Open mic nights are like yard sales. With few exceptions, the quality of the merchandize is generally pretty inconsistent with a smattering of eclectic vanity pieces designed for individual tastes. But every once in a while – and usually by compete accident – you uncover a gem.
A few weeks ago, I accompanied friend who lives in the Bay area to an open mic in Mill Valley, California at a venue called Sweetwater Music Hall. As someone born and raised just outside of Philadelphia, I don’t get out west as much as I’d like. I’ve been to Sweetwater exactly once before a few years ago to check out Johnette Napolitano (formerly of Concrete Blonde) as she delighted a packed house with an inspired solo set. Sweetwater is a great sounding little venue for live music. And it’s pretty rare to find an open mic being hosted by someone as accomplished as Austin de Lone. With my expectations set to mediocre, I agreed to come out that Monday night.
My friend tells me that there was a time when Sweetwater’s open mic nights would regularly include many of the world class musicians who lived in the area: Sammy Hagar, Jerry Harrison, Huey Lewis and Carlos Santana would often sit in for a song or two – much to the delight of the ever adoring locals. While at least one of those casual gods could be spotted in the back of the room that Monday night, I’m sad to report that none of them took the stage.
On this night, it was mostly like other open mics you may have been too. Some talented performers, a group from the local high school shrieking into the microphone like Yoko Ono and at least one unfortunate soul who made the unforgivable sin of forgetting the words and/or the chords to their favorite Beatles song. Just your typical, ordinary, for the love of god please keep the drinks flowing Monday night open mic.
And then something special happened. The house lights dimmed and a six-foot tall, maniacal ball of energy appeared on the stage. The people at the table next to me whispered to us: “that guy was here last week, and he was fantastic!” But neither of them seemed to know who “that guy” was.
Turns out – that guy’s name is Alan Chapell. Chapell has a quirky stage presence that could easily hold the attention of a much larger room and combined with the charm and intimacy of someone who was playing in your living room. I’ve never seen someone command a room full of strangers to enthusiastically sing a song that they’d never heard before. But that’s exactly what happened when Chapell began singing “Soul Man”. From the very first song, Chapell had this crowd in the palm of his hands.
Chapell mostly plays the piano and sings. I say “mostly” because he kept getting up in the middle of songs or in between them to direct the crowd or share an aside off mic. He stood up and got the audience clapping during the third verse as Chapell sang a cappella on the song “Waiting”. Sort of reminded me of the great Jonathan Richman minus Tommy Larkin on drums as Chapell got the entire room clapping along.
Chapell did four songs that night – remarkable in that its sort of an unwritten rule at open mics that everyone is allowed to play only one or two songs. Getting asked to do another song by the host is almost the equivalent of a stand-up comic being called to Johnny Carson’s couch after their set. (Yeah, I’ve probably been watching too much of Showtime’s “I’m dying up here” – sue me.) Chapell most certainly did not squander his additional songs and closed with a haunting etude called “I’m Coming Over” – one which really drove home how vulnerable and sweet Chapell’s voice can be when he’s not screaming off mic.
I caught up with Chapell briefly after he left the stage. Turns out that he’s an east coast guy too. Chapell hails from New York City but occasionally spends time in the houseboat community in nearby Sausalito. He started coming out to the Bay area a few years ago to record an album with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads fame and now views Sausalito as second home.
Chapell has a seven-piece band back in NYC, but has started playing shows with a smaller lineup – which is one of the reasons he was at Sweetwater that night. “I was initially reluctant to play without my full band, but I kept getting asked to play places where it wasn’t practical to bring everyone,” says Chapell. “We were invited to play a show in Sandpoint Idaho with the Flobots earlier this year and my violinist Lorenza Ponce and I were the only ones from my band who were able to make it. When that concert went over so well, I realized that I could be a bit more flexible in my approach.” So, while Chapell still mostly plays with the full band, he’s done stripped down shows opening for bands like Big Head Todd and the Gin Blossoms as well.
So, what’s next for Chapell? “We’re currently mixing my third album and are making plans for later this year to start recording my fourth. And we’re in discussions to play a show or two with the Bacon Brothers in August. Finally, I’ll have my whole band with me at City Winery in NYC on August 16th.”
I’ll be there at City Winery on August 16th. If you want to catch Chapell before he completely blows up, I suggest you be there too.
Sammy Milone is a part-time author and full-time skeptic. He lives with his wife Wendy and dog Niko in Lower Gwynedd Township, PA.
