Yächtley Crëw rides like the wind to make you free again at local show

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It's almost like Gerry Rafferty, Rupert Holmes, Robbie Dupree, Billy Ocean and England Dan & John Ford Coley are all coming to town −to play at the exact same concert −their most smash-hit song, and nothing else.

Throw in some Player, a little Ace and a helping of 10cc, and we're talking about a sure-to-be smooth-sailing show by Yächtley Crëw.

Billing themselves as the "Titans of Soft Rock," Yächtley Crëw will get spectators loudly singing along with “Brandy (You're a Fine Girl") and “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)," plus kindred spirits songs by multiple-hit artists as lofty as Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross, Toto, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates.

Yächtley Crëw's upcoming shows are April 28, Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, Pennsylvania; April 29, The Vine at Del Lago Resort, Waterloo, New York; April 30, Jergel's Rhythm Grill, Warrendale, Pennsylvania.; May 2, Sony Hall, New York City; May 4, Beacon Theatre; Hopewell, Virginia; May 5, Carteret Performing Arts Center, Carteret, New Jersey; and May 6, Tropicana Showroom, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The California band delivers a fun but earnest tribute to yacht rock, a genre that saw its popularity multiply during the pandemic, as sort-of comfort food for people who grew up with 1970s and early-1980s soft rock.

"It's nostalgia and some of the most brilliant songwriters and best songs out there," Yächtley Crëw vocalist Philly Ocean said. "They capture an era, but it's also an attitude and a feeling, that maybe more than ever now, people need.

"I'm pleasantly surprised by how positively people have responded to what we're doing," he said. "I think that was amplified during the pandemic when live music had shut down. Seems now it's bigger than ever. We feel humbled in so many ways."

Yes, his six-man band wears matching stage uniforms of boat captain hats, sunglasses and blue blazers, but this isn't a Spinal Tap-ish spoof.

"We care about this music very much and bring energy and passion to this," Ocean said in an April 12 phone interview.

"Our goal is to make everyone who leaves the show think, 'Man, that's one of the best shows I've ever seen.' It's about how we perform these songs. Our goal is really to play these songs as true to the originals. People don't come to hear us do our own renditions. They're not looking for artistic interpretation. They want to hear us play versions as close to the originals they know. Because people want to sing along.

"I'm sure we've all seen a concert where an artist does an alt- version of their hit song, and you might think that's good, it's cool. But can you sing along to an alt-version?" Ocean said. "We play it like you remember it from some of the best musicians in history, bar none. And it's a show of hits. Every single song we play is a hit."

For those unfamiliar with the concept, '‘yacht rock'’ is a fairly recently coined term for the revival of the soft rock and top-shelf hits of the late '70s to the early '80s. The Yächtley Crëw website concedes much of it is overwrought story-driven narrative, but the music itself remains a treat.

"Some people call it Guilty Pleasure music," Ocean said. "We promise you'll know every song we play. You might not recognize the beginning of a few if you haven't heard them in 30 years, but once the chorus hits, you'll recognize it and be singing right along."

Insisting "We're not characters, we're personas," Ocean is joined on stage by Baba Buoy, bass guitar; Pauly Shores on sax, Tommy Buoy on guitar, Stoney Shores on keyboards, and Sailor Hawkins on drums. The drummer's name is an homage to the late-Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, who Yächtley Crëw now honors with a cover of "Hero."

Yächtley Crëw members are in the same age group, first exposed to this meticulously produced, male-dominated genre as kids.

Ocean recalls riding in his dad's Chevrolet Beretta.

"He'd have the classic-rock radio station on, playing Toto and Steely Dan and Hall & Oates," he said.

Those musical stalwarts became inspirations, as did yacht rock vocalists like Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins "who has a voice that's unparalleled," Ocean said.

Like any good genre, debates emerge as to who should or shouldn't qualify.

"We do 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' by Queen, which is not yacht rock band," Ocean said. "The basic definition is soft rock, but we take our freedoms with it as all bands do. Just like a heavy metal band will put out a ballad.

"You know, it's very subjective. I define (yacht rock) as a feeling," he said. "Just imagine you're on a yacht, and what music is playing as you're just floating on the ocean or taking a swim before Jeeves brings you a tray of caviar. There's a freedom when you listen to it. It's all about love and having a good time. Memories of life moments are very specific to these songs."

Some acts are bona fide yacht rock for only part of their existence.

"Early Hall & Oates, like 'When The Morning Comes,' isn't necessarily yacht rock, but 'You Make My Dreams Come True' is," Ocean said. "It's a moment in time; it's when a song came out, but it's also about how it was produced and the elements of that song. It even comes down to the songwriting. But I'm very open to what people want to say is yacht rock. Like Billy Joel in the early '80s − 'Just The Way You Are' is in our set.

Does yacht rock have its own "Stairway to Heaven" stature song?

Maybe "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty, Boz Scaggs' "Lido Shuffle," Christopher Cross' "Ride Like The Wind," or Kenny Loggins' "Heart to Heart," Ocean said.

"And then you can start getting into deep cuts like "Thunder Island," and "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)". These are all songs from that genre."

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Pivoting like many bands did during the pandemic, by performing drive-in theater concerts and connecting with fans via music videos, Yächtley Crëw is excited to get back in front of live audiences.

"Like we're playing Jergel's again, and could not be more excited. It's almost sold out, which is pretty amazing for a band from California only playing there for the second time," Ocean said. "And we're adding shows all the time, like Atlantic City.

"The whole point of the show is to have fun," he said. "And we love to meet everyone, so come say hi afterward."

Scott Tady is the entertainment editor of The Times and easy to reach at stady@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Yächtley Crëw rides like the wind to make you free again on new tour