Shipe planning Southwest Tour (Oct/Nov)

I’m planning a tour of the American Southwest — around Halloween time — between my wife’s and my mother’s Scorpio birthdays. (What a terrible husband and son am I!)

I could really use some help finding venues (and booking them). So please chime in, friends, fans, family, and Pit Bull people.

The dual foci of my desert adventure are two Pit Bull Benefits: Phoenix on October 27th, and Austin on November 5th. I’m thinking about Flagstaff, Prescott, Tucson, El Paso, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, Durango, El Paso, Kerrville, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth and/or anywhere else a there’s room for me at the Inn. I won’t be hitting all these places; time doesn’t allow. Wherever I am welcome…

I am grateful for any & all aid and comfort.

Shipe Power Trio in Bend (8/10)

The power trio surpassed expectations last night at Old Saint Francis in Bend, OR. We gigged on such little rehearsal, it’s a testament to the powers of concentration these guys have.

I’m talking about Jerry-Groove and Mike Last from The Stagger and Sway. Truth be told, I was a lot more worried about myself than about the rhythm section. Jerry-Groove has been in my band before; I trust his memory. And as for Mike, he has a lot of experience jumping into bands on the fly (like Dan Jones & The Squids and Salt Lick). Being the singer-songwriting front man of Stagger, Mike has a strong sense of structure and song trajectory, which translates to a very musical style of drumming.

For my own part, however, I hadn’t touched my electric guitar in months. To get through 3 sets of electric music, (which is what McMenamins expects for the Father Luke room at OSF), I would have to play lengthy guitar solos. Moreover, I absolutely despise my amplifier and simply cannot manage its tone like a rocker should.

And yet, there we were, sounding like a damn good tight band. Professionals.

Admittedly, we filled up some set time with intermittent acoustic songs and story-telling. I brought Mike out from behind the drum kit to perform a few Stagger and Sway songs. But this came off like quality stage-craft rather than time-filler. The audience appreciated being treated to that kind of show, rather than a bombardment of 3 hours of jamming (which I can’t pull off like a Jerry Joseph can).

The house wasn’t utterly packed, but all the tables were full. They stayed, they applauded like crazy, they bought CD’s. They even complimented me on my guitar playing and tone.

Even so, in retrospect, I regret having used up so much time with presentation and acoustic music. We over-compensated. The night was over before we knew it, and there were electric songs we didn’t even get to. A couple of which are right in Jerry-Groove’s wheelhouse, like “Underground Debutante,” and Jerry Joseph’s “World Will Turn.”

I will have to book another electric show ASAP.

Shipe @ Hogan’s (Clarkston, Lewiston 8/5)

I try to make Clarkston/Lewiston my last night of tour, so I can end on a high note with one of my best friends Scott Cargill.

The venue is Hogan’s Pub, located in Clarkston, owned by Chef Tony, managed by Bailey. (These two could run a clinic on how venues treat artists. Hogan’s defies the troubled economy in the area, both in atmosphere and the business it does. The professionalism and the quality of music attracted to the stage — tucked into the back of that long narrow space — surely have something to do with it… along with the great food.)

Scott joins me on mandolin. We play souped-up, rowdy versions of the Shipe tunes he has learned. And I sit down on lap steel to play some of his repertoire: a few originals, Jackson Browne, Little Feat. Lately, he’s been bringing in his percussion man, Jim. It never fails to entertain.

But on Friday, it was over-the-top. Scott has a new band called 7 Devils. And they actually rehearsed two sets worth of my music. There I was playing with a tight band with fiddle and mandolin. Obviously, the Americana & Country stuff went well, but these guys were kicking ass on the epic, rockin’ and unusual stuff too, like “Crawlspace,” and “Love Belongs to Everyone.” Other highlights: “Delivered,” “Achilles Heart” (w/ violin parts as written), “The Weight” (w/ the big drunk sing-a-long), “Minotaur” (w/ fiddle and mandolin playing the twin leads), crazy jam on “Road Story,” and Dave Coey’s “Phoenix.”

Afterwards, my hand, wrist, and fingers were killing me. I am out of shape for that kind of beating. (But I needed the workout for an upcoming power trio gig in Bend.)

Here’s a bit of interesting music biz gossip: 7 Devils is a great country-oriented band, just starting to pick up some real good gigs, one of which was an opener for Diamond Rio. Well, guess what. As Scott tells me, they were removed from the bill because of their band name — “7 Devils.” Without bothering to find out that they are named after some mountains in Idaho, someone representing Diamond Rio decided that they would feel bad if the word “devil” appeared anywhere in the promotion… or some such nonsense rationale.

Hell, the 7 Devils logo is a silhouette of the mountain range itself, not a pentagram dripping blood.

What bothers me about this? Working musicians ought to know that when you bump someone off a bill, you have taken paid work away from them. Booking is done far in advance, and it’s difficult to replace the date with a suitable alternative, let alone a high profile opener. It takes hard work to earn spots like that. Diamond Rio ought to know, assuming they’ve had to work for their success.

Diamond Rio is a Christian-oriented band, yes. But presumably, given the benefit of the doubt, they are men of honest faith, not merely of Christian “image” working the religious angle as a marketing approach. They could have checked out 7 Devils music, learned that each of its members are family-oriented working gentlemen. Perhaps they could have worked something out with regards to promotion.

But this is a trend in our “interesting times” isn’t it? Famous people and politicians dealing in symbolism and the surface trappings of whatever ideology they want to be associated with.

