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Daniel Villarreal

Ron & the Hip Tones

Thursday, September 12, 2024
Doors: 6pm | Show: 8:30pm
$25 advance | $30 day of show


  • This is a ticketed event. Everyone must have a ticket for entry.
  • You must make a table reservation in addition to your ticket purchase to guarantee seating. Without a reservation, seating will be first-come, first-served if available. There is standing room by the bar area.
  • The Lounge is a full-service restaurant – our full food & drink menu is available when doors open.
  • If you require accessible seating, please contact us at or 215-222-1400 prior to the show so we can best accommodate your needs.
  • Join the WCL Fan Club for priority entry, food & merch discounts, exclusive offers, and more. Mega & Ultimate Fan levels include 24-hour presale access and no ticket fees.
  • World Cafe Live is a nonprofit independent venue where artistry meets social impact. Every purchase helps support our music education & community programs.
  • See FAQ for more information.
Daniel Villarreal has long been a widely known and beloved character on the Chicago music scene, veering between folkloric Latin music and the cityʼs flourishing jazz and improvised music scene. Originally from Panama, he fuses his pan-Latin style with influences of psychedelic rock, Cumbia, afro-beat, boogaloo, rock, free experimental jazz, hip-hop, and funk to create an original contemporary soundscape. On almost any night of the week, youʼll find him DJing at at least one spot on bustling 18th Street in his home neighborhood of Pilsen, specializing in groovy vintage Afro-diasporic sounds and showcasing his knowledge of world music, electronica, Tropicalia, vintage Latin soul, Chicha, psychedelic Cumbia, Afrobeat, reggae, funk, and groovy deep cuts beats. If heʼs not there, heʼs playing drums with Dos Santos, Valebol, The Los Sundowns or Ida y Vuelta (all bands he co-leads), or sitting in with Wild Belle or Rudy De Anda. All of these instincts merge in his own projects, which employ post-production as an instrument a la Makaya McCraven.
In his teens and twenties, singer-songwriter Ron Aikens was a promising voice out of South Philadelphia. He had earned a spot in United Image, a Soul music group that eventually signed to Stax/Volt Records and was making waves. However, fate anchored Aikens' dreams just as things were taking off. "Right around that time that record was playing on the air and everything, I got snatched," he says. More than 50 years later, Ron Aikens is still affected by the turn of events that landed him behind bars for much of the 1970s. The subject conjures palpable emotions for the singer in his pauses and silence. At Graterford, Ron eventually joined Power Of Attorney—a storied Polydor Records-backed band with ties to James Brown, Shep Gordon, and Stan Vincent. In this chapter, Ron appeared on television, met celebrities, shared stages with Stevie Wonder, and lived out some glory as he and his band-mates became a touring sensation all while incarcerated—even though the band consisted of 4 lifers. Upon his prison release, the talent made several attempts to rebuild his dream. However, bad timing and bad business dealings ultimately left him hapless and hopeless. Forty years ago, Ron hung up his microphone and accepted a long-time janitorial position at Philly's City Hall. A man moved on with life as the music business moved on without a talented artist. "I had nowhere to hide" declares Aikens, "so I had to just leave it all behind." A decade ago, Ron Aikens quietly began performing once more. In the 2010s, the singer would take the trolley from his West Philadelphia home and busk at 15th Street Station and the city's Market East. "I didn't think anybody would pay me any attention," the retiree recalls, astonished to see dollars in his bucket. On mild and warm days, Aikens sang songs by homegrown talent like The O'Jays, Hall & Oates, and Teddy Pendergrass, as well as Motown and others. But he did not perform his originals. "People want to hear songs that they built memories around; they don't want to hear me," he remembers thinking of his long-dismissed songwriting. That changed in 2020, when Max Ochester, owner of a local record store, Brewerytown Beats, stood before Aikens' amp on 12th & Market. "I went down specifically looking for Ron because I had unreleased Power Of Attorney stuff," says Max. He was looking for information. In 2020, Max's label released two remastered 1972 Power Of Attorney recordings ("Changing Man" b/w "I'm Just Your Clown"). Those songs were cut before Ron Aikens joined the group in Graterford, but curiosity ignited a relationship. Aikens, who had released material as Galaxxy for Pop-Art Records, Doc, Aikens & Shields—a single by POA producer Stan Vincent (John Lennon, The Five Stairsteps, Connie Francis), as well as work with United Image and Power Of Attorney, proved his voice and showmanship were still strong. "He made me feel like he wanted to do something," Ron says of Max. "I don't have a drive like that anymore." That drive has created momentum. In 2023, 74-year-old Ron Aikens returned to the studio for the first time in nearly 40 years. Max and Grammy Award-winning co-producer Aaron Levinson have highlighted Ronald Aikens' fantastic voice and story. The result is Ron & The Hip Tones. "My whole thing is to do it how it would've been back in the '70s," Max explains. "I want to do the Philly sound, so I'm hiring arrangers, hiring songwriters—local guys. That process—a full production—has been thoughtful and curated, from the songwriting to horn sections, Gospel background arrangements, and a harp player. "This is a good team, man!" Ron says emphatically, recalling the days when sessions involved rooms of talented creators. On May 17th, the Brewerytown label will release a digital version of the single of Ron Aikens' first music in over 40 years to be followed by a 45rpm record: “Do What I Wanna Do” b/w” Baby Are You Ready.” It was recorded at the famed Elm Street Studio owned by Rob Hyman of The Hooters. In addition to Max and Aaron, personnel includes songwriters David Cope and Fred Berman—who also plays drums on the record, Adam Faulk on keys, guitarist Doug O'Donnell and bassist Brendan McGeehan. Waverly Austin hired and arranged the background vocals, and Bill Jolly provided horn arrangements. The release will also be available on special picture cover 45. “Do What I Wanna Do” was an existing song brought to Ron and Max, who infused their own heart and soul into the composition. Ron is at a stage in his life where he does what he wants to, says what he wants, and be who he’s gonna be. The message is unapologetic and free. “Baby Are You Ready” nods to the slow-burning ballads of the ‘70s. Honoring that true “Philly Sound,” the song is enhanced with a harp player, Elizabeth Cohen AKA Lizzie Harp. Upcoming songs touch upon Ron’s troubled past head-on and express in song how he’s been feeling all these years. Others channel lowrider oldies, with splashes of West Coast Soul. The music is alive and very symbolic of Ron Aikens' life, evolution, and perspective. He decided busking was unsafe after the pandemic, and his newfound interest in his own music perhaps encouraged him to make one more swing at a dream that goes back nearly three-quarters of a century. "I'm here. I'm breathing," he says in a West Philly coffee shop with a smile and wide eyes. "I ain't gone yet. If I'm gonna breathe, I need to sing!"