Shipe @ Bend Roots Revival

Last Saturday, I had a slot on the main stage at the Bend Roots Revival. I was looking forward to bringing the songs from my upcoming CD to a big Central Oregon stage.

A roots fest in Bend is a good idea. A high-desert block away from the Sisters Folk Festival, Bend is cultural enclave, teeming with outstanding musicians who’ve broken away from anxious stream of wannabeing that contaminates the larger music Biz. To name a few: Dennis McGregor, who’d give Leon Redbone a run for his money, and the whole virtuosic lineup of Empty Space Orchestra.

Mark Ransom (The Mostest), who masterminds the Festival, has the right idea, recruiting from Great Northwest, filling in the gaps with locals. Three main stages, and three side stages where smaller acts play while the main stage acts load in. So there is music going everywhere all the time.

And that turned out to be a problem. The space was too small for several stages with large sound systems and full bands. While I was performing, friends of mine Blaze & Kelly were rocking out in full funky-folk-rock glory soaring out over the festival. I could hear every lyric and savor every note. I could have played along on my stage. I don’t know if this was just an exuberant sound tech who cranked it up, or if nobody anticipated this problem in the first place.

As a professional, I rolled up my sleeves and pushed my music out with all my might. It’s part my job to enjoy myself regardless of the circumstances. (What performer doesn’t have stories about lousy venues, inhospitable stages, bad sound systems, and cold audiences?) I plainly asked the audience, “Can you hear me?” And they said yes. So I kept going.

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Shipe @ Silver Moon w/ Emma Hill / Debut on Uke

It is good to be gigging in Bend, Oregon, a place I have sorely neglected of late.

Silver Moon Brewing is a terrific scaled down venue, filling a Central Oregon venue gap since the demise of The Grove some years ago. (Frankly, for acoustic music, it’s a better room, with a more intimate feng shui.)

A few words about Emma Hill & Her Gentlemen Callers: Two thumbs up. She brought only one of her gentlemen callers to this gig. (Brian, her pedal steel player/backing vocalist.) I prefer it that way. Emma has a gorgeous full voice–a charming, emotional performer, which might come through when backed by a full electric band. But in sparse format, you get the full dimension of her art. That’s a paradox for singer/songwriters. Less is more. You really hear and feel her wisdom, wit and honest emotion. Amongst many of the Northwest folk artists I’ve played with, she stands out in sheer intelligence of songcraft.

I particularly liked a song probably called “Keeper,” a brilliant, slightly jolly take on having the lower hand in a relationship. She sings, smiling: “I’m not your ‘keeper,’ but a little bit of you loves me.” She exhibits vulnerability without the dire, angst that threatens an audience’s comfort zone.

Even though I played first, I must have benefited retroactively from the vibe she created. I loved playing for her audience. Generous and responsive, used to paying attention. They indulged me in my debut on ukele–my latest original “The Beast is Back Again.” (I’m loving this new song of mine, influenced by Leon Redbone, about falling off the wagon after 10 long years of boring clean soberiety.)

There’s nothing like a gig where they face the stage, listen to your stage banter (even your pretentious navel-gazing), listen to the music & lyrics, laugh at the funny parts, and erupt into applause after every song. Lovely.

The reason a fellow goes solo-acoustic is to explore subtleties–particularly in the downward dynamic. But you only get that when the audience is willing to go quiet right along with you.

Another word about Emma, native Alaskan daughter of a bush pilot: The highest compliment I can pay to a fellow artist is when I pull out my notepad and start jotting down lyric ideas during her set, which I did. It means she has put me in “the zone.”

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Booking in L.A. Area

With my impending relocation to L.A. comes the task of booking gigs and working up a circuit within a 150 mile radius of the City of Angels. (I’m am old-fashioned road warrior-type minstrel.)

I’m soliciting guidance from friends and fans in the area. The internet has made the world pretty small, and they can help me simply by passing the good word to anyone they know in the Biz. I’m looking for:
Openers at performance halls
Coffee Houses
Openers at amphitheaters
Bars & Taverns
Bands to open for
House Concerts

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.


