Category: Gig Re-caps

Grrrlz Rock @ Girls Rule (by Ophelia’s Place)

Yesterday was my first contribution as a volunteer to Grrrrlz Rock.

Ophelia’s Place hosted an umbrella event called Girls Rule.  Our idea (actually Matrisha’s idea) was to conduct a pair of “Sample Rock Camps.”  Two distinct sessions of 50 minutes apiece, wherein we would school a group of young ladies, in about 10 minutes, on drums, bass, guitar, ukelele, keyboards, and vocals.  Then we would all get together and jam on The White Stripes’ “We Are Going to be Friends.”

Naturally, we had mild doubts that we could pull it off in such a short time.  But the kids hit it out the park.  In fact, they did so well, that we had them all switch instruments and nail the song a second time — in both sessions!

It’s inspiring and moving when things like this happen.  I’d like to attribute the success to Matrisha’s ingenious unbridled enthusiasm and her impeccable preparation, not to mention the focused talents of my fellow instructors (and myself!  …I got to work with Sean Brennan & Barbara Healy for the first time)…  But really, it’s the kids.  I always say: It’s not that difficult to teach kids something when they actually want to be there learning it.

Now I’m REALLY looking forward to this year’s Rock Camps.

Sittin’ in on Lap Steel @ Bend Roots Fest (Sunday 9/29)

An entire weekend of sitting in with friends as a side-man! What better way to kick myself back into gear? This afternoon was my third guest spot in as many days.

Friday night I was at Ninkasi in Eugene, perched on my Fender Twin wearing a strapless stratocaster for The Stagger & Sway.

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), at the Bend (Oregon) Roots Festival, my old friend Brad Tisdel spontaneously invited me to accompany him on lap steel. It was an hour of sweet, sublime, rainy-day folk music, on which I trod delicately. (Mostly swells, paddings and eerie, moody melodies.)

And this afternoon, third and final day of the festival, again I was on lap steel. Sean McGowan let me wade sonically through a diverse dozen-song-set of originals. (In case you’re asking what a few others have asked: No, this is not “Shane MacGowan” from The Pogues who used to give drunken interviews and was in the news for having his rotten teeth fixed.)

Sean McGowan, is a Eugene songster colleague. And like Brad, he is a longtime friend going all the way back to high school in the 80’s. He’s also the Radio Americana DJ at KLCC.

I did have solo slot of my own, after playing with Brad. It was one of my best, deeper and smoother than ever, thanks to a generous audience and a well-warmed-up space. I didn’t even have to make a set list. It felt like a house concert, where it’s easy to read the emotional trajectories of the room. (And that is the sweetest spot to be in.)

That said, what I’m really taking away from this weekend is that I’ve fallen in love with my lap steel all over again, and I will be looking for more opportunities to caress it. And… I dare say, I am re-thinking the bad attitude I have towards my beast-of-an-amplifier: Fender “The Twin,” 35 years old, road-ugly, weighing in at something like a thousand pounds. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve left it on the sidewalk hoping someone would steal it. But now, it’s sounding pretty frickin’ good!

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Shipe @ Saginaw Vineyard, Cottage Grove 2/15

Sometimes the demographic in the crowd is so mixed, it’s hard to connect, and hard to choose what songs to play from my 150-tune list.

Last night’s gig at Saginaw Vineyard started at 6:00 pm, with unfamiliar folks in the audience. So I started out with a bunch of cover tunes. Unusual for me; it’s not my style to lean on covers so heavily. I prefer them as palette-cleansers as I move through my original compositions.

(Did I just refer to my songs as “compositions?”)

When I first inquired about this gig, Karen (who is an absolute sweetheart) rejected me. The music on my website is not what they want. For the first time in years, I had to sell myself. She described the typical Saginaw performer as an easy-listening, semi-country, lots of classic singer-songwriter covers…. basically a “rural James Taylor.” (Admittedly, my latest album is produced with a light-indie, full-band tweak on my Americana sound.)

So I sent an email, fibbing that I am “exactly” what she has in mind. And I figured that when I showed up, I could approximate the requirements just barely enough. Although I have some sort of block against James Taylor, I have twisted two Van Morrison songs into my own unique personal indulgences, which go over well at wineries.

To liven things up, I had Pat Kavaney sit in. If I’m going to play my safest (oldest) material — and covers — it’s a lot more fun with a jammin’ friend.

However, I was pleasantly surprised (knocked out, actually) by the arrival some unexpected friends… including the drummer from Hot for Chocolate. And I did not want to feature my “safe stuff” in front of them. Poor Pat! I put him through my most challenging tunes, and new stuff he hadn’t even heard before — in keys like E flat and C#. (“Just play slide, Pat. you’ll be fine.”)

I know he’s gonna get me back by making me sit in on his Steely Dan set, a task of nightmarish proportions for a hack like me.

