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Rachael & Vilray Take the Crowd Back in Time at Steel City Coffee House!

In today’s music scene, it’s not very often that you run into musicians that appreciate music from decades ago.  Not only do Rachael & Vilray appreciate that music, they bring it back to life in their shows!

 

A picture of the stage of Steel City Coffee House. The logo is on the wall in the back of the stage. It's a tiny stage with only two microphones set up.
We had the chance to see Rachael & Vilray perform in an intimate venue – Steel City Coffee House!

We had the chance to see Rachael & Vilray at one of the few tour stops they are making.  They performed at Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville, PA.  It was an evening of great food and great music.  Keep reading to find out more!

 

THE VENUE

Steel City Coffee House is located in the heart of downtown Phoenixville, PA. Over the past couple of years, Phoenixville has experienced a major resurgence. The downtown area is now home to lots of restaurants, breweries, wineries, and even a distillery.

Current owners Laura Vernola and Ed Simpson purchased the coffeehouse back in May of 2016, when the previous owners decided to close it down. Vernola has extensive experience in marketing, real estate and the restaurant business. From 2004 to 2008, she owned the Vegas-themed Deuce Restaurant & Bar in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. Simpson is an amateur musician, and also has a wealth of experience in the hospitality business, including several senior roles at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa in New Mexico.

The couple were running a marketing firm when they heard Steel City was going to be closing. Rather than let it close, they decided to do something about it.

Despite the name, Steel City is not just a coffeehouse. While there is coffee on the menu, they also have an extensive line-up of entertainment. Events at Steel City include everything from a weekly story time on Tuesday mornings, to family friendly entertainment and events, to evening concerts featuring local and national artists.

Steel City also hosts the best open mic night in the region. On any given night you could see everything from musicians, to comedians, to magicians come through to show off their talents. To participate in open mic night, you need to arrive at Steel City by 6:30 p.m. to sign up, and be ready to perform at 7 p.m. There is a $3 charge at the door to perform or to watch the show.

Steel City works hard to locally source all of the food and beverages they serve. They work with Wonderful Good Market in Adamstown, High Point Bakery in Mt. Airy, and Baba’s Brew in Phoenixville.

If you attend an evening show like we did for Rachael Price & Vilray, make sure you come early for dinner. For the show we attended, doors opened for dinner at 6:30 p.m. There was a special menu which featured a “walking taco”, mac & cheese, chicken salad sandwiches, and an egg & cheese biscuit. You could also order coffee, homemade soups, and desserts.

 

A picture of the menu items available prior to the show.
Due to the sold-out crowd for this show, they were serving a limited menu. Even so, everything we had was delicious!

 

I had the chicken salad sandwich and the mac & cheese, both of which were delicious. The portions were large, so it was plenty of food. My husband did the “walking taco” and the mac & cheese with bacon on top.

 

A picture of a chicken salad sandwich on a plate with some potato chips.
My chicken salad sandwich was delicious! The food was very fresh.

 

Tip #1: Note that they do not take food orders once the show begins, so plan on arriving early so that you can eat prior to the show. You have to place your food order at the counter. Just grab a table, figure out what you want to eat, and walk up to the counter (in the back) and order. They’ll give you a number to place on your table, and deliver the food to you.

Steel City is BYOB, so feel free to bring your own bottles of wine or beer with you for the show. There is a $5 charge “per drinker” at the door.

Tip #2: Root Down Brewery and Black Walnut Winery are both located in downtown Phoenixville and within walking distance. Both establishments offer a 10% discount to anyone showing proof of attending a show at Steel City (valid only for the day of the show). We stopped at Root Down Brewery before the show and did a beer flight. We were able to grab some cans “to go” and take them with us.

Tip #3: Parking around the venue is pretty easy, but note that it is all metered. So, be sure to read the signs carefully. There is parking in the street, as well as municipal lots. We were able to park in a municipal lot right around the corner from the venue. Note that you can pay directly in the meter/kiosk, or pay on the website on your phone.

Overall, we had a great experience at Steel City Coffee House. The staff was great – they were very friendly and very attentive. The room is a great place to see an intimate show. There isn’t a bad seat in the place!  Click here for more information and to stay up to date on their upcoming events.

 

THE SHOW

Taylor Ashton

According to his website, Taylor Ashton is a songwriter, singer, banjo player, guitarist, illustrator, graphic designer and Canadian. Born in Calgary, Ashton has been performing professionally since 2006. Ashton primarily performed with his band Fish & Bird until they went on a “hibernation”, as Ashton describes it.

Ashton is currently partnering with Courtney Hartman on a duo record that they plan to release this fall. He is also working on a solo record that he plans to release in the Spring of 2019.

After an introduction from co-owner of Steel City Coffeehouse, Ed Simpson, Ashton took the stage at 8:00 p.m. He started with his guitar, and went right into his first song.

 

A picture of Taylor Ashton on stage with his guitar. His banjo is hanging on the wall behind him.
Taylor Ashton took the stage with his guitar and his banjo (hanging on the wall behind him).

