Jellybricks Make Their Return to Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Sometimes, a song comes to Larry Kennedy only when he stops trying to write it.

“There are times when it’s like the song was preloaded in the back of my mind, and it just flowed out,” said Kennedy, frontman for the Jellybricks. “’Corner of My Eye’ was like that.”

Kennedy is the Boardman native who has been the singer, guitarist and songwriter for his Harrisburg, Pa.-based power pop band for 20 years. “Corner of My Eye” is the lead single off the band’s next album, “Some Kind of Lucky,” which will be released Oct. 4.

It’s the band’s first release on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label. The TV actor, band leader and member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band has taken a shine to the Jellybricks in recent years.

The band will make one of its rare Youngstown appearances Saturday at Cedars West End, with none other than Youngstown legacy rockers the 8 Balls.

The upcoming Jellybricks release is a 12-song collection that is squarely in their wheelhouse: sparkling guitar-centric pop rock, based on catchy melodies that are littered with musical – and lyrical – hooks. As usual, each song clocks in at three minutes or less. Jellybricks songs may have plenty of sugar, but zero fat.

As for the title: yes, the band has been some kind of lucky of late. But it has also been a whole lot of unlucky in the past. Back in the late 1990s, the then-new band had two acclaimed albums under its belt and a lot of debt from its studio bills.

It entered a contract with a CD distributor, thinking that was the missing piece. The deal would bring Jellybricks music to a wide audience and solve its financial woes in the process. That idea went south in a hurry, as the distributor soon declared bankruptcy. The band lost almost all of the money it paid the company, as well as its inventory of CDs.

“We were so confident after our first two albums, we thought, ‘All we need is a distribution deal,’ ” Kennedy said. “But instead we were plunged into $10,000 to $20,000 in debt overnight.”

It got so bad that the band considered breaking up and splitting the debt up four. They decided to stick it out but it took them five years to get back on firm financial footing, during which time they were largely inactive.

The band returned to form in 2004, releasing “Power This” and following it with 2008’s “Goodnight to Everyone.” Those albums started the comeback, but things really began to look up with the next two releases – “Suckers” (2012) and “Youngstown Tune-Up” (2014) – which saw the band signing with Pop Detective Records. That’s the same label The Deadbeat Poets were on, and that iconic Youngstown power-pop act – musically in the same ballpark as the Jellybricks – had already attracted the attention of Little Steven Van Zandt.

The payoff came quickly for Kennedy, who had been trying to get on the radar of Van Zandt and his syndicated radio show, “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” for a long time. Two Jellybricks songs – “Rock’n’Roll Suicide” and “About the Weekend” – were named Coolest Song in the World by the radio show for one week in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The band, which signed to Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label in January, landed the honor three more times this year for songs on the upcoming album: “Corner of My Eye,” “Brooklyn” and “DOA.”

As reflected on the new album, songwriting has become a shared, if not collaborative, effort.

“Brooklyn” was written by all four members – Kennedy, bassist Garrick Chow, guitarist Bryce Connor and drummer Tom Kristich – as they were stuck in traffic heading to the New York borough. Kennedy came up with “Corner of My Eye” via one of his divine intervention mental downloads.

The Cars-ish “Runaway” was penned by Chow, and “Mrs. Misery” by Kristich. Interestingly, “When It’s Gone” was inspired by a ukelele that Chow gave to Kennedy.

“I took it as a challenge to figure how to play it and then write a song on it,” said Kennedy.

While the songs are instantly accessible, the best introduction to the ‘Bricks is through their dryly-humorous, and often self-deprecating, videos. Check out “About the Weekend” or “Probably Me” on YouTube for starters.

Chow is the driving force behind the band’s videos.

“He is very visual minded,” said Kennedy. “He almost has the attitude that the musical aspect of the band is well-covered, so he shoulders the video and album cover work alone, and he does beautiful work.”

At Saturday’s show at Cedars West End on Steel Street, the band will deliver a large helping of the upcoming album, and also dive into their back catalog.

“We’ll probably play about half of the new album,” said Kennedy. “But since we haven’t been able to get to Youngstown in over a year, we’ll play a bit longer and hit on a little bit of everything.”

If you miss the Youngstown show, the Jellybricks will return to Ohio on Oct. 25 for a show at Stella’s Music Club, in Cleveland with none other than Deadbeat Poets-Blue Ash mastermind Frank Secich of Sharon, Pa., as opening act.

The Reality of ‘Dreamgirls’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Youngstown Playhouse’s production of “Dreamgirls” shook the dust off the summer theater hiatus real quick. The Motown musical finished a sold-out seven-show run on Sunday.

It had been about three decades since the Playhouse last staged “Dreamgirls” (David Jendre, not surprisingly, was the director). Trevail Maurice directed the latest production and he somehow sensed that the timing was right for a revival.

Casting “Dreamgirls” requires some great voices, and dance moves, which Maurice locked up. I’m not going to list names, because there were several standout performances, even by the background dancers.

But the two character performances I will remember were those by James Major Burns and Sharleen Riley.

As James “Thunder” Early, the James Brown-like soul singer, Burns was a delight to watch. He had the moves, the cocky attitude and – as his character says – the soul.

As Effie, Riley had an impetuous glare that could melt the object of her disdain.

More importantly, in songs like “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” her voice screamed with pain and frustration, and soared with defiant pride.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a delivery so powerful.

READ REVIEW by J.E. Ballantyne Jr.

Oktoberfest Columbiana

COLUMBIANA, Ohio — Oktoberfest Columbiana will take place from 4 to 9 p.m Sept. 21 on South Main Street, downtown. The free, family-friendly street festival will include live traditional German music; craft beer, wine and cider; food trucks and vendors; a bounce house and other children’s activities; contests and games, including yodeling, Alpine horn blowing, chicken dance, grape stomping, beer stein hoisting, best lederhosen and the stein spree.

Registration for the contests begin at 4:30 p.m. Downtown stores will remain open during the festival.

Auditions This Weekend for ‘South Pacific’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Auditions for the concert version of “South Pacific,” a collaboration between Easy Street Productions and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, will take place Saturday and Sunday, from 2 to 4 p.m. each day, at Ford Family Recital Hall in the DeYor Performing Arts Center.

Performances will be Nov. 2 and 3 in Powers Auditorium.

Auditionees should prepare a one-minute song and bring sheet music for the accompanist, and should also be prepared to read from the script. Rehearsals will begin Sept. 28.

The roles of Nellie Forbush, Emile de Becque, Luther Billis and Lt. Cable have already been cast.

Those who can’t attend the auditions can email a video audition – with name, headshot, age, and acting resume – to [email protected].

WATCH After Hours video for a rundown of what’s happening this weekend. It’s posted at 1:30 p.m. as today’s Daily BUZZ.

Pictured: The Jellybricks are (from left) Larry Kennedy, Garrick Chow, Bryce Connor and Tom Kristich. (Image: Sean Simmers)

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.