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John Shipe: Villain

Shipe SW Tour Days 9 &10 – Race to Austin: gig un-booked!

Insomnia hit me bad after my Thursday night Pecan Grill show. I tossed and turned in an El Paso Motel 6. On one hour of sleep, I was awake at dawn to drive 8 1/2 hours for my opening slot at Gypsy Lounge in Austin.

As I drove out of El Paso, along the Rio Grande, I was suddenly hit by a an unpleasant surprise. Although Mapquest had promised me that I would arrive in time, I hadn’t noticed that the drive time was based on West Texas speed limits! Sure, you can drive 600 miles in 8 hours… going 80 miles per hour!

I don’t like riding my beat up 1990 Toyota Corolla Wagon so hard, full of gear. But what could I do? I’m a professional. I pony-expressed it all the way through “no-country-for-old-men,” freaking out the whole time, listening to my car’s every rattle, whistle, squeak and any utterance of old-automobile pain. By the time I got to Austin, my beloved vehicle had acquired 37% more rickitiness. (Isn’t that the technical term? Or is rickiticity?)

The good thing about the drive is the condition of Texas roads. They are so smooth. Either the great state of Texas has impeccable road priorities, or Rick Perry makes good use of Obama’s Recovery Act funding.

When I arrived at the Gypsy Lounge, guess what!? I was not slated on the bill. In fact, there was no “bill” at all. A dj was scheduled to start spinning at 10:00 pm. For the moment, however, I wasn’t even thinking about performing. I wanted a refreshment. Like range-riding cowboy just off the dusty trail, busting through the saloon doors. “Bartender, give me a drink!”

I played anyway. The owner asked me, “Are you good?”

“Yes, I’m good.”

For the time being, I have no will to get angry at my booking contact. I’m mostly here in Austin for the Pit Bull Events this weekend, hosted by Austin Love-a-Bull.

The V.I.P. Kickoff Party is tonight at 7:00. And the Texas-Size Pittie Pride Parade & Festival is tomorrow.

Shipe in Las Cruces @ Pecan Grill – SW Tour Day 8

My first New Mexican gig.

I heard four differing accounts of Las Cruces: a tiny border town, a lonely desert outpost, an art community tucked away in the mountains (like Jerome, AZ), a resort town (like Taos).

Nope. It’s actually a University Town. Pretty big, pretty regular, pretty spread out. Looking at the Pecan Grill website, I imagined a quaint little adobe Bistro/Brew Pub, with a tiny stage in the corner of an intimate engaging room. I was mistaken. The place is huge, with several spacious rooms and high ceilings. It’s more restaurant-like than pub-like. And chock full of beautiful people looking spectacular.

Although the intrinsic intimacy quotient isn’t high, an artist can make a connection one of those rooms. I, however, felt like leaving the patrons alone rather than “talk at them.” I was told by one listener that I could have afforded a bit more engagement had I been in the mood.

I was well-paid, and well-taken care of by Shawn the manager. He is a musician himself, from a reggae/ska outfit called Liquid Cheese. So he knows the travails of the touring artist. In fact, that’s why he booked this out-of-town road warrior, on an off night, in lieu of his regular roster — out of respect and the desire to help a traveller on his way. (Liquid Cheese, although base in El Paso, did much of their work in Northern California where Reggae reigns supreme.)

As a touring artist, I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: When you greet us well, treat us well, and make us feel at home, it means as much as paying us well.

Interesting side-note: In New Mexico, it is against the law to serve alcohol to musicians during the performance. They can drink as much as they want before the gig, and plenty more after the gig. But they cannot drink during the gig, not even at set break. (New Mexico cares about the quality what they put on their stages.)

Shipe Southwest Tour Day 6 – Tucson

Mix desert hospitality w/ Southern hospitality, and you get my Tucson homestay experience. I was going to camp in the highlands last night, but I got such a late start out of Phoenix (catching up on business in a Starbucks for several hours). I decided to take it easy and impose on some old friends. They had waiting for me: shrimp & mushroom quiche, Black Russians (the drink, not the ethnic group) good conversation, a comfortable bed, and the promise of sausage & biscuits in the morning.

I should be ashamed of myself. But camping can wait for New Mexico and West Texas.

Meanwhile, I gotta say I’m impressed with Tucson. I didn’t expect it to be quite so “alternative.” I found my way into a coffee shop called Shot in the Dark, with anarchic political paraphernalia, edgy art all over the walls, and a half-naked moustachioed barista with a giant tattoo covering half of his bald head. I suddenly felt I wasn’t as far from the Pacific Northwest as I thought. (Although a barista in Portland or Seattle is probably in a sweater and raincoat by now.)

I am looking forward to my solo gig tonight at Plush Lounge.