Hard to describe what happens in Clarkston on the Hogan’s stage. I warned Ebbage; we wouldn’t be lulling them with our sensitive side. So we get help from Scott Cargill (Lucas) on mandolin, and Jim on Jembe and Ryan on bass (with whom we’ve never played a note.)
At Hogan’s, you’re tucked in a nook, behind giant speakers, on a stage deeper than it is wide. If you’re not loud and rowdy, the music can’t make it all the way to where everybody’s sitting.
We’ve never rehearsed. Scott, my dear Lewiston friend, practices on his own, and greets us with newly crafted mando parts. We just jam it out like street musicians. All bravado and energy. Plus, he calls out songs I don’t play often, from my older rock albums–“Jasmine,” “Crawlspace,” etc. Also, he’s a Renegade Saints fan, so we bust out Al Toribio’s “Letter Home,” Mike Walker’s “Delivered,” and Dave Coey’s “Tara.” He’s got all the hooks down.
A pleasant surprise was how gorgeously Ebbage’s country side shined with the mandolin in there. Perhaps it wasn’t the best stage for his lullabies, but two-steppers like “Hurtin’ Me” and “The Way She Does It” sounded best of the entire tour. (I felt good on twangy lap steel, to boot.)
With the quasi-rhythm section, and Scott’s mad energy egging us on, why not have Ebbage play electric most of the night? His tone was so awesome, we just let him go off on long indulgent solos. (Did I mention that Scott’s right arm is a rhythmic machine? Sticking the groove while Ebbage shredded, especially on “Road Story.”
Speaking of “Road Story”, there were some devoted Jerry Joseph fans who called me out on my influences: “So, Shipe,” says this one dude, “Did you write ‘Road Story’ before or after Jerry Joseph’s ‘Drive?'”
“Okay, fine, you caught me,” I said. “Just for that, we’re gonna cover an actual J.J. song. Sit back down in your chair and soak up ‘World Will Turn.'” (Ebbage has gotten very good at thickening up our version with the electric… even without a rhythm section. I dare say we acquitted ourselves properly with that homage.)
But we pressed our luck. We should have stuck to the Miles Davis rule: Always leave them wanting more. Whether it be a musical passage, or a whole song, or a set, or an entire show, stop just short of topping out the tension by extending the climax. Restraint is key. For this Hogan’s show, the climax unmistakable; we were obviously done. But we were having too good a time to quit. As fatigue and one-Jager-shot-too-many kicked in, we ran the train of the rails. “These Days” took 15 minutes to get through three verses. I don’t think Ebbage knew what song we were playing, but he added some nice spacy notes, and the thing sort of went searching through the stratosphere–not the concise Jackson Brown song we’re familiar with. Last, and certainly least, “Crawlspace” turned into three and a half minutes of breakneck random chords.
Ah, well. That’s rock-n-roll for ya. I love it. That’s what makes it fun. You’re on stage, you’re in it together, and it ought to be a little risky. Like driving a car too fast around a curve.