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.