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.
“Weigh Down On You” By Portsmouth, UK-Based Artist Gary Louca, AKA ‘Deltiimo’
Featuring the stunning vocals of Los Angeles-based vocalist Christian Erik, this powerful Country Rock/Dance track was an international collaboration between Gary Louca, based in Portsmouth, UK (known as Deltiimo), and elite producer Kevin Cho from Canada.
Gary wrote the original demo specifically for the soundtrack of the animated and live-action YouTube series “The Spirit of Toronto.“ After hearing Christian Erik’s remarkable voice, Gary knew that Christian was the right vocalist for the song.
Inspired by Gary Louca’s imagination, “The Spirit of Toronto” is an original animation that tells stories from an ancient book of magical adventures spanning hundreds of years. An upcoming episode is scheduled for release before the end of 2023, with new episodes planned for 2024.
Gary Louca is a veteran writer-producer from Portsmouth, UK, with numerous No. 1 dance chart placements over the last 20 years on both the USA and UK dance charts. Several current superstar DJs have used vocal samples from songs written by Gary, accumulating tens of millions of streams in the last few months alone.
Songs written and co-written by Gary have been released on numerous record labels worldwide, including Sony Music. Over the years, numerous UK and European top-ten artists have recorded vocals for Gary’s songs.
After taking a break from music, Gary is back to writing and producing full-time, with an incredible new EDM/Soulful Pop Dance crossover album currently in production for his Deltiimo project.
Kevin Cho is a No. 1 writer-producer in his own right and is incredibly talented. His CV is as follows:
“World-Class Multi-Platinum Music Producer & Mixing Engineer. #1 Billboard Chart Producer. Over 2,000,000 units sold for the ‘Rule Breaker’ single for the boy group Nine Percent. Producer for Dimash Kudaibergen’s ‘Lay Down,’ which reached #1 and achieved Platinum status. Producer/Arranger for Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise Tour (featuring Kanye West, Ariana Grande, John Legend, Travis Scott, and more).”
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Talent & Raw Emotion Merge In Daneka Nation’s New Rock Song
Trust me, this new Rock song by Daneka Nation will hit you right in the feels. Rhett’s vocals tell the story of a guy struggling to hold on to the most important relationship in his life. Anyone who’s been with their high school sweetheart knows the ups and downs.
With this in mind, “Sacred Ground” really speaks to people. As soon as you hear the blast of electric guitar paired with Rhett’s raw, sincere emotion, it becomes evident that this tune carries great significance.
What’s more, the drums just pound out like his own heartbeat, unsure if his soul is about to break. For sure, you’ve experienced it, that moment of questioning whether the enchantment will linger over the long haul.
The lyrics take you on a journey through someone’s past, bringing to light teenage memories that still feel real. Besides, all his verses are quite relatable, so this definitely taps into something universal. Please, give it a listen below.
Moreover, the Houston-based band showcases commitment in every note they play. Assuredly, I can picture them pouring everything they have into perfecting this track.
Obviously, the music is top-notch, but it’s Rhett’s storytelling that makes “Sacred Ground” resonate on such a deep level. Lastly, it doesn’t matter what kind of jams usually get your toes tapping, I promise you’ll find something to connect with in this special song.
Daneka Nation dropped seven tracks since January 2021 and right now, they’re cooking up more singles in the studio. Stay tuned.
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Exclusive Premiere: Stray + The Wild – Show Me The Way
Proving the non-traditional side of Alt-Rock, Stray + The Wild turned their dark edgy style into a new song called “Show Me The Way.” It is no exaggeration to say that their musical DNA incorporates elements from Radiohead, Lana Del Rey, and Danzig.
In order to bring this tune to life, the lead vocalist AlexVndria outstands with her intriguing vocals, while the sonic atmosphere is reinforced by excellent guitar work from Alan Dämien. On the other hand, the steady drums provide a solid foundation for the rhythm, completing the whole arrangement.
Furthermore, the lyrics highlight the importance of maintaining resilience when confronted with challenges. In essence, “Show Me The Way” represents nothing more than a quest for guidance and salvation, one way or another.
Apart from making dope tracks, these talented artists are into animal rights and veganism. Using their art to make the world a better place is also part of their philosophy as a band.
“Show Me The Way” as a composition strikes a balance between the emotional and introspective. Similarly, with its sound and verses, it succeeds in connecting with you through a profound story.
Stray + The Wild will persist in delivering the finest from their rockish catalog. Meanwhile, you can check out more updates and interesting announcements via their social media platforms below.