Posts tagged: Acoustic

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.

“Love Ain’t Easy” (for Valentine’s Day)

Here is a close-up of my latest song. A gift to struggling lovers on Valentine’s Day.

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 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.

Shipe w/ 7 Devils @ Hogan’s

Once again Scott Cargill’s musical cohorts (7 Devils) lifted me up for a good time at Hogan’s. I won’t go into it too much, lest I keep repeating myself. But I must mention what a pleasant surprise were Fiddlin’ Nathanael Tucker’s un-rehearsed harmony vocals — especially on “Villain,” which is appropriate, ’cause he sports a for-real dastardly moustache.

Attendance was lighter than usual. (I hope Chef Tony wasn’t disappointed.) Too bad really, ’cause y’all missed a funky-grass acoustic version of Al Toribio’s “Million Dollar $mile!” (Damn, that hook is hard to play on medium-gauge bronze-wound strings!)

Disappointing was the absence of Jim Laws on percussion. (Family emergency — turned out okay.)

Next Gigs: Dublin Pub (PDX) Friday, Boon’s Treasury (Salem) Saturday

Shipe in Lewiston (Idaho)

Back in my surrogate home of Lewiston/Clarkston, last night was a superlative, truly unplugged, gig at La Boheme.

When I say unplugged, I mean no microphones, no amplifiers, and no P.A., in an intimate venue, with an audience accustomed to listening quietly. I gotta tell you it’s lovely.

I was a accompanied by Scott Cargill and his lineup from 7 Devils, who nailed these arrangements on the fly. Outstanding musicians, and great friends, they had brushed-up shortly before my arrival. We had minimal discussion, ran through a couple songs, and called ourselves ready. It could not have gone better.

The Devils: Nathanael Tucker on Fiddle, Jim Laws on percussion, Scott Cargill on mandolin, and Ryan B. Gibler on bass (who managed songs he has never even heard before.)

My close friend Scott is the perfect musician to do this sort of total acoustic set-up. As a deep, knowledgeable fan of roots combos driven by mandos, banjos & stand-up basses, he has the attitude for it. His mando strumming is relentlessly in-the-pocket! Together with Jim on the percussion (handling such quiet volume with authority, emotion and dynamics) I felt comfortable rhythmically — more than usual.

Fiddler Nathanael, in the unplugged format, marvels at “being the loudest instrument in the ensemble.” But with such sweet tone and phrasing, it’s a good thing. The country-ish material went particularly well with fiddle: “Villain,” “Honky Tonk Romans,” “Like Some Folks Do,” and “Some Hidden Things ” (which features a whole string section on the studio album).

We closed the show with “What Right Do We Have to Fall in Love?” The Devils didn’t know this one at all, but damn if they didn’t turn it into the big finale!

Nathanael is also the owner of La Boheme. I exhort my acoustic colleagues to get in touch with him sooner than later. A great, relaxed host, he produces special shows, taking care of both the audience and his fellow artists. He comes from a family of musicians (brother of Simon Tucker), so he knows what matters.

Tonight, Scott joins me for a duo show at Eichardt’s in Sandpoint. Come Saturday, we get take the 7-Devils/Shipe combo to the next level @ Hogan’s in Clarkston.

Calling all benefactors

I just put out an APB, the content of which is roughly:

The big official National release of Villain is at hand. Glowing reviews with comparisons to Elvis Costello, John Hiatt, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, and both Joshes Ritter and Rouse. WOW. (See the PRESS page)

A modest Viper Room Acoustic Lounge set on Monday marks the occasion.

Please allow me these two humble requests as I reach out for help.

1) Donations: My national promo campaign nears its end. If you’d like to help me out with the bill–in exchange for Shipe gifts–please click the DONATE page above.

(This is usually done by artists prior to album releases, as pre-sells. I am backwards.)

2) New SHIPE web spots are popping up, where fan reviews and comments are truly golden. Especially at Last FM which is a standard resource for music critics. Fans are shaping the Biz more than ever. So, anywhere you find a Shipe entry, please lend your layman’s touch to the content.

Thank you so much. I shall continue to work my hardest in 2011 to please and entertain.

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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Shipe in Sandpoint – Eichardt’s

Most of the night, the patrons sat at the bar with their back to me. I was really givin’ up for them too, singing with particular passion on this night, exploring the emotions in my songs. But I don’t know… Every once in a while, I started to get the feeling that I was in one of those absurd moments where the corner-of-bar performer is competing with the clientele’s obstinate inattentiveness.

If you walked into the place at, say, 10:32 pm, you would have seen me looking quite professional on a nicely lit stage, playing good tunes, and singing with great conviction. You might have said to yourself: “Wow. That guy is really into himself, and nobody’s listening. He must really suck.”

I couldn’t let it faze me, though. ‘Cause my good friends Cindy and Dave were there requesting old faves like “Spontaneous Combustion” and “1968.” And right now, I’m preparing for upcoming recording sessions. So each one of these gigs is like dress rehearsal. Producer Ehren Ebbage is expecting me to show up with my shit together, so I’m holding nothing back, no matter how enthusiastically the people ignore me.

(Damn, I’m glad I’m not a stand-up comedian. They actually get booed, not merely ignored.)

Come to think of it, I might be over-estimating the quality of my performance. I did slip a Vicodyn before the show; back pain had come on after I spent the afternoon walking around beautiful Sandpoint in the sun. Maybe I was in the throes of drug-induced euphoria, under the illusion that I was creating something beautiful, while hacking my way through mediocre strummin’ crap, wailing at the top of my lungs, annoying the crap out Eichardt’s.

Strangely, though, I received a ton of tips, relative to the size of the tiny crowd. So I couldn’t have been that bad… Unless they just felt sorry for me.

I tease myself, just to make sure that I don’t get any strange ideas about being so important to Western Civilization. But the truth is, I think the new material is working well, and I’m finding new places to go with my singing voice.

Shipe on Coeur D’Alene Moon Time

Woke this morning to see that “Honky Tonk Romans” is on a playlist I haven’t seen yet: Barely Darker Than Air. A good resource for East Coast community.

Last night was one of my better Moon Time gigs. The place was packed. (Iron Man Triathalon is in town.) Even though they were typically noisy on Dollar-Pint Night, they were listening. applauding after every song, tipping, making requests, and buying CD’s. I tested their attentiveness by directly soliciting tips–announcing that my local hotel of choice had raised its rates by 40 percent. They responded. I would not have done this had I not been sure that I was playing well, already making a warm connection by virtue of the performance. One does not resort to playing on the audience’s sympathies for the poor starving traveling troubadour. One only asks for voluntary compensation after providing solid entertainment. (Speaking of compensation, I thank Moon Time for paying their solo artists well. It’s always a reassuring way to start a tour. And the comped meal is spectacular.)

I mentioned that folks were making requests…

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