Arrg! Don’t get me started… just when I’m having the nicest stretch of time I’ve had all summer (not forgetting the celebration of my old drummer’s wedding at Rattlesnake Creek Campground. Congrats Scott Headrick & Kirsten.)

Shipe @ Moon Time, CDA (8/4)

The management and staff at Moon Time in Coeur D’Alene treat touring artists better than any other similar venue.

It has been a while since I’ve been here. New faces. (Lex, I missed you!)

I forgot how noisy this gig is. Probably the noisiest venue I play. A line from my song “Honky Tonk Romans” comes to mind:

“I was singing just like a bird / But nobody heard my beautiful words / I must looked and sounded so absurd.

However, as I’ve said a hundred times before, noisy crowds are listening more closely than they appear. Invariably, I discover afterwards that they’ve heard things in surprising detail. Specific songs, lyrics, musical passages. So I never give a lazy performance… no matter what.

The sight may seem bizarre — a singer-songwriter in a dimly-lit raised section of a noisy drinking/restaurant establishment, pushing it out like his life depended on it. I’m sure there are few hipsters who find it almost comical, misinterpreting my earnestness as desperation. But I keep the between-song stage banter to a minimum, let the music do the talking, and folks show their appreciation.

Certain songs grab them. (This is how I know they’re listening.) The tune that turned heads last night? “Jesus.”

It’s a new one. And I don’t quite understand why it has become a hit. At every single show, I am approached: “Which album is that ‘Jesus’ song on?”

Essentially, “that Jesus song” is a twist on Appalachian hillstompin’ Gospel. I wanted to call it “A More In-Your-Face Jesus” (a phrase I lifted from an article I read about a painter in the South who depicts a Savior sporting a mullet, with tattoos & piercings and muscle — the kind of messiah that children could look up to as an ass-kicking hero… instead of that ineffectual gentle shepherd who said “suffer the little children to come unto me.)

I chose not to title it so sardonically; I never want to come across as making fun of anybody. (If there is humor in a satirical piece, such humor is more effective when borne upon honest affection for the subject.)

The lyrical content is a strident, machismo warning about the head-rolling that’s bound to happen when the Messiah returns pissed off. It’s a lot of fun to perform, I tell ya! I mean to offend nobody. And if anyone does get offended, I just hope they can take a moment to think about what it is we artists do. We tell stories. We put on characters. We have fun indulging in language and scenarios that strike our imagination.

I like to think of this song as my All in the Family moment. Do you remember that sitcom from the 70’s? Archie Bunker was a hilarious character. Liberal progressives and cultural activists laughed at his bigotry as satire. To them, he looked utterly, ridiculously ignorant — a clear portrayal of the banality of reactionary prejudice. For rightwingers and reactionaries, Archie “told it like it is,” putting liberals like “Meathead” their place with poignant working class expressions of frustration in a changing world.

In retrospect, we all know the correct take on Carrol O’Conner’s portrayal. But at the time, everybody was happy. My conservative dad liked him. My liberal mom loved to hate him. And the network had a long-running hit.

So, what I have here is a tune that gives some people a laugh at the satire they find in it. Others — folks who are “believers” —are free to enjoy the song as a strangely executed twist on Appalachian Gospel. They are welcome to. I see no reason why not. It’s always best when I perform it without irony. And truth be told, the “more-in-your-face-Jesus” is a character right out of some preachers’ sermons. I didn’t make Him up.

Shipe @ John’s Alley in Moscow, ID (8/3)

My old band, The Renegade Saints, continues to make new fans in Moscow, ID without even coming around to play shows. That’s because John’s Alley keeps Fear of the Sky in the jukebox.

The Saints first came here back in the 90’s when it was just a tiny hole-in-the-wall with 8-foot ceilings. We kept coming. We told all other touring bands we knew. They came… and they kept coming. The Alley turned into a choice college-town tour stop between the Rockies and Seattle, and eventually expanded into a premier small-mid-sized room with a sizeable stage. (Plus an excellent house sound guy in Vertical Dave.)

I like to think that we’re partly responsible. So I’ve continued to play shows here ever since I went solo in 1998. They always treat me well. And, like I said, I meet new fans every time, as they request Saints tunes all night. Before every Northern Idaho tour, I make sure I’ve rehearsed all the Saints tunes — including Dave Coey’s, Alan Toribio’s, adn Mike Walker’s. “Delivered,” “Letter Home,” “Know by Now,” “Deep End,” “Window.” (An older fan got tears in his eyes when I played Dave’s “Tara.”)

I’m usually solo acoustic, but if I have a band with me, we’ll play rockers like “Thin Layer.” And on occasion, the audience will get quiet enough for a quiet ballad like “1968.”

Thankfully, my John’s Alley gigs aren’t all reliving past rocker glory days. Alley-goers are kind to solo acoustic Shipe on that big stage. I get good response to my new material, and interest in new releases. Towards the end of the night, some of them dance. I elicited a two-step with “Villain,” and a swing dance with “The Beast is Back Again.”

Also cool is the intelligent appreciation I get from young listeners, for my “cooler” stuff. What I mean is: As I try to push the musicianship forward — as a guitar player, exhibiting finger-work and going off instrumentally — they hear it, and let me know when it’s good. That is golden, coming from a venue familiar with the likes of Tony Furtado and Derek Trucks (both of whom I’ve opened for, so I am well aware of the musical company I strive to measure up to in these parts.