Shipe likes Pretenders

Working into the wee hours, gathering up promo material for my upcoming stretch of CD publicity. In the corner of the room, my TV was keeping a low profile. Oregon Public Broadcasting pledge drive. (I don’t have cable.)

Suddenly, a Pretenders concert comes on. The great Chrissie Hynde. Wow! I forgot how perfect this band was/is. One of the few 80’s bands that I could get into.

Sometimes these older bands, reunited, playing their old hits, seem utterly insipid. No matter how edgy and rockin’ they were in their heyday. And on Public Television, no less! Middle-aged band. Middle-age audience. Middle-age music that some might affectionately refer to as “oldies,” underscoring the degree to which rock-n-roll rebellion has become a family-friendly institution. (Witness the proliferation of Rock School.)

Some certain reunion concerts… Well, they seem to be merely reminiscing with their audience. It’s enjoyable enough… but…. ah… you know what I mean.

But The Pretenders are “special.” (Pardon the indulgence.) Especially Chrissie Hynde and her longtime drummer Martin Chambers. (“The greatest rock drummer in the world,” she plainly announces.) Aggressive and perfect execution, whose flawlessness heightens the intensity instead of diminishing it. They make it look easy without coming off like generic back-up band hirelings

Think of Chrissie as Tom Petty’s spiritual sister. With all the straight forward, no-bullshit rock dignity, but more mystery, and an utterly un-manipulative sexuality. Three songs in, the sweat was streaking her mascara down her cheeks. How she could look so raw like that and still be glamorous…

One of things that’s easy to miss with this band, is how sophisticated the composition is. “Back on the Chain Gang,” “Talk of the Town,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” “Show Me.” The straight forward heartland rock & pop delivery disguises Beatles-like complexity. Some of these songs are difficult to learn by ear. I’ve been covering “Brass in Pocket” for years, and there’s a couple of chords I still don’t have right. (That’s the “Special” song. And I am stubborn; I will not learn songs by reading tablature off the internet. The cadences and harmonies have to resonant in my blood, or they’re not worth playing. If it means that I inadvertently play different chords than the author herself wrote–so be it, as long as I can get myself fully into the song. I mean no offense.)

If you want to see my version of “Brass,” click here

In closing, here are my top 5 80’s songs:
Red Hill Town (U2)
Coming Up Close (‘Til Tuesday)
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House)
Brass in Pocket (Pretenders)
Don’t Give Up (Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush)

Shipe CD tracking done/ L.A.

At long last, Ehren Ebbage and I have finished with the tracking for the new album.

Ebbage is off to L.A. to do the mixing. Release is scheduled for the Winter. But soon, I’ll be trickling out a handful of samples as they become presentable, offering a free download or two.

As the 12-week surge of adrenaline recedes slowly from my veins, I get back to the more even pace of rehearsal, booking, promotion, and gigging. Not to mention the CD artwork and publicity. (I’m excited to begin working with Green Light Go, a company of robust stature.)

At the outset of this recording, I confess I was in no condition to make an album. On the heels of a dry spell, re-entering civilization from Yellowstone life, and fighting off a medical issue, I had trouble slipping into my imagination and flowing with ideas. But Ebbage, producer extraordinaire with a great bedside manner, convinced me that there were a dozen gems amongst my latest 31-song batch, then he hauled my ass up to Crossroads Productions

From there, we kept moving forward until the damn fine thing was done. And I feel certain that it’s going to be the best so far the Shipester.

Ebbage and the musicians below, I thank deeply; for they are truly responsible, not just for this album, but for getting me through tough personal times:

Sean Peterson (bass)

Kevin Powell (drums)

Mike Walker (organ, piano, accordion)

Al Toribio (guitar)

Alice Blankenship (violin)

Amy Danziger (cello)

Tim McLaughlin (trumpet)

Johnny Clay (vocals)

And the Feel Good Singers: Mike Last, Jerry-Groove Abelin & Brendan McCloud