 

Ashton then switched to the banjo, and introduced his second song. He told the story of how his parents met and were married in 3 weeks. They were evidently married on live television (although he didn’t specify what show it was on). Ashton joked about the whole idea, saying that if he were one of his father’s friends at the time, he probably would have told him to slow down and wait a little bit before getting married.

Before proceeding with his set, Ashton talked about playing the banjo, and how he had read an article about the fact that you couldn’t play a sad song on the banjo. Ashton said that he had adjusted his banjo to be a lower key and less “tinny”, which allowed him to play sad songs like his next song – “Nicole”.

Ashton was very entertaining during his set. He’s quite a story teller, and really funny. When you combine that with his musical talent, it makes for a great show! One of the biggest hits with the audience was when he performed “Dead To Me”. He explained how the song was made to be a duet, but he was going to sing both parts. Between the lyrics of the song and his interpretation of the two parts, he had the whole audience laughing!

Ashton wrapped up his set with the song “Straight Back”. He asked the audience to participate on the “ooh’s”, and everyone gladly complied.

While Ashton doesn’t have a record out yet, you can find his music on all of the streaming services. Definitely check him out!

Ashton is currently playing a few dates with Rachael Price & Vilray. Be sure to check out his website at www.taylorashton.com, as well as his social media to stay up to date on future show dates.

 

Rachael Price & Vilray

Rachael & Vilray met in 2003, when they were both attending the New England Conservatory of Music. They discovered that they had a mutual love of music from the 1930s and 40s, and started collaborating as a duo. With Rachael on vocals and Vilray on guitar, they perform both original songs as well as big band hits from the past.

Rachael Price is best known as the lead singer for Lake Street Dive. Born in Australia and raised in Hendersonville, TN, she recorded her first album at age 17. Over her career, she’s won a number of awards as a solo vocalist.  Check out my review of Lake Street Dive when they performed on Day #2 of last year’s Levitate Music Festival:

 

Levitate Music Festival Day #2 featuring Ziggy Marley

 

Vilray is a working musician raised in Brooklyn. He sings and plays guitar all over NYC and the world, and has performed both solo and as a duo with Price.

After a short break between acts, Rachael & Vilray took the stage at around 9 p.m. They stood on the stage face to face, with just the microphone between them. Vilray had his guitar, which was the only instrument used during the set.

 

A picture of Racheal & Vilray on stage.
Rachael & Vilray captivated the audience with their performance.

 

After finishing the first song, Vilray commented how he was commissioned to write a song for a couple on their wedding day. He spent about a week writing the song, and they hated it! The first song Rachael & Vilray played was his second (and more successful) attempt at writing a song for the wedding.

Rachael & Vilray played a combination of original songs and classic covers. The songs all had either a big band/swing feel to them, or were reminiscent of the old jazz/blues type of music. Rachael’s voice is absolutely perfect for that type of music, and the addition of Vilray – whether on vocals, whistling or on guitar – made the songs amazing!

It was clear throughout the show that Rachael & Vilray have a great relationship that has been built from years of friendships. They even joked about how Vilray told Rachael she needed to replace her toothbrush, since their faces were going to be only a few inches apart with just a microphone between them.

 

A picture of Rachael & Vilray on stage performing.
Rachael & Vilray had a great connection on stage. You can tell that they’ve been friends for years!

 

Rachael & Vilray peppered several stories throughout the show, giving context to some of the songs. Rachael told a story about how her Mom loved her first boyfriend a lot. So much so, that when they broke up, her Mom stayed in touch with the ex-boyfriend. That story led into a really clever and funny song about that relationship.

Vilray talked about how his Mom currently lives in Nicaragua, which is where she was born, and she moved back there after she retired. He was recently there to visit her, and he said she insisted that he sing songs for her in Spanish. She also insisted that he and Rachael perform at least one song in Spanish in every set, which they did.

One of the highlights of the set for me, was their cover of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”. It was absolutely beautiful!

 

 

Rachael & Vilray closed their set with the song “Oh Johnny”. They asked the crowd to join them in singing the title line, which the crowd did with gusto! The appreciative crowd gave them a standing ovation, and cheered for them to return to the stage for one more song.

After a very quick break, Rachael & Vilray returned to the stage for a one-song encore. Vilray told the audience that this was his first official tour, and that this was the best crowd so far. Rachael teased that it would be all down-hill from here!

After the show, Rachael & Vilray hung around to meet the fans. While they don’t have a record yet and didn’t have CDs to sell, they had limited edition copies of the sheet music of two of their songs which they autographed. The cover of the sheet music had a drawing on it that was done by opener Taylor Ashton.

 

A selfie with my husband, me and Rachael Price.
Rachael & Vilray hung out after the show and took pictures and signed autographs! Here’s a selfie with Rachael, my husband and I.

 

After the Steel City show, Rachael & Vilray only had two more stops on this tour.  However, be sure to check out their website at www.rachaelandvilray.com to stay up to date on future appearances.  I guarantee you won’t regret seeing them!

Have questions or comments about Taylor Ashton or Rachael & Vilray?  Comment below or e-mail me at tips2livebywriter@gmail.com. 

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