by Michelle Neigut
Stone baby (lithopedion): “a fetus calcified in utero.” This is a medical definition for an actual and yet sometimes undiagnosed, medical condition during pregnancy. And if you are like me, an endless font of useless, random facts, this was one of the first things that came to my mind when I became fascinated with StoneBaby. However, I think their own definition is better. According to Scott Philipp (vocals, rhythm guitar), and one of the original founding members, “. . .it’s like the soul of a baby. Somebody loved it, but it never existed. It’s like a little rock with a little soul.” I don’t think anyone could have said it better.
With their roots planted in Philadelphia, the band shares some of its musical influences from other superstars from the City of Brotherly Love such as Hall and Oates and The Hooters. Of course, New Jersey neighbors Bon Jovi are an influence as well. StoneBaby is inspired by big sounds, big shoulder pads, and even bigger hair that defined a generation. Scott Philipp and drummer Tony Schiavo cannot seem to leave all that behind. And who can blame them? The 80s had Van Halen, The Breakfast Club, neon fashions and stupidly sick slang. But all good things must come to end. And we found ourselves slammed into the harsh reality that was the 90s. Until someone had the genius to integrate today’s reality with the sounds of the 80s; music that would highlight the perfect 8- track to our lives we could only dream was directed by John Hughes.
For most of the 80s, Philipp and Schiavo had their over-sized suits and Aqua Net teased hair while performing covers of some of their favorites. While the music of the 80s was something that brought them together, like most bands, other things began slowly pulling them apart. With families and careers, eventually Philipp and Schiavo began putting the guitar and drumsticks down for too long. But keeping the music in mind, Schiavo tells, “. . it was the separation that brought us back together,” and with a 25- year history, the band released Delusions of Grandeur in 2007. Philipp’s own Just Another Day followed in 2008.
While Philipp and Schiavo were “living on a prayer” in the 80s, one of their youngest and brightest new members Bobby Leonhardt wasn’t even born yet. Fresh faced and a high school baseball star, Leonhardt’s passion to play music, hidden behind his family’s idea for him to be an athlete (hmm…could be something you would see being discussed in the library, in detention, on a Saturday). For as much as Leonhardt has learned from the duo, they have learned just as much from him and the renewed energy and presence his brings to the stage. With pop rock lyrics like The Smithereens, a quirky style like Journey, and a laid back presence to “. . . consciously try to simplify things, to get to the heart of the songs, to be as straightforward as possible,” says Philipp, StoneBaby simply is.
Following the release of their newest LP Illuminated, StoneBaby returned to its old stomping grounds at the Legendary Dobbs. Philipp relives what it was like during the old school days as he remembers being one of the first bands to sign the wall in the green room, something that has now become a Dobbs tradition. From the three musketeers to the fab five- Josh Brown and “Maxamillion” Giorgi, both on bass, completed the look for a complete show. With a packed house of family, friends and first timers, the set kicks off with “Not Right Now” a song that remains a driving force for Philipp’s strong vocals paralleled with Schiavo’s controlled, electrifying drumming. As with any good 80s cult classic, you need a killer opening song to uplift the audience. What better way to do that than with a song that truly illuminates why the dynamic duo make great music, even after 25 years.
“Take her by her tiny hand, Times Square and the shining lights on Broadway.” What’s not to understand when it comes to the intense guitar licks and powerful attack on drums of “Understand?” Impressive vocals share Philipp’s wide range from smooth and smoky to penetrating and sharp. As the rhythm and tempo increase, Leonhardt does well to hold his own as his chord progressions and solos are rather impressive. For a catchy tune, this song remains the ideal for the inner monologue soundtrack for our Hughes nerd who realizes he cannot live without the girl of his dreams.
“Beautiful blue eyes. . .” What John Hughes film would be complete without the pretty girl every nerd fawns over and the rich boy bets he can have even for one night, but by the end of the movie he realizes he actually loves her. The ballad-esque hit “Good Times” demonstrates the band’s softer side with emotion, but exemplifies the solidarity in the unified playing. From Philipp’s softer vocals, to Schiavo’s spot on percussion and Leonhardt’s incredible riffs, there is a reason this song is pure talent. Lyrically, it remains the song you want to crank to the highest volume, as the boy kisses the girl and the camera slowly pans away from the socially awkward yet loveable couple.
Currently StoneBaby can be heard on WSTW promoting their upcoming tour throughout the summer. The highlight of the summer being the Alive at Five tour July 25th, where the band will be opening for Bret Michaels. In between finding the time to work on another album, Philipp and Leonhardt have been working on a special project with John Lilley of The Hooters. If you missed their gig at the Legendary Dobbs, don’t worry you can catch them again Saturday July 6th at the Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery. Feeling nostalgic for the 80s or just want to have a good time? Then find your neon, leggings, and lighters , hop into your DeLorean and find the simplicity and relaxation that is StoneBaby.