some of them out soon because Mike’s original CD is scheduled for release in June.
Soul Custody is a great band with an even greater message for their fans. Mike told me, “We’re just musicians doing our best to help people relax and unwind and disconnect from all the bullshit life throws at them. We don’t really take ourselves too seriously. We’re just a local band that really loves to play and knows how to have a good time. Seems when we’re having fun, it’s contagious. Life is Short. Love one another. Look out for one another. Go support live music with your loved ones and get caught up in moment whenever you can. Hearing live music is an amazing blessing if you’re open to it’s power. We’d love to share that with anyone and everyone that wants to party and have fun.” Wise words from a wise man. How can you not love this guy?
Everyone needs to get out and see Soul Custody. You can see them playing monthly at some great venues such as The Washington Crossing Inn, The Logan Inn, Chambers 19, The Sycamore Grill, Earl’s Bucks County and The Dog & Bull. They also play pretty regularly at The Ivy Tavern, McStews and Coconut Cove. You can read up on the band and check out their schedule at www.soulcustody.net. Go there now to hear some great samples of their jams – you will be dancing in your chair just listening to that! Soul Custody is Michael Eli – Guitars & Lead & Backing Vocals, Ed Wall – Keyboards & Lead & Backing Vocals, Barry Cary – Bass & Backing Vocals, Steve Shupsky – Drums & Backing Vocals and John Bushnell – Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals.
, In The Spotlight
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The Story Of Soraia:
Our story starts on a particularly cold, gray winter evening. Two men stand hovering over the lifeless body of Mansour. One panics while the other holds her – tears streaming from his face dripping onto her pale skin as a needle, which provided a potent shot of cocaine to her left arm, lies next to her motionless body. There was no pulse.
For Mansour, this was just one of many failed attempts at ending her life.
Her middle class upbringing masked an emotionally and physically abusive home life that became hopeless when her mother, who was her protector, her confidante, and her best friend, passed away when Soraia was only 17. She quickly descended into a destructive lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse. The next four years brought violent relationships, escalating drug use, and the witnessing of horrific events while living with junkies and pushers.
Try as she may, she could not escape the self-imposed abusive lifestyle which had become her reality. Penniless, homeless and left for dead, that fateful night should have been the epilogue of Soraia’s turbulent life. But it wasn’t. Soraia was rescued by the only person who could save her: herself.
With a newfound resolve, she got sober, re-entered college, and finished in two years with a teaching degree and the hope in her heart to finally begin a life she was yet waiting to live. Still, teaching proved not enough to quell her intense longing for expression. She turned to poetry, writing, and finally her first love, singing. Driven and determined, tough and still tender, she began her singing career winning over fans immediately with her passion, pain, and raw emotion. Soraia formed her band in late 2004, and began writing songs and performing live anywhere and everywhere she could. With the same intensity and resolve she had approached every addiction she ever had, she went after her heart’s ultimate desire.
Soraia gives life to her experiences through her voice, and molds the best and worst of her life story through song. A warrior at heart, nowhere is the true Soraia more visible than on stage during one of the band’s ferociously energetic, intoxicating live shows. Her voice showcases the will to survive with a defiant, full-throated vocal performance reminiscent of the great women of rock, such as Grace Slick and Tina Turner. Her sexuality and rawness demand attention of even the most passive of listeners- inviting all of us to the danger rock n’ roll promised to be.
Whether in a hot, sweaty rock club or a massive amphitheatre, Soraia’s charisma and spirit transcends the concert stage and reaches all those who witness SORAIA live. Rarely will you see a band with so much magic and soul as SORAIA. And never will you hear a story so full of hope and heart as that of Soraia Mansour. Her every breath is a testament that miracles really do exist, and that the underdog really can win the whole world.
On June 6, 2012 Jon Bon Jovi attended a Soraia Industry Showcase in Philadelphia, PA. On September 26, 2012 in NYC, Jon Bon Jovi was spotted again at Soraia’s Industry Showcase in support of their upcoming major release.
ZouZou Mansour – Vocals
Anthony Renzulli – Rhythm Guitar
Brain Cassidy – Lead Guitar
Travis Smith – Bass Guitar
Jason Miraglia – Drums
Mike Lawson – Keyboard
Thu Nov 15 – 10:30PM
Rebel Rock Bar
Fri Nov 23 – 9PM
Thu Nov 29 – 5PM
Soraia LIVE! on 93.3 WMMR FM’s “Camp Out for Hunger” on Jaxon’s Show
Fri Nov 30 – 5PM
Soraia on Radio 104.5 FM Philadelphia: “Live at 5″
Fri Nov 30 – 8PM
Bus Stop Music Cafe/Record Store
ALL AGES ACOUSTIC SHOW
Thu Dec 06 – 11PM
Fri Dec 07 – 9PM
Fri Dec 21 – 9PM
A Holiday Evening with Soraia at Sine Studios
Fri Jan 11 2013 – 9PM
Sat Jan 26 2013
For all updates on Soraia, please visit
, In The Spotlight
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By: Krista Doran
Since 1994, there has been one band consistently rocking the Philly Cover band scene and that band is Steamroller Picnic!
I spoke to Lead singer, Judge DeFazio and asked him what their shows are like and he explained, “We usually play 3 sets of popular, high energy music that appeals to each person in the room at some point. We like to get the crowd involved. Whether it be a Birthday girl, bachelorette party, or guys that want to rock with us.”
No matter where this band plays, whether it be a big club or local bar, this band gives it their all. They will rock the place from the first note to the last and people are always very entertained, that’s a fact. What makes this band different is their commitment to what they are doing and the chemistry of the current line-up. There have been quite a few members in and out of the band over the years, but Judge told me, “the four of us just seem to be able to read each other’s minds.This makes for a truly unique performance each and every time we play.”
Steamroller Picnic can ignite any party or venue with the vast list of genres in which they play. They play songs from Usher and Cee-Lo to Rage Against The Machine and Metallica and will keep the party going all night long. All members of the band have strong backgrounds in music and have been playing in many bands and side projects over the years.
You can see the band playing all over the area and quite a bit in Atlantic City including The Borgata, Showboat, Bally’s, Golden Nugget, The Hilton and Tropicana – just to name a few. When not in AC, they play in several other bars and clubs in the Philly area.
The guys in the band also dabble in their own original side projects. For instance Judge explained, “Bones is currently in the band “The Endless March”. The competition was created by 93.3 WMMR to pick 6 person band comprised of the best musicians from the Philly region. They played Susquehanna Bank Center for the MMRBQ w/ Shinedown & Godsmack this past summer. And are playing Sold Out show at TLA on Halloween!”
It’s good to know that Steamroller Picnic is still out there doing their thing. They still rock each and every place they play, and they are better than ever! If you want to go see them live, here is their current schedule: 11/2: Dover Downs Fire & Ice – Dover, DE; 11/3: RiRa’s Irish Pub – Atlantic City, NJ; 11/8: The Social @ Revel – Atlantic City, NJ; 11/17: Cap’ns Corner – Woodbury, NJ; 11/24: PC Pub – Pennsburg, PA;11/30: Top Dog – Cherry Hill; NJ, 12/1: Borgata’s Gypsy Bar – Atlantic City, NJ; 12/8: SugarHouse Refinery Bar – Philadelphia, PA; 12/22: Cap’ns Corner – Woodbury, NJ; 12/29: Top Dog; 12/31: The Piazza @ Schmidt’s – Philly.
If you are interested in booking the band, please contact Shore Bets at 215-884-4357. You can also check them outr online at www.steamrollerpicnic.com!
, In The Spotlight
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