The good news is that the gig went great. House was full. Patrons were happy, CD’s were sold. (I am nearly cleaned out of “Villain.”) Karen said that a house record was broken.

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!

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 in Phoenix @ Turf Pub – SW Tour Day 5

This being my first Southwest tour, I’m not expecting huge turnouts at my regular venue gigs. So, I thank my Mayday Pit Bull Rescue friends for adding up to at nearly half the attendance last night at Turf Irish Pub. In gratitude, I gave them my best musical effort. And I left out most of the canine-oriented songs, which they had heard the day before anyway.

A note about how I got this gig. The owner of The Turf — Andy — is fan of my old band The Renegade Saints, and a good friend of my longtime bass player Jerry-Groove Abelin. Andy was there when Jerry introduced himself to me over a decade ago, having heard that I was looking for a bassist. (The particular Saints’ tune that Andy is a fan of is “Know By Now.” What a softie, huh!)

So, like I said, attendance was sparse. (Let’s blame it on Halloween weekend.) That was expected, so I appreciate the booking.. I wanna come back and fill the place.

I had a nice moment with a new fan. Shortly before I went on, I was explaining to Richard (of Richard & Kyleigh the homestays/auto repair shuttle) that I rarely play “Sun Dog Ranch Road,” because I have trouble with the fingerpicking. I wrote that song — and many others like it — with musical hooks meant to be played by other instruments. When performing solo, it can be difficult to suggest those hooks with complex “right hand” work, while holding down chords and basslines. (Not to mention singing along with such guitar work.) At the end of the night, a fellow came up to me and said, “Man, you have the greatest right hand!”

Yes! Hard work and concentration pay off.

Shipe Southwest Tour Day 3? 4?

Woke up in a Motel 6 in Blythe, CA. By the grace of desert hospitality (that should be a bluegrass band), I will make my gig tonight in Phoenix at Frank Murray’s Turf Irish Pub.

Yesterday’s Pit Bull fundraiser (at the Franciscan Renewal Center — a real-life monastery) went smoothly, although I was sleepwalking through much of the day. (I shared it with an original band called Arbor Circle, the kind of act that would fare nicely sharing a bill with The Renegade Saints. The singer reminded me of Jerry Joseph, but with a happier vibe.)

Afterwards, I was fixin’ to catch a Greyhound back to Blythe. But a couple of Mayday volunteers had a different idea; they would drive me. (This means 5 hours out of their weekend, after working their assess off for free all day.)

Ducati Motorbike-mechanic-John & Baja-cycling Curt escorted me back to AZ-CAL border, bought me dinner Denny’s while I waited for Blythe Ace mechanics to finish Saturday races at the local speedway and bring my car to Motel room at 10:30 pm. On the way, John & Curt schooled me on motor sports, both of them experts — John working for GO AZ motorcylces. (Did you know that you get sent to Italy to learn how to work on Ducati’s? And by the way, the owner of GO AZ is also the owner of GoDaddy.com.)

That’s what I love about this life. Every where I go, I meet all different kinds of folks and learn about all different kinds of stuff. John & Curt tell me that I should write a book. But all I ever learn is just how ignorant I am about what goes on around this huge country.

Shipe in Sacramento – The World Series Gig

It was only the most exciting post-season game in the history of major league baseball — between the St. Louis Cardinals & the Texas Rangers. It ought to have ended earlier in the evening, but the game went into extra-innings as the Birds fought and clawed, red in tooth & nail, to come back — thrice — and win the game.

Doug Cash & I shook our heads in disbelief and exasperation as we traded sets at the Fox-n-Goose. (I like to stagger four 35-minute sets — two each — at double solo bills. That way, both acts get to play in front of both the early sober audience and late intoxicated audiences… There are advantages and disadvantages to each.)

Now, I am a rabid baseball fan. And a boy from Missouri (although I bleed Royal Blue more than Cardinal Red). So I was fully engaged in the ballgame from the stage. I shared the moment openly with my would-be audience. Why fight the World Series for attention? Can you imagine playing a solo set in a corner set at Hooters during the Superbowl? (Well, it wasn’t quite like that.)

This has happened to me a few times before, in certain bars or pubs that wax sports bar-ish on select evenings. I once watched the Oregon Ducks lose to Boise State from a stage in Central Idaho, when our fullback punched a BSU Bronco in the face.

Regardless of the night’s divided activity and interest, we performed enthusiastically. We are professionals after all. I get the impression that Doug Cash never phones in a performance. He has an amazing, professional singing voice, like he could have worked at Motown. He sang mostly original, semi-jazz pop tunes with unique lyrics, from his CD Tough Nut to Crack. Among his cover tunes, however, his Paul McCartney is impeccable. I found myself tossing out my own “Michelle” just for kicks, feeling a bit sheepish about it.