Posts tagged: Clarkston

“Better Off” in 2013

A friend from Eastern Washington (who goes by the nickname “Puck”) recently sent me a touching post, thanking me for a certain song that lifted his spirits, and sharing one of his own, thusly inspired.

Whenever I perform at Hogan’s Pub in Clarkston, (usually w/ Scott Cargill & 7 Devils) Puck requests my 12-year old break-up song “Better Off Without You.” I wrote it a dozen years ago — a paradox of anger & levity — and it got me through a difficult time. (It was cheekily deemed “the greatest break-up song ever” by a Eugene Weekly writer.) Here is a version from my former “Alternative Rock” incarnation (from Pollyanna Loves Cassandra):

The song seems to have helped my friend see the hard times through. That is the best news a songwriter can get. And, even better, Puck paid it forward by writing a similarly-themed tune “Better Off.” He graciously allows me to repost his video here:

As much as we performing/recording artists strive to get good reviews from the press, nothing gratifies like finding out that a fellow human being has been emotionally affected by the work we do. And even better, that someone would be inspired to put their own creativity to work and keep the collective torch burning.

Artists work for real human beings, not just Entertainment Biz entities.

Thank you, Puck. Keep up the good work. See you in April to celebrate happier times.

Here is the live acoustic version from the 2001 A Stealthy Portion, featuring Elisabeth Babcock on cello. (It was selected for Michelle Malone’s compilation of independent artists):

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 @ Hogan’s (Clarkston, Lewiston 8/5)

I try to make Clarkston/Lewiston my last night of tour, so I can end on a high note with one of my best friends Scott Cargill.

The venue is Hogan’s Pub, located in Clarkston, owned by Chef Tony, managed by Bailey. (These two could run a clinic on how venues treat artists. Hogan’s defies the troubled economy in the area, both in atmosphere and the business it does. The professionalism and the quality of music attracted to the stage — tucked into the back of that long narrow space — surely have something to do with it… along with the great food.)

Scott joins me on mandolin. We play souped-up, rowdy versions of the Shipe tunes he has learned. And I sit down on lap steel to play some of his repertoire: a few originals, Jackson Browne, Little Feat. Lately, he’s been bringing in his percussion man, Jim. It never fails to entertain.

But on Friday, it was over-the-top. Scott has a new band called 7 Devils. And they actually rehearsed two sets worth of my music. There I was playing with a tight band with fiddle and mandolin. Obviously, the Americana & Country stuff went well, but these guys were kicking ass on the epic, rockin’ and unusual stuff too, like “Crawlspace,” and “Love Belongs to Everyone.” Other highlights: “Delivered,” “Achilles Heart” (w/ violin parts as written), “The Weight” (w/ the big drunk sing-a-long), “Minotaur” (w/ fiddle and mandolin playing the twin leads), crazy jam on “Road Story,” and Dave Coey’s “Phoenix.”

Afterwards, my hand, wrist, and fingers were killing me. I am out of shape for that kind of beating. (But I needed the workout for an upcoming power trio gig in Bend.)

Here’s a bit of interesting music biz gossip: 7 Devils is a great country-oriented band, just starting to pick up some real good gigs, one of which was an opener for Diamond Rio. Well, guess what. As Scott tells me, they were removed from the bill because of their band name — “7 Devils.” Without bothering to find out that they are named after some mountains in Idaho, someone representing Diamond Rio decided that they would feel bad if the word “devil” appeared anywhere in the promotion… or some such nonsense rationale.

Hell, the 7 Devils logo is a silhouette of the mountain range itself, not a pentagram dripping blood.

What bothers me about this? Working musicians ought to know that when you bump someone off a bill, you have taken paid work away from them. Booking is done far in advance, and it’s difficult to replace the date with a suitable alternative, let alone a high profile opener. It takes hard work to earn spots like that. Diamond Rio ought to know, assuming they’ve had to work for their success.

Diamond Rio is a Christian-oriented band, yes. But presumably, given the benefit of the doubt, they are men of honest faith, not merely of Christian “image” working the religious angle as a marketing approach. They could have checked out 7 Devils music, learned that each of its members are family-oriented working gentlemen. Perhaps they could have worked something out with regards to promotion.

But this is a trend in our “interesting times” isn’t it? Famous people and politicians dealing in symbolism and the surface trappings of whatever ideology they want to be associated with.

Arrg! Don’t get me started… just when I’m having the nicest stretch of time I’ve had all summer (not forgetting the celebration of my old drummer’s wedding at Rattlesnake Creek Campground. Congrats Scott Headrick & Kirsten.)

Shipe-Ebbage Chaos at Hogan’s w/ Cargill

Hard to describe what happens in Clarkston on the Hogan’s stage. I warned Ebbage; we wouldn’t be lulling them with our sensitive side. So we get help from Scott Cargill (Lucas) on mandolin, and Jim on Jembe and Ryan on bass (with whom we’ve never played a note.)

At Hogan’s, you’re tucked in a nook, behind giant speakers, on a stage deeper than it is wide. If you’re not loud and rowdy, the music can’t make it all the way to where everybody’s sitting.

We’ve never rehearsed. Scott, my dear Lewiston friend, practices on his own, and greets us with newly crafted mando parts. We just jam it out like street musicians. All bravado and energy. Plus, he calls out songs I don’t play often, from my older rock albums–“Jasmine,” “Crawlspace,” etc. Also, he’s a Renegade Saints fan, so we bust out Al Toribio’s “Letter Home,” Mike Walker’s “Delivered,” and Dave Coey’s “Tara.” He’s got all the hooks down.

A pleasant surprise was how gorgeously Ebbage’s country side shined with the mandolin in there. Perhaps it wasn’t the best stage for his lullabies, but two-steppers like “Hurtin’ Me” and “The Way She Does It” sounded best of the entire tour. (I felt good on twangy lap steel, to boot.)

With the quasi-rhythm section, and Scott’s mad energy egging us on, why not have Ebbage play electric most of the night? His tone was so awesome, we just let him go off on long indulgent solos. (Did I mention that Scott’s right arm is a rhythmic machine? Sticking the groove while Ebbage shredded, especially on “Road Story.”

Speaking of “Road Story”, there were some devoted Jerry Joseph fans who called me out on my influences: “So, Shipe,” says this one dude, “Did you write ‘Road Story’ before or after Jerry Joseph’s ‘Drive?'”

“Okay, fine, you caught me,” I said. “Just for that, we’re gonna cover an actual J.J. song. Sit back down in your chair and soak up ‘World Will Turn.'” (Ebbage has gotten very good at thickening up our version with the electric… even without a rhythm section. I dare say we acquitted ourselves properly with that homage.)

But we pressed our luck. We should have stuck to the Miles Davis rule: Always leave them wanting more. Whether it be a musical passage, or a whole song, or a set, or an entire show, stop just short of topping out the tension by extending the climax. Restraint is key. For this Hogan’s show, the climax unmistakable; we were obviously done. But we were having too good a time to quit. As fatigue and one-Jager-shot-too-many kicked in, we ran the train of the rails. “These Days” took 15 minutes to get through three verses. I don’t think Ebbage knew what song we were playing, but he added some nice spacy notes, and the thing sort of went searching through the stratosphere–not the concise Jackson Brown song we’re familiar with. Last, and certainly least, “Crawlspace” turned into three and a half minutes of breakneck random chords.

Ah, well. That’s rock-n-roll for ya. I love it. That’s what makes it fun. You’re on stage, you’re in it together, and it ought to be a little risky. Like driving a car too fast around a curve.