Wed, Jan 31 • 7:00PM
The Atlanta Room
CHARLES WALKER BAND / ZACH PIETRINI BAND / MANDI STRACHOTA / NATHAN EVANS FOX
$10 IN ADVANCE / $13 DAY OF
CHARLES WALKER BAND
Deliciously Stanky. Dynamically Funky. Recklessly Hopeful. Grounded in soul, the Charles Walker Band has been compared to Prince, Bruno Mars, The Brand New Heavys, and James Brown. The Milwaukee based band has refined their sound into Neo-Funk, a fusion of funk infused rhythms with pop melodies. The three-piece band rehearses tirelessly in Charles’ basement, amidst couches and low ceilings, Charles having to stoop the entire time. Surprisingly, at the band’s shows, there are no fans. There is only family. The question posed at the beginning of the first song is, Are we family or not? The band evokes positive energy to their family members, who say they always feel better than when they arrived. The Charles Walker Band is Deliciously Stanky. Dynamically Funky. Recklessly Hopeful.
Charles grew up literally in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by dairy farms and apple orchards, the closest town ten miles away, he found music in six grade. After being presented with various instruments, he desperately wanted to play trombone. However, his music teacher declared he had the perfect mouth for saxophone, and his career was started. Walker, now also keyboardist and vocalist in the band, started the Charles Walker Band 15 years ago, initially as a blues band. When Porsche Carmon joined, a Columbus, OH native and female vocalist, bassist, and hand percussionist in the band, the sound begin to shift towards funk. Eventually, Charles and Porsche became a couple, and together laugh, cry, and argue about how best to plan shows that compete with cell phones and tablets. As a testament to their ability to create an engaging show, one of the band’s family said at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, “I had to go to the bathroom for two hours but held it because I didn’t want to miss a minute!”
The core of the Charles Walker Band is a three piece band. Besides Charles and Porsche, Paris Howard nails down the drums.
The group has opened for national acts including Earth Wind & Fire, the Commodores, BB King, Cameo, Aaron Neville, and Richard Marx. They have been featured on Fox News, NBC Live in the Morning, The Morning Blend, Discover Wisconsin, were the featured artist on the Blues Review and Soul Bag sampler CD’s, being nominated five years in a row for best soul/R&B act by WAMI, winning in 2013.
Counting Ghetto Prophet, the band has released eight albums, each an evolution of sound while retaining roots in positivity. Walker says of Ghetto Prophet, released on Ehlona Records, “One in a Million, where the album’s title originates, tells the story of an impoverished child becoming a success. This child ignores his circumstances because his vision is strong. He holds onto the belief that his dream is possible. That he could be that one in a million. Ultimately he represents the greatness in us all.”
ZACH PIETRINI BAND
Midwestern Salt-Of-The-Earth Americana.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in the wilds of Wisconsin, Mandi Strachota is the product of southern roots and Midwest know-how, a potent mix of practicality and soulful dreaming. She’s been singing all her life, belting out Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston and Sheena Easton tunes in the family living room, strong-arming her pre-school pals into elaborate musical productions of “Annie” at the local YMCA lobby, and joining in family sing-a-longs on the long rides to visit her granny in Tennessee.
Music, dance and performance have always been woven intimately into the fabric of her childhood, from her first piano class at the age of 4, to intensive violin lessons and gospel choir sessions while a mathematics major at Notre Dame. Soon after college graduation, the music still calling her, Mandi decided it was time to head south with the intent of finding a job and starting her creative life.
“My perception was that Atlanta was the R&B hub of the US,” she remembers, “so I went there. Unfortunately, my timing was terrible. A friend and I moved to Atlanta October 1st after 9-11. That meant jobs were extremely scarce.”
She eventually found lucrative work in restaurant management. “But after a few years I realized I was never going to be able to realistically pursue a career in music while working 70 plus hours a week. So I left for another position where I could restrict my hours to keep my nights open for music. That is the moment I really committed, when I decided to take less pay! I started attending jams and would sing three to four songs, usually with the house band, every night I could get out .”
Mandi became a fixture on the Atlanta scene, playing at local spots like the Northside Tavern, as well as booking a slew of wedding dates. She met singer/songwriter Larry Griffith after seeing his set at a club called Crystal's on Marietta Square. “I ended up coming back every week until Larry offered to throw me some tips if I would be a permanent fixture. I played with Larry for six years after that.”
The two made an album together, Fly, and Mandi got into the groove of playing, not only with Larry, but also going out on solo gigs, jamming at local watering holes for tips and picking up the guitar along the way. Finally, the time came to break away and explore her own voice… and her own creativity.
Mandi started in on a new album, a work that would ultimately take her on an unexpected journey of self-discovery - a lifetime of music culminating into an array of tracks that were distinctly her own. “The main difference coming into this album is that it is all me,” she explains, “I wrote all the songs and truly put my own heart and experiences into the whole thing.”
A recurring theme in this new work? The break from a dependent relationship and a move into a true independence. “Before, I was playing other people’s songs, showing up when and where other people told me to show up,” Mandi remembers, “leaving me confused and discouraged, not only not knowing how to attain my goals, but not really understanding what my goals even were, as everything I said and did was dependent on what someone else was doing.”
A break-up, medical issues, the loss of both her grandfather and grandmother in close succession, a dark clash of bad luck and bad timing - all resulted in a period of depression, sadness, anger, but also – in a glimmer of redemption. “It enabled me to see things more clearly,” Mandi says of that time in her life, “and to want to stick up for the real me and to share that person with the world. From the moment I knew this album would exist, I knew it would be titled ‘Unleashed.’”
Recorded at The Greenhouse in Atlanta, Unleashed is Mandi Strachota finding herself – rediscovering that childhood love of music, while finding both her voice and her joy again. “This was the first time I felt I could do what I wanted to do creatively,” she says of the album, “The majority of the songs are about that transformation. You can hear the desire to get out in ‘Ready To Run,’ the state of realization of how I led myself into this corner of dependence and lack of confidence in ‘These Days,’ the ultimate rock bottom of it all when I quit believing in love in ‘Just Rain,’ and the triumphant resurrection in ‘Growing Pains,’ ‘My Time To Shine,’ and ‘These Shoes.’”
Embracing R&B, gospel and soul, with a touch of grit and country sway, Unleashed is timeless in its sound, but thoroughly modern in its message. “It is only after exploring and succeeding at risk-taking, that the confidence turns into freedom and limitlessness,” says Mandi, speaking about both herself and her music, “In other words - being set free, is only the beginning.”
NATHAN EVANS FOX
Nathan Evans Fox is an Americana/folk musician from Glen Alpine, North Carolina, where he grew up surrounded by country, folk, gospel, and Americana. These roots form the rich undercurrent of his music, which combines bluegrass riffs, folk stories, and religious imagery with unorthodox layers of sound and a heavy dose of wit. Fox has been writing music for ten years, experimenting with a variety of genres and learning new instruments along the way. He has collaborated with other artists as a fiddle player, guitarist, and vocalist. His lyrics confront political, religious, and personal inconsistencies (even his own), but also offer a meditation on what it means to live with and love another. Fox wrote, performed, and produced his first full-length album Home, which was released in January 2017. He lives in Atlanta with his best friend/wife Elizabeth and their dog Maisie.