October 22, 2013
Doors at 7:00 pm
Show at 8:00 pm
1303 Northeast 45th Street
Seattle, WA 98105-4502
STG Presents Under The Streetlamp at the Neptune in Seattle on Tuesday, October 22, 2013.
With the mantra “Retro never sounded so now!”, the dreamy voices of the four lead singers of pop quartet Under The Streetlamp are poised to bring the repertoire of The American Radio Songbook of the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and 70’s to a whole new audience while simultaneously reminding the original fans why they fell in love with the music in the first place. Under the Streetlamp breathes fresh new life into the music and proves that great music is timeless.
We perform music that was introduced to the public under the humblest of spotlights,” says Michael Cunio, who with Shonn Wiley, Michael Ingersoll and Christopher Kale Jones make up Under the Streetlamp, a group that specializes in doo-wop derived hits, along with old-time rock ‘n’ roll, Motown-era soul classics and exquisite harmonies. “We think of ourselves as hosts to a party – and we’ve invited people of all ages. They can sing along. They can dance in the aisles. We of course show respect for these great songs but we want everyone to leave the party smiling.” There’s no question that Under The Streetlamp share their joy for the music and the art of entertaining their audiences is something they take very seriously.
Formed in Chicago in 2010, Under the Streetlamp quickly earned a local devoted following--and a reputation for generation-bridging concerts that has paved the way to a much-anticipated debut CD/DVD. Titled Under The Streetlamp: Live!, the concert recording is also the centerpiece of PBS pledge drives in major markets throughout the country including LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington DC, Atlanta, Houstn, Detroit, Seattle, Tampa, Minneapolis, Miami, Cleveland, Portland, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, New Orleans and many more.
“It’s music that was largely created in urban settings like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit,” Wiley continues. “People lived in small, tight quarters, and when it got too hot in summer, they’d congregate on the streets to play dominos or stickball, or gather under a streetlamp to sing.”
Groups like Dion and The Belmonts (“I Wonder Why”), The Chords (“Sh-Boom”) and The Drifters (“Save The Last Dance For Me”), all of whose songs are represented on Under The Streetlamp: Live!; so are the likes of The Beach Boys (“I Get Around”), The Temptations (“Get Ready”), The Beatles (“Twist And Shout”), The Turtles (“Happy Together”), and, notably, The Four Seasons (“Workin’ My Way Back To You”). For it was a stint in Jersey Boys—the award-winning Broadway musical bio based on The Four Seasons—that brought Under the Streetlamp together.
“All four of the main characters in the show were played by one of us at one time or another,” says Ingersoll, who played the part of the Four Seasons bass singer Nick Massi in one version that also starred Jones as Frankie Valli. In fact, Ingersoll and Wiley and Cunio all played in Jersey Boys together in Chicago for a year, while Jones, who had previously worked with Ingersoll, appeared in the first national touring company.
“Then I started doing cabaret shows around Chicago featuring other performers—including Chris, Michael and Shonn,” Ingersoll recalls. “Some people came to see us because of Jersey Boys, but we discovered that it was the synergy between the four of us in this non-theatrical setting that audiences were responding to.”
Each of the Under the Streetlamp players’ resumes is predictably heavy on music performance prior to the group’s formation.
Ingersoll, who hails from Dayton, Ohio, became interested in music through his grandfather Roy Francis, a jazz pianist who toured with the likes of Dave Brubeck. Other major musical influences include Roy Orbison, and his rousing rendition of “Pretty Woman” can also be heard on Under The Streetlamp Live!
Wiley, who grew up in the arts-rich community of Adrian, Michigan (a small town between Ann Arbor and Toledo, Ohio), started singing and dancing as a child. He performed on Broadway prior to Jersey Boys, and is the group’s choreographer.
Jones is from Hawaii, where he grew up listing to oldies radio and singing in award-winning choirs. Like Wiley, he came to Jersey Boys with prior acting experience in New York theater.
