Under the Streetlamp mines 50 years of hits
Culling songs from what it dubs the "American Radio Songbook," the vocal group Under the Streetlamp celebrates music from the '40s to the '80s. Having met during a run of "Jersey Boys" in Chicago, Michael Cunio, Michael Ingersoll, Christopher Kale Jones and Shonn Wiley welcome fans each night to their party.
"There are no walls when you come to a Streetlamp show," Cunio told SoundSpike.
"That's something we've been really intent on creating. You come to one of our shows [and] it's like hanging out with us in our living room. We're not precious about anything. 'Oh we're only here to be observed.' No, we want to share the experience with you. We want people on their feet. We want people to feel like they can rush the stage. We talk about it like it's a party for the audience and we're just the hosts."
Under the Streetlamp resumes its tour June 12 in support of its PBS-exclusive, self-titled CD and DVD. Formed in Chicago in 2010, Under the Streetlamp quickly earned a devoted local following and came to the attention of Charlie Blum ,who runs the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, IN.
"I immediately felt that PBS was the perfect outlet to introduce them to the public and was delighted that so many PBS outlets felt that way as well," Blum said in a press release. Under the Streetlamp's special debuted in March.
"It all happened pretty organically," Cunio said of Under the Streetlamp's early days. "It started out we were doing this on our nights off [from 'Jersey Boys']. On Sunday or Monday, we'd go play a gig or a festival just for fun."
"We had four or five tunes and that grew to eight or 10 tunes. The next thing we knew, it was 15 tunes. People kept wanting us to do our shows, not the 'Jersey Boys.' The more we got into the Chicagoland area, the more people really responded to what we were doing."
What Under the Streetlamp learned was that the catalog of material was strong, and folks loved it.
"We learned there is a hunger and an audience for what we call the American Radio Songboook. It's a catch phrase that encapsulates all of the great oldies. I don't want to say 'classic rock.' It's music, really, from the '40s, '50s and '60s. This music, man, people lose their shit."
Part of it comes from nostalgia, he said, especially as the United States struggles along, figuring out where it's headed and what's going on.
"People take comfort in things that they know," Cunio said. "I think it's also been hearing the music they loved as kids being reinterpreted or given new life by contemporary young people."
Cunio explained that one of the greatest things about Under the Streetlamp is there are four lead singers.
"There are four of us into wildly, wildly different things," Cunio said.
"But because we all do such different things it allows us to explore different parts of that music. There's such a deep well of material to choose from. I've got more of an edge, so I do some of the harder [stuff] like the Kinks, the Beatles, James Brown. Shonn is got this gorgeous lyric kind of voice. He can do the crooner, Johnny Ray and that kind of thing.
"Michael Ingersoll, he sort of starts his career in Memphis and loves rockabilly and country. We don't do it in the show, but my God if you could hear his Garth Brooks you'd lose your shit. He gravitates toward Elvis and Roy Orbison.
"Chris is powerhouse balladeer who will melt your face and your heart at the same time. He's obviously got the killer, killer ballads. With everybody being able to do something so different, we're able to cover a wide range of material. That's the great thing about the 'American Radio Songbook,' there's an endless well of material to draw from."
12 - Madison, WI - Capitol Theatre
14 - Nashville, TN - Polk Theatre
15 - Peoria, IL - Peoria Civic Center
16 - Kansas City, MO - Midland Theatre
17 - Minneapolis, MN - Pantages Theatre
19 - Pittsburgh, PA - Byham Theatre
21 - Hartford, CT - Belding Theatre
23 - Chautauqua, NY - Chautauqua Institution Amphitheatre
24 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion at Riverbend
25 - Lancaster, PA - American Music Theatre
27 - Westbury, NY - Theatre at Westbury
12 - Royal Oak, MI - Royal Oak Music Theatre
13 - Mequon, WI - Gathering on the Green
14 - Merrillville, IN - Star Plaza Theatre