Meet Singer-Songwriter Mark Henes, One Of Nashville’s Fresh Talents
In case you were looking for fresh talents in Nashville, Tennessee, Mark Henes is the artist to look out for. When he is at the studio making music, catchy riffs, rockish melodies, and high energy are the elements that stand out the most. With a creative & authentic personality, this fresh talent wants to keep the spirit of Americana music alive. That being said, he takes his blues, rock, punk, and country influences to the next level. There’s no doubt he seeks a modern approach that reimagines a classic sound that refuses to die. Although he made his grand debut last year with his first EP, ‘Transitions’, Henes shows no signs of slowing down. Proof of this is his most recent release, “Strip Me Down”. Guitar strings’ vibration is such a powerful thing here. Stream in full below.
CONNECT WITH MARK HENES NOW!
Stream In Full: No Signal’s 10-Track EP ‘Seat of Dreams’
Believe it or not, 16-year-old frontman Riley Schmelzer has a project called No Signal that is looking to break through in 2019. He has released a pretty rockish 10-track EP entitled, ‘Seat Of Dreams’. Hailing from Colorado, the indie artist was immersed in music from a young age, and today we can see the fruits of his hard work and artistic passion. Interestingly, this EP explores current events in the world. I feel that it’s like a wake-up call to start fighting for the planet and all of its inhabitants. Almost all these tunes shine due to his thought-provoking lyrics. Proof of this can be found in the 100K streams he has earned lately. Follow him on socials for more exciting announcements.
CONNECT WITH NO SIGNAL NOW!
WATCH: Greg Hoy & The Boys’ “Brilliant Jerk!” Music Video
Hailing from San Francisco, California, Greg Hoy isn’t a newcomer in the music industry. On the contrary, his rockish songs have been featured on TV shows like “One Tree Hill” and MTV’s “Made”. It is important to highlight he runs a record label called 30 Peak. Also, under the moniker of earhopper he produces all kind of tracks, including soundtracks.
On this occasion, he is promoting a music video. So, if you grew up listening to punk-rock bands, then you’ll enjoy hearing the new single, “Brilliant Jerk!”. Frankly, I would dare to say he centers around a great rock-n-roll punchy drumming and a splendid guitar work too. Moreover, the rebellious rhythm matches perfectly with appealing visuals. Take a look below!
CONNECT WITH GREG HOY NOW!
Texas-based Musician Mark Winters Drops An Acoustic Jam, “Copper Queen”
Here’s an acoustic jam for the weekend! The new Mark Winters single “Copper Queen” makes us realize that soft rock is absolutely delightful. Hailing from Sugar Land, Texas, he puts all his energy and love for the guitar melodies. Moreover, I’m really impressed by his poetic style, inculcated in early life thanks to his grandmother. For some reason, his voice soothes your body and mind, bringing positive vibes right from the start. Recently, Mark revealed that his new album ‘SlipStream’ drops in August and monthly music videos are coming our way… Stay tuned!
CONNECT WITH MARK WINTERS NOW!
Lounge Act Jam Pushes The Boundaries Of Experimental Rock Music
Alan Tzu-yu Yang aka Lounge Act Jam is an avant-garde artist who has a special love for acoustics. This has become evident on “Pluto Waits For Nothing”, a unique track taken from his 2019 album ‘Diabolical’. One way or another, he pushes the boundaries of experimental music by mixing rockish guitar solos and crispy drums. However, what grabbed my attention is the balance he keeps between high and low frequencies of this instrumentation. Besides that, if you’re into glitchy sonic textures, then all these driving chords will help clear your mind or escape reality for about two and a half minutes.
CONNECT WITH LOUNGE ACT JAM NOW!
- Electro-Pop4 months ago
Robyn’s Sexiest Music Video “Ever Again” — WATCH
- Disco4 months ago
Sinful Nuns Go Wild In “Religion” Music Video By Shura
- Dance4 months ago
Video Premiere: URBANO x RM4K – Worth The Price
- Disco5 months ago
This Heartbreaking Music Video From Madonna Will Make You Cry
- Electronica4 months ago
WATCH: SebastiAn Is Back With An Eargasmic Hit, “Beograd”
- Electronica4 months ago
The Chemical Brothers Release A Power Rangers-Style Music Video, “Eve Of Destruction”
- Electro-Pop4 months ago
Sanctuary Lakes Release A Visual Masterpiece With Debut Music Video
- Dance4 months ago
Bmark Unveils A Summer-Inspired Music Video, “Wait For You”