Shipe Tour Day 2: Pleasant Surprises in Coeur D’Alene (Moon Time)

I’ve been playing Moon Time for 15 years, and I never discovered the hiking trail along the lake until this this afternoon!?

20-minute lakeside jog, followed by a shower, a Moon Time Lamb-burger, load-in, set-up, a dollar pint of pale ale, and I inconspicuously launched into Mark Alan’s “Don’t Pass Montgomery By.”

I say, “inconspicuously,” because, as I have blogged so many times before, Moon Time is one of the loudest busiest of the dinner venues. Hardly anyone faces the stage; few are there specifically for the music. It’s dollar pint night in a place where people come to converse. I’ve learned not to fight it, and to start the night by blending and easing into their space. I would appear positively silly if I busted into my “show” with: “Hey everybody! How ya doin’ tonight! I am John Shipe! All the way from Eugene, Oregon! I’m here to rock you!”

“Montgomery” is a good opener in this atmosphere. It’s simple, with a steady, deep groove — even acoustically — when I play it right. Feels good, especially when I’m in the gospel-ish vein. Whether they end up riveted or not, they get the idea that I’m a solid decent singer & player — at the very least, they’ll appreciate the professionalism.

Another surprise: a friend & former guitar student of mine, who just happens to be the area, showed up out of the blue. I love it when this happens. (It does, more often than you would think.) Familiar faces mean a lot to traveling musicians. I discard my set list when old friends show up, and play any Shipe song they want to hear. The performance obviously improves, ’cause I have someone relate to. And this probably had something to do with the entire room being more responsive than usual.

Among the more attentive patrons was another Eugene musician, Matt Buetow, with a night off from tour with his band The Royal Blue. I am listening right now to a beautiful song of theirs called “December.” (When I get back home I will see them live.)

It’s funny; we performers can always tell which audience members are musicians. This used to make me nervous, until I realized that, for the most part, fellow musicians can be the most generous listeners of all. So I thank Matt and his CDA friend Jeff — and my friend Gina — for giving me some love at Moon Time.

Shipe Tour day 1: Richland, WA (Bookwalter Wines)

New wineries are popping up all over Eastern Washington, and I intend to inhabit each and every one.

Last night it was Bookwalter Winery in Richland. Gorgeous place, complete with Bocci and Croquette.

In the last several years, these wineries have become the bread-n-butter gig of choice for singer-songwriters. The people who come here like acoustic music. They listen and tip well; they even buy CD’s (instead of downloading from iTunes.)

And they like original music. In the old days, you couldn’t even get this gig unless you were an easy-on-the-ear act playing jazz standards Either that, or a human juke box serving up James Taylor, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell. (I confess that I do, indeed, serve up sheepish versions of two light Van-the-Man songs.)

Summer still lingers East of the Cascades, so I was set up outside on this warm night. As I was settling into my stool, strumming the first few sound check chords, a table of elderly people was seated right smack in front of me. I could hear them wondering aloud about my potential volume. “Well,” joked one fellow, “If he’s too loud, I can just turn down my hearing aid. I don’t know what you’re gonna do.”

It’s a good thing I have box chock full of mellow tunes that I love to play — and I don’t get to play them often in the louder bars. And I respect my elders; so the first set was really lazy and soft. Later in the night, I ramped it up. (It blows my mind how many CD’s I sell when I play “Yellow House,” “Villain,” and “Jesus.”)

By the way, my wine of choice has become Riesling on the dry side — one glass during set-up, one glass per set, one glass while winding down with the staff. (That can end up being 5 glasses.) Since I’ve been playing gigs like this (and since my Hungarian friends in Florida, of Zemplen Oak Barrels, started schooling me), I’ve learned a thing or two about wine. No red for me, please; it gives me a headache.

Last time I was here, I chatted with the owner — J. Bookwalter — an appreciator of the Oregon-based McMenamins company. He frequently spends weekends revitalizing at The Edgefield in Troutdale, OR, which has inspired him to start building cabins on his own vineyard. So we can lounge and drink wine for days on end!