Posts tagged: Folk

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 @ Bend Roots Revival

Last Saturday, I had a slot on the main stage at the Bend Roots Revival. I was looking forward to bringing the songs from my upcoming CD to a big Central Oregon stage.

A roots fest in Bend is a good idea. A high-desert block away from the Sisters Folk Festival, Bend is cultural enclave, teeming with outstanding musicians who’ve broken away from anxious stream of wannabeing that contaminates the larger music Biz. To name a few: Dennis McGregor, who’d give Leon Redbone a run for his money, and the whole virtuosic lineup of Empty Space Orchestra.

Mark Ransom (The Mostest), who masterminds the Festival, has the right idea, recruiting from Great Northwest, filling in the gaps with locals. Three main stages, and three side stages where smaller acts play while the main stage acts load in. So there is music going everywhere all the time.

And that turned out to be a problem. The space was too small for several stages with large sound systems and full bands. While I was performing, friends of mine Blaze & Kelly were rocking out in full funky-folk-rock glory soaring out over the festival. I could hear every lyric and savor every note. I could have played along on my stage. I don’t know if this was just an exuberant sound tech who cranked it up, or if nobody anticipated this problem in the first place.

As a professional, I rolled up my sleeves and pushed my music out with all my might. It’s part my job to enjoy myself regardless of the circumstances. (What performer doesn’t have stories about lousy venues, inhospitable stages, bad sound systems, and cold audiences?) I plainly asked the audience, “Can you hear me?” And they said yes. So I kept going.

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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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Booking in L.A. Area

With my impending relocation to L.A. comes the task of booking gigs and working up a circuit within a 150 mile radius of the City of Angels. (I’m am old-fashioned road warrior-type minstrel.)

I’m soliciting guidance from friends and fans in the area. The internet has made the world pretty small, and they can help me simply by passing the good word to anyone they know in the Biz. I’m looking for:
Clubs
Openers at performance halls
Coffee Houses
Openers at amphitheaters
Bars & Taverns
Wineries
Bands to open for
House Concerts
Galleries

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.


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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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Northwest Folklife

I just played my ½ hour set at Northwest Folklife in Seattle. An indoor stage called Folklife Café.

Now I’m drinking a Pepsi in the Performer Hospitality building. There must be a hundred folk musicians in here from around the country. I’m surrounded by the sound of banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and twangy Appalachian-style vocalizations, coming from all directions. I love this part of festivals like this. Between the stages, behind tents, behind the scenes. You get this at Oregon Country Fair, High Sierra Fest. Folks will jam all night on blue grass, old-timey, gypsy, etc. It’s enchanting.

I confess that I am musically envious. My own singer/songwriter art barely qualifies as “folk.” It has some rural leanings at times, with a modicum of storytelling, but there’s a lot of so-called “composition,” and elements of pop. (You know, the umpteenth generation of ubiquitous Beatles influence.)

I could jump into these jams and hang on for dear life. I know the music, I love the music, and, yes, I have a few chops to play it. But I prefer to sit by and let the people who live this stuff do it without my hack intrusion.

Someday, I’ll practice up, get my Django down, and then I’ll joyfully participate.

My own set went well, although I was worried at first. I went on after a nylon-plucking guitarist who had the place riveted with his expertise, specializing in Italian and flamenco flourishes. With only 5 minutes of set change, the room was still full of the virtuoso’s exotic and exhilarating vibe when I was introduced. What are you gonna do, but do what you do best? I kicked it off with the story of falling in love with my wife in Seattle and broke into “Hours Go By.” Call it sucking up to the Seattle-ites, but people seem to like that song.

I brought out a new song that I only just finished on the drive up. “Villain.” It used to be called “Leni Riefenstahl.” I would like to say that it’s the only song of its kind. That is, a song that name-drops women associated with Nazis. But David Lindley already has one. It’s called “He Would Have Loved You More than Eva Braun.” As much as I love David Lindley, I think that’s a dubious way to tell your sweetheart what you think of her. (“You’re so special, Hitler would have taken you as his mistress.”)

No, I think that if you’re gonna talk about Nazi women and romance in the same song, it’s unlikely to travel in the sweet-n-light direction. That’s why mine is called “Villain.” It’s about the frustration of good men who are eternally losing out to the bad guys.

The chorus:

Eve Braun, Leni Riefenstahl/You seen one, you seen them all./Beauty loves her beast, and she’s always willin’./Some girls can’t help it; they love the villain.

Yeah, the song is sort of funny. But like all my “sorta funny” songs, it’s not meant to make people laugh. It’s actually quite sad. The audience liked it, but I could tell they didn’t quite know what to make of it. (Maybe because they don’t know who Eva Braun and Leni Riefenstahl are… For the record, they are Hitler’s mistress and Nazi Germany’s main filmmaker.)

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