Cunio picked up his love of music during his boyhood in Seattle, where his mother instilled the joy of all kinds of music. A certified sommelier, he also performs his original songs as frontman of the alternative rock band Reckless Place.
“I think that the crux and strength of our show is that we don't take ourselves seriously," says Ingersoll. "That's not to say we don't take the music very seriously, but we joke around with each other and have a lot of fun."
"There's a special joy from the interaction among ourselves and with the audience, and, of course, the positive feelings people get from the music," he says. "We were able to develop it through trial-and-error--and a lot of error!--during our cabaret shows. But we found the ability to relate to our audience with freedom and openness, and really discovered what we were all about: We're four individuals on stage who all come from different backgrounds and are very opinionated, so everybody brings something special to the table."
The songs "play to our strengths," notes Jones.
"We're all lead singers--which is significant," he says. "We can consider a song and determine immediately whether it's right for us, and if it is, who it's right for."
While their musical roots remain firmly in doo-wop and "The American Radio Songbook," Under the Streetlamp has expanded its set list to include some hit artists from the 1980s--including Billy Joel, Bob Seger and Huey Lewis--and they are working in some original material as well.
"At the same time we're digging farther back," says Wiley. "I do 'When You're Smiling' an old standard written by Al Jolson that allows me to put my tap shoes on. We also have a seven-piece band that includes musicians who played with the originators like Sinatra and Valli, who have the sensibility to maintain the classic sound while we push it forward for the next generation."
For the next generation, too, are the group's community-directed workshop activities.
"It's been important to the four of us from the very beginning to demonstrate our gratitude to the communities who welcome us by giving back in some way," explains Wiley. "This has taken many forms - from personally collecting donations post-show to benefit a local student with a brain injury, to providing a platform for students to perform for a sold-out house during our show. We also typically invite students from local high schools or performing arts schools to join us for a master class before soundcheck: Anyone who has 'made it' in the business knows that there is a glut of misleading 'information' out there about how one makes a career in show business, that keeps young people afraid that there is no place in the arts world for them."
Under the Streetlamp, then, strives "to illuminate the reality of pursuing your goals in show business--that vision, determination, perseverance and love of the craft are the tools one needs to achieve a career in the arts, and more importantly, that these are also the keys to success an any venture," adds Ingersoll. "We came to this band having traveled very disparate paths, and we emphasize that there is absolutely no 'right' way to find yourself working consistently in the arts. And our talks with the kids mirror our vision for our older audiences--to provide an environment free of cynicism and conflict while fostering hope and positivity. If they want to know about money, we talk about it. If they want to know about relationships, we're open. If they want us to sing, we sing. It's our opportunity to serve--plain and simple."
It's also all part of acting as ambassadors for the music that the group is sworn to preserve.
"There's something unique about the music that came out of the '60s period," Cunio says. "Not many young people are doing this music live, and we're trying to make sure it doesn't stop with our generation in our more fragmented digital time. But it's no accident that the people who come out to our shows know all the words to all the songs: We've found that the oldies stations are the only ones that kids and parents agree on, and that 18-year-olds have just as much fun at our shows as their grandparents. This music exists in everyone's consciousness unlike any other genre, and we keep that in mind and pay respect to it."
Jones best sums up the cross-generational appeal of Under the Streetlamp.
"A lot of acts up on stage are untouchable," he notes. "But we remind people of their sons, brothers, friends. We hear all the time from fans that if they could sing they'd do a show like ours. So we have a relatability factor: We're still regular guys, being ourselves and not taking ourselves seriously--but taking our music seriously as stewards of a great musical tradition. Even though we dress up, we're all from small downs with that blue-collar accessibility."
But Ingersoll places the group within a larger context.
"We're a vocal quartet with four lead singers--which is rare," he asserts. "But while we all sing lead, we also promote a sense of equanimity--and that's really important, when the dominant mood in the culture now is cynicism. We truly enjoy each other, and it's really important for us to show that to our audience."